Premier League: 5 things we learned from the opening weekend

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We all enjoyed the World Cup, some of us even then went on to pretend to enjoy the Commonwealth Games, but when it comes to true sporting satisfaction, the Premier League is hard to beat.

A fine opening weekend looks to have set us up for an incredibly close season all round, here are five pertinent points to come out of the first few clashes of the season.

Midlands supremacy will be a hard-fought battle

After following up their ninth-place finish from last season with an impressive summer in the transfer market, Stoke were almost everyone’s pick to be the best of the four Midlands sides.

They’re still the market leaders at 8/5, but all three of their competitors enjoyed fine weekends to throw the Potters aspirations of glory into doubt.

Aston Villa (15/8), expected to be relegation candidates, beat Stoke at the Britannia, while West Brom (9/2), also favoured for the drop by many, were unlucky to only draw with Sunderland. 

Finally, newly-promoted Leicester (4/1) proved they will be no pushover by fighting back to draw with Everton.

Man Utd need new signings

Louis van Gaal brings no shortage of pedigree to the dugout compared to his predecessor, but the Red Devils’ squad is still just as short of top quality as it was under David Moyes.

A home loss to Swansea was the worst possible start for Van Gaal and he needs new faces fast if United are to get anywhere near the top four place they are priced at 4/9 to claim.

Thrashings might be a thing of the past

Man City and Liverpool both netted over 100 goals last season, bumping up those numbers with regular pastings of the teams beneath them, but this time around things are set to be much closer.

Aided by a slew of new recruits, Newcastle ran City very close, while the Reds were fortunate to beat the Southampton side they plucked three players from over the summer at Anfield.

Arsenal are still short of a top striker

Admittedly this has been known for a while, but here’s an interesting stat; just two teams had more shots than Arsenal at the weekend, but a mere six of their 14 efforts came from within the area.

The Gunners needed midfield dynamo Aaron Ramsey to snatch a late winner against manager-less Crystal Palace, with Yaya Sanogo and Olivier Giroud both as blunt as ever.

Referees are flummoxed by new handball rules

New rules are rarely inherently bad, but when referees are unsure of exactly what they are, problems are quickly created.

The laws surrounding intentional handballs have been expanded to include any ‘unnatural positioning’ of arms by defenders, with Kyle Naughton and James Chester both falling foul of them on opening day.

While Naughton had his arms raised, a red card seemed harsh considering he was very close to the ball, while Chester had his arms by his sides when a penally was awarded against him.

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