Five things we learned from Premier League opening weekend

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On Saturday, the Premier League kicked off the 2016-17 campaign with an exciting start to a season that saw champion Leicester City lose to newly promoted Hull City and saw Pep Guardiola saved by a late own goal in his Premier League debut. With nine of the 10 matches completed by Sunday, here’s a look at what we’ve learned from the opening weekend of the Premier League.

1. Manchester United is the favorite

Jose Mourinho’s men went to Bournemouth and scored three goals to comfortably and convincingly cruise to three points. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored in his first Premier League outing, but the Swede has a knack for scoring on debuts: see La Liga, Serie A, Champions League and Ligue 1. More than any other Premier League side to feature this weekend, the Red Devils dominated the opposition and confidently earned maximum points. Heck, evenWayne Rooney scored.

Manchester United looked like the best team in the opening weekend, and that was despite world record signing Paul Pogba not yet being available.

2. Pep Guardiola has his work cut out for him

An early goal from the penalty spot and dominance in possession seemed to haveManchester City on its way to a comfortable, though rather unconvincing, 1-0 victory at home against perennial relegation contender Sunderland. However, a second-half Sunderland stunner gave the most famous Spanish import of the new season a peek at the challenges of competing in the Premier League. Guardiola’s side often struggled to create clear cut chances and could have easily lost the match if goalkeeper Willy Caballero, who controversially started in place of Joe Hart, had not come up with big saves.

Manchester City will improve, obviously, but the Citizens are a long way from looking like the title favorites based on the evidence of the opening weekend. To further complicate matters, Guardiola now faces two extra midweek Champions League playoff fixtures, so his side already faces a tough run-in. The first Manchester derby of the season, which will be held at Old Trafford on Sept. 10, should be a key measuring stick for City’s progress and its Premier League title aspirations.

3. Liverpool and Arsenal are not true title contenders

Arsenal conceded four goals at home in the Premier League opener. Liverpool took a three-goal second half lead at the Emirates Stadium, and in the blink of an eye, Arsenal had found the back of the net two times to cut the margin to only one goal. The Gunners’ comeback stalled and eventually fell short.

Arsenal and Liverpool have both bought players that will help their respective sides, namely Sadio Mane at Liverpool and Granit Xhaka at Arsenal. However, both clubs have failed to properly address all their needs and will both inevitably fall well short of the title. Top four is a race both will be involved with, but these two flawed sides will not collect Premier League silverware this season on the evidence of the opening weekend. Despite the three points, Liverpool still has plenty of problems to address. On the evidence of the opening weekend, Arsenal is even worse off.

4. The Leicester City dream season could have a nightmare follow-up

The first match of the season featured the Foxes traveling to Hull City and losing 2-1 in what must be considered the shock result of the weekend. Perhaps the most telling aspect of the match was how good a newly promoted, razor-thin squad with a caretaker manager looked against the Champions of England. If Leicester City doesn’t improve in a hurry, Claudio Ranieri’s preseason proclamation that his goal is 40 points and safety from relegation may not sound like cute responses that elicit laughter any longer.

Riyad Mahrez had a forgettable outing, Ahmed Musa could not impact the game, and even Leicester’s lone goal came on a dubious call that awarded a penalty when the foul occurred outside the box. Three of the Foxes’ next five matches are against Arsenal, at Liverpool and at Manchester United, so Leicester City’s fairy tale season could quickly turn into a distant memory.

5. Jermain Defoe is ageless

The Sunderland striker scored a goal that put the Manchester City bench and the home supporters at the Etihad on pins and needles. Jermain Defoe is fast approaching his 34th birthday, and that goal meant that the former West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth forward is one of only eight players to score in 16 Premier League seasons. Defoe served as the savior of Sunderland in each of his last two seasons, and the opening weekend pointed to the former England international playing a crucial role under new manager David Moyes.

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