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EPL Week 1 – 6 road wins, 4 home wins, and 1 upset

CHELSEA V HULL CITY, PREMIER LEAGUE

The Premier League season kicked off with a foggy start for some, mainly us Americans who had to wake bright and early to catch the opening match between Chelsea and Hull City.  It would go on to become an interesting weekend in which we found out a lot about what to expect this season, and though you might want to write a few sides off already, do not judge so quickly.  I only missed two matches this weekend, Stoke City v Burnley and Bolton v Sunderland, though many of the rest were watched at a later date during a busy weekend.  Here is what I saw and expect going forward.

Chelsea  2 – 1 Hull City

This match was entertaining from start to finish, having many Chelsea fans on the edge of their seats throughout after Hull’s new boy Stephen Hunt started off the scoring in the 28th.  Chelsea were not rattled and never looked like they would lose this match though, unless they failed to find the back of the net, which would also not happen.  A rejuvenated Didier Drogba would lead Chelsea to their opening win this season as he netted in the 37th and 90th to give the Blues the victory they were expecting on the opening weekend though; the 90th minute GWG was a beauty though as Drogba trying to cross the ball to the backpost actually chipped Hull’s keeper and found the net for the win.  Hull played Chelsea hard throughout though and actually deserved a point from this one in my opinion.  Do not write Hull off yet though as many of us have, including myself, because if their new signings come together and they can find the net consistently, they could be a side to be reckoned with this term as they fight to stay in the top flight.

Portsmouth  0 – 1 Fulham

I watched this match at a later time on the DVR and found myself fast forwarding to keep interested.  Aside from the Zamora goal in the 13th, the match had a lot of back and forth play and neither side looked to be able to hold possession for long.  Portsmouth looked like they would equalize many times throughout, but whether it was by luck or just poor finishing; they never quite found the final touch needed.  Fulham have added depth and should continue to improve as the season moves on, but Pompey looks to be in for a long season that could very well find them fighting for their lives in the end.  It was a hard match to watch, but I doubt anyone expected a different result in this one.

Wolves v West Ham

Another match watched from the DVR a day later.  I was actually looking forward to seeing Wolves play and was excited SETANTA decided to give us a free weekend as I cannot seem to bring myself to pay for the channel monthly.  Now do not pass judgment on Wolves by this one game because they had their moments.  They are this season’s West Brom of the promoted sides, bringing up what looks to be the strongest of the 3 teams, but did not show it on the weekend.  If the shots had found the net for Wolves this game could have very well have been a draw, but as it stands, they were unable to score in their first outing.  Both sides controlled the match for lengthy spells of time, but it was the Hammers in the end who found the net in each half to earn the 3 points.  Noble would send a strike from outside the 18 in the 22nd for the Hammers, and in the 69th Matthew Upson would send a header past the Wolves’ keeper from a corner to seal up the victory.  Wolves can do nothing but improve from here, and I would expect nothing less now that the opening day jitters should be out of their system.  West Ham on the other hand.  Well just look for them in the middle of the table and they should not be hard to find throughout the season.

Blackburn  0 – 2  Manchester City

I had to step out so I watched this match today, as I was just as curious as everyone else about the new Manchester side.  All the new big names for City would see the pitch in this one, except Roque Santa Cruz, who was not even on the bench.  City would make one substitution bringing on Tevez for Robinho, giving Tevez around 20 minutes to run around as he likes to do, but he really contributed very little as had Robinho who he replaced.  Adebayor would open up his account with City by scoring in the 3rd minute and old boy Stephen Ireland would finish out the match in the 90th with his own.  Blackburn just lacked the luck needed and the final ball to even the match up though, as City gave them many opportunities throughout the match.  City should improve as the season moves on and the players find their connections with each other, but do not look for Blackburn to have an easy season, as lack of a quality attack could lead to a poor finish this term.

Bolton  0 – 1  Sunderland

I did not get to catch this match, but I have to say I thought it was going to end in a draw.  Neither one of these sides looked to have the strength to take this match.  New boy Darren Bent found the net early on though, giving new manager Steve Bruce his first win with the Black Cats.  I have no further judgment to pass on these sides at the moment, but it does not look as if Sunderland will have the hardships many have predicted for the season, and we know Bolton will find a way as always to stick around.

