After the dust settled on what was a near perfect opening day victory for Town against a shell-shocked Crystal Palace side, I gave my post-match thoughts and ran through some of the major talking points to consider and discuss.
The fruits of the pre-season labour
Since last summer, every Town fan realised just how significant the pre-season was for what soon became a fairytale season.
This pre-season has been no different and the fruits of the pre-season labour and all the hard work that David Wagner has done behind the scenes has come to fruition.
Despite major questions being asked about Town’s lack of Premier League experience, Town were sharper, quicker and quite simply hungrier than Crystal Palace were.
Whilst some would argue that this is just a telltale sign of a newly promoted side that is desperate to prove themselves in the Premier League, it was more a signature of a David Wagner side.
There was an expectation that Town’s blistering fast start would slow down as Town tired. However, Town’s superior fitness levels as a result of a hard pre-season paid dividends.
Not only were Town’s fitness levels so impressive, so was Town’s bravery and fully fledged belief in implementing their philosophy on the biggest stage.
One of my main concerns prior to the match was the defence. From the pre-season friendlies, it was clear that Town would not have the same goalscoring issues from last season but the question was, would they be able to combine it with a solid defence as well?
Whilst Crystal Palace did have some gilt-edged chances, the organised and cohesive nature of the defence led by Zanka and Schindler was as impressive as the three goals scored.
One noticeable difference from last season was Town’s threat from set-pieces. This was twofold, the sheer quality of the set-pieces appears to have improved drastically with Town having a number of aerial threats including the likes of Steve Mounié and Zanka.
Also, Town have a number of training ground routines to turn to. If Town can master set-pieces as a regular source of goals, it will be crucial for the remainder of the season.
From set-piece routines to having an extra yard of pace to close down the opposition faster, David Wagner’s pre-season work seems to be paying off already.
Wagner’s uncovered gems at either end of the pitch
In such an impressive display, it’s difficult to pick out a standout performer. However, it appears that David Wagner has uncovered gems at either end of the pitch.
When Town announced the signing of Jonas Lössl on loan from FSV Mainz, there were some serious questions asked and dubious looks from those in Germany.
The Danish goalkeeper had made a number of high profile mistakes and towards the end of the season, the 28-year-old goalkeeper looked shot of confidence.
However, since making the switch to Town, Jonas Lössl has looked revitalised and his impressive pre-season form has carried on into the first game of the season.
Outstanding saves from Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha will live long in the memory. However, Lössl’s aerial dominance, commandment of his area and distribution, which played a major role in the third goal, was all equally impressive.
If Lössl can continue this outstanding form throughout the season, he will be absolutely crucial to Town’s success this season.
At the other end, the man who will be stealing all the headlines is Steve Mounié. The 22-year-old striker scored two excellent goals and he could have easily have got himself a hat-trick if it wasn’t for a brilliant Fosu-Mensah recovery tackle.
The 22-year-old striker was a constant menace against an uncomfortable Crystal Palace back three and his hard work and perseverance was rewarded with two goals.
The first appears to be what will quickly become a trademark Mounié goal as he rose highest in the box to power a bullet header in the top corner leaving Wayne Hennessey with no chance.
The second was impressive in its own right. After Scott Dann spurned a big chance, Town moved quickly up the other end. When Quaner laid the ball across the eighteen-yard box, Mounié stepped onto it and bent it past Hennessey to put the game to bed.
Like Lössl, Steve Mounié’s importance cannot be understated as his goals over the course of the season will be absolutely crucial for Town.
A new-found efficiency
One of the most impressive features of Town’s victory yesterday was Town’s efficiency in front of goal. The concern was Town’s ruefulness in front of goal would continue into the Premier League.
However, the main difference this season is the fact that Town has Steve Mounié and he is already adapting and thriving in the Premier League.
With his first two shots on target, the Beninese international converted both and provided Town with the efficiency needed in front of goal to win games in the Premier League.
Already we can see that Mounié is a natural finisher and his instinctive one touch finishes inside of the box is an extremely impressive attribute.
If David Wagner can help to instill composure in Mounié for one on one situations then Town will have a very well rounded striker who looks perfect for the Premier League.
Billing’s massive opportunity and he took it
After Jonathan Hogg limped off injured in the pre-season friendly against Udinese and the news broke that he wouldn’t be available for the first month of the Premier League season, I was fearing the worst.
There is no doubt about the importance of Jonathan Hogg last season and how integral he was, as a leader, a motivator and a destroyer in the heart of the midfield.
Often it was Jonathan Hogg, who alongside Aaron Mooy dominated the centre of the park in the Championship and controlled the tempo of the game.
With Jonathan Hogg missing, I expected Danny Williams to fill in as the experienced replacement. However, Philip Billing was given the opportunity and it was a massive one for the Dane.
It would’ve been easy for the 21-year-old midfielder to shy away. Instead, Billing took the opportunity and alongside Aaron Mooy shone in the deep-lying midfield role.
As well as demonstrating his ability to glide past players and pick out pinpoint passes, Billing tracked back well and provided the additional defensive cover that was needed.
The way that Billing has stepped up and performed in the Premier League when called upon shows that he is more than comfortable playing in the Premier League and I hope he will now be rewarded with a run of games in the side.
The perfect start and a platform to build on
Coming into the Premier League, it’s often stated that a newly-promoted side needs to pick up points at the earliest possible opportunity.
Not only did Town do that, they also secured their first clean sheet and scored multiple times, something that will give both the attack and the defence a boost of confidence ahead of two consecutive Premier League home matches.
It is expected that Town will accumulate the vast majority of their points at home (in the hope of replicating Burnley’s feat), however, these wins away from home will prove to be invaluable.
Whilst Wagner is wisely keeping Town’s feet on the ground, the eccentric German will know that the victory at Selhurst Park has given Town a platform to build upon.
Even though this was a game with many positives to take, David Wagner will not relent and allow complacency to even begin to seep into the mind of his side. Instead, as we all should, he will be taking it one step at a time, starting with Newcastle United on Sunday.