New for this season They Think It’s All Over… brings you a weekly Premiership Review to complement the traditional Predictions post. Matilda Hankinson, a fervent Bolton Wanderers and England fan (who also writes for The Offside about the Trotters) will bring you, each week, a handy summary of the weekend’s Premier League action. I will eventually get a proper post-header graphic etc built up or this but due to recent computer issues that will have to wait for now! Over to Matilda…
Tottenham Hotspur vs. Manchester City
For me this was one of the tastiest fixtures of the weekend. Both teams have very good squads and great managers, so it was sure to be good. However good City looks on paper, they still don’t look much like a team on the pitch. They owe their 1 point mostly to the stunning performance of Joe Hart. Hart made 3 brilliant saves and looked confident throughout the whole match. If he gets consistent playing time I have no doubt that his name is going down in history as an amazing keeper. While City looked better in the second half, Spurs probably should have won this one. City showed that they still have a lot of work to do, and Redknapp showed that he’s not finished yet.
Aston Villa vs. West Ham United
Rob Green’s Summer of Woe continued, as he watched his side make a poor start to the season. Aston Villa despite internal turmoil, a temporary manager, transfer rumours left and right for their best players, looked like a well oiled machine, and unleashed their full force on West Ham. Even James Milner, rumoured to have one foot out the door, put in a good shift, though Villa do look like they’ll be fine without him. West Ham certainly are in a bit of a shambles and Avram Grant has not walked into an easy job. This was an opening day to forget for the Hammers.
Blackburn Rovers vs. Everton
Adam said in his predictions that little will have changed at Ewood Park, and he was right, the same old Blackburn that everyone knows and mildly dislikes came out to play. However Everton put in a sub-par performance, gifting the Rovers with 3 points. It wasn’t that Everton weren’t attacking, but that their attacks faltered out in the final third. Tim Howard dropped the ball that gave Blackburn the goal, but in all fairness this game probably should have been a draw. A good platform for Blackburn, who should have a comfortable season has left the Toffees hoping that this performance is an outlier not the norm.
Bolton Wanderers vs. Fulham
This game certainly won’t be showing up on any highlight reels any time soon. The home side had the better of the game, though not significantly. Both teams put together some decent play, and in the end quality from the keepers kept this 0-0. News before the game that Schwarzer would not be playing, supposedly due to injury, though perhaps due to disagreement with Mark Hughes, gave rise to panic amongst Fulham supporters. It was unnecessary though, as the number two keeper David Stockdale proved himself highly capable, denying a surprisingly good Elmander several times. A draw is probably the fair result, and it was a good start for both sides.
Sunderland vs. Birmingham City
This match was certainly not short of drama, with a dubious penalty decision, an own goal, and a multitude of cards. Birmingham started the game short on luck, having two decisions go against them quite quickly. First Lee Cattermole escaped a card after quite blatantly elbowing Birmingham’s O’Connor in the face, then Sunderland were awarded a penalty for a tackle by Carr which was just outside of the box. Darren Bent tucked it away efficiently. Carr’s day worsened when a ball that was supposed to be headed back to his keeper ended up in his own net. The tide did turn when Cattermole was sent off (fairly), and Birmingham came out to play, getting two back (sloppily) and earning a point. Alex McLeish will not be resting easily after that performance, but on the day they came away with a point.
Wigan Athletic vs. Blackpool
It’s difficult to think of a better way to start your first season in the first division in 39 years than an 4-0 victory, away, against some local rivals. As one blog put it, “Cinderella brought her combat boots”. Blackpool opened the scoring just 15 minutes in, and Wigan never really recovered. The home side spent the game looking discombobulated, frustrated, and disconnected. Keeper Chris Kirkland was made to look an amateur, and the cap really didn’t help. I expect loanee Ali Al Habsi to get the nod next week after that display. Despite this emphatic win, I’m still fairly certain Blackpool will go down, but they do look as though they intend to fully enjoy their season in the Premiership.
Wolverhampton Wanderers vs. Stoke City
Stoke proved themselves about as flexible as my gran in a game to forget for them. The visitors started positively enough with new kid on the block, Kenwyne Jones, hitting the crossbar powerfully. However he soon crumpled under a Jody Craddock tackle and had to come off, leaving Stoke looking a little lost. The hosts took advantage of this, and scored twice in two minutes, the first being a lovely David Jones free kick. Stoke came back into it after scoring one of their own, but in the end it was a deserved Wolves win.
Chelsea vs. West Bromwich Albion (5.30pm)
This was never going to be an easy day for the Baggies, but I don’t think anyone knew just how bad it would be. The scoreline has made many overlook Chelsea’s underwhelming display at points, but when they switched into gear they were unstoppable. It’s difficult not to like West Brom, everyone loves an underdog and they can play a bit of football, but it’s equally difficult to ignore their lack of ruthlessness when they get near the goal. It was a humbling evening for Di Matteo, and a declaration of intent from Ancelotti.
Liverpool vs. Arsenal
What this game lacked in quality, it made up for in drama. Neither team played particularly inspirational football, and all things even a draw was a fair result. The first half Arsenal looked the better side, though they failed to make anything of their dominance. Liverpool were getting a little desperate as Joe Cole’s sloppy tackle, which earned him a straight red, showed. But going down to 10 men boosted the Reds, and shortly before the whistle Ngog scored after Jack Wilshere gave away possession. Liverpool were to run the second half, looking a better team without Joe Cole. Arsenal failed to take advantage of the number, but were given a point on a platter when Pepe Reina made a howler of a mistake, and watched the ball dribble into his net. Neither side will be terribly proud of that performance, but it isn’t a horrible foundation to start a campaign on.
Manchester United vs. Newcastle United
Manchester United aren’t the unbeatables they were a couple of seasons ago, but this match proved that they’re still bloody good. This isn’t to say Newcastle aren’t, they looked decent through most of the game, however they were no match for United. The much-maligned Berbatov had a game to hush the critics, opening the score sheet with a lovely strike. The real architect behind United success however was Paul Scholes, who seemed to be at the heart of every play. Newcastle shouldn’t take this defeat too hard, against poorer opposition they surely would have scored. While this may not have been a 6-0 thrashing, Manchester United certainly sent a message to their London rivals with this performance.
How did your team’s start to the season go? Feeling optimistic (Blackpool fans…) or down in the dumps (Wigan fans?), let us know with a comment below…