Less than 24 hours in to the start of the new Premier League season, it might appear a bit premature to draw any sweeping conclusions from Week One.
After all, the Big Boys have yet to even open their account.
Which, as the Telegraph’s Shame Richmond pointed out on Twitter yesterday, tells its own story.
Yesterday was all about finding out how the Premiership’s ‘other half’ might live this season. For most of South-East Asia, the ‘real’ Premier League only starts today.
But, that all said, I think there was still one or two points worth returning to in the light of Day One.
The point has been made before, but believe ever more that survival this season will be dictated as much – if not more – by events off the pitch as on it.
Alan Shearer was spot on to sense a gathering crisis infecting his old club at Blackburn; a home defeat by Wolves on the opening day of the season doesn’t bode well; nor does the manager’s reaction afterwards – letting anyone who will listen know that Rovers have lost 11 players over the summer and they have to get bodies in.
Newcastle’s inability to put away a clearly restive Arsenal suggests, goals-wise, another long, hard slog of a season awaits on Tyneside. Again, the fact that Joey Barton comes to dominate so many of their headlines doesn’t help – not when that same individual is already in a state of open defiance with the club’s little-loved owners.
And then there’s QPR.
Their summer has stunk for the last two to three months; the empty seats in the directors box and the sight of Kieron Dyer’s debut ending on a stretcher six minutes in didn’t suggest a happy ending. Salvation might be in sight if Team Lotus’ Tony Fernandes buys Bernie and Co out this weekend; Neil Warnock might still find one or two more friends returning to the boardroom as a result.
But, for now, QPR’s long-suffering supporters must be wondering when the nightmares will end.
And then there’s Wigan. If I was Dave Whelan, I’d see yesterday’s result as two, big points dropped.
Better, in fairness, than the three they dropped to Blackpool at home this time last season, but nevertheless Norwich have just dropped an early fly into their ointment.
As for the Canaries, I think there are 101 positives to take from yesterday’s opener – the negatives come in the shape of a ‘learning curve’. And how quickly individuals start to learn from their individual errors will do as much to determine the collective fate of the team as anything.
So do not fanny about on the ball when you are the last man. Given the attacking pace that Premiership teams can bring to bear on dawdling defenders, do not let the ball get trapped beneath your feet as you look for a casual drag-back on the half-way line.
Whether the watching Daniel Ayala offers similar moments of over-ease on the ball remains to be seen, but one suspects that as well as Ritchie de Laet redeemed himself with those two, game-saving blocks late on neither he nor Zak Whitbread can afford to be quite so casual in the future.
Ironically, the one defender that is totally from the ‘No nonsense…’ school of defending, is the one that is injured; Elliott Ward being sidelined till later this autumn with knee trouble.
Other points to pick up?
David Fox can deliver a set-piece play to a Premiership standard; skipper Grant Holt remains Premiership class when it comes to getting defenders in an untidy heap; ruffling their feathers to the extent that they give away big free-kicks in dangerous areas.
Put the two together and Holt only needed that faintest of touches to open his account yesterday. And he knew it. Wigan had been done by his tenacity and Fox’s delivery – and they should have paid a fuller price.
In fairness to Wes Hoolahan, that was quite a finish. His reactions needed to be instant as the ball dropped out of the keeper’s hands. And they were. Those chances are all too easy to miss; all too easy to snatch at and blaze over. The Dubliner’s confidence will have soared as a result. He has arrived in the top flight of the English game.
John Ruddy ought to have bought de Laet a beer last night; it was a rush of blood to the head that found him at the edge of the box and in no man’s land late on. Again, there’s a learning curve; but one you can forgive on the first day of a season. These are, after all, excitable times.
Finally, I’m sure this is not the finished article; Paul Lambert is still weighing his options; pondering his thoughts – and all with Ayala now to factor in. Anthony Pilkington remains off match pace, but looks a player; Kyle Naughton will get his start; James Vaughan might, finally, get lucky injury-wise.
The City boss isn’t, in short, waking up to the kind of headlines that will greet a Keen, a Pardew or a Warnock. For now, he hasn’t got his hands full like those three have.
Jim Davies says
Rick, it’s Daniel Ayala, not David (I’m available for proof-reading at reasonable rates!)
Keith Bennett says
Having been out all Saturday until late evening didn’t know much about the game other than the score until MOTD. Must say my initial reaction was one of concern at the defending. Not entirely surprised though – we weren’t even top 6 defensively last year.
But yes, on reflection, it’s game one and entirely new to most of the team, so understandable and forgiveable. And I’m 99% certain Lambert (or more likely Culverhouse) will get to grips with it over the next 3 or 4 weeks.
They better had because if we’re still making mistakes like that come Christmas they will drop a lot of points and have the Carrow Road faithful on their backs again.