Here are five things we learnt:
Chelsea’s Costa is back to his best/worst
Chelsea have won both their opening league games 2-1. On both occasions, Diego Costa scored a late winner. On both occasions, he was fortunate to still be on the pitch at the time. Against West Ham United, he netted an 89th-minute winner after avoiding a second booking for a wild lunge on goalkeeper Adrian. At Watford last Saturday (Aug 20), he was booked for dissent – as he had been against West Ham – before escaping punishment for an apparent dive on the edge of the hosts’ box. With three minutes remaining he raced onto Cesc Fabregas’s through ball and tucked the winner past Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes. Costa’s 20 goals inspired Chelsea to the title in 2015. He looked a shadow of himself last season, but if Chelsea are to mount a sustained title challenge in 2016-17, new manager Antonio Conte will hope the troublesome Spain international continues to play on the edge.
Pogba gives Manchester United extra heft
Paul Pogba made his second Manchester United debut in last Friday’s (Aug 19) 2-0 win over Southampton following his return from Juventus, catching the eye with his purposeful running and shooting. With the rangy Pogba, the gangly Marouane Fellaini, the strapping Eric Bailly and towering striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who scored twice – also in the starting XI, United look a more physically imposing team than they have for some time. United no longer instil dread in their opponents as they did under legendary former manager Alex Ferguson, but they look ready to go toe-to-toe with anyone under Jose Mourinho.
Stoke no longer provide England’s acid test
When Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona were weaving their dazzling patterns across the top-flight playing fields of Spain in the latter part of the last decade, a common refrain in England was: “Yes, but could they do it on a wet, windy afternoon in Stoke?” Guardiola took his Manchester City team to Stoke City’s newly renamed Bet365 Stadium last weekend and the weather was appropriately unpleasant. But with Stoke manager Mark Hughes trying to introduce a more expansive playing style, the Potters are no longer the fearsome prospect they were under former manager Tony Pulis. They proved no match for Guardiola’s men as Sergio Aguero and new recruit Nolito each scored twice in a one-sided 4-1 victory.
Burnley prove possession isn’t everything
Another effect of Guardiola’s achievements with Barcelona was a Europe-wide fetishisation of possession, but as Burnley’s 2-0 win over Liverpool proved, it is what you do with the ball that counts. Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool saw 80 per cent of the ball at Turf Moor, but Burnley’s supreme defensive organisation restricted the visitors to long-range potshots. Sean Dyche’s side prevailed courtesy of well-taken first-half strikes by Sam Vokes and Andre Gray to record their first win since securing promotion from the Championship in May.
Wenger is running out of time, and patience
Arsenal’s supporters could be forgiven for feeling like they have been here before. Just as in 2015, the north London club have made one exciting signing early in the transfer window – Petr Cech last year, Granit Xhaka this – but once again they have failed to strengthen their squad further with any significant signings. Just as in 2015, they were beaten at home in their opening game – by West Ham last year, by Liverpool this – and are already being written off as title contenders. Manager Arsene Wenger angrily hit out at scrutiny of the club’s transfer policy following his side’s 0-0 draw at champions Leicester City and said he would not spend money for the sake of it. But with 10 days until the transfer window closes, the clock is ticking.