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.


Relegation-battle boost as Al-Muwallad penalty ensures narrow win for nervous Al-Ittihad

Updated 15 August 2020

Relegation-battle boost as Al-Muwallad penalty ensures narrow win for nervous Al-Ittihad

DUBAI: After a miserable resumption of the Saudi Professional League (SPL) season for Al-Ittihad, who lost two matches in the space of a week, they finally gave their fans something to smile about on Friday with a 1-0 home win over Al-Ettifaq at King Abdullah Sports City.

However, it was another uncomfortable night for the struggling giants and the result was partially overshadowed by an unseemly scuffle between the teams’ players and coaching staffs.

Al-Ittihad started the day 13th in the league, just one point and one place above Al-Fateh, who occupied the first of the three relegation spots. With six games left to play, the message coming out of the club was that they are being treated like six cup finals — six crucial matches in the battle to avoid the ignominy of dropping out of the top flight or facing a play-off to ensure survival.

By the time the under-pressure players took to the field they knew that Al-Fateh had overtaken them in the race for survival, thanks to a 2-1 win over Abha Club. As a result, Al-Ittihad kicked off their 25th match of the season in the relegation zone.

It was perhaps not surprising then that in a first half littered with errors, a nervous Al-Ittihad lacked cohesion and confidence, and coach Fabio Carille’s decision to start Brazilian playmaker Romarinho nominally on the left side of midfield seemed to unbalance the team. Still, despite some promising attacks, especially down the wings, Al-Ettifaq were unable to take advantage of their opponents’ uncertainty.

Five minutes into the second half, Al-Ittihad got the break they so desperately needed when Al-Ettifaq midfielder Ibrahim Mahnashi clipped Saud Abdulhamid in the penalty area, and the referee correctly awarded a penalty after consulting with the video assistant referee. Saudi international Fahad Al-Muwallad made no mistake from the spot, firmly placing the ball to the right of goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi.

The Al-Ittihad giants struggled throughout the game, but finally managed to give their fans reason to smile with a 1-0 win. (SPA)

 

 

Al-Ittihad failed to capitalize on their advantage but, despite having to endure a few close calls as the referee added six extra minutes, they managed to hold out to secure a narrow 1-0 win and three priceless points.

At the final whistle, Al-Ittihad’s exhausted players sank to their knees, a reaction more often seen at the end of grueling cup final than a more routine league game. The victory allowed them to leapfrog both Al-Fateh and Al-Hazem and claim 12th place.

“This was an important win for us; mentally we needed this win,” said match-winner Al-Muwallad. “But I have to say that despite the win we didn’t perform to our best. We fell short in certain parts but, thankfully, we got the most important thing, which is the three points. I hope this will help our morale ahead of the match against Al-Faisaly (on Wednesday).”

The Saudi international admitted he is concerned about the number of mistakes his team continue to make, even after taking the lead in Friday’s game.

“If you watch the last two matches you’d see that it was individual mistakes that led to two defeats,” he said. “Today we managed to fix some of those problems but not all of them.

“We still made mistakes and, as I said, we didn’t play to the level that Al-Ittihad fans expect from us, despite the presence of a very good group of players. This win should make us more relaxed in the coming games.

“After the goal we retreated somewhat. We tried to finish the game with our counterattacks but couldn’t. Thankfully, we still got the win. We will take it one match at a time — now we should forget this match and start thinking about the match against Al-Faisaly.”

The Al-Ittihad giants struggled throughout the game, but finally managed to give their fans reason to smile with a 1-0 win. (SPA)

Abdul Aziz Al-Bishi, who was making his first appearance for Al-Ittihad since the SPL resumed after it was suspended for more than four months because of the coronavirus crisis, said the players found it hard to take advantage of the extra space that opened up after Al-Muwallad’s goal.

“The weather didn’t help, and coming back from the break maybe some of the players found it hard out there,” he said. “But this should help us in the coming matches and we can add more points to climb up the league table.”

Al-Ettifaq defender Saleh Al-Qumaizi was disappointed that his team’s performance did not earn at least a point.

“I think we played a big match,” he said. “We controlled the majority of the play and we gave everything we had. We made some mistakes and they scored from one of them.

“We have many key players on the left, right and down the middle. I think today we concentrated mostly on the left and a little on the right channels but it wasn’t to be.”

In the day’s other matches, Al-Fayha and Al-Shabab played out a 1-1 draw at Al-Majma’ah Sports City, while two goals in the last 13 minutes helped Al-Raed beat relegation-threatened Al-Hazem 3-1 to remain in fifth place.