Gabriel Jesus has lifted his Arsenal team-mates; the huge task facing Erik ten Hag at Man Utd; a reality check for Newcastle after they were held at Brighton; problems mounting again at Everton for Frank Lampard and more...
Sunday 14 August 2022 11:45, UK
Brazilian conditions; Brazilian brilliance. Gabriel Jesus and his international team-mate Gabriel Martinelli were exceptional against Leicester. Gabriel Magalhaes wasn't bad at the back either. As north London sweltered the South Americans sambaed.
Two goals and two assists was a stunning contribution from Jesus on his first Premier League start for Arsenal at the Emirates. He looks hungry and happy with his starring role in this side.
But as well as his own form, it's the transformational impact Jesus and fellow new arrival Oleksandr Zinchenko have on the Arsenal team which is most important.
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers spoke in his post-match press conference about how high quality signings can galvanise a squad and take them to a new level. After Leicester's barren summer in the transfer market, how he'd love some impact players like those two.
Arteta also enthused about the combination play of Arsenal's new-look attack and hinted at how he would have to protect the fitness of Jesus, a player now crucial to his team's chances this season after years playing a bit-part at Man City.
It was a scorching start to his Arsenal career - but Arteta and this squad will need to keep on feeling the Jesus effect when this hot summer has made way for winter.
Criticising Manchester United has become a weekly occurrence. There is no denying they have been bad for a while, but just when it seemed it could not get any worse, along came Brentford.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was apparently the problem. Then it was Ralf Rangnick. Now Erik ten Hag is under the spotlight. The Dutchman, who is undoubtedly an excellent coach given his success with Ajax, faces an almost impossible task in Manchester. His players simply aren't good enough. He needs more signings, but there's no guarantee he'll get them.
Saturday's 4-0 drubbing in west London flattered United. Brentford may have only had four shots on target in the first half - all of which went in - but it could have easily been double figures. The hosts outworked, outmuscled and outclassed their opponents.
The stats could not be any more damning, either. The result means United have lost four consecutive league matches for the first time since February 1979. They have also lost seven consecutive away league games for the first time since losing 10 on the bounce between September and December 1936.
There have been embarrassing defeats before - Brighton away last season springs to mind - but this one at Brentford felt the worst of the lot.
Despite the scoreline and performance, though, United supporters are confident Ten Hag is the man to turn their side's fortunes around.
At 4-0 down, the away fans - as they always do - remained in full voice. Chants of 'Erik ten Hag's army' are alive for now. But he got yet another reminder of the mess he has inherited since taking charge this summer.
"I'm convinced I'll get it done - I did it everywhere," he told Sky Sports on Friday when asked how long he needs to bring the glory days back to Old Trafford.
But the 52-year-old has become the first manager to lose each of his first two games in charge of United since John Chapman in November 1921.
He's got the biggest job in football. And the early signs are not good.
United are bottom of the Premier League. It couldn't happen, could it? Well, ask yourself this question: is there a worse team than them in the division?
Big things are expected of new Man City striker Erling Haaland this season and the striker made the perfect start to his career with the Premier League champions by scoring twice on his debut at West Ham last Sunday.
That double strike whetted people's appetite for what the Norway forward could achieve this season, with Sky Sports pundit Paul Merson predicting ahead of kick-off with Bournemouth the 22-year-old will score 25 goals this season.
And with the newly predicted Cherries next up for Haaland on his home debut, many were expecting the frontman to score a hatful in the Etihad sunshine on Saturday, but it did not quite work out that way.
Haaland set up Ilkay Gundogan's opener in the 4-0 win, but could not take two chances of his own and was frustrated when Phil Foden failed to pick him out for what would have been an easy tap-in early on.
Haaland's 19th-minute assist was his first touch of the game, and a 73rd-minute scuffed shot from a Jack Grealish cross moments before he was replaced by Julian Alvarez only his eighth of the match, but his movement pulled the Bournemouth defence apart to create the space for others.
"He plays the most difficult job in the world," Guardiola said of the 22-year-old. "When you are a striker and in the defensive areas, teams like Bournemouth have three central defenders and two players in front and you are in the middle, how can you survive in that?
"It's so difficult. We know it. We'll find many situations. It's just a question of time. The right moments, the right movements, and with the quality of the players we have behind him to assist him we'll find him. I don't have any doubts about that.
"We have seen it in the past with other teams. We have to be patient."
A look at the betting markets at the start of the season told you all you need to know about where Newcastle are expected to finish. They were favourites in the 'best of the rest' markets away from the top-six, illustrating that a top-eight finish is well within their capabilities. However, they might be a little short of such expectations on the basis of their performance at Brighton, who thoroughly deserved three points but walked away with just one.
Defensively, Newcastle have a fantastic foundation but Eddie Howe spoke openly afterwards about his disappointment with the final decision-making shown by his attacking players. The stats certainly showcased his point.
Newcastle made 100 passes into the final third and stuck in 10 crosses - mostly in the first half where their approach play was quite impressive. Yet, for all that clever approach play, they only registered an expected goals tally of 0.18 across the 90 minutes from just four shots.
