Matchweek 2 in the Premier League has wrapped up as Aston Villa, Burnley, Manchester United and Manchester City all kicked off their Premier League campaigns after the Manchester clubs were granted an extra week of rest following European competition in August. As clubs start to get into a rhythm this season, here are my three takeaways from this past weekend.
- Bukayo Saka should be a regular starter for Arsenal
Winger Bukayo Saka started Arsenal’s opening match at Fulham on the bench while Ainsley Maitland-Niles got the start. While Maitland-Niles is a solid presence for the backline and midfield, he provides little offensive threat outside of his pace. As a result, his impact on the attack against Fulham was minimal.
This past weekend, manager Mikel Arteta inserted Saka back into the starting lineup, a decision which proved to be the difference in the match. While looking at the stat sheet, Saka did not register a goal or assist but his impact was enormous nonetheless. Both of Arsenal’s goals in their 2-1 were set up by Saka as he found Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Dani Ceballos on stellar through-passes, who found Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah respectively for their two goals. Saka is a difference-maker and should get as much playing time as the rest of the stars.
2. Emiliano Martinez is a difference-maker for Aston Villa
During “Project Restart,” Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno suffered an injury in match at Brighton & Hove Albion, causing him to miss the rest of the 2019-20 season. Emiliano Martinez took over, helping the club win the FA Cup Final over Chelsea as well as a win over the Premier League champions in Liverpool.
Arteta was forced to sell Martinez as Leno, a dependable goalkeeper since his arrival in 2018, became healthy in time for the 2020-21 season. He sold him to Aston Villa for 20 million euros, a huge improvement from the original two million euros he was projected to sell for before Leno’s injury. In Martinez’s debut against Sheffield United, Martinez dove the right way on John Lundstram’s penalty, saving it. Villa held on to win 1-0 as Martinez picked up a clean sheet in his debut.
Villa has won three consecutive home matches dating back to the restart and look like a solid defensive unit reinforced by a reliable goalkeeper. If Villa, who finished right above the relegation cutline last season, can defeat Fulham this upcoming weekend, they will start the season with six points, a result much-needed for a club expected to fight for survival once again this season.
3. Manchester United’s loss to Crystal Palace does not bode well for the Manchester Derby
Man United started their 2020-21 season poorly as they fell 3-1 at home to Crystal Palace, a club often hanging around at the mid-table. Crystal Palace used their pace and their shooting skill to defeat Man United as Wilfried Zaha’s brace proved to be the difference.
Palace looked faster and more explosive than Man U. While this could be chalked up as early-season rust, getting outmatched by Palace does not encourage the fanbase, especially after entering the season with plenty of momentum after a strong “Project Restart.” Another club in England that emphasizes pace and scoring ability is Manchester City, who were swept by Man U last season. If Man U does not fix their defensive woes and play sluggish as they did on Saturday, Man City will have no trouble getting their revenge.