ses: The rumors are true. The Premier League, which never disappeared, is back. And I was relieved on a lively Friday night as I watched Arsenal’s enthusiastic new-parts squad do an excellent job of raising some tender early season hopes at Selhurst Park.
It was 24 degrees in south London as kick-off approached on the earliest date that England’s top level ever started. It was a kind of dry heat, the grass was burning white, and the sky was a deathly blue. English summer at least has a sense of irony. To avoid the Gulf sun, the Premier League will instead play in a heat wave in England.
All in all this was a fun, refreshing start to the season. If last week’s Community Shield felt like a bit of a visit, football reimagined as a 90-minute soprano dream sequence, there was a familiar influence on this. London derby. Intensive Systems Administrator. That pale summer sun. Maybe this was real after all.
It is a question that may also apply to Arsenal In a season that will define Mikel Arteta’s work so far. They got off to a bold start 11, the kind 11 that wanders into fan conversations, the 11 full of hope, the 11 breakfast cake. Saliba! Martinelli! No stuffing! Maybe except for Granit Shaka! But that’s good, it’s good now too!
By the end of a difficult 2-0 victory, a result that failed to reflect Crystal Palace’s flexibility between goals, it felt like something could be exciting here. Gabriel Jesus was good. Oleksandr Zinchenko has been good for a while. William Saliba was very good and would attract the most attention.
Saliba made seven passes without having to interfere. His death was powerful. He didn’t look confused or even too tired at the end, stepping up in the fraught and mucus-filled performances of Arsenal’s defense back in the past. He floated through this, teasing things a few seconds ago inside his head. this is good. Where was he again?
If the game is reassuringly active, then for TV viewers on opening day there were some disturbing developments in the coverage of Sky Sports. Before kickoff, Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher were sent to do a pop with fans, a step up from going out to fetch some milk, but diluting the role of the expert analyst. Why don’t you go all the way and put them in a bar somewhere?
Jazz and Kara did their best. But frowning men in fake shirts are abundant outside the pay system. Legitimate and graphic content is what people pay for.
Then there was the odd prospect and fear that Patrick Vieira would be forced to utter a breathless cliché in the first half. This was unpleasant for everyone involved. Vieira does not want to do this. He’s not part of the scene at that point. This is not American wrestling yet. Stop overproducing this thing. The game is good. trust him.
And both teams were good, Arsenal from the start. Gabriel Jesus did something amazing three minutes later, grabbing the ball 40 yards from the goal, producing nutmeg and squeezing it past. For long, those pink shirts, the color of heat-damaged cured pork, found graceful little triangles elegant. Zinchenko was impressively mobile, touching him in the first half hour more than anyone else on the field.
He had a hand in the opening goal, finding five yards of unattended space by making a roundabout from the edge of the box. Headed the ball back. Martinelli nodded.
Jesus was also quick on his feet, desperate to dodge and get around. He defines exactly what Arsenal need: pressure, superiority, power. Maybe people forgot how good it was, or how good it was supposed to be. Jesus and Martinelli had eight dribbles and four shots in the first half hour of the season. They played together for Brazil against Japan in Tokyo in June. They must be this good.
Palace was drained due to injury and loss of players. Expectations are low, which might just be a helpful place, but Vieira really seems to know what he’s doing and the players to trust them. They pressured Arsenal on both sides of the first half, and used Wilfried Zaha as a weapon against Ben White. But it was also an opportunity for Saliba to show his qualities. In addition to Arsenal, owns Saka, who scored the second goal, forcing Marc Guehy to turn a very low cross into his own net.
For Arteta, the path is clear from here, the time to make the investment in time and resources. But they have a style of play and a scheme. The great shadow of Arsen has passed. The flaws here are the flaws of this team, the strengths that you feed Arteta. Whisper, but that was actually pretty encouraging.