Some managers insist you shouldn’t read anything into results until 8-10 games into the season, but while you can’t draw sweeping conclusions from the Premier League’s first weekend, there are signs of what could be to come – and it’s distinctly more promising for some than others.
Liverpool produced the most impressive display in their 4-3 win at Arsenal. The 19-pass move that preceded Philippe Coutinho’s second goal summed up what they are all about; pace, movement, trickery and quick, penetrative passing have long been part of the club’s traditions.
They have huge talent – Coutinho is a star, Roberto Firmino looks more mature and Sadio Mane is so dynamic – yet they still have defensive weaknesses that Arsenal exposed so it’s too soon to reassess whether they are capable of mounting a serious title challenge.
Chelsea were the other team to catch my eye, and they too moved the ball quickly to great effect in a 2-1 win over West Ham.
They played with confidence and the intensity you’d expect from new manager Antonio Conte, with players clearly eager to impress – I don’t recall Diego Costa doing anything like that much running last season.
Oscar, Eden Hazard, Willian, N’Golo Kante and an almost unrecognisable Nemanja Matic shone in a well-balanced midfield. The Hammers didn’t look their best but that was more down to Chelsea playing well.
Manchester United started with a pretty good, cohesive 3-1 win at Bournemouth, who never looked like getting back into it after presenting Juan Mata with the opening goal.
The best player on the pitch by a mile was Eric Bailly. The classy centre-back showed great distribution and strength and didn’t put a foot wrong. With him, David de Gea, Paul Pogba, Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, that United spine is starting to look formidable.
The best thing you can say about Manchester City starting the Pep Guardiola era with a 2-1 home win over Sunderland was that they got three points, because otherwise it was disappointing.
I was at the Etihad Stadium and five minutes in and 1-0 up, the atmosphere was flat. That wasn’t down to the fans but a team lacking intensity and tempo and who were deployed in a bizarre set-up.
In truth, it was boring and it raised more questions than answers. The Pep effect was not in evidence yet, though that may be because his ideas are different to most coaches and may take longer to implement.
It was hard to know what to make of Arsenal without so many key players.
Arsene Wenger’s reasoning that they weren’t physically ready was odd, since no other manager was saying that. But they lost their first match last season and finished second, so I expect things will look a little different in a few games’ time.
Champions Leicester, their opponents on Saturday, were brought back down to earth by defeat at Hull, and they will really be feeling the pressure now.
Should they lose to Arsenal it could turn into a disaster, and I worry for them and Claudio Ranieri, as I do for Crystal Palace, who lost to West Brom and look to have picked up where they left off last term.