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12.45 – Welcome to the new Premier League season. And welcome, too, to The Score’s new coverage of it. Right through today and right through the 2011-12 campaign, you’ll be able to follow every kick with me, Miguel Delaney. There’ll be stats, analysis, bad jokes and even worse puns.
12.51 – First off then, the bigger picture.
Here are my predictions for how the Premier League will pan out:
1 Manchester United
3 Manchester City
6 Tottenham Hotspur
9 Stoke City
10 Aston Villa
11 West Brom
12 Newcastle United
15 Bolton Wanderers
17 Swansea City
18 Norwich City
20 Blackburn Rovers
12.56 – Can’t look too far beyond United for the title. Although Chelsea should be revitalised under Andre Villas-Boas. Man City should be much closer but still not close enough.
13.01 – Then, of course, there’s Arsenal. The big story of the day is that there preparation for the new season has been thrown into disarray on the eve of it with the sale of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri.
And, clearly, you can’t have too much confidence in Arsenal as a result. I’d be reluctant to place them in fourth. But, then again, there are still a lot of questions about Liverpool and Tottenham too. Kenny Dalglish’s side are relying on a fair few unproven players – at least at the level Liverpool aspire to – to integrate very quickly. Harry Redknapp hasn’t added to a squad that badly lacked a striker last season.
13.04 – And it begins. On Soccer Saturday, Paul Merson describe it as “the best league in the world”. An hour that took. Not too bad.
13.06 – Elsewhere at the top, I’ve been surprised at the amount of people tipping Manchester City to finish ahead of Chelsea.
For me, Andre Villas-Boas is going to have an emphatic effect at Stamford Bridge. Anyone that was at his post-game press conference at the Europa League final was blown away. A seriously impressive character.
And that’s not superficial. It comes across in results. He’s improved his two previous clubs – Academica and Porto – dramatically. An exceptional man manager, if he can get even a fraction of that effect at Chelsea, then – given how close they went last year despite a glut of problems – they’ll be formidable.
13.10 – For anyone who doubts Villas-Boas, Jamie Jackson has done this superb piece in the Guardian today, talking to five people who have worked with him.
Hard not to be convinced by the end of it.
13.16 – And, as we enter the 20th year of the Premier League, the always-interesting Daniel McDonnell has selected his best Irish XI from the division in that time.
Dan’s gone for Rory Delap at right-wing. Surprising at first but when you consider the alternatives – Jason McAteer, Ray Houghton, Steven Reid – and the fuss over his throw-ins (as well as their importance to Stoke), few have had the impact he’s had in the Premier League itself.
Houghton’s best years, of course, came before it.
13.19 – On the subject of Irish players, what do you all make of Robbie Keane’s mooted move to LA Galaxy?
Too young for that? Ken Early argued last night that the MLS is around where the Premier League was in the mid-90s. Lots of players from that country with smattering of foreign stars.
Trapattoni has also said it won’t affect his international status. Better playing there than sitting on a bench?
In truth, though, Keane’s representatives are known as the toughest negotiators in the business as regards money.
Does it leave open the question that they cost him a better footballing move?
13.22 – Of course, the BIG news on the opening day is that the official Premier League Fantasy Football site has been down for most of the past 24 hours. Meaning many of you have been left with autoselected teams or none at all having left it to the last minute.
We’ve been speaking to someone within the site and apparently the difficulty arises from their change in service provider. It’s incredible really that it wasn’t able to handle the traffic given its the biggest game of its type in the world and ended last season with two million players.
They also changed the company that runs it – explaining the different look this year – and there are questions as to whether that was a contributory factor.
But the game was near perfect last year. Why change it? If it’s not broke etc etc
13.28 – And what about a bit of a game to pass the time? Premier League opening-day bingo. What events are inevitable today. We’ve already the first here:
1) Sky Sports pundit uses relatively innocuous example like a tackle or Charlie Adams pass as evidence that the Premier League is “the best league in the world”
13.33 – On the subject of the Premier League being the best in the world (shameless plug ahoy, cough), only 14 of its players appear in Football Pantheon’s 50 greatest players in the world right now. La Liga (or, rather, mostly Barcelona) lead the way with 18.
