Good Weekend, Bad Weekend

The Premier League returned with a cracking 32-goal weekend, which will have left most of us ruing the midweek international games coming up. The opening weekend saw much that was intriguing, not least the pretty rancid Manchester City away kit.

Good Weekend

Roman Abramovich & Chelsea fans

It can’t have been easy for Red Rom to watch successive managers blow his money on some of the most expensive footballers in the world and proceed to play with a lack of real style despite the trophy laden seasons under Jose Mourinho.

From the evidence of one game, it appears that Luiz Felipe Scolari will bring a lot more flair to Stamford Bridge. Whilst Portsmouth were woeful, the attacking intentions from Chelsea’s full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole pointed to a more Brazilian-type insistence on playing full-backs as auxiliary wingers a la Roberto Carlos and Cafu.

Deco also revelled in his free role, as did John Obi Mikel in the “Makelele” position. If the Blues continue playing like this, they may even win over some of the neutral supporters, much to the delight of Peter Kenyon.

Dimitar Berbatov

Following United’s 1-1 draw with the Toon it is a surprise that the sulky Bulgarian striker felt the need to publicly voice his desire for his “dream move.” This weekend proved not only how badly Spurs will miss Berbatov but also how much United need him.

Aston Villa & Gabriel Agbonlahor

It might prove fairly easy to beat Manchester City in the coming weeks, after all they were beaten at home by Danish side FC Midtjylland on Thursday night. Nevertheless, from the evidence of the opening weekend there is only club from the “Small 16” who looks capable of breaking the monopoly of the “Big Four.”

Martin O’Neill has assembled a fine team at Villa Park, the signings of Brad Friedel and Carlos Cuellar were masterstrokes and they should form the spine of a strong team. And the former Celtic and Leicester boss is reaping the benefits of grooming two exceptionally talented youngsters on the wings. Whilst Agbonlahor should receive all the plaudits for his hat-trick, Young’s cross for the first goal was exceptional.

The Gareth Barry saga rumbles on, and it could have far reaching consequences if the England midfielder does stay. If Barry leaves and Agbonlahor excels this season, will he be the next to leave Villa Park?

(As an aside, the seven minute hat-trick from Agbonlahor proves that Robbie Fowler’s hat-trick recorded at 4 minutes and 33 seconds against Arsenal will almost certainly never be beaten.)

Hull City

The fact that Hull were able to ring their bell before the start of their game with Fulham was a miracle in itself. Winning the game after going one-nil down will infuse the club with the confidence for the battle ahead.

Much will depend on Geovanni playing well for longer than the first few weeks of the season, as he did at Eastlands last season. And Phil Brown’s side may need a few more gifts from other Premier League defenders following the shocker from Paul Konchesky.

Fernando Torres

Last season on the opening day it was Steven Gerrard who came to the rescue with a late winner at Villa Park. These days it is Fernando Torres who is more often than not Liverpool’s match winner.

The nagging suspicion remains that the Reds are not attacking enough, of the “Big Four” Liverpool’s full-backs are now (since Scolari arrived at Chelsea) the only ones who won’t provide an attacking threat. Torres, Gerrard and Robbie Keane will need to be consistent match winners if Liverpool are to make their long awaited title challenge.

Valencia

It may come as some surprise to those that follow the British tabloids, but David Villa and David Silva are still playing for Valencia. And last night Los Che tore an inexperienced Real Madrid defence to shreds with Villa scoring one and Silva setting up the winner. With Barcelona and Real Madrid still not looking 100% and Villareal and Atletico Madrid having to deal with Champions League football, this could be a good season for Valencia.

Grenoble

After seven long seasons of total domination by Lyon, seeing a new face on top of Ligue 1 comes as a welcome relief. But the huge surprise in France is that the side flying the Tricolour high and proud is newly-promoted minnows Grenoble, who remain the only 100% side after beating Rennes 1-0 at the weekend. Surely their success wont last, but if they can continue to score goals like this, then maybe, just maybe we can begin to dream.

Marseille

Two goals in eight games for OM this season suggest they could be one of Lyon’s challengers. Whilst Samir Nasri grabbed the winner for Arsenal, Hatem Ben Arfa again looked dangerous as rampant Marseille hit four, including two fine goals Grandin and Zenden.

Hoffenheim

Picture the situation. Hoffenheim, one of Europe’s smallest towns housing just 3000 people, are making their debut in Germany’s top flight. The luck of the fixture list has drawn an opening day meeting against one of the basement teams in the division, Energie Cottbus, who rely on their home form to keep them safe in the top flight. And what happens? The visitors rally to a splendid 3-0 away victory.

This is the stuff that dreams are made of.

Bad Weekend

Valeri Bojinov

The unluckiest footballer in the Premier League.

Emmanuel Eboue

During his debut season in the Premiership, Arsene Wenger compared Eboue to Garrincha. To say that the Ivory Coast full-back has regressed in recent seasons would be an understatement even if Bacary Sagna has secured the right back role at the Emirates with some brilliant performances. Having seemingly lost his place on the right wing to the ever improving Theo Walcott, Eboue was pressed into service in centre midfield and suffice to say he came up short.

Tottenham & Juande Ramos

It felt like “typical Tottenham” for most Spurs fans as after yet another pre-season full of promise Spurs collapsed to a fairly average north-east team on the opening day at the Riverside. To rub salt in the wounds, Mido scored the second, while Dimitar Berbatov cut a particularly glum figure on the bench.

But it was deja vu for other reasons. Arguably the two worst players for the Lilywhites on Saturday were Darren Bent, who struggled to get to grips playing on his own up front and Jermaine Jenas. The former Newcastle midfielder was particularly bad as he tried to cover for Luka Modric who may take some time to adapt to the Premier League.

Jenas missed a guilt-edged one-on-one just before David Wheater’s opener which could be a massive miss in the context of Spurs’ season. Question marks surround Ramos’ moves in the transfer market (are Dos Santos and Modric too light for the Premier League?) and his tactical decisions on the opening day (Bale & Berbatov on the bench) but he must surely be aware that Jenas and Bent are not good enough to challenge for a Champions League spot.

Mark Hughes

Sparky Hughes must be wondering why he took the City job, especially as his former charges pulled off one of the results of the weekend at Goodison Park. Within days of taking over at Eastlands, City were still being linked with Ronaldinho. Now things are looking decidedly bleak. The City defence was woeful at Villa Park and Hughes will have to go some way now to improve on last season’s encouraging campaign.

The famous quote by Francis Lee about City is looking as true as ever: “If there was a cup for cock-ups, we’d win it every year.”

Jurgen Klinsmann

In the battle of the former Spurs heroes, Klinsi came off decidedly second best to Martin Jol’s Hamburg side even after they had lead 2-0. The decision to take off goal scorer Bastian Schweinsteiger was roundly booed and Bayern are not looking the same attacking threat without talisman Franck Ribery.

After some disappointing pre-season results, Klinsmann was already under pressure from club President Franz Beckenbauer before this game and squandering what looked like a commanding lead will have only heaped yet more pressure on the the former Inter Milan striker.

Real Madrid, Ramon Calderon, and Robinho

At the end of July, Ramon Calderon warned that “I don’t want a single player in my Madrid who’s unhappy.” It seems quite clear, judging by his performance last night, that Robinho is not a happy bunny – will this pave the way for his move to Chelsea?


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