The Premier League exercised its spending power this summer, and not just the teams you would expect; the rise of the British pound and the league’s TV deal has given mid-table teams impressive resources as well, allowing them to poach talent from Europe’s other top leagues.
Here are five debutants who were exceptional in their first Premier League match for their new club.
*Note: Cabaye considered a “Premier League debutant” despite having played in England before because he signed from overseas.
1. Andre Ayew (RW, Swansea City)
Ayew has to be considered the steal of the summer for the Premier League, with the Ghanaian forward signing on a free transfer from Olympique de Marseille after scoring double-digit goals in Ligue 1 last season.
His pace gave Chelsea’s back line fits all game long, and it was his impressive composure after Thibaut Courtois initially saved Bafetimbi Gomis’ initial header that gave Swansea City the equaliser. Despite having the goalkeeper and two defenders in his way, Ayew was able to collect the ball with his left foot, shuffle to avoid a tackle, and rifle it into the far corner. His attacking partnership with Gomis and Jefferson Montero will be fun to watch this season.
2. Dimitri Payet (CAM, West Ham United)
Marseille’s transfer misfortune has turned into a boon for the Premier League’s mid-table squads, with Payet joining Ayew on the road from the Stade Velodrome to England.
After playing a warm up match in the Europa League, Payet was in mid-season form for the Hammers on Sunday, carving open Arsenal’s shaky defence. It was his wonderful ball into the box that set up West Ham’s opener, and he was the architect of the offense throughout. With a slight dearth of creative talent after Enner Valencia’s unfortunate injury, Payet will be expected to carry the load for West Ham going forward.
3. Georginio Wijnaldum (CAM, Newcastle United)
Joining from PSV, Wijnaldum came to St James’ Park with high expectations, and he fulfilled them from the get-go with an energetic, productive debut. His connection with mdifielder Moussa Sissoko was immediate and the Dutchman capped off his brilliant performance by heading a cross expertly into the far corner, a Wijnaldum special.
After last year’s disappointing season, Newcastle needs more production up front, and the combination of Sissoko, Wijnaldum, and Papiss Cisse seems to be right for the job.
4. Matteo Darmian (RB, Manchester United)
Darmian was excellent in his Old Trafford premiere, getting forward with purpose while playing immaculate defense. His awareness and positioning were top class, traits which have made him first-choice right-back for Italy. Antonio Valencia was unlucky to replace such a stout performer after Darmian came off late in the game; after watching Tottenham’s attacks run into one blind alley after another down Darmian’s flank, Valencia’s own defensive deficiencies were magnified.
The 25-year old also linked up with Juan Mata and Memphis Depay well, providing width in attack and making himself available when teammates came under pressure. He could prove to be Louis van Gaal’s top signing despite the other big names added to United’s squad this summer.
5. Yohan Cabaye (CM, Crystal Palace)
Cabaye may have been signed for a club record £13 million this summer, but Alan Pardew and Crystal Palace will likely feel that number a bargain after watching his opening day performance against Norwich City. Optimism must be tempered slightly because of the opposition, but every league game is a battle and Cabaye came dressed in full war regalia. He kept Palace in the game early, retaining possession expertly to help his team relieve pressure in their own half.
As Palace grew into the match, Cabaye’s evolved from pressure valve evolved into playmaker, linking attack and defence well with well-crafted passes and sublime skill. His efforts were rewarded in second-half stoppage as his low, pinpoint effort found its way into the bottom left corner of the net to give Palace a 3-1 lead. His return to the Premier League after a rough spell at PSG has apparently done wonders for Cabaye.