Aston Villa  0 – 2  Wigan

I am not sure many could say they predicted this outcome when looking at the Week 1 fixtures, but if you did you most undoubtedly were a Wigan fan.  Coming off the Peace Cup victory, Villa looked to have a decent side coming in to the new season, and a depleted Wigan side with a new coach should have been no problem for them; but it was.  Villa’s defense was poor throughout this match and they never managed to link up properly to get themselves in position to score.  Ashley Young would try to take over the match for Villa, but his efforts would fall short as he never managed to keep his head up long enough to get anyone else involved, most times picking himself up off the ground after an attempt to draw a foul.  Wigan would surprise though as Hugo Rodallega launched a beauty into the net around the 30th; one that will most likely be up for goal of the week.  Finishing off the Villains would be Wigan winger Jason Koumas, who would find his way past Friedel from a tight angle to all but seal the match for the Latics in the 56th.  Wigan could impress this season, though many people did not and do not think they have the squad to compete throughout the season.  Villa should bounce back though, but now we know how badly the loss of Barry and a cohesive defense have affected the side.

Stoke City  2 – 0  Burnley

I was not able to catch this match, but it looks like a rough start that will not get any smoother for Burnley, as they face Manchester United next week.  Letting in a goal from Stoke defensemen, Ryan Shawcross in the 19th and Stephen Jordan’s own goal in the 33rd, all but sealed the fate for Burnley in this opening round.  I am looking forward to seeing the side play, and Stoke have started on the right foot to avoid relegation again this season.

Everton  1 – 6  Arsenal

Now if you had told me there would be a 6-1 score line in the first week, this would not have been the match I would have picked.  Maybe Chelsea could put up that many on Hull or the attacking train of Manchester City could have pulled in and dropped off half a dozen goals at the Riverside, but not against Everton, a team who pushed the top four last season and was thought to do so again this season.  Also, coming into the season, who thought Arsenal would ever be a side linked with a 6 goal performance?  Definitely not me, and I bet not you either.

Everton would come out competitive for the first 20 minutes, actually controlling much of the play, when Denilson launched a rocket to beat Howard and start off the scoring frenzy.  Now most would think that knowing Arsenal, they might tack on one or two more by the end of the match, not today though as they added two more by half time.  New boy Vermaelen would find the net in the 37th and William Gallas would finish out the half with a goal in the 41st, strangely enough these still aren’t the names you would expect to see on the score sheet.

Arsenal would not rest though, scoring 3 minutes into the second half through Cesc Fabregas to make it 4-0 early on.  Everton would hold Arsenal off for a bit after the 4th, but Arsenal were not done yet as Fabregas added another in the 70th and Eduardo would come off the bench to add his own in the 89th, making it 6-0 to Arsenal.  You would think that we would be done now as I did, but we were not.  Everton, though beaten throughout the match, never gave up, and Louis Saha would put them on the scoreboard in the 90th to finish out the match 6-1.  If you were an Everton fan I cannot imagine your thoughts after this one, but I do not think it can get much worse.  Everything went wrong for Everton on the day, but they should bounce back and have another strong season.  Arsenal on the other hand showed that they can score, and in bunches.  They are hungry for silverware this season and if they continue with this kind of form there is no reason they will not see any coming back to the Emirates.  Both sides should be interesting to watch the rest of the way though.

Manchester United  1 – 0  Birmingham City

Birmingham does not beat United, nor have they ever if what I have been able to find is true, and today would be no different.  Most people tuned into this match to see how United would be without Ronaldo, and I would think they would not be surprised to see that they are not doing so well.  I will say this though, United always start slow and I would not write them off quite yet.  Birmingham put on a good performance today and showed that they should be a side that can come away with some victories this season.  Rooney managed to find the net in the 34th to put United up with the only goal they would need today, and though the side is a bit injured at the moment, they got their point.  Opponents should look out for Birmingham though as their new boy Benitez looks dangerous and could prove challenging for opposing defenses in the future.  Look for City to bounce back and start to pick up some results as this season progresses, they should be able to beat out some of the other troubled teams this term to keep a place in the Prem in the end.

Tottenham  2 – 1  Liverpool

This was my major pick for the week.  Many people have talked about Spurs this summer, but most have really just poked fun at them, never really considering them contenders of any sort.  Liverpool helped matters some today though by just playing awful.  I am not sure they knew how bad the loss of a link up player like Alonso would be, but if the performance against Spurs was any indication, Benitez needs to get a replacement in fast.  Scoring for Spurs was Assou-Ekotto in the 44th from an awesome rebound from a free kick and ex Newcastle player Sebastian Bassong in the 59th to seal the deal.  Spurs would give Liverpool hope though as Liverpool picked up a penalty when Spurs’ keeper Gomes took down Glen Johnson in the 55th, resulting in a PK from Gerrard that evened the match up for 3 minutes.  Liverpool could be in trouble if they do not get going soon, missing points they need if they plan on challenging for the title this season, but I do not see them finding their 20th this season.