That shot count was their fewest in a Premier League away game since March 2021, when they had just three against Brighton at the Amex Stadium. Miguel Almiron is all work-rate and energy but has little ability to make a difference in the final third and the same is starting to be said about Allan Saint-Maximin, without perhaps the energy. He raided into some great positions but couldn't make the right decision to make a difference.
Adding someone like James Maddison to his side would go a long way to fixing what could be an area of the pitch that will hold Newcastle back. They've already had a bid of around £50m for Maddison knocked back. This performance may convince the hierarchy to dig deeper into their pockets to get a deal done.
It's an age-old problem. Southampton's defensive naivety continues to cost points. They dropped more points from winning positions than any other side in the Premier League during the 2021/22 season and that trend continued on the opening weekend having got their noses in front at Spurs, only to ship four goals in reply.
This time they were behind by two goals before staging a remarkable comeback, but the same principle applies - their rearguard is not up to task. Ralph Hasenhuttl has tinkered with the formation in an attempt to stem the flow of goals conceded, opting to go with three at the back against Leeds. They were undone twice by the same player - once from open play and once from a set-piece.
"The game should finish differently," scorer Rodrigo said in the aftermath of the tie. Undoubtedly it should have, although some credit must be garnered from a spirited final 20 minutes, in which Saints managed to snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat.
They have already been breached six times in two games. If that ratio continues throughout the 2022/23 campaign, they are sure to struggle to retain their top-flight status. Perhaps the nature of the fightback will assuage doubters for now, but the pressure will mount if Hasenhuttl's side continue to concede at an average rate of three per game.
Brighton were the better side at the Amex Stadium and Graham Potter sensed an opportunity to turn one point into three when he turned to Kaoru Mitoma in place of Solly March in the final quarter of an hour.
It was a big moment for the Japanese international, making his first Premier League appearance a year after signing for the Seagulls from J1 League side Kawasaki Frontale.
Mitoma was immediately loaned out to Union Saint-Gilloise, so you can understand why Kieran Trippier may have felt faced with something of an unknown quantity having been made to work in sweltering conditions for 75 minutes.
Mitoma joined Brighton for an undisclosed fee but you wouldn't imagine it being significant - and looks another player Brighton have plucked out of relative obscurity. It is how the club like to operate, not throwing new signings into the deep end, preferring them to hone their skills and learn Potter's philosophy.
This was the ideal environment in which to introduce him, and the 25-year-old winger was unfortunate not to claim an assist, producing two successful dribbles - more than any other Brighton player in the entire match.
Pascal Gross really ought to have converted from his cutback - but Mitoma's lively cameo will have certainly pleased his manager.
Potter said: "He is going to cause full backs problems. He is unique and I said before it's impossible for the all the lads to play 90 minutes so the impact the subs were going to make was always going to be key for us.
"They did well but we couldn't get the three points. He can mix it up and he can play from the left centrally and cut in so he is a bit of a nightmare for defenders."
Steven Gerrard was smiling afterwards when asked about the decision to restore Tyrone Mings to the starting line-up for Villa's win over Everton. He revealed that Mings had been injured and that was the reason for his omission on the opening weekend. "He has not been stripped of his place." Easy to see why.
Ming was superb in Aston Villa's 2-1 win over Everton, perhaps only bettered by Ollie Watkins, the man who set up both of his team's goals and another who was named among the substitutes for that disappointing defeat to Bournemouth on the opening weekend.
That result on the south coast led to a few whispers about what is happening at Villa but Gerrard insists that the noise surrounding his team is external rather than internal. This was a victory - and a performance - to quieten the chatter and settle early season nerves.
Gerrard's old midfield rival Frank Lampard looks to have bigger problems. He has reworked the defence with Conor Coady joining James Tarkowski for the first time but it is the shape of the side in front of the back five that was at the root of their troubles at Villa Park.
"It was a pretty even game apart from the transitional goals," said Lampard. But those details matter. Without a natural holding midfielder in the line-up, Everton looked completely unable to control the game whenever possession was turned over.
Lampard has natural wingers in his midfield and natural wingers in his forward line too. "The feeling that we are going to score goals is not there," he admitted. Dominic Calvert-Lewin will return. But Everton will be in big trouble by then if they do not improve.
Brentford's crushing win over Manchester United showed two different striker performances. One waited for chances to happen, while the other created opportunities for others.
The latter was Ivan Toney and there was no surprise that he ended the game on the winning side, with two assists to his name, while Cristiano Ronaldo could only watch on as his side rarely tested David Raya.
Toney is a goalscorer and his once record-breaking season in the Championship shows that. But the way he bullied Lisandro Martinez into mistake after mistake and lost duel after lost duel was a major focal point for his team up front.
The performance was reminiscent of his display exactly one year ago when he ran riot against Arsenal's Ben White, as Brentford beat the Gunners 2-0 on the opening day of last season.
His proactive play and unselfish manner - the best example being his assist for Bryan Mbuemo's goal - shows how much he is maturing to this Premier League level - and it's helping Brentford punch above their weight with the bigger teams.