The first match day of the season is in the books. More unexpected things can happen on opening day in the Premier League than in most other sports so it’s important to pay close attention and make fast roster adjustments before player values change. We’ll take a quick look around the league and provide our spin on the action.
All Arsenal Needs is a World Class Striker
A 0-0 draw on opening day isn’t normally reason for panic, but the manner in which that stalemate came at the Emirates couldn’t have been much worse. The wasted chances are going to do nothing but provide ammo to those already in panic mode over the Robin van Persie transfer.
First, the positives. After playing for Spain on Wednesday night in Puerto Rico, Santi Cazorla’s inclusion in the squad was anything but a given. Not only did he play, the Spaniard practically stole the show. Virtually all of Arsenal’s scoring chances resulted from his creativity. Good news for fantasy owners – the headlines will be dominated by doom-merchants heralding Arsenal’s demise and Cazorla’s shining performance will be back page news. That could mean his price remains relative stable. Grab him now as it looks like he’s going to have a terrific season.
The reviews get considerably worse for there. Lukas Podolski started the game with promise and it seemed only a matter of time before he found a way to involve himself in a goal, but that quickly gave way to an obvious lack of chemistry with Cazorla. That will improve with time, but the performance served as a reminder that there are a lot of new faces at the Emirates and it’s going to take time to gel. There will be better days and if he’s on penalty kicks as we suspect he’ll have value, but right now there are too many other options in his price range that performed better.
Things were even worse for the French striker. Olivier Giroud was only as a substitute and he blew a great chance to win the match late by firing wide on a shot that would have surely been the game-winner. Gervinho started and played surprisingly well so it isn’t a given Giroud will be in the Starting XI next week either. Having missed a scoring chance van Persie would have almost certainly buried is going to make the pressure build even more. Stay away from Giroud until he gets some regular starts and shows a lot more on the pitch.
As though the result wasn’t bad enough, Arsenal had to announce the sale of Alex Song to Barcelona about the time the match ended. Talk about rubbing salt in the wounds. Song wasn’t much of a factor in fantasy leagues, but he’s an excellent player (as evidenced by the fact Barca want him) and he will be sorely missed. If the club doesn’t make another splash in the transfer market before the window closes the supporters are going to only increase their ire.
Liverpool Déjà vu
Liverpool fans don’t want to hear anything about Arsenal’s “disaster.” After another summer of turmoil that included a regime change to bring in Brendan Rodgers, supporters were cautiously optimistic. Taking three points from West Brom didn’t seem too much to ask. Instead, everything that could go wrong did. Every problem that plagued the Reds last year seemed to resurface and in the worst ways possible.
Luis Suarez was clearly the most talented player on the pitch for most of the match but he was again completely incapable of scoring. He missed at least a half dozen chances, including one where he managed to put a ball over the crossbar that was only a few feet in front of the net when he kicked it. He was also yellow-carded for dissent at the end of the first half when frustration was clearly taking its toll.
Last year’s strength was central defense where Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel formed one of the best pairings in the league. This week they proved to be the team’s undoing. Even though Shane Long’s subsequent penalty kick was poorly taken and saved by Pepe Reina, Agger’s 57th minute red card for a slight push in the back proved to be more than Liverpool could overcome. For an encore, Skrtel also brought Long down in the box only minutes after Agger’s offence and Peter Odemwingie made no mistake about converting.
After a strong preseason showing, Fabio Borini was almost invisible. Jose Enrique was a surprise omission from the squad with a knee injury. As a fitting end to the tragic-comedy, Joe Cole came on as a second half sub and managed to play all of five minutes before reinjuring his hamstring. Andy Carroll was subbed in for Cole but the match was already completely out of hand so it’s tough to judge his limited performance. Joe Allen had a respectable debut with his new club, completing 97% of his passes, but little or nothing came of any of them. With three of the next four matches against Man City, Man Utd, and Arsenal, there’s no reason to sign any Liverpool players.
