A confident performance by a young midfielder on loan from a major European club further enhanced his reputation as Swansea hosted Newcastle.
But after all the hype it was Newcastle’s Mikel Merino, on a season-long loan from Borussia Dortmund, who impressed, and Swansea’s Renato Sanches who left many scratching their head.
The excitement was palpable ahead of Sanches’ first game since leaving Bayern Munich with almost unanimous praise for Paul Clement’s work in the transfer market.
However the hysteria didn’t last long. At half-time Jamie Redknapp was fairly kind to the 20-year-old by saying he was ‘having one’.
Sanches was sloppy in possession and couldn’t cope with the pace of the game, but was all as bad as it seemed?
We’ve run the numbers behind Sanches’ Premier League debut to try and find out.
Only two of Swansea’s starting outfield players attempted fewer passes than Sanches (48)- left-back Martin Olsson (39) and midfielder Leroy Fer (44)- although the 20-year-old’s afternoon was ended 21 minutes early.
His pass completion of 79.2% was topped by everyone but Swansea’s full-backs Kyle Naughton and Olsson, as well as Tammy Abraham.
Swansea lined up with a midfield diamond of Sanches, Leroy Fer, Sam Clucas and Tom Carrol, with the Portugal international attempting the fewest forward passes, 22, of which his completion (68.8%) was by far the worst.
Sanches made his name as a physical specimen in Portugal, and that power was in evidence when he knocked a Newcastle player to the ground in his first involvement of the game.
But of the 15 duels he contested Sanches only won 26.7%, way down on Fer (70%), Carroll (80%) and Clucas (75%).
This shouldn’t come as a surprise though, as Sanches was experiencing the notoriously physical Premier League for the first time.
Sanches gave the ball away 23 times in 69 minutes, or every three minutes.
Only Naughton, who played the entire game, gave the ball away more. Most of these were under-hit passes to Swansea’s full-backs, which can be put down to rustiness.
In fairness to Sanches only Clucas, who was playing as the defensive midfielder, recovered more balls, while no Swansea player was fouled more.
There’s no point in sugar-coating it.
Sanches had a terrible first game in English football. But he wasn’t the first and he won’t be the last to struggle on his introduction.
He showed that he finds the spectacular easy and the mundane difficult. But let’s give him more than 69 minutes before writing him off.
After all, Diego Forlan took 27 games to get off the mark for Man United and was crowned the best player at the World Cup five years after leaving Old Trafford.
Give Sanches ten training sessions with Leon Britton and see how many times he gives the ball away after that.