Prem Week 1: The story so far

Posted by Ravi Ubha



Only one game of the Premier League's opening weekend was scoreless. Ominously for Arsenal fans, it featured the Gunners, who couldn't hit the target at home in the aftermath of Robin van Persie's sale to Manchester United. As for defending champion Manchester City, the Citizens are getting used to 3-2 comeback wins.

Here are nine takeaways from the nine games in what was a steamy weekend for many in the U.K. Van Persie and the Red Devils face Everton on Monday.

Manchester City 3-2 Southampton: Nervy start for City

When Sergio Aguero, the no-nonsense, hard-working striker who gave City the title with his goal against QPR in May, went down with a knee injury within 10 minutes, it had to be serious. He's not one to play act. Aguero walked off the pitch but then needed a stretcher to be led away.

It took City a while to recover from the loss, but Aguero's Argentine compatriot, Carlos Tevez, and Samir Nasri (two players without sterling reputations) dug in to help City rally from a 2-1 deficit.

Nasri scored the winner in the 80th minute and was at the heart of everything good City delivered going forward. His looping ball set up Tevez (looking slimmer than we've seen him in a long time), who coolly finished to the near post to open the scoring. Tevez also won a penalty.

And that's where David Silva comes in. Silva's effort was maybe even worse than Shane Long's penalty on Saturday. Silva had other opportunities to score and didn't take them, an extension of the form he showed with City at the end of last season. Something to monitor.

Jack Rodwell's City debut was disappointing. In a holding role normally reserved for the injured Gareth Barry, he played square balls -- including one that led to a Saints goal that gave them a 2-1 lead.

Southampton will be praised for this showing and rightfully so, but manager Nigel Adkins will also be second-guessed for not starting Rickie Lambert. Lambert, last season's top scorer in the Championship, scored four minutes after entering as a sub in the second half.

Chelsea 2-0 Wigan: Hazard the difference

Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard spent as much time on the field as on the ground, or so it appeared, in last week's Community Shield. Against Wigan, he'll be remembered for a majestic display.

Hazard set up Branislav Ivanovic -- what exactly was a defender doing that far up the pitch? -- and won a penalty that Frank Lampard tucked away.

Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo was on the mark when he told reporters afterward that Hazard was "exactly what [Chelsea was] looking for." Though the Blues' play wasn't fluid throughout, perhaps that was expected after scoring two goals in the opening seven minutes. The tendency, naturally, is to sit back somewhat.

Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland: Life after RvP

The good news for Arsenal was the performance of new arrival Santi Cazorla, who pulled the strings in midfield. Not as good was the outing of both players expected to chip in goals in van Persie's absence: Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.

An ineffective Podolski was substituted early in the second half, and Giroud missed the chance of the game when put through by Cazorla. Judging players based on one game isn't advisable (especially when they're new to a league), but the miss no doubt had the Arsenal faithful saying, “Van Persie would have buried that,” and thinking of Arsenal's flop from Ligue 1, Marouane Chamakh.

And van Persie would have absolutely scored.

Alex Song's impending departure to Barcelona is another body blow. Song led Arsenal in assists last season, and he's particularly useful with the ball over the top when opposition defenses park the bus.

When Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said in Friday's news conference that the club had “nine or 10 midfielders of top-class quality,” he was, surely, overstating things.

West Brom 3-0 Liverpool: Tough for the tiki taka Reds

This was never going to be an easy start for Brendan Rodgers since the Baggies were coming off their most productive season in the top flight.

And it all went against Liverpool: Reported Manchester City target Daniel Agger was sent off for a nudge on Long, his central defensive partner Martin Skrtel, widely praised last season, gave away another penalty and Zoltan Gera scored with a contender for goal of the season to make it 1-0. If trying his half-volley 10 times, Gera would perhaps score once. (Long's spot kick is a contender, too, for worst penalty of the season.)

Rodgers' style, quite the drastic shift for Liverpool, will take time to implement. What shouldn't be forgotten amid the defensive chaos was Luis Suarez's showing. He was, as usual, lively and in the right place at the right time. But more important, his finishing was off the mark.

