LONDON – The Premier League returned with bang as Arsenal staged a thrilling fightback to beat Leicester, champions Chelsea suffered a shock defeat against Burnley and Romelu Lukaku marked his Manchester United debut with a brace in their rout of West Ham
Here AFP Sport looks at five things we learned from the opening weekend of the new season:
Problems mount for Conte
Throughout a turbulent close-season, Antonio Conte had grown increasingly fraught as Chelsea failed to deliver his transfer targets, while allowing several players to leave. The Chelsea boss claimed defending the title would be the toughest test of his career and Conte’s worst fears were confirmed in Saturday’s stunning 3-2 home defeat against Burnley. Rocked by Gary Cahill’s early red card, Chelsea crumbled as Burnley scored three times in the first half with hardly any resistence from the lacklustre champions. Goals from Alvaro Morata and David Luiz put a flattering gloss on the score, but, with Cesc Fabregas also sent off, Conte’s already depleted squad will be even more under-manned due to suspensions. “We lost our composure. We have to improve a lot on this aspect because there was the rest of the game to try to do our best,” he grumbled.
Perfectionist Guardiola not satisfied
After Manchester City’s trophyless first season under boss Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard vowed to learn from his failed English exam. Guardiola’s main takeaway from City’s flop last term was his side must be more ruthless in the penalty area, while matching their rivals’ work rate. Saturday’s 2-0 win at Brighton was a step in the right direction, but the City boss warned his players he still isn’t satisfied. Sergio Aguero made the breakthrough after 70 minutes and Lewis Dunk’s own goal doubled City’s advantage five minutes later, yet Guardiola said: “We have to learn to attack better. “Last season we ran a lot but in the boxes we were not good. Hopefully in the future we can be more accurate.”
Man United look like title contenders
It is very early days, but Manchester United’s emphatic 4-0 victory over West Ham United suggested they may be about to mount a first serious title challenge since Alex Ferguson’s retirement in 2013. Jose Mourinho’s side often dominated their opponents last season without being able to make it count, but it was a completely different story at a sun-kissed Old Trafford as a team spearheaded by new striker Romelu Lukaku put West Ham to the sword. Lukaku scored twice, either side of half-time, before late goals from substitute Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba completed United’s most convincing opening-weekend win since a 5-1 demolition of Fulham in August 2006.
Arsenal’s defence is a mess
Goals from substitutes Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud earned Arsenal a thrilling 4-3 win over Leicester City, but there was no glossing over their defensive problems. Leicester’s first and third goals came from simple corner routines, while their second stemmed from a loose pass by Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka. Arsenal finished the game with midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain at right-back, right-back Hector Bellerin at left-back and two left-backs –Nacho Monreal and Sead Kolasinac – n central defence. Laurent Koscielny remains suspended for next weekend’s trip to Stoke City and Gabriel is still sidelined, but Shkodran Mustafi and Per Mertesacker could return to give the defence a more conventional –and solid –appearance.
Liverpool might not miss Coutinho
Liverpool made a frustrating start to the season, denied victory in a 3-3 draw at Watford after Miguel Britos’s stoppage-time leveller for the hosts was allowed to stand despite an apparent offside. At the other end of the pitch, however, Philippe Coutinho was not missed. The Brazil playmaker, absent due to a back injury, is the subject of strong interest from Barcelona, which has been met equally firmly by Liverpool’s owners Fenway Sports Group, who are determined not to sell him. But Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and new signing Mohamed Salah all scored and with Adam Lallana still to return from injury and Divock Origi, Daniel Sturridge and Dominic Solanke also at Jurgen Klopp’s disposal, if Coutinho were to leave, Liverpool might not miss him as much as their fans fear. — AFP