We’ve only had one game and already some fanbases are describing certain players as the next best thing since sliced bread while others have gone into meltdown thanks to opening day defeats.
It’s good to have the Premier League back.
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Of course, there’s plenty to talk about from the first matchweek of the season.
Read on for the latest edition of Premier League Talking Points!
PL Wrap: United ruined in ‘worst possible start’ as City star sounds ominous $87m warning
‘The team we want to be’: Ange ecstatic as Hoops show fighting spirit with last-gasp winner
Transfer Centre: Chelsea lands FIFTH player in $300m spending spree, star joins Rooney after 10-year PL stint
KLOPP LEFT SEETHING AS STAR’S ‘ATROCIOUS’ BRAINFADE PROVES COSTLY
On a scale of one to 10, just how angry was Jurgen Klopp after Liverpool’s lacklustre 2-2 draw with Fulham on the opening day?
“12,” the German said.
“Very, very because the performance was a defeat.”
If not for some late magic from Mohamed Salah in the 80th minute, it very nearly was an actual defeat as the Reds looked utterly out of sorts.
Fulham marksman Aleksandar Mitrovic picked up right where he left off as the Serbian opened the scoring in the 32nd minute.
But it wasn’t just Mitrovic’s clinical finishing that was the major talking point.
Instead, it was the abysmal defending from Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold.
Fulham defender Kenny Tete made a lung-busting run down the right to cross the ball and floated it towards the back post.
Mitrovic, who had slightly held his run on the breakaway, drifted in unmarked at the back post and leapt over Alexander-Arnold to nod the ball home.
The Liverpool man was caught completely unaware and was made to pay.
The pundits didn’t hold back in their scathing analysis of Alexander-Arnold’s brainfade, with former Rangers striker Kris Boyd going in especially hard.
“Trent Alexander-Arnold’s defending on the goal is atrocious,” Boyd told Sky Sports.
“He doesn’t even know that Mitrovic is behind him and he just comes and bullies him.”
Speaking on NBC Sports’ broadcast, former Premier League midfielder Robbie Mustoe noted that the Liverpool star had no hope with his body positioning.
“Liverpool have plenty of numbers back but Trent Alexander-Arnold has got to be stronger,” Mustoe said.
“This tells you everything. He doesn’t jump, he’s kind of cowering a little bit, he’s not facing the play, he’s not aware what’s behind him and that’s just smashed at the back post there.”
Luckily for Liverpool, the introduction of star striker Darwin Nunez changed the game as he scored in the 64th minute and played a key role in Salah’s late equaliser to spare the Reds’ blushes.
But Klopp now has plenty to ponder ahead of the next game and a performance similar to the one on display against Fulham will be unacceptable.
‘FRAGILE’ UTD HAND TEN HAG ‘REALITY CHECK’
New season, same old problems for Manchester United.
They were toothless and wasteful in attack. Bruno Fernandes should have scored in the opening ten minutes, and United only managed to get on the scoresheet through a scrappy own goal despite having 17 shots. Sure, they were without the exceptional pre-season performer in Anthony Martial, but Cristiano Ronaldo’s arrival off the bench did little to change things in the final half an hour.
Their sloppy build-up play and inability to make anything from their possession (they had 63 per cent of the ball) left Old Trafford great Paul Scholes fuming. He declared: “Fred constantly giving the ball away. McTominay running with the ball in attack when he’s got Sancho, Rashford ahead of him. Should pass the ball to Eriksen. It’s criminal!”
But far more worryingly, the Red Devils were simply horrible in defence – more closely resembling Swiss cheese than an impenetrable wall.
As club great Gary Neville declared on Sky Sports: “Manchester United are the easiest team to play against in the league. For that first goal, Fred and Scott McTominay are chasing back.
“How are they in that position? I was in absolute disbelief. They are ripped through like a knife through butter.”
Midfielders caught out of position time and again. A defensive line that was run ragged and lacked any semblance of cohesion. Overall, they displayed a woeful inability to cope with losing the ball.
Another United legend in Roy Keane declared: “United look very, very fragile. It’s the same problems. Questions about the personality of the team and the big problem is, out of possession, they look so open … Out of possession, Man United are as poor as any team in the Premier League.”
Before the game, fans outside Old Trafford protested the club’s unpopular owners, the Glazer family – and forced the megastore to be closed. A giant banner read: “Fight greed, fight for United, fight Glazer.”
Inside the stadium, the mood was buoyant – as it so often is when a new manager arrives. Erik ten Hag was warmly cheered by the crowd before the game started. By halftime, already 2-0 down to Brighton, he was booed off the pitch. It was the same at full time, the good will quickly evaporating.
