Premier League gets first look at new signings

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As though it had never left, the Premier League picked up from where it ended last season.

Thrilling games, gritty comebacks, shock wins, and a number of eye-catching performances provided a welcome respite from post-Olympics blues. But while the on-pitch action has changed little, this season has seen a few new exciting additions join the ranks of the English top flight.

At the DW Stadium Eden Hazard was hurriedly demonstrating why all that transfer saga nonsense may actually have been throughly justified. For Arsenal it was the same old story at the Emirates, while the Brendan Rodgers philosophy plainly needs plenty of time to penetrate the minds of Liverpool's best and brightest.

With Manchester United still to come - and Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa likely to feature - we review the initial contributions of the Premier League's big-money signings.

Liverpool - Fabio Borini, Joe Allen

For Brendan Rodgers the size of the task is clear. Encouraging pre-season performances, and an accomplished first-half showing, quickly descended into familiar crisis once Zoltan Gera found the top corner of Pepe Reina's net.

£10m striker Fabio Borini looked lost cast adrift on the left flank, and failed to influence the game. A delightful chipped cross to Luis Suarez in the second half hinted at the Italian's quality, but this was the exception rather than the norm.

Rodgers clearly sees Joe Allen as a key cog in a revamped Liverpool machine and the former Swansea midfielder looked composed in the middle. But, with Steven Gerrard distinctly off-colour alongside the diminutive Welshman, Allen could do little to stop West Brom, especially once Daniel Agger's sending off opened up the game.

Chelsea - Eden Hazard, Oscar

The star of the weekend so far has undoubtedly been Eden Hazard. The Belgian was superb for Chelsea as Roberto Di Matteo's side kicked off with a 2-0 win over Wigan.

Full of trickery and possessing a quick change of pace, Hazard caused problems for Wigan's defence from the off, setting up Branislav Ivanovic's goal inside 3 minutes, then winning a penalty four minutes later.

Oscar replaced the former-Lille star mid-way through the second half, and the Brazil youngster looked lively. So Chelsea fans can rightly be delighted with what they saw from their two marquee signings. The Blues look younger, quicker and more creative going forward - and a title challenge looks a distinct possibility.

Arsenal - Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud, Santi Cazorla

A tumultuous summer for Arsenal meant the league season couldn't have come soon enough. With Alex Song and Robin Van Persie departed, Arsene Wenger has once again been left to watch his top players jump ship.

But in Spain star Santi Cazorla, Arsenal look to have a bona-fide star. The former-Malaga ace looked incisive, dangerous and created chances at almost every opportunity, offering plenty of hope for Gunners fans.

Unfortunately, fellow new boy Olivier Giroud squandered the best of these openings, and the Frenchman will likely need longer to settle in at the Emirates Stadium.

Without van Persie Arsenal struggled to score, and ultimately failed against a stubborn Sunderland team. But with Cazorla in the side, Podolski and Giroud will get the opportunities.

So, despite the departures, Wenger can be pleased with his business, especially if Nuri Sahin arrives to replace the Barcelona-bound Song.

Manchester City - Jack Rodwell

The £15m new signing is Roberto Mancini's only real bit of business so far this summer - much to the Italian's frustration.

Mancini had warned City fans that Rodwell still has much to learn, and his performance against Southampton cruelly summed up his career to date.

Full of promise and energy, Rodwell was ultimately undone by a crucial lapse in concentration which could so easily have proved costly. For 60 minutes he looked a seamless addition to the City team, but a stray pass - which led to a Saints goal - ruined an otherwise solid debut.

Tottenham Hostpur - Gylfi Sigurdsson

The Icelandic international opted for Spurs over Liverpool, but both sides had opening games to forget. Cast into a role customarily filled by Rafael van deer Vaart, Sigurdsson was neat and tidy without ever really threatening the Newcastle backline.

But he will prove a shrewd addition to Andre Villas-Boas' side, although he was held back by Tottenham's lightweight presence up front. Jermain Defoe can be a dangerous attacker as part of a duo, but he will never be a lone striker. AVB needs to sort out this area quickly if Spurs are going to build on last season's fourth placed finish.

Manchester United - Shinji Kagawa, Robin van Persie

Sir Alex Ferguson's side take on Everton this evening, and United fans are expected to be treated to a first glimpse of Kagawa and van Persie in competitive action.

United's forward line looks formidable, and van Persie's signing heralds the beginning of an exciting season for United fans, as they hope to wrestle back the Premier League title from bitter rivals Manchester City.

But Goodison Park is no easy place to go, and Ferguson's side face a tough first test. With City struggling to overcome Premier League new boys Southampton, United can lay down a marker tonight, and with van Persie and Rooney up front, goals should not be hard to come by. However, with Rio Ferdinand out injured, and Nemanja Vidic returning from long-term injury, question marks remain over the solidity of their back line.

Notable mentions - Michu, Mladen Petric, Claudio Yacob

Swansea midfielder Michu and Fulham striker Mladen Petric both bagged a brace on their debuts as their respective sides ran out 5-0 winners.

Michu, the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga last season with 15 goals, was sensational for Swansea boss Michael Laudrup, and his second goal was especially impressive.

Fulham fans also took an immediate shine to new forward Petric, who, although fortunate with his second, scored two and looked lively throughout. The disappointment of missing out on Pavel Pogrebnak looks to have been out-weighed by the prospect of the Croatian's arrival.

And finally, West Brom enjoyed a dream start to the new season, dispatching Liverpool 3-0 and Argentine midfielder Claudio Yacob was excellent. The former Racing star was part of Argentina's victorious under-20 World Cup team in 2007 and demonstrated his ability, picking up the man of the match award against Steven Gerrard and co.

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Robin Van Persie
Fabio Borini
Joe Allen
Premier League
Manchester United

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