All that’s changed for Arsenal fans is that they can no longer blame Arsene Wenger.
And Unai Emery will be relieved he doesn’t have to come up against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City every week.
City rarely looked troubled by Arsenal as the champions opened their Premier League title defense with a 2-0 victory on Sunday. Raheem Sterling cut through the defense with ease before putting City ahead in the 14th minute, and Bernardo Silva curled in the second in the 64th at the Emirates Stadium.
It was the first time since 1996 that Arsenal has opened a season without Wenger in charge. The “Merci Arsene” banner was the only indication that it has been a summer of transition at the north London club since Wenger was pushed toward resigning after 22 years in charge.
Catching City isn’t the immediate target for the Gunners, who last won the title in 2004. It’s just about returning to the top four - to qualify for the Champions League - after slumping to sixth in Wenger’s final campaign.
Emery now has a clear sense of the task he faces, throwing his arms in the air in frustration as the goals were conceded.
“It’s clear today, Manchester City is demanding our best performance,” the former Paris Saint-Germain and Sevilla coach said. “We need to continue working. But I am happy with the players because they run and they fight, and also we need (to) continue working tactically.”
It was a serene afternoon on the touchline for Guardiola, just like so much of last season which ended with City setting a series of Premier League records, notably by amassing 100 points.
“The desire to run and run, it was the same as the last season,” Guardiola said. “The first game away against Arsenal, nobody can deny that it’s complicated. A new manager after 20 years.”
Guardiola, whose Barcelona came up against Emery as Valencia coach, is in only his third season at City.
“Manchester City’s performance is showing us we need to continue in our process, improving,” Emery said. “They deserved this, the result. But we were improving (across) the 90 minutes. I think we need (that) for the next week.”
That is a challenging trip across London to Chelsea, which opened the season under new manager Maurizio Sarri with a 3-0 victory at Huddersfield on Saturday.
Liverpool signaled its determination to challenge for the title by spending more than $200 million on players, more than any other Premier League team in the summer transfer window.
With debuts for Alisson in goal and Naby Keita in midfield, Liverpool opened with a 4-0 victory over West Ham.
Mohamed Salah, who scored 44 times in his first season at Liverpool, took only 19 minutes to get off the mark at Anfield by meeting Andrew Robertson’s cross with a tap-in.
Another cross from Robertson opened up West Ham for Liverpool’s second in first-half stoppage time. James Milner’s cutback was turned into the net by Sadio Mane, who added a third eight minutes after the break.
Even after Salah was taken off, the Egyptian’s replacement, Daniel Sturridge, found the net late.
Liverpool, which finished fourth last season, hasn’t won the English title since 1990.
“We know about our expectations and we realize there is a really positive atmosphere around us in the pre-season,” manager Juergen Klopp said. “That is good that people are positive, but this season will be unbelievably hard. We cannot be anything different than the challenger because we haven’t won anything since I came in.”
Also Sunday, Southampton and Burnley drew 0-0.