Following the opening round of Premier League action we look at five things we learned from the weekend fixtures.
Champions City remain the team to beat
Pep Guardiola had insisted this week that Newcastle have the potential to be title challengers this season, with the Magpies arriving at Manchester City top of the table and upbeat after starting the season with an impressive thrashing of Aston Villa.
Guardiola’s side sent out a statement to their would be challengers however, with a dominant performance to see off the threat of Eddie Howe’s ambitious side. A 1-0 scoreline was not reflective of City’s dominance of the game, as the treble winners passed Newcastle into submission and created the better chances.
Manchester City have won 17 consecutive home games across all competitions for the first time in the club’s history.
◉ Goals: 55
◉ Conceded: 7
◉ Clean sheets: 11
The Etihad is a fortress. 🏰 pic.twitter.com/ALjSpfCQEH
— Squawka (@Squawka) August 19, 2023
Julian Alvarez’s stunning goal proved the difference between the sides, while Phil Foden was majestic in a creative role behind City’s forward line. Even in the absence of key names including Kevin De Bruyne, Bernardo Silva and John Stones, City showed they remain the team to beat and by some distance.
Newcastle had swatted aside Villa in their opener to win 5-1 at St James’ Park, but the visitors could not get close to City this weekend. Whether any side can get close to Guardiola’s all-conquering team remains to be seen.
Spurs show there’s life after Kane with statement win
The mood can change quickly in football. The left-field arrival of Ange Postecoglou as manager and departure of Harry Kane had tempered expectations at Spurs ahead of the new season, but the former is already making an impression in north London.
This week the Australian said that he wanted ‘everyone talking about the way we play’ and Spurs have started the season with two eye-catching performances. An entertaining draw with Brentford was followed by an impressive win against Manchester United, with the latter performance one which saw Spurs thrill in moments.
🎙 “I made it pretty clear that if I was appointed this was the football I was gonna play”
Ange Postecoglou reacts to his first Premier League win in charge of Tottenham ⚪ pic.twitter.com/JjJlRAfOlz
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 19, 2023
While not quite a free hit, the sale of Kane has given Postecoglou precious patience from the Spurs fans. The early signs are encouraging, with James Maddison brilliant since his arrival from Leicester, Pape Matar Sarr emerging, and Yves Bissouma reborn under the new head coach.
There are flaws to iron out, but Spurs appear to have been released from the shackles which frustrated the fanbase under past regimes.
Szoboszlai superb, but leaky Liverpool a concern
Liverpool earned their first win of the season after beating Bournemouth at Anfield, but the Reds required a share of good fortune and grind to take home all three points.
In a fixture which saw the official’s questioned for their decision making, Liverpool fell behind to Antoine Semenyo’s third-minute goal in an opener very much their own doing.
Trent Alexander-Arnold will rightfully take some blame for his mis-control in a dangerous area, but Virgil van Dijk’s choice – and execution – of pass into the defender should also be criticised in the build up. Liverpool’s defensive issues from pre-season remain and Jurgen Klopp faces a decision on whether to remain with the experimentation of Alexander-Arnold inverting into midfield or move back to the 4-3-3 which had long been his preference.
Dominik Szoboszlai against Bournemouth:
🥇 Successful passes – 1st
🥇 Dribbles completed – 1st
🥇 Progressive carries – 1st
🥇 Distance covered – 1st
🥈 Touches – 2nd
Man of the match 👏 pic.twitter.com/sTQvn3qlpY
— The Anfield Wrap (@TheAnfieldWrap) August 20, 2023
In terms of highlights, Dominik Szoboszlai has been impressive across his first two appearances in the Premier League. The Hungarian was the star of the show in the win over Bournemouth in a performance which will have delighted Klopp, leading the contest for successful passes, completed dribbles, progressive carries and distance covered. His mix of work-ethic and ability to carry the ball confidently look ideally suited to the demands of his manager.
Terrible Toffees in trouble
For the first time in more than a decade Everton will end a Premier League weekend bottom of the table. For the second successive campaign, the Toffees have opened the campaign with back-to-back defeats.
Not since 1951 have Everton been relegated from the top tier of English football, but on the evidence of this weekend’s defeat at Aston Villa it will take some effort to extend that record. Sean Dyche’s side were woeful this weekend to lose 4-0 at Villa Park, as Unai Emery’s side bounced back from their opening weekend loss at Newcastle to embarrass Everton on home turf.
🗣️ “We were playing standstill football, you can’t do that in the Premier League”
Sean Dyche says Everton were ‘miles off it’ today and Aston Villa were better in all departments. pic.twitter.com/OQezT1wdoj
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) August 20, 2023
Villa were rampant with Leon Bailey at the centre of their success in the final third, but Dyche will be despairing at how easy Everton made it for their opponents. Jordan Pickford clattered Ollie Watkins to concede a penalty for Villa’s second, before Michael Keane cost his side dearly in the build up to the third with a miscue into the path of Bailey.
The fourth was the worst of the lot. Ashley Young’s undercooked throw-in left Keane in trouble and Jhon Duran capitalised, nicking the ball ahead of the defender to race in and score just moments after his introduction. This, quite clearly, was a clash between two teams heading in opposing directions.
Ward-Prowse wastes no time in winning over West Ham fans
West Ham fans were concerned with an initial lack of transfer activity after Declan Rice’s sale to Arsenal earlier in the window, with the inevitable departure of the club captain not followed with the instant business most had demanded.
West Ham appear to be getting their ducks in a row as the transfer window reaches its conclusion however, with the signings of Edson Alvarez and James Ward-Prowse having given the Hammers a new look in midfield.
The latter made his debut during the 3-1 win over Chelsea at the London Stadium, as David Moyes’ 10-man side battled hard to earn three points against their capital rivals. Ward-Prowse’s quality was apparent as the midfielder became the first West Ham player to provide two assists on his Premier League debut, setting up the opening two goals.
2 – James Ward-Prowse is the first @WestHam player to assist 2+ goals on his Premier League debut for the club, with the Englishman being the 311th player to feature for the Hammers in the competition. Spark. pic.twitter.com/LVcPMfeLrp
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 20, 2023
His first was a trademark set-piece swung invitingly in for Nayef Aguerd to head home, before a lovely pass released Michail Antonio in behind for the second. Ward-Prowse might not have been the most glamorous signing West Ham could have made this summer, but there’s little doubt that the 28-year-old improves this team.