Cristiano Ronaldo, by the by, isn’t in the top two.
13.43 – Hmmm… Samuel Eto’o has been quoted in the Italian media as saying “I might make a surprise move to England yet.”
To who though? United and Chelsea don’t need him in terms of a gap in positions; City have said they don’t want him (although they’d be likeliest).
Arsenal could probably do with him the most – but you just can’t see that can you?
14.00 – This, as Sky haven’t stopped telling us, is the 20th year of Premier League football.
While we certainly don’t subscribe to the view that football started in 1992, it can provide a convenient cut-off point for trivia and fun stuff.
With that in mind, what do you think is your club’s best XI from the 20 years since the Premier League started?
I’ll get the question rolling with a few XIs for the big boys.
Manchester United: Schmeichel; Irwin, Evra, Vidic, Johnsen; Keane, Scholes, Ronaldo, Giggs; Cantona, Rooney (with a penchant for Solskjaer and Scholes)
Liverpool: Reina; Jones, Riise, Hyypia, Carragher; Hamann, Gerrard, McManaman; Fowler, Torres, Owen
Arsenal: Seaman; Sagna, Cole, Adams, Toure; Vieira, Petit, Pires, Overmars; Bergkamp, Henry
14.06 – The rumoured Liverpool team against Sunderland is:
Reina; Flannagan, Carragher, Agger, Enrique; Henderson, Adam, Lucas, Downing; Suarez, Carroll
14.09 – And the question from that, as Jonathan Wilson asks on twitter, is whether it will be 4-4-2 with Henderson on the right or 4-3-3 with Suarez and Downing off Carroll?
14.12 – The Sky pundits all go for Swansea to go down.
I think they’re the best equipped of the three promoted teams to stay up. Rodgers a seriously impressive figure too.
14.19 – Kevin Doyle starts for Wolves. Trapattoni said the other night he didn’t think he’d be ready for the Slovakia-Russia games.
14.24 – Sunderland team to play Liverpool. No O’Shea, who’s injured, obviously
Mignolet; Bardsley, Richardson, Brown, Ferdinand; Larsson, Elmohamady, Cattermole, Colback; Sessegnon, Gyan
14.29 – Blackburn v Wolves teams…
Blackburn: Robinson; Salgado, Hanley, Nzonzi, Olsson; Emerton, Dunn, Pedersen, Hoilett; Formica, Roberts
Wolverhampton: Hennessey, Stearman, Johnson, Berra, Ward, Jarvis, O’Hara, Henry, Hunt, Doyle, Fletcher
14.39 – Wigan v Norwich
James McCarthy starts. No Rodallega. A popular FF pick.
Wigan: Al Habsi, Boyce, Caldwell, Lopez, Figueroa, Gomez, McCarthy, Watson, Diame, Moses, Di Santo
Norwich: Ruddy, Russell Martin, Whitbread, De Laet, Tierney, Fox, Surman, Hoolahan, Crofts, Holt, Morison
14.40 – Fulham v Aston Villa teams
Stephen Ireland and Ciaran Clark on bench.
Fulham: Schwarzer, Hughes, Hangeland, Senderos, John Arne Riise, Duff, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Andrew Johnson, Zamora
Aston Villa: Given, Young, Collins, Dunne, Warnock, Delph, Petrov, N’Zogbia, Heskey, Bent, Agbonlahor
14.40 – QPR v Bolton teams
QPR: Kenny, Dyer, Hall, Gabbidon, Hill, Smith, Derry, Faurlin, Taarabt, Campbell, Bothroyd
Bolton: Jaaskelainen, Steinsson, Cahill, Knight, Robinson, Eagles, Muamba, Reo-Coker, Petrov, Kevin Davies, Klasnic
14.44 – OK, cards-on-the-table time. My predictions for today:
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Wolves
Fulham 1-1 Aston Villa
Liverpool 3-1 Sunderland
Newcastle United 1-2 Arsenal
QPR 2-2 Bolton Wanderers
Wigan 2-0 Norwich
15.01 – Much as I love football, I also love this Mitchell and Webb parody:
15.01 – And we’re off!
