EPL 2005: Day 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
August 15th, 2004 • 4:27 am

The new English Premier League season is off to a good start, at least far as Arsenal is concerned… There were no 0-0 draws, which is really quite remarkable, but there were a large number of 1-1 draws, somewhat predictably.

There were also a few possibly revealing moments. First, there was the Djibril Cissé substitution after less than 60 minutes when he was the one who had opened the score for Liverpool and looked more likely to add a second. The end result? Tottenham managed to equalize, and Liverpool fans are left wondering whether there is a variant of the Newcastle locker room virus in their own locker room that might have caused Benitez to imitate his predecessor Gérard Houillier by foolishly trying to protect a slender 1-0 lead instead of extending it…

In any case, with the possible exception of Cissé himself, it looks like more of the same from Liverpool this season. Depending on your allegiances, there’s no much to get excited or worried about, then.

Middlesborough managed to steal a point against Newcastle after going behind twice, thanks to a last-ditch (and somewhat dubious) equalizer by new signing Hasselbaink. While Middlesborough are probably safe from relegation this year, they still don’t look very likely to be much of a bother for the top teams — although we’ll probably know more about this next Sunday when they play Arsenal at Highbury.

Aston Villa continue to impress (especially in light of their limited resources) by convincingly getting one of the few victories of the day — although these days beating Southampton is not exactly a challenging proposition.

The highlight of this first day of competition was of course Arsenal’s 4-1 win at Everton. Not just because of the emphatic score (matched only by… Bolton, of all teams, against Charlton), but also because of the way they played. While they still looked a bit fragile at times in defense (due in no small part to the absences of Sol Campbell and Vieira), there was just too much zip and inventiveness in their game not to win over the neutrals. Four goals, four different scorers — and Thierry Henry wasn’t even one of them, even though he created two of the goals and has thus already opened his “assists” account in emphatic style. You can’t blame Everton for their lack of fighting spirit, and their goal was a thing of beauty, but there is no denying the overpowering effect of Arsenal’s style machine. Youngster Fabregas (a mere 17 years old) was particularly impressive on his league debut, and has already earned the nickname “Fiberglass” in this family. (Don’t ask.)

The contrast couldn’t have been greater with the Chelsea – Manchester game that followed. What should have been a “clash of the titans” between two top contenders for the title this year was a rather drab affair. At least Manchester had the excuse of missing so many key players through injury. But Chelsea’s win wasn’t exactly convincing, and Manchester fully deserved the point that they didn’t get.

One could of course argue that the Chelsea players will need time to gel — but teams don’t earn credits for self-inflicted problems, and people can’t be expected to feel sorry for multi-millionaires who knew exactly what they were getting into. On the contrary, I suspect that I will not be the only one relishing the prospect of seeing them bite the dust against lowly EPL opposition sooner or later. There is simply no way that non-Chelsea fans can be expected to feel excited by a team built with money, arrogance, and negative play.

All in all, it was an interesting first week-end, and one that brings Arsenal ever closer to breaking another record (Nottingham Forest’s record of 42 unbeaten matches set in 1977-78 and 1978-79).

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