Five things we learnt from the opening weekend of the Premier League

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With the start of the Barclays Premier League comes masses of speculation, predictions and everybody becoming a manager in their own right, telling anyone within earshot what they could have done better had they been in the dugout.

But alas, it is not to be so, and all we can do is quite literally watch and learn. So what did we learn from the opening day?

Cech is not the answer

While the experienced 'keeper brings a massive presence and calming assurance to the Gunners side so lacking in this department for many years, it is difficult to imagine him changing the course of a game. What Arsenal really need is someone who can make a huge impact on the offensive front and can help take the huge weight of expectation off Alexis Sanchez's shoulders. 


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We saw against West Ham that a side boasting Olivier Giroud, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, Mesut Ozil and the later introduction of Sanchez himself could not break down a stubborn West Ham side, and the game could easily have finished 0-0 were it not for Cech's blunders in front of goal.

Meanwhile, West Ham seem to have put the past behind them. After a shockingly drab run of results in pre-season which saw them eliminated from the Europa League, things seem to come together a little more as the real thing got under way. Can they keep it up? Time will tell.

Van Gaal hasn't answered United's problems

The Dutchman's philosophy is based upon a high-possession game, and looks to wear out the opposition defence, moving the ball around with patience and waiting for the right moment.

Unfortunately this means a lot of sideways passing, and we repeatedly saw Wayne Rooney frustrated at his lack of service when making runs in behind.

With the loss of Angel di Maria, there is a severe lack of pace within the team, and LVG may need Pedro to arrive sooner rather than later. The team's lack of cutting edge is highlighted by the fact that Spurs 'keeper Vorm was called into action for the first time in the 65th minute.

Speaking of goalkeepers, the situation couldn't be worse for United, bar David de Gea handing in a transfer request. With three 'keepers completely omitted from the squad on Saturday, including star De Gea and former Barcelona number one Victor Valdes, LVG needs to act swiftly to ensure the situation is under control.

Liverpool have changed the way they play

Brendan Rodgers' Liverpool side became known to a high-pressing, quick-passing style that blew teams away when they had Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge was fit. The hole left by the stellar Uruguayan was always going to be a big one to fill, but now they have lost Raheem Sterling as well and Daniel Sturridge is regularly sidelined. 

Whilst their high-pressing style does still exist, often forcing the opposition into mistakes and long balls, the quick passing has disappeared. Liverpool are increasingly reliant on hopeful balls forward and lack any real accuracy.

This was particularly evident against Stoke in the first half, where they failed to create a single clear-cut chance. You would expect more with the creative influence of Phillippe Coutinho and the acquisition of Roberto Firmhino, but Rodgers may have to slow his own game down if they are to seriously challenge the top teams again.

The New Boys could cause problems

This is somewhat obvious, but for the first time, we are seeing a lot of the newly-promoted sides having the financial power to bring in quality talent from abroad and attract players that they otherwise wouldn't have.

Norwich were reasonably unlucky to lose to Crystal Palace, and Bournemouth drove Aston Villa all the way. Watford were the most convincing and were unlucky to draw to Everton at Goodison Park. All three sides have made big signings, like Max Gradel to Bournemouth, and they could prove useful if they are to survive in the money machine of the Premier League.

The phrase 'New Boys' isn't just restricted to the new teams, by the way. In the first week we saw Villa's Rudy Gestede, Swansea's Andre Ayew and Newcastle's Georginio Wijnaldum all score. This is even without mentioning Falcao, Memphis Depay, Roberto Firmino, Aleksander Mitrovic and several others. We could be in for a very high-scoring league this year.

We may be seeing the end of the traditional mid-table team

Mourinho first made the same claim before the start of the Premier League season, that this season will be the most difficult in history - and he may be right.

With the increasing monetary power of Premier League clubs, driven by the ever-rising TV rights deals, we are seeing a lot of previously 'average' and 'mid-table' sides pose a far greater threat to those at the top.

This weekend, we have already seen West Ham beat Arsenal, Swansea draw to Chelsea, Watford draw to Everton and Southampton play out an entertaining, attacking 2-2 draw with Newcastle. Meanwhile, Alan Pardew has transformed Crystal Palace into a genuine threat both home and away, and Leicester's form doesn't seem to be going away.

While teams obviously have to finish in mid-table, we could see the finest of margins between the Premier League's top 10-12 positions as the best talents from around the world are brought into teams that are more than ready to challenge for a higher league finish.

The season has only just begun, but if the same patterns emerge throughout the season, it could be more than a little interesting.

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