The opening weekend of the Premier League began in spectacular fashion, highlighted by a seven goal thriller at The Emirates with Liverpool defeating Arsenal 4-3. Both Manchester clubs got off to winning starts and Chelsea got their just rewards with a late 2-1 victory against West Ham. Here are five things we learned from game week 1.
Joe Hart is finished at City
Pep Guardiola made the big call to start Willy Caballero against Sunderland with Joe Hart on the bench. Coming off three seasons at Bayern Munich with Manuel Neuer in goal, Guardiola no doubt is in search of a keeper who is more versatile, consistent and able to initiate attacks. Hart’s poor showing at Euro 2016 would have been another factor in Guardiola’s decision to look elsewhere.
Barcelona’s 33 yaer old Claudio Bravo has been strongly linked to replace Hart as City’s #1, and with the Catalans looking to 24 year old Marc-Andre ter Stegen as their future a deal appears likely. Just who would want to buy Joe Hart and pay his hefty wages at this stage of the season is unclear, Everton rumoured to be interested and an unlikely move abroad also a possibility.
Liverpool need a quality left back
Alberto Moreno remains a gigantic liability for Liverpool, giving away a clumsy penalty and going awol which allowed Theo Walcott time and space to score the opening goal. Full backs bombing forward are a natural part of modern football, but knowing how to defend is still part of a full backs job description.
Unfortunately for Liverpool, Moreno has repeatedly displayed his incapability in that department. The 24 year old Spaniard will continue to be targeted and the Reds will concede unnecessary goals. Jurgen Klopp played James Milner at left back during pre-season, highlighting Liverpool’s lack of options in that area but just how long Klopp will persist with Moreno remains to be seen.
Manchester United will only improve
Manchester United turned in a solid and professional performance at the Vitality Stadium to open their Premier League campaign with a 3-1 victory. Aided by a comedy of errors by Bournemouth’s Simon Francis, Juan Mata opened the scoring before half time with second half goals to Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealing the deal.
Eric Bailly was impressive, the 22 year old has to be one of the quickest centre backs around while Luke Shaw will only get better as the season progresses. Henrikh Mkhitaryan made a brief cameo off the bench, world record signing Paul Pogba and Chris Smalling are yet to feature. With Mourinho so early into his reign at Old Trafford and nowhere near knowing his best formation and line up, United will improve each week and are well and truly a title threat.
Chelsea are already playing in Conte’s image
Chelsea played with fight and hunger in their 2-1 win against West Ham at Stamford Bridge, traits not seen often during last seasons humiliating title defence. The Blues seemed to be playing and working for each other with 50/50 balls attacked with fervour, all aspects attributed to Conte during his playing days and managerial career.
N’Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matic played the holding roles well which provided solidity to Chelsea’s backline and allowed quick transitions from defence to attack. The isolated Andy Carroll hardly had a sniff with Thibaut Courtois largely untroubled throughout. Following James Collins’ 77th minute equaliser, Conte made three attacking substitutions which played a significant role in the victory.
Pedro replaced Willian, Victor Moses and Michy Batshuayi replaced Eden Hazard and Oscar which allowed Chelsea to essentially play a 4-2-4 formation and go for the win. Moses and Pedro threatened out wide but the goal came through the middle with a long ball to the two front men, Batshuayi’s headed pass to Diego Costa allowing the striker enough time and space to place the ball into the corner of the net.
Everton will finish in the top half
Everton started the season with a well earned 1-1 draw against Tottenham at Goodison Park. Missing Romelu Lukaku, Muhamed Besic and Seamus Coleman, the Toffees controlled the first half and took the lead through Ross Barkley’s free kick. Spurs equalised in the second half and had late chances to win the game, Maarten Stekelenburg producing some fine saves after following Ronald Koeman to Merseyside from Southampton.
Stekelenburg was joined by Idrissa Gueye in making their Everton debuts, the recent signing from Aston Villa having a solid game in central midfield by providing defensive cover and producing a game high 6 tackles. Everton will be strengthened with Ashley Williams soon to come into the team and Yannick Bolasie’s move completed for a reported club record £25m.
There are already signs the structure at Everton will produce results on the pitch. Regardless of the estimation of Bolasie’s worth, billionaire businessman Farhad Moshiri’s investment at Goodison Park and the sale of John Stones has provided Koeman and new director of football Steve Walsh plenty of funds to turn Everton into permanent residents in the top half of the Premier League.