The Big News
The biggest news this week is of Arsenal’s sale of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona. After a summer of throwing back the Catalan’s advances, the Gunners finally gave in at £25 million up front, with clauses that could see it rise to £35 million. A lot have speculated that Arsenal could be on a downward spiral, but I think as long as Arsene Wenger goes out and spends money in the 2 weeks left of the transfer window, they should be fine. Who they should buy is a topic that has been discussed, and I have some targets he should be looking at. First of all, a centre back, with the likes of Gary Cahill, Scott Dann and Christopher Samba being linked, and all would be good signings as a commanding force with Thomas Vermalen. Then, they need a defensive midfielder, as Alex Song can be reckless and he has no replacement, and here I would look at Yann M’Vila, who would be at a reasonable price and is a terrific winner and keeper of the ball. And finally, they need to replace Fabregas’ creative ability. They have looked at Jadson, but I think they have better options in Marek Hamsik or even Mario Gotze if they were incredibly ambitious. But a player that could fill the void at a reasonable price is Marvin Martin of Sochaux, who has 17 assists in Ligue 1 last season, and could be cheaper than £10 million. I think he will buy, possibly not the players I’ve highlighted, but I feel as long as they get some creativity and steel, they will still challenge for a Champions League spot.
The Weekend’s Games
West Brom 1 – 2 Manchester United
The champions started the defence of the Premier League title with a tricky trip to The Hawthorns. It started well for United, with the youngest starting eleven in the league this weekend with an average age of 24, with the slick passing we had seen in the Community Shield, and scored through Wayne Rooney early on. However, after the goal West Brom grew into the game, with Tchoyi making a nuisance of himself and Brunt controlling the play. This lead to an equaliser through new signing Shane Long, who may have been handed the goal by De Gea’s poor attempt at saving his tame shot. In the second half, West Brom continued to play well, limiting United’s attempts to break behind them and keeping them at arm’s length. That was until the 83rd minute, where Ashley Young found a way past the back line, crossed in low and the cross was deflected twice and into the back of West Brom’s net. It wasn’t the best of starts for United, but they took the three points. Young, Cleverley and Smalling impressed, as did Tchoyi and Brunt for West Brom, but this was definitely a game to forget for De Gea after his blunder, and Stephen Reid after being tortured by Young all game.
Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City
City, and Kun Aguero, got off to the perfect start at home against Swansea City, as the first game in the Premier League involving the Welsh side ended in a battering. Swansea looked bright to begin with, keeping the ball well and closing down early City play, but City began to take control, hammering shots at impressive goalkeeper Michael Vorm, and somehow the Swans got to half-time 0-0. Then, out came City. They were relentless in the second half, finally getting the breakthrough with Edin Dzeko tap in, and then they took full control. And, just as you feel Swansea could capitulate, on comes Kun Aguero. He was brilliant, having a shot within the first minute of coming on, and then scoring his first goal seven minutes later. He then kept the ball in play to set up David Silva for the third, and a breathtaking strike gave City their fourth and Aguero his perfect start. Mancini said Aguero was 75% fit, and that’s scary. David Silva was massively impressive as usual, Dzeko looks settled and Richards nullified any threat of Scott Sinclair causing any trouble. All in all, an impressive and imperious start for the billionaire club. As for Swansea, I think they will rely on their home form, but if they can play like the first 30 minutes against the teams around them, they will do fine.
Stoke 0-0 Chelsea
In what was a pretty mundane game, Chelsea could not quite get a goal against a tough Stoke. It started very well for Stoke, who looked dangerous on the attack and almost caught Chelsea still on their holidays. However, Chelsea really took control of the game, with Torres looking much more like his former self, even matching up against Woodgate, Shawcross and Huth. In the seond half, there was only really one team in it. There were three penalty shouts, two that were correctly denied and one that should have been a penalty, but it would have been difficult for the referee to judge if Torres was in the box or not. Afterwards, Chelsea hit the bar and rained down many shots on Asmir Begovic, who to his credit kept them all out. A pearl of a strike from Anelka was beautifully saved by the Stoke keeper on to the crossbar, and Stoke stood firm until the final whistle. Chelsea performed well in areas, such as Torres and the suprisingly impressive Bosingwa, but failed on the wings as Malouda and Kalou were dreadful. Stoke played excellent at the back, with Woodgate and Begovic being outstanding, and will be dangerous opposition at the Britannia Stadium again this season.
