FOX Soccer Exclusive
Premier League opens with huge bang
What a weekend and introduction back to the season. We witnessed an explosive opening with some quality goals, goalkeeping blunders, missed penalties and some real superstars. This is why people watch the Barclays Premier League: this league is top dollar in terms of sheer entertainment.
Let’s start with what was the game of the weekend: Swansea’s 5-0 demolition of QPR. That was a superb, comprehensive performance from Swans and showed they remain one of the teams you have to watch out for this season. It’s great to have Michael Laudrup on board and the Swans showed they are going to build on last year’s progression.
Sadly, the game also showed QPR’s absolute mess. The defensive line is flat-out terrible which should concern Mark Hughes. Harry Redknapp is surely sniffing around, doing some extra media work, and knows how to get to Loftus Road.
The champs are here
This was the kind of game that you really want to be a part of as player. It was refreshing to see the Saints seize their chance against City. Even though Southampton came up short, they really showed some great teamwork and maturity. It was a bit surprising that Rickie Lambert didn’t start but it was fantastic to see him get his first Premier League goal.
But City is the defending champion for a clear reason, with midfielder Samir Nasri leading the way. Clubs need players who can change the game and City has so many to choose from. Nasri’s involvement — his passing and ability to score — was nothing short of magnificent.
Unfortunately for City fans, Sergio Aguero suffered a notable knee injury. The extent of Aguero’s injury remains unclear, but it undoubtedly raises a huge concern for Roberto Mancini’s plans this season. Aguero’s a talented player and an important part of Manchester City, and the injury could shake up Mancini’s strategy during the transfer window.
Gun show goes AWOL
Arsenal’s been a big topic this week with good reason. Arsene Wenger is selling his best players like hotcakes, with Robin van Persie and Alex Song being the latest pair to leave Emirates Stadium. Out of the two, Song is most likely to go under the radar. But the midfielder played a big role last season with 14 assists and will surely be missed in attack. Needless to say, van Persie’s influence in attack will be hard to replicate as Arsenal continues to supply its European rivals with top-level talent
Granted, Arsenal will play well and win games. The Gunners will be nice to watch, as witnessed to how they moved the ball around in their 0-0 tie with Sunderland. If the Gunners want to bridge the gap with the Manchester clubs and the Chelsea’s of the league, they have to retain their stars while adding players like Santi Cazorlas, Oliver Giroud and Lukas Podolski. With Wenger and its impressive core of young talent, Arsenal’s thinking has to evolve to stay competitive in England and Europe.
Out of bounds
We’ve all heard about Alan Pardew’s act over the weekend at Newcastle. Pardew pushed an assistant referee during the game against Tottenham and will likely face punishment. Though he was quick to apologize, Pardew looked ridiculous. Alan is man enough to admit his mistake and he’s man enough to take the consequences. The Newcastle manager has history with referees and other coaches, so expect a severe penalty to come down soon.
The sad thing is that the incident overshadowed what was a magnificent game for Newcastle. Andre Villas-Boas’ Spurs played fantastic football in the first half, even missing Emmanuel Adebayor, Scott Parker and Luka Modric. Nonetheless, Demba Ba showed just how special he truly is for Newcastle. When Papiss Cisse was shouldering the load last season, Ba found a way to enter Pardew’s plans. With Cisse, Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa leading the charge, Newcastle will be a very dangerous club this season.
The other two storylines over the weekend (or should I say soon-to-be one storyline) were Clint Dempsey and Liverpool. The two have been linked for several months, while Dempsey’s made it very clear that he wants to move on to bigger and better things. The USA star shows ambition and wants to take on the added responsibility. By all accounts, Dempsey’s been a model professional and deserves to test his talents with a bigger club.
Yet, there are two sides to every story. Dempsey’s been asked to train with the reserve which is an obvious sign the club doesn’t require his services. Added with Martin Jol’s recent comments about Liverpool, Fulham has not handled the situation the right way. Dempsey would be a great fit at Anfield or Emirates Stadium; two places that could use his character, his grit and his determination.
Finally, Liverpool showed a lack of heart against West Bromwich. The Reds lacked the ability to bounce back during their match, and seemed to accept the result. There was no reaction at all. Just like winning is a habit, so is losing. The result will not sit well with fans and it shouldn’t.
Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.