The spectator seemed to be on the field for an eternity in the FA Cup clash between Wimbledon and Ramsgate as the steward struggled…
It was a weekend where everything happened in Australian football. One could make the joke about buses – you wait an hour for one and then two turn up – but given the public transport system (or lack thereof) in this country, it might fall on deaf ears.
On a regular weekend, the debut of the first Australian manager in the world’s biggest football league would have been front and centre, but given events on home soil, it was barely even a footnote.
Indeed, the biggest story coming out of Ange Postecoglou’s first game from an Aussie perspective is that he mentioned wanting to rub a Matildas’ victory over the Lionesses in the faces of his current cohabitants.
Perhaps it would have been more fun to have remained in Scotland, where they are currently trying to forget that England are in any sort of semi-final at all.
On the field, the Premier League was back with…well, given events in the Women’s World Cup, a moderate pop rather than a bang.
We saw 2023/4 end as 2022/3 started, with an Erling Haaland double in a comfortable Man City win, followed by a less comfortable but still pretty convincing Arsenal win, with Bukayo Saka still dominating.
There was a big win for Newcastle, whom nobody has really talked about as contenders but finished in the top four last year, and an unconvincing one for Man United, who discovered that their expensive new keeper’s main skill is apparently that he is invisible to VAR after punching a Wolves player in face and getting away with it.
Oh, and there was a headline clash between Chelsea and Liverpool that seemed permanently overshadowed by the fact that they are also competing against each other to burn huge piles of cash on defensive midfielders.
By the time you read this, Chelsea will likely have two new players at enormous expense for just one role, and Liverpool will have saved themselves a lot of cash, lost some face, but will likely buy someone better anyway. Silly season is still upon us.
Look, we have to get excited about Ange Postecoglou. He appeared to approach his first game in the Premier League as a statement of intent, making the most Angeball decisions possible at all times.
Inverted fullbacks? Let’s invert them to the point where they’re not really fullbacks at all anymore, just midfielders that used to play in defence. Defence? That will really have to come later. Striker? Lots of running, not a lot of finishing.
The loss of Harry Kane was really all that anyone in England wanted to talk about, but for those of us here who are interested in the manager, there was a lot to love.
Ange is, still, largely unknown to the British football media and this was a demonstration of what he’s trying to do – which, as Aussie fans know, can occasionally come at the detriment of actually winning games of football.
Not that Ange doesn’t win, just that he’s a bloke with serious principles and here are them all right now in front of you. Please get used to them.
Brentford away is a lowkey really hard game – they have one of the best records against top teams around – and Spurs did pretty well. They might have won on another day, but a draw was perfectly fine. Better teams than Tottenham will lose to Brentford this year, one suspects.
Ange is still building and has the thick end of 100 million quid to go out and buy players to fit his system. That won’t be strikers, as Richarlison remains Plan A, but expect a lot of movement.
The golden rule of management is that you get a lot more leeway if you are fun, and Ange is well on the road to that.
Spurs fans have watched a lot of dross for a long time and just sold their only truly elite player, so nobody will blame the manager quite yet for anything. In a lot of ways, it’s perfect for Postecoglou.
It wasn’t a great weekend to be a team that plays in any shade of claret. West Ham were the only ones to emerge with any credit, snaffling a draw at Bournemouth, but really, that might be the sort of result they look back on with a bit of annoyance that they didn’t win.
The Hammers have had a shocking summer, selling their best player in Declan Rice and replacing him with…nothing. They didn’t have a single upgrade in their XI on Saturday, and those they have now got a few bodies through the door – cliche alert – one does wonder what took them so long.
James Ward-Prowse to West Ham is the most obvious transfer in the history of obvious transfers – the best set piece taker to a team that only scores off corners – but somehow has taken until after the season started.
The dual arrivals from United of Harry Maguire, much-maligned but still, fundamentally, pretty competent, and Scott McTominay, who was grown in a lab to play for West Ham, could have been done months ago. Neither was wanted by Erik ten Hag and has been available for ages, with few other suitors.
Ironically, West Ham got the best result of our now three similarly-hued sides, with Burnley – the actually Clarets – always likely to get pumped by Citeh and Villa, whom many had as a smokey for a crack at the top four, getting battered at St James’ Park.
Early days yet, but Unai Emery’s men also lost Tyrone Mings and Emi Buendia to knee injuries. They’ll win the Europa Conference League of course, but on current form, that’s the only way they’ll actually qualify for Europe at all.
Last year was quite unusual in that all three promoted sides stayed up, something that has happened just four times since Rupert Murdoch invented football in 1992.
One weekend in, this does not look like it will be repeated – indeed, something even more unusual might be in the works, with all three promoted teams relegated. That’s only happened once in the Premier League era, in 1997/98, when Barnsley, Bolton and Crystal Palace were bounced straight out.
There’s a strong argument for two of the three at the very least being well off the pace, and in the case of Luton Town, not even really trying to stay up.
They’ve invested in high-level Championship players, which does give the impression that they’re happy to have a crack, take the cash and rebuild into the future. Like Withnail and his pal, they appear to have been promoted by mistake.
Lots of teams will lose to Brighton, as the Hatters did this weekend, but more worrying will be that it wasn’t even close and the result doesn’t look like it will be a one-off.
Sheffield United are a classic yo-yo side, so it’s not surprising in their case that they might go back down. They’ve lost their best three players and not really replaced them yet, with James McAtee and Tommy Doyle returning to Man City after loans and Iliman Ndiaye to Marseille. Losing at home to Crystal Palace was not an ideal start.
The third to enter are Burnley. They’ve reinvented themselves in Pep Guardiola’s image under his former captain, Vincent Kompany, so it was probably to be expected that things would end as they did on Friday night.
Their bigger test will be implementing that style with worse players against teams that have played against it, or variations of it, many times before.
The only hope, really, is that someone else falls over. This is the world’s richest and yet, often, most incompetent league – so that might well happen. Watch this space.