Slick Manchester City and awful Arsenal: Five things we learned from the Premier League's opening weekend

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Updated 14 August 2018

Slick Manchester City and awful Arsenal: Five things we learned from the Premier League's opening weekend

  • Sense of deja vu as new season gets underway.
  • A lot of work needing to be put in by some sides after first fixture.

The Premier League season got underway at the weekend, so we have just the nine months of listening to Jose Mourinho moan, watching Manchester City and Liverpool entertain and a lot of controversy to look forward to. We know it is only one game, but ever keen to put our necks on the line, here is what we think we learned from the first 90 minutes of the season.

LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE
We know it is only one match in, but looking at two London clubs, Tottenham and West Ham, it would seem chequebook management sometimes is not the way forward. Spurs bought no one in the summer, yet looked as clinical as they did last season on their way to a 2-1 away win at Newcastle. The Hammers, on the other hand, spent more than £100 million ($127 million) and looked far from the vibrant, new side the fans had hoped for during Liverpool’s easy 4-0 demolition job. Fans would do well to remember that activity in the transfer market is not the be-all and end-all.

It was a tough opening day for Marko Arnautovic and West Ham despite the money spent over the summer. 

SAME OLD ARSENAL
As with transfers, changing the manager likewise is not a quick cure. Judging from the Gunners’ 2-0 defeat by Manchester City, new boss Unai Emery has a big rebuilding job on his hands. Arsenal looked limp during the clash at the Emirates; City barely broke sweat as they took all the points. It was always appreciated that after 22 years of Arsene Wenger, the Spaniard would need some time to stamp his authority on the side, but on the evidence of one match, he perhaps needs more time than anyone thought. Whether he will be given it is another matter.

New coach but same old faults for Mesut Ozil and Arsenal, as they suffered a 2-0 defeat to Manchester City 

WHO NEEDS A HOLIDAY?
Understandably a lot was made of players who had been at the World Cup being rested and easing them into the season. Try telling that to Raheem Sterling (left), Kyle Walker, Deli Alli and Paul Pogba. All four had small breaks
because of the tournament in Russia and all of them looked fresh, energetic and ready for the long season. Not only that, but all of them were key to their sides’ victories. Whether they maintain that form in remains to be seen.

Paul Pogba clearly did not need a longer break after his brilliant goal-scoring display agaisnt Leicester.

NEW BOYS WILL STRUGGLE 
Opening-day fixtures usually bring cheer to newly-promoted sides. It is common to see a few shocks as the unheralded new boys get one over their more established rivals. On paper Fulham, having to face Crystal Palace at home, Wolverhampton playing Everton at home and Cardiff away at Bournemouth all offered the promoted sides great chances of starting the season well. So the fact that between them they only managed a point — with Wolves having a man advantage for most of the match against Everton — does not bode well. Early days, but new clubs need a good start to have a chance of staying up.

Wolverhampton and fellow new boys Fulham and Cardiff all need a quick start to the season to settle their nerves. 

DEJA VU
Yes, the season is only one game old, but already there is a familiar feel to it. City looked imperious at Arsenal (no bad side), Liverpool look like they will score by the bucketload and run City close, Spurs and Manchester United looked solid and tough teams to beat and Chelsea seemed like they will be in the running for the top four. All in all, it is far from revelatory and far from the edge-of-your-seat-drama you would hope for. That, however, is modern-day football and in the long run we hope we are proved wrong and there are a few shocks on the way.

It was business as usual for Liverpool and Mo Salah as they strolled to a 4-0 demolition job of West Ham.


Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

Updated 14 July 2020

Man City’s court triumph set to intensify race for top 4 places in Premier League

  • The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place

LONDON: Manchester City’s success in overturning its Champions League ban on Monday has huge ramifications on the Premier League and the remaining two teams that will qualify for Europe’s top club competition.

Chelsea, Manchester United and Leicester — and maybe Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sheffield United, too — are now fighting for two qualifying spots instead of three with two weeks of the season remaining.

The fight for a top-five finish has reverted back to needing to be in the top four to join champion Liverpool and City, already secured in second place, in earning tens of millions of dollars in UEFA prize money next season.

The most concerned team is likely to be Leicester.

In the top four since September — and, in December, even looking like the most realistic title challenger to Liverpool — Leicester have imploded, collecting only two wins from their last 11 league games stretching back to the end of January.

After losing to relegation-threatened Bournemouth 4-1 on Sunday, Leicester will find themselves  in fifth place if Man United beat  Southampton on Monday.

United appears much more likely to secure a top-four finish and return to the Champions League after a season’s absence.

With four straight wins ahead of the Southampton game, United are the form team in the league and also has the most benign remaining schedule with upcoming matches against Crystal Palace and West Ham before what could be a winner-takes-all game game at Leicester on the final weekend of the season.

Making it all the more intriguing is the fact that another final-day match is between Chelsea and Wolves.

Chelsea is currently in third place, one point ahead of Leicester, but will drop into fourth if United beat  Southampton.

A victory over already-relegated Norwich on Tuesday appears pivotal for Chelsea, considering its last two games are at Liverpool — a team chasing records to cap its title-winning season — and then Wolves, who have gained a reputation for beating the top teams over the last two years.

Wolves are in sixth place, four points off the top four, so the ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport has come as a blow to their Champions League ambitions.

Indeed, Wolves’ best chance of qualifying for the competition is now to win the Europa League, which earns entry to the Champions League. The team coached by Nuno Espirito Santo has reached the last 16 of the Europa League and will play the second leg of its match against Olympiakos next month, with the score at 1-1 after the first leg.

Likewise, seventh-place Sheffield United needed City to lose its appeal at sport’s highest court to stand a realistic chance of a finish in the Champions League positions, a prospect that would have seemed fanciful for a team that was widely tipped for relegation at the start of the season.

Europa League qualification will be Sheffield United’s target now, with seventh place possibly earning that reward if Manchester City, Manchester United or Chelsea win the FA Cup.