Manchester United and Chelsea make bizarre table-toppers after pretty unconvincing campaigns against poor opposition, while Manuel Pellegrini was a silly boy...
On a weekend when just about everybody else around them dropped points, why should Liverpool's title hopes be dismissed? David Moyes is a loser, of course...
David Moyes and Manchester United
He's not ready yet, he's terrified...he's just won his first game 4-1.
It was the perfect way for David Moyes to end a difficult week in which his gradual adjustment to the increased media exposure of his new territory saw the Manchester United manager make several high-profile gaffes. Propagating conspiracy theories about the fixture list and complaining about a lack of time to secure new signings smacked of hasty contingency planning from Moyes in a pre-emptive bid to escape criticism for the outcome of a tricky test against Swansea.
It turned out that the United boss had nothing to worry about as braces from Robin van Persie and, surprisingly, Danny Welbeck helped the champions ease to victory in a fixture that twice proved difficult during Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure. Although Swansea 'had the stuffing knocked out of them' by United's double salvo in the first half, as Michael Laudrup admitted, Moyes' boys were neat and tidy throughout, apart from Welbeck's costly error for which he later superbly made amends.
Moyes again selected Welbeck to play in a central role behind Van Persie (as he did in the Community Shield) and this allowed the young England forward more opportunities to get into the box and provide a goal threat. There were only a handful of occasions last season in which Ferguson played Welbeck in this position (Liverpool at home being one) and Moyes deserves credit for identifying one approach to eke more goals out of the striker. Indeed, Welbeck has now already contributed more Premier League strikes than in the whole of the previous campaign.
Of course, this temporary solution has been aided by Wayne Rooney's absence from the starting line-up and eventually Moyes probably sees Rooney returning to his number 10 role, especially after he came on to demonstrate his creative talent and provide two assists on Saturday. But experimentation is to be expected in the short term, to an extent, and in one respect Moyes is in the process of answering a key question that Ferguson failed to address last year.
That Ryan Giggs has started both of Moyes' matches so far raises further concerns about United's failure to strengthen and although the 39-year-old impressed in the Community Shield, he had less impact against Swansea. The Swans are renowned for their ability to keep the ball (54% possession to United's 46%) but United's pass completion rate of 82% would no doubt have been improved by another quality midfielder to complement Michael Carrick in the centre. At 24, Tom Cleverley is no longer a youngster and therefore no longer afforded an easy excuse for questionable performances. He offered little on Saturday and will need to improve.
Ultimately, it was the ruthlessness of Van Persie and - again, surprisingly - Welbeck that settled the contest to grant Moyes a timely boost ahead of next Monday's clash against Chelsea at Old Trafford. There are still plenty of questions for the manager to assess - what role will Shinji Kagawa have this season, for one - and much of his current focus will be dedicated to adding the new face(s) that will ease the anxiety of expectant supporters.
One thing is certain - Moyes has dealt incredibly well with Rooney, against whom he previously won a game of legal noughts and crosses (Moyes receiving the noughts as Rooney was made to pay out). The striker appeared to be in sullen mood at the Liberty Stadium, but the close of the transfer window should see him return to maximum effort. It is a World Cup year, after all, and did he ever really believe that United would allow him to join one of their fiercest rivals?
Robin van Persie
As he scratched his head in bemusement after United's Community Shield victory, Van Persie questioned the logic behind making the champions third favourites for the Premier League title this season. His two fine strikes against Swansea serve as a reminder that this team isn't suddenly going to fall apart, as does the remarkable stat that since January 2011 Van Persie has scored 76 PL goals - 27 more than any other player.
A year older, a year wiser. Villa's young team earned an enormous confidence boost from their 3-1 victory against Arsenal with Paul Lambert again demonstrating that he knows how to set his team up to counter-attack at the Emirates. An adventurous 4-3-3 formation revealed Lambert's willingness to try and take advantage of the recent pressure on Arsenal and the manager's gamble paid off as Gabriel Agbonlahor and Andreas Weimann stretched the Gunners into costly mistakes.
One of the biggest plus points for Villa was the performance of Christian Benteke, who looked raring to go after withdrawing his transfer request and signing a new contract earlier in the summer. The striker's two goals underlined his importance to the team and much of what Villa hope to achieve this year will depend on his performances as he bids to become Belgium's leading number nine in time for the World Cup.
