By Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
The opening weekend of the English Premiership season will not live long in the memory.
Of the nine games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, five ended in draws, including three 0-0 stalemates, while one match, Everton's visit to Tottenham, was postponed due to the riots in London.
Defending champions Manchester United got off to a winning start against West Bromwich, while title contenders Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool each stumbled to draws in their inaugural match of the season.
Promoted side QPR got a rude welcome to the top flight with a 4-0 home defeat against Bolton, with fellow newcomers Norwich City fairing a bit better as the Canaries got off the mark with a 1-1 draw against Wigan.
Here's a look at the biggest stories from the opening weekend of the season:
FABREGAS COMPLETES MOVE TO BARCELONA
With the play on the field failing to inspire, the biggest story of the weekend has to be the long-awaited transfer of Cesc Fabregas from Arsenal to Barcelona.
The deal could eventually bring $57 million to North London from the Spanish giants, while midfielder Samir Nasri has also been heavily linked with a move away from the Emirates Stadium.
Manager Arsene Wenger was quoted in British newspapers over the weekend as saying that he is worried that Arsenal is becoming a feeder club for Europe's elite teams, with Fabregas following players like Patrick Vieira, Kolo Toure and Alex Hleb away from the Gunners.
With Nasri likely to join that group, Wenger may have a point.
But he also has the ability to do something about it, with Arsenal's failure to deliver trophies in recent seasons a big reason for some of the departures.
It is becoming clear, as Wenger will tell anyone who will listen, that Arsenal cannot compete on the same scale financially with clubs like Barcelona, Chelsea, Manchester City, Manchester United or Real Madrid.
However, with the money that the club will receive from Barca in addition to the potential funds from the sale of Nasri, Wenger must act now if his team is going to remain among the elite in the Premiership.
Arsenal looked lifeless in a 0-0 draw with Newcastle on Saturday as both Fabregas and Nasri were out of the lineup, painting a bleak future for the team if Wenger fails to add quality players before the close of the transfer window.
Carlos Tevez and Jadson are two players being linked with the club, while defender Gary Cahill is also rumored to be on the radar.
The addition of two or all three players would be a positive step for a club that desperately needs to move in the right direction.
VILLAS-BOAS DRAWS A BLANK IN CHELSEA DEBUT
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas made his Premiership debut at Stoke City on Sunday, and left the Britannia Stadium with a frustrating 0-0 draw.
The result was not the desired one, but it gave the new boss a glimpse at what life is like in the Premiership.
Villas-Boas cost Chelsea $21 million to arrive from FC Porto, where he led the club to a treble and unbeaten season in the league last term.
But expectations at Stamford Bridge will be considerably tougher to match, as the 33-year-old will soon find out.
He has plenty of talent at Chelsea to succeed, but maybe his biggest task will be fitting it all into a cohesive unit.
Chelsea has plenty of quality options in attack with Fernando Torres, Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda just to name a few. And how he juggles that situation could go a long way toward determining Chelsea's fate this season.
On Sunday, Villas-Boas opted to use Torres up top with Malouda and Kalou, leaving Drogba and Anelka to come on as substitutes. But you can bet that both Drogba and Anelka will be expecting to get their turn in the starting 11 soon, otherwise it could cause problems.
DE GEA OFFERS UP MORE QUESTONS THAN ANSWERS
It's safe to say that after Sunday's 2-1 win over West Bromwich, Manchester United fans are no longer taking Edwin van der Sar for granted, if they ever did.
The Dutchman signed with United from Fulham prior to the 2005 campaign, and the stability he brought to the team in goal over the next six seasons was invaluable.
But his retirement following last season's title-winning campaign left big shoes to fill for replacement David De Gea, who struggled against the Baggies in his league debut.
The 20-year-old looked shaky in the Community Shield win over Manchester City last weekend, and the goal he allowed on Sunday to West Brom's Shane Long from a tight angle did little to inspire confidence.
De Gea cost United nearly $30 million from Atletico Madrid this summer, and although the early returns have not been good, manager Sir Alex Ferguson is backing the youngster to survive his early troubles, citing what world-class goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel went through upon his arrival at United in 1991.
BOLTON'S BIG DAY
A win over a promoted side on the opening day of the season is usually not much to get excited about.
But for Bolton, Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of QPR at Loftus Road was more important than just three points.
Following the departures of Johan Elmander and Daniel Sturridge, who combined to score 18 times last season, many wondered where the club would get goals from outside of Kevin Davies.
After finishing 14th last season, Wanderers was a club that some felt might struggle to maintain that position this campaign.
Saturday's result was a good one for Bolton, but we will get a better indication of where the club is at in the coming weeks as league matches with Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United are up next for manager Owen Coyle's side.
The boss has put together a nice group of players which could have Bolton challenging for a spot in the top half of the league, but financial restrictions and the potential departure of defender Gary Cahill, who might be set for a move to Arsenal in the coming weeks, could complicate things.
The biggest game of next weekend has to be the showdown at the Emirates Stadium between Arsenal and Liverpool.
With Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United generally regarded as top-three caliber teams, this match could be an early indication of who has the inside track on the fourth spot.
Both teams also appear to be headed in opposite directions at the moment as well, with Arsenal in a state of flux after the departure of Fabregas and potentially Nasri, while Liverpool looks revived under manager Kenny Dalglish.
Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll were big additions last season, while both Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing looked impressive in their debuts as the Reds were held to a 1-1 draw against Sunderland this past weekend.