Friday, August 24, 2012

EPL Week 1 Recap

The best way to prepare for the second weekend of English Premier League action is to rehash the first weekend. Here's Travis Lankford's recap.

Usually the first day of the Premier League is a foregone conclusion and the teams that should win do win. This year, however, some smaller sides decided to put on a show. Most notably will be Southampton’s cracking effort against title winners Manchester City. Liverpool fell to their heaviest opening day defeat in 75 years which did not help the grumblings already surrounding the club. Tottenham are having to deal with the same shenanigans that Andre Villas-Boas tried to pull at Chelsea. In all, the first round of matches proved to be rife with talking points.
West Ham were gained three points against a notoriously dreadful Aston Villa side (how they stayed up last season is still amazing). As mentioned previously, West Bromwich Albion had a riot against Liverpool at the weekend. Brendan Rogers claimed that he would make history at Liverpool and after his first game he already has. The second penalty against Liverpool and the red card can be argued due to the fact that the foul was rather light. The bigger question is the original poor penalty and why anyone in the Premier League would take such a weak effort at such a great scoring opportunity. Loanee Romelu Lukaku capped off the scoreline with a header yet he should have two more assists if it were not for the poor finishing by his new teammates. The embarrassing turn and sprint past Jamie Carragher was a microcosm of Liverpool’s second half performance.
Reading dropped points at home versus Stoke City but the newly promoted side will be happy with at least a point from the draw. Swansea ran riot in their new Welsh kit, which I think I might have to pick up, against QPR. For having such wealthy owners and summer spending, QPR fell completely flat and conceded a whopping five goals. Swansea did not suffer from the sophomore slump but Norwich definitely did against Fulham. Norwich suffered the reverse scoreline against the West London club and fell five goals to nil. Contrary to American headlines, that was the big story rather than the owners’ refusal to move Dempsey this season.
Arsenal floundered against Sunderland and either team could have come away with the three points but they ended with a scoreless draw. With the new players and departures, Arsenal won’t click initially but they did have some good signs even if they were wasteful and still dreadful at the back. Newcastle versus Tottenham…Alan Shearer, the legendary Newcastle striker, commented that he was surprised by the high defensive line that Tottenham played. A great striker he may have been but how anyone was surprised by AVB’s tactics is beyond idiotic. Granted, AVB’s man management was expected to improve, and it hasn’t, but he still remains a staunch believer in his tactics and it will not prove fruitful for him at another London club. Tottenham lost the game because they would not stop being so offensively minded.
Wigan hosted Chelsea and the game was done and dusted after just six minutes. New Chelsea signing Eden Hazard blazed onto the Premier League scene with an assist and a created penalty in the span of four minutes. Chelsea looked extremely dangerous in the first half but it declined as time went on as they secured their lead. The second half saw Wigan come close a handful of times due to Chelsea seeking a third goal to put the game to bed. Victor Moses, the potential Chelsea signing, looked very dangerous throughout the game but Chelsea exploited the space created by Wigan’s 3-4-3 formation and that eventually was the reason for their win (and Wigan’s poor finishing).
The final two games involved both Manchester clubs that ended last season as #1 and #2. Manchester City were playing Southampton, a well known English team but out of top flight action for almost a decade, and the latter almost came away with a shock result. The game was plagued by failed defensive clearances and that is why it ended 3-2. It will be interesting to see how Manchester City’s defense responds as they had an impeccable back four last season. Everton hosted Manchester United and the latter looked extremely uninspired, slow, and narrow. RVP started on the bench but was not involved as much as he should have been when brought on the field. Kagawa was unable to unlock the Everton defense and Fellaini still proves to be on the best Premier League midfielders.
Matchday One supplied us with many interesting points to bring up and many points that are old stories just re-hashed. There were some shocking results and some that were not very surprising. The results of the opening of the season should not be stressed too much but the media does tend to run with any story they can muster.  Manchester United and Liverpool are not in panic mode even if many wished that they were. Eden Hazard is not the next Gianfranco Zola and no one in the Chelsea organization believes that to be a truthful statement. Everton will not finish in the top four; Fulham and Swansea will probably not score five goals in one game again in the rest of Premier League season. Onto Matchday Two and the next round of Premier League action, my friends.  Enjoy the life!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

EPL Preview

This post is written by Travis Lankford. You will see him nearly every week with his thoughts on all things Premier League

That wonderful time of year is upon us – yes, the new season of the Barclay’s Premier League begins this weekend. It seems like only yesterday when Sergio Aguero fired in the game winner for Manchester City and cemented their place as champions. The only regret of this opening weekend is that it will pale in comparison to the drama of that day. However, there is much to look forward to this season. 

Manchester City is still the deepest squad but Manchester United now has RVP and a healthy Darren Fletcher. Not to mention the signing of Shinji Kagawa to take over as United’s midfield general. Arsenal have signed Podolski and Giroud; yet, Van Persie has switched to the red half of Manchester and Song looks set to join Barcelona. Their new signings will have to step up significantly and the question of the captaincy at Arsenal has been raised again. Chelsea have done the opposite and used the influx of Champions League winners cash to bolster their squad further and are still linked with a trio of signings. The managerial merry-go-round halted, for the moment, as Roberto Di Matteo was rewarded with a two year deal after winning both the FA Cup and Champions League. Tottenham have Chelsea’s failed revolutionary, Andre Villas-Boas, as their new manager. The deal is not done but their mercurial midfield maestro, Luka Modric, is on the way to Real Madrid and Tottenham do not have a suitable replacement. They have, however, been able to hang onto Gareth Bale which is a huge plus for them. The team does look very unfamiliar with AVB’s preference of a high defensive line and pressing when off the ball.

There hasn’t been much activity on Newcastle’s accord and it will be interesting to see if their defense holds up and if Ba and Papiss Cisse can finally fire on all cylinders together. Everton have lost their prized midfielder, Jack Rodwell, to Manchester City but the squad is otherwise intact. David Moyes has a knack for getting the best out of average players (England job, anyone?). Liverpool hired Swansea’s former coach in Brendan Rogers, whom hopes to instill his philosophy onto a squad not suited for it. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact Joe Allen has on his new team.

The biggest question amongst the mid-table teams is whether Swansea will be able to replicate their form of the past season without their manager that led them to some historic results. I sadly don’t find much of the mid-table battles to be very interesting but these teams directly impact the success and failure of the champions and the wannabe’s.

The relegation battle should be another drama-filled race to the final matchday. The newly promoted teams are Reading, Southampton, and West Ham; the latter being the leader in capturing the newly deserted Olympic Stadium in London. Other teams fighting to stay up will most likely be comprised of Norwich, West Brom, QPR, and Wigan. QPR have added to their squad and Wigan will enjoy cashing in on Victor Moses.

The ultimate excitement with Matchday One is the fact that the season is finally upon us and the race to the top is about to begin. The races at both the top and bottom of the table will start on Matchday One and end on Matchday Thirty-Eight. The Premier League is the greatest club soccer league in the world for a reason; it never fails to deliver the drama. Go ahead and take some blood pressure medication now as any fan of a Premier League team will need it at some point this season. Rejoice everyone! The Premier League is upon us!