EyeOnEPL

Expect giants to bounce back

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gestures during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium in London on Aug 9, 2015.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger gestures during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium in London on Aug 9, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

Finally, the English Premier League (EPL) is back after a three-month break and it felt so for many weeks that something was missing during those weekends.

But it has returned and there have been big surprises - Chelsea and Manchester United struggled, Arsenal were stunned at home while Liverpool were unconvincing even though they had won.

However, over a 38-game season, the top clubs have the resources to challenge and stay up there. All the early season hiccups offer opportunities for the managers to analyse their teams' weaknesses, make big signings and correct their flaws.

Chelsea, who drew 2-2 with Swansea, still have a very strong squad but their target is to do well in both the EPL and the Champions League. The question for the Blues is hunger. Only time will tell if the champions still have the desire to go all out to win both competitions.

United needed an own goal to defeat Tottenham 1-0. For those who are expecting a Red Devils resurgence , they will have to wait a bit longer.

RAPID REBOUND

To get a win here, after where we were 11 weeks ago, I thought it was an outstanding collective performance.

BRENDAN RODGERS, Liverpool manager, pointing out that the 6-1 thumping last May was a one-off

Louis van Gaal is still rebuilding the side and it does not help that his plans are disrupted by the David de Gea saga. It is clear the Spanish goalkeeper's mind is already in Real Madrid and the Dutch manager must now quickly sell him as well as get a quality replacement to give Sergio Romero some competition.

Liverpool may have beaten Stoke 1-0 and avenged last season's 6-1 thrashing but they were boring to watch. They hardly troubled the Potters much and had to rely on a piece of individual magic from Philippe Coutinho, who scored a long-range goal, to get the win. Apart from that, there was little spark from the rest of the team and they will struggle if they carry on like this.

But the biggest disappointment of the opening weekend has to be Arsenal, who were humbled 2-0 at home by West Ham. Year after year, there is talk that it will finally be their season but, once again, they flattered to deceive. Maybe they are having a hangover after their Community Shield triumph over Chelsea but the fact remains: they are still not ruthless enough.

Against the Hammers, the Gunners had plenty of possession but nothing to show in the final third. Yes, goalkeeper Petr Cech had a bad day and deserved to be blamed for both goals but there was little danger posed by the Gunners forwards.

Pretty football cannot always win games. What Arsenal is crying out for is a proven goal-scorer like Karim Benzema, who is one of the deadliest players in the world inside the box. But is manager Arsene Wenger willing to splash the cash to sign the

£42 million (S$90 million)-rated Real Madrid striker?

Even the so-called mid-table sides are so much harder to beat. They are spending money on good signings. Swansea signed Andre Ayew while Stoke have ex-Barcelona players in their ranks like Marc Muniesa, Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan Krkic, and are about to sign Inter Milan attacker Xherdan Shaqiri.

On top of that, these teams dare to take the game to the more illustrious opponents. Swansea faced the reigning champions at Stamford Bridge and showed they are not in the EPL just to survive, but they are there to compete and qualify for Europe.

But let's wait for the end of the month when the big clubs finish their transfer business. Given their vast resources, I will not be surprised if we see the big clubs occupy the top five positions again.

The biggest disappointment of the opening weekend has to be Arsenal... Year after year, there is talk that it will finally be their season but, once again, they flattered to deceive.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2015, with the headline 'Expect giants to bounce back'. Print Edition | Subscribe