Premier League Weekend Review: Arsenal, Manchester City, Everton, Manchester United and More
Ten games of the 2012-13 BARCLAYS Premier League season are in the books.
This much I feel 100 percent confident writing onto a massive read and wildly popular sports weblog:
1. Michu will score 76 goals this season for Swansea City.
2. Fulham will win the league title.
3. Arsenal won't score, probably until December.
4. Martin Sktrel should be strung up by his ankles inside the largest public square in Liverpool and have rotten vegetables thrown at him.
5. Tottenham's play will make Andre Villas-Boas so depressed, gasp, he'll resort to eating the first cheeseburger in his life -- served on bone china and linen napkins, naturally.
6. After barely beating promoted Southampton at home, Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini will ask his Arab owners to invest in Dr. Mindbeaker's DNA cloning machine to create a starting XI out of the genetic material of Lev Yashin, Ferenc Pukas, Garricha and eight other legendary dead players.
7. Michael Carrick will become England's best centre half since Bobby Moore.
Those are jokes. Some might even say a healthy dose of sarcasm.
Point here is, it's a long frickin season. Let's not forget it ends in May. We're going to have a Presidential Election AND a new American Idol by the time the league wraps up. That's why it's almost a running joke at this point to make rapid-fire, wily-nily predictions and declarations in the wake of 90 minutes of soccer.
That said, here are my few brief noteworthy impressions from the opening weekend:
Same old Arsenal -- The Gunners didn't score in their 0-0 draw with Sunderland at the Emirates. This doesn't look good in the wake of selling of Robin van Persie, a goal machine last year.
Here's what I didn't see anyone say in the wake of the game. At this point in the game, at least half, maybe 12 teams in the Premier League are going to go to the Emirates and back nine or 10 players behind the ball like Martin O'Neill's team did Saturday. I'd argue that's giving Arsenal too much respect, if only for the badge on its shirt, yet they do it nonethless.
What is maddening, how has Arsene Wenger not changed his strategy or adopted it to cope with these matches? Passing and passing and more passing is well and good, but what good is buying Santi Carzola if he doesn't have players who can finish off his crafty little passes? Adding Nuri Sahin doesn't do anything to change this.
Lukas Poldolski scores goals, yes, but it seems his best work is playing when he springs on the counter, can get up to a full gallop and ripe a left-foot rocket. Perhaps Oliver Giroud, given time, evolves into a goal-box garbage man and cleans up. Still, it as horrible a thought as it might be for Wenger, a bit more of an edge, a direct edge in front of goal will benefit the club.
Sleeping Giant? -- Still hard to fathom the lack of activity by Manchester City in the summer, though the club is hamstrung jointly (sort of anyway) by UEFA's Financial Fairplay boilerplate and the squad limits by the Premier League. Before City can do anything, it has to offload all the deadweight of past regimes like Roque Santa Cruz.
For as much talent as City has, it still feels incomplete, particularly when Kun Aguero limped off with a first-half knee injury. It's hard to feel bad for City, too, but it's not like they're waving around a magic blank checkbook like PSG is doing these days. City needs to build smartly, as its trying to get Danielle de Rossi, but it doesn't have the ability to meet his salary demands.
Lest we forget, City was a schizophrenia club for a lot of last season, looking utterly unstoppable in 10 minutes runs, and totally listless in the others. They never lose at home, so they have that to fall back on. If any club still seems to have a lot of work left to do before it hits September, oddly enough it's City.
Credit to Southampton for giving the defending champs all they could handle. Glorious stuff in the second half from Ricky Lambert. Seems like the preseason comparisons to Ian Holloway's Blackpool team from two years ago seem apt. Fresh and fun these Saints could prove.
Painted into a corner -- This will all be a moot point in a few weeks, but worth addressing briefly.
