Sunday, August 12, 2007

New season brings new hope to Premier League new boys...

The Premier League new season started with a bang on Saturday with Sven Goran Eriksson's Man City sharing the headlines with Roy Keane and Sunderland in what turned out to be a very interesting day for neutrals and die-hards alike. With the big-boys (Liverpool excepted) taking centre-stage on Sunday, it was a chance for the lesser lights to showcase their collective new talents.

Having spent over £40m so far this summer, much will be expected of Man City, but even the most loyal Blues fans couldn't have anticipated what happened at Upton Park. Premier League rookie manager Sven Goran Eriksson had given himself much to ponder regarding selection issues, having signed so many overseas stars. Added to which the former England manager hasn't had that much time to work with his new charges - there's some debate as to whether or not he'd even seen some of them play before signing them.

Nonetheless, City, by all accounts, put on a fantastic 90 minute performance and the two-nil scoreline was a fair reflection of the game. City's star man was Blumer Elano, the Brazilian plays in a similar role to United's Paul Scholes and he was key to the Blues victory. West Ham for their part could not break down a well organised City team and here again Eriksson must take a great deal of credit, because few could have expected the former England manager to create such a well balanced side in such short order. Many Man City fans have been saying 'the derby with United will be too soon for us'... now it cannot come soon enough one suspects.

One Saturday does not maketh a season, but on the evidence of the win over the Hammers, maybe this is the season when City will finally have a decent chance of winning a pot? Let the giddyness begin...Predictions: Man City mid table finish, West Ham bottom eight.

Sunderland and Roy Keane made their Premier League debuts when facing Spurs in the day's early kick-off and opening league fixture at the Stadium of Light. The game while not being a snoozfest, lacked goal-mouth action at both ends throughout the ninety minutes.

Former United starlet Paul McShane looks to be a very shrewd signing, the young central defender won just about every header and but for Michael Chopra's late injury time winner for Sunderland the Irishman would have no doubt been the man-of-the-match.

McShane reminds me a lot of Barcelona's Pugol, both have distinctive hairstyles, both charge up and down the park making superbly timed tackles. Keane will be delighted with the one nil win over Spurs, but the Black Cats boss is going to have a very difficult season based on the evidence of the opening game. Sunderland lack genuine star quality up front and in midfield. Richardson, one of Keane's big summer signings did not impress at all and it came as no surprise when he was replaced late on.

Keane and his chairman will be delighted with their opening victory, but they will also realise the size of the task ahead of them, and with money still left in the bank to spend on new players, I for one expect another signing or two. Nyron Noseworthy and Paul McShane were rock solid against a lacklutre Spurs, though once again Martin Jol the Spurs manager did the opposition a huge favour by taking off Berbatov. My prediction for Sunderland and the rest of the season is expect them to be in the bottom six once the season is under way proper. As for Spurs, they have injuries to key players, but as ever they will take points off the big boys. Predictions: Spurs top six finish, Sunderland possible relegation candidates.

Sammy Lee, the new Bolton manager was on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline as Big Sam returned to the Reebok stadium with his new club Newcastle United. However, both of Martins goals looked suspiciously like hand-ball. Apparently, the talk coming out of the Bolton Wanderers camp is that this season they will play more football. Dodgy goals aside, losing at home 3-1 to Newcastle doesn't bode well for the new season. Expect a return to 'route one' football in the not too distant future. Predictions: Bolton possible relegation candidates, Newcastle to finish in top eight.

Before a ball was kicked, many pundits had been predicting that Derby County were racing certainties for a quick return to the Champhionship, so the 2-2 scoreline with Portsmouth will give their supporters and manager cause for optimism in what will be a very difficult season. Predictions: Derby possible relegation candidates. Pompey top eight finish.

The new look Liverpool were in action as they travelled to Villa Park for a game that ended in much controversy after visitors ran out 2-1 winners. The media have been going overboard about Steven Gerrard's winning free-kick. It was a stunning effort that much is true. However, if United's Cristiano Ronaldo had 'won' the free-kick in similar cirumstances our loveable and all too often agenda setting media would have surely focused on the disgraceful cheating. Referee Mike Riley was conned big time by Gerrard. It was an appalling decision and one that won the game for the Merseyside Reds. Predictions: Merseyside Reds top four finish. Villa top eight.

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