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Premier League highlights: 10 talking points from opening weekend of 2021/22 season

The Premier League is back for another season and it didn’t disappoint on the opening weekend, providing 34 goals and incidents aplenty.

Newly-promoted Brentford kicked off their first campaign in the Premier League in style on Friday night with a convincing win over Arsenal inside their shiny new stadium.

The weekend did not look back from there, with no draws making 10 clear winners and 10 losers by Sunday evening.

Here are Mirror Sport’s 10 talking points from the opening round of the 2021/22 season.

The Bees were given the primetime slot on Friday night, with all eyes on the 50th Premier League side and their game against mid-revamp Arsenal.

As it turned out, there was only one side which looked up to top flight standard – and it wasn’t Mikel Arteta’s team.

Ivan Toney came into the opener with a reputation after a record-breaking campaign in the Championship, but it was the lesser-known Bryan Mbeumo who caught the eye, giving Pablo Mari and £50million man Ben White a torrid time.

Sergi Canos got the party started with a low near-post strike before a goal from a comical long throw-in completed Arsenal’s misery.

Manchester United made their triumphant return in front of 72,732 fans inside Old Trafford – and the home crowd were treated to a goal fest.

Bruno Fernandes was the star of the show, smashing in a hat-trick to leave Luke Ayling’s long-range strike a mere footnote for Leeds.

United were without Edinson Cavani, who has been given extra leave, and £73m winger Jadon Sancho started on the bench, but it didn’t show.

Paul Pogba ran the show with four assists, Mason Greenwood produced a trademark low finish and even Fred got in on the act. A perfect start for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Vardy’s still got it

Leicester 1-0 Wolves

Jamie Vardy is now 34 year old and has Kelechi Iheanacho and Patson Daka for company at Leicester, but he is showing no signs of slowing down as he enters his seventh Premier League campaign.

His 119th Premier League goal was a memorable one, coming from a dart to the near post and an instinctive volley, and his all-round game was on-point.

Vardy and Harvey Barnes gave Wolves’ three-man backline a difficult afternoon with their constant pressure and runs in behind, so don’t bet against him topping his 15 league goals from last season.

Chalobah’s surprise breakthrough

Chelsea 3-0 Crystal Palace

All the focus at Chelsea has been on their bulging squad and the £97.5m arrival of Romelu Lukaku, but the past week has shown evidence that their academy is still working nicely.

With Thiago Silva, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger, Kurt Zouma and Cesar Azpilicueta on the books – and rumours of interest in Sevilla star Jules Kounde – not many would have predicted a breakthrough for Trevoh Chalobah.

But the 22-year-old’s work in pre-season caught the eye of Thomas Tuchel and he has been rewarded by starts in the Super Cup win over Villarreal and against Crystal Palace.

The younger brother of Nathaniel Chalobah has grabbed the opportunities with both hands, turning in two impressive performances which he capped with a fine low drive against Palace.

Dream debut for Dennis

Watford 3-2 Aston Villa

Not many pundits were tipping Xisco’s Watford for big things this season, but they will certainly be taking notice now.

Villa appear to have reinvested their Jack Grealish money well yet they were blown away by the newly-promoted Hornets on Saturday.

Chief among their tormentors was Emmanuel Dennis, who combined brilliantly with Ismaila Sarr to blast Watford into a 3-0 lead before a late wobble threatened to throw their hard work away.

“I think we will do wonders together,” Dennis told Watford TV post-match of his partnership with Sarr. They’ll have their card marked after this display.

Rafa turns the boos around

Everton 3-1 Southampton

Rafa Benitez knew he would face an uphill battle at Everton, given his Liverpool past and vociferous objection from many fans to his appointment – and he must have been worried when Adam Armstrong put Southampton ahead at Goodison Park.

The Toffees were booed off by a section of the crowd at half-time but returned after the break bristling with intent.

New signing Andros Townsend set up Richarlison to equalise before Abdoulaye Doucoure smashed in a second and Dominic Calvert-Lewin got a customary diving header to round things off.

Benitez is still an ex-Liverpool manager – and will be in the eyes of many for some time yet – but he has taken the first steps on the path to winning his club’s supporters round.

Brighton’s 2020/21 season was defined by the creation of plenty of chances, but the conversion of few chances.

The Seagulls became somewhat of a running joke in a corner of social media, derided for their ability to frequently underperform their Expected Goals (xG).

Their fans will have therefore been delighted to see them start a fresh campaign by turning the narrative on its head.

The final score at Turf Moor read Burnley 1-2 Brighton, but – even better – the xG read Burnley 1.79- 1.60 Brighton.

Salah starts brightly

Norwich 0-3 Liverpool

Virgil van Dijk made his long-awaited return from injury at Carrow Road on Saturday evening as Liverpool kicked off their campaign with a comfortable win.

With no Andy Robertson and a midfield of James Milner, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keita uninspired, it fell on Mohamed Salah to make the difference.

A fortuitous touch off his boot allowed Diogo Jota to open the scoring before he crossed for Roberto Firmino to make it 2-0. The Egyptian wrapped up the scoring with a powerful left-footed strike into the top corner as the Canaries were blown away in the second half.

Once Callum Wilson had got his customary goal against West Ham out of the way, this one was all about his opposite number.

Michail Antonio, with No9 on his back, was fantastic at St James’ Park and capped a fine performance with a deserved goal.

“I have played all the over the pitch,” Antonio explained when changing from No30 last month. “Even at right-back, but I think I can be confident that I’m a centre-forward now, so taking the No9 now made sense and I can’t wait to wear it.”

The new number could prove a lucky omen for the 31-year-old, who may have unburdened Said Benrahma, who scored from Antonio’s header wearing No22.

Kane’s absence looms large

Tottenham 1-0 Manchester City

There was to be no dream debut for Jack Grealish at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where the absence of Harry Kane was the elephant in the room.

Son Heung-min didn’t miss his partner in crime, cutting inside to curl into the bottom corner, but Spurs’ opposition did.

Kane has been trying for months to push through a transfer to Man City and while Daniel Levy remains determined to keep hold of him, Pep Guardiola’s need for a world-class centre-forward was obvious on Sunday.

Ferran Torres led the line on the day, but missed the kind of chance in the six-yard box Kane would gobble up. Can City get their man with 15 days left to go in the transfer window?

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