A look at the ties ahead in week 2 of the Premier League
The Premier League 2012/13 season started with a bang last week and there are a few mouth watering games to look forward to this weekend. It is still very early in the season but in terms of momentum and confidence these games are massive. Any team who is undefeated through the first two games will be feeling pretty good about themselves and the fans will be right behind them, a team who still hasn't picked up a win are in a different place entirely. Confidence will start to dwindle and the fans will start getting twitchy.
In the Premier League this season there are seven new managers. Only Michael Laudrup, Steve Clarke and Roberto Di Matteo got off to a winning start. That leaves Paul Lambert, Chris Hughton, Andre Villas-Boas and Brendan Rodgers still looking for their first win. Football fans and the media are so fickle these days that another bad result or two and the pressure will be seriously building.
My own opinion is that any new manager should get at least a season, probably longer to make an impact at a new club. If a new man comes in during the summer he can have a look at players in training and friendlies but he won't truly know his players until he sees them playing in competitive games. With the transfer window nowadays a lot of managers don't get the chance to build the squad they want. Far too many are being sacked within a year and if an example of giving a manger time is required then look no further than Alex Ferguson. Fergie had a rough few years at the beginning of his Manchester United career and the story goes that if he lost to Notts Forest in the FA Cup in 1990 that he was to be sacked. United won the game 1-0 and Fergie has went onto win 12 league titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 Champions Leagues, a Cup Winners Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and a World Club Championship. Whilst not all managers are close to the quality of Ferguson it would certainly be easier to manage a club where all the players you had were players you had brought in with an idea in mind of how you'd like them to fit into your long term plans.
Rodgers, AVB, Lambert and Hughton will all be in a position were they have inherited a few players who they don't rate and until they can get the squad they want, they have to stick with the players they have. Unfortunately we are now at a point where instant success is required in football and if the manager doesn't get it then he will be looking for a new job. Of the current Premier League managers only seven of them have been at their current teams for more than two years. A few teams have even had more than two managers in that period of time. If the Premier League clubs let their managers have more time to build a team I think it would improve a lot of clubs fortunes and gradually the quality of the league would improve too.
Onto this weekends fixtures. Swansea and West Ham kick things off on Saturday at lunch time. Both sides started with a victory last weekend. Swansea perhaps looked more impressive with a 5-0 win away to QPR with West Ham picking up a 1-0 win at home to Aston Villa. Michu made a spectacular debut for the Swans scoring two and being involved in most of Swansea's good play. West Ham have signed Matt Jarvis from Wolves this week. Jarvis isn't a bad player but I think Wolves have got a good price for him. He may make his debut for the Hammers tomorrow. I can see West Ham playing a lot of passes into the channels and trying to get Jarvis to put crosses into the box for Kevin Nolan coming into the box. Swansea don't look to have changed their style too much from last season. De Guzman and Michu look like fantastic additions and if Swansea can be as good at home as they were last season then I can't see West Ham picking up any points in South Wales.
Aston Villa will try to bounce back from their opening day defeat at Upton Park with a home game against Everton. Villa had a bad season last year finishing 16th and they were in the relegation mix until the last few games. New manager, Paul Lambert has a difficult job on his hands and can't afford a poor start. Villa need to start picking up points and they are not being helped by a lengthy injury list. Richard Dunne, Nathan Delfouneso, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Marc Albrighton join Stiliyan Petrov, who will most likely miss the full season, in the physio room. Villa could do with getting them back as soon as possible. Everton come into the game brimming with confidence after a 1-0 win over Manchester United on Monday night. They were deserving winners and could have won by more but they found De Gea in fine form for United. Both Nikica Jelavic and Sylvain Distin picked up knocks on Monday and may miss the game but Everton could hand a debut to new Belgian forward, Kevin Mirallas. I can't see Villa winning this one against a rejuvenated Everton but wouldn't be surprised to see them grab a point, especially if Jelavic is injured.
Manchester United and Fulham meet at Old Trafford in what promises to be a cracker. United can't afford to drop more points this early in the season as Manchester City would be a hard team to catch if they got a head start in the title race. I'm still not sure how Fergie will line up his side now Van Persie has signed. If it was me I'd play RVP as a lone front man in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Valencia on the right, Kagawa in the middle and Rooney on the left. Valencia played at right back last week which is a complete waste. He is one of the best wingers in the league and I think he could create a lot of goals for United, especially if Rooney was arriving into the box late and attacking the back post. Fergie will no doubt have a plan on how he thinks the team should lineup and anybody who is still doubting him after all these years will most likely end up with egg on their face. Fulham come into the game with a lot of confidence after last weeks 5-0 win at home to Norwich. They haven't had a great record at Old Trafford in recent years, losing eight in a row but they arrive in decent form and will fancy their chances of getting at a makeshift Manchester United back line which could include Patrice Evra at centre back. Having said that when Manchester United are under pressure and need a result more often not, they get it. I expect a United win and wouldn't be surprised to see RVP getting on the score sheet.
Norwich and QPR meet in what I have heard in some sections of the media being described as a relegation six pointer. That is quite ridiculous at this stage of the season but I imagine it sells newspapers and adds listeners to radio shows so I suppose it is to be expected. Norwich have a decent manager in Hughton. He has done a decent job at both Newcastle and Birmingham but he faces a difficult task to step into Paul Lambert's shoes at Carrow Road. He has made two good signings this week bringing in Sebastian Bassang and Javier Garrido who could make their debuts tomorrow. Both are defenders and after conceding five last week they will be welcomed by the Carrow Road faithful. QPR seem to be in the market for pretty much everyone and it is almost impossible to keep a track on who they are signing. One player they have signed is former Chelsea full-back, Jose Bosingwa. I would expect to see him make his debut in this match whether it's from the start or from the bench. QPR are in talks with Ricardo Carvalho and Julio Cesar. Both where world class players who aren't necessarily at their best anymore but they should be still capable of doing a good job for QPR. This will be a huge week for QPR and I expect there will be a few signings before the week is over. Manager, Mark Hughes will want to start the week in a positive manner and I think he'll be happy enough if the draw I am predicting is the final result.
