In Depth

Premier League returns: Seven weekend talking points

Goals galore but some chaotic defending mark the start of the football season

The Premier League was back in spectacular and memorable form at the weekend, from Arsenal's thrilling win over Leicester on Friday through to Man United's demolition of West Ham.

Here's what the fans will be talking about this week:

Liverpool's defence

Most of the talk at Anfield concerns Philippe Coutinho at the moment, but as their opening weekend draw with Watford proved, the Reds still have problems at the back.

Two of Watford's goals in the 3-3 draw were down to defensive errors, including the last minute equaliser from Miguel Britos.

"Teams are fully aware of Liverpool's Achilles heel," says Sachin Nakrani of The Guardian. "Klopp insists work on the training ground can improve the situation, but that is what Brendan Rodgers also said when he was in charge of a side regularly undone at set-pieces.

"Little has changed and for all their great attacking play there is simply no chance of Liverpool competing for the title while they remain so shoddy at the back."

The demise of defending

It's not just Liverpool who have problems at the back.

"As reluctant as we are to make broad-brush judgments after just one round of fixtures, it would be a major oversight to not mention the inability of Premier League teams to defend set-pieces," says Sam Dean of the Daily Telegraph

His colleague James Ducker agrees. "Amid the chaos and entertainment, it was not hard to feel a touch of sympathy for two long-standing bastions of the defensive arts as they watched with growing disbelief while teams with designs on the title blundered their way through a process formerly known as defending.

"Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher are paid handsomely by Sky Sports to analyse and dissect but it is easy to detect an underlying sadness at the demise of a trade they used to practise."

Man United roll back the years

It was by all accounts the best performance from a Manchester United side since the days of Alex Ferguson and the 4-0 thrashing of West Ham on Sunday set the bar high for the coming campaign.

Central to it was the performance of Nemanja Matic, once again raising the question of why he was sold by Chelsea to a direct rival.

"Antonio Conte, the Chelsea manager, will watch this dazzling 90 minutes and wonder how badly the champions have erred by selling the 29-year-old. On this evidence, and in a chaotic transfer market, £40m looks a steal," says James Ducker of the Daily Telegraph

Chelsea nightmare

Antonio Conte has more to worry about than the impressive performances of his former players.

A home defeat to lowly Burnley, with two men sent off is not how he would have wanted to start the campaign after a bad summer.

"It isn't hard to see why Chelsea looked half the team they were last year," says Barney Ronay of the Guardian. "From the 13th minute, five of last season's first-choice outfield ten were absent. Gary Cahill, Victor Moses, Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa were all missing."

To make matters worse, N'Golo Kante was well off the pace.

Demanding Guardiola

Manchester City opened their campaign with a win against newly-promoted Brighton. It wasn't a vintage performance but the 2-0 victory was satisfactory for Pep Guardiola.

He appeared "very relaxed on Saturday", says Paul MacInnes of The Guardian. "Dressed in chinos and tennis shoes, a broad smile on his face, he looked a man refreshed."

His players may not agree. And Jack Gaughan of MailOnline says the Spaniard was his usual demanding self on the touchline.

"Even during victory they all copped it. John Stones was not safe. Nor Nicolas Otamendi. Fernandinho's day would not end without reproach.

"Manchester City might well have hurdled the first weekend without clumsily trailing a leg like their title rivals but Pep Guardiola demanded more. He always demands more. Just ask Vincent Kompany, on the receiving end of his manager's unique deliverance of instructions on more than a few occasions."

Rooney returns home

Wayne Rooney marked his return to Everton blue with the winning goal for his boyhood club against Stoke. He appeared reborn.

"One has always had the sense when watching Rooney that he reaches his fullest expression when playing with joy, the street footballer coming to the fore," says Matthew Syed in The Times. "He was almost smiling during the game at Goodison Park, surrounded by love and totally absorbed in the battle."

Chaotic start

It's fair to say the first two games of the season – Arsenal's 4-3 win over Leicester and Liverpool's 3-3 draw with Watford – were eventful, as was Chelsea's opening day defeat to Burnley.

That feeling is borne out by the numbers.

"Only two of last season's 380 Premier League games saw the 'result' change at least six times during the match… yet it happened in both of this campaign's opening two fixtures: Arsenal 4 Leicester City 3 (Arsenal led, level, Leicester led, level, Leicester led, level, Arsenal led) and Watford 3 Liverpool 3, says Bill Edgar of The Times. "It was the first time for six years that Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea all conceded three in the same round of league games."


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