Setting the Tone: How the Premier League Top Four Kicked Off their Campaigns

~ 2015/16 ~

Leicester City 4-2 Sunderland

Leicester’s incredible journey to their Premier League crown began in style in Claudio Ranieri’s first league game in charge. Jamie Vardy kick-started his memorable season by opening the scoring with just eleven minutes played. Riyad Mahrez bagged a brace in the space of seven minutes to leave the Foxes 3-0 up at the half hour mark. Jermain Defoe pulled one back for Dick Advocaat’s side in the second half before Marc Albrighton restored Leicester’s three goal cushion not long after. Steven Fletcher grabbed a consolation for the Mackems, but Ranieri’s men deservedly took the points.

Arsenal 0-2 West Ham

The Gunners endured a disappointing start to the season as West Ham collected all three points at the Emirates Stadium. Cheikhou Kouyate opened the scoring just before half time to give the Irons the lead, before Mauro Zarate secured the victory with a goal early in the second half. It was another frustrating campaign for Arsenal, but they still managed to pip local rivals Tottenham to second place while West Ham enjoyed an impressive season under Slaven Bilic, finishing seventh.

Manchester United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur

Though Mauricio Pochettino’s side were title contenders for much of the season, they began their campaign with a narrow defeat at Old Trafford. It was Kyle Walker’s own goal that settled a tight contest as Louis van Gaal started his second season at United with a victory. However, Tottenham were to enjoy the better season as they finished third - their highest finish of the Premier League era. Though they were disappointed on missing out on the title to Leicester and on second place to local rivals Arsenal.

West Brom 0-3 Manchester City

Man City began their quest for a third Premier League title with an impressive victory at the Hawthorns. First half goals from David Silva and Yaya Toure set them on their way before captain Vincent Kompany headed in a third just before the hour mark. Though City won the League Cup for the second time in three seasons, it was an underwhelming season in the Premier League as they had to settle for fourth place, finishing in the final Champions League place on goal difference ahead of rivals Manchester United in what proved to be Pellegrini’s last season at the helm.

~ 2014/15 ~

Burnley 1-3 Chelsea

Burnley faced a tough opening game in their return to the Premier League after a four-year absence. However, they looked on course to cause an upset when Scott Arfield gave them an early lead. However, Chelsea struck back almost immediately as Diego Costa grabbed a goal on his debut for the Blues, and within eight minutes of Arfield’s goal, Jose Mourinho’s side were ahead as Andre Schurrle put them up 2-1. Branislav Ivanovic made it 3-1 just under ten minutes before half time as Chelsea enjoyed an impressive start to the season. They went on to clinch their fourth Premier League title in style, losing just three games all season.

Newcastle 0-2 Manchester City

Manuel Pellegrini’s side began the defence of their Premier League title with a comfortable victory in the North East. David Silva gave City the league before Sergio Aguero sealed the victory in injury time. They were unable to secure back-to-back titles as Chelsea seized the initiative early on and never released it, finishing comfortably ahead of City in first place.

Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace

The Gunners have endured their fair share of disappointing starts to Premier League campaigns in recent years, and another opening day setback looked on the cards here. Palace were without a manager after parting company with Tony Pulis, but they took the lead through Brede Hangeland ten minutes before half time. However, Laurent Koscielny headed Arsenal level just before the break. The Eagles looked on course for a point, but their task was made more complicated when Jason Puncheon was sent off in the final minutes. The home side made the most of their numeric advantage as Aaron Ramsey scored in injury time to give them all three points. Though Chelsea largely dominated proceedings in the Premier League, Arsenal went on to secure Champions League football for another season.

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City

United suffered a shock defeat in Louis van Gaal’s first league game in charge. Ki Sung-yueng’s first half goal gave the Swans the lead but newly-appointed captain Wayne Rooney levelled the scores early in the second half. However, the Welsh side struck back to claim all three points when Gylfi Sigurdsson restored their lead with just over a quarter of an hour to go as Swansea claimed an impressive victory. Ironically United, has thrashed Swansea 4-0 on the opening day of the 2013-14 campaign a year earlier. Despite an uncertain season, van Gaal’s side went on to secure the final Champions League spot.

~ 2013/14 ~

Manchester City 4-0 Newcastle United

Manuel Pellegrini enjoyed the perfect start as Man City manager as they thrashed the Magpies in his first game in charge. David Silva gave the home side an early lead before Sergio Aguero doubled the lead to put City in control. Newcastle’s day got even worse when Steven Taylor was sent off and Pellegrini’s men went on to take full advantage in the second half. Yaya Toure’s free kick made it 3-0 before Samir Nasri rounded off a comprehensive victory. It proved a good omen for City, who went on to lift their second Premier League title after an absorbing battle with Liverpool towards the end of the season.

Liverpool 1-0 Stoke City

A pulsating season at Anfield began with a narrow victory over Stoke in Mark Hughes’ first game in charge of the Potters. Daniel Sturridge scored what proved to be the only goal of the game late in the first half, but debutant goalkeeper Simon Mignolet emerged as the hero after saving a late Stoke Penalty. With just minutes of the game remaining, Jonathan Walters had the chance to surely earn a point for the visitors but saw his effort brilliantly saved by Mignolet to ensure Liverpool took the points. After a superb run of results in the final months of the season, Liverpool looked on course for their first league title since 1990. However, a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea and a 3-3 draw against Crystal Palace - where they surrendered a 3-0 lead within nine minutes - allowed City to seize the advantage and take the title.

Chelsea 2-0 Hull City

Jose Mourinho began his second spell at Stamford Bridge in typical fashion as Chelsea cruised to a comfortable victory over the Tigers. Oscar gave the hosts the lead before veteran Frank Lampard’s free kick made it 2-0, making amends for his earlier penalty miss. Chelsea had high hopes of winning the title upon Mourinho’s re-appointment, and looked on course for their fourth Premier League title as the season entered its final months. However, some poor results - including a 2-1 home defeat by Sunderland, their first defeat at Stamford Bridge under Mourinho - saw them slip behind City and Liverpool.

Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa

Arsenal suffered a shock opening day defeat as Villa took all three points at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal looked to be heading for a routine win when Olivier Giroud gave them the lead. However, Christian Benteke continued his impressive form for Villa when he grabbed an equaliser, heading home after Wojciech Szczesny had initially saved his penalty. Villa took the lead when they were awarded a second penalty in the second half, with Benteke making no mistake this time. Arsenal’s task became even more difficult when Laurent Koscielny was sent off, and when Antonio Luna made it 3-1 Arsenal’s nightmare afternoon was complete. Arsene Wenger’s side bounced back and looked to be on course for their first Premier League title in ten years for much of the season. However, some heavy defeats, including a 6-3 defeat a Man City, a 5-1 defeat at Liverpool and a 6-0 loss at Chelsea, saw them fall out of the title race and they had to settle for fourth place.