Thursday, 22 August 2013

BANTS!: Week One

Welcome to the first ever "BANTS!", an irreverent look at the week in Premier League football that Colin Murray would probably like.
Serendipity
So, at long last, here it is. The biggest, richest, amazingest Premier League title race ever has kicked off and absolutely everything has changed. English football's Don Corleone has at long last abdicated the Old Trafford hot seat and nothing will ever quite be the same again.

Except, it seems, for Manchester United, who- much as they did last season- looked largely unremarkable and yet triumphed by virtue of a spectacular contribution by Robin Van Persie. David Moyes has demonstrated all the elan of Derek Trotter in this summer's transfer market, leaving the club almost entirely unimproved following an impossible pursuit of Cesc Fabregas, whilst seemingly allowing the prodigiously gifted Thiago Alcantara to join Bayern Munich without a fight.

Nathan Dyer
They were still, ultimately, too much for Swansea who, despite reinforcements up front and in midfield, seem intent upon confirming their status as the HOUSE M.D. of the Premier League: often magnificent, but hampered by a lame right side. A right side occupied, as ever, by Angel Rangel and Nathan Dyer, the latter of whom represents an unfortunate study in nominative determinism. Not that will it concern the diminutive winger who can boast a freshly inked four year contract, suggesting he may somewhere harbour photographic evidence of a senior club official in a drunken tryst with a farm yard animal.

Despite their loss, the Swans will feel little shame in being undone by Van Persie- who is less a mere striker than a post-Van Basten force of nature at present- however, the defence will take some time to live down conceding two goals to Danny Welbeck. "House Party" equaled his entire goal tally for last season with a brace- which may never be seen again in the Premier League- and makes Swansea City early season candidates for "The Stuart Hall Award" for footballing shame. The imaginatively nicknamed "Welbz" completed the 4-1 win with what appeared to be an insouciant lob of keeper Michel Worm, but was in fact a misplaced cross to no one in particular at the back post. Otherwise, signings or not, business looks like it will continue very much as usual at Old Trafford.

On the slide
So it also proved at the Emirates where Arsenal were undone by one of their own fans and one of the stand-out strikers of last season, Christian Benteke. The Belgian battering ram almost camped outside Arsene Wenger's house wearing a club shirt and come-to-bed eyes earlier this summer, but the chance was missed as Villa persuaded him to sign a new deal, and Wenger went to first Madrid and then Liverpool with hilarious attempts to sign Higuain and Suarez respectively. All these calamitous goings on culminated in Arsene Wenger demanding suggestions from the press on whom he should sign when pressed on his transfer inactivity. One suspects he may only have been half-joking, and if he is feeling the pressure after one league match, a complete breakdown looks a possibility in the highly unlikely event his side are dumped out of the Champions League by Fenerbache.
Wizard of Oz

Across North London, things have entered "Football Manager" mode as Spurs, so renowned for their "cautious" approach to spending have released the purse strings in spectacular fashion. They took a hard-earned one-nil win over newly promoted Palace whose manager, Ian Holloway, went "full Ian Holloway" in his first post-match interview, and was then charged by the FA for criticisms levelled at the referee for awarding an obvious penalty. Spurs have already bought well this summer, and only the possibility of Daniel Levy turning Gareth Bale's outgoing transfer into the sort of dick-swinging contest he favours when it comes to selling prized assets could scupper Spurs' Champions League ambitions. But with Bale set to leave for a record fee and both Willian and Lamela earmarked as replacements, for the first time since the Premier League began, Tottenham may not be far away from the title itself.

Elsewhere in London, Sam Allardyce, despite spending freely, displayed typical daring in starting exactly none of his new signings. Although, this side were comfortable victors over newly promoted Cardiff who, having cleared a £60m debt, have begun accumulating a new one with several marquee signings, in what could be the most expensive relegation battle in history.

Manchester City, as expected, took their billion dollar team to Newcastle and eviscerated poor Alan Pardew's flaky French side. The storm-clouds have been gathering over St. James Park for over 18 months now, and were not improved when Arsenal's bid for the improbably highly rated Yohan Cabaye- or "Kebab" as he was christened by cockney Jonah, Joe Kinnear- unsettled the player sufficiently that he was left out of the side. It's unlikely he would have improved the result, however, and the vultures are already circling in the North East prior to what will inevitably be a messy demise.
Yohan Cabaye et frites
Although Liverpool are still in the midst of a cold war with peckish striker Luis Suarez over his desire to leave the club, they still had more than enough to put away a Stoke side who will hope their new manager, Mark Hughes, brings the club more fortune than he did QPR last season. Daniel "Main Event" Sturridge scored the only goal of the game, with Stoke's chances fading due to John Walters demonstrating the sort of penalty kick lulz with which the general public came to know and love him last year.

The Respectful One landed back in West London to be greeted with the sort of reverie that would have befitted a medieval Pope. Chelsea continued their pre-season against Hull City, whom they had beaten midway through the first half, and kicked back on their sun-loungers for the remainder of the game. The match was notable for a "bending" free kick from OPTA king Frank Lampard, who continues to demonstrate that a long career at the top level is possible for any man willing to hit the ball as hard and as often as he can at the opposition goal.
"Good luck, Rafa."
Also, Norwich drew with Everton.

Yes, football is back, roll on the summer.

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