As the Premier League starts to hit its groove for yet another exciting and pulsating season, a week can change the fortunes of a player or a team. Whether it be making the fight from the drop seem that bit easier or hopes of a top-four place seem remote, it can all happen in the top-flight.
The first few weeks may not tell the tale of the how particular seasons will pan out, but it certainly allows the fortunes of players and teams to go under the spotlight and determine whether they came out covered in glory or whether they’re feeling the heat of the latest weekend of action.
Perhaps the most obvious winners in the latest weekend of Premier League action is
Cardiff City. In their first home game in the top tier of English football since 1962, and their first in the Premier League, a fairytale ensued as the newcomers defeated big spending Manchester City 3-2, even going 3-1 up at one point in the match. Goalscoring heroes Fraizer Campbell and Aaron Gunnarsson both warranted inclusion on this list on their own merit with two fantastic individual performances, but this victory belonged to the club as a whole. Regardless of whether this campaign ends in relegation, this was a day that Cardiff fans will not forget anytime soon. The magnitude of this victory is shown brilliantly in the fascinating fact that Manchester City have spent more this summer than Cardiff City have spent in their entire history – a true victory for the underdog.
Arguably a less obvious choice for a winner in the latest weekend of action, but this
weekend was a significant one for the former QPR manager. Written off after an ill-fated spell at the London club, his first home game in charge of Stoke brought with it his first Premier League victory since May 2012, ironically against Stoke when in charge of QPR. A victory over a Crystal Palace side who have failed to bring in much Premier League experience during the transfer window should not cause too much excitement at the Britannia, but nevertheless it was a welcome result in a potentially career defining season for the Welshman.
A pre-season dominated by wantaway striker Luis Suarez threatened to undermine
the progression that Brendan Rodgers was plotting for his team this season. A striker which – in my personal opinion – Liverpool have already wasted too much time on, defending his actions which had undermined the club as a whole in the past 18 months. Suarez is a brilliant player who could make it into any team in the world, but the focus has returned to the whole squad at the start of the season whilst Suarez sits out the duration of his ten-game ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic last season.
With the focus on the players actually playing, Liverpool have started their season well with two wins and two clean sheets. There are clear signs of Liverpool building a side to challenge the top four, added by a solid outing in the summer transfer window. Stoke and Aston Villa are not – with all due respect – at the level Liverpool will be competing at for Champions League football, but it is a solid start for Liverpool. Manchester United on Sunday will be a pressing test and will show just how far the progression has gone in a short space of time. But so far so good, and if they get a Luis Suarez focused and on-form following his suspension, the top four is very much a possibility.
Whilst a defeat to a newly-promoted side did nothing to cover Manchester City in glory
this weekend, it is hardly likely to send their season down the pan in the grand scheme of things. But what was a concern for last season’s runners-up was the form of Joe Hart. Fantastic in City’s title winning season, the past year has seen high-profile mistakes creep into the England ‘keeper's game. On Sunday, he failed to deal with the corner for Cardiff’s second goal and shortly afterwards a poor clearance allowed Cardiff the opportunity to apply the pressure that ultimately led to their winning goal. With a lack of top competition at both club and international level, Hart’s mistakes don’t seem to be costing him the number one shirt at either level, but if those errors are not corrected, or at least cut down, Manuel Pellegrini could very well look to bring in stronger competition for the former Shrewsbury Town goalkeeper.
With a summer of heavy spending for Norwich, it was always going to take time for
the squad to gel, however, a solid draw against Everton on the opening day left a good platform to build on for their visit to Hull and the KC Stadium. Despite this, City failed to capitalise on their possession and attempts on goal and succumbed to a 1-0 defeat to the Premier League new boys. Despite playing the match for over 60 minutes with a one-man advantage and also having record signing Ricky van Wolfswinkel and former Bolton striker Johan Elmander on the pitch together for the final 25 minutes, they could not break Hull down. With the squad they have on paper, a mid-table finish is well within their reach but results against teams like Hull are absolutely necessary if they are to avoid being part of the battle against relegation.
Not a loser in the literal sense of the weekend's action, a 0-0 draw with West Ham
was an improvement on a 4-0 loss to Manchester City, but it is clear that all is not well for Newcastle at the moment and the former West Ham manager will be the first to bear the brunt. With Joe Kinnear back at the club, Yohan Cabaye reportedly refusing to play for the club following Arsenal’s bid on Monday and no sign of the form that took Newcastle to fifth in 2011-2012 returning indicates difficult times ahead for the manager. With a squad on paper too good to go down, relegation would be a disaster but you never know what you’re going to get from Newcastle United. When things are going good, a seemingly bizarre choice is made and things go sour. If this pattern continues, expect Pardew to be the first Premier League managerial casualty this season.
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