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Premier League Debut Watch: The best and worst debuts from the opening weekend

The 2023/24 Premier League season is underway, and the opening weekend gave us plenty to unpack.

Newcastle United, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Manchester City had near-perfect openers. They occupy the top three spots, following emphatic victories over Aston Villa, Luton Town and Burnley respectively.

Meanwhile, Arsenal’s title charge began with a marginal win over Nottingham Forest.

Tottenham Hotspur started life without Harry Kane with an entertaining 2-2 draw away at Brentford, and Chelsea and Liverpool were unable to get the better of each other.

Amid all that excitement, numerous players made their debuts for their new clubs. Some stood out for all the right reasons, while others were a cause for concern.

Here are the most notable Premier League debuts of the weekend.


Declan Rice – Arsenal

Many people questioned the nine-figure signing of Declan Rice at Arsenal, but the England international made a promising start to life at the Emirates Stadium.

For 80 minutes, the Gunners were in control, and Rice played a huge part in that.

He won the majority of his battles in midfield and looked calm on the ball, helping keep Nottingham Forest at bay. Rice also provided a goal threat, testing goalkeeper Matt Turner on three occasions.

Anthony Elanga – Nottingham Forest

As mentioned above, Arsenal looked comfortable for 80 minutes. However, they were rather nervy late in the game – largely down to the introduction of new boy Anthony Elanga.

The former Manchester United man had an immediate impact. Within seconds of coming on, he burst down the wing, got into the box and played a low cross for Taiwo Awoniyi to halve the deficit.

His pace and directness proved to be a real challenge for the Arsenal backline.

Joao Pedro – Brighton & Hove Albion

It’s rare to see Brighton spend big, but they’ve opened their wallets for Watford man Joao Pedro. The Brazilian arrives as the Seagulls’ record signing, and he is already on his way to being a success.

He was guilty of wasting a glorious early chance, but he soon made amends with a fine display.

Pedro won a penalty in the second half, which he duly stuck away with confidence.

Sandro Tonali – Newcastle United

Sandro Tonali has been the headline arrival of the summer at Newcastle, coming in from AC Milan for an estimated £55 million. If he builds on his stellar debut, he will repay that fee in no time.

The midfielder had an instant impact at St James’ Park, opening his account after just six minutes with a volley from Anthony Gordon’s cross.

He later played a key role in goals for Alexander Isak and Callum Wilson.

Moussa Diaby – Aston Villa

It was a difficult opening day for Aston Villa, falling to a 5-1 defeat. If it’s any consolation, debutant Moussa Diaby looked very lively.

The France international bagged the Villans’ first goal of the season, striking in on the bounce from Ollie Watkins’ flick-on.

He came close to adding another on two occasions and also created two chances.

Harvey Barnes – Newcastle United

It was a day for the debutants on Tyneside, as three different players netted on their first game. Harvey Barnes was introduced in the 68th minute and helped the Magpies seal an emphatic win.

First, he assisted Wilson with a low cross before setting him up with a similar chance not long afterwards.

And in injury time, he raced through on goal and finished from Jacob Murphy’s pass.

James Maddison – Tottenham Hotspur

It’s been an eventful window for Tottenham, losing one of their greatest-ever players after a drawn-out transfer saga.

On Sunday, a different England international was under the microscope, and he made an encouraging start.

James Maddison has taken an early lead in the race for the Playmaker Award, registering assists for Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal.

And he could have had even more, creating six chances against Brentford.

Nicolas Jackson – Chelsea

Chelsea’s striker troubles over the years have been well-documented. The newest challenger is Senegalese forward Nicolas Jackson.

There was a lot to analyse from his debut against Liverpool. There is no doubt that he was a handful, often getting the better of Virgil van Dijk and Ibrahima Konate.

He found himself in several promising positions and produced some fine work to create an excellent chance for Mykhailo Mudryk late on.

However, there are elements of his game which could need polishing. He will have been disappointed not to have got on the scoresheet, having spurned three good opportunities.


Pau Torres – Aston Villa

Not everyone had a dream debut at St James’ Park. Pau Torres was called upon to replace the injured Tyrone Mings in the first half, but he was unable to have the desired impact.

The Spaniard was part of a defence cut open on numerous occasions. He conceded three after the break, and it could have been more.

For Newcastle’s fourth, he was guilty of playing Barnes onside in the build-up.

Guglielmo Vicario – Tottenham Hotspur

While Maddison impressed, Spurs fans may be concerned with goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario.

Brought in as a replacement for long-serving former captain Hugo Lloris, the Italian didn’t have a brilliant afternoon on Sunday.

While it would be harsh to blame him for either of Brentford’s goals, other elements of his game were called into question.

The Italian looked nervous with the ball at his feet, flapped at a couple of crosses, and wasn’t always quick enough off his line.

Mason Mount – Manchester United

Mason Mount’s move to Old Trafford was an interesting one. Once a vital figure at Chelsea, he somewhat lost his way before pursuing a move away from the London outfit.

In his first appearance for the Red Devils, the midfielder wasn’t terrible but wasn’t particularly effective either.

He was unable to exert any sort of control over the game, often allowing Mario Lemina to get the better of him before being substituted in the second half.

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