Weekend in 100 words or less
Goals, penalties, red cards, debuts and touch line dismissals should ratify why we couldn’t ask for a better start to this nine month soap opera we call the Premier League. The football in general was spectacular, presenting us with some end-end football that left many neutrals and a few supporters smiling. Opening weekend has already seen 27 Premier League goals scored and if this is any testament to how the season will pan out then we’re in for treat.
- Manchester City come from behind to win again when not at their best – The scenario seemed similar to the one that saw Sergio Aguero’s injury time winner seal the title, but this time their was no Aguero (I’ll touch on that soon). City were far from their best as they blew countless chances to put the nail in Southampton’s coffin. Prolific striker Rickie Lambert and Steve Davis almost gave us the shock of the season in the first week, but strikes from Edin Dzeko and man of the match Samir Nasri saw City kick off the season with three points. It was one of the best performances I’ve seen from Nasri in a City shirt, but coming off a good Community Shield this could be the season where he makes that big step. His ability to pick out the perfect pass and get into the right areas allowed him to shine throughout the match. Although as a whole they are far superior to this Southampton side, I will follow the trend and stick with the cliche “That’s what champions do”. City do have some issues to address, but before we jump the gun, we’ll see how they progress over the next weeks and cherish this game for what it was. Excellent!
- Sergio Aguero injury scare – Manchester City fans suffered a huge scare Sunday as Sergio Aguero was stretchered off seven minutes into the match. The rumours were flooding the internet and social media that he may be out for six months, but it turns out that he will only be sidelined for a month which is a massive boost as he is an integral piece to their success. The reason why I highlight this injury on my recap is because Manchester City without Aguero for six months would be an astronomical loss, and would certainly balance out the title race in which many pip City to beat out United again. From a neutral’s perspective he’s an asset to the Premier League and his absence would see us lose out on watching the growth of a world class player.
- Same old Arsenal – With the departures of Robin Van Persie and Alex Song this summer, we witnessed a new look Arsenal side kick off the season. The new additions in Lukas Podolski, Olivier Giroud and Santi Carzola all made their Premier League debuts in what was a frustrating match to watch for Arsenal supporters. They had the ball for lengthy periods of the match but their production in the final third was poor. It was the same Arsenal performance we’ve grown to despise, they lacked movement off the ball and rarely penetrated Sunderland’s two banks of four that sat fairly deep. They missed the heroic performances Robin Van Persie provided last season (particularly Olivier Giroud sitter) and were quite predictable which played into Sunderland’s plan to sit deep and launch a counter when possible. Arsenal might not be in crisis, but they lack title ambition which is why fans should be worried. On the bright side, Santi Carzola was fantastic and has already shown his class as he was Arsenal’s best player by far. Arsenal might’ve not found a replacement for Van Persie, but Carzola provides that extra bit of quality in the final third that can see him create something special out of nothing. He’s possesses that bit of quality Arsenal have lacked since the departure of Cesc Fabregas.
- Liverpool work in progress – Despite losing 3-0 to West Bromich Albion on the opening day of the Premier League, I’m surprisingly not to worried about Liverpool. Many comments after the game from ‘supporters’ and via twitter were quite farfetched and had me believing I was watching another game. Liverpool had a good first half and found themselves down due to a wonderful strike from Zoltan Gera. Apart from that Liverpool had much of the ball but struggled to create goal scoring chances in the final third. Luis Suarez was bright once again, but STILL couldn’t find the back of the net. Rodger’s style of football will take time, and if these fans can be patient they’ll be rewarded sooner rather than later. The key word is patience.
- The Dowd effect – What would the Premier League be without a bit of controversy? This weekend we witnessed it first hand as a total of seven penalties were given. That total alone surpasses the four penalties awarded throughout the entire European Championships. Phil Dowd stole the headlines as he awarded two penalties in the matter of minutes at the Hawthorns. Since the start of last season no referee has awarded more penalties in the Premier League than Phil Dowd. Now this isn’t a rant towards Dowd, but I question his decisions in both incidents this weekend. Daniel Agger who slightly took down Shane Long was sent off and West Brom were awarded a penalty. Now the penalty I can live with, but the sending off was harsh. Last man or not Agger had no intentions of taking him out of the play and Long fell far to easily. Minutes later Skrtel made a lazy challenge in the box which again caused Dowd to blow another penalty. This brings up my argument that not every bit of contact in the box is a penalty. If it’s not clear cut don’t call it, especially after awarding a penalty to the same team minutes prior. This initially ended the game for Liverpool and who knows, if those calls weren’t made the outcome could’ve possibly been different. All in all Phil Dowd strikes again!