15.03 – DJ Campbell has had a goal disallowed for QPR. Prodded home Bothroyd’s shot from offside position.
15.05 – Penalty to Liverpool.
15.06 – Suarez blows it over the bar!
Given his surge of confidence, you would have put money on him scoring.
15.07 – Oh dear. Kieron Dyer injured and carried off.
Very sad. Terrible luck fitness-wise.
15.08 – Back at Liverpool, Kieron Richardson should have been sent off for taking down Henderson in box. He survived. And Sunderland survived the peno.
15.10 – Action-packed first 10 minutes of the season. Chances and incidents everywhere. But still no goals.
15.11 – Sorry, Richardson took down Suarez for that penalty. The striker had rounded Mignolet and looked certain opportunity. Sunderland lucky not to be down to 10.
15.12 – FIRST GOAL of the Premier League season. Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland.
15.12 – Suarez prods in Adams’ free-kick at the near post. Will this be the Uruguayan’s season?
15.13 – And, according to ITV football’s twitter feed, Suarez is the first Liverpool player to miss a penalty at Anfield since Steven Gerrard in 2006.
Well, if he is going to assume Gerrard’s mantle as the team’s most important player…
15.19 – Kevin Doyle has smashed heads with Steven Nzonzi and is now wearing a bandage. Woof. Dedication.
15.19 – Penalty to Wigan.
15.20 – BLACKBURN 1-0 WOLVES.
Mauro Formica scores on his debut, a good strike.
15.21 – WIGAN 1-0 NORWICH
Watson scores penalty for Wigan. De Laet with a foolish foul after Norwich had been on top
15.23 – Wes Hoolihan just misses a chance for Norwich. Wigan’s penalty clearly hasn’t knocked the wind out of their sales.
15.24 – BLACKBURN 1-1 WOLVES
15.25 – Jarvis the architect with dink for Fletcher to head into roof of net.
15.29 – Who had 26 minutes? Lee Cattermole gets booked for Sunderland at Liverpool.
15.33 – Half an hour into the new Premier League season and the scores are:
Blackburn 1-1 Wolves
Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa
Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland
QPR 0-0 Bolton
Wigan 1-0 Norwich
15.34 – Stewart Downing hits the bar for Liverpool! They’ve had a fine start.
15.36 – Liverpool very fluid at the moment. If I was a nerd – which I am – I’d point that Dalglish signed three attackers in the summer of 1987 and integrated them immediately and to spectacular effect.
But then we’re not comparing Stewart Downing, Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson to John Barnes, Peter Beardsley and John Aldridge are we?!
15.37 – Would have had a lot of faith in Martinez and Wigan despite the loss of N’Zogbia but they’re lucky to be ahead against Norwich.
15.42 – Given makes a good save from Andy Johnson, as Fulham are marginally on top against Villa at Craven Cottage.
15.45 – WIGAN 1-1 NORWICH
Awful mistake from Al-Habsi allowing Hoolahan to equalise.
Might force his way into Trapattoni’s plans this year?
15.52 – QPR 0-1 BOLTON
A cracking strike from Gary Cahill from 25 yards.
15.53 – And the half-time scores:
Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Wolves
Fulham 0-0 Aston Villa
Liverpool 1-0 Sunderland
QPR 0-1 Bolton
Wigan 1-1 Norwich
15.57 – First-half talking points:
- Liverpool have justified to preseason optimism so far with a fluid display and some very lively performances from new signings
- Wigan are as fragile as many had predicted
- Phil Down hasn’t set an early benchmark for refereeing at Anfield
- A good day for the Irish so far with Shay Given making some good saves and Wes Hoolahan opening his Premier League account
- Poor Kieron Dyer: has only completed 90 minutes once in the last three years
16.05 – BLACKBURN 1-2 WOLVES
Another Irishman scores. Kevin Doyle misses a penalty but Stephen Ward on hand to finish.
