Manchester United, Liverpool, and More: Talking Points From The Opening Weekend of The EPL
After 90 days, the Premier League is back and this year it
promises to be bigger than ever. In this article I’ll be reviewing some of the
key talking points from the opening weekend of the 2013-14 Premiership season.
Newcomers fail to take a single point from opening day:
Oscar dos Santos
The newly promoted teams- Cardiff City, Crystal Palace and Hull City- failed to make a surprising impact in the opening round of fixtures as the Premier League entered matchday one. Cardiff and Hull were both beaten 2-0 by West Ham and Chelsea respectively, while Palace narrowly lost 1-0 to Tottenham.
Big spenders Cardiff City, who spent over £26 million ahead of their first term in the Premier League, failed to register a shot on target against West Ham as the London side made easy work of getting the three points.
Crystal Palace, favourites for relegation ahead of the new season, gave a good account of themselves on their return to top-flight football. They more than held their own against a strong Tottenham side. Spurs ran out as 1-0 winners after referee Mark Clattenburg awarded Tottenham a penalty after he adjudged Dean Moxey to have used his hand to block Aaron Lennon’s cross. Although Roberto Soldado converted the penalty after his stuttering run sent Julian Speroni the wrong way, the Palace players, who nearly drew level through Kagisho Dikgacoi thunderous shot, gave a very good account of themselves.
Hull City met Chelsea on Sunday and, after Oscar and Frank Lampard scored for Chelsea on the 13th and 25th minutes respectively, it looked as though the Tigers were going to be in for a long day. Chelsea should have perhaps had more goals as they dominated the match in terms of possession and shots, as well as corners and pass success rate. Before Oscar grabbed a goal for the Blues, Chelsea had the chance to go ahead through a penalty, but Lampard’s spot-kick was well saved by Hull’s new number one Allan McGregor. Hull played a lot better in the second half and I am sure, once they settle back into life in the Premiership, they will be no pushovers.
Swans crumble against United:
Swansea made a terrible start to the season, falling to a 4-1 defeat to Manchester United on Saturday. Last season, the Welsh side looked strong on the opening day, beating QPR 5-0, however United cruised to victory at the Liberty Stadium.
The Swans started the match well, however two goals from Robin van Persie and Danny Welbeck in as many minutes turned the match in United’s favour.
Recently appointed Manchester United manager David Moyes will be happy with the winning start as he looks to guide the Red Devils to retaining the Premier League title.
Penalties are plentiful, but did the referees get the decisions right?
The opening nine fixtures saw six penalties awarded. Some decisions were straight forward but, as always, there were contentious verdicts as well.
Starting with Liverpool v Stoke, it is hard to argue that Martin Atkinson was wrong in awarding Stoke a penalty after Daniel Agger’s hand ball in the area. Even the most die-hard Liverpool fan could not squirm out of the fact that Agger’s arm was raised purposely to block a Stoke City free-kick. Correct decision.
Now to the match between West Brom and Southampton, where a penalty decision was given in the Saints’ favour in the 90th minute. The penalty was given after Youssouf Mulumbu brought Luke Shaw down in the box. By this stage in the game, I would imagine the players will have been a bit leggy and this showed as Mulumbu’s lazy tackle failed to make contact with the ball but did trip Shaw. Correct decision.
In the game between Arsenal and Aston Villa, two penalties were awarded and, much to the horror of Gunners fans, referee Anthony Taylor awarded both the spot-kicks to Villa. The first penalty was given after Gabriel Agbonlahor’s fantastic run was brought to an abrupt end by Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. In my opinion, this first decision was a penalty as Szczesny failed to make contact with the ball, instead flying through Agbonlahor and blocking him off. I also believe the referee made the right decision to only hand a caution to Szczesny as Agbonlahor was running away from goal at the time of the incident. Penalty #1: correct decision.
The second penalty, given in the 60th minute of the match, was far more debatable. It was not clear cut at all, however Laurent Koscielny seemingly brought down Christian Benteke in the Arsenal box. This decision is one of those that Aston Villa fans will tell you is a penalty and Arsenal fans will tell you isn’t, however I am going to agree with the referee as, although Koscielny made slight contact with the ball, his trailing foot actually caught Benteke before he touched the ball. Penalty #2: a hard decision but, in my opinion, a correct decision.