Clint Dempsey isn't in a good spot right now, if Martin Jol's claims that he'd refused to play for Fulham again are accurate and that the club won't sell him unless the right price is met. (Fulham's 5-0 win with two goals from newly signed Mladen Petric doesn't help Deuce's cause, does it?)
The question, as it's been all summer, who's going to drop a decent chunk of change on a 29-year-old player who's contract is up at the end of the year? This is no knock on Dempsey, but he's not an out-and-out striker or winger, or even attacking midfielder. Guess the best way to sum it up, he's a guy that scores goals -- 23 in all competitions for the Cottagers last term.
In truth, it seems more-and-more like we all sort of settled on, yes, as American fans it would be terrific if the best Yank in Europe was playing in the Champions League yet his best value week-in, week-out is at a place like Fulham where he can remain the whole f'n show. The biggest fish in a smaller pond. There's nothing wrong with it. Unless he's hell bent on hearing the Heineken Anthem, he might have to go outside of England since the only remaining Champions League club that could possibly play and or sign him is Arsenal and that seems unlikely, though his knack for finishing would suit the club as it stands.
Outside of his two cryptic tweets Dempsey has been quiet.
Makes sense since he has zero leverage in this scenario.
Galactico United -- For one game -- Monday's 1-0 loss away to Everton at Goodison Park -- we can say the Robin van Persie move by Manchester United was a glamour signing, perhaps to help their stock IPO, though I'm not smart enough to figure out the financial numbers.
Van Persie will score goals -- he's not Fernando Torres after all -- but the signing didn't address the issues United had in defense or in midfield. The lack of faith Sir Alex Ferguson has in Rafael is evident in the fact Antonio Valencia started at right back and the less said of Michael Carrick masquerading at center back, the better.
No sense to out-and-out panic about United since Everton was super-charged for the match, but there are cracks in the Red Devils armor that the fragile left foot of a Dutchman genius can't patch over by itself. The offensive display, in the second half, left Tim Howard with little to do. Suffice to say it'll take some time to get Rooney, van Persie, Shinji Kagawa, et al to get on the same page. This isn't "FIFA" so it doesn't click instantly.
Don't want to short-change Everton for a fine, full-blooded performance. Maourone Feliani absolutely dominated and stamped his will on the game, which for United doesn't bode well against Manchester City's Yaya Toure or what it'll run across in the Champions League.
Loved that Ian Darke used the term, "Mean Machine" to describe what David Moyes wants from Everton. Perfect. Just, perfect. This is a nice, solid team that knows what it wants to do. The Nikica Jelevic signing transformed this team. Not a ton of depth at Goodison, but a nice, strong starting XI.
For what it's worth, Leon Osman might be my random favorite EPL player.
Around the League: That was beyond ugly for Liverpool losing 3-0 at West Brom. A nice first half was offset by the Sktrel (who signed a long-term deal Monday) horror show, which resulted in a red card for Daniel Agger. Optimistic approach for Liverpool: It's a long year. Pessimistic approach for Liverpool: It's going to be a long year. ... Aston Villa's neon yellow away shirts were, alone, a good enough reason for them to lose away to West Ham. Yuck. ... It ended in a 2-1 loss, but Tottenham looked pretty good vs. Newcastle in a match of two above-average teams, in theory and on paper. Spurs are going to rue their failure to sign Joao Moutinho, so they'd end up blowing on a desperation move as is their wont. ... Didn't watch Chelsea beat Wigan 3-0. Actually, woke up midway through first half on Sunday, saw it was 2-0 and went back to bed. Hope this is a trend, not the scum winning, but me not watching them. Best for my health. Well played by Chelsea, the one "contender" which didn't struggle, granted it was against Wigan, which doesn't start to try until late March. ... QPR lost on opening day 5-0 to a rampant, classy Swansea (stampede to add Michu in fantasy EPL!). Think Mark Hughes better get a few results locked up quickly or he's getting the axe. ... Nice late draw for Reading at Stoke City. Bet they were Royally Stoked!