Which Premier League new boys caught the eye? Ayew, Wijnaldum, Darmian, Gestede and Payet among them

There were plenty of top-flight debuts on the first weekend of the season after a busy transfer summer. Jack Pitt-Brooke picks out the five best starts by players who will hope it is a taste of things to come

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André Ayew  (Swansea City)

It may have been slightly lost amid the post-match recriminations, as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho castigated his own medical staff in the aftermath of a 2-2 draw, but André Ayew scored a superb goal at Stamford Bridge.

Lying on the ground after the Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had saved his first effort, Ayew scrambled back on to his feet and, rather than stabbing at the ball, dragged it back, into space, away from the recovering John Terry and Gary Cahill. Before they could readjust, Ayew whipped the ball into the net and Swansea were level.

The goal was what Ayew deserved for a performance of tenacity and quality on his Premier League debut after signing from Marseilles on a free transfer. His manager, Garry Monk, was full of praise for him afterwards and said that he has been “incredible” since joining and worked “extremely hard” in training.

That work ethic has impressed everyone at the Liberty Stadium so far and any worries that Ayew left France for south Wales for the money alone have been completely dismissed already. Ayew certainly has the physique and attitude to cope with the Premier League and there is no doubt that he has the talent either.


Georginio Wijnaldum  (Newcastle United)

More than any other player – Ayew or Dimitri Payet at West Ham – the arrival of Wijnaldum shows the current financial power of the Premier League. Wijnaldum was the heartbeat and captain of Phillip Cocu’s title-winning PSV Eindhoven side last season, a 24-year-old Netherlands international whom Mourinho said could play for Chelsea. Yet this summer he left to sign for a team John Carver nearly dragged into the Championship.

On Sunday, though, Wijnaldum showed precisely what all the fuss was about and why it was so striking that Newcastle had signed a player of his class. His all-round performance was impressive, athletic and intelligent. But, crucially, Wijnaldum scored Newcastle’s second goal in their 2-2 draw with Southampton, leaping to head in Gabriel Obertan’s cross after a brilliant counter-attacking run.

Gini Wijnaldum celebrates after putting Newcastle ahead


There is nothing quite as valuable as a box-to-box goal-scorer and if Newcastle have one in Wijnaldum they will be a far more effective side than the one that nearly limped out of the Premier League last year.

Steve McClaren, the Newcastle manager, knows that Wijnaldum can transform his team, and listed his qualities on Sunday night with real enthusiasm: “He brings tempo, quality on the ball, he scores and has adaptability in midfield.” If he does all of that all season, Newcastle will be a force again.

Matteo Darmian  (Manchester United)

Even some of the best imported defenders of recent years at Manchester United – Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra included – struggled on their debuts to adapt to the pace of the English game.

It is not always easy to come straight into the hustle of the Premier League, especially from the slower tempo of Serie A. And yet Matteo Darmian looked exceptionally comfortable and assured at right-back on his United debut.



Facing Mauricio Pochettino’s feisty Tottenham team, who are committed to winning the ball back in four seconds wherever possible, Darmian held his own. Spurs winger Nacer Chadli was largely becalmed and United’s manager, Louis van Gaal, went out of his way to congratulate Darmian afterwards.

“I think Darmian was one of the best players,” Van Gaal said after the 1-0 win. “Why? He was good in ball possession, but also when the opponent has the ball he was a very good player. I have to congratulate him on his performance.”

Rudy Gestede  (Aston Villa)

Some teams can collapse when they lose their best player and there is a real danger that the same thing could happen to Aston Villa, now that Christian Benteke, who has done more than anyone else to keep them in the Premier League over recent years, plays for Liverpool.

There is pressure, then, on Rudy Gestede to match as much of Benteke’s old work as he possibly can, even though he arrived at Villa Park for roughly one fifth of the money that they received for his predecessor. All Gestede can do is score goals that win games and that is precisely what he did with 18 minutes left on Saturday, when Villa were struggling to break down Bournemouth.

Rudy Gestede scored the only goal in Aston Villa’s 1-0 victory over promoted Bournemouth


Gestede had replaced Jordan Ayew, younger brother of Swansea’s André, just 13 minutes before, but when Ashley Westwood put a free-kick into the Bournemouth box, Gestede galloped on to it and produced the sort of emphatic header Benteke likes to score. “He is like a moving car,” said the Villa manager, Tim Sherwood, afterwards. “He really throws his body at it. He is brave as a lion but he is more than a battering ram.”

Dimitri Payet (West Ham United)

West Ham United are a club who need exciting, talented players to engage their support, and Slaven Bilic’s 4-3-1-2 line-up is a system which requires a bit of magic behind the front two. The fans and new manager found what they were looking for in the 2-0 win at Arsenal on Sunday, in the form of Dimitri Payet.

Like André Ayew, Payet escaped out of a collapsing Marseilles this summer, not on a free transfer but for a £10.7m fee. It may have been a risk – the last winger West Ham paid that much money for was Matt Jarvis – but Sunday’s evidence was all positive. Payet is a dangerous player, with a delicate touch and a burst of pace that can take opponents out of the game. Arsenal’s Francis Coquelin could not lay a finger on him and, like any creative player, you sense Payet will get better once he adapts to the rhythms of the English game.



Stewart Downing has left West Ham and Kevin Nolan is not the player he was. Payet, the stocky little wizard from the island of Réunion, can take this changing team to the next level and into its new home.