PREMIER LEAGUE IS BACK! What we learnt on opening weekend

EPL By: Linus Onyeze | 13/08/2018

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Two months ago, it seemed like ages away. It mattered little that the World Cup had provided a respite in between the summer break, all that really mattered was for the Premier League to return and the activities of clubs in the transfer market only whetted their appetite for the most-followed league in the world to resume.

And that longing was fulfilled at the weekend at Old Trafford when Manchester hosted Leicester City in the season’s opener. It was by no means the most exciting game we will see this season, but fans must have been all too pleased to have the Premier League back on their screens.

As is the case with every Premier League weekend, there are always things we learn and the opening weekend was no exception and this time, we have learnt things that may set a marker for what to expect for the entire season. From Jose Mourinho and Manchester United to Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool through to Video Assistant Referee (yes, the VAR), here are some of the things we learnt from the opening weekend which could set the tone for the rest of the season.

Mourinho playing mind games with the league?

Manchester United’s pre-season tour of the United States was overshadowed not only by their poor form, but by Jose Mourinho’s foul mood and constant moaning of needing two more players before the season slammed shut. The United had made it clear he needed two more signings with one of them a center back and while his mood and moaning didn’t surprise too many people, but the timing of it was the surprising fact. The season was yet to go underway and he was already complaining but it would seem it was just a tactic used to deflect pressure and expectations from himself and his team.

The Portuguese has been known to play mind games often by systematically deflecting pressure from himself and his teams and even though he may have really needed those two signings, one would imagine United have enough cover as it is. He also cleverly tried to deflect the pressure towards Liverpool, by insisting Jurgen Klopp must now win the league given the investments they have made. Alas, with everyone looking toward Manchester City and Liverpool, Mourinho may have successfully taken the Red Devils away from the eye of the storm.

Emery’s first season at Arsenal won’t yield much

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Unai Emery has the fine record of having won the Europa League on three successive occasions with Sevilla and with Arsenal playing in that competition this term, it won’t be out of place to think they can win it. However, for the Premier League, it looks very unlikely the Spaniard will guide the Gunners to any major achievement. While the game against Manchester City was only the first game of the season, it has shown the North London club’s lack of quality in key areas.

Emery’s system of pressing high against teams and keeping a compact shape will see them blow some teams away, but without adequate quality, it remains to be seen how far that will take them.

Liverpool could become Manchester City

Last season, it was Manchester City that wrote the story of the Premier League, scoring 100 points on their way to lifting the title. Liverpool might that team this season that sets the league alight. Although they went last season without a trophy, Jurgen Klopp’s side’s brand of football caught more than a few eyes and with the additions of Naby Keita, Fabinho, Alisson and Virgil van Dijk (although he joined in January), they look a better side than they were last term.

The Reds now have more depth and quality in all areas and when you add that to their high pressing system, they may just be the Manchester City of the current season.

Chelsea will come good but…

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The Blues got off to a good start in a 3-0 win over Huddersfield and showed glimpses of what to expect during the season. For a team that has worked with a new manager for less than a month, it surely will take some time to get them kicking in the right directions. However, you fear Chelsea haven’t done enough in the summer transfer window especially with signing another striker. Although it could be argued that Maurizio Sarri’s system is flexible enough to accommodate an unconventional striker should the need arise. A return to the top four is very possible but that will most likely be the best they will achieve in the league this term.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR)

Just over a month ago, we were constantly regaled with the VAR – both the good and the not so good – but for some measure, it provided clarity and with the new Premier League season kicking off on the back of that, expect to hear calls for the controversial technology as the season progresses. Television replays showed that Sadio Mane’s second goal against West Ham should have been ruled out for offside and that would have been the case if the VAR was being used. However, as the season progresses, expect more fans and even teams to call for the introduction of the VAR.