The Premier League began their 2020-21 season nearly 50 days after “Project Restart” concluded in late July. With European competitions taking place in early August, Manchester City and Manchester United were granted an extra week to rest and prepare for the season as they, along with Burnley and Aston Villa, sat out Matchweek 1. Despite this, plenty of action occurred this past weekend, giving me three takeaways to discuss.
- James Rodriguez is already making a huge impact for Everton
During “Project Restart,” I wrote about how Everton needed a game-changer to break free from the mediocre football they played since star striker Romelu Lukaku left in the summer of 2017. They have fielded talent but could never play football at a level worthy of European qualification. Even with solid scorers such as Richarlison, Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Wayne Rooney in 2017-18, Everton was stuck at the mid-table.
However, under three-time Champions League-winning manager Carlo Ancelotti, the club has brought in great pieces to bolster the squad. They signed midfielders Allan from Napoli and Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford. But most importantly, they signed Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez to provide the game-changer they have sorely needed.
Against Tottenham, left-back Lucas Digne placed a perfect cross for Calvert-Lewin to bury a header and give Everton a 1-0 lead. It would be all the scoring they needed as they defeated the Spurs 1-0. James made incredible passes all match long and the midfield dominated Tottenham. Richarlison missed several wide-open chances and an easy assist to Calvert-Lewin but Rodriguez and the midfield gave him those chances. If he can put away those chances going forward, watch out for this club.
2. Arsenal continues to improve under Arteta
While Arsenal played Fulham, a club that will most likely go back down to the EFL Championship, there are aspects from the match which will excite Arsenal fans. Former Chelsea winger Willian and former Lille defender Gabriel Magalhaes made their debuts for the club and they were spectacular.
Willian notched a hat-trick of assists for Arsenal, including a corner kick setting up Gabriel to tap in a header, which he did to score in his Arsenal debut. The Gunners won 3-0 and looked convincing doing so. Their attack was fluid and their defense was as aggressive as I have seen in the last few seasons. Time will tell if this was a microcosm of playing Fulham or if the club as significantly improved. They face West Ham United on Saturday in their home opener.
3. Sheffield United will take a step back in 2020-21
Sheffield United was a feel-good story last season in the Premier League. After being promoted from the EFL Championship, Sheffield cruised to a hot start, thrusting themselves into Champions League conversation as they hung around in the top six for most of the season. Despite not having a star, they played great defense (conceding the fourth-fewest goals in the Premier League) and scored clutch goals.
However, they also scored the fifth-fewest goals (tied for Brighton & Hove Albion) and during “Project Restart,” they struggled with three wins, two draws and five losses in the 10 matches they played, placing them ninth in the table at the season’s conclusion. This offseason they lost goalkeeper Dean Henderson as his loan at Sheffield ended.
Against Wolverhampton on Monday, Sheffield conceded two goals in the first six minutes and lacked the firepower to overcome the brutal start, losing 2-0. Based on what I’ve seen since play resumed in June, Sheffield relies too much on their defense and if they don’t perform well (especially without their star goalkeeper), they are in trouble. This could be a long season for the Blades and relegation isn’t out of the question.