It's up for grabs now...

In the earliest days of a new season, it's easy to believe that anything is possible. Hence talk of title challenges at Everton and Tottenham during the first months of the last campaign, a possible European push for Sheffield United or, get this, Arsenal finishing in the Champions League places. In other words: getting carried away with predictions is all part of the energetic flush of the occasion. 

That said, it doesn't feel too outlandish to suggest that the Premier League will be more keenly contested this time around than it has been in the previous two years. Chelsea were convincing winners at home to Crystal Palace scoring three times – finding the net has been their Achilles heel – and that was without the presence of new signing Romelu Lukaku in the line-up. Similarly, Manchester United were convincing winners over Leeds United at Old Trafford without two of their fancy new arrivals – Jadon Sancho and Raphael Varane, although it must be recognised that they beat the same opponents by just as convincing a margin (6-2 in the league at the same venue last December). 

Then there was Liverpool, who looked much more like the team that won the title in 2019-20 than the one that limped home in fourth in 20-21, as they stuck three past newly promoted Norwich City. Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are still likely to add some new faces before the transfer window is out meaning those in the chasing pack look better equipped to keep Manchester City honest from now until late spring.

Brighton could do with a steady Eddie

Brighton's season-long battle against relegation last season was characterised by their inability to convert their chances, hence their interest in bringing in Odsonne Edouard from Celtic. At Turf Moor on Saturday, their profligate ways seemed to be set to one side as they scored twice from the kind of chances they were missing at a regular rate in the previous campaign (for example they outperformed their expected goals ratio at the weekend). 

That's not to say that any interest in Edouard will have dissipated by dint of beating Burnley, a side who will likely be jostling for position with Graham Potter's side in the lower-half of the table. On the contrary, having possibly found a solution to goals coming from others in the team, Potter will definitely want one more consistent provider of them. An interesting footnote was the performance of Shane Duffy, who could be reunited with Edouard, after a shambolic loan spell at Celtic. The centre-back looked a bit more like his old self, clearing one chance off the line for Brighton and making at least one vital clearance. Perhaps, doing the no-nonsense stuff just suits him better rather than trying to play out from the back.

Burnley goal aside VAR is a triumph

At times last season, it felt as if this column could be constructed entirely of five-point debates over that particular weekend's baffling VAR decisions. It was a blessed relief therefore to take in this weekend's action with nary a cause for reflection. There was none of the geometric gymnastics that would have given Pythagoras a headache nor endless delays as a man in a Portakabin looked at multiple angles of one tackle that would be given as a red card while a similar one was deemed acceptable. No doubt aware of how VAR worked so well at Euro 2020 the PGMOL has opted for a softer implementation of the technology. 

It was a triumph for the most part – but there was one gripe: how James Tarkowski's two-handed shove on Neil Maupay for Burnley's goal against Brighton survived after a lengthy review demonstrated that perfection will never be possible where subjective decision-making is concerned.

Benitez breathes a sigh of relief

“To see that the players care and the players try, means that we are together and the fans will appreciate that. Obviously, if we do all these things and you lose it would be more difficult,” was Rafa Benitez's euphemistic response to a question after his side's resounding win over Southampton. For a man who has had a threatening sign placed near his Merseyside home by some Everton fans due to previous criticism of the club during his time as Liverpool manager, the Spaniard needed the 3-1 win. There were pockets of boos when Michael Keane gifted Southampton the opener but by the time Dominic Calvert-Lewin headed in the third, Goodison Park sounded like the crowd during the closing set at Live Aid.

Okay, it might have just been a response to 18 months without live football but as Benitez will attest, it certainly helps keep the critics at bay when you win.

Citizen Kane?

Hugo Lloris, the Spurs captain, had said Harry Kane would be professional should Nuno Espirito Santo require his services for the Premier League opener against Manchester City, the club that has been linked with a move for the Tottenham striker all summer. When it came to the game itself, the decision was taken out of Kane's hands and he was omitted from Nuno's squad due to a lack of fitness. It proved the correct decision as Heung-min Son, so often second fiddle to Kane scored the game's only goal, with City looking desperately in need of someone like, well, Harry Kane

Pep Guardiola – who named a bench that contained £350m's worth of players – made some hypocritical statement about clubs only being able to pay what they can afford and that City were a team that liked to invest in the team while others preferred not to: the kind of twisted thinking that allows City to lavish a quarter of a billion on talent every season – and that's just their lawyers.

To date, City appear to have made just one offer for Kane – coincidentally it is said to be a shade under the £100m price tag that the 28-year-old set for himself during an interview with Gary Neville during the tail end of last season. Alas for Kane and City, the only price that matters is Spurs chairman Daniel Levy's.