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Five Things We’ve Learned from the Barclays’ Premier League Opening Weekend

By Periscope @periscopepost
Five things we’ve learned from the Barclays’ Premier League opening weekend WBA players celebrate a goal versus Wolves, 2011. Photo credit: Beacon Radio http://flic.kr/p/aweibF

The background

After almost 100 days, the Barclays’ Premier League is back. The sensational performances by Team GB athletes such as Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis at the London 2012 Olympic Games may have captured the imagination of sports fans but make no mistake about it – Premiership football remains the biggest sporting ticket in town.

While it is foolhardy to read too much into the opening round of fixtures, there were some startlingly surprising upset results, which ran wildly counter to pre-season predictions.

“Those sides who changed most this summer — Liverpool, Norwich City and Queens Park Rangers — were duly punished on the opening weekend. Change has to be undertaken carefully. A sledgehammer rarely does any good,” said Tony Cascarino at The Times (£).

Liverpool may struggle, West Brom may not

West Bromwich Albion pulled off undoubtedly the shock result of the opening weekend. The baggies, who lost manager Roy Hodgson to England before Euro 2012 and have been widely tipped to seriously struggle this season, tore apart historied big club Liverpool in a thumping three-nil win at the Hawthorns. The result displayed that Brendan Rodgers’ Liverpool still have plenty of work to do if they are to become genuine contenders for a top four finish. And it suggested that Steve Clarke’s West Brom side might not be such a shoo-in for a bottom six finish after all.

“If Liverpool fans hoped that Brendan Rodgers’s revolution would have them playing like Swansea City, they were wrong. They looked more like Wigan Athletic at the start of last season, playing themselves into trouble,” said Tony Cascarino at The Times (£).

QPR yet to gel, Swansea better than expected

Queens Park Rangers went into their opening game against Swansea on a real high. A flurry of summer transfer activity – 8 players have joined since May – had some optimists tipping up QPR for a remarkable top ten finish. Swansea traveled to west London with less wind in the sails – over the summer the Welsh club lost their highly rated manager Brendan Rodgers (to Liverpool) and key players such as Joe Allen. But Swansea upset the apple cart at Loftus Road. They saw off and early surge by QPR before dominating the game and running out convincing five-nil winners. The shock result underlined that QPR may be stuffed to the gills with impressive individuals but are yet to be a functioning team. And is suggested that Swansea are not necessarily destined for relegation (as many have predicted).

“Anyone who doubts just how fanatical Asian supporters are should take a trip to see Queens Park Rangers play,” advised Sachin Nakrani at The Guardian. “The arrival of Park Ji-sung to the west London club means each home game will be littered with shrieking South Koreans in the stands, one of whom was sitting a row below the press box during QPR‘s 5-0 defeat to Swansea on Saturday and screamed with excitement every time the midfielder touched the ball. It went from funny to annoying very, very quickly.”

Manchester City have a fight on their hands to retain the trophy

Reigning champions Manchester City beat newly-promoted Southampton 3-2 but they were made to work devilishly hard for their come-from-behind win. City are widely expected to retain their Premiership title but, on the evidence of Saturday’s performance, they’ll need to work harder than ever if they are to triumph again. Being reigning champs means every team who plays City will treat the game as their cup final and that’s a different kind of pressure to chasing down Manchester United. The fact that key striker Sergio Aguero suffered a potentially serious knee injury in the game means that City will likely add another striker before the transfer window slams shut in two weeks. In the post-match interview, City manager Roberto Mancini admitted that he is looking at bringing in some new faces.

Jamie Jackson of The Guardian reminded that Aguero scored 30 goals in his debut season “and the sight of him being carried off on a stretcher at the Etihad Stadium was not a good start to City’s hopes of retaining the title.”

Write of Chelsea at your peril

Going into the weekend, most believed that the title race will end up being another shootout between the Manchester clubs (as it was last year). But Chelsea confirmed their status as real title dark horses with a impressive, professional win at Wigan, a team that finished last season on a tremendous run of form. Chelsea’s big-money new signings Oscar and Eden Hazard impressed in Chelsea’s gritty away win and the Blues could well challenge the Manchester clubs if they beef up in the striker department.

Chelsea could become the entertainers for whom Roman Abramovich has always pined,” suggested Dominic Fifield at The Guardian. “Eden Hazard served notice of his considerable talent and there was a mouth-watering glimpse of Oscar’s capabilities in victory at Wigan. That pair’s combination with Juan Mata could be irresistible.”

Newcastle can go hard again

Newcastle were the surprise package of last season. They pushed hard for a UEFA Champions’ League spot and turned heads with their slick, attacking style of play. And the magpies showed little sign of letting up in their opening game – a hard-fought 2-1 win over likely top six rivals Tottenham. Newcastle’s 2011/12 stars, including Hatem Ben Arfa, picked up where they left off with scintillating displays in front of the passionate Newcastle faithfull.

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