The Whole 18 YardsThis season’s first Barclays Premier League review
by Scott Nicholls | Wednesday, August 22, 2012
The Premier League season is back, and boy is it ever back. Two 5 goal drubbings this weekend courtesy of Swansea City and Fulham over Norwich and Queens Park Rangers, Manchester City taken all the way by plucky newcomers (or comebackers, if you’d like) Southampton, the Premier League’s biggest transfers this summer on display in Eden Hazard, Shinji Kagawa and Oscar just to name a few, and shockingly a win for Everton over Robin Van Persie’s new club Manchester United.
This has got to go to Everton this week. We know Everton are an above average team, but Manchester United haven’t been beaten on the opening day for 8 years! Everton played some great football, some pretty one touch passing, defended tremendously and got exactly what they deserved. Marouane Fellaini was undoubtedly the best player on the park – massively upstaging Shinji Kagawa and eventually Robin Van Persie in their Manchester United debuts. He was a threat in the air, on the ground and passing was immaculate. He really was a joy to behold…but can he keep it up? If he does, he’ll certainly be in line for a top 4 move before long.
The stats will show that Shinji Kagawa did not give away the pill once. Whilst this is something everyone should crave for from a midfielder, I have to ask is that the most important thing? I’m not saying Kagawa won’t be a fantastic player for United (he will), but I think I’d rather him complete only say…half of his passes and create two goals. It’ll come to him very quickly. He doesn’t look as if he needs much time to adjust.
Ultimately this game will mean nothing to Manchester United, but could end up meaning the world to Everton at the end of the season.
Also, on a side note … I noticed Antonio Valencia has been given the honour of wearing the famous #7 shirt for Manchester United. Here’s a list of legends that have worn it to compare: George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo. Do you think he deserves it?
Liverpool Football Club. Everything about Liverpool FC right now decries mediocrity. The players that they have signed, the coach they have in-charge and the football that they played this weekend. Brendan Rodgers thinks that Joe Allen was so integral to his Swansea City team, that he signed him for this Liverpool team … but apparently Swansea City aren’t missing him after spending £2 million (about $3million) on Spanish midfielder Michu who scored two of five Swansea goals this weekend. Liverpool needs some central defenders, and they need them now. After the news that QPR have agreed a fee for Michael Dawson of around £9 million ($14 million) you have to question their transfer policy. Skrtel, Agger and Carragher aren’t imposing enough as defenders and with rumours that Daniel Agger may leave the club that leaves them with Skrtel and Carragher.
Liverpool has spent gross amounts of money without really coming under any kind of scrutiny as of late, to the dismay of Manchester City and Chelsea fans. Liverpool has spent £100 million on Andy Carroll, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson Joe Allen and Fabio Borini, whilst Chelsea has spent £66 million on Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Marko Marin and Oscar. The transfer policy at Liverpool seems to be a bit skewed and needs to be rectified immediately if they want to compete for Champions League places and restore themselves to the team their fans and other teams fans know they can be. One last damning stat: Since 1990 Liverpool has spent 10% more than Manchester United … and won 60% less silverware. That trend seems destined to continue, for now.
Michu and Hazard. Michu at £2 million ($3 million) looks an absolute steal. He’s got flair, he can finish with precision and Swansea should be very, very happy with him. With Laudrup as their manager I believe Swansea will go from strength to strength despite potentially losing (the very overrated) Scott Sinclair to Manchester City. Another player who showed this weekend that he wouldn’t need much time to adjust to Premier League life is Chelsea’s new boy Eden Hazard.
In his first two games for Chelsea Hazard has contributed three assists and even managed to pass the ball to himself* (*OK, it was a complete and utter mistake, but go with me on this). With one of the first touches of the game, he rounded a hapless Wigan defender as if he wasn’t there and slotted a perfectly weighted ball through to Ivanovic for Chelsea’s opener. Minutes later he skipped past one Wigan defender and was about to get the better of Ramis until the new Wigan man clattered him in the box enabling Frank Lampard to slot home from the penalty spot.
Both players look very exciting, along with Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla. Cazorla, whilst unable to manufacture a win for Arsenal was the only bright spot in a game that featured new signings Lucas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. He played some extremely precise passes to enable teammates goal scoring opportunities … they just couldn’t capitalize on them. “Cazolra to Walcott, Walcott crosses to Podolski, Corner/Goal Kick,” is a phrase I think we’ll be hearing a lot this season.
The Week Ahead:
Chelsea faces Reading on Wednesday, this is what I believe to be the main reason for Chelsea letting Wigan back into the game as much as they did after going up 2-0 early on: Don’t waste your energy if the three points are in the bag when you have a game in three days time. Chelsea are in action again in the 12.30 game this coming Saturday against Newcastle United. Newcastle showed against Tottenham that they are by no means a one-season wonder and are looking to continue their push for Champions League football with a win over Roberto Di Matteo’s men. Di Matteo and Chelsea on the other hand will be looking for revenge after Papiss Cisse’s wonder goals condemned them to 6th place overall last season.
West Bromwich Albion will look to take their good form into Week 2 against Tottenham who look like they will be without both Michael Dawson (to QPR) and Tom Huddlestone (on loan to Stoke City), Tottenham and new boss Andre Vilas-Boas could use a win but is West Brom play like they did against Liverpool and Romelu Lukaku continues to improve Tottenham will be in trouble.
Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers play in the first ever “Who is the better 5-0 loser” derby. Both teams shipped 5 goals last weekend, at least one team will be slightly happier this coming weekend.
Manchester City won on Sunday, but it was close. Tevez’s goal was offside and Southampton gave them a real run for their money – look for City and Liverpool to be a cracking game this weekend with both sides out to prove something. I expect the impressive Southampton to get a result out of Wigan too.
Manchester United will most certainly bring Fulham back down to Earth, Arsenal should get the better of Stoke City and Geoff Cameron and finally Swansea City look to carry on their winning ways against newly promoted West Ham United.
Here are your Barclays Premier League Fixtures for this week (all times US Eastern Time):
Chelsea vs Reading FC (2.45pm)
Swansea City vs West Ham United (7.45am)
Southampton vs Wigan (10am)
Sunderland vs Reading FC (10am)
Norwich City vs Queens Park Rangers (10am)
Manchester United vs Fulham (10am)
Tottenham Hotspur vs West Bromwich Albion (10am)
Aston Villa vs Everton (10am)
Chelsea FC vs Newcastle United (12.45pm)
Stoke City vs Arsenal (8am)
Liverpool vs Manchester City (11am)