August 20, 2012
The first weekend of action of the English Premier League produced a number of expected results, but with enough surprises to keep neutral fans happy. It is very early in the season, but some supporters will already be worrying about a long difficult season and others will have their fears allayed, at least temporarily.
Probably the biggest surprise of the weekend is the league table. Before the games started, only the most partisan fans would even consider the possibility of Fulham and Swansea being joint top of the league. Not only did these teams record a win in their first game, but both teams scored five goals and kept a clean sheet in the bargain.
The unfortunate teams on the other end of these thrashings, Norwich and QPR, are already looking upwards towards the rest of the teams. Both teams will hope that this was just an early season blip but several more bad results will have both teams locked in a relegation dogfight and perhaps looking for a new manager.
The other big win of the weekend was perhaps even more of a surprise. Many pundits thought that Liverpool might take some time to settle under Brendon Rodgers, but even the most negative critic of the new regime would have predicted a 3-0 opening day defeat at West Brom. It is too early in the season for this to be a crisis and Liverpool will surely recover but history is full of relegated teams that were too good to go down.
The Big Four
Of the “Big Four” teams, only Chelsea and Manchester City got the new season off to a winning start. The new season is only one game old and already these two teams have a slender lead over the two main title challengers.
Chelsea began with a good 2-0 victory at Wigan and fans will have been impressed with the performance of new signing Eden Hazard, who set up the first goal and was fouled for the penalty second goal. Wigan fans should not be too downhearted with their performance, but teams cannot go two goals down against Chelsea in the first ten minutes and expect to get anything out of the game.
Manchester City seem to have a habit of late come backs from losing positions. Two goals early in the second half gave Southampton a 1-2 lead at the Etihad Stadium, before late goals from Dzeko and Nasri gave City the points. City might be the master of these come-backs, but they will want to stop getting into these positions in the first place.
Arsenal could only manage a disappointing home draw with Sunderland which could just be a bad day with the new-look strike force, but it could also be a sign that they are missing Robin Van Persie and may struggle for goals for the rest of the season. The Gunner’s did create a number of chances that were not converted, so on most other days would have scored the goal needed to take the points.
Van Persie’s new team, Manchester United, also failed to find the net in a 1-0 defeat away at Everton. Everton are always a difficult team to visit and start the season in the same way as they finished the last. It might be the start of the season, but this result means that the blue halves of Liverpool and Manchester are much happier than the red halves – just like at the end of last season!
Newcastle took the points in the game against Tottenham. Both teams will be ambitious to break into the Champions League spots by the end of the season, but that will be a difficult task. Newcastle took the points with a penalty conversion in the 80th minute, but Spurs were unlucky and hit the woodwork twice before the first goal. Both teams will be around the top end of the league towards the end of the season.
Reading and Stoke played out a 1-1 draw, but it took a 90th minute penalty from Adam Le Fondre to level the scores. This was a creditable result in their first game back in the Premier League, but both teams will also be disappointed not to take all three points.
The final fixture had new boys West Ham beat Aston Villa 1-0 at Upton Park. The victory was deserved by the home side who were the better team throughout and were unlucky not to score more. Villa new boss Paul Lambert will have to work hard to improve the team for the next game.
The first game is out of the way, and several teams are off to a great start to the season. For differing reasons, all the teams will now be eager to play the next game – probably Chelsea more than the others. The fixture schedule has given them two home games this week and two wins will give them a three point cushion at the top of the league by the end of next weekend.