Talking points from EPL opening week


It is not hard to see why Chelsea looked half the team they were last year against Burnley. From the 13th minute, four of last season's first-choice outfield 10 - Gary Cahill, Victor Moses, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa - were absent, while a fifth, Nemanja Matic, is now with Manchester United.

N'Golo Kante was not to blame for the 3-2 defeat by Burnley, but he was a bit slack in his covering for two of Burnley's goals. And the feeling remains he needs the right partner to flourish. Much will hang on how fast the partnership with Tiemoue Bakayoko gels. As it is, he looked a long way from the reigning player of the year that he is.


Plenty have had their say on Liverpool's defensive shortcomings following their 3-3 draw at Watford, but perhaps the most telling came from the man who dealt the late blow to Jurgen Klopp's side. "Yes we knew (that Liverpool were poor at set pieces)," said Hornets defender Miguel Britos. "Maybe it is their weak point."

Of that there is no doubt - the Merseysiders have conceded 27 Premier League goals from set pieces since Klopp took charge in 2015, with only Crystal Palace and Watford themselves letting in more.

Watford exploited Liverpool's Achilles' heel twice on Saturday. For all their great attacking play, there is simply no chance of Liverpool competing for the title while they remain so shoddy at the back.


Ronald Koeman seemed almost as pleased with Wayne Rooney killing a game as winning it against Stoke City on Saturday. The 31-year-old was not signed to replace Romelu Lukaku's goals at Everton - although he made a fine start with an outstanding header against Mark Hughes' team - but for the experience and intelligence that was also on display in his first Premier League start for the club for 13 years.

Rooney's distribution caught the eye throughout, but Koeman was equally impressed with how the forward disrupted Stoke's pressure late on. The Everton manager said: "When the team needs patience, when the team needs a foul, he is going down instead of Idrissa Gueye or Tom Davies who try and always stand and win the battle. That is down to the cleverness of the player. It was like the moments in his ball possession - every time the right choice and the right decision."


Arsenal might have signed Jamie Vardy last summer. At the Emirates, there was a reminder of why they tried so hard and also why it might have possibly been a rather difficult fit. Vardy was good, his constant spiky pressing and the sheer rapaciousness of his straight-line sprints a lesson in what this league tends to reward. But then Vardy is in the perfect team right now for his gifts of speed, finishing and energy.

There is an argument he might have drawn something else out of Arsenal: more direct angles, an even more ruthless counter-attack. Really though, this is a case of horses for courses.

Vardy remains the embodiment of pure Leicester-ism, a man at ease in his team. If he stays fit and links with Riyad Mahrez, many teams will find Leicester's attack unstoppable at times.


Frank de Boer hopes to transform Crystal Palace radically and the Dutchman will need patience if their 3-0 defeat by Huddersfield Town is anything to go by.

The manager may also need some new players. He certainly needs the existing ones to learn quickly: the way he gesticulated at them on Saturday to hit long passes to escape Huddersfield's pressing suggested he found their attempted application of the Ajax philosophy too simplistic.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 15, 2017, with the headline 'Talking points from EPL opening week'. Print Edition | Subscribe