LONDON — 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 defence with a 2-0 victory on Sunday. Raheem Sterling cut through the defence with ease before putting City ahead in the 14th minute, and Bernardo Silva curled in the second in the 64th at the Emirates Stadium.
WATCH MATCH HIGHLIGHTS: Liverpool 4, West Ham United 0 || Southampton 0, Burnley 0 || Arsenal 0, Manchester City 2
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 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.
LIVERPOOL 4, WEST HAM UNITED 0
Mohamed Salah set Liverpool on its way to a 4-0 victory over West Ham in an assertive start to the Premier League season by Juergen Klopp’s side.
The Egypt forward scored 44 times in his first season at Liverpool and took only 19 minutes to get off the mark at Anfield.
Sadio Mane netted in first-half stoppage time and eight minutes after the break. Daniel Sturridge converted his first touch after coming on as a late substitute.
SOUTHAMPTON 0, BURNLEY 0
Mark Hughes booted a water bottle in frustration as Southampton opened the Premier League season with a 0-0 draw against Burnley on Sunday.
“I thought it was a good pass myself,” Hughes joked. “It was a little bit of frustration because I see these players every day and I know the quality they have in close quarters. But I don’t think we were brave enough early on.
“I thought we didn’t really get the intensity I’d asked for at the beginning of the game. Maybe that was apprehension at the beginning of the new season, maybe we were erring on the side of safety. I left it five minutes into the second half, after speaking to them and saying we needed to be on the front foot more. That didn’t change, so then I made personnel changes.”
New signings Danny Ings and Mohamed Elyounoussi added guile and impetus after coming off the bench in the 56th minute at St. Mary’s Stadium
“I thought we were on top for the rest of the second half,” Hughes said. “I’m not rigid to stick to one formation or way of playing. It’s always better to have the ability to change. You’ve got to have the nous, understand what’s happening and make changes to turn it your way.
“We do work on different formations in training. The fact we were able to get a foothold so quickly after making the change is credit to the players.”
Former Southampton midfielder Jack Cork went closest to breaking the deadlock, slotting home early on only to be judged offside in a contentious call. Video assistant referees are not being used in the league.
“It’s very tight,” Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. “I don’t know what VAR would make of that, and I’m a big fan of that. I don’t really know. I’m not crying over that, but you just hope that over the course of the season you get one back.”