Frank Lampard admitted his Chelsea side were confronted with the “harsh reality” of the Premier League after the Blues succumbed to a heavy 4-0 defeat at Manchester United.
Chelsea’s new head coach handed starts to Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount in a youthful line-up at Old Trafford and the homegrown pair started brightly, the former rattling a post when the score was still goalless.
The visitors arguably shaded the first half but trailed to a Marcus Rashford penalty before United ran riot after Anthony Martial had doubled their advantage shortly after the hour mark.
Rashford scored once more before debutant Daniel James netted to give the hosts victory by a margin that flattered them in both sides’ curtain-raiser, something Lampard was keen to highlight.
Lampard said: “We were clearly the better team for 45 to maybe 60 minutes. What was evident was that we made individual errors which led to four goals out of their five shots (on target), there’s the harsh reality for us.
“If we go in at half-time 2-1 or 3-1 up, as we probably should have done, if we were more clinical and had maybe a stroke of luck here and there, the game would be completely different.
“football is won and lost in the boxes, they won in our box by being clinical.
“We had so many more shots than them and attacking entries and getting high up the pitch. That was where we let ourselves down in not putting the chances away.
“It’s quite hard to talk about it after 4-0, you can sound stupid but anyone who watched the game would have seen that. We gave them clear opportunities to score and they took them.”
Lampard was unable to start a number of regulars because of injury while the former midfielder has been hindered in recent months by Chelsea’s transfer ban.
He added: “I can’t drag people out of the medical room to play.
“Let’s be clear with the injuries we have at the minute, with the fact we couldn’t bring in players, this is going to be a work in progress to a degree. We will have to learn harsh lessons and correct them pretty quickly.
“There were lots and lots of elements to the game that I liked, there were four or five elements that I didn’t like and they were fatal for us.
“We can’t run away from the fact that we know where we’re at, we couldn’t bring in players, most managers at a club like Chelsea can bring in players to change the way they want to play, to bring in quality, etc.
“But we can’t, I’m not going to complain too much about that, I want to work.”
Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer admitted his side had their moments of fortune but was immensely satisfied by their fantastic start to the season.
He said: “You take a win because it’s about points first. The second-half performance was very pleasing, that was the big plus coming into half-time because we were a bit lucky.
“They pinned us back created chances but we settled a few nerves.
“We’re still a work in progress, we still know we’re not anywhere near the finished article and we have got loads of improvement to be made.
“But we have found a way we want to play. We took risks but that’s the way here, you’ve gotta go for it, risk and reward.”
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The Video Assistant Referee system was a major talking point on its first weekend in Premier League action.
Manchester City and Wolves each had a goal disallowed by VAR, although City’s luck evened out when their later penalty was retaken having been saved.
Here, PA looks at the key incidents involving the new technology across the opening weekend.
Sterling shoulders the burden of first call
There was widespread disbelief as Manchester City were denied what would have been their third goal – and Gabriel Jesus’ second – after VAR ruled Raheem Sterling offside by the narrowest possible margin in the build-up, with his left shoulder just beyond the last defender.
Offside decisions are not subject to the same “clear and obvious error” caveat as other uses of the review system and this could be one area leading to a lot of stoppages and marginal reviews.
“We’re going to have to play with our hands chopped off”
So said Wolves captain Conor Coady, who was far from impressed after VAR denied his side a winner at Leicester.
Leander Dendoncker fired home after his initial header struck the arm of team-mate Willy Boly, whose back was turned, at point-blank range. As with offside, there are no grey areas here – any touch with the hand which leads to a goal being scored will be penalised under the new handball law.
“If that is not a goal, there is a problem,” a frustrated Coady said after the game. “They have brought VAR in to rectify all those problems but I think it has gone too far the other way now.”
Sergio on the spot
Jesus and Sterling’s team-mate Sergio Aguero had better luck with VAR when his penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski but he was given a second chance.
The decision appeared to resemble several against keepers in the recent Women’s World Cup, given that Fabianski had strayed from his line, but a higher standard is applied for such incidents in the Premier League – in fact, Hammers midfielder Declan Rice was the man penalised on this occasion, having encroached before the kick was taken and then affected play by clearing the loose ball.
Red card reviews make no impact
In line with the International Football Association Board’s original VAR policy of “minimum interference, maximum benefit”, the Premier League’s protocols include “a high bar for subjective decisions”.
This was seen in the game at the London Stadium as well as that between Burnley and Southampton as both Michail Antonio catching City midfielder Rodri with a flailing arm and Saints striker Che Adams’ challenge on Ben Mee were reviewed for possible red cards but no further action was taken.
The flurry of VAR discussion on Saturday came after a quiet opening night for the system, when it was not required during Liverpool’s win over Norwich save for unobtrusive checks on each goal.
There was a delay to the start of the second half when assistant referee Simon Bennett’s earpiece failed, but this would have been an issue even before the introduction of VAR and the Premier League quickly tweeted that the issue was unrelated.
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.