Five things we learned from the Premier League weekend: Lukaku shines for Man United, Chelsea lack discipline and more

Richard Jolly
The opening weekend of the Premier League was full of action and excitement.

1. Romelu Lukaku looks a fine use of £75 million

The most expensive striking signings were all quick to make their mark. Alexandre Lacazette and Alvaro Morata both scored on league debuts for new clubs. Romelu Lukaku cost more than either the Arsenal or Chelsea newcomers but was swift to indicate that he may be an excellent use of £75 million. A bow on his league brace for Manchester United followed a Super Cup goal against Real Madrid. His first against West Ham illustrated his pace, his second his aerial ability.

That combination of physicality and accurate finishing ought to give United a guarantee of goals. It certainly produced a dominant victory against the Hammers, one of 10 opponents to draw at Old Trafford last season, to suggest this season will be different.

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2. Chelsea have a disciplinary problem

Discipline underpinned Chelsea’s surge to the title. Part of it was positional discipline as players adapted to Antonio Conte’s 3-4-2-1 system and did not get dragged out of position. But nor did they get on the wrong side of officials. They finished every league game last season with their full complement of 11 players. Now Conte is talking sourly of preparing formations for 10 or even nine men.

They have had four players sent off in three games: Victor Moses in the FA Cup final, Pedro in the Community Shield and Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas in Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Burnley, and David Luiz threatened to make it five. Conte conceded his players lost their heads after frequent displays of dissent but did not acknowledge that referee Craig Pawson was correct to dismiss both. At least Cahill, unlike Fabregas, had the realism not to complain, but the first step for Chelsea is to take some responsibility and recognise they were in the wrong, rather than presume they are being persecuted.

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3. Arsenal have strength in depth

It may seem a strange observation when they ended the first league game of the season with a defence consisting of two left-backs (neither playing left-back), a right-back (who was playing left-back) and a midfielder, with a striker sometimes joining them. Yet the hugely entertaining 4-3 win over Leicester also revealed the depth of Arsenal’s attacking riches.

Even when deprived of Alexis Sanchez and Santi Cazorla, Arsene Wenger’s midfield and forward replacements included Aaron Ramsey, scorer of the equaliser, and Olivier Giroud, who delivered the dramatic winner, plus Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi. Chelsea and Tottenham, to name but two, do not have such resources.

4. Huddersfield suggest Premier League experience is overrated

Many promoted clubs spend a summer searching for players with Premier League pedigree. Huddersfield took the opposite approach. They hired a bunch of newcomers to the top flight, with Tom Ince, a veteran of eight previous Premier League starts, the only player who had tasted the division before who was involved at Crystal Palace. They duly won 3-0 at Selhurst Park to go top of the embryonic league table.

Perhaps the fact that no one, Ince apart, could be scarred by past setbacks contributed to their fearless approach. Certainly it served to reinforce the ultra-positive manager David Wagner’s mantra that there are no limits to what they can achieve. Relegation favourites now have enviable momentum.

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5. Burnley suggest buying is overrated

The Premier League clubs have spent more than £1 billion already this summer. The top seven have forked out more than £700 million. Then there is Burnley, who sold their best player, Michael Keane, and their most potent striker, Andre Gray, and have a £30 million profit from their summer tradings. They lined up with a solitary signing in the starting 11 at Chelsea. The other players they bought were omitted in favour of unglamorous but long-serving loyalists. It was a policy that paid off.

Sean Dyche could have chosen newcomer Jonathan Walters to lead the line. Instead Sam Vokes was the chosen striker. He scored twice. Dyche could have picked either of two additions, Phil Bardsley or Charlie Taylor, at left-back. Instead he opted for Stephen Ward. The Irishman scored probably the goal of his life. And Burnley beat Chelsea.


 

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