At last the season has begun. Sure there was the faffing about with pre-season friendlies and the occasional international tournament of little consequence (yes I’m talking to you, Women’s World Cup). The Football League kicked off last week and we had an enjoyable Community Shield. For all that it was at 3pm on Saturday that business picked up as ‘the most exciting league in the world’ started.
Game Of Two Halves Syndrome
Quite a number of the first nine Premier League games featured blistering first half performances where the second half saw games fizzle out as players appeared to tire quicker. That struck me as slightly odd. I was of the impression the point of pre-season training was to build up players’ stamina so that they were able to last the 90 minutes. Maybe a decent excuse is to talk of the difference between those friendlies and the pace and intensity of the ‘most exciting league in the world’. In which case it will be interesting to see the sides when they hit their stride.
No One Wins Or Loses At This Stage But …
The Premier League is not a sprint, it is a marathon. Teams are notorious for starting with a blistering pace in the first part of the season only to taper away poorly in the second half. Likewise a team like Everton have shown what it’s like to play relegation form up til Christmas and then playing Champions League football for the rest of the season. So to a degree, there’s little point reading too much into these first games.
However for the promoted clubs Swansea and especially QPR a graphic lesson of the challenge of them was shown in their welcoming matches to this Premier League. Few people gave hope of Brendan Rogers’ getting anything from the Etihad Stadium against the City billions, but the gulf in quality was not reflected in the scoreline – on another day City could have scored eight. The lesson Rogers needs to learn quickly is not football played the right might win you more fans, but it won’t win you games especially if your strikers cannot hold the ball and your defenders can be pulled out of position so easily.
For QPR, though, the size of the task should be evident following the performance and ease with which Bolton were able to neutralise any threat their opponents had and then trundle up the other end and slap the ball in the back of the net. Bolton’s away form has been shocking of late, so it is significant to fail to get a point in one of the easier home matches.
When It Matters
Manchester United have been winning trophies of late because they know how to win games when it matters. Away from home at a well organised West Brom could have been problematic, but once again soaking up the pressure, United were able to make their class count when it mattered. This should be of concern to the rest of the league because it is obvious they have some more gears to go through before hitting their optimum performance level.
Also worth mentioning de Gea. I don’t see anything to worry about yet. Sure he’s conceded two goals he could have saved, but what I saw was a goalie who just got on with it. His overall performance is what I would expect from someone starting in a foreign league with new challenges. There were silly comments floating about defenders being worried about him, but that was poppycock. The guy can continue to grow in the role and be assured and accomplished. The strength of the four defenders in front of him, even with the absence of Vidic and Ferdinand, will help him bed in. Whether he will be a great requires more time.
All through pre-season I was told by the omniscient pundits just what a big loss Carlos Tevez would be to Manchester City. There is no disputing his quality and the impact he has had on the team. Yet what I saw in City’s impressive win last night was not just a stunning debut off the bench by Aguerro, but an understanding between him and Silva that mesmerised poor Swansea into submission. Add that to a stingy defence and City are looking impressive with many options for them to still exploit whether that other Argentinian stays or not.
Sure you can argue that it’s the first match of the season and it’s ‘only’ Swansea, but when you consider the impact they’ve already made and what else has been on in the Premier League it is a wonderful statement of intentions.
A Star Is Born on Monday Night Football
No, not Ed Chamberlain, he’s an accomplished pro now, so it wouldn’t be him. One of the things that annoyed me on the show last night was the copious references to Aguerro as ‘a star is born’. You’re hardly spending £30+ million on a novice. No the real star that was born was Gary Neville as a football pundit giving it the old touchscreen football analysis malarkey. Sure it was his first go and there some teething issues to go through, but he did enough to impress me and give me hope that there really could be life after Andy Gray in giving interesting analysis on the weekend’s game.
I noted that back in 1996 I was not a fan of Gary Neville at all and I was a huge fan of Jamie Redknapp. Fast forward 15 years and now the roles are completely reversed. I find Redknapp Junior to be so annoying – it’s like almost everything he says is just eternally inane. Yet Neville, despite still being a United dude still comes up with the goods in checking the game as it flows and pointing the key moves and key players. Who would have thought it? Not me that’s for sure – but whoops there it is.