1 Thing We Learned About Every EPL Team After Week 1

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1 Thing We Learned About Every EPL Team After Week 1
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The first round of fixtures in the 2013-14 Premier League season is over, offering time for reflection on some of the new players, managers and approaches on show in the English top flight.

All 20 teams have offered a glimpse of what is to come in the campaign ahead and, while it is always unwise to draw sweeping conclusions from the opening fixture of the season, it is possible to reinforce or alter perceptions of strengths and weaknesses in certain aspects of the game.

Without further ado, then, let's take a look at one thing that we learned about each of the 20 Premier League sides this past weekend.

 

 

Arsenal: Lack a defensive midfielder

 

It may not have been news to anyone outside of the Emirates Stadium, but Arsenal's lack of a quality at the base of midfield was cruelly exposed by Aston Villa on Saturday.

The North London side have failed to replace Alex Song since he left for Barcelona and, with Mikel Arteta absent, their defence was left unprotected against Villa's flowing counterattacks.

With Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker once more making errors of judgement when under pressure, the need for a quality holding midfielder was laid bare once more. It's just a shame Luiz Gustavo isn't available to fill the void.

 

 

Aston Villa: Well organised and much improved

 

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Impressive: Villa midfielder Karim El Ahmadi

The flip side of Villa's away win in Islington is that we can rightfully praise Paul Lambert's side for a brilliant performance, one which showed that the Villans look a lot stronger in midfield than 12 months ago.

The organisation of the Ashley Westwood-Fabian Delph-Karim El Ahmadi trio in midfield was terrific for the most part, while all three offered very different qualities when heading forward. The team's willingness to press high up the pitch also unsettled Arsenal.

Villa chose to keep several of their new signings on the bench for this encounter, as they gain fitness ahead of a long and gruelling campaign. The old faces, though, did an excellent job and will have few worries this season if they can maintain this kind of form.

 

 

Cardiff City: Need more creativity to use possession better

 

Having watched Cardiff claim a preseason win against Athletic Club despite being totally outplayed, it came as no real surprise to learn that further reinforcements are needed if they are to survive this season.

Sam Allardyce's West Ham is not an easy start to the season for any side and Cardiff, despite a substantial advantage in terms of possession, found life hard at Upton Park.

West Ham's directness unsettled the Bluebirds' defensive unit, while they simply didn't create enough in attack. One shot on target is a poor return against any opponent and there is no doubt that Malky Mackay will be looking to strengthen further ahead of the September 2 deadline.

 

 

Chelsea: Mourinho is back

 

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Back: Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho

It was a simple message delivered convincingly in victory over Hull, but the whole division will have seen the Blues' early swagger and the quality of their attacking play.

The Portuguese manager, though, is not one to afford even the slightest sniff of a comeback to opponents and saw that the game was a virtual non-contest after the break, with Chelsea 2-0 ahead.

It is a strategy that we have seen countless times from Mourinho at Stamford Bridge and, no doubt, will continue to see in the future. He has considerable weapons at his disposal in West London and will have sent out a strong message to his side's rivals with the manner of victory on Sunday afternoon.

 

 

Crystal Palace: Will struggle without reinforcements

 

Tottenham were far from at their best on Sunday, but did more than enough to show that Crystal Palace are going to have a long, tough season ahead of them.

Ian Holloway was not taking defeat lightly and was strong in his criticism of the standard of refereeing, but must also be concerned at his side's inability to retain the ball and build attacks.

Palace have not been shy in the transfer market this summer, but have bought players of questionable quality when it comes to performing in the Premier League. A key few weeks lie ahead in terms of their hopes this season, with recruits badly needed.

 

 

Everton: Ross Barkley can play an important role

 

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Talent: Everton midfielder Ross Barkley

While Ricky van Wolfswinkel may have denied Roberto Martinez a winning start at Carrow Road, the former Wigan manager will have been pleased with his side's general performance and, above all, the showing of goalscorer Ross Barkley.

Barkley's talents have long been recognised within the English game and, while Everton have tried not to rush the 19-year-old at first-team level, it is clear that he is now ready for further tests.