The good news for Villa is that they should face a more straightforward campaign following a difficult battle against relegation in 2012/13. The promoted trio all face an incredibly tough task to survive and that affords Lambert's side a little more breathing space as they continue to develop.
'Can England Strikers Rise To The Challenge?' was one of the points in our Top Ten Subplots To The Season and Roy Hodgson will have been a happy man on Saturday following goals for Daniel Sturridge, Daniel Welbeck and Rickie Lambert, as well as a screamer from Ross Barkley, who stands an outside chance of sneaking a midfield spot (should England qualify). Gaby Agbonlahor also impressed against Arsenal and, at 26, it's time he found some consistency in Lambert's settled side. The forward scored eight goals in Villa's final 14 matches last season; let's see if he can maintain his form.
Southampton and The Premier League
An away victory on the opening day followed by the exciting news of Pablo Osvaldo's arrival from Roma. It seems absurd that Southampton are able to sign a striker who scored 27 Serie A goals over the last two seasons, and for £12.9million, but this is the position of strength afforded to Premier League clubs by the staggering increase in TV revenue.
That Osvaldo, Victor Wanyama, Gary Medel, Andy Carroll, Wilfried Bony and Ricky van Wolfswinkel have all joined clubs outside the top bracket for significant fees this close season underlines the immediate impact of the new TV deal. It won't break the cartel at the top of the table, but it should make for a much more entertaining battle from sixth place downwards.
An away victory on the opening day secured by a goalscorer younger than 30. Only four of Fulham's 50 league goals last season were scored by players under the age of 26 and so it will have been encouraging for Martin Jol to see 21-year-old Pajtim Kasami head the Cottagers' only attempt on target into the back of the net at Sunderland. The injury to Maarten Stekelenburg is a serious concern and Jol still has plenty of work to do before the end of the transfer window, but Fulham will savour their rare away victory.
A hugely impressive performance tempered only by the failure to add to Daniel Sturridge's brilliant first-half strike.
Many will claim that we saw the same old Liverpool side on Saturday - wasteful in attack and unconvincing at the back - but the Reds' display was a significant improvement on many afternoons last season. That Asmir Begovic was forced into ten saves - more than he made in any single match last year - emphasises Liverpool's incision and, if you compare the Reds' shooting accuracy (25 attempts, 11 on target) to Chelsea (23/6), Spurs (18/3) and Arsenal (15/4) then concerns over profligacy are not as severe as Nick Miller suggested here. Indeed, there was only really one clear-cut chance that should not have been missed which unfortunately fell to Jordan Henderson on his left foot.
While the excellent contribution of Liverpool's front three has been discussed at length over the weekend, arguably the most important aspect of the performance was Lucas Leiva's assured display in midfield. The Brazilian looked at peak fitness and hopefully his injury problems are now permanently behind him. It's perhaps underestimated just how important Lucas' role is at the base of Liverpool's midfield and the solid foundation he provided against Stoke enabled the more attacking players to readily express themselves. It must be said, however, that Iago Aspas and Philippe Coutinho, in particular, exhibited an incredible work rate as they defended from the front and repeatedly regained possession in Stoke's half.
Only time will tell whether this was a one-off display against a side slowly adapting to a new style or if Brendan Rodgers' philosophy is finally coming to fruition, but the Reds can take a lot of positives from the opening day. What really stood out was the intelligence of Liverpool's play as they cut Stoke open again and again. While Spurs opted to attack from the wings against Crystal Palace on Sunday - a tactic that struggled to create the best chances, as I discussed here - Rodgers set his team up to slice through the inside channels, weaving diagonal balls into the penalty area that yielded shooting opportunities or the option to cut the ball back into dangerous positions.
There was a tremendous rhythm to Liverpool's play, which was perhaps aided by Steven Gerrard seemingly have a more restrained role. Although his positioning was similar to last season, the fluid movement of Coutinho, Sturridge and Aspas, with Henderson stationed just behind and the full-backs constantly offering support, meant that Gerrard was not required in an attacking sense to the same extent he was on many occasions last year. Gerrard improved markedly over the course of the previous campaign as he adapted to Rodgers' system and it would appear that the captain and manager have held further discussions over how the midfielder should be deployed.
