Everton, Wolves and Crystal Palace all took the plunge by replacing their managers ahead of the 2021/22 Premier League season, but will their decisions pay off?
Only four of the top flight’s 20 teams decided a change was needed ahead of the 2021/22 season – and with Nuno Espirito Santo taking charge of Tottenham on Sunday, it was left to Vieira, Lage and Benitez to go first.
With fans allowed back following the lifting of coronavirus restrictions, the first day of the Premier League season held even greater significance.
But full stadiums can work either way, either roaring on their side, or adding to the pressure on their side’s new boss.
Saturday’s 3pm kick-offs have now finished, so how did the league’s new managers get on? Mirror Sport takes a look.
Patrick Vieira (Crystal Palace)
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Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace
Patience was always likely to be the key word for Palace at the start of the 2021/22 season, with a new manager and a drastically revamped squad for the club’s ninth straight campaign in the top flight.
And an away trip to European champions Chelsea was always going to be a testing first fixture.
“We all know it will take time to gel as a team,” Vieira said in warning this week. So it proved.
Chelsea dominated the first half, pinning Palace back and pummelling them, with a Marcos Alonso free-kick and Christian Pulisic rebound putting the hosts 2-0 up at the break.
Despite having Jordan Ayew, Wilfried Zaha and Jean-Philippe Mateta on the pitch, Palace went in without having attempted a single shot – on target or otherwise.
It didn’t get much better in the second half, either, with debutant defender Trevor Chalobah slamming in a third for Chelsea.
Tactically, it seemed to be a similar approach to Roy Hodgson from Vieira, with the defence sitting deep and looking for the pace on Zaha on the break.
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There was an unhappy debut for £18million defender Marc Guehi, but Cheik Kouyate was trusted to start ahead of Joachim Andersen, who did come off the bench, where the squad numbers told a story.
Jesuran Rak-Sakyi (49), Scott Banks (40), Reece Hannam (43) and Robert Street (46) may well be promising players, but new players are needed.
“When you look at the squad, we are maybe a little light on numbers,” Vieira admitted this week.
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Bruno Lage (Wolves)
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Leicester City 1-0 Wolves
It wasn’t just about Lage’s arrival for Wolves, with the return of centre-forward Raul Jimenez a huge boost for the club.
Nuno’s Wolves certainly missed their focal point following his fractured skull last season and his predecessor will be delighted to have the Mexican back.
However, his return did not bring an instant impact, as a first-half goal from Jamie Vardy proved the difference at the King Power Stadium.
Lage had tinkered with a back four in pre-season but reverted to Wolves’ characteristic back five for his first competitive match.
That is not to say it was more of the same, with a higher defensive line noticeable. That is a brave tactic when playing against the pace of Vardy, who netted from Ricardo Pereira’s low cross before the break.
There were plenty of other chances for the Foxes striker, who terrorised the defence alongside the pace of Harvey Barnes, with last-ditch tackles aplenty.
Which of the four new Premier League managers will have the best debut season? Have your say in the comments section below.
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With Jimenez, Adama Traore and Francisco Trincao up front, Wolves were always likely to threaten and there were flashes of potential, if not the end product.
Conor Coady did have the ball in the net, but his late strike was ruled out for offside.
Nuno was criticised for taking a pragmatic, perhaps negative approach to some games during his final season in charge and, despite defeat, it seems Lage will not be more of the same.
Wolves’ away fans have certainly taken to their new Portuguese manager, who benefits from the fact his name fits into Nuno’s old songs without too much difficulty.
All in all, a cautiously optimistic start for Lage at Leicester.
Rafa Benitez (Everton)
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Everton 3-1 Southampton
Benitez was a hugely controversial appointment at Goodison Park, with his links to rivals Liverpool making him a no-go for many Everton fans.
The Spaniard left Liverpool 11 years ago, but he knew he faced an uphill battle at his new club.
There were no boos when the stadium announcer mentioned his name before kick-off, but it didn’t last long, with former Liverpool boss Benitez hearing the dreaded sound from the home fans after the half-time whistle.
It was hardly surprising. In a poll conducted by The Athletic, just 18 per cent of Everton fans felt optimistic about their side before the start of the season – comfortably the lowest percentage of the 20 sides, with Newcastle the next closest on 23 per cent.
In truth, Benitez could not do much about the opening goal. Michael Keane dallied on the ball, allowing Che Adams to send Adam Armstrong in to open the scoring.
Thankfully for Benitez, the second half saw a turnaround.
Richarlison latched onto new signing Andros Townsend’s ball to poke Everton level just after the break and the Toffees built on that equaliser.
Abdoulaye Doucouré capped a dominant performance in central midfield with a deserved goal, swiveling on a loose ball to make it 2-1.
Things got even better for Benitez when Richarlison linked up with his long-time striker partner Dominic Calvert-Lewin to send fans home happy; a trademark diving header just what the doctor ordered.
It was a good start for Benitez, who will face a tougher test when he travels to Elland Road to take on Marcelo Bielsa’s pressing machine, Leeds, next.