Sunday’s match between Crystal Palace and Tottenham saw Spurs win 1-0 after they were awarded a penalty in the 50th minute. The penalty, given by referee Mark Clattenburg, was awarded due to an apparent hand ball by Dean Moxey. However, Palace boss, Ian Holloway, was less than impressed with this spot-kick decision, claiming he “couldn’t see how he (Moxey) could have got out of the way of it (the ball)”. Perhaps it was a bit harsh because of the proximity of the ball and where the defender was stood, however Moxey shouldn’t have had his arm outstretched so the referee was left with no choice. Again, a hard decision but another correct one in my view.
The final penalty was awarded to Chelsea in their match against newly promoted Hull City. There can be no argument from Hull over this decision, which was made after the Tigers’ goalkeeper Allan McGregor, trying to punch the ball away, caught Fernando Torres who was pummelled to the ground. Correct decision.
For the first time in a long time, fans of Arsenal were promised a busy summer in the transfer window. The board revealed they were willing to stretch their purse strings and give Arsene Wenger the opportunity to bring in some fresh, highly-rated players to spearhead the Gunners’ Premier League campaign. However, much to the dismay of the fans, just one player has arrived: Yaya Sanogo from Auxerre on a free transfer.
I could easily spend a whole section of this article talking about Arsenal’s spending policies and the pitfalls of the fact 17 players have left the club and only one player has been brought in, but I won’t because, as always, it’s the same story and would be rather monotonous.
The fact of the matter is that Arsenal were outshone and outclassed by a young, enthusiastic and hungry Aston Villa side. Arsenal looked lethargic and sloppy, with even Jack Wilshere’s passes going wayward.
With injuries to ten players, including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Mikel Arteta and Thomas Vermaelen, and with Koscielny being suspended, Arsenal need to spend and they need to do it quickly.
Simon Mignolet makes memorable debut:
Over £400,900,000 has been spent by Premier League clubs in this season’s summer transfer window, which meant there was a lot of new talent on the pitch in the opening round of top-flight fixtures.
Antonio Luna, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, Wilfried Bony and Roberto Soldado all scored on their Premier League debuts, however the highly-anticipated return of Nicolas Anelka turned out to be slightly disappointing as he had little opportunity to shine in West Brom’s match against Southampton.
Fulham’s new goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg was very impressive against Sunderland, making numerous saves to deny the Black Cats frontmen. However, the title of most memorable debut should probably go to Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
Mignolet, who was signed by the Reds from Sunderland for £9 million, made a nervous start to his Anfield career but, once the nerves had passed after 20 minutes or so, he settled in nicely. The highlight of his first match in the Liverpool goal was his match-winning double save on the 89th minute, when he first saved Jon Walters’ penalty and then denied Kenwyne Jones from the rebound.
Yet again Toffees fail to unstick Hughton:
Norwich boss Chris Hughton guided his side to a 2-2 draw against Everton in their opening match of the 2013-14 season. This result means the Canaries manager is unbeaten in all six of his matches against the Toffees.
However, it was not all plain sailing for Hughton as at one point Everton went 2-1 ahead, before debutant Ricky van Wolfswinkel scored a 71st minute equaliser.
Noticeable chemistry between Liverpool’s attacking trio:
Saturday’s early kick-off saw Stoke travel to Anfield to face a much fancied Liverpool team. The Reds, who have bolstered their squad by signing Iago Aspas, Luis Alberto, Simon Mignolet and Kolo Toure this summer, outshone Stoke throughout with their new found neat, flowing and creative style of football.
Although only managing to score once and despite a penalty scare late on, Liverpool looked relatively comfortable as they shook off Stoke City.
Spearheading a fantastic attacking performance was the front trio of Iago Aspas, Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho. As usual, Coutinho was a class act, instigating many of Liverpool’s attacks. Sturridge was once again outstanding, scoring the winning goal on 37 minutes after he had an earlier effort correctly ruled out for offside. Aspas was tireless as he made numerous runs in behind the Potters’ defence, while also playing eluding one-twos with his fellow forwards.
Overall, the Merseyside club made a great impression and if the front three of Sturridge, Coutinho and Aspas carry on connecting like they did, Luis Suarez may not walk straight back into Brendan Rodgers’ starting eleven.
What did you make of Arsenal’s defeat? Where do you think Liverpool will finish after an impressive display? Got any other Premier League talking points?
Have your say below…
Follow Myfanwy Garman on Twitter: @MivvieGarman