Premier League Review: Five things we learnt from the opening weekend of the season

Arsenal attacker Willian
Former Chelsea star Willian lit up Craven Cottage on his Arsenal debut
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After an excellent, and sometimes dramatic, first weekend of the new Premier League season, Mike Norman tells us about the five things that caught his attention...

"On Saturday Willian showed what Chelsea will miss and why he might just become one of the Premier League's best ever free transfers."

1. Leaky Liverpool must tighten up

Liverpool won the title in a canter last season, largely due to a glorious run of form during the winter months that saw them record 10 clean sheets in the space of 11 successive league victories.

You could argue then that it didn't really matter that Jurgen Klopp's men started leaking goals when they were 20 or so points clear, especially as they were still winning games.

But conceding goals can fast become a habit, and since Liverpool won 1-0 at Norwich in the middle of February they've now kept just three clean sheets in 17 competitive matches. Rather alarmingly, the three goals Liverpool conceded in a 4-3 win over Leeds on Saturday meant that Klopp's men have conceded 27 goals in those 17 games.

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When you consider that Man City failed in their title defence last term mainly because their defence was weaker than the season before (23 league goals conceded in 2018/29, 35 conceded in 2019/20) then it's not difficult to come to the conclusion that Liverpool's defence must improve if they are to retain their crown.

Liverpool's odds in the Premier League Winner market fluctuated between [3.0] (when they were leading Leeds) and [4.0] (when a draw looked likely) but have now settled at [3.5]. Manchester City - who don't play their first game until next weekend - remain the [1.94] favourites.

2. Willian and Arsenal look a match made in heaven

Willian wanted a three-year contract to stay at Chelsea, the Blues were only willing to offer him two years. A deal couldn't be agreed and the Brazilian left, joining Arsenal on a free transfer who were more than happy to give him the three-year deal he wanted.

On Saturday Willian showed what Chelsea will miss and why he might just become one of the Premier League's best ever free transfers.

The 32-year-old was superb in Arsenal's 3-0 win over Fulham, being involved in all three goals and grabbing two assists, while also being unlucky not to score himself when his long-range free-kick came back off the post.

As a consequence of Willian's performance and that of his team, the Gunners are now [26.0] to win the title (matched at a high of [190.0]), while they are trading at around [2.7] to record a Top 4 Finish.

3. Very tough tasks for Fulham and West Brom to survive

In the Relegation market just two clubs trade at odds-on to go down, and both were comprehensively beaten on the opening weekend of the season.

Fulham - [1.71] to be relegated - barely laid a glove on Arsenal in a 0-3 defeat at Craven Cottage on Saturday, while West Brom, [1.66], collapsed in the second half at the Hawthorns, going down 0-3 to Leicester.

Of course, Arsenal and Leicester are among the better teams in the Premier League, but to be beaten so easily has to be of huge concern. With Leeds - [5.0] in the Relegation market - conceding four goals at Anfield it means the three newly-promoted clubs conceded 10 goals between them on their Premier League return.

Nobody said this division was easy, just ask Scott Parker and Slaven Bilic!

4. Newcastle look good to challenge for a top half finish

A few weeks ago, when Newcastle's latest proposed takeover collapsed, it was all doom and gloom on Tyneside. With seemingly little money to spend and the club's star players being talked about as potential transfer targets, Steve Bruce's men were highly fancied to be relegated (matched at [3.25]).

But off and on the pitch Newcastle have enjoyed a terrific week, bringing in a trio of proven Premier League players while slapping a not for sale sign on the likes of Allan Saint-Maximin and Miguel Almiron.

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A polished performance saw the Magpies pick up all three points at West Ham on Saturday night with new signings Callum Wilson and Jeff Hendrick getting on the scoresheet.

Bruce now has a squad that looks very capable of improving on last season's 13th-place finish, and a Top 10 Finish - for which they can be backed at [3.75] from a high of [7.0] - doesn't look beyond them.

5. Usual suspects will dominate goalscoring charts

Mo Salah was the star of Liverpool's win over Leeds, scoring a fantastic hat-trick that resulted in him shortening to [5.3] favourite in the Premier League Top Goalscorer market.

The 28-year-old topped the scoring charts three seasons ago with 32 goals and shared the award 12 months later when he scored 22 league goals, and last term he bagged another 19 goals from 33 games. An injury free campaign and it becomes impossible to envisage Salah not netting another 25+ goals.

Jamie Vardy was last season's top scorer and he opened his account with a brace of penalties in Leicester's 3-0 win at West Brom. Vardy, who has scored 20, 18, and 23 goals in his last three seasons, has shortened to [12.0] from a high of [26.0] to win another Golden Boot.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - who was joint top scorer two seasons ago - is the [6.0] second favourite after opening his account for the campaign with an excellent finish against Fulham on Saturday, and it means that all of the last three Premier League top goalscorers are up and running on the first weekend of the season.

You'd be a brave man to bet that they won't be among the top scorers at the end of the season.

English Premier League: English Premier League (Winner 2020/21)

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Saturday 12 September, 12.30pm

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