Sunday, August 18, 2013

Five Talking Points from the opening day of the Premier League

 Benteke celebrates his goal after more poor Arsenal defending.
The Gunners gave away two penalties.

1. Arsenal still need to spend money.

A 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa is not how most Arsenal fans would have expected to start their season. After a summer of positive rumours, the Gunners crowd were optimistic that Arsene Wenger might finally spend some money in order to strengthen the squad. However, several unsuccessful and misguided transfer attempts later, and the only new face at the club is 20-year-old striker Yaya Sanogo, who was injured for the opening day. The erratic performance of goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, the sending off of centre-half Laurent Kosielny and the injuries to both full-backs Kieran Gibbs and Bacary Sagna prove once again, that the defence needs to be improved, despite Wenger’s summer of flirting with big name forward players such as Suarez, Rooney and Higuain. Queens Park Rangers goalkeeper Julio Cesar is still available for relatively little money as the Championship club seek to reduce their wage bill. Surely Wenger should bid for the Brazilian before the end of the transfer window, and sooner rather than later with a Champions League Qualifier away at Fenerbache on Wednesday night.

2. It was a promising day for England fans.

After England struggled to beat Scotland at Wembley on Wednesday night, there was understandably some negativity about their chances at the World Cup in 2014, should they even manage to qualify. However, on the opening day of the Premier League season, there was much cause for optimism. One of Roy Hodgson’s first choice strikers, Danny Welbeck, has seemingly taken on the advice of new Manchester United manager David Moyes, who has challenged him to score more goals this season. The forward played in a slightly withdrawn role behind Robin Van Persie during United’s 1-4 away win at Swansea. He looked hungry to get in more dangerous positions, resulting firstly in a tap in from Antonio Valencia’s clever first time cross, before doubling his overall goals tally from last season in just one game with a sublime chipped finish beyond Michel Vorm. Fellow countryman and striker Daniel Sturridge lead the line for Bredan Rodger’s new look Liverpool side, scoring the opening goal of the new Premier League season with a sweet left footed drive. Young, attacking midfielder Ross Barkley was given a rare start by his new manager Roberto Martinez and repaid the new Everton boss with an impressive all-round performance, capped with an exceptional left-footed strike from the edge of the box that most English players aren’t quite capable of producing, especially at the age of 20.  Jonjo Shelvey was also Swansea’s outstanding performer, as he dominated the Manchester United midfield in the opening stages of the game. He also delivered a series of dangerous set-pieces, creating many chances for his new club. Rickie Lambert once again made the headlines with his second late match-winner in a week, scoring in the 90th minute with a perfect penalty. Something else you wouldn’t usually associate with English players.

3. Di Canio didn’t get dream start he'd been hoping for.

After reports of an incredibly gruelling pre-season programme implemented by the Italian manager, many were expecting Sunderland to come flying out at the start of their match with Fulham with high tempo and attacking intensity. They did to some degree, with new signings Emanuele Giaccherini and Jozy Altidore looking dangerous in the opening stages as they dominated for most of the game. However, Sunderland failed to create any serious scoring opportunities throughout the duration of the match, and were undone by a set piece, a familiar theme carried over from last season. Young Fulham midfielder Pajtim Kasami headed in the winner from a corner in the 52nd minute, and Di Canio’s side failed to find an equaliser, despite substitute striker Ji Dong-Won going closest with a header.  The Black Cats were unlucky, but they need to avoid home defeats to the likes of Fulham if they are to stay in the Premier League this season.

4. New faces announce themselves to the Premier League.

There were plenty of new faces making an appearance in the Premier League for the first time after a busy summer of transfer window activity for the majority of clubs. Injury prevented a few new signings from making their debuts, but others took their chance at their new clubs with some eye-catching performances. Antonio Luna, or ‘Tony Moon’ as he’s hilariously known to the Villa fans, made himself an instant favourite with a solid performance at left back against Arsenal winger Theo Walcott, completed with an extremely well taken goal that compatriot Jordy Alba would have been proud of, as he finished an exciting Villa counter attack. There has been much excitement surrounding Swansea’s record transfer signing, Wilfried Bony. The Ivorian started on the bench against Manchester United as Michael Laudrup set up a cautious team, with Michu up front on his own. The £12m striker, signed from Vitesse Arnhem in the summer was eventually given a chance after being introduced at half time. In the 82nd minute, Bony opened his Premier League account, sweeping home a first time finish beyond David De Gea and in to the bottom corner. If he can score a goal in one half of football against Premier League Champions Manchester United, it’s easy to see Bony becoming a regular on the scoresheet in the coming fixtures. Norwich are another team to have spent boldly during the transfer window, and their club record signing Ricky Van Wolfswinkel was in the starting line-up against Everton. Facing English football veterans Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin in your first match as a Premier League striker is not the easiest of tasks, but Van Wolfswinkel claimed a point for his team with a perfectly guided header to make it 2-2. If he wasn’t already a cult hero at Carrow Road with a name like that, he soon will be if he keeps scoring such important goals.

5. Staying in the Premier League is the most difficult task of all.

Only one of the newly promoted clubs were in action yesterday, as Malky Mackay’s Cardiff City took on West Ham United at Upton Park. The visitors gave debuts to new signings Steven Caulker and Gary Medel, but were unable to get their first points of the season as an experienced West Ham side looked comfortable during their 2-0 victory. Premier League stalwarts Joe Cole and Kevin Nolan scored the goals, demonstrating that experience and know-how is key when you’re in this league. With Hull away to Chelsea on Sunday, and Crystal Palace yet to host Tottenham Hotspur, it is difficult to see anything but three defeats for the Premier League new boys. 

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