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Thursday, 22 August 2013

Weekend Review (August 17-19)

The first weekend of the Premier League is always too soon to make snap judgements for what is going to happen for the next nine months- I mean the top three contenders for the Premier League title all won, the three promoted sides from last season all lost.

That doesn't mean anything in the long run, but there were still a few things that caught my eye from a long weekend of football and these are below.

Sergio Aguero staying fit could bridge the gap to Manchester United: As a Manchester United fan, I would be the first to tell you that Robin Van Persie's decision to move to Old Trafford rather than Manchester City was a major reason for the title coming back to Manchester United last season.

Van Persie's goals were critical and United managed to score 20 goals more than City over the course of the Premier League season and that definitely made the difference between the teams and is a real reason for such a gap at the end of the season between the two top sides.

Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez have both left Manchester City over the last year, while they have signed Stevan Jovetic and Alvaro Negredo have been brought in to help the team get back to scoring ways, but it may be most critical for them to keep Sergio Aguero fit.

Aguero started 22 games last season and was a substitute for a further 8 games, while scoring 12 goals for City, but he had been suffering with a knock during the course of the year and he has the goalscoring knack that could make a big difference in the title race this time around.

I also think City will be boosted by the more attacking mentality that Manuel Pellegrini will employ compared with Roberto Mancini- with the talent they have in forward positions, I think they will score a fair few more than the 66 goals they managed last season and may just make the difference in bridging the 11 point gap between themselves and United.

Arsenal fans booing ridiculous: It is very much a feature of the new world that instance success is all that fans want to see and social networking makes it easier for everyone to voice their opinions.

While reading Twitter is down to each individual, Arsenal fans have a tendency to bring their negative vibes to the Emirates Stadium. It isn't the first time the team have been booed off at home, but that isn't the only reason I find it quite ridiculous.

They boo their OWN players when they may be under-performing... Did anyone else find it quite ironic the cheers and claps Emmanuel Eboue got during a pre-season friendly against Galatasaray, yet this was the same player they would ridicule and boo while he played FOR Arsenal.

Theo Walcott has received the same 'adulation' during his poor runs of form, and it just feels ridiculous that one game into a season they are already on the players backs. Granted there are frustrations in what has been a quiet summer on the transfer front, and the result against Villa was a poor one, but it seems to be a far quicker negative reaction in this stadium than any other.

I don't know whether that is simply down to the fact that the new stadium has only been built in the last few years and the increased attendance from the Highbury days has allowed more 'Soccer Am' watching fans turn up, but the booing comes far too quickly at that stadium.

Promoted sides all lose but some positive signs: I said above that it is too quick to make snap judgements after one game of the season, but I do think all three promoted sides will take some positives from their opening Premier League game.

Cardiff City struggled at West Ham United, but Upton Park is one of the tougher places to play in the Premier League and I think the team will be looking to their home form to provide the real foundation for survival. They will certainly feel better now that the tension of the first game is out of the way, although the next game against Manchester City may give them another rude awakening of the challenges that lie ahead.

While Cardiff have fewer positives, both Crystal Palace and Hull City will feel they showed enough to think they can snare some points this season. Hull were outclassed for the first half at Chelsea, but the second half performance suggests they have made some astute signings, particularly Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore from Tottenham Hotspur.

Steve Bruce has experience and I think Hull City will surprise some if they take their second half performance on. Crystal Palace also played well in their game against Spurs, although I do wonder if they have enough goals in the side to survive in the top flight.

Over the last twenty years, all three promoted sides being immediately relegated is almost unheard of and even two of the sides going down would be a surprise. With that in mind, and with the performances on the opening weekend, all three promoted clubs will still have a real belief in what they are trying to achieve this season.

Wigan and the two relegated clubs won't have an easy ride in the Championship: When all three relegated clubs from the Premier League made winning starts in their opening game in the Championship, the general feeling was that all three would have a strong shout for promotion.

The one that most were excited about were Wigan after they won 0-4 at Barnsley, but one point from their next two games shows how tough the Championship is- I wasn't convinced by the appointment of Owen Coyle who had to be sacked by Bolton Wanderers last season as he struggled to make the adjustment to the Championship.

All 3 of the relegated sides are no longer the 'underdog', but a team with a target on their back as others will raise their game against opponents that were Premier League clubs up until May. Wigan have the additional pressure of playing in Europe and being the FA Cup holders which makes them a bigger scalp, although Queens Park Rangers financial clout puts a huge target on them too.

Being immediately promoted following relegation is not an easy task in a competitive Division like this one and all three will have a long, tough season ahead with a lots of ups and downs to reach their goal.

Spurs without Bale could still be a top four club: I have been impressed with the way Tottenham Hotspur have invested in the squad with the imminent departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid- they are getting a lot of money for their Welsh winger, but there does seem to be more of a feel of a team being put together and a good one at that.

The latest news that Willian may not be moving to White Hart Lane is a blow to what had looked a very strong summer of business, but I like the signings they have made and there is every chance they could be a top four club even in the absence of his talisman.

The big question may be who Arsenal sign to strengthen their squad to decide which of the North London teams finish in the final coveted Champions League place, but at the moment, players like Roberto Soldado and Paulinho can make a difference for Spurs.

Spurs do look a little short in defensive areas, so staying healthy will be key to their chances of negotiating what is a tough nine months of football, but there are some really positive signs. Andre Villas-Boas has to find the right blend at White Hart Lane where Spurs dropped too many points against teams they would be expecting to beat as they certainly look capable of picking up plenty on their travels and I like the business being done in this part of North London.

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