It is possible to overstate Liverpool's performance, of course, and had Stoke possessed a striker with more mobility than Peter Crouch then the Reds may have been stretched on the counter-attack. It's worth acknowledging that there is always likely to be a strong element of risk to Liverpool's approach, however, as the very nature of trying to retain possession and committing players forward allows pacy counter-attacking teams the option of playing long balls behind the Reds' high defensive line for forwards quicker than Matthew Etherington and Jon Walters to chase.
Daniel Agger's egregious error was another blot on his copybook and both the Dane and Martin Skrtel, who missed Saturday's match with a knee injury, will need to improve on last season's form. There is still time for one to be sold (probably Skrtel) and the other to be partnered with Swansea's Ashley Williams, who looks more comfortable playing at the distance Rodgers' system demands between his two centre-backs. Aside from three stunning saves, Simon Mignolet also struggled to convince, especially on crosses, which he worryingly chose not to come for following his early flaps. Unless he grows in confidence, £9million is a lot to pay for a keeper who can do no more, no less than Pepe Reina. Indeed, it was quite ironic that if Stoke had been more Stoke-like, they may have found more joy through the shaky Mignolet.
It seems that every time the Hammers' score a goal that involves more than one pass, someone is going to remark: 'Let it not be said that this team doesn't play football'. Oh joy.
A first assist for West Ham following his £10.75million move last summer.
A hard-fought win which underlined Spurs' need for more subtlety. Considering Spurs had won only two of their previous 12 opening-day fixtures, Andre Villas-Boas will simply be relieved to start with a victory, while his four debutants all showed glimpses of their talent - Paulinho and Roberto Soldado especially.
"Overall, our football was excellent and our new signings did well. They were surprised at the intensity of the Premier League," said Villas-Boas. "We should have put the game to bed but I'm generally very pleased to come to a difficult ground and get the three points."
I can't imagine there will be many managers referring to Selhurst Park as a 'difficult ground' to visit by the season's end.
The Special One, The Happy One...The Boring One.
Despite a frantic start against Hull, Chelsea's victory turned out to be the snoozefest of the weekend as the Blues went through the motions in the second half. Jose Mourinho blamed his side's sluggishness on fatigue owing to the midweek international fixtures, but it will no doubt concern him that Hull managed 49% possession, made more passes than the hosts in the second half and also had more attempts on target after the break. Chelsea made Hull look good.
Although it would greatly annoy Mourinho to hear it, there was little difference between the Blues' opening display on Sunday and the team's performances under Rafa Benitez towards the end of last season, down to the finer point of Fernando Torres failing to offer a convincing threat in attack. That new number nine just became even more essential.
Wednesday's visit of Aston Villa may prove more difficult than we would have thought on Saturday morning, but the fixture list has presented Chelsea with a brilliant opportunity to set the pace ahead of Monday's trip to Old Trafford, by which time Juan Mata should be fully fit.
The Three Promoted Teams
Three defeats, no goals and just six shots on target between them - it wasn't a great start to the battle for Premier League survival.
While Hull did better than any realistic fan would have expected at Chelsea, I already have a bad feeling about Cardiff. The Bluebirds hit the target with just one of their 12 attempts against West Ham and it's difficult to see them scoring enough goals to keep their head above water. Vincent Tan has invested a lot of money (and bad PR) to get Cardiff to the top flight and one wonders how much patience he will have with Malky Mackay should the team endure a poor start.
At Palace, Ian Holloway's decision to start Aaron Wilbraham - a striker who's scored only six goals over the last three seasons - revealed the startling lack of quality in the Eagles squad. New £6million signing Dwight Gayle possesses pace and willingness and not a lot else, and it's almost impossible to envisage the play-off winners keeping themselves out of the bottom three. Holloway's complaints about the ref also erased much of the affection Palace gained from a superb tifo display before kick-off and the use of an eagle as pre-match entertainment. Lovely stuff.
I understand that many of you will either a) have no interest in reading more about Arsenal or b) be so distraught that you need comforting.
As there are plenty of words on Arsenal to follow, none of which provide comfort, here's a video of a baby duck struggling to stay awake for those of you who wish to ignore this section. Enjoy.