- Pardew’s half time tactical change triumphant – Newcastle United find a way to win yet again without playing their best football. After what was a pretty even first half against Tottenham, Pardew realized his formation wasn’t as effective so he switched to a 4-3-3 that suited his side. It allowed Tiote to sit deep and phase out Sigurdsson who was bright in the first half combining with Defoe and Bale. It also nullified Kyle Walker to surge forward as Ba was their to cut out the space available in the first half. It took a moment of brilliance from Ba who wonderfully curled his shot by Friedel and Ben Arfa who won a penalty shot after dancing by Van der Vaart and Lennon. All in all it was always going to be a difficult game, but Newcastle showed their tactical discipline and again showed us why we shouldn’t overlook them this season. Ben Arfa was fantastic throughout the game making runs into the midfield and taking on the defence with no fear. After a poor Euro, it’s heartwarming to see a player with his talent displaying some class performances.
- Debutants make their mark – 27 Premier League goals were scored this weekend and many came from players making Premier League and club debuts. Michu struck twice for Swansea as he marked his arrival in the Premier League this season. The Swansea midfielder scored 15 goals last season for Rayo Vallecano which made him the highest scoring midfielder in La Liga last season which is outstanding. Zoltan Gera and Romelu Lukaku made an appearance for their new club West Bromich Albion and stole the headlines both finding the back of the net in their 3-0 victory over Liverpool. The story line though was the debut of Southampton striker Rickie Lambert who scored just minutes after touching the field against Manchester City. Lambert knows how to find the back of the net as he’s scored 88 times in the last three seasons for Southampton. Many were questioning the abilities of the talismanic striker and whether he could bring his goalscoring form in the lower leagues into the Premier League. He silenced those critics this weekend after he smashed his first shot of the game passed Joe Hart. This weekend alone in many areas other than goals, it’s safe to say that debutants to either their club or the Premier League failed to disappoint.
- European Champions win, Hazard stars – Chelsea kicked off their Premier League campaign with a 2-0 win against Wigan that saw Eden Hazard steal the headlines. It wasn’t a great Chelsea performance, as they scored two goals in the first 6 minutes and then took their foot off the pedal. One positive to take from this game likewise to the Arsenal game with Carzola is to welcome Eden Hazard to the Premier League. Hazard picked assists for both goals scored this weekend after he turned Ivan Ramis to send Branislav Ivanovic through and minutes after winning a penalty that resulted in a Frank Lampard goal. He’s a defenders nightmare one on one, tracks back, his movement off the ball is fantastic, and he provides Chelsea with that bit of quality individually and when linking up Juan Mata. Bigger tests await Hazard, but he certainly made a statement that he may just be the real deal.
- Everton’s trio shine again at the expense of Manchester United – The men who arguably created the downfall towards the ending of Manchester United’s season have done it again. The trio of Nikita Jelavic, Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini were the lynchpins to United’s loss at Goodison Park. With Fellaini as the focal point of Everton’s attack we saw a very direct approach that troubled United throughout the match. The Toffees targeted United’s right hand side that saw Antonio Valencia as RB and Michael Carrick as a CB. Fellaini and Leighton Baines combined for 12 passes down that left hand side which were then transferred to Pienaar which led to overloads down United’s right flank. Jelavic’s movement kept Nemanja Vidic preoccupied throughout the game and it allowed Fellaini much more space and time on the ball and Carrick just couldn’t deal. Fellaini getting the match winner off a corner kick was fitting as he was so dominant in the air and it was a reflection on the aerial battle that he won convincingly against Michael Carrick. Everton were deserved winners on the night and it might inject the confidence they’ve lacked in the past during the start of the season.
- Manchester United are okay, right? – It wasn’t a vintage Manchester United performance nor was it one to remember if you support the club, but aren’t United fans familiar with this. Well maybe not in the first game of the season, but United are known to be slow starters that gain their form at the right time. Fergie seems to always get his men going at the right time and with their off season signings of Robin Van Persie, Shinji Kagawa and the return of Nemanja Vidic they are formidably a better side compared to last year. Against Everton, they weren’t at their best, plus with Robin Van Persie and Wayne Rooney having average games it gives us the chance to question this team. Some of these players have had long summers and ‘post-Euro syndrome’ could still be around, but Monday nights performance particularly in the final third was quite lethargic. United was only able to get the ball into the box four times through the match which is extremely below par for an Sir Alex Ferguson side. To make matters worst, Kagawa completed one pass fewer in the final third than Wayne Rooney did across the entire pitch which is what I found alarming. Rooney is United’s best player and performances like that won’t do United any justice going forward. With that being said if we go on history, this paragraph will be inane in a few weeks time, and from a neutrals point of view I’m hoping it is.
Top 5 Players of the weekend
1. Hatem Ben-Arfa
2. Samir Nasri
3. Eden Hazard
4. Santi Carzola
5. Marouane Fellaini
Goal of the weekend : Zoltan Gera against Liverpool. (Demba Ba’s goal is a close 2nd for me)
I hope you all enjoyed in what was an incredible start to the Premier League campaign, and I will be back with another weekend recap next Monday. Cheers !
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