The Premier League returned with a bang Friday night as Arsenal welcomed 2015/2016 winners Leicester City to the Emirates and the game served as the perfect way to kick start proceedings and remind fans of what they had missed in the last two months. It was an action packed 7 goal thriller from the first minute when debutant Alexander Lacazette opened his account and scored the first goal of the new season till the minute when Giroud sealed victory for Arsene Wenger’s side. Nine games followed afterwards and a total of 31 goals were recorded in the opening weekend of the season with key results involving Burnley’s shocking victory away at Champions Chelsea, newly promoted Huddersfield win over Frank de Boer’s Crystal Palace and Watford securing a 3-3 draw with Liverpool.
Here are five major highlights from the opening weekend of the new Premier League season;
- The Manchester Teams make an early statement: Although it will be destructive to read too much into the opening games of the season, it however serves as a guide to how events may pan out at-times and on a weekend where the big teams struggled with Arsenal only managing to get past Leicester City with a late Olivier Giroud goal having gone behind twice in the game, Liverpool sharing the spoils with Watford and Burnley pulling a shock at the Bridge, the Manchester Teams who played much later had seen enough of the first game surprises and were not willing to get caught in the drama. Despite playing newly promoted Brighton, Manchester City showed their opponents respect and refused to go gung-ho from the start, the team which also adopted the 3-5-2 formation controlled the game and were patient all through, they finally broke their opponents in the second half with Sergio Aguero amongst the goals. Manchester United faced a tricky opponent in West Ham, who had done decent business in the transfer window with the inclusion of former United forward Chicharito who led the lines, Jose reverted to four at the back and introduced Marcus Rashford on the wings to inject some pace into the team and although they didn’t start off firing from the blocks, the team never really looked in danger at any point in the game. New signings Nemanja Matic and Romelu Lukaku stole the headlines with the latter getting a double, further goals by Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba shot the team straight to the top of the log at the close of Match day 1. Whilst both managers have refused to be carried away by the results, they must have been impressed with the performances of their team and the newly signed players.
- Debutants off to a Flying Start: It was a weekend where the debutants came to the party, right from the first game with Alexander Lacazette setting the ball rolling, goals from Mohamed Salah for Liverpool, Steve Mounie’s double for Huddersfield, Ahmed Hegazy for West Brom, Wayne Rooney’s strike on his Everton’s 2nd debut and Lukaku’s double for United all saw the new signings settling in and getting confidence boosters for the games ahead.
- Trouble in the camp of the Champions: Last season Chelsea kicked off the season slowly and it wasn’t until the defeat to Arsenal when they reverted to a 3-4-3 system that the team went on an incredible run that gave them the league. Recently, manager Antonio Conte had complained about lacking bodies and the need to sign more players despite the club having splashed big on names like Bagayoko, Morata and Rudigier. Saturday afternoon at home to Burnley however brought the fears of many to light, missing key players like Eden Hazard, Pedro, suspended Victor Moses and the injured Bagayoko with the manager choosing to start teenager Boga ahead of big money signing Alvaro Morata, but a early red card to captain Gary Cahill witnessed a collapse at the bridge as Burnley took full advantage racing to a 3 nil lead with Sam Vokes getting a double before goals from Alvaro Morata and David Luiz restored some form of sanity to the scoreline. Worrying for the manager is they play London rivals Tottenham Hotspurs next and will be without the suspended Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas for the tie. The Blues are expected to make some signings before the window closes but despite having warned about trying to avoid a ‘Mourinho type’ season, the early signs are not too encouraging for Antonio Conte’s men.
- Good weekend for Attackers, Ugly one for Defenders: the name of the game remains goals and even though neutrals were delighted with 31 goals scored in 10 games in the opening weekend of the league, it must be worrying for managers who saw their teams conceding goals with some school boy defending. Jurgen Klopp has not hidden his desire to sign Southampton’s Virgil Van Dijk and Saturday was another testament as to why he needs another top defender if they are to pose any serious challenge, Arsene Wenger also must be dismayed as to how his defenders were bullied and made swift adjustments during the course of the game but his consolation will be that his three first choice defenders were all missing on the night, for Crystal Palace’s gaffer Frank de Boer, it was a night to forget as the rear guard was simply non-existent whilst Slaven Bilic must be worried following the performance and lack of pace of his back four especially in the second half of the game.
- What was Jonjo Shelvey thinking? It must really hurt as a manager when your team has succeeded in matching a superior team for a larger part of the game only for a silly and irresponsible act from someone entrusted with the captaincy of the team on the day to shift the advantage to your opponents and eventually lead to your team losing all three points. That was exactly how Rafa Benitez felt as he saw Jonjo Shelvey who stood in for regular club captain Jamaal, stamp on Dele Alli and earned himself a red card. Newcastle who were making their return to the top flight of English football had withstood the attack of Tottenham Hotspurs and until that incident were still in the game with a chance of stealing at least a point, Shelvey has been notorious for acts like this and it will be surprising if stiffer punishments are not imposed on him by the club.
**Pictures courtesy AP,The Sun