EPL Review: Swansea Glides, North London SlidesBreaking down the 2nd round of matches from the English Premier League
by Scott Nicholls | Monday, August 27, 2012
The second week of the Barclays Premier League is officially over, with no big surprises but plenty of entertaining football. Swansea’s 3-0 victory over West Ham United was particularly pleasing to watch, call it a reward for having to get up at 7.30am to watch football on the east coast and double that for the west coast and all of you guys getting up at 4.30am! Michu was on hand again to pounce on his 3rd goal of the season – what a steal he looks. The Swans don’t seem to have had their team balance upset too much by Brendan Rodgers leaving for Liverpool, Joe Allen following him and Scott Sinclair on the brink of signing for Manchester City – to take Adam Johnson’s seat on the bench. Michael Laudrup seems to be doing the business, as the Swans look an absolute joy to watch this season. It’ll be a mid-table finish for them at the least. West Ham on the other hand looks absolutely dire. No prowess going forward, no organization in defense and generally just look … poor. I’ve never, ever, rated Sam Walrusdyce (my pet name for him) as a manager - not anywhere, not any time. He is not the man to bring the glory days back to Upton Park.
Manchester United were much, much better in their game vs Fulham as I predicted they would be. There is no questioning the quality in that Manchester United team and they’ll go strength to strength in harnessing the quality that they have within the side. Kagawa looked excellent this week, he influenced the game more with some incisive passing and scored his first United goal. The boy looks like he’ll be a top notch player and looks a bargain at £19million ($27million), however, he’s already opening his mouth having only spent a few months at Old Trafford. In the English press this weekend he’s criticized Fergie’s playing style saying that United pass it to the side too much and not into his feet in front of him … we’ll see how that one goes.
Both North London clubs, seem to be sliding. Although in Tottenham’s case it isn’t quite fair because they have Chelsea’s Special Secret Undercover Agent Andre Villas-Boas at the helm. How else do you rationalize selling Michael Dawson, letting Tom Huddlestone leave on loan and starting Jake Livermore – a player who had just 7 Premier League starts to his name before starting vs West Bromwich Albion. They drew 1-1. Unsurprisingly.
Arsenal on the other hand I expected more of, even if they were away at Stoke City. The closest anybody went was Olivier Giroud from about 35 yards, his lob just brushed the top of the Stoke net. That was as threatening as Arsenal looked. Arsenal’s best winger, Theo Walcott, wasn’t even on the pitch until mid-way through the second half! How do you leave out a player who scored 8 EPL goals and assisted an additional 8 EPL goals in an away game in favor of Gervinho. GERVINHO?! Normally I would say I think Arsenal can turn it around but on the last two displays I’d be willing to bet that it isn’t a quick turn around. Arsenal were lucky Stoke aren’t very good.
For me it’s a combination of two teams. First of all Liverpool; I thought Liverpool played pretty well against Manchester City and I was not expecting that whatsoever. You look at their team and it reads a bunch of average players surrounded by Steven Gerrard (who’s ability is waning), and Pepe Reina. On paper Manchester City’s squad should’ve torn apart the makeshift back four that was comprised of Glenn Johnson, a right back, playing at left back, Martin Kelly, a left back, playing at right back, the accident prone Martin Skrtel and Coates in the middle … and then Skrtel scores an absolute stunner. Go figure.
Manchester City looks a shadow of the team they did last season. Yes, yes, I know, I know: We’re only two games in, however, they’re leaking goals. This season they have played 3 games (including Charity Shield vs Chelsea) and they have conceded 2 goals in each of those games. Yesterday they opted for Kolo Toure in the back four and honestly I think they missed Lescott’s leadership. Lescott for me has established himself as England’s number 2 centre back behind John Terry for the moment until it’s time for England’s one true leader to step aside and hand it over to Lescott and Cahill.
The second of my biggest surprises is how badly Manchester United seems to be defending right now. David DeGea is not a leader, he is not physical enough and he does not inspire any confidence in the defenders in front of him. That is what World Class goalkeepers do, that is what Van Der Sar, Schmeichel, and more recently Pepe Reina and Petr Cech do. DeGea doesn’t. You shouldn’t need Rio Ferdinand in there alongside Vidic instilling the confidence in DeGea that he may not even have to face a shot. Fulham’s second goal was a cacophony of errors by DeGea and Vidic. This. Cannot. Continue. Manchester United’s best goalkeeper is sitting on the bench; his name is Anders Lindegaard.
Fulham actually looked like they might get a 3rd goal after United conceded the second and Moussa Dembele showed why he attracted so much attention in the summer. One thing I did notice … Fulham don’t seem to be missing Clint Dempsey whatsoever.
Biggest letdown for me this week is Arsenal. Can’t really dice it up any other way, they look poor going forward and they look like they miss their top scorer and top assister. Selling both was a ridiculous decision, for me, and whilst there are certainly bright spots (Diaby is fit again, Wilshere back soon, Cazorla masterful in midfield), I don’t see them being enough to replace Alexandre Song’s assists from defensive midfield or Robin Van Persie’s goals.
Put this all together with Arsene Wenger’s weird rotation system whereby you leave out your second top assister in favor of a player who was largely anonymous last season and the ever changing goalkeeping situation and I just am not inspired in the confidence that Arsenal can make a serious title push. I’m just not. Can they make the top 4? Not like this.
Michu makes the list again, so does Hazard (Not a Chelsea homer pick, 6 assists out of 8 goals scored and oh yeah, he scored one of the other 2), and this week the magnificent performance of Shinji Kagawa.
These 3 along with Santi Cazorla just prove to me that the Premier League is the most exciting (and best) league in the world and I cannot wait for it to continue. We truly are in for an exciting season.
The Week Ahead:
Chelsea isn’t in action this week as they play in the European Super Cup on Friday night versus Atletico Madrid. At. Madrid was Fernando Torres’ old stomping grounds before he made the move to Liverpool so it could be an emotional game for him if he carries his form into Friday and scores his 3rd of the season, it’ll also be a strange one for Thibaut Courtois who is on loan at Atletico. He has told his agent and Chelsea he would like to play and Chelsea have grated him permission – after all, he may never get this chance again! Atletico have plenty of attacking threats but ultimately the way Chelsea are playing, I think they should get the better of them and claim their second UEFA Super Cup.
Swansea takes their marauding, passing, sexy football to Sunderland. Sunderland have been bolstered by the signings of Adam Johnson and Steven Fletcher, however so it could be closer than we think. I expect Swansea and Michu to press on though and get the win.
Manchester City will beat QPR even if they have just spent money on new centre backs to sure up their defensive frailties. Newcastle should roll Aston Villa over and Tottenham should get their first win of the season at White Hart Lane against Norwich who looks a shadow of the team that Paul Lambert originally built.
My games of the week are Southampton at home to Manchester United, and Liverpool at Anfield vs Arsenal. Southampton have shown they can perform in the big games, nearly holding Manchester City to a draw in their first EPL game this season and still looked solid enough last weekend for me to think they may give United’s frail defense and goalkeeper a run for their money. I think United should come out on top but if there’s an upset to be had …it’s there.
Liverpool will be riding high coming off of their draw with City, doesn’t sound like a lot but for Liverpool’s inexperienced team it really, really is.
Another exciting weekend of football coming up. Until next week!