Monday, August 17, 2009

2009/2010 Barclays Premier League Season: Week 1 Review

The 2009/2010 Barclays Premier League started with a bang this weekend. The first round of matches saw six out of ten matches settled by away wins. Furthermore, there are no draws on the opening weekend which could imply that managers are focused on getting all three points. Here are the weekend scores.

2 - 1
Hull City
0 - 1 Fulham
0 - 2 West Ham United
0 - 2 Manchester City
0 - 1 Sunderland
Aston Villa 0 - 2 Wigan Athletic
Stoke City 2 - 0 Burnley
Everton 1 - 6 Arsenal
Manchester United 1 - 0 Birmingham
Tottenham Hotspur 2 - 1 Liverpool

Darren Bent "twitter"ed his way to Sunderland and promptly repaid Steve Bruce's faith by heading home the winner against Bolton. Roberto Martinez showed why he is Premier League management material by fielding an enterprising Wigan side.

Ambitious Manchester City had pressure right from kick-off to perform and they did. Emmanuel Adebayor started a City attacking move and scored at the end of a precise counter attacking move three minutes into the first half. Blackburn were at their combative best but could not beat Shay Given in goal. Blackburn became complacent in defence which allowed Stephen Ireland to score City's second goal. At least City looked a lot fitter and had a bit more understanding than in their preseason friendlies.

Chelsea reverted to their "Mourinho era" gritty self. They kept going at Hull City and finally found the breakthrough. Chelsea seemed to be one of those clubs who thrive solely on pressure and negative press publicity. The resilience and self-belief that Hiddink had brought back to Chelsea, Ancelotti reinforced. The Blues kept going when Hull faded and Drogba finally scored a lucky winner. It will take some more matches to fully understand how the midfield diamond formation will work out but Chelsea still remain my favourite for the title.

Manchester United resumed Premiership action without the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo. Since the opposition was Birmingham, it was hard to decide if the Red Devils missed the directness of Ronaldo. Needless to say, Wayne Rooney took over scoring duties and came close a few times. He even had the presence of mind to chest a ball through to the substitute Owen who wasted a one-on-one chance. Berbatov looked too balletic and non-fussed to be playing in United colours. The United midfield is definitely missing a creative influence when Carrick does not play. Ben Foster acquitted himself well but Joe Hart definitely has a future hold as the England goalkeeper in-waiting.

Most football fans would pick Arsenal to be the most vulnerable to the money-filled ambitions of Manchester City. I almost forgot the feeling of euphoria watching an opening day match where six or more goals were scored. Arsenal with their Barca-esque football brought back some joy and fantasy back to the Premiership. It was great to see Eduardo scoring. I am sure Everton will not be as generous for the rest of the season. Whether or not, key players can stay injury-free will determine Arsenal's season.

Enjoy highlights of Arsenal's third goal which is my pick for the best goal of the week, simply because I have never seen a move which involves "nutmegging" the opposing players three times before the ball ends up in the back of the net. Amazing stuff!

Liverpool on the other hand, endured a tough afternoon against a well-organized Spurs team. Jamie Carragher seemed to be overly fired up for this match, head-butting poor Martin Skrtel and then not covering Spurs' new defender, Sebastien Bassong as Liverpool lost their first opening match in two years.

Jamie nuts Skrtel - Image from Associated Press

At times, Liverpool laboured and toiled but did not have enough creativity to win the match. With the loss of Alonso, Rafa may have to rethink and probably break up the much feared Gerrard-Torres partnership. The dynamism and drive that Gerrard displays (until Aquilani is fit again) will help the Liverpool midfield but surely put a lot of pressure on Torres upfront. Question is, who plays with or behind Torres as the second striker? An inept performance from Liverpool, but a positive note is that Liverpool's performance is bound for improvement.

Lastly, West Ham scored an away win against newcomers Wolves. England U-21 captain, Mark Noble opened the scoring with a breathtaking long range shot. The five-man Irons midfield played fabulously and James Collision goal-bound shot was cleared off the line by the Wolves defender. The runs into the box by the West Ham midfield players were causing lots of concern to Mick McCarthy's men. There were other standout performances, most notably from three other England internationals, Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson and Robert Green. The London derby match against Spurs is next and West Ham will be in good nick for that as well. Redknapp's return to Upton Park is surely a match worth watching.

Next up, the mid-week matches kicks off with these top matches. Home teams are depicted in bold.
Burnley v Manchester United
Liverpool v Stoke City

Arsenal will play Celtic in a Champions League playoff and thus their Premiership match is postponed. West Ham's match against Aston Villa is also postponed as Villa will be involved in Europa League commitments.

Find out in more detail West Ham's performance against Wolverhampton Wanderers in my next post.

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