The Premier League made its eagerly awaited return this past weekend and it certainly set up what should be a very intriguing season in the English top flight.
Manchester City, Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester United all kicked off the opening weekend with aplomb while the surprises of the litter went to Burnley and Brighton, who both pulled off excellent wins respectively.
This football infused weekend also seen a number of stars make their Premier League debuts, with some looking like they’re destined for greatness on one of the biggest stages sport has to offer.
So, lets look at 5 key points that we can extract from gameweek one…
City and Liverpool have picked up exactly where they left off….and it’s scary!
Reigning champions Manchester City and last year’s runners up Liverpool looked like they hadn’t missed a single beat upon arrival at their opening fixtures this past weekend. Despite City pipping Liverpool to the post by one point last campaign, both teams ran away with the title race and early signs suggest we may be watching a similar story unfold as this season continues.
Liverpool welcomed newly promoted Norwich to Anfield on Friday evening and while some argue Daniel Farke was a bit naive to try and “outplay” the Reds on their own turf, the hosts still put on a commanding attacking display and were at full value for their 4-1 win. While they didn’t quite look at their usual, fluent best, the European Champions still swept aside a well-respected Norwich side who controlled the tempo of the Championship last season. Above all an idealistic start for Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City side not only matched their Merseyside compatriots the following lunchtime at the London Stadium but showed every spectator looking on that they’ve got no intention of letting the colours change on that Premier League trophy. While the Premier League champions got off to a sticky start during the opening 45, they more than made up for their complacency once the second period commenced. The Sky Blues put on an emphatic second half display to see off Manuel Pellegrini’s new look West Ham side 5-0. What will be incredibly worrying for rival fans is that if anything City have strengthened in this transfer window through the signing of Rodri; who seems to have slotted into his midfield role like he’s been playing in this team for years. Meanwhile Riyad Mahrez, who has struggled for form consistently since his £60m arrival from Leicester, looked like a different player during this outing as the Algerian was involved in all five of City’s goals. With the arrival of Joao Cancelo as back up for Kyle Walker too, Pep’s men again have the look of a footballing juggernaut.
Harry Maguire looks worth every penny…
One of the most hotly contested talking points of the transfer window was the price tag slapped on Harry Maguire by Leicester, totalling £80 million. However despite the debates and the controversy Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solksjaer insisted on the price tag being met and while many criticised what was described as a ludicrous amount of money, it may have just paid off. The England centre back put in a man of the match performance in United’s 4-0 demolition of Chelsea at Old Trafford and going off what was a sensational display by Maguire, early signs indicate he may be the answer to United’s defensive instabilities in recent seasons. Not only did the £80 million man read the game excellently and win nearly every duel he contested, but he commanded the Red Devils’ defensive third like a born leader. With that and his ability to work United out of dangerous situations with his passing credentials, Ole may have just picked up the signing of the summer despite the hefty price tag.
If Burnley do fall victims to the drop, they’ll go down fighting!
One of the surprise results the opening weekend had to offer was Burnley’s 3-0 thumping of Southampton at Turf Moor on Saturday afternoon. A brace from Ashley Barnes and a late Johann Berg Gudmundsson strike saw the Clarets easily dispose of their visitors from the South, while many tipped Southampton to make a positive start in their first full season under Ralph Hasenhuttl. Sean Dyche’s men are among the favourites for relegation this season due to their transfer dealings being outmatched by those around them, however a performance such as what was seen this past Saturday shows that the Clarets are still a very stubborn Premier League unit. Teams will still struggle on their travels to Turf Moor regardless of whether Burnley have strengthened or not and if they don’t manage to beat the drop, it won’t be through a lack of relentless determination that has seen Dyche’s side cause so many upsets during their Premier League tenure.
Graham Potter could well be the perfect replacement for Chris Hughton…
One of the many shocks that last season’s antics had to offer was Brighton’s dismissal of Chris Hughton. The former Seagulls’ boss enjoyed a very fruitful spell in the South Coast, guiding his former side to promotion from the Championship in April 2017 and retaining Premier League status in March 2018, following a 1-0 win over Manchester United at the Amex. With the squad that Hughton had he was praised tremendously by pundits across English football, associated with doing a near on impossible job with such limited firepower. Following his dismissal last season, former Swansea boss Graham Potter was linked with the role almost immediately and was subsequently appointed in May 2019. Many had reservations about the appointment following the job that Hughton had done prior to Potter’s selection, however commencing gameweek two Brighton fans may almost certainly be more optimistic than they were heading into the opening weekend. The Seagulls’ new boss masterminded a 3-0 demolition of Watford at Vicarage Road this past Saturday, with Brighton putting on an entertaining and direct display that took everybody, including Javi Gracia, by complete surprise. With this saw the South Coast side end a catastrophic away record in the Premier League and Tony Bloom will no doubt feel fulfilled that the risk he took looks to be paying off. Brighton certainly have a new look to them commencing the second weekend and it will be interesting to see how Potter sets up his team against Manuel Pellegrini’s West Ham, who will still be feeling the effects of a 5-0 thumping from reigning champions Manchester City.
Swapping Rafa for Bruce could be Newcastle’s downfall…
The climax of the 2018/19 season saw negotiations between Newcastle United and Rafa Benitez over a possible new deal come to a very sudden and shuddering halt. The backlash of the collapse resulted in Benitez flying to China and agreeing to manage Chinese Super League side Dalian Yifang. Subsequently the appointment of Steve Bruce came to fruition and the former Sheffield Wednesday boss was allocated funds to sign the likes of Joelinton from Hoffenheim for £40 million and Allan Saint-Maximin from Nice for £16.5 million. However, despite Bruce evidently being handed more than Benitez to bring in talent from elsewhere, the Magpies put on a lifeless display as the curtains opened on the Steve Bruce era at the Sports Direct Arena. Visitors Arsenal didn’t quite find their rhythm throughout the game either despite coming away with the three points, which will be a huge frustration for the home fans knowing that an opportunity was missed. Any new manager needs time to settle in, adjust to the players he has on offer and build a mentality that suits all involved with the club; despite this you couldn’t help but think Benitez wouldn’t have let Unai Emery’s men run away with the three points on the away side’s performance. We seen Benitez mastermind a string of great home wins during last season, notably a 2-1 win over eventual champions Manchester City. A question that was raised post Bruce’s appointment was whether he could influence his side in big games like Benitez managed to on so many occasions; and based on what we witnessed this past weekend in Tyneside, Newcastle fans could be fearing the worst approaching the season’s climax.
By Harvey Camp.