Despite the new season being only a game old it already feels like there’s been a shift of momentum in the Premier League. If the opening weekend is anything to go by then it’s going to be an almighty tussle to determine who will be the dominant force at the top of the table. The new big name managers to have arrived in England have already left an impression.
Which is why the level of frustration in the red half of north London must be palpable following their mauling at the hands of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool at the Emirates. The blistering 4-3 win for the Reds highlights all that is wrong with Arsene Wenger’s side right now. Yet again they have started the season at a snail’s pace while their closest title rivals have shot out of the blocks at a canter. Their defensive frailties are evident as Wenger was forced to start Calum Chambers and new signing Rob Holding at the heart of the back four.
The young centre-backs were left horribly exposed time and again as a brace from Philippe Coutinho and goals from Adam Lallana and Sadio Mane gave Klopp a dream start to the new campaign, despite seeing his side concede three goals themselves at the hands of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Chambers. Injuries to Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Gabriel have left the Gunners woefully short at the back.
The decision to leave new £35m signing Granit Xhaka on the bench can’t have gone down well with the majority of fans inside the Emirates. Protection was needed in the midfield area in front of Chambers and Holding but Wenger elected to leave the Swiss international out of his starting eleven, owing to the fact that Xhaka played at the European Championships in the Summer, a tournament that ended on 10th July with Switzerland’s involvement only reaching the round of 16 on 25th June.
Although Wenger has spent money on Xhaka he is still coming in for fierce criticism for not delving further into the warchest to bring in defensive cover and a 20 goal-a-season marksman that would help fire them to a first league title since 2004. The rumblings of discontent could be heard loud and clear at full time on Sunday.
Wenger has lead his side back from poor starts in the past and he has a remarkable record of finishing in the Champions League places at his time at the club, but this season could spell the end of his love affair with Europe’s elite competition. There is no doubt that Klopp has his own defensive issues to work out at Liverpool but the weapons at his disposal in attack make his side one to fear this season. Arsenal could only field Alexis Sanchez upfront on Sunday with Olivier Giroud yet to return following his own excursions at the Euros.
While Arsenal struggled on opening day, it was a different story for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United as they ran out comfortable 3-1 winners at Bournemouth. The Portuguese coach is determined to leave his nightmare few months at Chelsea last season behind, and he’s started by obliterating the world record transfer fee, bringing Paul Pogba back to the club from Juventus for an eye-watering £90m. Such investment will surely allow Man United to compete for the league title again after three seasons in the wilderness.
The other new arrival in Manchester is also a concern for Wenger and Arsenal. Pep Guardiola saw his Manchester City side stutter to a fortuitous 2-1 victory at the Etihad over David Moyes’ Sunderland. While the performance was less than convincing, 3 points is 3 points and Pep is off to a winning start. City have once again gone big in the transfer market, something the Arsenal fans can only dream about their side doing.
Next up for the Gunners is a trip to current champions Leicester City at the weekend, who themselves will be smarting from an opening day defeat to managerless and injury ravaged Hull. The King Power might just be the last place Wenger would wish to take his depleted side for their first away trip of the season. Lose it, and Arsenal will be left even further behind with more ground to make up as the cracks begin to show at the Emirates.