Weekend Realities: Roberto Martinez, Big Four Slow Start, Promoted Sides Not Welcome

17 August 2009

So the opening weekend of the Premier League has come and gone. For the most part it was pretty much by the book, with two 'upsets' and one massive outlier scoreline in Everton's 6-1 whipping by Arsenal. There is still plenty to talk about however.

Roberto Martinez Gets Wigan Athletic Off on the Right Foot
If you read my preview on Wigan Athletic, I was curious to see how Roberto Martinez would adjust the tactics he used at Swansea City to his new position at Wigan Athletic. Well based on first game judgment, that answer was pretty damn well.

Fact of the matter is this: Wigan Athletic took Aston Villa behind the woodshed and dominated the entire match. They dominated the stat sheet, and made Aston Villa look like relegation fodder. Wigan were metered in their attack and soaked up pressure immensely. Chris Kirkland was only tested once in the ninety minutes.

Both goals were pretty impressive in their own right. Hugo Rodallega's volley was goal of the weekend (sorry Didier Drogba), and an impressive individual effort. Charles N'Zogbia perfectly laid the ball off to Jason Koumas on the second; Koumas took full advantage of the tight angle.

It was not the start Villa needed. However, when key pieces leave during the summer, it will take a while to get the balance of the squad back.

Besides Arsenal: the Big Four Start Slowly
This was a not a good weekend for three of the four 'big' clubs. Yes three of them won, but they were less than impressive in doing so. We'll talk about Manchester United in the next segment.

Chelsea opened the season and quite frankly better be thanking their lucky stars the game didn't end 1-1. Sure, Chelsea 'dominated' the game from minute one, but there are massive flaws right now to the system Ancelotti wants to use. In effect, there is no width to it. The game winner was nothing more than a fluke cross ala Frank Lampard in the Champions League against Barcelona. If you want another shocker, I expect Chelsea to not get three points in their trip to Sunderland on Tuesday night.

Liverpool on the day were just shocking against Tottenham. Had Robbie Keane decided he was going to actually try and score, Liverpool would have been done and dusted by halftime. Yes they were denied a stone wall penalty late, but that doesn't deny how bad they were. It was evident how much they missed Alonso as the midfield looked lost all day. Mascherano was not his usual self. Credit has to be given to Tottenham; they deserved it.

Arsenal were just brilliant, taking advantage of an Everton side that is still torn about Joleon Lescott and made the typical Everton slow start slower than usual. Thomas Vermaelen and William Gallas were not only solid at the back, but in the attack as well. While it's difficult to judge the rest of the season based on this performance, the positive signs are there. Everton just need to tell Joleon Lescott if he wants to leave, he can in January when Jagielka is fully fit.

Promoted Sides Get Bigger Than Expected Wake Up Call
Stoke City simply toyed with Burnley in the second half after schooling them in the first. Sure Burnley had a few opportunities on goal in the second half, but they were never in the match. Owen Coyle is right about the margin for error being razor thin in the Premier League, but the football on the park showed they have way too much to improve on.

Wolverhampton Wanderers just have no strikers who can do it in the Premier League. West Ham, however, were just wasteful in front of goal. Robert Green was very good in goal, but was never truly tested (meaning he didn't have to move much when 'threatening shots' were coming his way). If Wolves can find one striker of any quality, they will be just fine.

Birmingham City were the only promoted side who impressed me all weekend. Yes Manchester United was banged up, and saw Nani and Evans leave due to injuries, but they are lucky Birmingham City didn't have Christian Benitez on the park for ninety minutes. This game had the same feel to Chelsea/Hull City without the Hull opener. Ben Foster had to come through big late to prevent it from being a draw. Based on this opening weekend, I may have been wrong about which promoted side would be going right back down.

Other Thoughts
* Portsmouth looked worse than even I expected them to be against Fulham. If Fulham had wanted to (and abandoned their typical game style), they could have named their scoreline.

* Manchester City were shaky at the back, but got the job done getting three points where they should have. Mark Hughes though needs to work on the back four.


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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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