Archive for August 23rd, 2012

Football: Prem 2012 Week 1

Hi Ho, Back To The Grindstone

Wow! That Sergio Aguero goal seems like it happened in geological time, the Euros feel like ancient history, those Olympic imposters just so last century baby. We’ve gorged ourselves on some of the best football the planet has to offer – the first half of the Euro 2012 final was simply fantastic, we’ve snored our way through another utterly unimaginative and depressing Engerland campaign and thanks to them Olympics we’ve inadvertently discovered that actually we’re quite good at doing the international super spectacle.

But enough of that. The Prem is back in all its flush-banker cash wagging glory. Swearing, check, gross overpaid monstrosities whining for penalties, check, fat ugly managers doing one on the touchline, check. Yup, with skills at a premium, it’s all back to kicking lumps out of one another and shouting at the ref.

Yet this Prem has more going for it than any season for the past 4 years. It feels like there has been something of a release. The old has been expunged, Chelsea’s old boys, fresh from giving Abramovich the prize he craved, have departed for all parts of the world, replaced by young whippersnappers like Hazard and Oscar. Liverpool and Spurs have kissed goodbye to the octogenarians and chanced their arms on a pair of young ambitious managers. We’ve got rid of droopy faced Mick McCarthy and replaced Wolves, Bolton and Blackpool with a bunch of smart teams with, dare I say it, actual tactics and footballing philosophies.

Oh and Fat Sam Allerdicé and Stoke are still there. So nothing’s perfect.

Week 1 Games

Week 1 games were actually pretty good.

Normally no one would bother with a table at this time. But what the heck eh?

Man U began their attempt to wring back the title from rivals City by pillaging Van Persie from Arsenal and, hilariously, losing 1-0 to an inspired Everton. Despite United having a bunch of great new guys like Kagawa and Van Persie, they were thoroughly dominated by Everton’s old skoolers. Fellaini, in particular, was outstanding.

City, meanwhile, hardly made things easy for themselves, surrendering a lead to new boys Southampton and then going behind, before turning things around and winning 3-2. Yet, despite this potential setback, City looked very menacing, effectively continuing where they left off last season and never forgetting to put their fans through the wringer at every opportunity. Yaya, Kompany and Nasri were excellent. Southampton looked far more competent than most of last year’s new boys, not least because they actually have goal potential in them. If they carry on like this they should have no problems in the Prem.

While for many change was in the air, for Arsenal it was plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose – same old same old. They’d lost their captain (again) along with, shortly afterwards, their most influential midfielder (again) and were faced with yet another rebuilding season (again). Not to mention a match against one of their bogey teams, Sunderland. But this time Arsenal had prepared (or at least attempted to prepare) and had gone shopping early.  Admittedly they couldn’t actually break through Sunderland’s unambitious bus parking philosophy, although new boy Giroud screwed a great chance wide. Still anything is better than the nosedive of 2011 eh? Sunderland look like being in a lot of trouble.

Also out at the shops were Chelsea, only they didn’t go bargain hunting like Arsenal, they just went out and spunked all the money they’d made on their Champions League winning run and then some. And this time, the big money signings came good pretty quick. With 2 penalties, 2 assists and a backheel attempt that went specially wrong in the Charity Shield, Hazard looks well worth the £32 million, slightly overshadowing the potential that is Oscar. Wigan continued their usual atrocious early season form by going 2 down in double quick time. Later in the week newcomers Reading would also fall to the power of the blues. Chelsea haven’t looked this threatening since they went and blew the Prem back in 2010.

Of the chasing pack, both Liverpool and Spurs have changed manager and, one would assume, their tactical approach in a desperate quest to break back into the top four. Both moves looked sensible, Rogers’ approach at Swansea looks perfect for a Liverpool wallowing nostalgically for the dream passing of the late 1970’s, while Villas Boas seems far better suited for Spurs than he ever was for Chelsea, the fast flowing attacking play of his Porto side almost tailor made for Spurs’ classy passing aspirations.

Yet neither one is going to have it easy. Rogers faces many of the same problems Villas Boas faced at Chelsea – an aging squad of fading A-listers determined to hang onto their positions, along with a set of fans who are more than prepared to give their idols the benefit of the doubt. In addition Rogers has a squad of also-rans who don’t seem up to his close passing game. If we needed any proof that Liverpool were in for a tough ride, it came away at West Brom. Fronted by yet another new manager, Steve Clarke having replaced Roy Hodgson, West Brom should have been ripe for the taking. Yet they took the game to Liverpool and thoroughly deserved the 3-0 win. For Liverpool it was a familiar story, a lacklustre midfield, poor defence and a spectacularly misfiring Suarez. Their worst display since they went fully abject at Spurs last season. West Brom, meanwhile, look to have lost none of their midtable mediocrity.

Spurs are hoping to emulate last year’s unexpected success at Newcastle. Yet they’re going to have to change a lot, having apparently lost Modric and Ledley King and failed so far to sign Adebayor. They have no one as special in midfield as Cabaye, no goal threat as potent as Cissé and Ba, and no defence as solid as the Magpies. So it was unsurprising that they lost 2-1. Newcastle continue to look good, but Spurs’ hopes of a top four finish this season look a tad ambitious. More realistically they will be fighting it out with Liverpool, Newcastle and Everton for the lesser Euro places.

Three other teams, Villa, Norwich and Swansea had new managers. And each looked to have their own special challenges. At Villa Paul Lambert has inherited a team that would have been relegated if only Alec McLeish had lived up to expectations. Still short of strikers, midfielders and a defence, Lambert’s choice to move from Norwich feels like an odd one. Nothing seems to have changed over the close season as Villa lost 1-0 to an equally abject West Ham.

Norwich‘s managerial change was enforced by Lambert’s move and Chris Hughton should bring them the same lower midtable stability he brought to Birmingham and Newcastle. Yet his side was comfortably outplayed by an inspired Fulham, who duly stuffed them 5-0. If Fulham can hang on to players like Dembele, then they might also challenge for those minor Euro places.

Swansea‘s Michael Laudrup looked to have the greatest challenge. How would they fare with the loss of Rogers and players like Joe Allen. Still we needn’t have worried. Laudrup’s appointment is starting to look visionary as his side comfortably crushed QPR 5-0, with both his new signings bedding in successfully and the team retaining its class. QPR, in contrast, looked abysmal.

The final newly promoted team, Reading, are another team with a clear playing philosophy, yet they weren’t able to apply themselves against a typically tedious Stoke. 1-1 doesn’t really describe the misery of this fixture.

So, on the basis of a whole week’s worth of matches, who has been naughty and who has been nice?


  • Swansea
  • Fulham
  • Chelsea
  • Man City
  • Everton
  • West Brom


  • QPR
  • West Ham
  • Norwich
  • Liverpool
  • Sunderland
  • Stoke
  • Man U
  • Villa

Not Sure

  • Arsenal
  • Spurs
  • Reading
  • Newcastle
  • Southampton
  • Wigan