EPL 2006: Day 1 (Arsenal 2 – Newcastle 0)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
August 15th, 2005 • 2:35 pm

It looks like none of the top contenders for this year’s English Premier League title were at their best on this opening day of the campaign. I didn’t see the Chelsea game, but apparently the Chelsea manager himself admitted that they were “lucky” to get back home with all three points.

Arsenal had a comparable degree of luck, in their case in the form of a rather benevolent referee. If my memory serves me well, the Gunners have quite often seen the wrong end of Mr. Bennett’s stick in the past, but that wasn’t the case yesterday. First, a harsh red card for Jenas, and then a debatable penalty decision that finally allowed Arsenal to open the score and change the complexion of the game.

That being said, the red card was not that harsh — it was indeed a pretty clumsy challenge that could have caused a serious injury. Whether there was malicious intent is open to interpretation, of course, but it was a rather reckless challenge, and Mr. Bennett simply applied the rules. And the penalty decision wasn’t contested much by the Newcastle player involved, which is usually a pretty reliable admission of guilt. Indeed, it looked like he was cursing himself more than anything else for having inflicted this on his team mates.

In addition, it has to be said that Newcastle ultimately paid for their negative tactics, with their five midfield players and no real effort at any stage in the game to try and build some attacking momentum.

Yes, it almost worked, but not quite. Of course, the concern for Arsenal fans is that, if a team such as Newcastle was able to almost make it work, then surely better teams will be able to make this tactic work, and it still looks like Arsène Wenger doesn’t really have an alternative plan in such situations.

Individually, the players’ performances were rather subpar, and one hopes that Thierry Henry’s captaincy will take the shape of something more inspirational than scornful treatment of his team mates. But these are early days, and the most important thing, as always, is the three points.

Elsewhere, Manchester United weren’t all that impressive either, and the whole week-end looked decidedly like “more of the same.” One hopes that this is no indication of the level of excitement that this new season will manage to inspire.

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