There’s only been one weekend of Premier League action, but there’s already been a host of magical moments, a bunch of goals, and – maybe best of the lot – a reassuring absence of VAR controversy.
Some teams outperformed expectations while some struggled. Here’s five of the biggest talking points after round one.
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Salah on ‘a different level’ … but why Reds should be worried
Mohamed Salah was at his devastating best as Liverpool began their title defence with a 4-3 victory over Leeds, but the Reds defence looked far from their champion-level best.
Salah bagged two penalties and blasted a volley to take home the match-ball and get his Golden Boot chase off to a red-hot start.
And Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville claimed the Egyptian could be one of the world’s best players in the next couple of years.
“Watching him on Saturday, it was almost like he was toying with the game, almost like he had the game in his hands,” Neville said.
“[Kylian] Mbappe, he’s fantastic. Neymar, he’s a bit up and down a bit … Where is the best player in the world going to be in the next couple of years?
“Salah is not far away from it anyway, but to me on Saturday he looked like an absolutely different level.”
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Leeds’ attack is going to cause plenty of teams strife this season, judging from their effort against Liverpool.
But that doesn’t hide the fact that Jurgen Klopp’s back line looked flimsy.
Former Liverpool defender Steve Nicol, who won four league titles in 13 seasons at Anfield, said the Reds defence was an “absolute and utter shambles”.
“What they’re doing now is they are all over the place. It’s an absolute shambles and it’s huge. You get this wrong and you’re going to lose goals for fun,” he told ESPN.
“When you start thinking about yourself and not the line, then you see what happened. Absolute and utter shambles.”
Van Dijk’s error to gift Patrick Bamford a goal was the lowlight, but Klopp will be hoping his defence returns to the watertight consistency it has displayed over the last two years.
At least Salah was there to save them. This time.
New signings begin with a bang
Any big transfer comes with high expectations – and plenty of pressure. But have we ever seen an opening weekend so dominated by debutants?
The very first game of the season saw Arsenal beat Fulham 3-0, and all three goals were assisted by new Brazilian Gunner Willian. One of those was scored by Gabriel Magalhaes, who closely followed his countryman in the man-of-the-match race.
Both of Newcastle’s goals in their 2-0 win over West Ham were scored by debutants (Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick).
Leicester’s new Belgian right back Timothy Castagne (an £18m recruit from Atalanta) marked his debut with the opening goal and a clean sheet as the Foxes beat West Brom 3-0.
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Maybe the best debut of all was James Rodriguez for Everton.
The Colombian star is out to ressurrect his career after a lean few years in Spain and Germany.
Rodriguez shot to superstardom in the 2014 World Cup, where he claimed the Golden Boot and earned himself a £63 million move to Real Madrid.
After two decent seasons on loan to Bayern Munich, he made just 8 league appearances (one goal, one assist) after returning to Madrid last season.
Now 29, he’s out for redemption after a roughly £12m move to Everton, and he started in superb style.
He created five chances for the Toffees in their 1-0 win over Tottenham – the most of any player in their Prem debut since Alexis Sanchez in 2014.
He also topped the game with four interceptions, and showed off a creativity and range of passing that has Everton fans dreaming of greatness this season.
Spare a thought for Adam Lallana, the former Liverpool player. He hobbled off before halftime on debut for Brighton – and given his injury history, that could be a real concern.
Lampard’s midfield migraine
The pressure is on Frank Lampard. Chelsea have spent more than £200m ($A350m) this transfer window, and the legendary former player has to deliver.
But there was plenty to like about their 3-1 win over Brighton. Timo Werner didn’t manage a goal, but his pace, movement, and positional intelligence showed exactly why Chelsea went all out to sign the striker. He brings a different dimension to the Chelsea offence.
“He has a real hunger to score goals and be ruthless in that area (the box),” Lampard told Sky Sports after the game.
But it’s his ability to stretch defences that could prove even more influential. He drifted wide and dropped into the midfield, made more sprints than anyone else on the park, and played the full 90 minutes.
“I love the way Timo pops up in different areas,” Lampard added. “He’s not a frontman who attaches to centre-backs so much. Sometimes he can start from a little bit deeper, but when he goes, he goes.”
The only question is how Lampard is going to manage the men around him. Kai Havertz was quiet but showed glimpses of his prodigious talent. Jorginho was strong – nailing his penalty confidently – while N’golo Kante made the kind of trademark late runs into the box we witnessed when he was at his best some years ago (as well as covering more ground than anyone on the park, as per usual).
Christian Pulisic, Billy Gilmour and Hakim Ziyech (the latter both injured) weren’t even in the squad, while Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ross Barkley had to settle for coming off the bench.
Lampard now has the kind of depth in midfield other managers would dream of. Finding his best XI will be a tricky task – and managing the dressing room will be crucial. It’s a headache, but a good one to have.
The one thing he definitely won’t be enjoying is Kepa Arrizabalaga’s ongoing tendency to concede relatively tame long-range goals, as he did against Brighton. That’s a headache Lampard will definitely wish he didn’t have to deal with.
Buy or die: Trio’s early relegation worries
West Ham were atrocious, West Brom’s offence tame to say the least, and Fulham’s attacking depth is wafer-thin. The hopes of that trio of teams will rest on their success in the last few weeks of the transfer window.
The Hammers look unbalanced, lacking in experience and – to be brutally honest – quality. Manager David Moyes is desperate to sign a veteran centre-back, with Arsenal defender Rob Holding his second choice behind Burnley’s James Tarkowski.
West Brom will be desperate to land another striker before the transfer window closes. They managed just one shot on target against Leicester. Matheus Pereira and Grady Diangana could both have done better with chances in the first half, but the second half showed the side severely lacks in cutting edge.
Fulham are another side needing to improve if they are to handle the step up to the top flight.
Unfit Aleksandr Mitrovic came off the bench and ignited the attack, but the game was already dead and buried by that stage.
“For us to evolve and develop we need to bring players into this team that are going to improve us,” coach Scott Parker said. He’s picked up decent reinforcements in defence. Now he needs to add to his forwards – or be back in the Championship next season.
Early days … but the gap may be closing
Liverpool beat Manchester City to the title by a whopping 18 points last season, and the gap from second to third was a further 15 points.
But all of their rivals have done big business in the transfer market.
Chelsea spent a motza on new players and might not be finished, Spurs reinforced and still want another striker, Manchester United splashed out on Donny van de Beek and are still in the hunt for Jadon Sancho, and Arsenal picked up Willian and added Gabriel to their defence.
Meanwhile Liverpool haven’t managed to bring in top target Thiago – yet – and Manchester City are still looking for a second central defensive signing to join Nathan Ake – likely to be Atletico Madrid’s José Giménez or Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly.
The truth is that while sides like United and Chelsea showed flashes of brilliance last campaign, they were a world away from the top two. But – after just one weekend – there’s already reason to believe the gap could close this season.
Arsenal finally found a way to unpack a deep and compact defence, blowing away promoted Fulham. Willian added much-needed creative power. Chelsea’s new-look offence showed plenty of promise (more on that below). Meanwhile – and maybe more importantly than anything their rivals do – Liverpool showed vulnerability at the back.
It’s extremely early days, and we haven’t even seen the Manchester teams in action yet. But good recruitment and the continuing development of young sides could mean we see a tighter race at the top of the Premier League leaderboard this year. Here’s hoping.