Man Utd are back, Tottenham ahead of Liverpool as Man City’s main challengers – eight knee-jerk reactions to the Premier League opening weekend

Posted by

With the Premier League finally back as the real football got going this weekend, we’re too excited to put together any particularly forensic analysis about the campaign ahead.

Instead, we’re in the mood for knee-jerk predictions based on some of the key games and moments from the first round of fixtures of the 2019/20 season.

MORE: Premier League team of the week: Manchester United trio join Arsenal and Liverpool stars in BBC pundit’s XI

Here are some things our gut is telling us about how things are going to pan out in the season ahead…

Manchester United are BACK

Watch this prediction look stupid in just a week or so, but for now we’re all on board the Manchester United bandwagon.

The Red Devils were far from perfect against Chelsea at the weekend, but still ran out 4-0 winners by getting the basics right and showing a winning mentality that’s looked lost for some time.

In Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, United finally have a manager that gets the club’s roots – and a performance that leads to a big margin of victory even when not playing at your peak in every position is typical Fergie-era stuff.

Solid at the back, with pace and clinical finishers up front, Man Utd had what it took to kill off Chelsea with relative ease in the end, giving this team a very promising platform to build on.

Chelsea are in big trouble

Onto Chelsea, and it’s looking very bleak if we’re honest.

It was always clear this was likely to be a transitional season due to the club’s transfer ban and appointment of an inexperienced club legend as manager, but this is still far from the start the Blues will have wanted.

Frank Lampard perhaps went a little over the top with the amount of youngsters in his starting XI, with players like Olivier Giroud and Willian sure to still have key roles this season.

Still, the way Chelsea fell apart so quickly against United looks a real concern and Lampard will have to improve quickly before major doubts start creeping in. Without Eden Hazard, it’s hard to see where goals are going to come from in this side, and while that’s something that was out of the former England international’s hands, he’ll soon get the blame if he can’t fix up other areas of the squad or improve some of these talented young players to the standard required.

Hey, at least we’re not the only ones quickly deciding we aren’t too convinced…

Concerns for Liverpool

You’ll likely be aware by now that Liverpool did not have the best pre-season, with the Reds losing a few games and conceding a lot of goals.

Well, now the real football has got going they looked a great deal better as they thrashed Norwich City 4-1, but even that result was not without it’s concerning moments.

Of course, conceding a goal to a team as poor as this Norwich side perhaps shows some sign of this LFC outfit not being quite as rock-solid as last year, while the injury to goalkeeper Alisson will likely only make that worse.

Adrian, signed very much with the view of being a backup, now has to step up to fill in as number one for an extended period, and it’s hard not to think he’s a long way off what Jurgen Klopp will need in such a key position when his side can barely afford to drop any points if they are to keep up with this relentless Manchester City outfit.

Tottenham to be Man City’s main challengers

Could Tottenham be one of the main Premier League title challengers this season?

With Liverpool’s concerns in mind, could Tottenham now be the main title challengers to Man City this season?

Spurs have been steadily improving every year under Mauricio Pochettino, and now seem to have the big resources to help them go that level further.

In Tanguy Ndombele, who had a fine debut and scored a stunner in the win over Aston Villa, Tottenham have made quite possibly the most exciting signing of the summer in the Premier League; in Giovani Lo Celso they have another quality creative star who should make a big impact; and in Ryan Sessegnon they have a real wonderkid and possible secret weapon off the bench.

Of course, much will depend on keeping Christian Eriksen at the club, with the Denmark international in the final year of his contract and notably not starting the game against Villa as he continues to be linked with Real Madrid by Sky Sports and others.

Arsenal are the real deal

Arsenal had a great summer and – wow – suddenly have an incredible squad with quality and depth in almost every position.

The Gunners were far from full strength this weekend but still pulled off a solid 1-0 win away to Newcastle – not something to be sniffed at given that it took them until April last season to keep a clean sheet away from home.

We think this tweet sums things up pretty well – there’s more to come from this side this season:

Unai Emery can now field a team that is mostly made up of his signings, with his plans now looking to come together a bit more after inheriting a bit of a mess from Arsene Wenger.

We’re not quite knee-jerk enough to say they’re going to be title challengers, but this AFC side should have more than enough to finally break back into the top four this season.

Harry Maguire in action for Manchester United against Chelsea

Harry Maguire is worth every penny

We’re Harry Maguire converts. The £80m summer signing from Leicester City (fee per BBC Sport) looked exactly what Man Utd needed in the win over Chelsea.

Forget his real fee for a minute and suppose he’d joined for a truer reflection of his market value, for instance, £50m, and there’d be no question he’d be viewed as a superb piece of business.

His positioning, awareness, authority and composure make him everything that the likes of Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are a million miles away from being. Given how badly he was needed, and how much Leicester knew the Red Devils would be able to pay up for him, it’s unsurprising his fee ended up being a world-record one for a defender.

It’s easy to forget now, but people raised eyebrows about Virgil van Dijk’s fee as well, but it’s barely mentioned now. If Maguire carries on like this, that will soon be true of him too.

Paul Pogba has put his troubles behind him

Some people love to believe that this guy is some troublemaker who’s, at best, not focused enough on Man United because he’s too busy getting a new haircut and dancing on Instagram, or, at worst, downing tools and trying to force a transfer away.

The truth is, aside from some quotes from his agent earlier in the summer, Pogba has not really given the media the headlines they wanted, and is now very much here and doing his best as a MUFC player for the new season.

The France international was superb against Chelsea, even if United’s midfield was second best to the Blues in terms of possession. While the likes of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic dominated the ball without doing a huge amount with it, Pogba put in the decisive moments of quality when it mattered most.

His assist for Marcus Rashford’s second goal was sublime, and he also did well to set up Daniel James for the fourth. When he’s on his game, there’s few that can stop him.

Isn’t it time we all stop trying so hard to dislike this guy and simply sit back and enjoy Pogba’s talents?

Same names contesting the Golden Boot

Hat-trick for Sterling. Two goals for Kane. A goal each from Aubameyang and Salah. It’s going to be the same names contesting the Golden Boot this season isn’t it?

While it would be nice to think of someone different being a realistic contender – perhaps a young forward like Rashford at Man Utd or Tammy Abraham at Chelsea – we are blessed to be watching so many truly great strikers in the Premier League right now.

Aubameyang and Salah in particular have been tremendous additions to this league, with these remarkable numbers below showing why they’re going to be thorns in defenders’ sides for another season at least:

More Stories Adrian Alisson Daniel James Eden Hazard Frank Lampard Harry Kane Harry Maguire Jurgen Klopp Marcus Rashford Mauricio Pochettino Mohamed Salah Ole Gunnar Solskjaer Paul Pogba Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Tanguy Ndombele Unai Emery Virgil van Dijk