Opening Weekend: Guts, Goals and Injuries

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose…

It was a topsy-turvy weekend (and I’m not even going to talk about the fantasy football aspect of it – damn you Rooney!) – depending on who you support and who you hate with a vengeance, you probably went through the whole range of the emotional spectrum.

There are a bunch of matches midweek (one tomorrow, 7 on Wednesday) which I’ll preview tonight – right now, there’s a lot to discuss about the weekend games.

1. Sunderland 1-0 Tottenham

Wrote in detail about this game here and here and here.

It was encouraging to see Sunderland play the way they did but to be honest, they are going to have a lot of problems and Roy Keane would be working his team hard tactically before Wednesday’s away game against Birmingham City.

Tottenham – same old problems as last season, Jol hasn’t solved ’em.

Really impressed by Paul McShane of Sunderland and Younes Kaboul of Tottenham – quality players both of them.

Disappointed by Kieran Richardson and Anthony Stokes, although both players looked to be trying hard.

2. Bolton Wanderers 1-3 Newcastle United

Newcastle played on the good spirit in the squad that has been there since Sam’s arrival. Bolton were nervous and paid dearly for it. The commentators were throwing about the word ‘humiliation’ but I don’t think it’s that bad.

For Newcastle though, the signs are quite encouraging, although the expectations will now be sky-high. Nothing like more pressure, eh?

Didn’t watch the game in whole but surely Anelka should move on to a bigger club now? And why is Geremi captain? Shay Given when fit, and Nicky Butt when he’s playing, surely stand ahead of Geremi.

Or is Big Sam playing the same cards as Wenger and nominating a captain in order to motivate the player?

3. Derby County 2-2 Portsmouth

Another game I couldn’t watch, but on all accounts it was a good fight by Derby and Portsmouth will be kicking themselves for not winning this game. First day and of course you don’t base the whole season on it but on evidence the promoted teams are going to put up a good fight this season?

Not sure if we can say that about some of the other teams though…

Loved the Andy Todd flying header – some of the goals this weekend were just great, I think.

4. Everton 2-1 Wigan Athletic

Wigan got in a consolation goal but it was going to be an uphill battle from the start, not surprised at the result.

Everton are still a striker short though.

Whether Wigan’s buying will pay fruit or not (Sibierski did get a goal) will tell in their home games when Bramble will be expected to help them keep a clean sheet.

5. Middlesbrough 1-2 Blackburn Rovers

Disappointed by Boro as a whole – despite the injuries they should have won this game. Credit to Mark Hughes – limited resources and all that (although with Santa Cruz, McCarthy, Pedersen and Bentley you can’t exactly complain).

And what a goal by Derbyshire…

6. West Ham United 0-2 Manchester City

A lot of people will be praising Eriksson and City’s new signings after this (deservedly so), but let’s not get carried away. West Ham were listless and proof that money and players don’t make winning teams, good managers do.

Ouch, did I just call Eriksson a good manager? Better than Curbishley, at least.

Stylish goals by City, if they can keep it up they’ll be fun to watch.

7. Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool

This is why he’s Captain Fantastic. He may have theatrically won the foul but the resulting free kick was blameless and based just on that they deserved the win.

Overall – Villa did enough to hold Pool. Better players at Rafa’s disposal but he’s not going to change in his approach (which manager does?) and as a result all we could do was admire Babel’s cameo and Carew’s height (which should have been the target of more crosses).

Gareth Barry, shame on you for diving.

8. Arsenal 2-1 Fulham

If I was an Arsenal fan and I had to watch Arsenal play all season the way they played the first 45 minutes, I would have committed suicide or stopped watch football altogether.

The Fulham goal was a fluke and although I think that Lehmann is not the same as he was two seasons ago he’s better than that.

Not sure why Persie should be going wide on the flanks when he’s supposed to be the target man in the box.

Eboue is ok but no replacement for a specialist in the right-midfield position and Rosicky has this extremely annoying tendency to cut in after making a pass instead of running up the wing. Rumours abound that Wenger is after Pedersen – God knows they need a player like him.

Impressed by Hleb’s work-rate, as I’m sure all Arsenal fans are. Why was Flamini playing and not Denilson or Diaby?

And Gallas as captain, that’s what having a big ego will get you.

Arsenal were denied a penalty in the first half but they made up for it in the end, props to them for winning the game in the end.

I like David Healy, he had a good game and there’s a good chance he’ll move up to a ‘better’ team if Fulham don’t do as well as expected.

I don’t think that anyone expected Hleb to score until he actually did – I don’t think his own teammates did either…

Hleb scores, Fabregas can

9. Chelsea 3-2 Birmingham City

Kapo and Malouda, take a bow lads, great goals and if you guys keep playing like this all season it’ll be a helluva Premiership.

I remember Arseblogger and some other Arsenal fans talking down Malouda because he was an ‘average’ winger. Arseblogger, there is no team in the Premier League, Arsenal included, that wouldn’t be improved if Malouda were to join them. Arsenal blew it with Malouda and Ribery, but that’s for another day.

Brucey’s men gave Chelsea a good game, but I don’t think it’ll be so tight for Chelsea in the future.

10. Manchester United 0-0 Reading

No excuses. We had the chances, we didn’t take them. Fair play to Coppell and Reading, they came with a good plan and when they got overrun they kept their shape and stuck to the task.

The foul which led to Kitson’s dismissal was a yellow card offense although if you consider that Kitson tackled Evra in United’s half, that might have influenced the ref’s decision. Still, seen far worse tackles go unpunished, so we do need some sort of consistency, which can possibly come through post-match reviews.

Rooney is injured (fuck, fuck, fuck), but if you’re a United fan this picture will cheer you up a bit:

Tevez and Anderson - never thought you

Spare a thought for Benni McCarthy though (pic at top), who was stretchered off after an head injury. With Essien also going off for Chelsea and two more games coming this week, there’s a good chance that the Prem will be struck with a big number of injuries by next Monday.

List of Premiership players to miss matches during African Cup of Nations
Sunderland have a lot more work to do


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