Liverpool needs more options up front, especially since Rodgers isn't keen on Andy Carroll. Rodgers brought Carroll on in the 79th minute -- only when sub Joe Cole came off injured.

Fulham 5-0 Norwich: Coping without Clint

The Clint Dempsey saga is big news. Prior to Fulham's game against Norwich, Dempsey was heavily criticized by former Liverpool assistant manager Phil Thompson and former England international Matt Le Tissier on Sky's wildly entertaining “Soccer Saturday” for refusing to play while he awaits a transfer.

When Croatian international Mladen Petric scored a stunner against the Canaries, his second goal of the game in his Fulham bow, BBC's “Match of the Day” commentator proclaimed, “Clint who?”

Fulham manager Martin Jol didn't overdo his postgame celebrations, probably mindful that new Norwich boss Chris Hughton was his assistant at Tottenham.

Hughton wants to make the Canaries more sound defensively but the back four on Saturday could only be described as disjointed. Only one team scored more than three league goals against Norwich last season: Manchester City.

Swansea 5-0 QPR: Bargain of the season?

Paddy Kenny, where have you gone? (Leeds is the answer.) Seriously, even though the Irishman is a steady keeper, QPR's signing Robert Green in the offseason was an upgrade.

Unfortunately for Green, his howler -- not as bad as the one against Dempsey and the U.S. at the 2010 World Cup -- didn't mark a good start to his QPR career as he made the move from east London to west London. That it was the first goal of the game made it worse. Mild panic set in for QPR and Swansea was able to do what it does best: attack on the counter.

One of Swansea's new signings, Michu, was the beneficiary of Green's gaffe, but the attacking midfielder's overall performance impressed. His second goal left Green with no chance and he also began a sequence that led to another Swansea goal. His fee: 2 million pounds ($3.1 million).

Despite the result, QPR won't be in relegation trouble this season.

Newcastle 2-1 Tottenham: Back in the goals

Tottenham was unlucky to lose Andre Villas-Boas' first game in charge. Before Demba Ba's opener for the Magpies, Jermain Defoe, high on confidence after scoring the winner in England's 2-1 friendly victory against Italy on Wednesday, hit the post and Gareth Bale's header struck the crossbar. Tottenham controlled the first half, without outgoing midfielder Luka Modric.

For Ba, though, his goal was a long time coming. Suddenly not the focal point of attack when Papiss Cisse joined from Freiburg, Ba hadn't netted since early February. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has repeatedly spoke of how hard Ba worked for the team even when Cisse took center stage.

When Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart are forced to defend, the consequences can be dire for Tottenham. So it proved. The duo contrived to take down Hatem Ben Arfa for a penalty that led to Newcastle's late winner.

West Ham 1-0 Aston Villa: New manager, same result

Paul Lambert hopes to play a more entertaining style than his predecessor at Villa, Alex McLeish, who put fans to sleep with his conservative approach.

Lambert will be content that Villa enjoyed 66 percent of possession against West Ham, yet it did nothing with the ball. Looking at the lineup -- which did lack a pair of influential players in Gabriel Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton (both injured) -- it's clear that Villa lacks sources of creativity.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce won't worry much about playing pretty soccer, but in Kevin Nolan, he has a proven midfield goal scorer.

As for Lambert's choice in goal, he opted for Shay Given, not U.S. international Brad Guzan. Guzan has done enough waiting, so he must be wondering why he re-signed with Villa.

Reading 1-1 Stoke: Reading will take the point

Stoke midfielder Dean Whitehead should be praised for trying to stick with Garath McCleary as McCleary made a run into the box in the dying minutes. How many times have we seen a player switch off, stop and lose his man in similar situations? (Plenty.)

But Whitehead was beaten for pace and hacked down McCleary for a clear penalty, which was converted by Adam Le Fondre, Reading's top scorer last season. McCleary was an impact substitution in a game in which Reading was mostly bereft of ideas. The Royals had only two shots on target against a Stoke side that lost the second-most away games last season.

On this display, there was little evidence that Reading has enough in the offensive third to avoid the drop.

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