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Thoughts and observations on this weekend's English Premier League matches
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EPL Musings - Another thriller at the Etihad

By prolifik on August 20th, 2012 in English Premier League Analysis 5 comments
EPL Musings - Another thriller at the Etihad
Injury concern - Sergio Aguero
Déjà vu at Eastlands as City begin title defence

The parallels between Manchester City’s last game of 2011/12 and their first of 2012/13 are numerous. Then, they hosted a newly promoted side wearing red and white (QPR); on Sunday the visitors were Southampton. As was the case against the Rs, Roberto Mancini’s men took a first-half lead (this time through Carlos Tevez) and created more than enough opportunities to extend it, but allowed the away side to complete a barely believable comeback – on this occasion, the Saints struck twice within ten minutes, substitutes Rickie Lambert and Steven Davis producing smart finishes to stun the hosts. Edin Dzeko, who came off the bench to make it 2-2 in May, repeated the trick for the champions on 72 minutes, before Samir Nasri secured the points in a 3-2 thriller that echoed the result which earned the Mancunians last season’s title.  

Mancini will be relieved that his side against found the resolve to battle back and begin the defence of their title with a victory, but there was also a sense of frustration at the wasteful finishing and defensive lapses that allowed Nigel Adkins’ team to claw their way back into the game. Of even more concern was the loss of striker Sergio Aguero to a knee injury within the first 15 minutes; if the Argentine is out for an extended period, City will be relying on a pair of talented but erratic frontmen in Dzeko and Mario Balotelli. Just as well that Aguero’s countryman Carlos Tevez is now firmly back in the fold after spending much of last season in exile.  

Dempsey-less Fulham find alternative source of firepower

American international Clint Dempsey rattled home 17 goals for Fulham last season from his advanced midfield position, predictably leading to a summer-long transfer saga as the 29-year-old reportedly sought a move to Liverpool. The upshot was that the Cottagers were without their main goal threat for their opening game at home to Norwich. Martin Jol’s side still boasts plenty of quality in midfield and attack, but the question of whether they possessed the requisite cutting edge in the absence – whether temporary or permanent – of the prolific Dempsey is a valid one.  

Saturday’s performance against the woeful Canaries will go some way towards allaying those fears. With Moussa Dembele and Mahamadou Diarra running the show in midfield, Jol’s men ran riot, with Croatian striker Mladen Petric grabbing the headlines with a brace on his debut as Fulham won 5-0. Wingers Damien Duff and Alex Kacaniklic also got on the scoresheet, while Bryan Ruiz, playing in a withdrawn role behind Petric, was a constant menace with his trickery and inventiveness. Replacing Dempsey’s goals over the course of a season could still prove problematic – not many opponents are likely to be as generous as Norwich – but as long as the West Londoners continue to attack with the fluidity and verve they have shown under Jol, a massive dropoff seems unlikely.  

Gunners begin live without RVP with stalemate

In contrast to their London neighbours, Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal struggled to cope with the loss of their own attacking talisman, Robin van Persie. A well-drilled Sunderland side is far from an ideal visitor for a team which has just lost the Premier League’s Golden Boot winner and Player of the Year, and so it proved as Martin O’Neill’s men were happy to concede possession to the hosts while giving very little away in the final third. Summer signing Lukas Podolski replaced van Persie as the lone frontrunner, but rarely got a sniff and was replaced just after the hour mark by another new arrival, Olivier Giroud. The French Ligue 1 top scorer made more of an impression only by wasting a gilt-edged chance when played in by Santi Cazorla nine minutes from the end.  

Manager Arsene Wenger could have used a more emphatic start following yet another traumatic close season, but there were a few reasons for encouragement. Cazorla, another man making his Arsenal debut, lived up to his billing as one of Europe’s finest attacking midfielders, producing a performance full of creativity and drive and looking the best bet to unlock an obdurate Mackem rearguard.  Ivorian winger Gervinho, who was rather hit-and-miss last season, made things happen with his pace and directness. Assuming Podolski and Giroud can approximate the finishing ability they displayed at Koln and Montpellier respectively, there should be enough ability here for the Gunners to retain the Champions League place which appears the limit of their ambitions these days.
By prolifik on August 20th, 2012 in English Premier League Analysis

EPL Musings - Another thriller at the Etihad
5 responses
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21 Aug, 2012
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6 Sep, 2012
believe it or not,FC Bayern is going to win it.Though Ballack has gone,Podolski is rather hoepufl.If you don't agree with me,just wait and see their wonderful performance.
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