LONDON – The Premier League is back, with the opening weekend producing impressive displays from title contenders Liverpool and champions Manchester City, while Manchester United and Chelsea also made winning starts.
Here are five things we learned from the first weekend of the new top-flight campaign...
Silva service lifts City
“Right now, it’s Bernardo and 10 others,” Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said when asked about Bernardo Silva’s sublime display in the champions’ Community Shield win over Chelsea last weekend.
Portugal midfielder Silva didn’t always start last term, but he was a blur of energy and efficient passing in City’s engine room against Chelsea, and Guardiola rewarded him with a place in Sunday’s 2-0 victory in their Premier League opener at Arsenal.
Guardiola’s faith wasn’t misplaced as the 23-year-old once again produced a tireless performance and rarely misplaced a pass.
The influential effort was capped in the 64th minute when Silva cleverly peeled away from his Arsenal marker to meet Benjamin Mendy’s cross with a fine finish that flashed past Gunners goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Still not so United
Despite getting off to a winning start against Leicester on Friday, all is still not well at Manchester United between star midfielder Paul Pogba, manager Jose Mourinho and executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.
Mourinho named Pogba captain and hailed a “monster” performance after he took responsibility to open the scoring from the penalty spot.
French World Cup winner Pogba, though, wasn’t so effusive in his praise for his boss, claiming “if you’re not happy, you cannot give your best”, and that if he voiced his true feelings, he would be fined.
Meanwhile, Mourinho again let his frustration at not being backed by Woodward in the transfer market be known.
Woodward is adamant Pogba is not for sale despite rumoured interest from Barcelona.
But at the moment, all three seem locked in an unhappy marriage ahead of a season that Mourinho himself has predicted will be a “difficult” one.
Keita’s new kingdom
Liverpool have had to wait a year to get Naby Keita after sealing the deal to bring him from RB Leipzig 12 months ago, but on the evidence of a storming display from the Guinean in Sunday’s 4-0 thrashing of West Ham, it’ll be worth the wait.
Keita started the move for Liverpool’s opener, and possessed the pace and skill to consistently drove through the heart of West Ham’s pedestrian midfield.
Jurgen Klopp now has new found wealth of midfield options, with Fabinho also joining from Monaco, Adam Lallana returning from injury and captain Jordan Henderson getting back to fitness after his exertions at the World Cup with England.
Keita, though, could be the real difference-maker in turning a 25-point deficit to champions Manchester City last season into a title challenge.
Sarri’s Hazard warning
Maurizio Sarri admits Eden Hazard needs more time to get back to his very best despite an impressive 15-minute cameo as a substitute in Chelsea’s 3-0 win at Huddersfield.
Hazard has been linked with a move to Real Madrid, and only returned to training with Chelsea a week ago after helping Belgium finish third at the World Cup.
The midfielder’s future may not be sorted out until August 31, when the transfer window closes in Spain.
But his quality was there for all to see during his brief appearance on Saturday, with a fine run from midfield taking out several Huddersfield players before he slotted in Pedro to score Chelsea’s third goal.
“I think that Eden in this moment cannot play for 90 minutes. He has to improve, to have training,” Sarri said.
“I think the best thing is for him to play 15-20 minutes, when the opponents probably are tired.”
Spurs show steel
Tottenham may not have spent anything in the transfer market, and had to play several of their stars who have just returned from well-earned breaks post the World Cup.
But they coped easily enough with Newcastle in their 2-1 win at St James’ Park.
Spurs are the only top-tier team not to have made a signing since the end of last season, and manager Mauricio Pochettino will need a tougher test than this to assess whether fatigue will be a telling factor for his squad this term.AFP