The Premier League is officially back. Predictably, the opening of any season brings with it a slew of exaggerations about what we should glean from the tiniest of sample sizes. Here are four of the biggest overreactions from the first weekend of action in England’s top flight.
United are back, and Chelsea are doomed
Kicking off the season with a blowout loss to a direct rival, after both your manager and best player skipped town in the offseason, is a surefire way to have everyone spell doom for your club.
Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Chelsea in Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Manchester United. The backline looked shaky, with Kurt Zouma particularly vulnerable; Jorginho was bypassed too easily in midfield; Ross Barkley was a black hole in possession.
But before we condemn Frank Lampard – and suggest that the problems that plagued United last season have magically been resolved – let’s take a step back.
N’Golo Kante was only fit enough to start on the bench at Old Trafford. His return to full fitness will be a massive boon for Lampard. Christian Pulisic, still settling into his new surroundings, was incisive as a second-half substitute and should develop into the focal point of the attack for the west London side. Antonio Rudiger and Willian are on the mend. Things will get better.
Will that be enough to push Chelsea into the top four? Probably not, but the gap between themselves and the Red Devils is nowhere near as wide as Sunday’s eye-popping scoreline would suggest.
Tottenham will wilt without Eriksen
Christian Eriksen wasn’t shy about his desire to leave Tottenham this summer.
“I feel that I am at the stage of my career where I would like to try something new,” Eriksen said earlier this summer. “I have the deepest respect for everything that is happening at Tottenham and it would not be something negative to stay. But I have also said that I would like to try something new.
“I hope that something will be decided this summer. That is the plan.”
The crafty Danish midfielder is reportedly hoping for a move to Real Madrid, but his performance in the 3-1 comeback win over Aston Villa has many Spurs supporters begging him to stay.
With Tottenham trailing in the 64th minute on Saturday, Eriksen came off the bench and turned the tide. He dictated the tempo with his wide array of passing, ultimately helping the hosts begin the season with three points.
The initial response – that Spurs can’t afford to lose him – was understandable.
Pivotal as he’s been during his time at the club, though, Tottenham’s midfield is now (finally) built to withstand his potential departure. Tanguy Ndombele was electrifying in his debut, Harry Winks was typically composed in possession, and Giovani Lo Celso, who didn’t get on the pitch following his deadline-day move from Real Betis, can offer all the creative impetus of his new Danish teammate.
Keeping talented players at the club is the goal of every management team, obviously, but even if Eriksen does get his wish, Tottenham will be just fine.
The title race is already over
Manchester City kicked off their new season with a commanding 5-0 victory over West Ham, as a hat-trick from Raheem Sterling powered the defending champions to an easy win at the London Stadium.
Meanwhile, Liverpool, who fell just short in last year’s captivating heavyweight battle, opened the new campaign by bashing four goals past newly promoted Norwich. The Canaries, though, threatened on multiple occasions and left some asking questions of the Reds’ ability to hit the heights of last season.
Having seen both title contenders in action, many immediately proclaimed that City will steamroll their way to a third consecutive crown, opining that the Merseyside outfit won’t be able to sustain the type of push that made 2018-19 so riveting.
That could very well be the case; City are, incredibly, deeper and more talented after the additions of Rodri and Joao Cancelo, while Jurgen Klopp’s side was largely dormant during the transfer window.
But anyone completely writing off Klopp and Co. with 37 matches left on the calendar needs to take a deep breath. Even if the Citizens do emerge victorious, expect some twists and turns along the way.
VAR is ruining the Premier League
The Premier League finally got its first taste of the video assistant referee (VAR) system that has been uproariously debated worldwide since its inception. The returns, unsurprisingly, were largely lambasted.
VAR caused lengthy delays and confusion in Manchester City’s aforementioned win over West Ham, while Wolverhampton were denied a victory over Leicester City when the only tally of the contest, a scrappy finish from Leander Dendoncker, was chalked off for a handball in the buildup.
There are legitimate gripes to be had with VAR; as witnessed across various other leagues and international competitions, decisions often take too long.
But, at its root, the main issue lies with the rulebook that governs the sport. The disconnect between the black-and-white disposition of VAR and a set of laws littered with gray areas is what creates tension.
The technology works. Now it’s time to adjust the rules accordingly.