A tremendous goal aside, Barkley showed a willingness to get on the ball, spread play and also turn and drive at defenders. He will fit well in Martinez's preferred playing style and, in time, could develop into a fine Premier League player. He remains raw, but has huge potential.

 

 

Fulham: Strengthening the midfield must be a priority

 

Martin Jol will be absolutely delighted to have ended up with three points on Saturday, with his side scoring their only shot on target whilst withstanding an onslaught at the other end.

In Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland, he will know that he has a solid central defensive unit, while Dimitar Berbatov, Adel Taarabt and Darren Bent should guarantee goals. In midfield, though, the side must improve.

Sunderland bossed proceedings at the Stadium of Light, and while new signing Derek Boateng eventually seemed to get up to the pace of the game, Fulham looked short of quality in central areas. Scott Parker's arrival will help (BBC), but more must still be done.

 

 

Hull City: Huddlestone and Livermore made an instant impact

 

It was always going to be a difficult afternoon for Hull at Stamford Bridge, but Steve Bruce will be pleased to have seen his side emerge relatively unscathed from a potentially difficult encounter.

When Chelsea looked to see out the game in the second half, Hull were even able to show some of their qualities in attacking areas. The introduction of midfield duo Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore, recently recruited from Tottenham, gave the side a much more balanced appearance.

With the lively Robbie Brady on the left and good full-backs in Maynor Figueroa and Ahmed Elmohamady, there are some positives to the Tigers that will trouble lesser sides later in the season.

 

 

Liverpool: Coutinho can be the key to success

 

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Stand out: Liverpool playmaker Philippe Coutinho

When Philippe Coutinho joined Liverpool in January, nobody was quite sure as to how the Brazilian would adapt to English football. He was, though, an instant success and, on Saturday, once more led the way to victory against Stoke.

The former Vasco da Gama youngster played in a tucked-in role from the left and was Liverpool's most influential attacking player throughout, creating six chances for his side's attacking players. With better finishing, he would have picked up at least a couple of assists.

His calmness in tight areas separates him from the majority of players in his position and, importantly, he is always looking for an opportunity to play in a teammate. His direct thinking has added an extra dimension to the Liverpool side.

 

 

Manchester City: Pellegrini has reinvigorated the former champions

 

We may only be one fixture into the season, but Manchester City sent out a clear statement of intent on Monday night with a 4-0 dismantling of Newcastle United at the Etihad Stadium.

There was a vigour to City's play that had been lacking last season, while the addition of Jesus Navas this summer has added real width to a side that was occasionally too easily nullified.

They will still be adapting to the new manager's approach, but the Citizens already look a more unified side and a team now capable of living up to their high-profile billing.

 

 

Manchester United: Nothing much has changed

 

Reigning champions Manchester United got their new season underway with a 4-1 win in a potentially tricky away fixture against Swansea on Saturday evening.

It was an all too familiar pattern of play for the Red Devils, with Swansea showing up the side's weakness in central midfield, before the quality of the United attacking unit saw them come through comfortably.

David Moyes has shown intent to strengthen in central midfield this summer and will need to do so if the Reds are to compete in the Champions League. In attack, though, he will have no worries at all.

 

 

Newcastle United: Alan Pardew has a difficult year ahead

 

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Under pressure: Toon manager Alan Pardew

It has been all gloom and doom at St James' Park this summer, with the arrival of director of football Joe Kinnear and the lack of new signings doing little to lift the clouds hanging over the club last campaign.

A tough start away at Manchester City was not the ideal way to begin a new campaign, but the manner of Newcastle's 4-0 defeat was particularly worrying for the Toon Army. The players' attitudes were poor, the defence disorganised and, frankly, the team were never in the game.

Work will no doubt begin on strengthening the side, while the club will hope for a swift resolution to the current Yohan Cabaye transfer situation (BBC).

 

 

Norwich City: Nathan Redmond is made for the Premier League

 

He was the unexpected star of the European Under-21 Championships for England earlier this summer, but Nathan Redmond remains somewhat of an unknown quantity to many around the country.

In a Norwich side looking to play on the counterattack, Redmond was a constant threat and showed his considerable quality with the ball at his feet when running at defenders.

The Canaries have much to work on, and will hope that Leroy Fer can help retain the ball in midfield, but Redmond could be an important player this season if he can perform to his potential.

