The Premier League is back. Who were the movers and shakers on day one? Leeds faced a daunting assignment at Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Chelsea had splashed the cash. Will they see an instant return on their investment? Liverpool were unstoppable last season. Are they still as hungry as ever? Here are the winners and losers from installment one of the Premier League soap opera.
PREMIER LEAGUE OPENING DAY THE WINNERS
Welcome to Bielsa ball. After a rocky opening period, Leeds did what Leeds do. They pressed high, passed neatly, and created plenty of scoring opportunities. Leeds had the worst conversion ratio per chances created in the Championship last year. Here they were clinical, with even Patrick Bamford only needing two bites at the cherry. The downside was the concession of four sloppy goals. New 30 million signing Rodrigo’s only input was the concession of a match-defining penalty. That said, the put the champions to the pin of their collar and are sure to be a fun watch this season.
Arsenal are on a roll. Mikel Arteta’s side started as they finished last season. Willian was at his busy best here. He provided assists for Alexandre Lacazette, fellow debutant Gabriel, and skipper Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. While it’s early days, this display from Arsenal justifies their status as top-four Premier League contenders. The Gunners’ defence is light years away from the rabble it resembled under Unai Emery. In mitigation, Fulham were a mess. Still, the Gunners look transformed under Arteta. With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ending speculation about his future, it has been another hugely positive week at the Emirates.
For the club in eternal crisis at least a good start. Goals from debutants Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick gave ‘The Magpies’ a 2-0 opening-day victory at West Ham United. Steve Bruce will be delighted with the attacking intent of his side. Wilson, a £20m summer signing from Bournemouth has now scored eight goals in his last nine Premier League games. This was the first time Newcastle had won their opening game for the first time since 2012. While the Hammers hit the bar twice, David Moyes and Co look set for another relegation-threatened season on this evidence.
Frank Lampard is short odds to be the first managerial candidate for the sack this season. The Chelsea hierarchy will be expecting a big return on their pre-season investments. This performance will not have inspired any great confidence. Chelsea’s latest re-boot struggled to find its rhythm against a very limited Brighton side. Timo Werner and Resse James provided a snappy reminder that if they click, Lampard might just avoid the ejector seat.
It was a nightmare return to the top flight for the Cottagers. They have tethered between the top flight and Championship for a few seasons now. A 3-0 home reversal points to a long season of struggle ahead. Denis Odoi and Neeskens Kebano showed glimpses of their potential here but in truth, Arsenal could have run riot in the second half. Manager Scott Parker did a brilliant job in navigating a safe passage through the Play-Offs last season. If he keeps this rag-bag Fulham side up, he really is a miracle worker.
A surprising choice? Well anyone looking for evidence of a decline in the Reds got plenty of it here. They needed two penalties, one of which was of the generous variety to see off a fired-up Leeds. Virgil Van Dyke was uncharacteristically at fault for Bamford’s equalizer. Liverpool were lethargic at times and clearly spooked by Leeds high press. Klopp was happy with his side’s attitude, but they nearly lost two vital points here. Pep Guardiola will have been heartened by what he saw, as there are still major chinks in their defensive armor.