The opening weekend of the Premier League season has come and gone, with a host of summer signings getting to showcase their skills for the first time in England’s top flight.
Here, we grade every player who made his Premier League debut with a new team over the last three days.
Note: Only newly-signed players who have never played in the Premier League this summer are included in this list – Riyad Mahrez, for example, is not eligible, having already plied his trade in the league with Leicester City. Players who stayed with one of the three promoted clubs over the summer are also not included, as they did not join a new side during the transfer window.
Dazzling debuts (Grade: A)
Naby Keita (Liverpool): You’d be hard-pressed to find a better Premier League debut this season. Keita started the play on Liverpool’s opener and was a threatening presence making runs into the area that forced West Ham’s backline to play obscenely narrow. That precaution set the table for both of the Reds’ first two goals.
James Maddison (Leicester City): Fresh off earning Norwich City’s Player of the Year honors, Maddison dispelled doubts that he would struggle to acclimate to the English top flight with a first-rate performance in defeat to Manchester United. A central creative force in Claude Puel’s 4-3-3-1 formation, Maddison will learn to refine the skills that were on full display Friday.
Jorginho (Chelsea): After appearing off the pace and fraught with nerves in the Community Shield against Manchester City, Jorginho was on form against a lifeless Huddersfield Town. Meticulous in possession with a stellar 94 percent pass completion, Jorginho also scored one of his trademark saucy goals. Everybody knew it was coming except Ben Hamer.
Jean Michael Seri (Fulham): An overall solid debut for the Cottagers standout £18-million summer swoop Seri, who profited from having Kevin McDonald sitting deep doing the dirty work. Tidy in possession with an eye for moving the ball forward quickly, the Ivorian completed 84 of 93 passes to go with a half-dozen tackles. He will improve alongside Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa.
Encouraging early signs (Grade: B)
Yves Bissouma (Brighton): Former Lille midfielder Bissouma came on at the hour mark for last season’s Seagulls’ standout Pascal Gross and almost immediately showed flashes of a varied skill set that merited the reported £15-million fee. Chris Hughton now faces a dilemma of finding a spot for the 21-year-old Mali international in the starting XI.
Ricardo Pereira (Leicester City): A full-back who was slotted in on the right side of a three-man attacking midfield, Pereira had no trouble matching the Premier League’s pace. Should Puel opt for a back-three – a likely outcome – Pereira will relish an opportunity to play at wing-back. Great display, though he should have done better on Luke Shaw’s match-winner.
Maxime Le Marchand (Fulham): For all of Fulham’s gaffes at home to Crystal Palace, center-half addition Le Marchand was solid alongside Arsenal loanee Calum Chambers. The Frenchman completed 87 percent of passes, looked composed in possession, and paired three tackles with three successful aerial duels. Not too shabby for a modest £3.5 million.
Raul Jimenez (Wolves): More busy than effective for the majority of Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Everton, but, like a good striker often does, the Mexican made his mark on the contest when he got his marquee opportunity, redirecting a pinpoint cross from Ruben Neves to rescue a point for Wolves. At the end of the day, goals are what define strikers, and Jimenez delivered.
Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton): Mark Hughes opted for a back three for Sunday’s scoreless draw with Burnley, and it was Dane Vestergaard who slotted into a central position. The 26-year-old was an aerial colossus, winning a half-dozen duels against a Clarets attack that features players the build of a rugby brute.
Mixed reviews (Grade: C)
Fred (Manchester United): A slew of loose touches from £47-million man Fred made for a mediocre debut in Friday’s victory over Leicester City. Such is the plight of a newcomer acclimating to the pace and physicality of the English top flight. The Brazilian completed 49 of 53 passes, but was largely outplayed by midfield partner Andreas Pereira.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea): David Wagner’s Terriers managed just six shots, and only one on target, gifting Kepa a facile Chelsea debut in a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Huddersfield Town. Next Saturday’s visit from capital city rival Arsenal should provide a more adequate litmus test for the world-record £71.6 million acquisition.
David Brooks (Bournemouth): Baby-faced midfielder Brooks looked fit to play in the top flight with Saturday’s 65-minute outing versus Cardiff City. Despite missing a sitter on the hour mark, the 21-year-old Wales international displayed some panache on the ball and provided an attacking impetus that is so often missing from Bournemouth’s set-up. Decent Westlife hair as well.
Rui Patricio (Wolves): There was nothing he could do to prevent either of Richarlison’s goals. His distribution and handling was assured – as would be expected of a goalkeeper of his pedigree and experience. It’s famously difficult to attach a grade to goalkeepers given the (often) uneventful roles they play, but Patricio should prove an excellent acquisition as the season goes on.
