What did we learn in the Premier League over the season’s first weekend?
If past is prologue, then probably not as much as we think, but there’s still so so so much to dissect as Tottenham, Brentford, Manchester United, and Chelsea fly high while Man City, Arsenal, and Leeds lick wounds.
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Here’s a look at 10 things that stood out, as our writers Joe Prince-Wright (JPW), Nicholas Mendola (NM) and Andy Edwards (AE) share their observations from across the most recent Premier League games.
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Let’s get to it.
Ten things we learned from Week 1 of the Premier League
1. Determined Spurs show nasty streak in Kane’s absence (Tottenham 1-0 Man City)
Heung-min Son’s goal was certainly deserved as Tottenham played angry and opportunistic from Moment No. 1, an approach embodied by Japhet Tanganga at right back. At one point, referee Anthony Taylor called over Spurs captain Hugo Lloris to presumably warn Spurs about persistent fouling and physical play. It didn’t change much. No one was perfect but Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Dele Alli, and Tanganga all put in shifts in front of a typically strong Lloris.
Still, Spurs need quick resolution of this Kane story if he’s leaving North London. Son is very good and did Harry Kane’s role in a decent manner, but the difference between Spurs when both players are alternating between hold-up maestro and dangerous play driver is obviously huge. If they do sell Kane, it’s going to be key that they have an immediate answer in Kane’s stead, as improbable of a task as that will be for a player to put on the forward’s legendary shoes. At least Kane is painting a poor picture on his way out the door (NM).
2. Pogba, Bruno off to classy start (Manchester United 5-1 Leeds United)
So what if names like Rashford, Cavani, Martial, and Sancho were either on the bench or unavailable? Paul Pogba and Bruno Fernandes are still world-class playmakers (video) and the former’s terrific first-touch pass was met with the latter’s delightful take and finish to make it 1-0 to the Old Trafford set early in the match.
Fernandes would score twice more, one with a tremendous cut move to make it 4-1 early in the second half, so we know there will be a lot of love for a hat trick but please don’t sleep on Pogba’s three assists in the first 60 minutes. Sure, the third was pretty much about Bruno but his chipped first touch to put the Portuguese in the box for 1-0 and his long, grass-tracing pass to release Greenwood was spectacular and came moments after Leeds had made it 1-1 (NM).
3. Depth on display, even without a full squad (Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace)
Hakim Ziyech (shoulder) and Romelu Lukaku (signed on Thursday) were each unavailable against Crystal Palace, and Kai Havertz started the game on the bench after playing 120 minutes in the UEFA Super Cup on Wednesday. And still, three goals scored and a thoroughly dominant display to kick off the season. Once Lukaku finds his footing and gets up to speed with the rest of the group, Chelsea will be a problem to deal with this year (AE).
4. Sluggish Arsenal in trouble (Brentford 2-0 Arsenal)
Yes, they were missing the injured Partey and Gabriel, plus Aubameyang and Lacazette through illness and Saka could only come off the bench, but this was so lackluster from Arsenal. Arteta was not a happy man on the sidelines as his team could not match Brentford’s intensity. In the second half they improved as Smith Rowe was dangerous, Martinelli never stopped running up top and Saka made a big difference after coming on. Albert Sambi Lokonga was very steady too on his Premier League debut, but it’s clear that Arsenal’s policy of promoting young players will have plenty of growing pains. Will Arsenal keep the faith with Arteta’s long-term plan? Results, and displays, like this will not help his cause (JPW).
5. Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin hold the key for Rafa (Everton 3-1 Southampton)
They each scored and Richarlison set up DCL for a late header and those two hold the key for Benitez. We know that Everton will be solid defensively under the Spanish coach but they need their star duo to step up like they did in the opening weekend. Week in, week out (JPW).
6. Leicester City bends, but doesn’t break (Leicester City 1-0 Wolves)
The Foxes enjoyed a 56-44 advantage in possession, but were massively out-shot by a margin of 17-8. Part of that is down to the fact they had a lead to defend for 50 minutes, and part is down to the ease with which they can concede two-thirds of the field before putting opposing attacks into a stranglehold once into the final third. Leicester is a side full of well-rounded, highly disciplined footballers who are, to a man, delighted to go the extra mile (AE).
7. Norwich not in Liverpool’s class but should ignore the score (Norwich 0-3 Liverpool)
Daniel Farke’s men had trouble producing the big chances and clearly the Canaries won’t be contending for European placement, but Norwich City had its fair share of possession and came close to scoring late albeit with the wrong men bidding to beat Alisson Becker (center backs Grant Hanley and Ben Gibson were denied in-tight by the Brazilian). Will the Canaries struggle this year? For sure, but this wasn’t a blowout even if it was comfortable for Liverpool (NM).
8. Saint-Maximin, Benrahma delightful X-factors (Newcastle 2-4 West Ham):
The modern game doesn’t always allow for creative players to have freedom but a pair of artists were on display in Newcastle’s Allan Saint-Maximin and West Ham’s Said Benrahma. The Magpies’ French wizard was tremendous in producing an assist and several “Wow” moments but his like-minded Algerian in claret and blue wasn’t too far behind him and scored the Irons’ second equalizer while also producing myriad chances. Saint-Maximin produced four key passes and completed 10-of-12 dribbles, while Benrahma had as goal and an assist (NM).
9. Dennis is a menace (Watford 3-2 Aston Villa)
Watford’s new Nigerian forward Emmanuel Dennis was a real menace in the first half as he scored and set up another and his partnership with Sarr seems to already be telepathic with lots of clever balls out wide and smart runs centrally. He ran Konsa and Mings ragged and Watford may have found their new Troy Deeney (JPW).
10. Brighton finds cutting edge (Burnley 1-2 Brighton)
It looked like being the same old story for the Seagulls. Yes, Danny Welbeck is out injured, but who else will score the goals for them? Graham Potter turned to his bench and Lallana, Moder and Mac Allister made a huge difference. They have so much quality in attacking midfield and that made the difference (JPW).