English Premier League: 50 Things We Learned from Weekend 1 (Part Two)
Following on from Part One of the slideshow, I continue my analysis of the nine matches which took place in the opening round of the Premier League season.
A set of fixtures which saw Newcastle United's Joey Barton and Arsenal's Gervinho go blow for blow, landing the latter a three-match ban and sullying even further the former's reputation in the football community.
So what did I learn from the games between Blackburn and Wolves, QPR and Bolton, Liverpool and Sunderland, Fulham and Aston Villa and Wigan and Norwich on Saturday and from Monday night's game between Man City and Swansea?
A lot. Read on to find out my views and feel free to start a debate on some points if you have a different opinion!
26: New Signings Don't Always Breeze into the Starting Lineup
Of the 11 signings Sunderland manager Steve Bruce made this summer, only two started. Another three were on the bench, including big-money acquisition Connor Wickham (pictured) who will have to wait a while longer to make his Premier League debut.
27: Kenny Dalglish Believes Youth Can Revitalise Liverpool
Although Liverpool only managed a 1-1 draw at home to Sunderland and new signings Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique's impacts were limited, manager Kenny Dalglish gave a clear indication that he is trying to build a team for the mid-term by choosing Henderson instead of World Cup finalist Dirk Kuyt and by retaining his confidence in fullback John Flanagan (above).
28: Charlie Adam Is a More Effective Threat Than Raul Meireles
The best performance from a new signing came from Charlie Adam, who was composed and intelligent on the ball, provided good service to the forwards and worked hard to retrieve possession.
Were his dribbling equal to his crossing, I might even suggest that his style reminds me of when John Barnes was creating dozens of goals for John Aldridge back in the 1980s.
29: Luis Suarez Might Be the Dark Horse in the Race for This Year's Golden Boot
If Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez had converted the first-half penalty conceded by Sunderland's Kieran Richardson, he would already have been leading the race to win this year's Golden Boot.
But nobody is perfect, even if some of the pace and touches Suarez showed will have shown Liverpool fans they might be witnessing a player with more potential than former forward Fernando Torres.
30: Liverpool Fans Will Need to Be Patient This Season
It was a performance full of energy and endeavour, but Liverpool did not create enough chances in front of their fans, and Jordan Henderson (above) and Andy Carroll will need to improve their play if they are to fit into the system manager Kenny Dalglish hopes will take the Reds to a Champions League finish.
31: Matt Jarvis Could Break into the England First Team This Year
He set up his team's equaliser with a fine cross and then won the penalty which Stephen Ward scored to hand Wolverhampton Wanderers a solid 2-1 win at Blackburn Rovers on Saturday afternoon.
It was an encouraging performance from a 25-year-old winger who was only last season called up to the national squad for the first time.
32: Blackburn Need to Sign Better Players
Forgotten man Mauro Formica (above) put Blackburn ahead on Saturday with a neat finish, and for a while he seemed full of guile and spirit. But as his team faded, so did his influence on the game. Not that he should be made a scapegoat in any way for a performance which ultimately lacked quality.
News arrived today that former Real Madrid striker Raul has turned down an approach from Rovers, suggesting that manager Steve Kean is aware that he is short on quality in key areas.
33: And They Need Chris Samba Back Quickly!
Although he is injured, rumours abound that Chris Samba (above), the Congolese giant who is the mainstay of Rovers's defence, is still a target for Tottenham Hotspur, who have injury concerns over Michael Dawson, Ledley King and William Gallas.
Arsenal are still looking for a centre-back too, and Rovers fans will know that if the club can fend off interest from the duo for another three weeks, the team will be stronger for it in the long term.
34: Martin Jol Needs to Make Fulham His Own
Although his players looked fit from their month-old Europa League qualifying campaign, Fulham boss Martin Jol will be disappointed that his side lacked a cutting edge.
Only his centre-backs really stood out in the 0-0 draw with Aston Villa and the club continued to be linked with a move for Tottenham Hotspur Jermain Defoe.
35: Shay Given Will Win Aston Villa Points This Year
Some may say he already has, after a string of saves helped Villa take a point from Craven Cottage on Saturday.
In all, the Irish goalkeeper made five important saves and marshalled his defence like a true veteran with his quality should.
36: Villa Need Time to Gel but Have Real Attacking Potential
New Aston Villa signing Charles N'Zogbia (above) endured a frustrating debut, starved of possession by a Fulham midfield which harried their visitors throughout the 90 minutes.
But is he can form an understanding with pacy forward Gabi Agbonlahor and lead man Darren Bent in particular, the Villains could score a lot of goals this year.
37: Might We Finally Believe the Victor Moses Hype?
Although still only 20 years old and with one Premier League season under his belt, Wigan midfielder Victor Moses (above) has struggled to acclimatise to the demands of the Premier League after his £2.5 million transfer from Crystal Palace in the 2010 January transfer window.
He put in his best performance to date at the weekend and will need to fill Charles N'Zogbia's expensive boots to help Wigan subsist again.
38: Wesley Hoolahan the New Charlie Adam?
His name suggests he should be in a Harry Enfield comedy sketch, but there is nothing to deride about the 29-year-old Irish international after a Man of the Match performance in Norwich City's credible 1-1 draw at the DW Stadium on Sunday.
He looks to be the Canaries's driving force and will be relied upon to score and create as many as Charlie Adam did last year for Blackpool.
