West Brom 3 – 0 Liverpool, 2012 & 4 Other Opening Weekend Shockers
ASTON Villa’s heroic 3 -1 triumph over Arsenal on Saturday has left the North Londoners in disarray and, subsequently, left many unanswered questions for the football world to ponder. Are Arsene Wenger’s days as Arsenal manager numbered? Will Arsenal fail to qualify for the Champions League this season for the first time in 16 years? Who in God’s name authorized the sickening ‘white and blackcurrant’ colour pattern of Aston Villa’s new away kit?
As I watched the game later that evening on Match Of The Day, wincing at the multitude of Arsenal’s sickening injuries, I thought to myself: haven’t Aston Villa done this before? 18 years ago, on the opening day of the new Premier League season, Aston Villa produced another surprising 3-1 score line, this time against the kids from Manchester United.
With my opening weekend accumulator in tatters and my Fantasy Team reeling from Koscielny’s abysmal disciplinary record I realised that the Premier League never goes according to plan. Ultimately, it’s just like any other set of fixtures in the top flight of English football; prone to shocks, upsets and raised eyebrows. Arsenal may have been the victims this weekend, but they’re not the only team to go back to the drawing board after their opening game. Here are five of the biggest opening day upsets.
West Brom 3 – 0 Liverpool
Season: 2012/13, Saturday 18 August, 2012
Liverpool arrived at the Hawthorns with a new manager, new signings and the same hopefully ambitious optimism. 90 minutes later and even the most diehard scouser would have admitted it probably wouldn’t be their year. Liverpool started the game with £26 million pounds of new talent on the turf but new arrivals Joe Allen and Fabio Borini were mercilessly swept aside as the Baggies romped to a comfortable victory. Steve Clarke may have been deemed surplus to requirements at Anfield the previous season, but proved the perfect fit for West Bromwich Albion as they provided the biggest shock of the opening weekend in the Premier League. Goals from Zoltan Gera, Peter Odemwingie and new loan signing Romelu Lukaku got the Baggies off to the perfect start in their most successful Premier League season to date.
Wigan 0 – 4 Blackpool
Season: 2010/11, Saturday 14 August, 2010
Wigan fans could have been forgiven for thinking that this would have been one of their easier games in the Premier League this season. An established team in the top flight after 5 consecutive seasons and bolstering his squad during the transfer window, bringing in the likes of Antolin Alcaraz, Ronnie Stam, James McArthur and Mauro Boselli, Roberto Martinez would have fancied his side’s chances. Blackpool clearly hadn’t read the script. In their first game back in the top tier of English football since 1971, The Tangerines produced a masterclass over their Northern neighbours and were 3 goals up by half time. Marlon Harewood was at his sparkling best, grabbing a brace for his new club and leaving the Latics scratching their heads. Blackpool may have won the battle but Wigan won the war, eventually staving off relegation once again as Blackpool fell straight back down to the Championship at the end of the season.
Everton 1 – 6 Arsenal
Season: 2009/10, Saturday 15 August, 2009
It hasn’t always been doom and gloom for the Arsenal on the opening day of the campaign. At the start of the 2009/10 season the line up was still boasting the class and skill of Fabregas, Van Persie and Alex Song. With goals coming from Fabregas, Vermaelen, Gallas, Eduardo and Denilson, Arsenal proved an unrecognisable force to the team that went down with a whimper to Villa on Saturday. Even though Everton had finished 5th the previous season all was not quite right at Goodison. With Manchester City’s out of favour Jo as their only new recruit of note in the window and star defender Joleon Lescott clamouring for a move to Manchester City, Everton slumped to their worst defeat to the North London club since being obliterated 7-0 back in 2005. Nobody at Goodison would have been expecting an easy ride against Wenger’s men but this was a hiding nobody was prepared for and the performance foreshadowed Everton’s disappointing season that unfolded, finishing 8th.
Coventry City 2 – 1 Chelsea
Season: 1998/99, Saturday 15 August, 1998
Although the 1998/99 season belonged to Manchester United, winning the league on the final day of the season and going on to complete a historic treble, the opening day of the campaign belonged to Coventry City. The Sky Blues would not have been relishing their opening day encounter against a Chelsea side that had added serious quality to their ranks over the summer and were looking to make a real challenge for the title. Marcel Desailly arrived from AC Milan, Albert Ferrer from Barcelona and Pierluigi Casiraghi arrived for a then club record fee of £5.4m. After a torrid opening 90 minutes of the new season, the London club were left re-evaluating their title aspirations as goals from Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin gave Coventry City the spoils. Chelsea eventually finished the season strongly in 3rd place but, on the opening day, were made to trudge back to the capital with their tail between their legs.
Aston Villa 3 – 1 Manchester United
Season: 1995/96, Saturday 19 August, 1995
Sir Alex Ferguson must feel some sympathy for Arsene Wenger. He too knows the pain of being outclassed and outplayed by a weaker side on the opening weekend, forcing him to fervently defend his transfer policy and team selection as it’s scrutinised by the world’s media. Pundits were lambasting Manchester United after Aston Villa swept their young and inexperienced line-up aside with ease, with many writing off their chances as genuine title contenders after only 90 minutes. None more so than ‘expert’ pundit Alan Hansen; famously declaring after the game that Sir Alex would win nothing playing kids. Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes, Phil Neville and David Beckham were the infants the Scotsman was referring to, all featuring in the shock defeat to Villa. Hansen’s quote proved as truthful as his musing that Alan Rush didn’t have a left or right foot and couldn’t head the ball. The ‘kids’ went on to wrestle the title back from Blackburn Rovers and claim the FA Cup, beating Hansen’s old club and fierce rivals Liverpool in the final.