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English Premier League

Premier League Week Two: What have we learnt?

In the 2nd blog of the series, we look at what this week’s fixtures have taught us, including Manchester City’s troubling result at Cardiff and the thrilling game of football (0-0’s make bloggers lives really difficult, trust me…) between Manchester United and Chelsea last night.

Mourinho is back.

Jose Mourinho has gained a reputation based on consistent success at the highest level across four countries in the past decade, but there remains a significant portion of football fans that cannot abide the man and his methods. Be this raking the eyes of his opposite numbers (Tito Vilanova will attest to this) or the way his teams often set up against other big teams, Mourinho has a large number of doubters as well as supporters. The 0-0 draw between Mourinho’s Chelsea and David Moyes’ Manchester United last night will have done nothing to alter their views either. Moyes lined his side up with an aggressive front four of Valencia, Rooney, Welbeck and Van Persie showing his attacking intentions from the start, but with Mourinho opting to avoid naming a out and out striker at all, the Portuguese set up his team largely to stifle his opposition’s attacking threat. In keeping a clean sheet, Mourinho will be delighted with his tactical success, and in anyone’s book, a point away at Old Trafford is a good result. In this instance though, the public’s loss is Mourinho’s gain, as his team’s hard earned point denied the watching public the spectacle of two title rivals both battling for the three points.

Manchester City missed an opportunity.

While Manchester City’s 3-2 defeat to Cardiff might not be the massive blow that some are suggesting, it was most definitely three points dropped that Manuel Pellegrini would have thought were achievable. Cardiff’s shock win will cause more concern to the Chilean though in the manner that it occured. Joe Hart has now had one too many incidents for it to be just a few isolated moments, and the goalkeeper has now got to take a long look at himself. This weekend’s mistake led to at least one dropped point, arguably all three, and on a week where City’s two main title rivals played each other, Pellegrini will be disappointed an opportunity to extend an early lead over at least one of his opponents has been missed.

Cardiff need more performances like this.

Cardiff City against Manchester City and Cardiff City against West Ham. It’s hard to believe that these two performances were by the same team. Against West Ham they looked uninspired and could have played several 90 minutes without scoring. Fast forward one week to this week’s performance and Cardiff were totally re-invigorated. They did not allow Manchester City to play as fluently as they had against Newcastle the week before, and successfully stifled City’s attacking options for the majority of the game. I said before the season that Cardiff should have enough to stay up, and the victory over City looks to have justified that belief. However, if the Bluebirds cannot repeat this level of performance against teams such as West Ham, then they will struggle.

Hull’s victory leaves Crystal Palace alone.

Although Crystal Palace are not even bottom of the Premier League, and will argue they have acquitted themselves well in their first two games, Hull’s victory over Norwich will be of great concern to Ian Holloway and Steve Parrish, the Palace chairman. Swansea may prop up the Premier League at the moment, but this is surely a false position borne out of a very difficult first two games of the season. Palace on the other hand, threw away a hard earned lead against Stoke City this weekend, and as a result are the only of the promoted clubs yet to gain a point. Holloway may be pleased with the narrow manner of his side’s defeats, but this will be scant consolation come the end of the season. Palace need to start converting these narrow defeats into draws, and then, in time, the wins will come, but at the moment, this looks like a tall order for the London outfit. Hull on the other hand, will be delighted with a hard fought win over Norwich City, and Steve Bruce will be ecstatic that his team managed to hold on with only 10 men for the win.

The Premier League’s “most exciting season ever” may be a little over-hyped.

This week’s lack of goals serves as a timely reminder that although the Premier League, with it’s massive TV revenue and huge publicity, may be the best league in the world, but a goal-fest week after week it is not. Defenders ruled this weekend, and all twenty teams found scoring arduous. It was not a record low for the league, but it was not far off. Big money has been spent on strikers by teams throughout the league, but it was a week where defenders justified money spent on their fees also. Some will argue that the volume of goals does not make a weekend exciting, but compare this Premier League weekend to the Championship below and I find an argument claiming the Premier League was more enjoyable to follow hard to fathom. The best league in the world it may be, but this does not mean the league cannot have the occasional slow week.

The title race is anyone’s guess.

Can anyone seriously place a bet on any of the title contenders with a great deal of conviction? City look dominant one week, lose to an inspired Cardiff the next. Chelsea scrape past Villa one week, then neutralise an attacking United side just a few days later, and Manchester United demolish Swansea, then find no way past Chelsea. With no team putting a stamp on the title race as yet, this is where the Premier League’s excitement is unparalleled. With Manchester City kicking off early against newly promoted Hull next weekend, this is their chance to get over this week’s disappointment, and you can be sure David Moyes and Jose Mourinho will be watching keenly. Just two weeks in, and things are starting to heat up nicely.

Ben Thompson

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