European soccer is back, with the English Premier League, Spanish LaLiga, and French Ligue 1 all beginning this weekend. We also had a first look at Bayern Munich in the German Super Cup vs. RB Leipzig, with the German Bundesliga and Italian Serie A set to resume next weekend.
So let’s get into it: with a full menu of games, here are your talking points, great goals and all the news from a wonderful Saturday in the big European leagues.
The lead: Olmo overshadows Kane’s Bayern bow
On the day that Bayern presented Harry Kane as their blockbuster signing, the stage was set for the longtime England captain to make his debut at the Allianz Arena in the German Supercup against last season’s German Cup winners, RB Leipzig. The man who stole the show, though, was Leipzig playmaker Dani Olmo, who scored all three goals in the Red Bull-backed club’s 3-0 win over Bayern.
With Dominik Szoboszlai and Christopher Nkunku having left for Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively, Olmo more than ever is the creative mastermind of the team. The game on Saturday showed once again that the Spain international can be a clinical goal scorer and make his presence felt everywhere on the pitch. Olmo’s endurance and energy level is almost unparalleled in European football, and no one from Bayern was able to contain the 25-year-old until Leipzig manager Marco Rose subbed him off in the 78th minute.
Fifteen minutes before Olmo exited stage left, Kane stepped into the spotlight, when Thomas Tuchel brought him to replace Mathys Tel. It was clear from the minute Kane entered that his new teammates wanted to get him involved.
Kingsley Coman tried to find the former Tottenham Hotspur talisman with several cross-field passes, but on such short notice, there was little chemistry between Kane and the rest of Bayern’s attack. It didn’t help that the entire team seemed stunned by the Olmo show.
As second rate as the Supercup title is in Germany, Leipzig should be proud of their performance. Despite losing Szoboszlai, Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol, this newly assembled team — particularly the midfield with Olmo and the recently arrived Xavi Simons and Nicolas Seiwald — had a promising performance against the reigning champions.
Meanwhile, while some observers expected that Kane would win his first trophy on his first day with Bayern, after 10 silverware-less seasons with Spurs, he remains without one. For now. — Constantin Eckner
News of the day
Real Madrid have accelerated talks with Chelsea over a loan for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, sources have told ESPN, after Sevilla‘s financial demands put them off a move for Yassine Bounou. Madrid are in the market for a goalkeeper after Thibaut Courtois suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear in a training session on Thursday, leaving them relying on the inexperienced Andriy Lunin, 24.
Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Marco Verratti were left out of the Paris Saint-Germain squad for Saturday’s season-opening home draw against Lorient, with the trio’s future at the club uncertain. Mbappé is among a number of players tipped to leave the Parc des Princes in the transfer window, which closes on Sept. 1, with French media reporting that record signing Neymar and midfielder Verratti are also surplus to requirements. Read the full story.
Former United States men’s national team player Julian Green was the victim of racist abuse in a German Cup game on Saturday. Green, who is Black, was playing for Greuther Fürth against host Hallescher FC in the first round of the competition. On the Fürth club website, Green said a spectator racially abused him during the game. Read the full story.
Talking points around the leagues
Arsenal off to winning start, but improvements needed
LONDON — Arsenal started their attempt to prove last season’s Premier League title challenge was no fluke with a 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest. The performance was a mixed bag, though. There were encouraging signs from a tactical tweak which saw midfielder Thomas Partey start at right-back — something Mikel Arteta first tried against the same opposition when losing at Forest in May, but this time with new £105m signing Declan Rice starting at the base of midfield. Partey stepped into central areas giving Rice more license to go forward and this overload helped Arsenal dominate possession, ending with 78 per cent of the ball.
It did not lead to increased creativity, however, as an xG of 0.80 indicated — despite spending extended periods chasing play, Forest finished with an xG of 1.09. The Gunners’ goals owed much to flashes of individual quality: Gabriel Martinelli‘s sumptuous Cruyff turn for Eddie Nketiah‘s opener and Bukayo Saka‘s stunning 20-yard strike which ultimately earned them three points. The second half will be something of a concern given they struggled to kill the game off and conceded on the counter-attack as Taiwo Awoniyi converted in the 81st-minute following Anthony Elanga‘s lungbusting run.
Arsenal beat Forest in ‘frantic finale’ at Emirates
James Olley reports from the Emirates as Arsenal beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 with goals from Edward Nketiah and Bukayo Saka.
A needlessly frantic finale followed but Arsenal held on for a result marred slightly by a potentially worrying injury for Jurrien Timber, whose competitive debut ended in the 50th-minute with a knee problem. Ultimately, Arsenal fans went home happy but not before a ticketing farce delayed kick-off by 30 minutes. The club have implemented a new digital ticketing system this season but it went down in the build-up to the planned start time, meaning thousands of fans were effectively locked outside the ground. This was a positive start overall for Arsenal but there are things to improve on and off the pitch. –– James Olley
Bellingham scores, fits right in on Real Madrid debut
Some players are intimidated by the Real Madrid shirt, cowed by the pressure at the world’s most demanding football club. Not Jude Bellingham, who has looked a Madrid player from the moment he walked in the door at the Santiago Bernabeu.
The England midfielder’s performance in a 2-0 win at Athletic Club on Saturday — his competitive Madrid debut, away at a hostile San Mames — was outrageously good. It was no surprise when Bellingham scored in the 36th minute, adding Madrid’s second goal with a deceptively difficult finish, guiding his shot into the ground before it bounced up and over goalkeeper Unai Simón. An exhilarating second-half run, picking up the ball inside his own half before beating three defenders, bursting forward and single-handedly creating a goal-scoring opportunity, was a showcase for his rare mix of elite physical and technical attributes.
Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti picked a midfield quartet of Aurélien Tchouaméni, Eduardo Camavinga, Federico Valverde and Bellingham in Bilbao. All four offer non-stop running and off-the-ball energy, as well as plenty of quality in possession, with Toni Kroos and Luka Modric ready to contribute off the bench.
There are other, legitimate worries for Madrid — Courtois’ ACL tear is a major setback, defender Éder Militão limped off here with what looked like another potentially serious injury, and there are doubts as to whether they’ll score enough goals if Mbappé doesn’t end up arriving before deadline day — but their stacked midfield isn’t one of them. — Alex Kirkland
PSG are a work in progress
No Lionel Messi (in Miami), no Neymar (has a virus), no Mbappé (in exile) and lots of problems for Paris Saint-Germain, as the Luis Enrique era began with an infuriating, inexplicable 0-0 home draw with Lorient on Saturday. A whopping 20 shots yielded no goals as it became clear just what a work in progress PSG suddenly are in 2023.
Goncalo Ramos (22 years old), Lee Kang-In (22) and Marco Asensio formed a new-look attacking trident and were lively if unsuccessful around goal. Ramos and Lee both brought out the best from Lorient keeper Yvon Mvogo in either half, with the Switzerland international equal to anything. He palmed away a curling Ramos effort from nestling in the top corner after just eight minutes, was equal to a Fabián Ruiz attempt with 15 minutes remaining, and smothered a Carlos Soler shot through a crowded area in injury time. Achraf Hakimi and Vitinha should have done better with second-half efforts that grazed the woodwork, but Lorient clung on despite just 20% of the ball all afternoon long.
PSG won’t be concerned about the result in the grand scheme of things — they generated chances, it’s Ligue 1 and they don’t really need to try until February or so — but the off-field issues with Mbappe (who is being kept away from the squad due to constant transfer links with Real Madrid) and Neymar (who is seemingly surplus to requirements) need to be resolved in order for this team to truly move forward. — James Tyler
Luton’s Premier League debut
Luton Town‘s first appearance in English football’s top-flight for 31 years ended in the sort of scoreline that many predicted beforehand and will raise fears a long season lies ahead. The Hatters have never played in the Premier League — their previous appearance came in 1992, a year before the division was formed — and their stay could be a short one if Saturday’s 4-1 defeat at Brighton is any gauge of what is to come. There were encouraging signs, at least in the way they defended resolutely for long periods and boss Rob Edwards will be proud his team stayed in the game until the final five minutes as Carlton Morris‘ 81st-minute penalty cut Brighton’s lead to 2-1.
However, although Brighton have ripped apart some of the best teams at Amex Stadium in recent times, it is a measure of the gulf in class that the home side enjoyed 71 per cent possession and registered 27 shots, 12 of which were on target. And that authoritative display came without Alexis Mac Allister — sold earlier in the summer to Liverpool — and Moisés Caicedo, who could join him on Merseyside or move to Chelsea if they match the Reds’ £111m offer. João Pedro and Simon Adingra marked their debuts with goals in a win Brighton thoroughly deserved. Luton made them work hard for it but doubts the league’s newcomers — boasting five debutants here — possess sufficient quality to thrive in the Premier League were only reinforced by events on the south coast. –– Olley
Valencia kids show relegation no sure thing
Valencia are many LaLiga watchers’ picks for relegation candidates this season, after another summer that has seen the squad weakened — with Yunus Musah and Edinson Cavani leaving, and Samuel Lino‘s loan coming to an end — and few new recruits coming in. Coach Ruben Baraja has been vocal about the need for reinforcements.
In the meantime, though, he’s been forced to rely on the same youngsters who saved Valencia last season, academy products who Baraja bravely brought into the side in a gamble that paid off when they avoided the drop on the last day of the campaign.
On Friday, it was midfielder Javi Guerra, 20, who scored the decisive 88th-minute goal in a 2-1 win at Sevilla. He was a second-half substitute, while the starting lineup also included Diego López (21) and Fran Pérez (20), with Pablo Gozalbez (22) and Jesús Vázquez (20) also introduced off the bench.
This reliance on homegrown talent is a necessity more than a choice, given the limited squad at Baraja’s disposal, but Guerra in particular looks to be a serious player in the making. His previous career highlight was scoring a crucial 90th-minute winner against relegation rivals Real Valladolid in April. Now he’s got another for his collection, a well-taken near-post finish that gave Valencia all three points at the Sanchez Pizjuan.
Baraja will just be hoping that an opening day win won’t be taken by absentee owner Peter Lim as a signal that no signings are needed, after all. — Kirkland
NFL legend Tom Brady recently announced his co-ownership of Championship club Birmingham City, and flew in on Saturday to watch his team defeat Leeds United 1-0 on their first home match of the season. On his way to the match, Brady posted on X “Any plans before kick off guys?”
His plans included a cameo at a pub, where he surprised BCFC fans, who will hope their club can enjoy a bit of the success that Brady achieved as an all-time NFL great.
Tom Brady at a pub in Birmingham ahead of BCFC’s game against Leeds is something I never thought I’d write pic.twitter.com/H5M8phzBhw
— Luis Miguel Echegaray (@lmechegaray) August 12, 2023