This weekend was an opener unlike no other. Before City play tonight at Eastlands, no team has won at home during the opening round of fixtures. Chelsea failed to win their opening game for the first time in ten years, both Liverpool and Arsenal failed to get all three points, and reigning champions United won but lost half their defenders in doing so. Steve Kean has carried on where last season left off and led Blackburn to a humiliating and potentially costly home defeat to Wolves, and QPR got a wakeup call to what life in the EPL is really going to be like for them.
Let’s firstly look at Chelsea’s stalemate against Stoke. When the fixture list was released, AVB will have looked at this game and sighed. Stoke at the Brittania is one of the toughest places to go, especially in your first game of the season. Stoke are physical, compact, know how to defend, do not own a player under 6’2 and to echo Jose’s infamous quote after he faced Spurs in his first season, ‘they parked the bus in front of the goal.’ Try as they might, Chelsea and striker of choice Torres could not find a way past Begovic and the Stoke defence.
When you can convincingly say that the highlight of Torres’ Chelsea career thus far was the Man of the Match award he won yesterday – being the lone striker who did neither score a goal himself or set up an assist – things are bad at the Bridge! Nether the less, AVB has pinned his flag to the mast and chosen to use Torres as his main striker.
As much as blue’s fans would rather see the prolific Drogba up top, in reality they need Torres to start scoring, and yesterday he looked like being able to do everything but. With a couple of clever runs and through passes, one suspects that all the Spaniard needs is one goal and it will all click into place – well that’s the party line coming from inside the Chelsea camp anyway.
Other plus points for Chelsea are that their defence looked as solid as ever, and Ramires looked like their bright light in the centre of the park, clearly having benefited from last season’s experience, and looks to have an engine to rival that of Essien. Lampard will provide concern for Chelsea fans, with little contribution yesterday unless you count the did he or did he not dive question.
Chelsea will look at their rivals start to the season and take comfort from this. Arsenal, unsurprisingly failed to beat Newcastle, with the conduct of one Joey Barton overshadowing even talk of the imminent departure of Fabregas after that game. The Newcastle midfielder never fails to sink to a new and unprecedented low, and was clearly caught on camera trying to tell people he has been punched by Gunner’s new boy Gervinho, when even a slap was wide of the mark.
Clearly Barton needs to delve further into the world of Philosophy and Religion, because, as of yet, it is clearly doing him little good. Arsenal can look to the season with trepidation, almost certainly losing Cesc and Nasri, leaving Wenger with angry supporters and having to spend spend spend if he wants to placate them. One would suggest Valencia’s Jun Matta should be high on any list, as should a strong centre back, possibly in the shape of Chris Samba, who on Blackburn’s performance should be running for the hills as we speak.