So to close out I would have to say it was a good weekend.  ESPN started us out bright and early to kick off the season and FSC brought the weekend to a close with a great match, showing the first real upset of the season.  I am already looking forward to the midweek matches and only hope some of these sides can get things going in the right direction.  I am going to give out a Player of the Week rating to one player each round this season, and I think this weeks is obvious as Didier Drogba has come back from his sulk and dragged his team to victory in Week 1.  So let us all get ready now as the next round is literally right around the corner.

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Filed under Birmingham City, Blackburn, Bolton, Burnley, Chelsea, EPL, Hull City, Portsmouth, Stoke, Sunderland, Tottenham, Uncategorized, West Ham, Wigan, Wolves

EPL Preview – Portsmouth and Wigan

Portsmouth goalkeeper David James makes his point.

Portsmouth

After struggling in the Premier League last season, Portsmouth will look to bounce back this season.  Following a win in the FA Cup final during the 2007-2008 season a Pompey side who looked to have a promising season under manager Harry Redknap would find the 2008-2009 season one in which they just barely managed to avoid relegation come the end of the season.  Portsmouth has since lost their manager and many key players as the club are looking at new ownership and a new challenge in the upcoming season.  To stay in the Premier League this season Pompey will have to scratch and claw their way into safety without some of the players who helped them retain their place the previous season.

Key Additions: Aaron Mokoena (Blackburn), Steve Finnan (Free), Frederic Piquionne (Lyon), Antti Niemi (Free)

Losses: Peter Crouch (Tottenham), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Pele (Genoa), Djimi Traore (AS Monaco), Sean Davis (Bolton)

During this offseason Portsmouth have not had money to spend, with the club being in negotiations for sale, and therefore had to make smart moves to add to their squad in the transfer market.  Crouch who had only been with the club for one season rejoined former boss Harry Redknap at Tottenham and Johnson moved on to greener pastures with Liverpool.  Having lost these two plus Traore were large hits to the club who will be looking to avoid relegation again this season.  Adding to their defense with Finnan and Mokoena will bring some veteran experience to the side, and the addition of Piquionne from Lyon should add to the Forward spot that Crouch vacated this offseason, but is it going to be enough?  Portsmouth should stay up this season and if their sale goes through they should see a massive cash influx for January.  If they can keep it together with the rag tag squad they have to start the season and snatch a few results here and there, they should be able to avoid relegation, just barely though.

Football - West Bromwich Albion v Wigan Athletic Barclays Premier League

Wigan

A good season last term, finishing eleventh, will not be an easy act to follow for Wigan this season.  The Latics have lost a lot this offseason and with a new manager they will be looking for a new era to take shape.  Coming into his third season in management, Roberto Martinez will be looking to lead a much weaker Wigan side through the Premier League, hopefully avoiding relegation.  He has had a guarantee from owner Dave Whelan that he has three years, even if the club falls to relegation in his first season in charge.  Now whether we will be looking at Wigan as strong competitors in the EPL or if we will see a team in the beginning stages of rebuilding is the question?  Martinez has a guarantee but I do not see him not wanting to succeed in the EPL in his first season with the club.  There have been a few additions to the club in the offseason, hopefully off setting the losses the side has suffered in the last year.

Key Additions: Garcia-Penche Jordi Gomez (Espanyol), Hendry Thomas (Olimpia), Jason Scotland (Swansea City), James McCarthy (Hamilton), Scott Sinclair (Chelsea)

Losses: Antonio Valencia (Manchester United), Steve Bruce (Sunderland)

Now while it seems as though the additions to the club will fill the slots needed in the side, many of the new faces are unproven at this level.  The loss of Valencia and Bruce were big losses in the offseason, but if Martinez lives up to his young reputation as a manager, he should have the club working hard and improving throughout the season.  If their defense can hold up and they can get a few goals in they might just have a chance to avoid relegation this season, but it is unlikely.  Given the talent in the Premier League, Wigan will be on the short end of quite a few results this season even if they fight until the end.  Results against other clubs around them in the table and a few surprises could help them just avoid the drop though, but as I said before, I see them coming up short in the end and rebuilding next season in the Championship.  Good luck to the Latics this season though.

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Filed under EPL, Portsmouth, Uncategorized, Wigan