Aubameyang ignites Arsenal, Lampard’s Chelsea wilt in Man Utd baptism while Liverpool win in second-gear
1. Lampard left with more questions than answers
Frank Lampard wore a bleak grimace that reminded of the uphill task he faces at Chelsea this season as he watched his side unravel in a second-half thrashing at Old Trafford.
In his first competitive game in charge, the lack of reinforcements at Lampard’s disposal were alarmingly evident, failing to keep pace with an energetic United while Tammy Abraham and Olivier Giroud offered little assurances up front over their ability to carry the club through domestic and Champions League campaigns.
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It was in defence, though, that the gaps were most glaring after the manager’s late decision to toss David Luiz to the scrapheap made way for Kurt Zouma, who scythed Marcus Rashford down in the box in a moment that changed the entire context of the game.
The doubts surrounding his squad and the enforced introduction of youth will linger with an added heaviness after a number of costly individual mistakes.
2. Mahrez silences Sane injury woes
In truth, this was a sun-tanned Manchester City still in their warm-up phase. The 5-0 scoreline against West Ham was cruel but flattering, marked with uncharacteristic errors but won by such a sweeping gulf in talent that those concerns were reduced to little more than a footnote.
The highlight of City’s continued vein of dominance, though, came in the form of Riyad Mahrez, who fresh off a potential UKAD scandal due a mysterious nose cream was added back into the starting eleven and played with a tricky and direct incision that echoed his most mercurial moments at Leicester.
The Algerian, still surfing the clouds after winning the African Cup of Nations over the summer, played a deft lob to set up Raheem Sterling’s second goal, won the penalty scored by Sergio Aguero and went some way to silencing those mourning a Leroy Sane shaped hole.
3. Defensive question marks despite Liverpool’s victory
Just like City, Liverpool also cantered to a second-gear but one-sided victory in the Premier League‘s curtain-raiser but there was one grating statistic during which will have concerned Jurgen Klopp during his side’s victory over Norwich City.
The newly promoted Canaries had 12 shots at Anfield, more than any side mustered last season, and after Alisson left the field with injury it will fall to Adrian to fill the Brazilian’s shoes and share the defensive leadership burden placed on the hulking shoulders of Virgil van Dijk.
4. VAR still divides opinion
VAR took hold of the spotlight on its opening weekend in the Premier League in a Manchester City-West Ham game riddled by incidents. Raheem Sterling’s run was ruled offside by a matter of indiscernible millimetres while Sergio Aguero’s penalty was ordered to be retaken.
The following day, Wolves were denied victory against Leicester after Leander Dendoncker’s header was revealed to have clipped Willy Bolly’s arm en route to the net and was subsequently disallowed.
The officials will grapple with the best way to employ the system but the stage around the technology will surely continue to steal headlines long into the season.
5. Eriksen proves a necessity to Spurs
Mauricio Pochettino left creative talisman Christian Eriksen on the bench out of defiance after the Dane spent the summer shopping himself to Europe’s elite clubs.
But, without his quality, there was an absence of ingenuity to unlock Aston Villa‘s defence as Spurs fell behind to Dean Smith’s new-look side. Once Eriksen was finally introduced, Spurs were galvanised and the 27-year-old’s intricate play, floating into the half-spaces and pulling apart the space, created the stage for the team’s comeback. Giovani Lo Celso will attempt to take over that mantle but the quality Eriksen brings is incredibly difficult to replace.
6. Aubameyang kicks straight back into gear
After bagging 20 goals last season, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang wasted no time in tapping back into that same vein of form, settling Arsenal‘s gritty opening win at Newcastle with a clinical second-half strike.
Throughout the game, the Gabonese striker showed a refreshed edge of pace, consistently peeling into the gaps left behind Newcastle’s centre-back pairing and might well have added to his tally.
Once partner-in-crime Alexandre Lacazette returns from injury and club-record signing Nicolas Pepe is integrated into the team, there’s no reason why Arsenal’s front-three can’t become the most prolific in the league this season.
7. Villa attempt to mesh £130m signings
Spending £130m after promotion is the equivalent of going all-in in a game of poker and Villa are still currently attempting to piece together a puzzle of new and old in their bid to retain status in England’s top-flight. Against Spurs, Smith started four debutants with late Egyptian addition Trezeguet starring on the wing, providing a dangerous threat cutting inside.
However, despite such an overhaul, his side still seemed somewhat short in perhaps the most vital area of all. New striker Wesley Moraes was an absent presence for much of the game and while some grace can be afforded to the new arrival, if he isn’t able to adapt quickly, Villa will be a team fully loaded yet firing blanks.
8. Newcaste fans boycott opening game
Around 300 Newcastle supporters made the despairing march against Mike Ashley ahead of Newcastle’s match while the attendance was somewhat reduced at St James. Yet, there were still positives to be seen in Steve Bruce’s first game in charge as Joelinton impressed with a number of few powerful runs on goal and Allan Saint-Maximin came off the bench and immediately displayed a flair and attacking threat that can go somewhat to alleviating the feelings of negativity which clouds the Magpies.
9. Soyuncu steps into Maguire’s shadow
The £80m void left by Harry Maguire wasn’t filled by the Foxes hierarchy, despite the centre-back’s departure taking on an inevitability throughout the transfer window. So as they opened their season against Wolves at the King Power, it fell to Caglar Soyuncu to try and clear the shadow and show a resoluteness behind Brendan Rodgers’ array of new signings.
A 0-0 clean sheet was a testament to his performance against a dangerous Wolves side and provided the type of assurance that appeased both his managers and the supporters. “He got a round of applause from the players [in the dressing room] afterwards so he certainly impressed them,” Rodgers said.
“He’s a young player and playing alongside a top‑class centre‑half in Jonny [Evans]. Jonny will help in his positioning in the game. But I thought he was excellent, really aggressive, won his headers, defended forward. And he’s good on the ball and has a good turn of speed. He did really well.”
10. Potter starts with a magic flourish
Graham Potter’s roundabout journey to the Premier League was rewarded with a poised and persuasive start as Brighton sauntered to an eye-catching 3-0 victory at Watford.
New £20m signing Neal Maupay, who was ruthless for Brentford in the Championship last season, immediately got off the mark, Florin Andone scored from the bench with the typical super-sub swagger he’s coming to be known by, while the back-five led by Lewis Dunk was impressively sturdy. Many have touted them as strong candidates for relegation, but there is light in the skies for the Seagulls.