It’s back again! Football is back! Rejoice, the English Premier League is back! It all seems like yesterday when we bid the 2011-12 Premier League season bye but here we’re today with the start of what I hope would turn out to be a better and more exciting season than the last.
On the back of a Premier League season only decided in the final 13 seconds and widely regarded as the best ever, the 2012-13 Premier League campaign has a great deal to match or even surpass. It has got the ingredients for a great season no doubt. With Manchester United looking to wrestle back the Premier League crown from Manchester City, Chelsea looking to improve on their very low finish last season, Arsenal aiming to finally end their trophy drought, Tottenham, Liverpool and Newcastle looking to break into the top four – it could well turn out to be the most competitive Premier League season ever.
So it’s back to business for me as I will be serving you the appetizer you need going into every round of matches this Premier League season. To kick things off this weekend is my match of the week at none other than the Sports Direct Arena.
NEWCASTLE UNITED vs TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR
What a cracker to start the season. Absolutely mouth-watering.
Both teams went head-to-head last summer trying to get a Champions League place – both failed in the end but trust that they would try again this season. Throw in the 5-0 thrashing at White Hart Lane in February handed out to Alan Pardew and his men, the magpies are certainly not short of motivation.
Take it or leave it, Andres Villas-Boas is back in the Premier League, London precisely to set the records straight that he’s not a failure. His experience at Chelsea would definitely have hurt him and the Portuguese will be raring to go again this time at Tottenham to prove to the whole of England that he was set up to fail at Chelsea. Harry Redknapp has left him a good squad and with his preferred style of football already embedded at White Hart Lane, Villas-Boas should have little or no problem getting his ideas on to his players.
It hasn’t been smooth sailing though for Villas-Boas who has only welcomed Gylfi Sigurdsson and Jan Vertonghen to the club. Luka Modric is hell bent on leaving and Jermain Defoe is the only senior striker available. Attempts to get Emmanuel Adebayor back from Manchester City have so far been unsuccessful.
Alan Pardew has been left frustrated this summer, with bids for Andy Carroll, Luuk de Jong and Mathieu Debuchy failing to bear fruit. Vernon Anita finally signed from Ajax on Thursday and could make his debut in this fixture alongside other new recruits in Curtis Good, Gael Bigirimana and Romain Amalfitano.
There are doubts over strikers Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba and midfielders Yohan Cabaye and Hatem Ben Arfa will need to have their fitness assessed to ensure their availability. Fabricio Coloccini should be able to play, despite suffering a knock last weekend in a friendly.
Tottenham should hand Jan Vertonghen and Gylfi Sigurdsson debuts on Saturday.
Newcastle United have got home advantage and have also got revenge on their mind, if they can get their top players fit for this encounter, I see them getting all three points.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: NEWCASTLE UNITED WIN
ARSENAL vs SUNDERLAND
What a summer it’s been at the Emirates stadium – one that saw Santi Carzola, Lukas Podolski and Oliver Giroud making their way into Arsenal FC and on the other hand, also saw club captain Robin van Persie make the switch over to one of Arsenal’s fiercest rivals Manchester United. Arsenal have done their transfer dealings early enough this time around and putting the Van Persie issue to bed before the start of their Premier League campaign I believe was the right move. Same cannot be said of Sunderland and Martin O’Neil who have been frustrated in their transfer attempts (especially at getting a striker). The efforts to get in a striker with Nicklas Bendtner returning to his parent club at the end of last season has all come to nought. Sunderland don’t seem to be making any headway in their bid to sign Wolves’ Steven Fletcher and Louis Saha’s signing couldn’t have come at a better time, just days before their season opener.
A lot rests on Sunderland’s highest goal scorer last season in Benin’s Stephane Sessegnon and with ex-Gunner Seb Larsson, always looking to impress again his former team, Arsene Wenger and his men could be in for one long afternoon.
Martin O’Neill has a poor record against his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger. He has only won once in 16 Premier League meetings with Arsene Wenger as a manager (W1 D6 L9): a 2-0 win at the Emirates with Aston Villa in November 2008 – He better hope his players don’t see this stat.
