The long wait is over. Premier League football is back!
Within 45 minutes of the opening half of the season beginning, it was as if it had never been away, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool carrying on where they left off in 2018/19.
But what were the talking points from the weekend? Let’s take a look…
Alisson injury a blow for Liverpool
When Jurgen Klopp signed Adrian in the wake of Simon Mignolet’s departure, it’s doubtful he expected the Spaniard to be thrust into the limelight as early as the opening fixture of the season. However, with first-choice keeper, Alisson Becker, having a minimal pre-season with the Reds thanks to his summer exertions with the Brazilian national team in the Copa America, an injury was always on the cards.
After clearing the ball in the first half v Norwich, Alisson went down clutching his leg and everyone feared the worst. A calf injury rather than anything more serious means he’ll only miss a maximum of six weeks of the season rather than six months. When the Champions League anthem starts playing again in September, the Brazilian should be ready to help defend the title once again, so Klopp will be thanking his lucky stars.
Everyone should’ve been talking about Raheem Sterling’s wonderful hat-trick at the London Stadium as Manchester City thrashed West Ham – again. But thanks to four referrals to VAR, the overriding issue from the game was how the video referee is spoiling the spontaneity and entertainment in the game.
Of course, this is VAR’s debut season in the Premier League, whereas La Liga, for instance, is a year ahead and has ironed out many of the problems that occurred in its first few weeks of usage. As infuriating as it may seem, EPL teams, their management and supporters are just going to have to suck it up for a while. In any event, and to put it bluntly, the decisions made weren’t incorrect either… even if being a millimetre offside is taking it to extremes.
Kane teaches Villa a valuable lesson
So Harry Kane never scores in August then? The Tottenham striker’s brace may have come late in the day and ensured the north Londoners didn’t suffer an opening day embarrassment, but it was a lesson for Aston Villa in terms of patience and accuracy.The Midlanders took the lead through John McGinn, but much of their passing and finishing was rushed. It was almost as if they were too keen to make an impression on their first day back in the top flight.
With Villa still in the lead with 18 minutes left to play, Tanguy Ndombele’s debut goal gave Spurs the platform for a comeback, and Kane was clinical when he needed to be. Nothing fancy, unlike Jack Grealish’s efforts to make a name for himself, an ill-advised dribble out of defence leading to one of Kane’s goals.
When both chances fell the way of the England man, he did what he does best, took his time and kept things simple. Game over. If Villa want to spend more than a season back at the sharp end, they could do worse than pore over Kane’s 90 minutes.
No Brucie bonus for Newcastle
The long-suffering Toon Army were none too happy about Mike Ashley’s decision not to give Rafa Benitez exactly what he wanted to take Newcastle forward this season, and his decision to hire Steve Bruce in the Spaniard’s place also went down like a lead balloon.It’s easy to understand why after an opening day performance that was pretty awful in truth.
A team and club like Newcastle need a big name and big personality to awaken this sleeping giant, and Bruce isn’t that man. His side were laboured, disorganised and, at times, didn’t have a clue. Arsenal may have only scored once, through Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang’s smart finish, but they were never troubled.
The Magpies will have easier days at the office, but we’ll only find out if Bruce is really cut out for the position after a few more matches have been played.
Potential recovery for United?
Let’s not get too excited just yet. Manchester United were, in the end, convincing winners over a new-look Chelsea, but for long periods, they couldn’t dominate the Blues and looked just like the team from the latter part of last season.
The additions of Harry Maguire and Aaron Wan-Bissaka are sound ones based on their opening day performances, but there’s still something lacking in a team that will be expecting to challenge for the Champions League places at the very least come the business end of the season.
Frank Lampard finds himself in much the same boat, but with his hands tied in the transfer market, his reliance on youth and academy products will test his managerial skills to the limit. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will accentuate the positives, but how the Red Devils fare in much tougher assignments than this one will dictate just how close they are to bringing back the glory days to Old Trafford.