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Premier League Opening Weekend Review

by Rob Dore | August 15, 2011

Wasn’t that the most amazing opening to the Premier League ever?!?!?!?…sorry I’ve started in Sky Sports mode…let’s try again.

Wasn’t that the most underwhelming start to the Premier League ever?…sorry again, I slipped into BBC mode…okay final go…

It wasn’t great but then it was the opening weekend. Ignoring the media created hype, if that’s possible, we should know from our own football experiences that it’ll take a few games at least for most teams to settle in to some kind of rhythm. New players, new coaches, new plans all need time and anyone who makes any kind of definitive conclusion about the rest of the season based on this first round of games, is Paul Merson, I mean an idiot, so yes, Paul Merson.

That being said, let’s take a quick look at each game and see what, if anything, we can learn.

Blackburn v Wolves
Steve Kean said it himself, his squad needs more bodies and they need to be bodies which are ready to play now. None of your building for the future nonsense here. His squad would do well to stay up as it is but a few key injuries and they’ll be in real trouble. Wolves put in a spirited display and the manager would have been pleased with the impact Roger Johnson had at the back. Building some early momentum and picking up points against potential relegation rivals could be vital for their survival. An encouraging start for Wolves, the lack of squad improvement and defensive injuries should have Rovers fans worried.

Fulham v Aston Villa
Villa are another side which are in need of recruitments but McLeish will have been delighted with Given, who has already earned his side a point. The visitors looked good in the first half but were lucky to come away with the draw after Fulham dominated proceedings after the break. Encouraging stuff for Jol, despite failing to win, whilst McLeish will be satisfied with the point and how comfortable his side looked at the back in the later stages.

Liverpool v Sunderland
A very encouraging first half from Liverpool, who could have been a few goals up at the break, but as happened many times last season, they faded after the break and resorted to lumping long balls up to Carroll by the end. This is no time for knee-jerk reactions and many factors can explain the second half lethargy. Downing played well and Adam’s set-pieces were excellent. More is expected but we’ll see how they’re doing ten games in.
Sunderland reacted well to a poor first half and looked the stronger of the two teams in the second half. Just like with Liverpool they have a lot of new players and the team will need time to settle but there are encouraging signs and Bruce will be happy with this point.

Newcastle v Arsenal
The home side deserved a point but there was a lack of ambition in front of their own fans. They did defend well throughout but their was an air of frustration in St James’ Park. Demba Ba was poor and Pardew will need him to be more of a threat this season because if he has to rely on Ameobi to get the goals he’ll be disappointed.
Arsenal struggled to create and though it was far from a disastrous result, Wenger needs to spend big if he’s eyeing a title challenge.

QPR v Bolton
The home side started reasonably well but Cahill’s goal in first-half injury time took the wind out of their sails. Their lack of quality is no surprise so they’ll need more of a fighting spirit to survive. There’s plenty of time to improve but a lot of improvement is needed.
Owen Coyle will be delighted with this start and his side’s dominance in the second half will give the players a useful early confidence boost. They’re a solid team but they got off to a good start last season only to fade in the latter stages. Whether Coyle can improve their consistency or not we’ll have to wait and see.

Wigan v Norwich
Wigan dominated but failed to make the most of it and that was a big problem they had last season. Good performances need to be backed up by points. Roberto Martinez is a likeable manager who tries to get his teams playing the “right way” but when you’re fighting for survival the right way is the way that gets you most points.
Norwich at least showed some spirit and Paul Lambert will have been pleased with the effort and the result. There’s plenty for their fans to be happy about one game in to their return to the top table. Will they be as optimistic 30 games in?

Stoke v Chelsea
Chelsea didn’t look too bad considering it was their first competitive game under new management but they didn’t look great either. Torres was far sharper than at any point last season so the fears of him being another Shevchenko will have eased a little. I expect to see a few high profile additions before the transfer window closes.
Stoke were typically obstinate but were lucky not to give away at least one penalty. On this evidence they have no need to worry about relegation. Woodgate getting through an entire game uninjured is a big achievement but they’ll need more than defensive solidity to earn a European slot.

West Brom v Man United
A good performance from the home side who were unlucky in the manner of their defeat. Shane Long scoring on his debut is a plus and the signs were there that the Baggies could be one of the surprise packages this season.
For United, Ferguson will be happy with the result but not with Nani’s performance or the loss of more defenders. Ashley Young was good as was Rooney but De Gea looks unsettled and with an inexperienced centre-half pairing in front of him, United could struggle at the back over the next couple of months. If anyone can devise a way to cope it’s Ferguson but he has some work on his hands.

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