By Steve Tongue
LONDON (Reuters) – There will no seismic shifts in the balance of the world’s richest football competition if the first weekend of the new Premier League season is anything to go by.
Last season’s top five all won, most of them comfortably; none of the three promoted sides managed a victory and no-one beat a team who finished above them in 2017-18.
It all made Leicester City’s 5,000-1 title triumph in 2016 seem more unreal than ever.
Since then the same six clubs have finished at the top for two years running and they are widely expected to do so again. Had Arsenal not found themselves playing the champions Manchester City in their first game under new manager Unai Emery, it might well have been a clean sweep for those half-dozen sides as the Premier League returned to action.
As it was, City were straightforward 2-0 winners in London to Emery’s disappointment, following Liverpool’s 4-0 romp over West Ham United earlier on Sunday.
On Saturday, Chelsea, also under new management in Italian Maurizio Sarri, were easy winners by 3-0 away to one of the relegation favourites Huddersfield Town and Tottenham Hotspur, runners-up two years ago and third last time, won 2-1 at Newcastle United.
The opening act on Friday was Manchester United’s 2-1 victory at home to Leicester.
The newcomers to the big time were shown what a task they face. Cardiff City, with the shortest odds for relegation, lost 2-0 at Bournemouth, who are still regarded as a small club with their stadium capacity of under 12,000 yet have just spent a record fee of 25 million pounds ($31.92 million) on one player, the Colombian midfielder Jefferson Lerma.
Fulham, owned by the Pakistani-American Shahid Khan, who wants to buy Wembley Stadium, became the first newly promoted club to spend more than 100 million pounds in a close season, but found themselves beaten at home by London rivals Crystal Palace.
Wolverhampton Wanderers were the only one of the promoted trio to score a goal or earn a point, drawing 2-2 at home to Everton, who played with 10 men for the last 50 minutes.
The consolation for all the former Championship clubs is that they are guaranteed about 100 million pounds for one year in the top tier.
Ambitious pair Fulham and Wolves were among the biggest five net spenders during the close season, but not even their most optimistic supporters will expect them to finish high in the table that counts — where the names at the top are likely to be the familiar ones again.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)