By Neil Leverett

  • Defending champions Manchester City put five past West Ham United, as Liverpool inflict 4-1 defeat on newly-promoted Canaries at Anfield
  • Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United all record victories, as the latter thrash Chelsea 4-0
  • Brighton & Hove Albion surprise package of opening weekend, beating Watford 3-0 on the road
PREMIER LEAGUE, UK – After a fascinating opening weekend of the 2019/20 Premier League campaign, what did we learn from three days of ups and down on Matchday 1?

 

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Citizens the ones to beat

After an emphatic 5-0 thrashing of West Ham United at the London Stadium, Pep Guardiola‘s defending Premier League champions Manchester City laid down an ebullient and impressive marker to open the new campaign.

Following a solid first 20 minutes from the hosts, the Citizen train quickly gathered momentum after Issa Diop turned the ball into his own net, following Kyle Walker‘s lung-busting electric dash down the right flank.

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From that moment on, the result was academic, with Raheem Sterling – who we tipped last week to feature in the race for the Golden Boot – in clinical form, netting on opening day hat-trick, with Kun Aguero getting in on the act from a re-taken spot kick, to put a sheen on the champions’ Saturday lunchtime in the capital.

If any had doubted City’s title credentials this term (why would they), putting five past a side who will be battling for a top six spot come the end of the campaign was some statement to their prospective rivals – hours after Liverpool’s 4-1 win against Norwich City. From City’s point of view, anyone who dare stand in their path of a third successive league crown, will have their work cut out.

 

Red Devils make statement…

As City’s cross-divide rivals Manchester United and Chelsea met in arguably game of the weekend, the Red Devils themselves confounded many of the doubters, taking apart a defensively naive Blues at Old Trafford.

For many fans and pundits alike, United had been castigated for their lack of activity in the transfer window from an attacking viewpoint, however to their credit, it was the new boys at the back in Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka, that silenced the club’s growing critics this term with two solid performance from the club debutants.

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Marcus Rashford too, threw his hat into the ring to be considered for top scorer in May, as the England man followed a first-half penalty kick with a second goal in two whirlwind second period minutes, to put Chelsea to bed in front of the Stretford End.

With the much-maligned Paul Pogba also contributing two assists to the cause, even the Frenchman seemed to have cast his issues to one side, whether he remains in Manchester until the European summer transfer window slams shut or not.

Whether it was a case of taking advantage of a new approach from the West Londoners, the result to nil was nevertheless a rather tasty tonic for United’s fans, giving hope that the current campaign could yet prove fruitful.

 

….and Chelsea flounder

Their opponents meanwhile have more than a few posers to answer, not least manager Frank Lampard as he made his managerial debut Premier League for the Blues and indeed in the top flight as a whole.

Whilst it can’t be refuted that the visitors on Sunday were unfortunate in the least not to even have registered a goal – including Emerson Palmeri‘s thunderous crossbar-bound effort, and Tammy Abraham‘s drive crashing off the post – the manner in which Chelsea capitulated will be a worry for the Blues’ steward.

Lampard has built is growing reputation as manager from his time at Derby County last season, with the former midfielder looking to instill in his players the same methods he so salubriously brought such success to Chelsea in his 13-year career at Stamford Bridge.

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The Blues are going to be excellent to watch this term as long as Lampard remains, but how long his tenure lasts will be down to his being able to bring changes into the side’s style.

With Kurt Zouma and Andreas Christensen still looking like they will struggle to form a reliable tag-team – having let David Luiz go to Arsenal – the return of Antonio Rudiger cannot come soon enough.

Even with the German’s return however, the cracks are there to see. For a manager who is bent on offensive and well-considered build up in midfield, Lampard might need inspiration from elsewhere to tighten the ship at the back. The visit of Leicester City this weekend will tell us more.

 

 

Seagulls tear up the script

As Brighton rolled up to Watford, few if any expected the Seagulls to stand much of a chance against a side who in recent years have presented a tough proposition – especially in home turf at Vicarage Road.

For the Seagulls to emphatically withdraw the sting from the Hornets by winning by a margin of three goals to nil, Brighton boss Graham Potter fooled us all, to take both a clean sheet and three points back to the South coast.

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With betting slips up and down the land torn to shreds at five minutes to five on Saturday evening, Brighton had masterminded an opening day win, and sent a message that the former Swansea City and Ostersunds coach has no intention of letting the Seagulls drop like a stone this campaign – as many had predicted pre-season.

As Shane Duffy and Lewis Dunk continued to portray their position as still one the of the strongest top flight partnerships in the Premier League, of an even greater fillip was the goal scored by £20m signing Neal Maupay on his Brighton league debut, as the Frenchman continued his goal-scoring ways as he performed so adeptly for Brentford last season.

Such an eye-opening result is a boost for Brighton ahead of what could still be a tough campaign ahead with the Irons visiting the AMEX Stadium next week, however after notching three goals on the road and in such comfortable fashion, the Seagulls 2019/20 season has been given a shot in the arm, leaving fans with hope of again retaining their top flight status in nine months’ time.

 

New boys will test

For the newly-promoted boys of Norwich, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, whilst only the Blades took a point from the opening volley of fixtures as they dipped their collective toes back into the top tier pool, all three sides showed they will for different reasons, prove to be a test for any of the top flight sides this term.

Whilst Daniel Farke‘s charges felt the full force of the Anfield roar, the Canaries could in all actuality have brought more than a bead of sweat from the brow of Jurgen Klopp, with their attacking facets on show that was the fulcrum of the East Anglian side’s Championship-winning promotion adventure last term.

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Teemu Pukki‘s goal was evidence enough of that, as was Billy Sharp‘s stunning late strike for the Blades at Bournemouth, as the Yorkshire side reveled in taking a share of the spoils back north, courtesy of their favourite son.

Indeed, Sheffield United’s steely showing was impressive for a side’s Premier League return for the first time in 13 years, against a Cherries side that whilst apprehensive, were made so by a resistant and well-drilled Chris Wilder outfit.

Finally in the case of Villa, a late Harry Kane-inspired double save the Lilywhites’ blushes, after John McGinn had put the gloss on his newly-signed five-year deal in Birmingham, as the Villans took a surprise lead at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The Scot, who had been linked to Old Trafford in the close season, was the driving, tenacious force for Dean Smith’s men and had it not been for Tanguy Ndombele‘s arrowed strike past Tom Heaton, the visitors may have ended on the positive side of a result.

Even in defeat however against last season’s UEFA Champions League runners-up, Villa showed a dose of why they belong back in the promised land of the Premier League and with both Tyrone Mings and Bjorn Engels putting in real shifts to repel the Spurs attack, Smith’s men will not be one to take lightly for the next 37 weeks.

 

Premier League Matchday 2 begins on Saturday, as Arsenal host Burnley at the Emirates Stadium, kick-off 12.30pm UK time.

 

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