Five things we learned from the opening weekend of the Premier League
The first weekend of the Premier League threw up big scores, contrasting managerial debuts, fourth official man-handling and already some disgruntled supporters. Here are five things we learned from the weekend.
By Declan Whooley
Thankfully the football is back. The Olympics was a welcome distraction, and a good sports filler, but the angst is over with the first weekend season behind us. Here’s what we learned from round one.
1. City and United are following on from last season
Last season finished with United struggling for form and City taking the title after coming from behind late on to dramatically beat QPR. City’s win over Southampton and United’s defeat to Everton was a continuation of that trend.
Sergio Aguero’s injury could have repercussions, though his replacement Edin Dzeko snatched the equaliser after the Saints took a shock lead with 20 minutes to go. Samir Nasri’s winner was inevitable, and it was nice to see Roberto Mancini dispense with his customary blue and white scarf, even if it is only August.
United, on the other hand, looked lethargic against a Fellaini-inspired Toffees side. Shinji Kagawa showed promise, while Robin van Persie only appeared with less than a quarter of the game to go. Danny Welbeck, Wayne Rooney and Nani were toothless in attack, while the make-shift defence of Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia was under pressure throughout. Fergie will hope his injured defenders recover quickly and his attackers develop a better understanding than was evident at Goodison.
2. Brendan Rodgers is not a miracle worker
Liverpool supporters had hoped that Brendan Rodgers would bring his ‘pass and move’ style football from the Liberty Stadium with quick results. The summer optimism has faded somewhat after a sobering defeat at the Hawthorns where the home side should really have scored more than three goals.
Rodgers has a lot of work to do to turn a side that has been average at best over the past two seasons into Champions League contenders. Luis Suarez continues to fluff his chances, Steven Gerrard looked both disinterested and unsure of his role in midfield, while the partnership of Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger was vulnerable throughout the game.
Rodgers will expect a vast improvement with the visit of the champions next Sunday.
3. Expect more unusual results throughout the season.
Few would have predicted Fulham’s demolition of Norwich and that Michael Laudrup’s first game in charge of Swansea would see them put five past QPR at Carrow Road (a lot of self-pity in our office from those that left new signing Michu off their fantasy team!).
Not a bad debut by Michu, was it?
Everton taking three points against United was a surprise if not a shock, while Southampton scoring two goals at fortress Eastlands to take a temporary lead was certainly not on the cards. Sunderland profited from LARVP (Life After You Know Who) to keep a clean sheet at the Emirates as the home side failed to take their chances. It bodes well for the season and will make a mockery of our accumulators.
4. Newly promoted sides can play ball
A win, loss and draw was the lot for last year’s Championship teams, but all showed enough to suggest they are not certainties for the drop.
Southampton gave a credible account of themselves at Man City, even holding the lead for all of four minutes in the second half, after substitutes Steven Davis and Rickie Lambert came off the bench to score. With a relatively inexperienced squad, they will need a clean bill of health for their first XI to retain their Premier League status.
Reading salvaged a late equaliser at the Madejski, and with players such as Adam Le Fondre, Danny Gutherie, Jobi McAnuff and Pavel Pogrebnyak in the team, they could well have enough to steer clear of trouble by the end of May
Big Sam has his detractors at West Ham, but you cannot argue with an opening day win. Kevin Nolan’s winner was scrappy one coming from a set-piece, and though Aston Villa had more possession, they could do little to break down the West Ham defence. The strength of their squad means that a mid-table spot is realistically more the target than survival.
5. Uncertain futures in North London
Arsenal and Tottenham fans have understandable reasons to be nervous about their teams’ fortunes over the coming season.
The loss of last seasons top scorer Robin van Persie and their leading assist man Alex Song to Barcelona has done little to quieten the claim that Arsenal are a selling club. No silverware in the past seven seasons is a cause for concern, though Wenger has dipped into the transfer funds more than previous seasons.
Santi Cazorla was another impressive debutant
Santi Cazorla kept Sunderland busy for 90 minutes on Saturday, creating more scoring chances than other player at the weekend. Lukas Podolski also made his first start, but the old failing of putting the ball in the net came back to haunt them.
If the Gunners new signings click (a fit again Aaron Ramsay is, to use a well-worn cliche, like a new signing), then Champions League is well within their grasp. If not, the murmurings from unhappy supporters may become more vocal.
Rivals Spurs can be forgiven for feeling cautious this term. Luka Modric wants away from White Hart Lane, and their own transfer activity hangs on his move. Villas Boas needs to bring in more striking options, while he must convince the fans that his short-lived spell at rivals Chelsea was just a blip. He has work to do as he has won just three of his last 13 Premier League matches.