The opening weekend of the 2021/22 Premier League season is now in the books, and there are storylines aplenty to discuss. Some of the developments over the weekend were quite surprising, others widely expected.
We saw dominant performances, and shocking upsets, and it all makes us wonder what week two will have in store for us. Let’s cover the main headlines.
-Mikel Arteta is on borrowed time
The season opened at Brentford Community Stadium on a Friday night and what an experience it was for the Bees fans, young and old.
Spare a thought for Mikel Arteta, who despite fielding shiny new 50 million GBP signing Ben White in the center of defense did not see any improvement on the pitch from his Arsenal side. Granted he was without the likes of Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette, and Eddie Nkiteah, but Gunners fans would have and should have expected a better showing.
Time is not Arteta’s friend anymore. As he closes in on his two-year anniversary at the club, their FA Cup success seems quite some time ago and he will need to turn things around quickly if he is to last in the Gunners hot-seat much longer.
Questions are also being asked of Technical Director Edu, as his deals off the pitch, or should I say lack of, are being heavily criticized also.
Both have copped a public berating from Rwandan President Paul Kagame who has skin in the game as ‘Visit Rwanda’ is one of the Gunners’ main shirt sponsors.
-Pogba runs the show at the Old Trafford
Manchester United fans were delirious as they kicked off their 21/22 campaign with a resounding 5-1 victory over bitter Yorkshire rivals Leeds United.
It seemed Paul Pogba has finally brought his form from the international stage back to Old Trafford with him as he completely ran the show from midfield notching four assists in the match, as the dream team of Pogba and Bruno Fernandes finally seemed to click together. The Portuguese netted a hattrick as being a direct beneficiary of the Frenchman’s creative play.
With tremendous transfer market work accomplished this summer, as they brought in stars Raphael Varane and Jadon Sancho, plus their two-star midfielders beginning the campaign in dominating fashion, maybe this could be the breakthrough season that the red half of Manchester has been longing for since Sir Alex Ferguson retired.
Special mention to Scottish midfielder Scott McTominay, who, in conjunction with the aforementioned players, could be critical to the Red Devils’ success this season.
-Salah breaks records, looks ominous
19/20 champions Liverpool looked to put the injury-ravaged hell of last season behind them as they faced newly promoted Norwich in the opener. Welcoming defensive colossus Virgil Van Dijk back into the fold, having convalesced from an ACL injury that destroyed last season, the Reds made light work of the Canaries.
Mohammed Salah became the first man to score in five consecutive season openers with his smartly placed strike in the second half, completing a 3-0 rout for the Reds. It wasn’t just about the goals for the prodigious Egyptian, as his fortuitous touch played in Diogo Jota for the opener and his quick thinking saw him fire the ball across the box to set up Bobby Firmino. The lethal winger is only two more scoring strikes away from 100 EPL goals, having played just 159 games. It’s an astonishing conversion rate.
The performance will have heightened the already soaring expectations for the red half of Merseyside and if this evidence is anything to go by – they will be right amongst it this year.
-Chelsea will challenge this season
It was business as usual for Chelsea, as they recorded a 3-0 victory and registered their title credentials on Matchday 1 with authority.
Veteran Marcos Alonso opening the procession with a vintage free-kick that left compatriot David Guaita frozen between the posts as it nestled into the top corner of the net. Much maligned American winger Christian Pulisic doubled the lead 5 minutes before the halftime whistle and Trevor Chalobah, in his debut for Chelsea, scored the third goal just before the hour mark to turn the contest into a blowout.
With the likes of Romelu Lukaku joining this already frighteningly talented group of players, this performance steels the resolve of any preseason prediction that the west London club will push Manchester City the hardest this season.
The shock of the round saw the Harry Kane-less Spurs defeat the reigning champions, Manchester City, in front of a raucous crowd in North London.
Despite having English football’s first £100,000,000 player in their starting squad, Pep Guardiola’s men couldn’t take advantage of their dominance of the first 20 minutes. And in the 55th minute, South Korean striker Heung Min-Son sent the how crowd into a ruckus. Receiving the ball from Steven Bergjwin he cut inside and struck it sweetly past Manchester City’s stranded ‘keeper Ederson from outside of the box.
This signaled his intent to become the main man for Tottenham. If Spurs can perform like this consistently, they may just be alright when Harry Kane inevitably makes the transfer to Manchester City.
And if the crowd at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium can bring the heat as they did on the opening day, Tottenham might just surprise this season, be it with Harry Kane or without.