Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Week 1 in the BPL: Where the Storylines Never Change

A Behind the Scenes Look into Columnist Ed's Office
photo by Nesstervia PhotoRee

The Barclay's Premier League is back, and a new season is well and truly underway, which can only mean one thing: new names and new kits, but the same old crazy outcomes. Some observations forthwith on a weekend that was predictably uncommon, and left Swansea and Fulham in unfamiliar territory at the top of the League:

o For once I found myself agreeing with Steve McMananman, who pointed out while Arsenal have brought in a bunch of firepower to replace Robin Van Persie, they've chosen to stand pat on a defense that includes the wobbly Per Mertesacker, the shaky Kieran Gibbs and the bumbling Wojciech Sczcesny.  We've pointed it out before on these pages, Arsene, but you can't expect to win in this league without a rock solid defense. Not that you were thinking of doing that this campaign.... 

o Of course, Arsenal did manage to shut out Sunderland on Saturday, but let's remember that this was a Black Cats squad that found the net impossibly small during their run in last season....

o With all the fuss about Joey Barton, someone forgot to tell Mark Hughes and QPR that the season kicked off this past weekend. Although somehow we imagine that 5-0 home thrashings will have a way of grabbing your attention.

o It was strange to see Fabio all decked out in his natty sailor boy QPR kit. Same for Parky, as well. After Saturday's thrashing, I'm pretty certain they've figured out their newest stop is a bit closer to Siberia than it is to Manchester. And while Parky's move is sadly permanent, Sir Alex may want to re-think the Fabio loan deal: it now appears as if the only defensive experience the Brazilian will pick up at QPR is learning how to pick the ball out of the back of the net.

o I'll say it now, so you can't accuse me of an unsubtle bias later in the season: I don't like QPR after the way they handed the title to City last season -- not even one little bit -- and I hope they get relegated.

o Gylffi who?  Welcome to the Premier Leage, Michu....  It looks as if Swansea may have found a goodun'.

o Another season, another shutout for Villa, and this to a newly promoted side.  Welcome to the hot seat, Mr. Lambert. You're not in Norwich anymore....

o Just sayin', but I'm not certain that Adam Federici, Reading's goalkeeper, is ready for prime time.

o Granted it was against Wigan, but if Eden Hazard continues to look as good as he did on Sunday,  the rest of the League had better stand up and pay attention. Juan Mata may have made a decent impact on the Blues last season, but Hazard's not just about the pretty stepovers and a pass -- he seems to have a genuine knack for finding the open man in front of net. Playing largely from the right, Hazard gave Chelsea not only an extra offensive gear, but more importantly the width that the Blues have lacked the last couple of campaigns.

o As might be expected, there was not much to separate the sides that finished fourth and fifth last season when Spurs and Newcastle faced off on Saturday. That is, until Hatem Ben Arfa took the game by the scruff of the neck and scored a late penalty to give the home side a narrow 2-1 victory. Ben Arfa looked the part of a genuine BPL superstar, willing to take on any and all defenders, and was the standout player in a game that featured the likes of Ba, Cisse, Bale and Van Der Vaart, among others.

o Spurs' problems were summed up succinctly when they found themselves down 2-1 with five minutes to go and went to the bench only to put on....Harry Kane.  'Nuff said.

o Meanwhile, the Assistant Referee showed Magpies' Manager Alan Pardew that he's no pushover....  Although the FA apparently are, as they made an open mockery of their own rule book when they allowed the Manager to take a headset to the stands and run his team via headset.

o What a difference 13 weeks can make: from winning the title to writhing on the ground....  Although we didn't much like it when Kun Aguero won the League with a goal in stoppage time last May, we disliked it just about the same amount when the diminutive Argentine was stretchered off the pitch on Sunday afternoon. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed that the scan results due back shortly won't deprive the BPL of one of its legitimate superstars for long.

o Welcome to the Premier League, Nigel Adkins. It took all of four minutes for the Southampton bossman's first substitute -- Ricky Davis, the number one scorer in the Championship last season, mind you -- to make his mark on the top division and lift Southampton back into their match with City.  Then, only two minutes after Adkins made his second switch, Steven Davis nailed home the second goal sucker punch. Although City managed to fight their way back and claim all three points, Adkins' boys from the South proved that they're not going to lay down for anyone.

o The biggest surprise in Liverpool's 3-0 spanking at the hands of West Brom was that it wasn't 5-0. The Brendan Rodgers' era seems to have picked up nicely where the Kenny Dalglish era left off....

o In a weekend of big victories and standout performances, the best was saved for last as Player of the Week Marouanne Fellaini almost singlehandedly took down Manchester United to give Everton a rare early season victory and United the not-so-common opposite.  Let's hope that doesn't happen again anytime soon.

This is farlieonfootie for August 22.

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