16.09 – Mostly a great day for the Irish so far.
Both Hoolahan and Ward on the scoresheet, Given having a fabulous debut for Villa.
16.11 – And in front of Given, Richard Dunne is putting in a masterful display.
16.14 – LIVERPOOL 1-1 SUNDERLAND
Shock! Despite Liverpool’s performance, Seb Larsson equalises with a brilliant volley. Questions to be asked of young Flanagan.
16.17 – On the first day (back) in the English Football League, AFC Wimbledon beating Dagenham and Redbridge 2-0 away from home.
16.19 – Suddenly all change for Liverpool. Looking much less assured and Henderson coming off for Dirk Kuyt.
16.22 – Bolton Wanderers making it very clear at Loftus Road: stop Taarabt and you stop QPR.
16.25 – And, for Reading, Ian Harte crosses for Noel Hunt to put them into the lead against Leicester.
16.30 – Latest scores:
BLACKBURN ROVERS 1-2 WOLVES
FULHAM 0-0 ASTON VILLA
LIVERPOOL 1-1 SUNDERLAND
QPR 0-1 BOLTON
WIGAN 1-1 NORWICH
16.31 – QPR 0-2 BOLTON
Danny Gabbidon own goal from Eagles free-kick. No strikers, no problems for Bolton.
16.32 – Sunderland suddenly looking much more assured and threatening at Anfield. It was as if they were washed over by the wave of Liverpool optimism in the first half.
16.34 – As John Brewin says on twitter:
“Those QPR signings in full: Dyer crocked, Bothroyd misses sitter, Gabbidon scores own-goal. DJ Campbell quakes uneasily.”
16.34 – QPR 0-3 BOLTON
Klasnic this time. Going to be long season for QPR. Home to a mid-table side: sort of game in which they should have at least picked up a point.
16.37 – Joey Barton is starting tonight for Newcastle. Had summer gone differently, he might have been starting for opposition Arsenal. Or, rather, is he the sort of player who should be starting for Arsenal?
16.38 – The tide turned in two games:
- Sunderland now look likelier to score against a jaded Liverpool
- Wigan dominating Norwich
Both games 1-1
16.40 – An average of two goals a game in the Premier League so far today.
16.42 – Arsenal team to play Newcastle
Szczesny, Sagna, Vermaelen, Koscielny, Gibbs, Song, Rosicky, Ramsey, Arshavin, Gervinho, Van Persie
16.43 – QPR 0-4 BOLTON
Muamba strolls through and places it past Paddy Kenny. Atrocious for QPR.
16.43 – Shouldn’t read too much into the opening day. Wigan, after all, were hammered this time last year at home to Blackpool.
16.48 – Wigan very unlucky not to be ahead against Norwich. De Laet with two spectacular blocks. Game of two halves.
16.50 – Final score: FULHAM 0-0 ASTON VILLA
Given and Dunne play well to complete clean sheet
16.53 – Full time: BLACKBURN ROVERS 1-2 WOLVES
Ward gets the winner to cap a good week for the likely fixture at left-back for Ireland.
16.53 – Full time: LIVERPOOL 1-1 SUNDERLAND
To paraphrase Sven Goran Eriksson for Liverpool, “first half good, second half not so good”
16.55 – Full time: WIGAN 1-1 NORWICH
Generally fair result as Wes Hoolahan opens Premier League account
17.10 – Any overriding thoughts from the opening day? A few preseasons theories confirmed, other questions unanswered.
We’ll be back shortly with Newcastle v Arsenal
17.31 – Despite obvious absentees, it’s still a strong-looking Arsenal team.
And, on nothing more than a hunch and his 2006 World Cup form, I fancy Rosicki to step up this season.