Arsenal can take confidence in the fact that they have lost just once in 17 league games against Sunderland and that the Black Cats have won none of their last seven Premier League away matches. The Black Cats are also currently on a run of nine Premier League games without a win, a torrid string of results carried over from the end of last season.
With the debutants looking to impress and the comfort of Emirates stadium available, I believe Arsenal should have more than enough to just about get past Sunderland on Saturday.
Arsenal have had debutants sent off in the opening Premier League game in each of the last two seasons – Laurent Koscielny and Gervinho so hopefully the debutants this weekend will have a better bow to their Arsenal careers.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: ARSENAL WIN
WIGAN vs CHELSEA
Wigan have gone about their business this summer transfer window very well in my opinion. Despite losing a couple of good players in Mohammed Diame and Hugo Rodallega, they have brought in Arouna Kone from Levante, Arsenal’s Ryo Miyaichi, Spanish defender Ivan Ramis from Mallorca and Scottish midfielder Fraser Fyvie from Aberdeen. Probably not headliners for you but the first three players I mentioned there are solid if unspectacular signings.
European champions, Chelsea on the other hand have had a very busy summer too with the signings of Oscar, the Hazard brothers and Marko Marin. The Blues don’t look like a cohesive unit yet and I think they would probably find the going tough at Wigan’s DW Stadium.
Wigan did exceptionally well against the top team towards the end of last season and I think they would give the European Champions and their new signings a good run for their money. Roberto Di Matteo needs to win this – there are concerns in some quarters he isn’t the right man to lead Chelsea and a loss in his first Premier League match of the season would definitely increase the whispers.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: DRAW
MANCHESTER CITY vs SOUTHAMPTON
The only issue to be discussed here is how many goals will Manchester City score? Very unfair to the Saints to get the Premier League champions in their first outing in the Premier League after seven years.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: MANCHESTER CITY WIN
FULHAM vs NORWICH CITY
Martin Jol has put together a creative squad that looks strong enough to compete for at least a top half finish with the signings of Hugo Rodallega, Mladen Petric and Sascha Reither. They finished a respectable ninth last season and will be hoping for a great start in front of their home fans as they look to get an European place at the end of the season. I think they should be pretty confident as they welcome a side that hasn’t beaten them in six matches.
New signings Robert Snodgrass, Steven Whittaker, Michael Turner and former Barnsley captain Jacob Butterfield will look to help Norwich stay up for the second consecutive year – a tough task if you ask me. The Canaries did extremely well last term but will definitely found the going tougher this year.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: FULHAM WIN
QUEENS PARK RANGERS vs SWANSEA
QPR escaped relegation from the Premier League last season by the skin of their teeth and that has most probably spurred Mark Hughes and the management into a summer-buying spree. They have brought in David Hoilett from Blackburn, Ji-Sung Park, Brazilian defender Fabio, Goalkeeper Robert Green, Forward Andy Johnson; Ryan Nelsen and Malian midfielder Samba Diakite from Nancy. These are all good players and no way they are getting relegated this season.
Swansea would look to consolidate their top-flight status this term after comfortably avoiding relegation last season. They lost their manager in Brendan Rodgers and brought in Michael Laudrap. I think they are in safe hands with the Spaniard in charge. He’s looking to make a name for himself and would definitely do everything in his power to keep the Swans up in their second season.
Swansea have brought in Spanish midfielder Michu, defender Chico from Genoa and Canadian midfielder Jonathan de Guzman on loan.
I’m going with QPR here – they have one hell of a squad and it’d be a shame if they don’t start with a win in front of their fans. I’m a big fan of Michael Laudrap and I’m sure he’ll be fine as months pass.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: QPR WIN
READING vs STOKE CITY
Reading secured direct promotion to the Premier League after winning the 2011-12 English Championship season. Reading will return to the Premier League after an absence of four years and should be pretty relaxed hosting Stoke City – a team they haven’t lost to in six matches.
