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.
Manchester United rode their luck and then the crest of a second-half wave as quick-fire goals from their two great attacking hopes, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, sunk an otherwise vibrant Chelsea in this Old Trafford Premier League opener.
Tammy Abraham smashed the post and Emerson went even closer, seeing his effort glance off the underside of the bar, as Chelsea provided the greater threat in the first 45 minutes.
However, Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire went some way to justifying the combined £135 million that United spent for their services in a fine all-round performance from the hosts’ back four.
It was Rashford who provided the breakthrough in the 18th minute from the penalty spot after clumsiness from Kurt Zouma. Having soaked up more Chelsea pressure, United finished the job off when Martial bundled in Andreas Pereira’s cross shortly after the hour-mark and Rashford matched Paul Pogba’s raking pass with an equally fine finish.
There was time for left for new boy Daniel James – who has only played 33 professional games in his career before moving to Old Trafford – to sneak in a dream fourth goal.
Luk who’s scoring the goals
Romelu Lukaku’s United career will be looked upon with derision… but the Belgian did score goals.
With his £74m sale to Inter Milan in the books, executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward has also removed 42 goals over the last two seasons without buying so much as a replacement.
Does the scoreline suggest there was nothing to worry about after all? Not quite.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s blueprint for his attack is pace and lots of it, yet often during the first half Martial and Rashford would break without conjuring up much of a plan whey got to their final-third destination.
If chance creation – or simply getting shots off – was lacking, questions over how clinical this front line can be have been answered. Martial’s goal, while fortunate having come off his standing leg, showed a striker’s instinct to beat Cesar Azpilicueta to the ball in the six-yard box.
And Rashford, both for penalty and his placed one-on-one finish, were hallmarks of a potential assassin.
No Kurt response
Kurt Zouma could not have expected for his Chelsea career to be given a second wind.
Successive loans to Stoke and Everton – with whom he was constantly linked to a permanent move over the summer – were nudges towards the exit door for a player who has never truly looked back to his best following a horrible knee injury during the 2016/17 campaign.
Well, David Luiz is now in north London and Antonio Rudiger has made best friends with Chelsea’s physios. Here’s your chance.
Sadly for the France international, this was not the type of audition he’d have been dreaming of. Rare is it for a centre-back to not protest a penalty, but he knew he was caught red-handed with a ugly chop at Marcus Rashford’s feet.
Another clumsy grapple somewhere in midfield earned him a yellow and a brainless back-pass let in Anthony Martial, which thankfully for him came to nothing. Andreas Christensen, the other first-choice hopeful, looked far more assured.
Say what you will about United’s transfer policy, but they have invested heavily in Wan-Bissaka and Maguire and both looked the part on Sunday. With Chelsea hamstrung by their embargo, you feel that much of the race for top four hinges on their back four.
Kurt Zouma did not make a successful tackle in the first half vs. Man Utd.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 11, 2019
Two fouls committed, a penalty conceded and a yellow card to cap it off. pic.twitter.com/GNhsHGcpxs
Welcome back, Paul
If a summer of optimism was supposed to smooth out fans’ frustrations with Pogba, he quickly reintroduced those kinks to his game.
Driving towards the opposition goal he plays at hyper-speed. When faced towards his own goal, his mind often moves through sludge.
At numerous times on Sunday he was preyed upon by Chelsea’s buzzing press having taken too many touches or attempted the intricate when there was no cause for it.
He was dispossessed five times in the first half alone and it only inflames suspicions that the Frenchman is just too ill-disciplined to start in a midfield two – particularly with the relatively inexperienced Scott McTominay beside him – to give United a consistent foothold in games.
Then what eventually happens? A brief glance, a wonderfully weighted ball to Rashford, and it’s game over. What about a second delicious assist to hand James some debut delight?
This is why he’s worth keeping. Just don’t forget the preceding 65 minutes.
Mauricio Pochettino believes record signing Tanguy Ndombele has not even scratched the surface of what he is capable of at Tottenham despite a dream debut.
The France international, who cost £63million from Lyon in the summer, announced his arrival in brilliant fashion as he scored a fine equaliser for Spurs in their 3-1 win over Aston Villa.
It was the highlight of a debut that got better and better as the match went on, especially clicking with second-half substitute Christian Eriksen.
Boss Pochettino had previously warned that the 22-year-old will take time to settle into the English game and says there is much more to come.
“It was a fantastic performance,” Pochettino said. “But to be honest there is a lot to improve, he only showed 30 or 40 per cent of his potential. He has amazing potential to improve.
“It’s one of the aspects he needs to work on, he didn’t score too many goals at Lyon, but that is one of the areas that is a target for him to improve this season.
“It is so early, in his first game he scored. I am delighted for him, he is a player that arrived to the team from another country and it is always a difficult adaption and it is going to help him to feel happy and comfortable on the pitch and with his team.”
Eriksen’s introduction changed the game as the Dane helped unpick a Villa defence that were doggedly holding on to a lead given to them by John McGinn’s ninth-minute opener.
He played a part in Ndombele’s leveller, which provided the platform for two Harry Kane goals in the final four minutes to win the match.
Eriksen’s future is a constant topic of conversation as he could leave the club before the end of the European transfer window.
Pochettino leaving him on the bench could have easily been put down to his situation, but the boss hinted he is still not fully fit after a summer operation.
“Of course when Christian went on to the pitch he was more fresh and had more quality, of course he is a top player. He helped the team to win the game, I am so happy.
“That is the advantage of a player that cannot play 90 minutes, but is on the bench and his quality can help you to achieve the victory.”
Villa were 17 minutes away from making a winning return to the Premier League in their first game at this level since 2016.
They have spent big in the summer and boss Dean Smith thinks they showed enough to suggest a Championship return is not imminent.
“Definitely, I think anyone who watched the game will have seen,” he said. “Pre-season has gone very well, we’ve played very well.
“The lads have integrated really well and there has not been as much change as everyone would have you think.
“It has been a seamless integration and you could see today from our defensive organisation that they have picked up how I want to play.”