17.32 – Interesting point on ESPN there… there’s never been an opening day where a home team hasn’t won. That’s the case so far. And both Chelsea and United away this weekend… City home to Swansea Monday night though.
17.35 – Gervinho’s first contribution an atrocious touch that slows down a promising move. Rosicky looking lively.
17.38 – Arsenal pressing very well here, hemming Newcastle in.
17.40 – Since when did the kit manufacturers sneak in new jerseys every season by the way? They’re used to be uproar about that.
17.42 – Well-timed tackle by Vermaelen on Ameobi right at the edge of the area. Although a more pedantic referee might have awarded a penalty.
17.48 – Arsenal have had 57% possession so far.
17.51 – Van Persie just wide after a Sagna run into the box opens space, but the Dutch striker’s right-footed shot is deflected away.
17.53 – Lovely movement there from Gervinho. Still looks a touch rusty though.
17.55 – Newcastle’s focus on young French players, by the by, comes due to their highly respected scout Graham Carr.
17.56 – Gutierrez volleys wide. Newcastle getting some joy down that right side. Gibbs left back for Arsenal.
18.03 – Neil Warnock is moaning about something. But, on principle, we refuse to relay it because it’s a diversionary tactic to deflect attention from the fact his team got pummelled.
18.04 – Koscielny beats Krul to a corner but Danny Simpson clears his header off the line!
18.07 – Ryan Taylor with an audacious strike from way out that almost cost Szczesny out.
18.09 – Arsenal’s centre-halves doing well – primarily because one of them isn’t Squillaci.
18.10 – Completed passes so far: Arsenal 201, Newcastle 69
18.13 – Arsenal’s early impetus beginning to fade. Arshavin finding less space, Rosicky doing nothing.
18.15 – Arshavin just cut ball back inside box for what could have been a real chance for Arsenal. Robin van Persie just stood motionless though.
18.17 – Van Persie couldn’t pull ball out of the sky after a wonderful lofted pass from Arshavin. Striker complains of being impeded. Poborsky-esque from Arshavin though.
18.18 – Moment of anticipation as Ryan Taylor sizes up a free-kick… straight into the wall.
18.21 – Half-time: NEWCASTLE 0-0 ARSENAL
A game that started at fairly full-pelt but, with Arsenal running out of ideas, they’ve also run out of steam.
18.40 – Gibbs tries to inject a bit of urgency to Arsenal with abrasive tackle on Joey Barton. Booked for his troubles though.
18.41 – OH! The insolence of Jack Wilshere. He’s just tweeted:
“Need to get theo on and attacking the full backs!”
18.41 – AT half-time! Half-time I tell you.
18.44 – As I’m sure you’ve heard countless times, this fixture was 4-4 last season.
This time, it’s anything but.
18.46 – This flat. Very flat.
It’s as if we’ve been punished for having too much fun in this fixture last season.
18.47 – Van Persie wickedly curls a free-kick just over the bar. At last, a moment of mild drama.
18.48 – Van Persie, by the way, is the only player on the pitch to have made it into Football Pantheon’s 50 best players in the world right now. He isn’t justifying it today.
18.52 – Joey Barton writhing around in the ground in agony after tackle from Song. The midfielder appeared to stamp on him. Perhaps understandably, Barton gets up and starts riding around in anger with accusatory fingers towards Song.
18.53 – Oh! Substitute Obertan puts Cabaye through on goal with an ingenious flick inside. Cabaye fluffs his chance seven yards from goal though.
For Obertan, though, I believe the term is “tekkers”.
18.55 – Walcott is on. Doesn’t show his pace though, despite a nice Van Persie ball through.
18.59 – Obertan has looked very lively for Newcastle and injected a bit of energy.
And this despite the game taking place on dry land. He looks like that sidekick off Sponge Bob Squarepants.
19.05 – Leon Best coming on for Ameobi. Can we see another Irish hero today?
19.08 – DRAMA!
Gervinho goes down looking for a penalty after leaving his leg behind to make contact with Tiote.
