Saturday, 8 September 2012

Premier League Begins with a Bang!

by George Kimber-Sweatman

Michu celebrates goal for Swansea against West Ham
(image source: football365.com)

The 2012-13 Barclays Premier League season has started as the last one finished – with huge excitement, entertainment and drama. Last season ended with a Sergio Ag├╝ero goal deep into stoppage time to clinch the title for Manchester City and the new campaign has begun with goals galore. There is now time to reflect on the hectic start as the action is put on hold during the break for international fixtures.
At this point, all teams have played 3 games (except Sunderland and Reading, whose game at The Stadium of Light was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch) and only Chelsea maintain their 100% record, so are sitting pretty at the top of the table. Of the remaining sides in the top four, Swansea City and West Bromwich Albion have had surprisingly fine starts to the season – sat on 7 points apiece, with opening day victories of 5-0 and 3-0 respectively under their belts.
At the other end of the spectrum, newly-promoted Southampton hold a 100% record of their own – bottom with 0 points. It is no surprise that Queens Park Rangers join them in the relegation zone with 1 point, but Liverpool, perhaps unexpectedly, still only have 1 point themselves.
On the opening weekend, there were goal fests at Craven Cottage (Fulham 5-0 Norwich City) and Loftus Road (QPR 0-5 Swansea City), positive results for newly-promoted West Ham United and Reading, surprise wins for West Brom against Liverpool (3-0) and Everton, who faced Manchester United (1-0), as well as a fantastically entertaining game at The Etihad Stadium, as Southampton impressed the watching millions with a fearless, counter-attacking performance to take a 2-1 lead at the home of the Champions through Championship player of the season Rickie Lambert and new signing Steven Davis, before Edin Dzeko and David Silva added to Carlos Tevez’s opener to give City a tight 3-2 win.
The second weekend of the season was a more mundane affair by comparison, with most results turning out as expected after Chelsea’s midweek victory over Reading. West Ham were brought back down to earth with a bump as Swansea continued their terrific start with a scintillating passing display and 3-0 victory to match at the Liberty Stadium. Manchester United struggled to a 3-2 home win over Fulham, during which Robin Van Persie scored on his full debut and Wayne Rooney suffered a horrific-looking gash to his leg, while Chelsea beat Newcastle United 2-0 in a tricky tie at Stamford Bridge. Sunday’s games provided two draws, with the lunchtime kick-off a disappointing 0-0 draw between Stoke City and Arsenal, before the 4pm match provided the missing goals as Liverpool held Manchester City to a 2-2 draw at Anfield, as Martin Skrtel went from hero to villain with a bullet header to give the Reds the lead, before gifting the ball to Carlos Tevez, who had the simple task of slotting home the equaliser.
Luckily, The Premier League was back to form for the third round of matches, as the goals flew in around the country. There were 2-2 draws at the Liberty and DW Stadiums, as Swansea, Sunderland, Wigan Athletic and Stoke shared the points. Man City were back to winning form with a routine 3-1 victory at home to QPR, Tottenham Hotspur dropped points at home for the second time as a late Robert Snodgrass leveller earned Norwich City an away point to take back to Norfolk and West Ham gave Fulham a 3-0 spanking at Upton Park, as new signing Andy Carroll made his debut. Super Sunday certainly lived up to its name too, as Arsenal claimed a 2-0 victory at Anfield at lunchtime and Hatem Ben Arfa scored a stonking 25-yarder to earn Newcastle United a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa at St. James’ Park.
But, as with the first Sunday of the season, it was Southampton who provided most of the entertainment, as they came up against another Manchester side.
This time, it was the turn of United to visit The St. Mary’s Stadium and, in the 1000th league game of Sir Alex Ferguson’s tenure as manager, they were in for a tough ride, before they won the game in stoppage time –or, what has affectionately become known as ‘Fergie Time’ due to the regularity of late United goals and the frequency with which Sir Alex is seen on the touchline pointing to his famous watch. The Red Devils took control of the opening exchanges, before St. Mary’s erupted as they fell behind to an exquisite Rickie Lambert back-post header on 15 minutes. However, they weren’t in deficit for long, as Robin Van Persie took advantage of a Nathaniel Clyne slip with a cool, trademark finish across Kelvin Davis just a few minutes later. The Saints started the second half in top form and took the lead, as Morgan Schneiderlin nodded home from a Lambert cross ten minutes after the restart. They could easily have added a goal or two to seal the game and it seemed as though they would hold on to a famous win until the introduction of veteran master Paul Scholes to change the momentum of the clash. His range of passing and calmness on the ball helped United to wrestle back control and eventually, they equalised on 87 minutes through a Van Persie tap-in on the rebound from Rio Ferdinand’s free header. It would get worse for the home faithful, though, as RVP glanced home his headed third from a whipped corner deep into ‘Fergie time’ to claim the match ball for himself and the slightly fortuitous full three points for his delighted fans and team mates.
Southampton: "the most impressive team ever to
have lost their first three games"
(source: Daily Telegraph)
So, with the season in its real infancy, who has caught the eye so far? In terms of players, Swansea’s new signing Michu is the league’s top scorer and looks to be an absolute steal at just £2million in this summer’s transfer window. Robin Van Persie has carried on his top form from last season, Carlos Tevez has been welcomed back into the City family after his misdemeanours in Europe last winter, and Steve Fletcher has settled in well to life in the North East after his big-money move to Sunderland from Wolves. Swansea and West Brom have had great starts, Man Utd have looked surprisingly vulnerable, while Spurs and Liverpool have been disappointing under new managers Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers respectively. Of the newly-promoted sides, West Ham have had a good start with 2 victories, while Reading have struggled to just the 1 point. Strangely, Southampton have been probably the most-noticed new boys, as they have shown great quality on the back of two promotions in two seasons. Their fearless style of attacking, attractive, passing football under young manager Nigel Adkins has seen them labelled as ‘the most impressive team ever to have lost their first three games’ by Match of the Day’s Colin Murray. They have had possibly the toughest start of any side in the division, having to play the top 2 sides from last season in their first three games, as well as an on-form Wigan side. Given their performances, fans will have few worries with regards to relegation and if they continue to play as they have done so far with at least some degree of regularity, they will win more games than they will lose, especially with some exciting late signings including Uruguayan international Gaston Ramirez – one of the hottest prospects in world football – on a club record deal reported to be around £15million.
Only time will tell as to who will continue to impress during what will undoubtedly be another rollercoaster Premier League season of unexpected thrills. One thing is for sure though: if the goals continue to fly in as the have so far and the open, attacking football carries on, we are in for a treat!


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