In Depth

Premier League talking points: Hazard is reborn but Wenger wilts

Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool can be happy with their work, while Arsenal and Joe Hart may be concerned

The Premier League is back and after the first round, which saw wins for Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool, there are plenty of talking points.

Conte has revitalised Chelsea.

The final match of the opening weekend saw Chelsea beat West Ham at Stamford Bridge and a last-minute winner from Diego Costa inspired Antonio Conte into the kind of wild touchline sprint once associated with a former Chelsea boss now found at Old Trafford.

And it looks as though Conte could become as popular among the fans as his predecessor, Jose Mourinho. "It was not only that uplifting reaction to Costa's goal that so won over Chelsea's fans," says Henry Winter in The Times. "It was not only his instilling of belief, shape and intensity in players who so underachieved last season, or his constant exhortations and instructions to his new team that so impressed. Conte's tactical changes all had an impact. 

"The Conte era had begun with certain clear characteristics, most notably Hazard being far more of a force than last season, and the new head coach's constant encouragement to his players to be more adventurous."

The end for Joe Hart?

Pep Guardiola made a huge statement by dropping goalie Joe Hart for the opening game and the England number one's days at the Etihad could be numbered, with the new City boss monitoring Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo.

"Guardiola wants a number one who relishes having the ball at his feet and prefers picking a pass over launching a long ball. The stats suggest Hart isn't that man," writes Joe Strange of Mail Online.

Guardiola spent the last three seasons working with Manuel Neuer at Bayern Munich. "It was Neuer's ability with the ball at his feet which made him such a perfect fit for Guardiola's possession-heavy style of football," adds Strange. "In 97 league appearances over the last three seasons, the 30-year-old played a total of 2,077 short passes to his team-mates - almost four times as many as Hart (562), who was replaced by Willy Caballero on Saturday."

Neuer plays 34 per cent of his passes long, Hart goes for distance 75 per cent of the time; Neuer has a passing accuracy rate of 85 per cent, Hart's is just 49 per cent.

Herrera outshines Ibrahimovic and Bailly

Manchester United's new boys, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Eric Bailly, won plaudits for their performances against Bournemouth on Sunday, but Michael Cox of The Guardian was just as impressed by the contribution of midfielder Ander Herrera.

"Manchester United are already playing trademark Jose Mourinho football," says Cox. "This was an unfussy, clinical and efficient performance, primarily notable for United's solid defensive shape.

"The most interesting aspect of their build-up play was the prominent role played by Ander Herrera. The Spaniard is usually fielded in an energetic midfield role but he sat deeper here... It was noticeably Herrera, rather than Mata or Rooney, who was offering the most invention for United. He eventually played 87 passes, significantly more than the 64 he averaged per 90 minutes in 2015-16, underlining his deeper role."

Where now for Arsene Wenger?

Arsenal's calamitous start to the season is terrible news for Arsene Wenger, says Henry Winter of The Times. After shipping four goals at home, the manager "is under scrutiny like never before. Fans' patience is cracking."

This is not the Arsenal or, indeed, the Wenger that revolutionised football in England in the early years of his reign. "At present he resembles some flawed Shakespearean hero who loses his way, whose character traits change for the worse. Enlightenment and determination become blinkeredness and stubbornness as he loses his wisdom, his subjects and his kingdom."

Arsenal need leaders, says Rob Bleaney of The Guardian. "Such a capitulation is unacceptable for supposed title challengers, whatever the injury situation. Wenger knows it, and yet he has failed to address it."

Liverpool hit the ground running

Liverpool's demolition of Arsenal on Sunday would have delighted Jurgen Klopp and vindicated his transfer policy this summer as new arrivals Georginio Wijnaldum and Sadio Mane shone. 

"Klopp expects his players to excel in a range of positions; Wijnaldum, a central midfielder with the pace and creativity to deliver out wide, and Mane, adept as a winger and centre-forward, both fit the bill," says Niall McVeigh of The Guardian. "Wijnaldum was involved in two goals, popping up on the left of the area to set up Adam Lallana's strike before Mane appeared on the right to score a memorable solo goal. After a slow start Liverpool clicked into gear at an alarming rate, as their two recruits showed the exact qualities Klopp was looking for."

However, some problems remain. Marcus Christenson, also writing in The Guardian, is mystified by the presence of Alberto Moreno in the side. "Considering Moreno had an uneven end to last season – including a horror show against Sevilla in the Europa League final – it raises the question: why he is still Liverpool's first-choice left-back? Jurgen Klopp has spent roughly £70m on seven new signings but not a single full-back among them."

Recommended

All at sixes and sevens: a mad day in Premier League history
Liverpool goalkeeper Adrian bumps fists with Aston Villa hat-trick hero Ollie Watkins
In Depth

All at sixes and sevens: a mad day in Premier League history

Labour Left accuses party of mayoral ‘stitch-up’
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Behind the scenes

Labour Left accuses party of mayoral ‘stitch-up’

One-horse race: Man City march towards the Premier League title
Bernardo Silva scored Man City’s third goal against Everton at Goodison
View from the terraces

One-horse race: Man City march towards the Premier League title

Premier League title race: excitement builds at the top of the table
Manchester United and Manchester City are contenders for the Premier League title
Why we’re talking about . . .

Premier League title race: excitement builds at the top of the table

Popular articles

15 most expensive English towns outside of London
Virginia Water, Surrey
In Depth

15 most expensive English towns outside of London

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 April 2021
10 Downing Street
Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 15 April 2021

TV crime dramas to watch in 2021
Sally Lindsay stars in Channel 5’s seaside thriller Intruder
In Review

TV crime dramas to watch in 2021