Barton spots this and accuses him. The midfielder ends up on the floor… and now Gervinho is SENT OFF!
19.09 – Finally some action. Would have preferred some nice forward interchanges though.
19.09 – Oh dear Barton.
Gervinho barely brushes his head and Barton goes down in a heap.
19.12 – A search of twitter for “joey7barton” is interesting. Most of it unrepeatable here.
19.14 – Barton then volleys over from 30 yards. You’d have to imagine there would have been a “reaction” had that flown in.
19.14 – Gibbs has been decent going forward. Only Arsenal player other than Arshavin showing real impetus.
19.17 – Rosicky strolls off. My earlier hunch proved wrong. He did nowt.
19.21 – Today’s goal average: 1.88 a game. Worse than the start of the 2010 World Cup. The Premier League is broken etc etc etc
19.23 – Lovely spin from Leon Best there out wide, which would have taken him clear on goal except for a hack from Vermaelen. The Belgian defender knew exactly what he was at there.
19.24 – Brilliant defending from Koscielny as he goes in bravely to head away before Lovenkrands. Not unlike Olarticochea against England in 86.
19.28 – Full-time: NEWCASTLE 0-0 ARSENAL
Dismal second half only livened by unsavoury antics.
We’ll be back shortly with the day’s final thoughts.
- Wenger needs to invest some of the money he gets from Csc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Arsenal were hopelessly devoid of spark against Newcastle.Although Andriy Arshavin attempted a bit of running and Robin van Persie manfully carried the load up front on his own, they need some sort of link. Carlos Tevez? Or, whisper it, Samuel Eto’o? They have the money? Why not?
- You certainly couldn’t accuse Joey Barton of being devoid of spark. Having admirably stopped himself from confronting Alex Song after the midfielder’s disgraceful stamp, Barton then matched him for malevolence in getting Gervinho sent off. It says a lot about a dire game that it took drama of that sort to enliven it.
- Will today’s 1-1 draw with Sunderland prove a microcosm of Liverpool’s season. Because of the short time Kenny Dalglish been back at the club, it’s still unclear whether Liverpool’s form last season was down to his input or the mere momentum his appointment brought. And, along the same lines, it is possible that all of the buzz about the summer’s expenditure might have created this wave which engulfed Sunderland in the first half. Because, once Steve Bruce’s side realised the game was far from over at 1-0, they played so assuredly they wouldn’t have been undeserving winners. In saying that, there have reportedly been issues with Liverpool’s preseason which may have caused the exhaustion in the second half here. And, for 30 minutes, they were thrilling. All of Suarez, Adam and Downing clicked wonderfully. Essentially though, it’s not going to be until about 10 games into the season that we find out where Liverpool are really at.
- For all his faults, Alex McLeish has one clear strength: he knows how to organise a defence. Expect Villa to accumulate one of the best defensive records in the division this year. The lack of ingenuity at the opposite end is another problem though.
- It is, admittedly, foolish to read to much into the opening day. Last season, for example, Wigan lost 4-0 at home to Blackpool. In 1998-99, United drew 2-2 at home to Leicester before winning the trouble. But, given their lack of Premier League experience and lack of signings, it doesn’t bode well for QPR that they lost so badly on their opening day. Against a lower-half side at home, this opening fixture is one of the ones in which they should have targetted three points. By so expertly shuttling Adel Taarabt out of the game, however, Bolton showed the best way to beat QPR on the way to a 4-0 win. Neil Warnock said afterwards he plans three more signings. So few?
- Likewise Blackburn. We’re set to see a mass relegation scrap this year with about eight teams in it. Wolves will probably be one of them, even if they’re at the more comfortable end of it. Having got beaten at home, though, Blackburn look very likely to be at the other.
- Many have tipped Wigan to go down this year. And that looked to be the case in a poor first half. But they showed admirable gumption in crafting a draw even if last year’s hero Al-Habsi conceded an equaliser. In saying that, it was still only a 1-1 draw at home to Norwich. But that’s an improvement on last season’s opening day.