RMcP: The EPL is back!
RMcP is back to stink up your computer screens once more as he runs a decidedly notched ruler over the action and developments from the first two gameweeks of the English Premier League season!
PART I – Results Rundown
The season began on a note that we should have expected, but by and large didn’t quite have the guts to predict: Champions Leicester City, clearly suffering from over-confidence, were brought down to earth by early favourites for the drop Hull City who, despite a wonky ownership structure, were able to play with a tight defensive structure and pull out some scrappy goals to upset the wasteful foxes.
Southampton look like they might have lost a bit of their mojo this season, as evidenced by an early draw against Watford, a game which evidenced a strong reliance on the skillful Dusan Tadic, a great player who nevertheless needs to be part of a wider threat, something which has been rendered very hard to source from an out of sorts Shane Long in the absence of Graziano Pelle.
Manchester United beat Bournemouth in the manner of a potent Mourinho team, a la Real Madrid rather than the more grindy Chelsea setups, and it was by dint of good old fashioned target man work that Ibrahimovic was able to score in this and the next of his first EPL games – gotta hand it to the man, he isn’t ashamed to play the old fashioned English centre-forward if it get results.
In a match that I rather fancy I predicted, Liverpool beat Arsenal 4-3 in the most entertaining match of the opening weekend. Liverpool were always going to rise to take down the more fancied team, but their hopes were rightly brought crashing back down to earth in the second gameweek when they lost 0-2 to Burnley in a display, clearly caused by overconfidence a la Leicester, of sloppy attacking movement and sluggish defensive cover.
Most of the results of week 2 that have not yet been covered rather went the way they would have been expected to go: Manchester Untied followed up their win in the opening gameweek with a strong 2-0 victory over slow starters Southampton, Spurs and Everton both won after their first week draw, the returning class of Alvaro Negredo secured a result for Middlesbrough against serial fail squad Sunderland, and Man City spanked Stoke City – surely if Sergio Aguero stays fit then this season will be a two horse race between United and City, with the most likely winners being City.
PART II – Ideas and Predictions
I wanted to wait another week to say something here because I wasn’t sure there was anything to really go on after the opening round, but a few things do seem to have floated to the surface of my mind at last, and here we go for some nice bullet point observations:
- Middlesbrough are looking kinda good. With a smattering of intriguing players – Fabio, Stewart Downing, David Nugent, Gaston Ramirez, Jordon Rhodes and of course Alvero Negredo and Victor Valdes – this team is going to be able to perform with some level of aptitude, hopefully with a heady mix of Championship enthusiasm in the form of that dude with the beard and his mates.
- Jamie Vardy could well be doing a Kane. At the beginning of the last season Harry Kane took his sweet time to get going – he wasn’t getting in positions, wasn’t finishing – and Jamie Vardy has done the same in the opening rounds of the season. Especially evident in the opening match loss, in which Vardy had the goal at his mercy at least four times from memory (doubtless more), it might take him a month or so but at least the chances are coming his way. I still think he’ll click at some point, though I think expecting him to achieve the same heights as last season is of course a bit much.
- Liverpool are on a knife-edge. It all seems to be resting on defence at this early stage in the season. Manchester United signed Bailly, Liverpool have got Klavan, and it looks like the Scousers have the lesser of two weevils there. Things might get better when Joel Matip gets fit, ditto Loris Karius, but for now it is clear that the attacking team is going to need a mean base to build their attacks on, and what they have right now has nothing on Piszcek, Hummels, Subotic and Schmelzer (sure to have gotten one or two of those names slightly wrong) If they get their defensive act together they can mix it with the big boys. If the Burnley result remains possible throughout the season however, they will struggle to improve on 8th place.
- Hull could do a Leicester. Naturally I will stop short of saying they can win the league, but their straightforward, settled offering has been clearly effective this season, and by using the foxes as a blueprint they may feel that they have figured out a no-frills recipe for success. Abel Hernandez was a very highly rated youngster at Palermo, and you shouldn’t be surprised if he leads an effective forward line for the Hull City Tigers. (did I get the name right? *wince*)
- Arsenal are looking set to drop out of the ECL places. It is very early days, and Wenger is apparently set on making at least one signing, but as things stand now the gunners are looking vulnerable. a 0-0 draw against Leicester could say much, or very little, about either of these teams, but having one point from a possible 6 against less settled, less prestigious opposition is not a good look. We could all be believing the hype a bit too much, listening to the transfer naysayers a bit too much, ignoring the squad that is already there, but for the time being at least things are looking distinctly bland at the Emirates this season.
- Humble Ibra is getting closer to convincing me. He has already said that the league is harder than France, already said he has to work the whole match and take the chances he gets, and so far he has walked the walk. Ibra has looked more like Kevin Davies from Bolton back in the day than the balletic destroyer of Ligue 1, but he has secured three goals in two matches (I believe) and I can respect that. He might have to keep up with Aguero this season, and if that is to be the case then he is probably going to have to do a lot of stuff like his towering header against Southampton.