By Niall Clarke
- Five lessons learned from the opening weekend of the 2016/17 Premier League season
The return of the Barclays Premier League did not disappoint, and here are five lessons we learned from the opening weekend of the new season.
Leicester City will miss N’Golo Kante
The Foxes made another bit of history, only this time it was for the wrong reasons. Leicester became the first defending champions to lose the opening game of the season since the inception of the Premier League, as they succumbed to a 2-1 defeat away at newly-promoted Hull City.
Hull took the lead when Adama Diomandé and Abel Hernandez both connected with an acrobatic effort- Diomandé was awarded the goal. Riyad Mahrez converted a controversial penalty straight after the break, but Robert Snodgrass earned the Tigers a shock victory with a left footed effort.
To say it was not a great start for Leicester would be an understatement. Hull were manager-less and plagued with injuries heading into the weekend. It was tipped as an easy victory for the defending champions, but it proved much more difficult than expected. Whilst caretaker boss Mike Phelan set his side up well, the big difference lied at the back for Leicester.
Without the presence of Kante in midfield, and to a lesser extent Robert Huth in the centre of defence, the rock solid unit that helped them to a first league title was all of sudden shaky. Wes Morgan had a poor game and Andy King failed to put in the defensive shift that Kante did throughout the last campaign. The back line missed the protection the Frenchman gave them, and it could unravel further as the season goes on.
Manchester United will be serious title contenders
It may have already been known to many, but for those who had doubts about Manchester United’s title credentials may want to rethink their predictions.
The Red Devils were hardly brilliant as they defeated Bournemouth 3-1, but the result and performance will encourage their fans. They looked solid at the back with Eric Bailly impressing on his Premier League debut, and all the right men scored from a United fan perspective. Juan Mata, whose future with the club was in doubt before this weekend, opened the scoring not too long before the break. Wayne Rooney, a player who has a lot to prove this season made it two before Zlatan Ibrahimovic killed the game off with a goal on his Premier League debut.
Although Bournemouth pegged one back, United were arguably the best performers overall out of the big clubs, and they stay have Paul Pogba to unleash.
Joe Hart may be heading out of Manchester
Pep Guardiola’s reign at the Manchester City helm started with a 2-1 home victory against Sunderland, but one of the biggest takeaways from the match was the decision to keep Hart on the bench. This has led to widespread speculation that the Englishman could be out of favour under his new manager and could be heading for the exit door.
Guardiola stated post match that there is no issue between himself and Hart and that this decision was a tactical one. This may turn out to be true, but only time will tell. All we know is that the decision to leave out the club’s number one goalkeeper was a bold one, though it did not prove to be a bad one in the end.
It was not a riveting performance, but it was enough to get the win. Jermaine Defoe’s equaliser was a scare, but their blushes were sparred thanks to Paddy McNair’s late own goal.
Liverpool win but they need to sort their defence out
In the weekend’s most entertaining game, Liverpool got off to a winning start by condemning Arsenal to their second straight opening day defeat at the Emirates in a 4-3 thriller.
There was a purple patch for Jurgen Klopp’s side early in the second half as they bagged three quick goals to create a 4-1 lead. However, despite the attacking brilliance from the likes of Sadio Mane and Philippe Coutinho, problems in defence were still at the forefront. Arsenal made a late surge and pulled two goals back but could not complete the comeback.
Normally when you win at the Emirates it is hard to pick faults, but on this occasion the faults were blatant to see. Alberto Moreno proves to still be a liability with his positioning at left back- that led to Theo Walcott’s opener for Arsenal. And if Liverpool want to contend for the title they will have to find a better goalkeeper than Simon Mingolet who is prone to too many mistakes.
That said, the attack looked excellent and if they can remain consistent then Liverpool may surprise a few this season. Arsenal on the other-hand will likely have to buck up and spend money in order to be contenders.
Eden Hazard and Diego Costa might be revitalised under Antonio Conte
Chelsea got their season off to a winning start with a 2-1 victory at home to West Ham. Antonio Conte will likely make Chelsea title contenders yet again, but that will likely come down to the form of players such as Eden Hazard and Diego Costa– both of which were on the score sheet against the Hammers.
Costa looked lively and ran at the West Ham defence a few times, showing a greater confidence than the previous season. If the Spaniard can get back in the goals then he will hit over 20 and that is a tally of a title contender.
Further more, if Hazard can play to his capabilities then he will provide that creative spark that was sorely missed last season. We all knew that Conte would tighten up the defence, but the key to Chelsea’s chances revolve around players such as Hazard and Costa. Get the best out of both of them, and the rewards will come.
Full Premier League results
Hull City 2-1 Leicester City
Burnley 0-1 Swansea City
Crystal Palace 0-1 West Brom
Everton 1-1 Tottenham
Middlesbrough 1-1 Stoke City
Southampton 1-1 Watford
Manchester City 2-1 Sunderland
Bournemouth 1-3 Manchester United
Arsenal 3-4 Liverpool
Chelsea 2-1 West Ham
The Premier League returns on Friday with Manchester United vs Southampton
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