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Premier League

6 Truths: Guardiola gets helping hand from Moyes, Hart has to go

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Sunderland's Scottish manager David Moyes (L) is greeted by Manchester City's Spanish manager Pep Guardiola

Image credit: AFP

ByTom Adams
13/08/2016 at 17:33 | Updated 13/08/2016 at 18:42
@tomadams83

What we learned as the Premier League returned, with Pep Guardiola getting off to a winning start with Manchester City.

The season started with a bang

Robert Snodgrass, Ahmed Elmohamady et Adama Diomande (Hull City, 2016)

Image credit: AFP

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It’s pretty impossible not to enjoy the start of a new Premier League season, so pregnant is the moment with hope and the promise of the new. Star signings are paraded, new managers get their introductions to England and all teams start level on points, a season of possibility stretching out in front of them. But even so, this was an entertaining first day of 2016-17.

The very first match delivered. Leicester City suffered an indignity never seen in the Premier League before as the reigning champions lost on the opening day for the first time. The team doing a Leicester, to Leicester, were the very same Hull City without a permanent manager and without a single new signing in a summer of turmoil.

The Premier League proved it has not lost its amazing ability to shock and entertain as Hull took the lead on the verge of half-time and in some style too, with Abel Hernandez and Adama Diomande combining for a double-overhead-kick. It was quite a re-introduction to top-flight football as Hull went on to secure the win. Once again, it seems, nothing can be certain.

Guardiola needed Moyes' help to get his first win

Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov celebrates Sunderland's Paddy McNair scoring a own goal and their second

Image credit: Reuters

It was three points for Pep Guardiola in his first match as Manchester City manager - but only after a lucky late intervention. City started in impressive fashion at the Etihad but lost the early momentum from Sergio Aguero's opener from the penalty spot as the match petered out. There were interesting tactical lessons to be learned (see below) but after Jermain Defoe had fired Sunderland level it took a mistake from opposite number David Moyes to allow City back in the game.

Moyes lost his nerve a bit on 83 minutes as he replaced Defoe, the only player on his team likely to score, with Paddy McNair, who was making his debut following his move from Manchester United. McNair had been a Sunderland player less than a week and, four minutes later, when Jesus Navas delivered a wicked cross he got himself a bit confused and headed into his own net.

It seemed an unnecessarily negative switch by Moyes, and he was punished for it.

We saw early signs of the Pep effect

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola before the game

Image credit: Reuters

The late kick-off between Manchester City and Sunderland was barely four minutes old before Guardiola saw his team open up an early advantage over Moyes' men. Raheem Sterling won a penalty and Aguero smacked it home for the first goal of what could be a prolific season for the striker. But it was what was happening in City's own third that caught the eye of many.

You can always expect experimentation and innovation with Guardiola in the dugout and so it proved as Aleksandar Kolarov - a sometime left-back liability and long-shot connoisseur - was tasked with playing at centre-back alongside £47.5m signing John Stones. When City had the ball, Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna moved into midfield as Fernandinho dropped back. It was a ploy Guardiola used at Barcelona and Bayern Munich - first with Sergio Busquets and then with Xabi Alonso - but was something a bit different for the Premier League.

Hart has to leave City in the next two-and-a-half weeks

Manchester City's Joe Hart warms up with Willy Caballero before the match

Image credit: Reuters

The Daily Express broke the story on the morning of the game but it was only confirmed when the teamsheets were published at the Etihad Stadium: Joe Hart is no longer Manchester City's first choice goalkeeper. Guardiola explained the decision by saying that Willy Caballero had a good pre-season and that he "trusted" the Argentinian, before hastily adding that he of course trusted Hart too. But the writing was on the wall.

Willy isn't exactly Manuel Neuer himself but the fact he is preferred to Hart even as the club try to bring in Marc Andre ter Stegen tells you how little Guardiola rates the England No. 1. Hart simply doesn't have the footballing ability to play in a Guardiola team and he needs to recognise that his time at City is effectively over. If he wants to keep his international place and resist the threat of Jack Butland, he needs to get a move to another Premier League club.

Leicester are still to be feared

Leicester City's Riyad Mahrez celebrates scoring their first goal

Image credit: Reuters

Leicester were uncharacteristically disorganized in their defeat to Hull and showed a soft centre which we don’t normally associate with them. Wes Morgan looked particularly vulnerable at the back and control was lacking in midfield, with Andy King struggling. The temptation was to attribute this to the loss of N’Golo Kante to Chelsea, and clearly his departure is a big setback for Claudio Ranieri.

However, King is not Kante’s replacement. That would be Nampalys Mendy, who will surely be a first-team fixture soon after joining from Nice for £10m this summer. Once Leicester do stabilise, they could be even more dangerous than last season with Ahmed Musa looking lively in attack. He is lightning quick and showed some very intelligent touches to suggest he will add a real threat in attack.

Ranieri was right: it’s about as likely Leicester will win the league again as it is alien life will be discovered in central London -- the big clubs are all set to make a leap forward in quality. But neither does that mean Leicester will slink back to midtable. They are still a force.

Negredo can be a big star for Boro

Middlesbrough's Alvaro Negredo celebrates scoring their first goal

Image credit: Reuters

It has been a long seven seasons out of the top flight for Middlesbrough but a bright showing in a 1-1 draw with Stoke City showed they have a good chance of staying up this season, particularly with new signing Alvaro Negredo getting off the mark. The Spain international was a canny signing from Valencia and nodded his side in front at the Riverside. If he can keep firing, and fellow Spain international Victor Valdes can show the form which once made him one of the world's best keepers, Boro will have a very good chance of survival.

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FootballPremier LeagueManchester CityJosep Guardiola
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