 

 

Southampton: Dejan Lovren could be an important buy

 

Southampton showed last season that they are a more-than-capable attacking unit, but sometimes found themselves coming up short in defence. New signing Dejan Lovren, though, showed signs that he could well help the club solidify at the back.

With Victor Wanyama also helping to tighten things up in midfield, Lovren showed excellent positional skills to make some vital interceptions and tackles as Southampton claimed an opening day clean sheet on Saturday.

With former Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo also set to link up with his new side ahead of next weekend (BBC), the future looks bright for Mauricio Pochettino and his side.

 

 

Stoke City: Change is afoot, but won't be made overnight

 

"We're Stoke City, we're passing the ball" was the chant from the away fans at Anfield on Saturday, with Stoke looking to get the ball on the deck in the early stages and play out of defence.

While it was a far cry from Barcelona, there was a clear ambition to change the playing style on this occasion. However, given the personnel at the club, it may take some time to perfect.

It will be an interesting season for Mark Hughes' side, and he will no doubt hope to bring in some new faces to aid the transition in the coming weeks. Change will not come overnight at the Britannia Stadium, though, and fans must be patient.

 

 

Sunderland: Creativity needed, but positive signs

 

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Vibrant: Cabral was impressive in midfield

A 1-0 home defeat to Fulham may not be the ideal way to begin the season, but these are early days for Paolo di Canio's rebuilt Sunderland side.

In general play there were some positives: Cabral anchored the midfield well, Ondrej Celustka was a composed presence at right-back and Jozy Altidore began the game brightly up front.

There was, though, a real lack of creativity in midfield—with Stephane Sessegnon lacklustre throughout. Di Canio has spoken of a need for a player "with the keys" and it was clear for all to see on Saturday.

 

 

Swansea: Jonjo Shelvey is at home in South Wales

 

Michael Laudrup took a calculated gamble in signing young English midfielder Jonjo Shelvey from Liverpool earlier this summer and, thus far, seems to have made a very astute move.

In Europa League action, Shelvey has been excellent and that form continued against Manchester United, where he enjoyed a very good first half of the game in particular.

With the ever-willing Jose Canas, who looks perfectly at home in the Premier League, and Leon Britton behind in the centre of midfield, Swansea look well-equipped to continue their rise in stature this campaign.

 

 

Tottenham: Paulinho can offer dynamism in Bale's absence

 

They are very different players in terms of position and playing style, but there is no doubt that, in Gareth Bale's injury-enforced absence, it was Paulinho offering drive from deep for Tottenham.

Andre Villas-Boas moved quickly to secure the Brazilian's signature earlier this summer and, although Paulinho has had better games, there were plenty of indications of why he was bought during his Premier League debut.

Spurs will take time to hit top form this season, having recruited several new first-team players over the summer. There were, though, encouraging signs during Sunday's fixture.

 

 

West Brom: Anelka is not the answer to all WBA's problems

 

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Underwhelming: French striker Nicolas Anelka

There was excitement among Baggies fans pre-season, with the capture of former Chelsea and Real Madrid star Nicolas Anelka making up for a lack of other transfer activity.

On Saturday, though, the Frenchman was often a peripheral figure. Anelka managed just 27 touches of the ball and was dispossessed more than any of his teammates. After two years of poor form and inactivity, it was not an encouraging start to life in the Midlands.

Whether he will improve in coming weeks remains to be seen, but West Brom will need their high profile addition to contribute. It's been a slow summer at The Hawthorns and it remains to be seen whether Steve Clarke's side can maintain last season's mid-table position.

 

 

West Ham: Modibo Maiga has a future at Upton Park

 

Mali striker Modibo Maiga made just two starts for West Ham last season, but was handed an opportunity to impress on Saturday thanks to an injury to Andy Carroll.

While he didn't score, the former Sochaux forward was an ever-threatening presence for Sam Allardyce's side, showing both impressive movement and aerial ability to unsettle the Cardiff back four.

Maiga also linked well with Kevin Nolan in attacking midfield, dropping deep at times to help in the build-up of moves. There was enough positive in his performance to suggest he should be afforded more chances in the coming months.

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