What Did the Premier League Opening Weekend Show Us?
Having been somewhat spoilt with the World Cup over the summer, a three-and-a-half-week gap ensued without competitive football. But it’s back – the Premier League has kicked off for the 27th time. Here’s the round-up of all the weekend’s talking points:
Rocky Balboa Vs Ivan Drago
Jurgen Klopp said earlier in the week:
“Liverpool are still Rocky Balboa, not Ivan Drago”
Of the favourites to take the Premier League trophy come May, Manchester City and Liverpool both evidenced early on that they are up for the fight. Liverpool smashed four goals past West Ham and looked to be streaks ahead of a Hammers team that invested heavily. City dominated Arsenal to continue their incredible form in the Premier League.
For Liverpool, Naby Keita looked to be worth the wait with a fine performance that offered a real glimpse of his dynamism as a box-to-box player. Allison’s first game between the sticks proved to be particularly quiet, something which will not concern Klopp one iota. Sturridge played a cameo role, replacing Salah late on. And 24 seconds into his substitution he was back on the scoresheet in a Liverpool shirt. For City, with all the excitement surrounding Mahrez, it was old-heads Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling that scored the goals.
Two terrific finishes made the difference, but the first half could have conjured up more. With Kevin De Bruyne set to play more of a role in the rest of the season and their next six games against the newly promoted teams of this season and the last – it could be a great start for Pep Guardiola and the reigning champions.
The New Managers
Sarri Is Implementing His Plan
Mauricio Sarri began life in the Premier League with an opening day victory against Huddersfield Town. Though Sarri said pre-match it would take months before Chelsea were playing the way he wanted, they started brightly here, and it was a routine win. £71 million record-stealing goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga won the pre-match headlines but in truth, he had little to do. Elsewhere in the team, Jorginho’s transfer looks to have freed up Kante – the two could prove to be the most dynamic deep-lying midfield partnership in the league.
With Kovacic to come into the team and Hazard’s minutes to increase after his summer exertions, Sarri’s Chelsea is taking shape.
Emery’s Style Revolution Might Take A Little Longer
For all the positives on show for Chelsea, Emery’s ‘new look’ Arsenal didn’t fare so well. The jury is torn on Arsenal’s start, which saw them fall to Manchester City in a 2-0 defeat. But it wasn’t all bad news as Arsenal looked more energetic off the ball than they did at times under Arsene Wenger.
Mattéo Guendozi was a constant source of energy and despite making mistakes that should have been punished by Man City, he looked like he could play a major role in this Arsenal setup. Mistakes seemed to be the order of the day, with Emery’s style encouraging them to play the ball out of the back. They will no doubt improve in this regard, and Man City’s high press presents one of the tougher tests they’ll face .
Petr Cech looked especially uncomfortable , almost putting the ball in his own net from six yards out with a failed pass. Alexandra Lacazette, when he came on looked a threat for Arsenal with some neat touches. Next Saturday’s game at Stamford Bridge will prove a fascinating encounter and a chance for the two (who have both been well-beaten by City) to showcase their ambition for the season ahead.
Richarlison Vs Ruben Neves
There was talk about his transfer fee, as is often the case when £40 million is cast with such nonchalance in the direction of a domestic rival, but those anxieties were soon displaced when Richarlison scored two goals on his debut as ten-men Everton managed to hold on for an opening day draw with newly promoted Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Like Richarlison, Ruben Neves is just 21 years old, but this is a young man who has captained Porto in the Champions League and played a key role in Wolves’ promotion last season. He certainly shone against Everton with a fancy free kick and an inch perfect assist, announcing himself on the biggest stage.
Middle of the Pack
While Everton and Wolves both impressed in their draw and we think they could compete in the mini league below the top six, it was the robustness in which Crystal Palace and Bournemouth went about their work against newly promoted teams which impressed. West Ham, Fulham and Leicester are expected to compete and in truth, the fight for Europa League football is wide open.
What to Expect From the Promoted Teams
Wolves are expected to have a comfortable season, perhaps even a thrilling one. And on this evidence, it looks like their fans could be right to wish for something special this season. Especially with Ruben Neves running the midfield. A positive start for Wolves. Grade B Fulham dominated possession against London rivals Crystal Palace on day 1, but it was Roy Hodgson’s men that came out on top.
Fulham showed they have enough across the board to compete this season and Jean-Michel-Seri looked classy in the middle. Grade C - It looks to be a long season for Cardiff City. They offered relatively little against Bournemouth and Eddie Howe’s team were much better on the day. We know Warnock likes to play with a physicality and that could mean he picks up points here and there, but they look to be behind the other teams in the league right now. Grade D
The Ones with the Transfer Problems
After a disappointing pre-season, Manchester United had the spine of their team back together and they showed enough to keep fans content and Jose Mourinho’s discontent at bay. United’s new look midfield showed promise. Fred and Andreas Pereira lined up alongside Paul Pogba, who said of his new teammates:
“We just started to play together, we started training together, I can feel he is a very, very good player, I know he will really help us. And with Andreas as well, very young, he showed his ability today.”
However, today’s rumour columns are alive with the news that the Barcelona president won’t rule out a bid for Paul Pogba. This comes days after Pogba said:
"If you're not happy, you cannot give your best, there are things that I cannot say otherwise I will get fined."
This one is unlikely in this window and would really rile Mourinho.
After becoming the only team in any of Europe’s top 5 leagues not to make a single transfer, fans bemoaned their lack of activity. But the truth be told, like United, Spurs are still favourites for a top 4 finish and are still in with a shot at a trophy – though Spurs were lucky to come away with three points from St James Park.
Poor Rafa Benitez. That is the view of most neutral fans and for the same reason, he is considered a demigod on Tyneside. Despite another failure to land any big names, Benitez is still in charge and his team put up a decent battle against Spurs.
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