Showing your Sunday best was the aim of the game for a slew of Premier League debutants.
Record-breaking additions such as Newcastle United forward Joelinton, Arsenal forward Nicolas Pepe and Manchester United centre-back Harry Maguire got first tastes of competitive action in new colours this weekend. Promising youngster Mason Mount also heralded a fresh start for Chelsea – currently encumbered by a transfer ban – with his key attacking role in midfield handed to him by Frank Lampard.
Here, we analyse the displays from a sextet of potentially pivotal performers in 2019/20:
Key statistic: Had the most shots for Newcastle with three, but only one was on target
A special affinity exists between the No9 shirt and Newcastle.
Hoffenheim last month received a club-record £40 million to see Joelinton follow in the footsteps of Jackie Milburn, Malcolm McDonald and Alan Shearer.
Sunday’s 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal presented a work in progress. An early touch bobbled out for a throw-in, while his desire to drop deep saw him clash with playmaker Miguel Almiron in Steve Bruce’s 3-5-2 formation.
The swift feet, however, that took him past several Arsenal defenders in front of the packed penalty box, before a pushed shot was shovelled away by goalkeeper Bernd Leno showed promise. With Newcastle shorn of 23 Premier League goals from 2018/19 because of Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon’s sales, such chances must start going in.
NICOLAS PEPE (ARSENAL)
Key statistic: Only 13 touches for Pepe after his 70th-minute introduction from the substitutes’ bench
This was a subdued introduction for the forward who lit up Ligue 1 last term.
Arsenal’s landmark £72m addition from Lille had a watching brief for more than an hour at St. James’ Park, then only flickered intermittently from the right. His shocking volleyed pass following a throw-in that went straight back out of play provided some gallows humour for the rebellious home fans.
It certainly wasn’t all gloom, though. Hints at what is to come from the Gunners’ 200th Premier League player came when an insouciant drop of the shoulder under pressure out wide took a pair of hypnotised Magpies defenders out of the game.
The triumvirate of Pepe, match-winner Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and fellow replacement Alexandre Lacazette still heralds copious excitement.
AYOZE PEREZ (LEICESTER CITY)
Key statistic: An insipid debut from the Spaniard contained one off-target shot and one dribble
The fastidious application of the video assistant referee was the major talking point from Leicester’s goalless opener against Wolves.
But what merits serious review from Foxes tactician Brendan Rodgers is how a remarkable 70-per-cent possession generated just one shot on target from 15. This lack of cutting edge was symbolised by £30m pick-up Perez’s anaemic 75-minute bow.
The versatile ex-Newcastle attacker was selected on his favoured right flank, so positioning cannot be used as an excuse. Wolves were also compact, severing the connection between Perez and lone striker Jamie Vardy when the former attempted to cut inside.
With Chelsea up next, the Foxes must hope they’ve landed another Shinji Okazaki rather than Ahmed Musa.
HARRY MAGUIRE (MANCHESTER UNITED)
Key statistic: The centre-back nicknamed ‘Slabhead’, typically, won joint-most aerials with four
What do you do when you’ve just come off your worst defensive season in 40 years?
If you have United’s resources, you spend a world-record £80m on Leicester’s Maguire.
The results, less than a week since his protracted move, in the emphatic 4-0 victory against Chelsea spoke for themselves. Maguire led the way for interceptions (four) and clearances (seven).
Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s want for more expansive play from defence also witnessed him register the joint-third most touches (72) and make the third-most passes. The visible rise in partner Victor Lindelof’s assuredness was also notable.
This wasn’t a perfect performance from United’s rearguard – Chelsea rattled the woodwork twice and had seven more attempts than the hosts. But it was a propitious start from United and Maguire, highlighted by a robust challenge that sparked the second.
AARON WAN-BISSAKA (MANCHESTER UNITED)
Key statistic: Rampaging right-back Wan-Bissaka made United’s joint-most crosses (four) and most tackles (six)
Right-back has been a position of both worry and improvisation at United for much of this decade.
Converted wingers Antonio Valencia and Ashley Young became maligned, while the likes of Italy’s Matteo Darmian flattered to deceive. A long-term cure to this ailment, however, looks to have been found.
A turn-on of the afterburners and successful challenge on left-back Emerson in the first 10 minutes detailed what the £55m buy from Crystal Palace is all about.
The roaming 21-year-old was a presence in both halves in the eventual romp against Chelsea. He was in the top three for United in tackles, interceptions (three) and clearances (five); the same could also be said for crosses, dribbles (two) and pass accuracy (86.1 per cent).
MASON MOUNT (CHELSEA)
Key statistic: Both of playmaker Mount’s two attempts were on target for the Blues
Lampard’s belief in 20-year-old midfielder Mount was extended at Old Trafford.
The influential central position in the Blues great’s three-man attacking midfield was bequeathed to the prospect – one of seven players selected in the first-team squad – who shone under him when on loan at the Championship’s Derby County during 2018/19.
But the effervescent Mount was granted authority to drift with impunity in an excellent first half for the visitors.
Overall, he pinged in two threatening shots from range and twice teed up France centre-back Kurt Zouma for headers. There was, however, one telling moment of inexperience when he chose to cross rather than shoot and another dangerous break terminated when he chose the wrong option.
Unlike in previous Chelsea regimes, Mount will get plentiful minutes. He’s shown enough to merit them.
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