The Premier League is back! Last weekend saw drama, controversy, excitement and plenty of goals. Of the newly-promoted sides, Sheffield United were the only side to pick up a point; while at the top of the table, there were triumphant wins for Manchester United over Chelsea, as well as last season’s top two also being dominant. With opening weekend of the Premier League out of the way, there were plenty of talking points and here we will look to discuss three of them.
Can Manchester United Challenge The Top Two In The Premier League This Season?
It was a fantastic first win of the 2019/20 Premier League season on home turf for the Red Devils, who annihilated Frank Lampard’s Chelsea. Three goals in 21 second-half minutes ensured that the three points were secured.
It was a frustrating transfer window for fans, with Romelu Lukaku sold and no big-name players arriving at Old Trafford, despite interest in the likes of Paulo Dybala, Mario Mandzukic and Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen. However, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial stepped up and there was even a debut goal from Daniel James.
United were clinical, scoring from four out of their five shots on target, but almost as encouraging as their attacking play was that they kept a clean sheet. You have to go back as far as February, to the 0-0 draw with Liverpool in the Premier League for the last time this was achieved – so will no doubt be pleasing for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. More often than not, we’ve found that clean sheets win games just as much as goals.
While it’s early days, there’s no doubt this decisive 4-0 win against Chelsea would have done wonders for the team’s confidence and if they can hold on to this feel-good factor, score at will and keep clean sheets, there’s no reason why they can’t challenge Manchester City and Liverpool this season.
Think you can predict the outright winner? Check out the latest English Premier League odds.
Have Arsenal Overcome The Curse Of The Defenders?
Arsenal are another team who aren’t blessed with the ability to keep clean sheets. However, you’d need to go back to April to find the last time the Gunners kept a clean sheet in the Premier League, as they ended last season with back-to-back wins and clean sheets against Newcastle United and Everton.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, in recent years, they’ve obtained a reputation of having a poor defence – with Gunners’ fans, as well as fans of other teams across the country calling the many several central defensive partnerships a ‘liability’. Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny, Gabriel, Sokratis, Shkodran Mustafi… all who have come under scrutiny in recent seasons – and some have since left the club.
In Sunday’s 1-0 win over Newcastle, Unai Emery decided not to start with his new signings, opting for a back four of Nacho Monreal, Sokratis, Calum Chambers and Ainsley Maitland-Niles. The acquisition of Kieran Tierney from Celtic could prove to be a decent one, as the 22-year-old was part of the team that conceded just 20 goals last season – and has a wealth of honours to his name already, including four league titles.
Similarly, former Chelsea centre back David Luiz was on the bench and while the signing was met with mixed reviews, there is no doubt that on his day, Luiz is an excellent defender and will prove influential to the youngsters at the club. Surely £8 million is an absolute steal.
With the likes of Hector Bellerin, Sead Kolašinac and Rob Holding, Arsenal have strength in depth as well as a mixture of youth and experience. When Tierney and others return from injury and Luiz gets a run in the team, we will soon see if the curse of the defenders has been lifted.
Will VAR Ruin Premier League Football?
Since its introduction, VAR has divided opinion and it was no different during the opening weekend of the Premier League season. While it wasn’t called upon during Friday night’s game between Liverpool and Norwich City, unfortunately, VAR took centre stage on Saturday and Sunday.
During Manchester City’s away win at West Ham, VAR was brought into play on seven occasions, overturning two of them. Spurs’ win over Aston Villa saw seven VAR checks, with no decisions overturned; while Bournemouth v Sheffield United, Watford v Brighton and Burnley v Southampton all saw six checks in their games, with no decisions overturned.
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The most controversy surely came at Old Trafford on Sunday, with checks for all four of United’s goals and the penalty reviewed. While again, no decisions were overturned, the use of the technology has surely changed the face of the game forever in the Premier League.
How many times on average per game is it going to be brought into play? How many (or fewer) penalties (or goals) will be awarded? And by how much longer is that going to extend game time by? So many questions and so much controversy.