39: Every Club Which Needs a Centre-Back Should Be in for Gary Cahill
Or at least that Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle inferred after he saw his star player, still attracting interest from Arsenal according to several stories in the media, open the scoring with a beautiful strike from outside the box in a 4-0 romp over QPR.
40: Neil Warnock Is a Fighter but Might Not Last the Full 12 Rounds
''I'd rather be losing 4-0 to Bolton than to be playing at Portsmouth or Brighton,'' said QPR manager Neil Warnock after he witnessed a more savvy and clinical Bolton team take apart his Championship-winning team.
But he seems to have his hands tied behind his back by an imminent takeover bid from Lotus tycoon Tony Fernandes and has not been able to add real quality to a team short on top-flight experience.
41: Kieron Dyer Should Retire from Football
Astonishingly, new Rangers signing Kieron Dyer, 32, has played for England 33 times. In the last four years, he has only started 35 league matches.
The first fact persuaded Warnock to take a gamble on the former West Ham United winger, but it backfired after less than eight minutes as Dyer picked up an injury which may keep him out of action for a month.
42: Adel Taarabt Will Find EPL Life Considerably Tougher Than the Championship
The 22-year-old former Tottenham midfielder had a disappointing return to the top-flight on Saturday but still has the skills to decide matches this year.
The Moroccan international was not really afforded a chance by Spurs, for whom he played only seven times in three years and will be eager not only to prove his doubters wrong but also to re-kindle the interest of big-spending Paris Saint-Germain when the transfer window reopens in January 2012.
43: Roberto Mancini Will Remain a Cautious and Calculated Manager
Although his team scored four goals, hit the woodwork twice and created several other chances in their 4-0 win over Swansea City last night, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini (above) was very conservative in his team selection, deciding to leave £65 million duo Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero on the bench and wantaway Argentine Carlos Tevez out of the matchday squad.
So long as his team can continue to produce similar performances and Mancini has a Plan B, he will remain safe in his job at Eastlands.
44: Manchester City Have the Quality to Usurp Manchester United
Manchester City should be Manchester United's most dangerous rivals this season. That is the predominant observation I took away from this weekend's set of fixtures.
Their 4-0 win over Swansea was the most fluent performance of any team, even if it did come against a mediocre side which had the wind taken out of its sails shortly after halftime.
That they breezed to a victory without the likes of Balotelli and Tevez suggests that they are a force to be reckoned with.
45: Sergio Aguero Is Good Enough to Replace Carlos Tevez
Although he may not overtly display the same passion as his compatriot, Sergio Aguero oozed class during his two-goal, 34-minute cameo supersub appearance.
After a simple finish, a wonderful curled effort from 25 yards and intuitive assist when the ball seemed to be drifting harmlessly out of play, he is sure to make the transition to the starting XI City fans may soon be singing ''Carlos Who?''
46: Swansea Manager Brendan Rodgers Will Know His Team Must Improve
A brave face and fighting talk in his post-match interview did not conceal the shortcomings of the players Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers (above) has at his disposal.
Club chairman Huw Jenkins still has enough time to make several additions and fans can console themselves at the prospect of QPR or Blacburn Rovers at home, but a lot of lessons must quickly be learned from the videotape of Monday night's 90 minutes.
47: The Opening Weekend Is Not a Crystal Ball
Although fans of Arsenal, QPR and Swansea City may be concerned about the club's preseason transfer activity and the team's opening performances in the 2011-12 Premier League season, you can only start to formulate an opinion on the outcome of any season as Christmas approaches.
Players will gel, stars will recover from injuries, additions will be made to squads. All of these factors will determine who will determine whether there is progress in progress or whether a club is in freefall.
48: Managers Need to Be Given a Few Months to Deliver
Although not a particularly auspicious start from new managers Alex McCleish, Andre Villas-Boas and Martin Jol, all three must be afforded the whole season before judgement is passed by the clubs' boards of directors.
McCleish has inherited a weaker team than his predecessor, Villas-Boas in his first year as a manager in English football and Martin Jol has not been able to spend much money on his own players.
There were encouraging signs in the organization of the teams and the fact that all three picked up a point on the opening day. Clubs don't sack players halfway through the year, so why should managers be any different?
49: The Riots and TV Schedule Detracted from the Enjoyment of the Weekend
Publicly, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp (pictured) has supported the police's decision to call off his team's opening fixture against Everton in North London after Tottenham High Street was ripped apart by mindless looting.
Nonetheless, it was still disappointing that Spurs and Everton fans could not watch their team kick the season off on the same weekend as every other club.
It was even more mind-boggling that greedy TV companies' needs dictated the schedule to an extent that, even on the opening day of a new season, fans were not able to watch a full program of fixtures on a Saturday afternoon. Fans want Saturday football, and they are what makes football great.
50: Sebastien Larsson Could Prove the Signing of the Season
As the ball floated towards him, he swivelled his body with agility, composed himself and expertly guided the ball into the far corner of the net beyond a helpless Pepe Reina at Anfield on the opening day of the season.
Not a schoolboy's dream but rather an accurate description the goal of the weekend which free transfer Sebastian Larsson scored to register a deserved point for his new Sunderland team.
With a good injury history, an ability to find space and an excellent ability at set pieces, the 26-year-old Swede looks to be a great bit of business for Steve Bruce.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!