EPL

Superstar Haaland, stumbling Liverpool and struggling Man Utd – way-too-early Premier League conclusions

By Sports Desk August 08, 2022

The first exciting, intriguing weekend of the Premier League season is out of the way, with a number of themes consistent with the last campaign.

Manchester City remain dominant, as rivals Manchester United continue to struggle.

Both teams have a different look this term, however, and there were several interesting new developments across the first 10 matches.

With Bournemouth in the Champions League places and Liverpool winless, it is a little too early for firm 2022-23 conclusions.

But where is the fun in that?
 

Haaland takes City to another level

There were doubts after a Community Shield bow in which Erling Haaland did not find the net and City lost to Liverpool.

But Haaland answered any critics in a dominant Premier League debut, scoring twice in a 2-0 win at West Ham that sent a daunting message to the rest of the division.

Sergio Aguero, in 2011, had been the last City player to net a brace on his league debut, and fans of the champions would have awoken on Monday morning having dreamt of a similar Etihad Stadium career for their new hero.

Unlike against Liverpool, Haaland was clearly in tune with his team-mates, evidenced by the first of surely many link-ups with Kevin De Bruyne for the second goal.

Indeed, City gave Haaland chances worth 1.66 expected goals (xG) on Sunday – a higher total than 17 entire teams managed across the weekend, yet still a mark he outperformed.

Liverpool close the gap – to Spurs

If City were transformed from their Community Shield display, so too were Liverpool.

An extremely slow start away at Fulham saw the Reds fortunate to emerge with a 2-2 draw, narrowly beaten on xG (1.25-1.23) – something that only happened four times in the whole of last season.

Pre-season concerns around Liverpool had centred on their attack, with Sadio Mane having departed, but new forward Darwin Nunez had to bail out his ailing defensive colleagues.

Nunez, like Haaland, matched a feat from Aguero's Premier League debut in both scoring and assisting from the bench. Alvaro Morata is the third and final player to date to mark their bow in the competition in this manner.

With City outstanding, Liverpool might have ended the first weekend more concerned about the progress of Tottenham. Spurs top the table after a 4-1 win over Southampton in which none of their lauded new signings started.

Another season of struggle for United

There should have been optimism around Old Trafford as Erik ten Hag took charge of United for the first time; instead, they were two down at home to Brighton and Hove Albion before half-time and lost 2-1.

After their worst-ever Premier League points total last term, there was precious little to convince United fans this season would be any different.

Brighton's long-awaited first victory at Old Trafford condemned United to a second opening-day defeat in three seasons, and it was thoroughly deserved.

This is the third consecutive season in which a visiting team have attempted 12 first-half shots away to United; before 2020-21, it had not happened since 2011-12.

Even United's goal was a Brighton own goal, the record 73rd and perhaps least consoling the Red Devils have benefited from in the competition.

Newcastle look great... or Forest look awful

Newcastle United finished last season 11th but have earned the fourth-most points in the Premier League in 2022, and their fine form continued with a 2-0 home win over Nottingham Forest.

And this was a far more dominant victory than many of those enjoyed late last season.

Newcastle led the division in shots (23) and shots on target (10) on matchday one, with Forest (five and zero) ranking last in both categories, as well as in xG (0.28).

No team won more high turnovers than Newcastle (21) or started their attacks further upfield on average (49 metres), with Eddie Howe's men swarming all over Forest to encourage optimism for a European push.

Yet it is a little tricky to tell if this one-sided contest owed more to the home side or the visitors, with Forest – last season's lowest-ranked side, as the Championship play-off winners – way off the pace in their first Premier League match in 23 years.

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