Ahead of every weekend this season I will give you my three thoughts on what’s going on in the Premier League. These might not always be the biggest stories, but rather my personal observations as the games approach each Saturday.
So much for summer.
A new Premier League season kicks off Friday, with a lot to answer for following what was a somewhat lacklustre 2016-17 campaign. I say that with all due respect to Chelsea’s brilliant campaign, not to mention Tottenham’s record haul of points that ordinarily would have given them the title.
This season I would like a little more drama, though, and I suspect we will get just that.
Here is my first column of the season. I will focus on the games at hand this week, and what stands out to me. As for a full season preview mode, Sportsnet.ca already has you covered.
Rooney comes homes
Wayne Rooney is back in blue, and he will enjoy a second debut at Goodison Park this Saturday when Everton host Stoke City. There is so little romance left in the modern era of the game, so let us enjoy seeing Wazza back where it all began.
Not that I am trying to patronize the player or the club; as much as Rooney is obviously a diminishing asset, I suspect he will have a strong season with an ambitious side that have had one of the better transfer windows.
Still, seeing Rooney as an Everton player will feel right, and it will be proof that you can return home, to book end a brilliant career. Keep in mind that I am a Liverpool supporter at heart, so I would have every reason to be cynical and bitter. But I am softening with age, and I am really looking forward to Saturday.
Brighton vs. Man City: David vs Goliath
Also on Saturday, Brighton and Hove Albion host Manchester City. Two decades or so ago this game would have featured two clubs in difficulty, fighting for scraps in the lower divisions. So much has changed in the years since, and despite being very different entities now, they meet in the topflight of English football.
Man City, of course, have done it through investment and astronomical spending, while Brighton, under owner and boyhood fan Tony Bloom, have succeeded through more prudent spending, and a slow and gradual build. This really is a case of the David vs Goliath. Also, Chris Hughton is back managing in the Premier league, and that is a good thing.
Rafa back where he belongs
Also returning to the top flight fold is Rafa Benitez! The Spaniard absolutely loves English football, and when he was at Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea his family was still based in Liverpool. Rafa won promotion with Newcastle United, and kicks off the new Premier league season at home against Tottenham on Sunday.
I discuss Spurs in our big predictions piece on Sportsnet.ca, so it comes as no surprise that this is a hugely challenging way to whet your feet back in the Premier League for the Magpies. But does Rafa see Newcastle as a stepping stone to something more? Or does he genuinely see the potential of building this club into one of Europe’s powers once again? And how will his relationship with the polarizing owner Mike Ashley grow or suffer in this quest? Newcastle is back where it belongs, as is Rafa.