EPL breakdown: Week one summary
Week one of the English Premier League is in the books, and despite two scoreless draws, there was plenty of action.
Some big names disappointed, some others, particularly a £35 million new boy, shone.
Key moment of the week:
It doesn’t matter that David De Gea made a complete meal of a routine safe, nor that they only had one shot on target for the match… what’s important is that the defending champions got off to a winning start at the Hawthorns over hosts West Bromwich Albion.
Slightly more concerning is the fact that Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand both sustained injuries, and although Phil Jones is an able replacement, with both missing we’ll get to see more comical defending from Jonny Evans in the coming weeks, which is nice.
The fact that Chelsea, Arsenal (and Liverpool, why not) all stuttered at the first time of asking is another thing for Fergie to be pleased about. Although, despite the win for the Red Devils, their neighbours currently sit atop the ladder along with another surprise packet from up north. Speaking of which…
Bolton Wanderers picked up where they left off in the back end of the 2010-11 season with a thumping of new boys QPR at Loftus Road. For the team that had the worst away record in the entire Premiership last year, this first up win will come as a very pleasant surprise.
Without Lee, Holden and others as well as the loss of Elmander on a free transfer you would’ve been forgiven to expect the home side to grab at least a point. But Ivan Klasnic, who has been so patient playing second fiddle to other forwards in the team, showed he definitely belongs as he turned in a very strong showing in his first start in a year.
He’s one player who’ll be keen to see the back of the substitutes bench – and if the combination with Kevin Davies is as successful down the road as it was yesterday, they won’t miss their big Swede at all.
Not the most impressive of home performances from their opponents, but nevertheless Wolverhampton Wanderers got off the best possible start beating Blackburn at Ewood Park and grabbing a jump on the rest of the perceived stragglers of the league with QPR, Wigan, Norwich and Swansea not tasting victory. Only 37 more points to safety for Mick McCarthy’s men.
The Britannia Stadium is never a haven for free flowing football, as the newly managed Chelsea found out when they drew a blank away to Stoke City. The home side were at their bustling best. Clinging on against a much more skillful team and belting it long at any opportunity.
Some call it ugly football, I think it gives hope for all Saturday/Sunday league defenders that as long as they can rough up opposing forwards and hoof the ball 60 metres to nobody, that they too, can perhaps one day play in the Premiership. A man can dream. (In all seriousness, Tony Pulis has done a great job and I can’t see Stoke ending their tenure in the top flight any time soon.)
Given my pre-match prediction was 4-0, it’s not really an overachievement, but whenever a team puts up a score like that, you have to take notice. Manchester City were ruthless in their opener at home to Swansea, racking up almost 30 shots through the match and were it not for a string of great saves, could have won by even more.
The forwards looked sharp, Silva and Johnson looked dangerous, Yaya Toure seems to be a complete monster through the middle and the defense looked as stingy as ever. If they could sort out the choking issues against the big teams, they could actually win the league this year. Scary.
We weren’t expecting much, but Queens Park Rangers left a massive amount of room for improvement after their first up performance against Bolton.
Despite trailing at half time thanks to a Gary Cahill thunderbolt right on the interval, I thought they were the better team in the first period. But a Gabbidon own goal, a Klasnic deflection and a clinical finish from Fabrice Muamba of all people later, and they’ll find themselves anchoring the table after round one.
Still a long way to go but given the complete stinginess of the owners in the summer in regards to signing new players, and the complete lack of confidence in said board from the fans, I wonder how long it will take for the QPR bubble to burst. (I hope it doesn’t, they’re quite a pleasant team in all honesty.)
In fairness to Liverpool fans, the standard pre-season skiting about how it’s ‘their year’ wasn’t as rampant as it has been in the past, but the air of cockiness was still resonating before they failed to take maximum points against Sunderland. Suarez atoned for his earlier penalty miss with a well taken goal which was crafted by new boy Charlie Adam (who I am still predicting will be the buy of the season) but could do nothing about Seb Larsson’s exquisite volley.
