Arsenal boss Unai Emery handed a surprise start to 19-year-old Matteo Guendouzi, while Man City manager Pep Guardiola left Leroy Sane and Kevin De Bruyne on the bench.
The game itself began with a surprising early chance for Aaron Ramsey which perhaps caught the Welshman himself offguard, his outside of the boot shot arriving safely to Ederson.
Raheem Sterling saw an early yellow card for a reckless tackle on Guendouzi’s ankle.
Petr Cech punched a Kyle Walker cross out for a corner in the eighth minute, and would have to stop Sterling at the other post within a minute.
Sterling got the opener in the 14th minute, ripping a shot through the packed-in Arsenal defense. It took the smallest turn off a defender, but appeared destined for the goal regardless of deflection.
Cech almost scored an amazing own goal when he turned a back pass from Guendouzi just past his far post.
Sokratis then saw yellow for a takedown of Sergio Aguero on the edge of the box following a poor giveaway from Granit Xhaka.
The ensuing Riyad Mahrez free kick nearly found the corner far and low, but Cech palmed it. Aymeric Laporte‘s effort at the rebound was stymied, and the defender took a cleat from Cech before colliding with the goal post.
Alex Maitland-Niles needed to leave the match in he 32nd minute, walking off gingerly, but had to stay at left back while a replacement was readied by Emery. Stephane Lichtsteiner relieved Maitland-Niles in the 35th.
Unai Emery’s first Premier League match finds him matching wits with Pep Guardiola and his reigning champions, as Arsenal hosts Manchester City on Sunday (Watch live, 11 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).
We know about the superstars. We know about the big-money transfers. We know about the young wonderkids.
But who are the players that have yet to reach the highest heights that could see a breakout performance? Harry Kane went from Spurs youth product to household name with 21 blasts in 2014/15. N'Golo Kante rocketed to stardom by leading Leicester City to a stunning Premier League title. Kevin De Bruyne made Chelsea sorry with 21 assists for Man City in 2016/17, cementing him as one of the best attacking mids in England. Jordan Pickford went from Premier League bottomfeeder to World Cup starter thanks to his performance last year with Everton.
So who makes the leap this coming season? We detail a few of the possible choices, will full knowledge that the true breakout star emerge come from a place nobody saw coming.
Liverpool’s outstanding young star was a true unknown midway through last season. The 19-year-old earned a starting spot in February and never gave it up, garnering respect from pundits and fans alike. At his tender young age, TAA started a Champions League final at right-back, tasked with marking the immortal Cristiano Ronaldo. He performed spectacularly. If that moment isn’t too big for the youngster, then what is? It’s not a question of if Trent will become a star, it’s when.
A relatively run-of-the-mill center-back at Leicester City before this summer, Maguire earned himself global notoriety at the World Cup, displaying aerial prowess and superior marking ability. Now, it’s up to the 25-year-old to back up that one month performance as more than a flash in the pan, whether he begins the season at King Power Stadium or at Old Trafford. Maguire set himself up perfectly with a summer to remember, but he needs a longer boost at the club level to become a true global household name.
At 17 years old last season, young Ryan Sessegnon became the first Championship player to ever be named to the PFA Young Player of the Year shortlist. Beginning his career at left-back, it became clear that Sessegnon’s true value was higher up the pitch, and Fulham manager Slavisa Jokanovic obliged. With the freedom to maraud forward, Sessegnon couldn’t stop scoring. He bagged 20 goals and nine assists last season in Championship play, but his young legs tired as the season came to a close. If he has rested up and fires goals in the Premier League like he did last season a level below, he will be worth a fortune in a year’s time.
New Arsenal defensive midfielder Lucas Torreira is just what the doctor ordered for the Gunners. Last season Arsenal maintained plenty of possession but struggled to cover the counter when they gave the ball away. With Unai Emery now in charge at The Emirates, the 22-year-old simply needs to beat out Granit Xhaka for minutes in the middle of the pitch. If he can earn his place in the lineup, Torreira showed in Serie A last season what he can bring to the Gunners, ranked the #10 overall player in the league last season by Squawka Statistics’ player metrics. He proved at the 2018 World Cup that his season was not a fluke, and now he’s ready to do big things in London.
Arsene Wenger may be gone from Arsenal, but that isn’t stopping the Gunners from plucking up premiere French young talent. Guendouzi is just 19, yet was a standout performer in Arsenal’s preseason run-up to the league campaign, and his David Luiz curls give him the edge needed to be a recognizable figure off the pitch. Costing just $10 million, his transfer from French club Lorient was utterly unnoticed, and that could make him one of the steals of the summer if he can earn regular playing time behind Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Danish center-back was a critical figure last season at Chelsea, earning significant playing time. However, he dipped in form through the final third of the season, and wasn’t that spectacular at the World Cup. 2018-19 appears to be a critical season for the 22-year-old, but if Christensen can recapture the form that earned him a starting role under Antonio Conte, he can develop into one of the best center-backs in the Premier League.