Swansea and Fulham seemingly couldn’t care less about the players they have lost or could lose to Liverpool, while West Brom has the Reds to thank for showing their new manager to their front door. Thirteen of the 16 goals scored in the opening matches are credited to those three clubs.
Zoltan Gera’s goal that started the scoring for West Brom was a thing of beauty. Shane Long drew both penalties but was so poor on his attempt from the spot Peter Odemwingie was given the second penalty kick and buried it. Odemwingie probably won rights to that important role so he’s an upgrade. Lukaku came on as a sub and took little time to score his first goal for his new team, but the wheels were completely off a 10-man Liverpool squad at that point so don’t read too much into it.
Martin Jol backed down from his claim that Clint Dempsey refused to play, but he had reason to be in a good mood after a 5-0 thrashing of Norwich. Mladen Petric was scoring at a torrid pace in the preseason and didn’t miss a beat in the opener, connecting for a brace. After two goals and an assist, Petric was subbed out for Hugo Rodallega in the 67th minute. Grab him in fantasy leagues now. He’s the real deal and with Dempsey’s departure looking inevitable he will have no problem taking over as the team’s primary goal scorer. Don’t stop there. Alexander Kacaniklic added a goal of his own and could prove to be one of the best value midfielders of the season. Meanwhile, Dempsey might be second-guessing any intentions he may have had to join Liverpool based on today’s performances.
Not to be outdone, Swansea scored five goals of their own and they did it away from home. Michu stole the show in this one with goals in the 8th and 53rd minutes and an assist on Scott Sinclair’s goal. Taking over Gylfi Sigurdsson’s role, Michu will rightfully be the hottest transfer of the week and looks poised for a huge season. He’s another one to grab immediately. One of last year’s premium value midfielders, Nathan Dyer chipped in two goals of his own and could again be a great value option.
Needless to say, there’s plenty to worry about on the clubs that were on the wrong end of these score lines. QPR is a team with a lot of new faces that clearly has plenty of work to do. It was an inauspicious start for new keeper Robert Green to say the least and the upcoming schedule isn’t all that kind. There could be some value players here later in the season, but steer clear for now. It was tough to find any fantasy potential on Norwich heading into the season and this showing just reinforces that opinion.
Match of the Day
The late game was an entertaining one, with Newcastle taking all three points at home in a match where the result and the fantasy scores of individual players weren’t necessarily indicative of the play on the pitch. These two clubs battled for a Champions League spot until the final day last season so the points could prove crucial.
For Tottenham, Gareth Bale and Gylfi Sigurdsson looked dangerous but left with little to show for it. Bale put a header off the crossbar but it was Sigurdsson who looked to be the more threatening of the two. He took corners, free kicks, and was stopped just short on several scoring chances. Sigurdsson was subbed out for Rafael van der Vaart in the second half in a move that didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, but clearly van der Vaart is the player whose value is suffering right now. Jermaine Defoe had the lone Spurs’ goal, but it was a tap-in on a rebound and it masks the fact that he otherwise had an iffy match.
Newcastle managed to eke out the victory on a late penalty that Hatem Ben Arfa both drew and converted. He was questionable heading into the game but we pegged him as a top value in the preseason and he looks ready to make good on that prediction. It is worth noting that he won’t necessarily be the primary penalty taker for the club. Demba Ba looked like he expected to take the kick from the spot but Ben Arfa was insistent and converted. While Ba had a goal of his own, Papiss Cisse also played and had his share of moments so it’s too early to draw conclusions about any power shift with the forwards.
The newly promoted clubs managed to take four points. The Hammers got a victory at home over Aston Villa. Jussi Jaaskelainen got a clean sheet for his new club and Kevin Nolan scored the only goal of the match on a free kick. Aston Villa, meanwhile, didn’t look any more offensively threatening under Paul Lambert than they did last season under Alex McLeish.
Reading looked destined to lose in their return match to the top flight until Adam Le Fondre converted a 90th minute penalty after Dean Whitehead saw red for Stoke. It could be tough sledding for both of these clubs this season, although Reading could fight their way to results like this with some regularity. They’ll be in for a true test on Wednesday when they face Chelsea.