Unless you were Maarten Stekelenburg, Saturday was generally a good day for many of the Premier League’s 2013-14 debutantes.
Unfortunately for Fulham, the injury-prone goalkeeper, signed in June from AS Roma, had to leave the Cottagers’ opening match of the season away to Sunderland with a shoulder injury, but the stories were generally better up and down the country.
Whether in making meaningful contributions in defense, creating opportunities for teammates in attack or scoring some of the day’s most important goals, Saturday’s debutantes went some way towards repaying the faith their managers invested in them during the summer transfer window with impact performances on the English top flight’s opening weekend.
Following are five performances of note, and they include players representing each third of the park.
Maarten Stekelenburg: Goalkeeper, Fulham
Edwin van der Sar was 30 years old when he moved to Fulham from Juventus in 2001. Having lost his place to Gianluigi Buffon, the Netherlands international nevertheless managed to revive his career at Craven Cottage and went on to win four Premier League titles and the Champions League following a 2005 transfer to Manchester United.
No doubt Fulham are hoping for a similar renaissance from Maarten Stekelenburg. Acquired from AS Roma in early June, the ‘keeper is also 30 years of age, also the Dutch No. 1 and also an Ajax product. So there is plenty to mirror Van der Sar’s experience.
On Saturday Stekelenburg made his Premier League debut, denying both Emanuele Giaccherini and Ondrej Celutska (the latter save was of the spectacular variety) before a shoulder injury forced him to withdraw in the 76th minute.
He was replaced by David Stockdale and is expected to be out a couple weeks.
Antonio Luna: Left-back, Aston Villa
On loan at Mallorca from Sevilla last season, Antonio Luna was acquired by Aston Villa to both aid in the defensive effort and provide an attacking outlet from the flank.
He succeeded in both assignments on Saturday—winning two tackles, completing 94 per cent of his passes (Arsenal’s makeshift left-back Bacary Sagna, who switched flanks following Kieran Gibbs’ injury, completed only 85 percent of his passes) and scoring the insurance marker in the 85th minute.
After receiving the ball from Andreas Weimann as Villa countered, the 22-year-old scampered downfield unharassed and finished expertly inside the near post, beating Gunners goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny to round out the scoring at Emirates Stadium.
Gary Medel: Midfielder, Cardiff
Gary Medel played all 90 minutes in his Premier League debut for Cardiff—an achievement in itself, given his penchant for getting sent off during two seasons at Sevilla.
And while he didn’t come out on the winning end of Saturday’s 2-0 defeat away to West Ham, the Chilean did leave an impression, completing more than 90 percent of his passes, clearing the ball out of danger on three occasions and intercepting a pass once.
If Cardiff are to avoid relegation this season, the club’s record signing will no doubt have to consistently put up the kind of performances he showed himself capable of at the Boleyn Ground.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel: Striker, Norwich
In two seasons with Portuguese giants Sporting, Ricky Van Wolfswinkel scored 45 goals. A 6'1" Netherlands international, there was a time when he was being linked to some of the biggest clubs in Europe, but the 24-year-old made a €10 million move to Norwich this summer after agreeing terms with the Premier League side in March.
He made his debut for the Canaries on Saturday and scored what proved to be the equalizer in a 2-2 draw with Everton at Carrow Road.
Running to the far post, Van Wolfswinkel found himself in perfect position to get on the end of Steven Whittaker’s cross, directing his header to the far corner past stumbling Toffees goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Victor Wanyama: Midfielder, Southampton
Rumoured to be a one-time transfer target of both Arsenal and Manchester United, according to Massimo Marioni of the Metro, Victor Wanyama made his Premier League debut on Saturday for Southampton, playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 Saints win at West Bromwich Albion.
Locking horns with Youssouf Mulumbu much of the match the 22-year-old outshone the Baggies midfielder—beating him (and most other players on the park) in statistical categories as wide-ranging as pass completion, aerial duels won and, perhaps not surprisingly, fouls.
Kenyan international Wanyama arrived at St. Mary’s from for £12.5 million during the summer, having just won the Scottish Premier League Young Player of the Year award while with Celtic.