In a battle between arguably last week's unluckiest teams, Southampton and Wigan Athletic face off at St Marys Stadium. Both sides lost to top opposition but on the balance of play both will feel they done enough to earn a result. Southampton had a second half lead at the City Of Manchester Stadium but two late goals gave City the three points. Wigan conceded two goals in the first seven minutes against Chelsea and despite dominating for much of the game they just couldn't score the goal that would have got them back into the game. Wigan have accepted a bid for Victor Moses from Chelsea. Moses will be a huge loss for Wigan and they will need to find an adequate replacement for him this week if they are hoping to build on last season. Southampton will most likely give starts to last weeks goal scorers Steve Davis and Rickie Lambert. I expect a few big teams to find life difficult down at St Marys this year and fully expect the Saints to get off to a winning start in front of their home fans.
Sunderland will have new signing Steven Fletcher available for their clash with newly promoted Reading. Fletcher has joined for a fee believed to be between £12-14m. Fletcher isn't a bad striker but once again I think Wolves have come up trumps and received another inflated fee. Reading will come into the game with a point to prove after losing 4-2 to Chelsea during the week. Reading led 2-1 in that game but goalkeeper, Adam Federici allowed a Gary Cahill strike to slip through his hands before Fernando Torres gave Chelsea the lead with a goal that replays showed was offside. Chelsea got another one in the dying seconds after Federici went forward for a corner but it was the Torres goal that will have angered the Royals the most. Sunderland had a decent result away to Arsenal last week and showed great spirit to hang on for a 0-0 draw. I think Martin O'Neill's men could go one step further this week and bag all three points.
Tottenham and West Bromwich Albion looks like another good game. Spurs got off to a poor start losing away to Newcastle although they did have enough chances to take something from the game. It will be interesting to see how long Spurs fans give new manager Andre Villas-Boas to settle. He didn't get long at Chelsea and could do with picking up a few positive results to ease the pressure on him. West Brom got arguably the best result of the opening weekend, defeating Liverpool 3-0. The scoreline was a bit flattering though and if Luis Suarez had brought his shooting boots it could have been totally different. Tottenham have finally completed the signing of Manchester City striker, Emmanuel Adebayor which should give them a bit more of an edge in front of goal. I am also looking forward to seeing how Jan Vertonghen plays in his debut. The Belgian international has impressed in recent seasons at Ajax so it will be interesting to see how he deals with the step up in class. I think AVB will get his first win as Spurs manager in this one and expect Adebayor to get his name on the score sheet.
Saturday evenings live match is between Chelsea and Newcastle and on paper it should be a goal fest. Both sides are better in the attacking third of the pitch than they are in the defensive third and with players like Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard on display it should be an entertaining watch. Chelsea sit top of the league with a perfect record of two wins from two games. It hasn't been been plain sailing though and Wigan created chances against them last weekend but poor finishing let them down. I've mentioned the Reading game and the linesman done Chelsea a huge favour by wrongly ruling that Fernando Torres was onside for the goal that ultimately decided the game. Hazard has been a revelation so far and in Chelsea's six goals he has picked up three assists and been brought down twice for penalties that Frank Lampard scored from. I think this game will have goals but Chelsea will have too many options for Newcastle and should keep their 100% record.
Super Sunday starts with what will be a feisty clash at the Brittania Stadium between Stoke City and Arsenal. There's a lot of history between the sides and not a lot of mutual respect. The managers have never really hidden their feelings for each other. Wenger can't stand Stoke's brand of football and Tony Pulis can't stand Wenger. Arsenal are no doubt the better side to watch but the contrast in styles usually leads to a decent game. Arsenal struggle with the physical side of Stoke's play and Stoke take full advantage of that. In the games between the two sides since Stoke got promoted in 2008, Arsenal have only one once at the Brittania. There are a lot of questions about this current Arsenal team and I think Stoke have got them at exactly the right time. Arsenal have sold their two best players from last season and will be fielding quite a few players who are still looking to find their feet in England. For that reason I think Stoke will pick up the three points.
The weekend's fixtures finish with what should be the best game of the weekend. Liverpool go head to head with last year's Premier League winners, Manchester City. This is a massive game for Brendan Rodgers and his Liverpool team. The opening fixtures haven't been kind to Liverpool and they have Arsenal and Manchester United coming to Anfield in the next few weeks either side of a trip to the north east to face Sunderland. The easiest game on paper was last weeks trip to the Hawthorns to face West Brom. That resulted in a 3-0 defeat and the pressure was immediately on the new manager. City didn't look particularly impressive but they got the three points and ultimately that's all that matters. City won't want to drop points at this stage of the season and Liverpool simply cannot afford to lose their second game in a row. The game should be a good watch and by the time the final whistle goes I expect both teams to have a point each.
Just for fun here's a prediction for each game:
Swansea 2-0 West Ham United
Aston VIlla 0-0 Everton
Manchester United 3-1 Fulham
Norwich 1-1 QPR
Southampton 2-0 Wigan Athletic
Sunderland 2-1 Reading
Tottenham 3-1 West Bromich Albion
Chelsea 3-1 Newcastle United
Stoke City 2-0 Arsenal
Liverpool 1-1 Manchester City