We may only be one game into the Premier League season but the first round of matches have already given us plenty to talk about.
For the teams who are likely to be vying for European places come the business end of the season, there were wins for Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City, whilst a somewhat surprising defeat for Arsenal at the hands of Aston Villa, put their transfer dealings, or lack of, under the spotlight once more.
At the Liberty Stadium, Manchester United romped to an impressive 4-1 victory thanks to a brace of goals from both Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck, a result which helped ease any early season pressure that loomed over new manager David Moyes.
Such was the quality of the finishing in the match, many will see United as a real threat going forward, they look to have goals a plenty in their ranks and with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic joining forces at the back once more, you wouldn’t bank on many teams breaching their goal.
It would appear that the Red Devils are more than capable of matching last year’s performances despite not being big spenders in the transfer window, if it’s true that this is the team that Ferguson built then perhaps Moyes’ biggest challenge in terms of stamping his mark on the club will come in the next few days.
For Swansea, the result will be one which disappoints the home fans but in fairness isn’t a fair reflection of how well they played at times, whenever the Welsh side seem to get a set-piece they look something of a danger and with last year’s star player, Michu joined by Bony up front, they’ll win far more matches than they lose this term.
Such is the way they play their free-flowing football that few would argue if they were to be well inside the top half of the table come May.
Title favourites Chelsea will feel like it is a case of job done right now, after their ruthlessly efficient performance against newly promoted Hull.
When Jose Mourinho sets his sides up there is a common theme in all of them, they have a solid spine, in this case Cech, Terry, Cahill, Lampard, followed by a mix of flair players in thje final third, Yesterdays performance harked back to the days of the special one’s first stint in charge, winning with what looked like plenty in hand. Lampard was his mercurial best and creating chances regularly and adding a goal of his own.
Of all the teams in the league its Chelsea who look the most solid, they have a blend of players that can win either convincingly or get a result when under pressure and I feel that their performance was by far the standout one of the weekend, despite some teams scoring a little heavier.
Hull never looked in the game yesterday, but I’d expect a team led by Steve Bruce to battle to the last, with new signings Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore arriving they will have as good a chance as any of the promoted teams, but defensive indecision could be their downfall in the coming weeks.
Manchester City will be overhauling Chelsea in the markets for the title as I write this, such was their dominance in tonight’s game against a poorly organised Newcastle team, from first to last City looked like a team with a mission mixing composure with high tempo passing to carve open the Magpies, things obviously got a little more difficult for the visitors after the dismissal of Steven Taylor, but alas the damage was done and in some style.
City have spent well in the summer and yet they retain the nucleus of the team which has been so competitive in the last few seasons with the likes of Silva and Toure starring once more.
Many in Newcastle will be grateful to have such a difficult fixture out of the way so early on but in the same respect many will worry about the ease with which they gave the ball away, in truth they missed Cabaye tonight amid speculation of a move to Arsenal, and in truth I don’t think they can afford to lose him, his retention is excellent, he has a range of passing and looks to create constantly.
Talking of Arsenal you can see why they need to buy and buy quick, after such a positive start to their game with Aston Villa, taking the lead inside six minutes they began to capitulate, losing possession easily, which is strange for them and not retaining the ball in the final third as to create chances, indeed Cabaye could be just answer.
Villa fans must be pinching themselves after their 3-1 victory against Arsenal, and even more so at the fact they have managed to retain the services of Christian Benteke, the striker looked like a new arrival on Saturday, using both his pace and his movement to drag the Gunners defence all over the place, two goals will also do nothing to dent his reputation as a real talent either, I think Villa will surprise a few people this season and they could really be the sleeping giants, quietly collecting their points.
Arsenal’s main rivals this season will be Liverpool and Tottenham you have to feel and with both teams landing a blow this weekend the North London Side will be keen to get back on an even keel as soon as possible.
Tottenham took all three points on Sunday thanks to new boy Roberto Soldado’s penalty but the 1-0 score line was easier than it looked.
Spurs played very well without quite getting what they deserved, they battled hard and stuck to the task at hand and any win in the Premier League is a good one especially away from home so it’s a case of job done.
Palace on the other hand looked out of ideas and I fear that a return to the championship beckons for the side who have undoubtedly lost their star player in Wilfred Zaha, at time you felt like some of the players were looking to the gap he would once occupy and looked distraught to see that this creativity had left them. Tottenham will be fine as always but I worry that if they lose Bale then they too will feel like a palace without a prince.
I’ve left Liverpool until last and that’s not out of disrespect nor is it a feeling that they will come off worse in the race for fourth, because the truth is I don’t. Liverpool looked polished in defeating a Stoke side that have caused them problems in recent years; they created plenty of chances and looked a real threat in front of goal. They also looked assured at the back, keeping chances to a minimum and with the exception of Daniel Agger’s handball which gave Stoke a late penalty, (finely saved by debutant Simon Mignolet) they never looked like conceding.
That said, Stoke didn’t look like scoring and unless there are changes quickly, I feel that Stoke have a real chance of dropping down in May, their football has been very effective in the last few seasons but by changing it up I can’t really see these players playing pretty, aesthetic football.
image: © ins11thiago