As well as Adam, Henderson didn’t look out of place in a red jersey either and if ever there was a time to find Liverpool almost likable, it’s probably now with this current squad. It’s not quite as funny to see them lose as it was when Benitez was in charge… although I suspect when Gerrard returns in a month or so and starts kissing the camera and pointing at the name on the back of his jersey after he’s smacked in a goal against Swansea or Stoke, the Liverpool loathing will again surface. Let’s move on.
Wigan Athletic hosted new boys Norwich on opening day and were held to a point.
I avoided this game live in favour of the more enticing fixtures on offer but from what I saw in highlights, we’re going to see more scrappy play from the Latics resulting in one of two scenarios that they’ll find themselves in mid April; with no standout candidates for relegation this season aside from Swansea, they’ll have lost away to QPR and Norwich and find themselves six or seven points from safety with a couple of games left.
Or relegated without even having to sweat the final day, or hope that a team comes from nowhere to free fall ala Blackpool and Birmingham last year (Blackburn Rovers, I’m looking at you) and they scrape their way to 16th again. I really hope not – they bring nothing to the league.
Not the best brand of football, horrible crowds and an atrocious pitch that is often covered with rugby markings. With no West Ham to death ride this year I’m putting all my energy into hoping Wigan go down. After all, they just conceded at home to a guy that has the same surname as the chick from M*A*S*H.
I guess I have to mention Chelsea although the result didn’t come as much of a surprise. It was always going to be a complete culture shock for Andre Villas-Boas coming not only to a league that is completely different to what he is accustomed to, but also starting his reign in the most anti-footballing environment possible.
I don’t think it’s the end of the world as the Potters only lost five times at home last year…beating City and holding the Blues to a point then as well. They also thumped Arsenal 3-1. (By the way, Arsenal definitely didn’t underachieve this week; as I mentioned in a previous article that I fully expect them to get no wins from their first three league matches.)
Villain of the week:
There were a few contenders for week one; as much as I’m sure Arsenal-loving readers would love for this to be Joey Barton, and I’m sure if Manchester United hadn’t come away with a win that David De Gea would have a very good shout (the same goes for Luis Suarez, but replace win with goal), the winner by an absolute mile this week is Gervinho.
Diving to win a penalty on your debut certainly isn’t going to endear yourself to the public, especially not in England. And though perhaps Barton didn’t need to get involved after the incident, he’s a known pest – he agitates opponents in the hope that they bite and do something silly…the Ivorian obliged seconds later.
The fact that he was their best attacking threat and will now sit out for the next three games (two of which are against Liverpool and Manchester United) is awful news for Arsenal fans, coming on the back of Fabregas’ departure, which is finally official.
I could point out the irony of Joey Barton running over to abuse him for diving, and then he himself going down like he’d be shot after receiving a love tap, but I’m sure everybody already noticed that. Plus, it’s funny because it happened to Arsenal.
The honorable mention for this week goes to the people of Wigan. I know I already mentioned it, but their home crowd was pathetic. Just 17,454 turned up for their season opener. To put that in perspective, 14 of the games in the first two rounds of the Championship this year have had a higher attendance. They’re an absolute disgrace to the league.
Hero of the week:
With Gervinho setting the standard for worst possible debut, it wasn’t going to take much for Sergio Aguero to outshine him… and although we had to wait until the 60th minute of the last game of the round for El Kun to appear, it was well worth it.
Two goals and an assist in a sparkling half hour and with Dzeko shining as well, we’re one step closer to my dream of seeing both of them starting every match, with Balotelli making comedic appearances throughout the year. And as much as we all hate City, it’s hard not to like that rotation. Hopefully we see 90 minutes of the Argentine genius every week from here on in and he smacks in 30 goals. So many memories of Football Manager 2008 are flooding back.
An honorable mention goes to Michael Worm for keeping his Swansea team in the game, for the first half at least. He also made an excellent save from a deflected free kick which he pinned to the turf with one hand when it was on the line. If clean sheets weren’t a factor in fantasy I’d definitely be making him my number one keeper because he’ll make a million saves this year.
Next week there’s a Tyne-Wear derby, Liverpool take on Arsenal, Manchester United host Spurs and there’s a top of the table clash between Bolton Wanderers and Manchester City. I’m also predicting right now that QPR will get their first point on a visit to traditionally slow starters Everton.
Take the draw at $3.75… and you can thank me next week.