Stoke City have bored us with their direct, physical style of play for some years now I’m sure most English Premier League fans are used to it now. It may be boring but IT IS EFFECTIVE and if it has turned them into an established Premier League side over the years, I see no reason why manager Tony Pulis should deviate from his philosophy.
This is could turn out to be one borefest….
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: DRAW
WEST BROMWICH ALBION vs LIVERPOOL
Steve Clarke welcomes his former employers this weekend to the Hawthornes looking to stop Brendan Rodgers and his men from leaving with maximum points. He has brought in Romelu Lukaku, Markus Rosenberg, Claudio Yacob, Yassine El Ghanassy and for me the best of them all – Goalkeeper Ben Foster – signed permanently from Birmingham. Clarke will hope that with these players, he can have a memorable season in his first job as a club manager.
(In a previous Blog, I have stated how Liverpool’s season will go, you can check the archives for it.)
Liverpool will get results with Brendan Rodgers in charge, it may take some time but i’m sure he will deliver and it is imperative the Liverpool American owners give him the time to work his magic.
Liverpool have got the overall quality and should get past West Brom.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: LIVERPOOL WIN
WEST HAM vs ASTON VILLA
West Ham United, the third promoted side earned their place among the big boys in the Premier League via a four-team play-off between the Championship teams ranked third through to sixth. Ultimately, third-placed West Ham United defeated fifth-placed Blackpool in the Play-Off Final at Wembley Stadium. West Ham return to the Premier League after only one season of absence.
Big Sam Allardyce isn’t joking around considering his many signings this summer most notably Modibo Maiga, Alou Diarra, Jussi Jaaskelainen, James Collins and Mohammed Diame among many others. Obviously ‘Big Sam’ isn’t looking forward to managing in the Championship anytime soon.
Aston Villa were abysmal most times last season hence no surprises at Alex McLeish’s sacking at the end of their Premier League campaign . Paul Lambert has been handed the reins now and I dare say watch-out for them this season. They have drafted in Dutch defender Ron Vlaar from Feyenoord, Defender Matthew Lowton, Karim El Ahmadi and Brett Holman on a free transfer from AZ Alkmaar.
West have got an experienced Premier League manager in Sam Allardyce and should stay up in the end.
The last time Villa played West Ham on the first day of the Premier League season, Villa won 3-0. Also, the last time these two sides met in the Premier League (April 16, 2011), Aston Villa came out tops.
I think Villa would at least get a draw this time but I’m courageously going all out in this one.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: ASTON VILLA WIN
And on Monday night….
EVERTON vs MANCHESTER UNITED
I’m sure David Moyes is happy to have Steven Pienaar back at Goodison Park. There’s just something about the South-African and the Blue jersey – I think the player and the club were made for each other. Scottish forward Steven Naismith from Rangers has also been drafted in and should share the goal-scoring duties with Nikica Jelavic who had a fantastic five months after his winter purchase last season.
Only once on the five occasions Manchester United have relinquished the Premier League title have they failed to reclaim it at the next attempt – a remarkable record that defines their famed powers of rising to challenges which Sir Alex Ferguson has been preaching all summer.
Manchester United have been boosted with the signing of Robin van Persie from Arsenal. If you needed any proof of how desperate Sir Alex Ferguson is to get the Premier League title back from Manchester City, the Dutch striker’s signing is your cue. Shingi Kagawa has come in and for me, has shown he’ll be a major asset for Manchester United this season.
Manchester United have always found David Moyes’ men a hard nut to crack, especially at their Goodison Park home. Everton are always relishing hosting the big boys and would definitely be pumped up for this first Monday night football in the Premier League.
Hard one to call but I think it will take a very brave man to bet against a Manchester United team led by Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney – a partnership comprising the two top scorers (72 goals between them) in the Premier League last season.
OctopusSaxy’s Verdict: MANCHESTER UNITED WIN
That’s it for the first weekend of the Premier League season. What do you think of my Analysis and Predictions? Let me know by making use of the comments box below and if you enjoyed the piece, could you kindly make use of the share buttons below? Thanks.
Till next time – Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy (Norman Vincent Peale).
Have a great weekend!
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