Premier League analysis – Week 1 – Write the Gunners off at your peril

The incredible feelings of tension, nervous energy, excitement and pure passion were back in every Premier League fan’s mind as the opening weekend came round once more. The long summer of ferocious transfer activity, speculation and pre-season friendlies were over as the football began at the beautiful sun-bathed Stamford Bridge.

The weekend of mouth-watering Premier League action brought a total of 24 goals and a staggering six away wins out of eight on the opening Saturday. With no draws occurring in the opening Premier League action there is proof that the League is going to be even more unpredictable and exciting than it ever was.

The outstanding result of the weekend was at Goodison Park as Everton collapsed to a tea-time disaster defeat to the ever-changing youthful Arsenal side. With the Gunners selling their key African duo of Emmanuel Adebayor and Kolo Toure to top four rivals Manchester City the spotlight had been taken off captain Cesc Fabregas as the bookies and pundits began to write-off Arsene Wenger’s men. However the little Spanish magician worked his magic wand in the crushing 6-1 victory as he dictated the central midfield with ease. With fantastic pace, initiative and craft, Fabregas passed perfectly and weighed in with two goals for Arsenal who seemed to be working beautifully together with a midfield consisting of steel in Alex Song and sheer skill and imagination with Fabregas, Denilson and Andrei Arshavin. On the other hand there will be major worries for David Moyes as his midfield and defence were simply torn apart by movement and technical ability. The inclusion of Joleon Lescott was a major talking point as the Manchester City transfer speculation continues. Everton’s ability to defend set-pieces was a major problem as William Gallas and debutant Thomas Vermaelen were given free headers. The Toffees needed a commanding presence to stand up in midfield and defence with efficient tackling, closing down and energy, however a lack of this meant Arsenal could dictate the game the way they wanted and pass beautifully with speed and time.

The season opened up with a clash between Chelsea and Hull City, an odds-on bet of an opening day win for new boss Carlo Ancelotti in many people’s eyes. However, Phil Brown utilised his tactics perfectly in the first 45 minutes. With a strong tackling midfield trio of George Boateng, Dean Marney and Seyi Olofinjana set about narrowing down Chelsea and their much talked about diamond formation. With the first pantomime villain of the season, Stephen Hunt opening the scoring in the 28th minute, Chelsea needed to step up the tempo and improve their link-up play in midfield as well as in the full-back area to offer more width and crossing for Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba. Although a deadly Drogba double rescued Chelsea, much will be reflected on their new diamond formation which Carlo Ancelotti prefers. With Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack or John Obi Mikel in the midfield at times Chelsea became very narrow, one dimensional and lacked the ability to dig out crosses for the big muscular Drogba and a goal poacher of Nicolas Anelkas standards. Hull, however, will take confidence from their performance as they defended well as a team and got forward in numbers to support the lone figure upfront Caleb Folan, although much of their success this season will depend on where star defender Michael Turner will end up.

Who would have thought booing would be the flavour of the day at Villa Park on the opening afternoon of the season? After a terrific job from Martin O’Neill last season the fickle nature of football fans came into play after a poor display against Wigan Athletic. With many of the early season critics writing off Wigan, Jordi Gomez and Hugo Rodellega showcased their natural talents and ability through superb football and one fantastic individual goal – giving Roberto Martinez the perfect start. Villa desperately need to fill the void left by Gareth Barry to add some discipline and most of all experience into their centre midfield to be able to push for a top six finish this season.

One of the major talking points of the weekend came at White Hart Lane as Liverpool crashed to defeat to a fresh and hungry Tottenham side. A significant lack of cohesion and togetherness seemed to fill the air within the Liverpool midfield, as Javier Mascherano, Lucas Leiva and Steven Gerrard simply lacked any spark, imagination or vigour to open up Spurs or cause any problems – especially in the first half. After an amazing strike from Benoit Assou-Ekotto gave Spurs the lead, a reaction was needed from Liverpool, however, it had to come from Glen Johnson as he won Liverpool a penalty with a superb mazy run from right-back. Fernando Torres was lifeless as the Liverpool midfield lacked the creativity and energy to be able to supply the Spaniard. Sebastien Bassong’s winner always looked likely as Liverpool lacked a cutting edge and thrust to their play which was desperately needed. A Xabi Alonso personality was missing from the side to cut open the defence with a trademark cutting edge pass. A return to fitness for Alberto Aquilani will be a must for Liverpool as they need that final pass, creative edge and good possession of the ball.

Birmingham City’s confidence at Old Trafford was a refreshing change although all the promoted sides were defeated in the opening weekend. Birmingham passed the ball well in midfield and created chances for themselves in an open encounter at Old Trafford on Sunday lunch time. Only Wayne Rooney’s rebounded effort stopped Birmingham from taking a superb point from Old Trafford as United began to get used to their new look 4-4-2 formation with natural wingers Nani and Antonio Valencia starting the game.

The final major talking point after the opening weekend of games was the club who have seen remarkable changes in their squad. Manchester City had spent big in the summer in an attempt to change the fortunes of their side and become a new power house within the Premier League. City’s grit and determination is one big talking point as a change of mentality could be vital in a charge to the top of the Premier League. With City opening the scoring through new signing Emmanuel Adebayor in the third minute the grit and tenacious nature of City came through as Blackburn began to exert their physical pressure upon Mark Hughes’ men. A 2-0 victory could be a sign of City’s progress and a change from possibly a top eight side to a top four team.

The opening weekend of the Premier League has seen some amazing talking points being brought up into the spotlight after just one week. Will the Chelsea diamond work? How will Arsenal continue for the rest of the season? How will Manchester United cope with a change in formation and the loss of Cristiano Ronaldo? Not to mention some of the other side’s such as Portsmouth’s struggles, Sunderland’s new found steel, strength and ability and not forgetting Manchester City and the plans they are making to pounce on the top four. The Premier League is up and running and the excitement and controversy has only just begun.

Premier League analysis

Week 1 – August 15/16, 2009

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