Premier League Week One: What have we learnt?
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs (hopefully) throughout the season that will attempt to shine a light on some of the key events that have happened over the previous week’s games in the Premier League. We start for the first week with the major talking point of the week, Arsenal.
Arsenal need to spend, urgently.
Arsene Wenger may tell you otherwise in increasingly cryptic ways, (something about the Eiffel Tower most recently) but Arsenal’s football tells us that this team is in dire need of some strengthening. While Arsene Wenger’s argument that very few available players will be an improvement on his first XI, he misses the point, the Premier League is no longer won by eleven players, but a 25+ man squad. While Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla would walk into almost any Premier League team, players like Ignasi Miquel and Nico Yennaris would not, and these are players that as things stand, will be needed to play at some point this season if Arsenal’s injuries continue to mount up. Le Professeur he may be, but Wenger needs to show he can still find a bargain or two in the transfer market to placate a fan base not far from revolution, dissatisfied at the current state of events.
Man Utd might just be alright after all.
Despite Moyes’ meltdown over the past few weeks, hilariously claiming a conspiracy against the club in both the transfer market and the fixture list, Robin Van Persie and Danny Welbeck’s 2 goals a piece may just be the tonic he needs to realise that such claims, as farcical as they may have been, were completely unnecessary. In Van Persie he has Europe’s in-form striker (Messi and Ronaldo excluded), and in Welbeck, provided his new found fondness for goal becomes permanent, he has a genuinely talented young player who is still growing into the team.
While the Rooney saga remains unresolved, it now seems unlikely that the striker will leave, leaving Moyes with both a positive and a negative. On the plus side, he has an England striker who will be desperate to continue to impress for English selection, regardless of his stature, meaning poor performances are not an option, but on the other hand, he is left with a striker whose loyalty is questionable and around whom long term plans can no longer be made. With Robin Van Persie closer to the end of his playing career than the beginning, this leaves Moyes with a dilemma if he is to plan for a reign as long as his illustrious predecessor. If not Rooney or Van Persie, who does Moyes attempt to build a future around up front? On a weekend where Danny Welbeck scored two beautifully taken goals, could he have found an answer?
The three promoted clubs are in for a long season.
Cardiff may have spent big this summer, but this weekend was a stark reminder of the gulf in quality between the established Premier League sides and the newbies, and after an opening weekend where all three of the promoted clubs battled away without a point or a goal, Malky Mackay, Ian Holloway (more on him later) and Steve Bruce will be under no illusions that they face a long hard season. Cardiff will be bitterly disappointed not to have immediately opened up a gap on their relegation rivals with a far more winnable opening game than the others, but Hull must take the plaudits for the most fighting spirit shown. Crystal Palace looked devoid of any quality or genuine threat, and Cardiff let an opportunity slip through their fingers, whereas Hull battled and for a decent portion of the game, made Chelsea work hard for Mourinho’s returning win.
Ian Holloway hasn’t changed.
For those unaware of football outside the Premier League, Ian Holloway has been just as loud and soundbite happy since Blackpool’s relegation, but Crystal Palace’s re-emergence into the Premier League under the Bristolian has provided him with the exposure he so desperately craves. Holloway is one of a select breed of managers who seems more at home in the press box than on the touchline, and is never short of a quote for desperate journalists, always providing plenty of material for bloggers like myself. Despite that however, he is hard to decipher, in that he remains incredibly marmite-like. Whether you love him or you hate him though, he’s back, and the FA have a job on their hands trying to control his selective rants about decisions/referees/fixtures/budgets/squad sizes (delete as appropriate).
The potential is there for a very exciting title race.
Now that we’ve seen all of the candidates properly, I think it’s fair to say that it’s very hard to claim that we’re any closer to seeing any sort of difference in quality between the top three. Both Chelsea and Manchester United won comfortably over the weekend, before Manchester City trumped the pair of them on monday night. While Pellegrini’s side, my pick for the title, impressed for great portions of monday’s game, Newcastle were abject and how the Chilean’s squad adapts for tougher challenges than the one faced at the Etihad on monday is still to be seen. Chelsea under Mourinho seem to be just like Chelsea under Mourinho, and success seems very realistic, and Manchester United are still Manchester United it seems. New manager, squad problems, no new signings, still a 4-1 win over a very competitive Swansea team, it’s all shaping up for the most exciting title race in recent years, a title race that you could genuinely see going down to another “Aguero” moment.
Luke Shaw is a genuine England prospect.
Luke Shaw’s performance, although against a distinctly average pairing of James Morrison and Gareth McAuley down West Brom’s right flank, deserves a special mention. With the exception of Baines there is a dearth of quality in the left back position throughout the country, (Mark Arthur, former director at Nottingham Forest, will tell you this is due to only 11% of the world being left-footed) but Luke Shaw stood out for me this weekend as a not only a very talented player, but also a genuine option for English selection if he can keep this up. Shaw was able to be a constant threat for the 90 minutes, contributing to Lambert’s winning penalty, and was defensively solid also. The most refreshing thing to see about this young talent though, is his apparent loyalty to the club that has made him: the youngster signing a 5 year deal with Southampton over the summer.