It is fair to say the long-awaited opening weekend of the Barclays Premier League did not disappoint. Sparkling debuts, breath-taking goals and a notable upset or two, the world’s greatest league got off to a typically eventful start with much to cast our reflective eye over.
Below I elicit five talking points from the weekend’s action.
The ‘octupus’ has arrived in English waters
The champions had much to smile about come Sunday evening, perhaps nothing more so than the competitive debut of the one they call ‘the octupus’ – Brazilian bruiser Fernando.
Fernando took the pitch having performed no better than average in his pre-season run-outs, however on Sunday afternoon the midfielder put on a dominant display reminiscent of ex-blue Nigel De Jong and possibly even the master Makelele himself. He bullied players off the ball and pulled off hugely impressive swiping tackles with his tentacle-like legs seemingly without even breaking a sweat.
With Fernando you get everything you see on the tin. He is physical, uncompromising and a rock for the likes of Toure, Silva and Nasri to rely upon as they make their way up-field. His style of play is far from pretty and he’ll probably clock up more yellow cards than goals in his time at the Etihad, however early indications suggest he is going to be great asset for Manuel Pellegrini, especially in the more testing away games elsewhere in the division and in Europe.
Fabregas – signing of the summer?
Without question the star of the opening weekend was Chelsea new boy Cesc Fabregas.
We all know the type of ability the ex-Arsenal star possesses, but even the most optimistic Chelsea fan would have been slightly taken back by the quality of the Spaniard’s contributions – especially this early in the new season.
Fabregas dictated the match from start to finish. His assist for Chelsea’s second was stuff of beauty and his all-round display belonged to a bracket of performance only a very small group of players can hope to reach.
If Cesc can extend form half as good as his display on Monday night throughout the season he has to be a contender for signing of the season. Just don’t bring it up with an Arsenal fan…
An all blue two horse race?
As Arsenal and Liverpool stuttered their way to three points, Chelsea and City convincingly took three points from what some pundits were predicting as very tricky fixtures.
Nothing is won in August but plenty can be learnt – as echoed in the post-match comments of Gary Neville. At this moment in time it would take a brave person to bet on anything other than a top two finish for Mourinho and Pellegrini. As it stands these two managers boast the biggest players and deepest squads to go on and lift the trophy in 37 games time.
A lot can happen between now and then, of course, with lots more money to be spent and plenty of players to become injured; however as things stand a two horse race is shaping up at the top with two shades of blue taking centre-stage.
Woodward must pull his finger out (and fast)
Edward Woodward isn’t exactly popular with the Manchester United faithful at the moment, and his side’s shock opening day defeat to Swansea city has placed even greater pressure on him to make meaningful moves in the market.
Some pundits (John Motson included) have predicted a title win in Louis Van Gaal’s first season at Old Trafford, however based on what transpired on Saturday afternoon it is very difficult to see this Manchester United team even beginning to match the current table-toppers without significant investment in a number of areas.
Woodward is tasked with providing quality as well as quantity, too. Only players of Vidal, Di Maria and Hummel’s ilk will feasibly do, in the short run at least, however it is going to take an astronomical amount of money and persuasion to attract a handful of players of this calibre to Old Trafford in one window.
As the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the re-building project at Manchester United is not going to be completed in one window or through the cashing of a single cheque. To the frustration of many United fans, however, Edward Woodward has been less than impressive in laying the first foundations.
Plenty of reasons to be optimistic St. Mary’s
Although coming away from the North West with no points to show for their effort, Ronald Koeman’s new-look Southampton sent out a mini-statement of sorts; they have the players and belief to stay well clear of a relegation scrap.
Serbian newbie Dusan Tadic enjoyed a highly promising debut – causing Liverpool problems all afternoon and displaying the type of creativity and quality capable of more than filling the shoes of the departed Adam Lallana.
Tadic aside, with Forster between the sticks, Fonte leading from the back and plenty of astute and talented footballers elsewhere in the squad (with more potentially coming in), Southampton fans need not feel like a sinking ship after the summer exodus.
The ship has survived the storm and is moving towards calmer waters.