As Chris Wheeler wrote in the Daily Mail: “Even by the wretched standards United have been setting over the past decade, this was quite the reality check.”
“It usually takes a little longer than one half of football for the bubble to burst though.”
Captain Harry Maguire, who struggled at centre-back despite being paired with new signing Lisandro Martinez, declared: “It’s the worst possible start. It was not good enough.”
Coach ten Hag must surely now know the difficulty he faces in turning around this team.
Ten Hag said: “It is a hell of a job.
“It’s definitely a setback. It’s a real disappointment and we have to deal with it.
“We have to take the lessons and learn quickly from it. We don’t have time and we have to deliver.”
After a first-ever loss at home to Brighton in their 113-year history, the boos and the protests have already begun. Time is always in short supply at Old Trafford.
SPURS ACE’S ‘PURE EXHIBITION’ A SCARY REMINDER FOR RIVALS
If there’s one player that Fantasy Premier League managers are scrambling to purchase after the opening weekend, it’s Tottenham’s Dejan Kulusevski.
The Swede was in scintillating form against Southampton as Antonio Conte’s side kicked off their season with a 4-1 victory.
He created their first goal, smashed in their fourth and had Southampton’s defence on ice skates as Kulusevski toyed with them like a human dangling a ball of string in front of a cat.
The Athletic’s Jack Pitt-Brooke described the second half as “a pure exhibition: through balls, dribbles, swerves, dinks, cutting inside once, darting outside the next.”
It must be dreamland for Spurs because for so long, it’s exclusively been the Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son show up front.
But with Kulusevski now finding his feet with a full pre-season under Antonio Conte under his belt, Spurs have a forward line that will strike fear into the heart of any Premier League backline.
What will excite the Tottenham fanbase even more is the fact that Kulusevski is just 22 years old and, as Pitt-Brooke wrote, “it feels like he has huge expanses of potential improvement ahead of him.”
“This is the other reason to get so excited about Kulusevski. His ceiling feels so high you could only see it from the stadium’s Skywalk across the roof.”
Sure, it’s only one game in and the excitement from the Premier League returning has many sporting rose-tinted glasses.
But with Kulusevski, the optimism certainly looks likely to extend beyond the early season giddiness.
‘STARVING’ HAALAND SCORES, SWEARS, AND MAKES A STATEMENT
Erling Haaland is off and running. Did you ever doubt him? Two goals on his Premier League debut as he showed exactly why City wanted him so badly. In a team full of technicians, with Kevin de Bruyne pulling the strings as one of the game’s great puppeteers, Haaland brings a razor blade of devastating finishing – and an almost unstoppable power and directness as he charges towards goal.
City already boast a clinical brilliance in their counterattacking, but Haaland takes it to another level. For a master tinkerer in coach Pep Guardiola, Haaland makes the attack far more simple and straightforward. In the first half, he delivered plenty of feints and dummy runs off the ball in the typical Pep-City style. But in the second half, to first win and score his penalty and then to make it a brace, he needed only the most pure and simple tactic – run straight towards goal, an unstoppable freight train. Adapting his game to City’s style is one thing, but his first game showed how City can adapt to him.
It’s bleedingly obvious how hungry he is – as he delivered a hilarious post-match interview on Sky Sports.
Haaland said: “Yeah, I could [score a hat trick]. If you saw [that cross from Gundogan], before I went off, I should have been there. So, a bit s**t but that’s how it is.”
Reporter Geoff Shreeves quickly asked him to go “steady with the language” after his slip up – before the 22-year-old City star immediately swore again as he replied: “Sorry, oh s**t! Sorry.”
Guardiola was full of praise for his star signing’s desire for goals.
“I like it,” Guardiola said. “I was fortunate as a manager to be with Messi and if he scored two, he wanted three. If he scored three, he wanted four. If he got four, he wanted five. The top goalscorers, the strikers, they are never satisfied. They are always starving.”
After winning the penalty, Haaland immediately grabbed the ball to ensure he would take the resulting attempt. “I think if someone were to take this ball, he would have punched his teammates in the face,” Guardiola said. “I’m pretty sure of that and that is a good sign.”
His teammates will hope their faces remain intact, but it’s City’s rivals who will be worrying already about the champions’ power punching.
Much was made of Haaland’s poor Community Shield performance against Liverpool last week, and Guardiola was quick to make fun of the critics.
“One week ago he would not adapt to the Premier League and now he’s the best – alongside Thierry Henry, Alan Shearer and Cristiano Ronaldo,” he said.
So let’s keep our perspective: it’s just one game. The signs are promising – but it’s just the start.
As Haaland said: “Also now it is almost 30 minutes since I scored the last goal so I have to keep going.”