Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Morning Keeper - EPL Week 2

I believe it was Elvis who said, "a little less conversation, a little more action (baby)," and that's exactly what we got this weekend with a plethora of scoring and a number of good matches. The marquee match-up from the Saturday/Sunday pairings was the top two teams after week 1, Bolton and Man City, squaring off in a northwest derby that did not disappoint. With both teams scoring 4 goals in their opening matches, offense was the name of the game and after a very scrappy first 25 minutes with a number of uncalled fouls and rough tackles, David Silva lit it up from 20 yards out with a knuckleball bounce pass an out-stretched Jaaskelainen. A short time later, "ordinary" midfielder Gareth Barry fired a cracker of a shot that nearly decapitated Micah Richards on its way to the upper right corner of the net. It seemed like Man City was once again having it's way with it's opponent. However Bolton stormed right back with Ivan Klasnic going five-hole on Joe Hart from close range to pull within one goal before half time. A sloppy start from Bolton in the second half allowed for the "non-crossing midfielder" James Milner to actually complete a cross to Edin Dzeko who put it in the back of the net. Although Kevin Davies scored for the Wanderers in the 63rd minute, it never really looked like Bolton was a threat to take the lead as City showed fluidity with passing the likes of which the team hasn't seen in recent memory. In the final 20 minutes the pace of play caught up to Bolton and City just played keep-away until the final whistle blew. An impressive display for both teams, but clearly Mancini is willing to let the players loose early and it is going to come down to conditioning if you want to hang with City this season.

I made sure to catch the Wolves v Fulham match on Sunday as well, after Mike McCarthy's squad picked up 3 points in the first week, I figured it was a fluke. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is virtually the same Wolverhampton squad who fought off relegation on the final day of last season only because of Blackpool's misfortune? Well beating Blackburn in the opening week is one thing, but surely Fulham, missing their first match due to the riots, would be well rest and coming out of the gates hard. The first half of the match consisted mainly of warm-up drills from both teams with no real scoring chances, the exception being Kevin Doyle who had a great shot miss the target earlier in the half and who looked thirsty for a tick on the scorers sheet. Mr. Doyle had his wish granted with pass from Matthew Jarvis and a quick shot past the keeper Schwarzer. Jarvis had his fix a shortly before the intermission with a pinball bounce off a header, collecting the ball and putting it in the net. The second half had more opportunities from both sides, but around the 70th minute Fulham looked like they had run out of answers and substitutions were making no impact. Dempsey had one solid attempt in the 79th minute that was blocked by an outstretched defender, but Clint was otherwise not a factor in the match. Granted Bobby Zamora wasn't in the line-up, but this did not look like the Fulham of last season, perhaps there are still some cobwebs to shake off before they head to Newcastle next weekend. For the Wolves, it's their best start since the 1998/99 season and 6 points that could mean the difference in the relegation fight at the end of the season. Relegation? Aren't the Wolves near the top of the table? Yes, but they are still the Wolves and they will have to draw or beat the likes of United, City, or Chelsea on the road before I will become a believer.

Elsewhere in the league, QPR shook off their humiliating 0-4 loss at home in week one to head to Everton and pick-up their first victory of the season with a 1-0 result. Arsenal looked like a punctured tire shredding pieces down the highway as they just fell apart during the second half of the Liverpool match to lose 2-0. Arsene Wenger is still holding out on spending all of that transfer money until the right player becomes available, but the transfer window is closing at the end of the week and Arsenal is in need of some serious help. Villa and Chelsea both picked up victories at home while Newcastle was win the first round of this season's Wear-Tyne derby at Sunderland. Tottenham starts their post-riot season at Manchester United today with what should be an exciting match, if for no other reason, because Ian Darke and Steve McManaman have the call on ESPN2.

Early points in the season sometimes make the difference between relegation and staying up or from Champions League and Europa League play. Manchester City and Wolverhampton both seem to be taking advantage of these early matches and the Monday match should give us a better idea of where Manchester United stands as well. Here is the top and bottom of the table after Week 2:

1. Man City – 6 pts, +5 GD (2-0-0)
2. Wolverhampton – 6 pts, +3 GD (2-0-0)
3. Aston Villa – 4 pts, +2 GD (1-1-0)
4. Liverpool – 4 pts, +2 GD (1-1-0)
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17. Tottenham – 0 pts, 0 GD (0-0-0)
18. Everton – 0 pts, -1 GD (0-0-1)
19. West Brom – 0 pts, -2 GD (0-0-2)
20. Blackburn – 0 pts, -3 GD (0-0-2)

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