Saturday 3 December 2016

5 things we learned from opening weekend of the Premier League season

Published 14/08/2016 | 19:11

New Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola showed his ruthless side by omitting Joe Hart and Yaya Toure for his first game
New Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola showed his ruthless side by omitting Joe Hart and Yaya Toure for his first game

The Premier League was back with a bang this weekend with thrills and spills up and down the country.

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Here, Press Association Sport examines five talking points from the opening set of fixtures.

1 PEP IS THE RUTHLESS ONE

Pep Guardiola's first Manchester City team sheet showed the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss is not one to duck difficult decisions. Yaya Toure failed to make the bench for the 2-1 victory over Sunderland and the dropping of Joe Hart could have serious ramifications for the goalkeeper as well as England. Hart has spent the last six years as the undisputed number one at the Etihad Stadium, but he now appears to be fighting for his City future - and that could leave new England boss Allardyce with a major headache less than a month before the start of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

2 FOXES THE HUNTED ONES

If Leicester felt last season's stunning title success was still a dream they were rudely awoken at Hull as they became the first reigning Premier League champions to lose their opening game the following season. Jamie Vardy and Ahmed Musa have pace to burn up top but Hull, without a permanent manager since Steve Bruce's summer departure, defended deep and stopped the space in behind. It is a tactic many teams are likely to employ against the champions, while the Foxes will also discover that opponents will raise their game when they are in town. Add the extra demands of Champions League commitments and Leicester could face some testing times.

3 JOSE'S UNITED TAKING SHAPE

While it might be said that for most of the first half at Bournemouth the Manchester United side of Jose Mourinho resembled that of his predecessor Louis van Gaal, it is clear there is a fresh excitement about the Red Devils. Pace in attack - or rather the lack of it - could be an issue against better opposition, but the debut-making Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Wayne Rooney both showed their scoring instincts in a comfortable 3-1 win. Eric Bailly appears a shrewd acquisition at the back and the United midfield awaits the return of world-record signing Paul Pogba. Make no mistake, Mourinho's men are title contenders.

4 BANG FOR YOUR BUCK

The Premier League's new TV deal might be worth an eye-watering amount - £5.136billion over three years - but it represents value for money when it provides games like Arsenal v Liverpool. After what many saw as a disappointing Euro 2016, England's top flight was back with its customary talking points, dodgy defending and great goals. An early contender for game of the season came as Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-3 and the watching millions could admire the brilliance of Philippe Coutinho and question Arsene Wenger's logic in failing to buy a centre-back in equal measure. Over-hyped maybe, but the Premier League remains a great watch.

5 LINEKER WHITE ON THE NIGHT

Fair play to Gary Lineker, he is not a man to go back on his promises. Having pledged he would strip down to his pants on Match of the Day if his beloved Leicester won the Premier League (a claim made long before the Foxes' title party) the former England striker-turned-television presenter proved he was good as his word. Although some saw his choice of white boxer shorts - complete with Leicester crest - as a cop out, the 55-year-old had kept his side of the bargain. Lineker might have had to spend most of his summer in the gym to be in top shape ahead of his strip show - but the ratings were probably worth it.

Press Association

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