And we’re off! With the first week’s action now confined to cached page history, let’s look back at some of the key takeaways.
1. New manager, same Manchester United
It turns out that Louis van Gaal’s 3-5-2 tactics are a bit more effective when built around Netherland’s national team. Okay, maybe that judgment is a bit premature, but nevertheless, United lost a home opener for the first time since 1972. Not many people thought van Gaal would be humbled so soon. Then again, given van Gaal’s temperament, “humbled” is probably the wrong word. The loss fittingly coincided with comments from ousted manager David Moyes regarding his treatment last season. Moyes told reporters, “In the end, I don’t feel I was given the time to succeed or fail.” Van Gaal has to hope that this is the last time the two managers will be compared.
2. Manchester City is quietly terrifying
While United scrambles to find new players — Angel Di Maria for $170 million, anyone? — City quietly re-signed its key players, most notably its captain, Vincent Kompany, and midfield maestro, David Silva. City added Brazilian defensive midfielder, Fernando, who already displayed his potential value, covering for the marauding Yaya Toure and Silva against Newcastle. After sprinting back 20 yards late in the game, Fernando made a key block to thwart Newcastle’s best chance— a shot from flashy new signing, Rémy Cabella. Fernando could improve City’s disappointing Champion’s League record, shoring up its midfield alongside Brazilian compatriot, Fernandinho. That’s right— Fernando and Fernandinho playing together in midfield. Have fun with that, commentators.
3. North London teams eked out wins
It took a scrappy stoppage-time goal from Aaron Ramsey for Arsenal to avoid a disappointing result against Crystal Palace, while Tottenham’s 1-0 win also required a poised, last-minute goal from its freshly signed 20-year-old defender, Eric Dier, who lived the dream of 12-year-old soccer players everywhere. For Arsenal, it was mostly an uneven display from its stars. Alexis Sanchez mis-hit the majority of his crosses, before eventually setting up Arsenal’s first goal. (Although he displayed a bit of Barcelona ball control.) After conceding a sloppy goal from a Crystal Palace set piece, you can understand why Arsène Wenger is reportedly making an “SOS call” to defender Per Mertesacker ahead of its Champion’s League match later this month.
4. Encouraging early signs for Liverpool and Southampton after star losses
It was only fitting that Liverpool opened its season against Southampton after the two teams were intertwined over the summer. After losing Luis Suarez — who sent Brendan Rodgers a text ahead of the match — Liverpool pillaged Southampton’s roster, signing Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert and Dejan Lovren. Southampton reloaded with smaller signings and looked impressive, scoring a lovely goal set-up by Dusan Tadic, who will have to take on some of Lallana’s creative responsibilities. Liverpool will rely heavily on its contingent of English players — particularly Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling — to make up for Suarez, and in that regard, this performance will be encouraging. Jordan Henderson set-up Sterling’s goal with a gorgeous through-ball, while Rodgers probably thought to himself, “See, Xavi to Messi!” Overall, the opening weekend lacked a marquee match, but that will change next week, with two games between top teams— Everton takes on Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. EDT) and Manchester City faces Liverpool (Monday, 3 p.m. EDT).