Photo courtesy of Getty Images
The 2022-23 Premier League season started earlier than usual with the 2022 FIFA World Cup interrupting play for a month-and-a-half in November and December. New signings made huge impressions during their debuts as Erling Haaland scored twice for Manchester City, Oleksandr Zinchenko was the lead playmaker in Arsenal’s 2-0 victory at Crystal Palace and Brenden Aaronson scored (ruled an own goal but he should have been awarded the goal) in his debut for Leeds United.
Here are four takeaways from this weekend’s matches.
1. Arsenal finally rediscovered vigor in the attack
The Gunners have not reached the Champions League since finishing as the runner-up in the Premier League 2015-16 title race (Leicester City won). Arguably the two biggest reasons for this was the lack of passion and urgency in the attack and simply put, a lack of creativity since the departures of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil. The attack would often disappear, leading to Arsenal losing their most important matches over the last six years.
During Friday’s opener at Crystal Palace, Arsenal looked like the 2015-16 squad with constant creativity and initiation on the attack, which was spearheaded by their two new additions: former Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus and Man City left-back Zinchenko. Both shined at Selhurst Park with constant chances created, including Zinchenko setting up Gabriel Martinelli’s goal in the 20th minute. Those two come from a winning culture at Man City and with their sheer talent and pace, Mikel Arteta’s squad may finally rise above their mediocrity in 2022-23.
2. Manchester United needed a squad overhaul yesterday
Back in May, Brighton & Hove Albion dominated Manchester United 4-0, nearly two years after losing 3-0 to Man Utd during “Project Restart” in 2020. So what happened to Man Utd? Simply put, their squad has completely regressed. Mason Greenwood facing criminal charges, Bruno Fernandes has lost his elite playmaking form, Marcus Rashford has not shown any signs of improvement and Harry Maguire is still proving to be a flop.
Outside of Cristiano Ronaldo, Man Utd do not have special players. In fact, they are full of mediocrity like Arsenal was two years ago. There is no energy on the squad and the midfield has become a joke. The fact a mid-table club like Brighton is completely dominating them shows that maybe Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was not the issue. They need to overhaul their squad, but even newer signings like Jadon Sancho are not working out. If Erik ten Hag wants to find success, he needs better players all across the pitch. Midfield would be the perfect place to start as they still have yet to land Frenkie de Jong. However, the player that I am about to discuss would have been a phenomenal signing back in January.
3. Moises Caicedo: remember the name
During the winter transfer window, Man Utd had the opportunity to sign Brighton midfielder Moises Caicedo, but passed on him. They are regretting that now as the Ecuadorian midfielder (who should play in the World Cup) put on a stellar performance at Old Trafford Sunday. Caicedo had the most interceptions, tackles and chances created of any player during Brighton’s 2-1 win on Sunday over Man Utd.
He channeled N’golo Kante by being everywhere on the pitch (like Roy Kent), completely outclassing Man Utd’s weak midfield. His presence makes Brighton a threat for a seventh-place spot on the table and allows forwards such as Pascal Gross (brace on Sunday), Danny Welbeck and Neal Maupay to find quality scoring chances. Many of Europe’s top clubs should keep an eye on him as the 20-year old already has made an impact in the Premier League.
4. Newcastle United has the potential for European play
Few clubs ended the 2021-22 Premier League on a higher note than Newcastle United, who won six of their last eight matches to end the campaign. As the Saudi Arabian ownership group continues to make changes in the squad, their current players are impressing with an emphatic start to the season. Against newly-promoted Nottingham Forest, Newcastle curb-stomped their foes 2-0, out-shooting Forest 23-5 with a 10-0 edge in shots on goal.
With new goalkeeper Nick Pope and former Aston Villa defender Matt Targett added to a squad full of creativity from their midfielders and forwards, the Magpies can beat you in many different ways. Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin are all legit scoring threats and can feast on defensive mistakes. This is one of the clubs I do not want to see as a Premier League manager.