Alisson (Liverpool): Calmly caught Fabian Balbuena’s header, watched a pair of Marko Arnautovic efforts skip wide in the first half, and spent the majority of Sunday’s one-sided defeat enjoying the Anfield ambiance in a debut that left the Brazilian very little to do. Next Monday’s trip to Selhurst Park may provide more of a challenge for the former Roma star.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Brighton): Now the seventh player to make a Premier League debut on his birthday, Iranian World Cup standout and defending Eredivisie goals leader Jahanbakhsh had an anonymous 20-minute run-out, making a scant three passes to go with a pair of successful dribbles at Vicarage Road.
Joao Moutinho (Wolves): Wolves should be very excited about their midfield duo. Neves stole the show on Saturday, but his freedom to move about the pitch and take some chances going forward has plenty to do with the calm, steady presence of his veteran compatriot, Moutinho. His passing remains excellent, and complements Neves nicely.
Felipe Anderson (West Ham): Immediately became the target of derision from Liverpool fans after a rather dramatic tumble, but Anderson made a decent account of himself and displayed a solid work rate. The former Lazio star tracked back and helped overmatched defenders Angelo Ogbonna and Arthur Masuaku. It could have been a lot worse.
Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham): Came on in the 67th minute for Arnautovic with the result already sorted, and Yarmolenko looked decent despite the small sample size. A threat in wide positions, the 28-year-old Ukraine international may very well snatch a starting gig from Michail Antonio. Plenty of reason for optimism.
Stuart Armstrong (Southampton): After moving to the south coast in the summer from Celtic, Armstrong acclimated quickly and displayed a commendable work rate that should immediately endear him to the Saints faithful. The 26-year-old will need to sharpen his passing skills, and hopes are he didn’t suffer a serious ankle injury when forced off in the 56th minute.
Matteo Guendouzi (Arsenal): Surprise selection in Unai Emery’s starting XI for Arsenal’s unenviable visit from Manchester City, 19-year-old Guendouzi had energy to burn and will learn from his positioning on Raheem Sterling’s opener. Was nearly at fault for City’s second when he slipped as last-man back on a corner. Still 100 times the player Granit Xhaka is.
Stephan Lichtsteiner (Arsenal): Forced to come on early and play out of position at left-back after Ainsley Maitland-Niles limped off, Switzerland international captain Lichtsteiner was given a tough task in marking speed demon Kyle Walker, and actually did a decent job of it. In the end, his ability to challenge Hector Bellerin for first-choice duties will be an asset.
Lackluster first impressions (Grade: D)
Fabri (Fulham): On loan Sevilla shot-stopper Sergio Rico would have fancied Fabri’s Fulham debut, especially on Crystal Palace’s second goal when the Spaniard got caught in no man’s land and was easily beaten by Wilfried Zaha. The former Besiktas No. 1 did make seven saves in a performance that chiefly mirrored that of his Cottagers.
Bernardo (Brighton): Mercurial debut for the Brazilian Bernardo, who started at left-back only to switch flanks early courtesy of Bruno’s injury. Showed flashes of the talents he displayed at RB Leipzig, but appeared restraint considered his greatest asset may be an ability to surge forward with marauding pace.
Florent Hadergjonaj (Huddersfield Town): Tasked with marking Chelsea’s Willian for much of Saturday’s one-sided defeat, Huddersfield newcomer Hadergjonaj did not make a great account of himself. On the right side of a five-man midfield, the Swiss 24-year-old was expected to help with the attack. Spoiler alert: he didn’t, managing just 25 passes and zero efforts on goal.
Fabien Balbuena (West Ham): Balbuena’s towering header in the 27th minute was West Ham’s best chance of the opening stanza, and the Paraguayan showed a penchant for passing with 94 percent completion. Unfortunately for the debutant, the Irons’ backline was poor, and hopes are Issa Diop can pair with Balbuena going forward in relief of Ogbonna.
Ryan Fredericks (West Ham): Really tough debut for the former Fulham standout as part of a back four that played far too narrow and were comprehensively picked apart in the defeat to Liverpool. Fredericks showed some flashes going forward, but that doesn’t help the fact he was a passenger on both of Andrew Robertson’s incisive deliveries in the first half.
Sokratis Papasthathopoulos (Arsenal): Certain to become a fan favourite, no nonsense center-half Sokratis couldn’t do much about City’s two world-class finishes, though if Arsenal fans think they’ve signed the second coming of Tony Adams, they’d be wise to temper those expectations. The Greek international should be a good influence on Shkodran Mustafi.
Small sample sizes
There were also a half-dozen Premier League debuts this weekend by players who were offered brief appearances. Yoshinori Muto looked positive for Newcastle and may challenge Ayoze Perez for a spot in the starting XI, and Adama Diakhaby showed plenty of promise after coming on for Huddersfield. Xherdan Shaqiri appears to have bought into Jurgen Klopp’s two-way demands, Lucas Torreira looked great in a 20-minute run-out versus City, and both Luciano Vietto (Fulham) and Leo Bonatini (Wolves) didn’t show enough to draw any conclusion.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)