The way Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool played without key players on Saturday suggests Manchester City won’t have things going their way this season – but for anyone hoping to make it into the top four, that sounds worrying.
The only thing that has separated Pep Guardiola’s group from the rest is strength in depth.
But the opening weekend indicates that their three biggest rivals look stronger this time around. You’d expect Chelsea to beat Crystal Palace, but the way they comfortably rode them without Romelu Lukaku, N’Golo Kante and Thiago Silva was a revelation.
Pep Guardiola and Manchester City will have a harder time retaining the title this season
Manchester United have beaten Leeds five times without starting any of their top three picks – Jadon Sancho, Edinson Cavani and Marcus Rashford.
Liverpool were in cruise control at Norwich with a midfielder three of James Milner, Naby Keita and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, rather than Jordan Henderson, Thiago Alcantara and Fabinho who would be considered the better line.
Guardiola will recognize that and that’s why I’m sure he wants to add Harry Kane, having already spent £ 100million on Jack Grealish. As for Leicester, Arsenal and all the other contenders, that shows how difficult it is going to be. . .
I think they were written off prematurely last season. Finishing third when they struggled to field a recognized center-back at times was an achievement.
The return of someone like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will be like a new signing. One of Liverpool’s weaknesses is the lack of goals in midfield, but we know Oxlade-Chamberlain can score and I think it’s a big season for Curtis Jones who can contribute as well.
I don’t think a relative lack of signings is entirely Jurgen Klopp’s choice, but he adheres to the club structure, doesn’t moan and likes to improve on the players he already has.
Diogo Jota started ahead of Roberto Firmino at Norwich and scored the first goal. Joel Matip was so cool in his comeback match alongside Virgil van Dijk, it felt like the two had never been absent.
Title challenge score: 9/10
Danny Murphy expects Liverpool to mount strongest title challenge this season
They’ve built a team at Stamford Bridge and are brimming with confidence. They ended last season by winning the Champions League and took that form in the game against Crystal Palace.
For Thomas Tuchel, making so many changes and having everyone there right away was impressive.
The difference between Chelsea and Leicester, for example, is that if Leicester lose Wilfred Ndidi or Youri Tielemans, there could be a drop in their midfield.
If Kante misses a game, as he did against Palace, Chelsea call in two top internationals – Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. This is why Chelsea must be taken seriously.
Title challenge score: 8/10
Chelsea are bursting with confidence thanks to their success in European competitions
United did to Leeds what Leeds did to other teams last season. There was a freshness in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team, they continued to recover the ball with real intensity and had the quality to make their possession count.
We all know Paul Pogba can be magical. Four assists against Leeds is a brilliant start to the season, but he needs to show consistency if United are to maintain a challenge.
Marcus Rashford’s injury means Pogba can play on the left with less defensive responsibility.
United were content to play for goalless draws against the big teams last season, but to take the next step they may need to be more adventurous without sending in goals.
Raphaël Varane’s signing will help, but I’m still not convinced about them defensively.
The return of fans to Old Trafford seems to have helped them. When Leeds equalized they took it to the next level and were rampant.
Title Challenge Score 7/10
Manchester United produced a stunning performance in their Day 1 win over Leeds
While it would be disrespectful to write them off altogether, you fear they won’t have options on their team. But they’ve only been one Champions League game in each of the past two seasons, so you send them back at your own risk.
Title challenge score: 6/10
Leicester could lack the team depth of rivals to mount a serious title push this season
I’ve played for teams that lost the opener and still had good seasons, but they allowed Brentford to intimidate them as the first rule of playing a newly promoted team is to physically match them. .
I also found some of Mikel Arteta’s selections confusing.
Title challenge score: 3/10
It was a disappointing defeat on Mikel Arteta and Arsenal’s opening matchday one against Brentford