After three long months, the new Premier League season finally begins this Saturday.
All twenty sides are in action over the course of the weekend, with champions Leicester opening the season against newly-promoted Hull at the KC Stadium at 12.45.
Be it down to a lack of fitness or co-ordination on the losers’ part, the opening day has seen some big surprises over the years, from smaller sides beating big boys to vicious thrashings being administered.
Here are five such examples of the biggest opening day shocks in Premier League history.
Wigan Athletic 0-4 Blackpool, 14th August 2010
By 2010, Wigan were an established Premier League club, entering their sixth consecutive year in the top flight. Blackpool, in contrast, were in the highest level of English football for the first time in almost 40 years.
Their return to the top division began brightly and they were 3-0 up at half time at the JJB Stadium, goals from Gary Taylor-Fletcher and a quickfire double from Marlon Harewood ending the tie as a contest. Alex Baptiste added a fourth on the 75 minute as Wigan, having lost the last game of the previous season 8-0 to Chelsea, feared the worst for the campaign ahead.
However, as convincing a victory as this was, one of these teams went down the following May – and it wasn’t Wigan.
West Bromwich Albion 3-0 Liverpool, August 18th 2012
There was a huge amount of optimism around Anfield when Brendan Rodgers replaced Kenny Dalglish as Liverpool manager in 2012. Though many knew it would take time for the new regime to take shape, few expected this result in his first Premier League game in charge.
West Brom took the lead through Zoltan Gera right before half time with a fantastic strike from outside the area. When Shane Long missed a penalty on the hour mark (a foul for which Daniel Agger was sent off), Liverpool thought they were granted a lifeline, only for Martin Skrtel to give away another one just two minutes later. This time, Peter Odemwingie made no mistake and put the Baggies 2-0 ahead.
Romelu Lukaku made it three with 15 minutes remaining, and ensured that Brendan Rodgers endured a nightmare start to his Liverpool tenure.
Leciester City 0-5 Bolton Wanderers, August 18th 2001
Bolton had just been promoted from the First Division, and while Leicester were still adjusting to the loss of manager Martin O’Neill a year earlier, nobody expected a destruction of this magnitude at Filbert Street.
Kevin Nolan opened the scoring for the visitors after 15 minutes. Bolton were 4-0 up at half time thanks to Michael Ricketts, a second from Nolan and Per Frandsen. Frandsen put the finishing touch on the rout with seven minutes remaining, and Leicester began the long, sorry road to relegation.
Fifteen years later, they would be celebrating a Premier League title, while the winning manager that afternoon, Sam Allardyce, is now in charge of England. Neither outcome looked particularly likely back then.
Arsenal 1-3 Aston Villa, 17th August 2013
Arsenal fans had grumbled for much of the summer over Arsene Wenger’s inability to sign a top striker (sound familiar?), but when Olivier Giroud put them 1-0 up against Aston Villa after just 5 minutes at the Emirates, it looked like their season would begin on a high at least.
However, Paul Lambert’s side had other ideas. Christian Benteke saw a penalty saved by Wojciech Szczesny after 20 minutes, with the Belgian striker on hand to head in the rebound and equalise.
The visitors were given a second penalty on the hour mark, and this time Benteke made no mistake to put Villa in front. The tie was put beyond doubt in the final few minutes, debutant Antonio Luna making himself an instant hero to put his side 3-1 up.
Soon after, Arsenal went on a run that saw them top the table for most of the winter, before predicatably having their usual breakdown and finishing fourth. Villa, meanwhile, finished just five points clear of the relegation zone.
Queens Park Rangers 0-5 Swansea City, 18th August 2012
While Brendan Rodgers’ new side were being taught a lesson by West Brom, his old one were destroying QPR at Loftus Road.
The home side had just barely avoided relegation on the last day of the previous season, Having recruited the likes of Park Ji-Sung, Rob Green, José Bosingwa and Samba Diakhité, however, the general consensus was that they would perform far better this term.
Nope. It turns out those signings were all mercenaries and Swansea, under the new management of Danish legend Michael Laudrup, ran riot.
£2m signing Michu was the hero, scoring twice, with a further double coming from Nathan Dyer before Scott Sinclair completed Mark Hughes’ humiliation.
Hughes would be sacked and replaced by Harry Redknapp in Novermber, while Swansea won the Capital One Cup later that season.