Spending much of his young career either out on loan or a bit-part player at Chelsea, the Blues youth product has been on these lists and has yet to make the jump into a significant role. However, England manager Gareth Southgate saw enough ability to use him in a repeated substitute role at the World Cup this summer, and that might be the signal flare Maurizio Sarri needed. Working against Loftus-Cheek is a crowded Chelsea midfield, competing for time with Cesc Fabregas, Mateo Kovacic, Danny Drinkwater, N’Golo Kante, Jorginho, and Ross Barkley, but if he can come up with the goods this year, he will have pedigree to back up his hype.
With one Fulham player already on this list in Sessegnon, a new White makes the cut in new Ivory Coast international Jean-Michael Seri. The 27-year-old midfielder was a passing wizard in his three seasons at French club Nice, and he reportedly picked the Cottagers over Champions League clubs in England, Italy, and Germany. In Ligue 1 play, he was seventh in the league in completed through balls, and third if you don’t count absurdly dominant PSG. He was third overall in the league in key passes from open play. His xGBuildup, a stat that compiles the xG of every possession the player touches the ball not including shots and key passes, was better than Paul Pogba last season. Seri could be critical in Fulham’s attempt to play a Manchester City style in the top flight, and if he excels, he could be a valuable asset to not just survival but even greater accomplishments.
Wolves obliterated the Championship last season from start to finish, and a big reason why was the 21-year-old Portuguese winger. His pace was blistering, and with it he racked up 17 goals and drawing comparisons to Eden Hazard. Of the 16 games Jota scored in last season, Wolves won 12 and lost just one. He’s critical to the newly promoted side, and if he continues his form from last year, he could earn himself a look not just for Premier League Young Player of the Year, but also in the Portuguese national team, where he’s played significantly at the youth level but has yet to crack the senior squad.
With so many Liverpool stars around him, it would be easy for Naby Keita to enter the Reds starting lineup in his first season and fly under the radar. Don’t expect that to happen. The 23-year-old enters into a logjammed midfield with Fabinho making his way from Monaco, Jordan Henderson coming off a spectacular World Cup, Girginio Wijnaldum having a great preseason, Adam Lallana healthy and James Milner continuing to grind games out. He has plenty of talent around him, and with any luck can be a more well-rounded N’Golo Kante, even if those are massive shoes to fill.
Bonus +1! Kepa Arrizabalaga
What would this list be without the new Chelsea goalkeeper? A relative unknown until recent weeks, the 23-year-old has suddenly become the world’s most expensive goalkeeper. He will have a massive weight upon his shoulders to replace Thibaut Courtois, and if he performs, would help Chelsea fans forget the Belgian’s departure altogether. Kepa is relatively untested with just two full top flight seasons under his belt. Yet so was Courtois when Chelsea brought him in and loaned him to Atletico Madrid where he helped bring the Spanish side to the Champions League final. His first Premier League season could go a long way to defining his future.
The 19-year-old French midfielder is highly-regarded in his homeland after breaking through at FC Lorient in Ligue 2 following his time spent at Paris Saint-Germain’s academy.
Guendouzi joins Arsenal a day after promising Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira completed his $35 million move from Sampdoria, and he joins fellow new recruits Stephan Lichsteiner, Bernd Leno and Sokratis Papastathopoulos.
Speaking about his $10 million arrival at Arsenal, the French U-20 international has high hopes for his future after revealing Arsenal is “the side I’ve wanted to join since I was a child” and is the team that is “closest to his heart.”
“My hope is to become a top player here at Arsenal. A lot of great players have played here. I want to become part of the club’s history and to achieve great things here. I want to win titles, titles, titles,” Guendouzi said. “I want to establish myself here, which would be amazing. Winning silverware, as I said, is very important to me and winning things here at Arsenal would be incredible.”
What can we expect from Guendouzi? Well, first up, his hair game is incredibly strong. I mean, that is a seriously impressively hairdo. Carlos Valderrama, eat your heart out.
But on the pitch he will bring tough-tackling and an impressive range of passing from a holding midfield role. Think, a slightly less flamboyant David Luiz and that is what to expect from Guendouzi.
Emery believes he will challenge for minutes in the first team straight away and given the departure of Jack Wilshere plus the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka having to prove themselves all over again, having a young, tenacious holding midfielder is something Arsenal have been crying out for.
“We are delighted Matteo is joining us. He is a talented young player and a lot of clubs were interested in him,” Emery said. “He has big potential and gained good first-team experience last season with Lorient. He wants to learn and improve and will be an important part of our first-team squad.”