Newcastle 0-0 Arsenal
A very poor game and a poor first game of the season for the Gunners, as this game was more about fouls than the game itself. The main talking points of the stamp, of which Alex Song should have gone, and the Gervinho dive and then slap, of which both he did and the shameless Joey Barton should have been sent off. The dive, as it was, is difficult to judge. There was definitely contact, but not significant contact to go down like a sack of potatoes. The reaction from Barton was a complete joke, as he took the law into his own hands and then got a gentle stroke on the cheek and fell like he’d been hit by Mike Tyson. It was farcical, and only one went made it more ridiculous. The fact there isn’t much about the game shows you how poor it was, and Arshavin should not be starting if he puts in performances like that. Both teams will improve, but this was a bad way to start the campaign.
Liverpool 1-1 Sunderland
This was the classic “Game of two halves”. First half, Liverpool looked brilliant, with Suarez tormenting the Sunderland defence, earning himself a penalty early on. For me, Richardson has to go, because he is the last man, but I can understand the referee not wanting to ruin the game so early on. Suarez then went on to sky the penalty, but redeem himself by scoring the opening goal with a good header from a superb free-kick by Charlie Adam. Carroll then had a goal dissalowed, rightly in my opinion, and Downing crashed a terrific strike against the bar, and Liverpool headed into half-time with most people wondering how many they would score. Then, they took their foot off the gas and Sunderland started playing football. They took control, and Larsson scored a stunning goal to level things, and that was the way it stayed. If Liverpool can play like that first half in more games and maintain it, they will compete for silverware this season, but if they play like the second half, they will not even make the Europa League. New signings Adam and Downing impressed, whereas Henderson was dissapointing. Sunderland look decent, Brown had a terrific game and looks a steal, Larsson had a good game and they look like they will do well this season.
Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa
In another game that failed to deliver, two familiar managers with different teams got their new reigns underway with a point. In the first half, new Fulham signing John Arne Riise had a great chance to score, but ended up sending his effort into the stands. As the game progressed, Fulham looked the more dangerous side, as Shay Given kept out Bobby Zamora on two different occasions, where he really should have scored. Near the end, Albrighton had a chance to score for Villa but put it wide, and that was basically the story of the game. Neither really put in enough to win, but both managers will like what they saw from their new signings. For me, Villa looked odd, with the selection of Bent, Agbonlahor and Heskey a strange one, with only N’Zogbia as true width to the side. Fulham look similar to the past two seasons, with a few additions, but look as good as they usually do. And from this evidence, neither should worry about flirting with relegation.
QPR 0-4 Bolton Wanderers
What started as a very positive beginning to life in the Premier League quickly turned into a nightmare, as QPR took a beating from Bolton. In the first minute, QPR had a goal correctly dissalowed for offside, but the crowd erupted and put a fire underneath QPR for the first half, who looked like they would eventually get a goal. Until a thunderbolt from Gary Cahill gave Bolton a 1-0 lead going into half time. In the second half, Bolton took complete control, and after the second went in from a Gabbidon own goal, QPR sank their heads into the sand. A third came from a deflection on Klasnic’s shot and good work from Davies, but QPR were being cut through at will. Then came a great fourth from Fabrice Muamba, slicing through the QPR backline like a hot knife through butter, and slotting home a terrific move. On this evidence, Bolton will be a difficult team to beat again this season and could be far away from the relegation trap door. On the other hand, QPR look in trouble already, with Taarabt hardly getting a touch and the defence looking incredibly frail, it could be a long season for them.
Blackburn 1-2 Wolves
The reverse of the final day fixture last season, both sides wanted to get off to a good start to stay clear of a relegation dogfight this season. Blackburn started off brighter, getting the first goal through some supreme footwork by Jason Roberts setting up Formica for his first goal for the club. But, from then on, Wolves were the better side, and they managed to equalise almost instantly through Steven Fletcher. After a brilliant ball to the back post from Matt Jarvis, Fletcher outjumped Michel Salgado to head into the bottom corner. Then the winner came from a rebound from a poor penalty that the Blackburn defence couldn’t clear until it met the boot of Stephen Ward and flew into the back of the net. Wolves looked good on this performance, with new captain Roger Johnson playing like a man possessed, and they look to have more character this time around. Blackburn, however, could struggle, but with Goodwillie and Petrovic coming into the side, they may improve.
Wigan 1-1 Norwich
What could already be a six pointer, Norwich managed to get a draw in their first game back. Wigan went ahead after some suicidal defending for Richie De Laet, which lead to Di Santo breaking through to be fowled by the pursuing De Laet. Up stepped Ben Watson to slot away the spot kick, the only one scored in the first weekend. But Norwich piled on what could be described as pressure, and got their reward after Ali Al-Habsi fumbled a cross into the feet on Wes Hoolahan to slot into the back of the net. As for the rest of the game, Moses looked the only attacking threat for Wigan until the introduction of Connor Sammon and Hugo Rodallega, who really should have started. Both looked like they have huge mistakes in defence, they gift the ball to the opposition too easily and will concede more than they score. The future really looks bleak for both sides if they don’t improve at the back.
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