Football can be glorious in August.
The sun still invades the stadium as the embers of Summer hold of the advance of Autumn. New signings, meanwhile, are still full of promise. Debuts are made, crowds roaring their arrival onto the pitch for the first time.
For one afternoon at least, every team is equal. For newly-promoted sides, that feeling is more intense.
Fulham and Wolves hold geniune expectations of being more than just relegation fodder while Cardiff City are everyone's pick to be back in the Championship next season.
But who had the best weekend out of Fulham, Wolves and Cardiff?
Bournemouth 2-0 Cardiff
A comprehensive result for the Cherries, who looked every inch an established Premier League side as they steamrollered Neil Warnock’s men. For the first fifteen minutes in particular, Cardiff looked overwhelmed by the occasion, with a side devoid of Premier League experience being easily exposed.
This was a discouraging start for Warnock, but there are caveats. Stars like Kenneth Zohore and Aran Gunarrson are out injured but should return shortly, whilst Harry Arter is the kind of signing they need to add ballast to a nervous midfield.
Ultimately, it was a day to forget though for the Bluebirds as they fell to a defeat against a side who will be in and around the relegation zone themselves this season.
Fulham 0-2 Crystal Palace
Six new players in the starting eleven might feel like too much, but some Fulham fans may be disappointed not to have seen even more. Luciano Vietto and Tim Fosu-Mensah also started on the bench, in a side that was almost unrecognisable from the one that one promotion last year.
In the end, the changes were simply too much.
Slavisa Jokanovic’s hopeful 4-3-3 was blasted apart by the wiles of Roy Hodgson, whose simple 4-4-2 made the best use of Jeffrey Schlupp and Andros Townsend’s pace on the wing. It was the Ivorian that opened the scoring on 14 minutes before Wilfried Zaha shrugged off a summer of transfer speculation to add a second.
A superb result for the Eagles, who watched the home side potter with nearly two-thirds of possession before destroying them on the break. Fulham fans will hope their teams’ naivete is short-lived.
Wolves 2-2 Everton
Arguably the game of the weekend took place at Molineux as two sides with vaulting ambitions locked horns. Everton looked likeliest to secure the win here, with £40 million signing Richarlison silencing the doubters with two clinically-taken goals.
Wolves, however, showed an impressive grittiness that should dovetail well with their raft of cosmopolitan additions. The uber-talented Ruben Neves scored Wolves first goal with a trademark free-kick, before Raul Jimenez secured a point, heading home from a stunning Neves cross.
Inarguably, Wolves had the best weekend of the promoted sides. That’s not simply down to the result, either.
Their signings, such as Portuguese internationals Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, are of a higher quality than either of the other two teams. Their manager, too, has more experience at a higher level.
If early results are anything to go by, then it is Wolves who have the best chance of staying up this season. Which as just as well, given the millions of pounds in backing behind them and the transfer infrastructure of Jorge Mendes underpinning their efforts.
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