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Thoughts and observations on this weekend's English Premier League matches
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EPL Musings - Hazard shines, Blues cruise

By prolifik on August 27th, 2012 in English Premier League Analysis 10 comments
EPL Musings - Hazard shines, Blues cruise
Flying start - Eden Hazard
Hazard stars again as Chelsea dispatch Newcastle

Having been named the French Ligue 1 Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons (and the Young Player of the Year in the two before that), Eden Hazard arrived at Stamford Bridge from Lille this summer with a fair amount of hype to live up to. The early returns continue to be promising: having created five of the Londoners’ six goals over the first two league games heading into Saturday’s visit from Newcastle, the Belgian playmaker turned in another matchwinning performance as the Blues swept the Magpies aside 2-0. Hazard opened his Premier League account with a coolly taken penalty after Fernando Torres was felled by Vurnon Anita, then turned provider for the Spaniard with a lovely backheel. With his pace, strength, trickery, and inventiveness, the 21-year-old already looks like the type of talent who can fire Chelsea back into title contention after a disappointing sixth-place finish last season.  

In addition to Hazard’s impressive start, Blues boss Roberto di Matteo will be pleased by the gradual resurgence of Torres. The driving run that led to Hazard’s spot-kick was reminiscent of the Torres of old, as was the instinctive way he rifled home Chelsea’s second. Didier Drogba is gone and young Romelu Lukaku out on loan, so Daniel Sturridge – who has rarely featured under di Matteo – is the club’s only other senior centre-forward. With the likes of Hazard and Juan Mata creating the chances, the £50 million man has no more excuses not to deliver the goods; Chelsea’s title hopes depend on him building on his encouraging start to 2012/13.  

Bad day for Rooney as Red Devils edge Cottagers

When Manchester United completed the stunning acquisition of Robin van Persie from Arsenal, thoughts immediately turned the prospect of a strike partnership featuring the two leading goalscorers from last season: van Persie and Wayne Rooney. After bringing van Persie off the bench in last Monday’s defeat at Everton, manager Sir Alex Ferguson was expected to pair the two from the start for Saturday’s clash with Fulham. Instead, Rooney’s poor display at Goodison Park saw him dropped in favour of the Dutchman, with another new boy, Japan’s Shinji Kagawa, taking over Rooney’s role just off the main striker. Both players notched their first goals for the club in a thrilling 3-2 victory, with Kagawa in particular looking a constant threat with his intelligent movement and close control.  

Despite the victory, Ferguson was left with a number of concerns after the game, chief among them an injury to Rooney, who sustained a nasty thigh wound after coming on as a sub and could be out for several weeks. He joins an injury list which has left the Red Devils with just one fit centre-back: Nemanja Vidic, who is himself just coming back from a long spell on the treatment table. Small wonder that his makeshift partnership with Michael Carrick looked shaky throughout, while Carrick’s absence from the centre of midfield left United equally vulnerable there, a deficiency the excellent Moussa Dembele was only too happy to exploit for Fulham. Goalkeeper David de Gea’s uncertainty in dealing with crosses again reared its ugly head, although his shotstopping remains beyond reproach. Adding van Persie and Kagawa has given Ferguson a wealth of options going forward, but the spine of the team is worryingly weak at the moment.  

Reds improve but donate point to champions

Brendan Rodgers’ reign as Liverpool manager got off to the worst possible start last weekend: 3-0 thrashing at West Brom which saw top defender Daniel Agger sent off. A home game against Manchester City hardly seemed like great opportunity for the Reds to bounce back, but bounce back they did in Sunday’s enthralling 2-2 draw. The hosts twice took the lead before individual errors – first from Pepe Reina and Martin Kelly, and the second from Martin Skrtel, who had earlier headed his side in front – allowed Roberto Mancini's men to claw their way back into yet another game. It was yet another uncomfortable afternoon on Merseyside for the City boss, who has yet to win at either Liverpool or Everton since joining the club in December of 2009.

Liverpool were the better side on balance, with teenage winger Raheem Sterling impressing in his full Premier League debut, and Joe Allen dictating play with his precise and timely distribution much as he did for Rodgers at Swansea. Although he continues to waste far more opportunities than a player of his talent should, Luis Suarez was again a handful and deserved his goal. The loss on key midfielder Lucas Leiva to an early thigh injury is a potential headache for Rodgers given how badly the Brazilian was missed when a knee problem sidelined him for most of last season, but in the midst of a difficult first few fixtures a point against the champions has to be viewed as a positive.
By prolifik on August 27th, 2012 in English Premier League Analysis

EPL Musings - Hazard shines, Blues cruise
10 responses
Pascual
5 Sep, 2012
Chelsea have to be the front runner buasece of their spending to acquire players like Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko in the off-season. These players are match winners on their own. Roman Abramovich has truly turned Chelsea into a world class team. I think they will definitely be tough to beat. Plus they must have revenge on their minds after their defeat to Barcelona last season. Second choice Real MadridThird choice Barcelona
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