Tuesday, August 21, 2012
A short look at all the Premier League teams following the first matchday
The Premier League is back with a bang! That was one hell of a first round of matches, full of entertainment and goals. We've missed this! Obviously, the results of the first matches are often a false indication of how clubs will perform during the course of the season, but based on them (and again, I repeat, these are false indications so bear with me), here are the conclusions I've come up with for all the teams in the Premier League. These are premature judgments, so feel free to rip me to shreds if you disagree:
Life post-RVP began with the 0-0 draw at Sunderland, but I've said it once and I'll say it again, Arsenal are looking very good. Some of their inter-play was fantastic and it'll only be a matter of time before their new look side starts performing. Cazorla looks like he'll adapt to English football pretty quick and he's surrounded by creative players too. They're going to challenge for the title. Watch this space...
Martin O'Neill's men will be solid as any O'Neill team always is. They obviously didn't create much against the Gunners as most sides don't opt to try and attack at the Emirates stadium. I expect them to settle soon and pick up slowly as the season goes along. A Europa League challenge wouldn't be off the cards knowing that O'Neill has what it takes to get them there.
Clint Dempsey wasn't missed as the Fulham faithful found a new hero in Mladen Petric who scored twice and gave an assist on his debut. Dempsey looks like he's on his way out of Craven Cottage, but I'm not too sure they'll be worried about that. A 5-0 home win is the dream start to any team's campaign, but with the lack of depth in the squad, I expect them to hobble around mid-table throughout the season.
Unlike Fulham, losing 0-5 at home is the worst possible start to any season. Their main problem I believe, was the fact that they gave 4 debuts to 4 new signings. It obviously takes time for new players to gel and for some reason Hughes ignored this aspect. They've got players with experience all over the pitch, but will that be enough to avoid a relegation battle again? I strongly doubt it. They're a team of what I'd like to call "Premiership rejects" and we'll see if those players have what it takes to keep them up.
Brilliant performance by a brilliant team. They will be the surprise package of the season...again. If handing 4 debuts was a problem for QPR, then the 3 new signings that Swansea have acquired have just proven otherwise. Micheal Laudrup took off where Brendan Rodgers left off, with the Swans keeping true to their attacking philosophy. De Guzman, Chico and Michu all look like absolute steals and I wouldn't put it past Swansea vying for a Europa League spot.
A last minute penalty saved the Royals from defeat this time around, but the game itself wasn't full of action so it's hard to make any sort of proper judgment on Reading. Let's give it another game.
I simply expect more long throws, high balls, hussling and bussling in the box and some odd complaints from Tony Pulis as the season goes on. Mid-table as per usual.
Possibly the biggest false dawn of the new campaign. Steve Clarke will obviously be pleased to get one over his former club, but whether they can repeat such a performance over the course of the season is doubtful. I expect them to face a relegation battle even though they looked impressive against Liverpool, it was a combination of things that led to such an odd result.
Two harsh penalty decisions went against them in their game at the Hawthorns it must be said (as well as the red card), but besides the fact that Rodgers will need time to properly influence the team and its style, there seems to be a breath of fresh air around Liverpool. I expect them to do better than last season and be within the top 6-7 teams in the league. One thing I do wonder about though is Suarez's finishing; it could prove costly to them because for all his skills up front, he's kept the habit of shooting straight at the keeper. Am I wrong about that Liverpool fans?
They're back and with Big Sam at the helm, expect nothing other than a team that'll battle its way to safety this season. They've got the personnel and they seem to have got the hunger, albeit through a lucky goal to win their first game back with the big boys. Mid-table would do them well.
I'm wondering about Paul Lambert's motives moving to Villa Park. Taking one look at their starting 11, it's hard to find players who strike fear into opponents, either physically or on the ball. They'll struggle this season, regardless of Lambert's presence. Villa are a team that don't just need a managerial change to bounce back to the higher spots in the league. Strugglers this season.
Can they do it again? Another good season in the works with players purchased on a small budget? I think they can. Barring injuries to their main players, I'd actually bet on them finishing in the top 4 this season. With the magic syrup of Ba and the power of Papiss Cisse, I think the Geordies are going to have an even better season than last year. The balance of their squad seems right and they have the ability to adapt to different formations, giving Alan Pardew the luxury of a Plan B.
Modric to leave? A striker to join? Players changing numbers for fun (Bale is now 11, and VDV is 10)? Tottenham will fail to live up to the expectations they've set for themselves unless a striker (or 2) is signed. They're one of those clubs you know have got everything to make it huge and it's now all in the hands of Villas-Boas who'll be looking to redeem himself after his failure at Chelsea. Top 6 finish, but no Champions League for Spurs.
The great escape last season was a lucky one. They did look pretty decent at times against Chelsea, and I expect them to avoid getting into the mess they were in last season. A surprising top 10 finish for the Latics wouldn't be wide off the mark.
The Blues are looking confident following their Champions League success last season. With the acquisition of a few new young faces and with a blend of experience, there's no reason why Chelsea won't mount a much more serious challenge than last season. Hazard looks to be the man they should build the team around and he will flourish with the responsibility.
Still the team to beat? When a team wins the league, particularly their first one (in the PL era), the challenge is retaining that title. Getting to top is hard, staying there is harder. No major signings were made during the summer apart from Jack Rodwell, but their comeback against Southampton proves that they've started off exactly where they left off last season. They'll be fighting for the title and the quality of their squad means they'll do so easily.
A bogey team perhaps? The determination to do well looks to be in place, whether or not they'll have the consistency and depth to last an entire season is the real question. I think they'll pull off similar feats to the likes of Hull, Norwich and Reading in years gone by; meaning that they'll perform well until January and will stay up....just about.
The traditional slow starters got off to a flyer by outplaying, outfighting and beating Manchester United. Marouane Fellaini stole the show and put in a top performance. Every year there seems to be the same players at Everton doing the same job. It's still a surprise that they do start slow because they've got what it takes to beat the big boys. They'll do their usual bit of that slow start and will then start flying toward the end of the season with a late push for a European place. (Random info: Darron Gibson has not lost a league game he's played in since April 2010 - good luck charm?).
The danger with signing a marquee player is the expectation it brings. Had United not signed RVP, this defeat would have seemed a lot less strange than it does. With the talent available at United's disposal, particularly going forward, it seems hard to understand how they couldn't breakthrough the Everton defense and trouble Tim Howard. United will be fighting for the title with City, Chelsea and Arsenal - but will need to massively improve on their performance against Everton. Fergie has work to do in finding the best formation and positions for all his players.