It's the sort of thing Brendan Rodgers would take great satisfaction in saying, but Arsenal's current predicament shows that failing to prepare is preparing to fail, okay? Saturday's result was disappointing, and a tad embarrassing, but the real fear for the Gunners is that injuries and inaction have left them depleted for Wednesday's Champions League qualifier away to Fenerbahce. All that hard work at the end of last season, the boasting that followed 12 wins out of the final 16 matches, the gloating towards Spurs; it could all be for nothing.
What on earth is Arsene Wenger planning to do at this stage? And would you trust him to put things right? He has trimmed his squad to such an extent that the gaps on Wednesday will have to be plugged by wide-eyed youth teamers, talented but obviously lacking the requisite experience of such occasions. Is it really wise to throw youngsters into this poisonous atmosphere that currently surrounds the club? Wenger has no choice, of course, but we saw with the booing of an exhausted Santi Cazorla on Saturday - alluded to by this impassioned fan - that the manager no longer knows how to protect his players.
Wenger persisted with his hollow sentiments about finding new recruits after Villa's victory, but so many of the best targets have passed Arsenal by that you have to question just how far down the manager's shortlist things currently stand. Does he even have a shortlist?
Reports on Monday morning claimed the Gunners are now set to launch a doomed-to-fail bid for Michu, who would cost at least £20million - a valuation that would cause Wenger's head to explode - and, according to Michael Laudrup, will not be sold for any price at this stage of the transfer window. That's how these things work, you see, clubs don't like to sell their best players when they have no time to find suitable replacements. "You can say we would get a lot of money but why be the richest club in the Championship? What is that worth?" said Laudrup when asked about Michu. The handsome man makes a compelling point.
It really is difficult to understand Wenger's thinking when he has cultivated a situation in which Aaron Ramsey finished Saturday's defeat playing at centre-back. Cryptic comments such as "Even if you go on the Eiffel Tower and you throw the money away, you have to play with the players you have" fail to shed any more light on a predicament that, objectively, is as clear as day: Wenger no longer knows how to operate in the transfer market. This is not to say he doesn't have an eye for good players - and Sanogo may turn out to be another success - but he is clearly incapable when it comes to securing the signings that will keep Arsenal competitive at the top of the table.
So where do the Gunners go from here? At the start of the summer, when Ivan Gazidis referred to an 'escalation in financial firepower' and Wenger again insisted that Arsenal could challenge for the title, it seemed that it was only a short trip back to the top. The money was there, three or four proven signings would signal the end of the late rush for fourth and see the 16-point gap to first place close substantially. But nothing has happened. Nothingness has followed nothingness, leaving the club facing the same long, arduous journey, no doubt facilitated by a mad trolley dash reminiscent of 2011.
It was evident that Gazidis wanted Wenger to spend this summer - why else would he risk his own credibility with inadvisable statements - and one wonders if chasms will gradually begin to form as the fall-out of this disastrous summer manifests. "We do not spend the money because we do not find the players. I am not the only one for that," said Wenger on Saturday. It isn't surprising that talk of a new contract has suddenly dried up.
The first stop on this long road for Arsenal is the Þükrü Saracoðlu Stadium on Wednesday. Although a victory would prove a timely confidence boost, you can't help but feel it would also strengthen Wenger's delusion that he still knows exactly what he's doing.
Just two wins in Paolo Di Canio's eight matches in charge so far. The shouty man must hope his new signings gel quickly.
Just two wins in their last 12 Premier League matches since winning the League Cup. The handsome man must hope his new signings gel quickly.
It was unfortunate that Wilfried Bony was unable to start against Manchester United after his international trip in midweek and, aside from his neat finish, the striker looked rather jaded with several poor touches. Swansea also missed Jonathan de Guzman, whose calm presence in midfield was a key factor in their success last season. Jonjo Shelvey offers something different, but I'm not yet sure if that's different in a good way. The midfielder's best performances for Liverpool came when he was given freedom to be all-action in the Europa League, and it remains to be seen whether he can adapt to the restraint that's required in Swansea's patient build-up play.
It's also interesting to note that Shelvey asked Brendan Rodgers if he could learn how to play a deeper role at Liverpool this season, so his sale to Swansea and continuation in an advanced position perhaps came as a disappointment to the England hopeful.
A front three of Peter Crouch, Matthew Etherington and Jonathan Walters. Mark Hughes has his work cut out.
Matthew Stanger - you can have a word with him on Twitter