City impress at Arsenal; Pogba vs. Mourinho

Manchester City picked up where they left off last season with a dominant performance to win 2-0 at Arsenal.

It is worth noting that the defending Premier League champions unpicked the opposition on Unai Emery’s debut without Gabriel Jesus, Fabian Delph, Leroy Sane, David Silva, Nicolas Otamendi and Kevin De Bruyne in the starting lineup. In other words, six of their 11 most frequently used players from last season were missing, when they set a new Premier League points total with 100.

The scary bit for rivals is the seamless way in which Pep Guardiola can change personnel and not miss a beat. Such depth of talent, traditionally, is a double-edged sword: You gain in terms of alternatives and competition keeps players motivated. You lose regarding chemistry and the ability to keep guys who want to play all the time happy.

Guardiola — yes, it’s early, but there’s also evidence from last season — appears to have mastered the chemistry part, and in terms of keeping folks happy, thus far at least he seems to have a handle on his squad in terms of man-management.

It will be particularly interesting to see how Bernardo Silva develops. He played most of the past three years wide — for Portugal, City and Monaco — but his natural position is inside. He is not lightning-quick and can suffer physically on the wing when not in possession (not usually a problem with City). In the middle, he can be the heir apparent to his namesake David Silva; you would expect Guardiola to rotate De Bruyne and the two Silvas in that position this season.

As for Arsenal, the good news is they won’t be playing City every week, but new manager Unai Emery has a ton on his plate in pretty much every area of the pitch.

Up front, they look frightfully narrow. Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil coming inside is fine, but then you need full-backs to attack effectively, although playing 55 minutes with Stephan Lichtsteiner on the wrong flank doesn’t help. And in midfield, Matteo Guendouzi has a lot to offer but, maybe, this wasn’t the right game for a kid who just turned 19 in April.

The arrival of Thibaut Courtois means that Real Madrid have five goalkeepers, with Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla, Luca Zidane and Andriy Lunin also on the books.

You would imagine Casilla will go on loan if he cannot be sold, as will one of the two youngsters, just to get them playing time.

However, based on what he said last week — “The advantage is that we have some great competition, and that’s ideal in every position” — new manager Julen Lopetegui appears to want Navas and Courtois competing for the starting job.

Time will tell whether he means it. It is hard to see Madrid committing substantial funds to Courtois if he is not going to start. Equally, why he would have accepted the move from Chelsea if there was a risk of being benched, when the alternative would have been moving as a free agent next summer.

As such, the European champions might be better off shifting Navas now if they can find a home for him at the right price.

The FC crew choose who they would keep between Paul Pogba and Jose Mourinho.

Manchester United began their league campaign with a victory over Leicester that, in some ways, was overshadowed by Paul Pogba’s postgame comments.

Pogba is one of the more intelligent footballers I have ever met and has been in the limelight since he was 17. He knows exactly what he is doing when he says things like: “There are things that I cannot say, otherwise I will be fined.”

Moreover, he knows comments like that will invite speculation. Many will jump to the conclusion that he is somehow not happy with his manager Jose Mourinho. I am not sure it is that simple, or, if it is the case, that it necessarily needs to be damaging to United.

Maybe I’m seeing the glass as half-full, but perhaps it ought to be read as an invitation for everyone involved to pull together. And if there’s one thing of which we can be sure, it’s that it’s in the interest of both men to make it work this year.

Mourinho’s summer sniping over transfers and the past two campaigns have hurt his political capital. Pogba, meanwhile, won the World Cup but needs to kick on. Finding common ground really should not be that difficult, although whether it is enough to make up for United’s other flaws remains to be seen.

Barcelona beat Sevilla to win Spain’s Super Cup in Morocco as the video assistant referee made its debut in the Spanish game and immediately had an impact, when Pablo Sarabia’s opening goal of the game was correctly allowed to stand after initially being deemed offside.

Barcelona struggled to get into the game early on, before breaking through via Gerard Pique late in the first half and Ousmane Dembele towards the end. In the closing minutes, Sevilla’s Wissam Ben Yedder missed a penalty when Marc-Andre ter Stegen saved his spot kick.

Barca showed a bit of ring rust, particularly in midfield and business only picked up after Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho replaced Rafinha and Arthur. As for Sevilla, new boss Pablo Machin’s setup looked tidy and sharp; you wonder what they can do with a bit more work under their belt.

After Liverpool made easy work of West Ham, the FC crew examine what makes the Reds capable of challenging Man City for the Premier League title.

Liverpool’s 4-0 thumping of West Ham might have had a lot to do with their opponents’ turgid performance, but it’s still remarkable how quickly Jurgen Klopp’s crew came out of the gates.

Guys like Virgil Van Dijk and Andrew Robertson, who had the summer off, looked sharp and match-fit. Naby Keita played like the Keita of two years ago, not the one from last season, and that means he’s a one-man wrecking crew in the middle of the park, both on and off the ball.

This is a better-rounded Liverpool team than last season, one that — if everyone stays healthy — will not have to put square pegs in round holes.

Daniel Sturridge getting on the score sheet was another plus. While not impossible, it is unlikely that Mohamed Salah will rack up 44 goals again and that means another, more traditional, scorer off the bench — be it Sturridge or Dominic Solanke — might make all the difference in certain games.


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