After a 91 day summer break, we dawn the long sleeves and gloves, and kick the pipes for the first time in the 2012/13 Barclays Premier League season, this is the Monday Morning Keeper!
For those of you who haven't followed us before, "the Keeper", is a recap of the weekends matches looking at the major story lines and trends throughout the league. This season we have added several new features that should offer up good talking points for our audience while keeping the overall feel the same.
Match of the Weekend - Newcastle v Tottenham
Being the first week of the season, it is hard to point to a single match and say this is the marquee match-up that everyone will be looking at, but Newcaslte and Tottenham had the most potential to be a terrific game, and it turned out to be just that.
The Spurs and Magpies finished fourth and fifth in the league last season, respectively, but due to Chelsea's surprise win in Champions League, both will find themselves playing in the Europa League this season. Ironically enough, Chelsea's manager for most of last season, Andre Villas-Boas, signed on as the new manager for Tottenham in the off-season. Most pointed to Newcastle keeper Tim Krul as the reason for the team's success last season, nothing more could be truer with several fantastic saves in the first and second half laying out left and right.
While the first half was quite the second ramped up quickly with Demba Ba putting the Magpies up in the 55th minute only to be answered by a soft goal by Jermain Defoe in the 76th minute for the Spurs. Then Newcastle's manager, Alan Pardew was sent to the stands for pushing the fourth official after a sideline call gone bad. No matter, a tackle by Rafael Van der Vaart on Ben Arfa in the box and the referee pointed to the spot which Ben Arfa took and converted. And while there were one or two more chances by both teams, Newcastle picked up the win and three points to continue their form from last season.
Statistic of the Weekend - 36 points
Last season marked the only the second time in twenty years that all three promoted teams, Swansea, Norwich, and Queens Park, all managed to stay in the Premier League. This season the teams from Reading, Southampton, and West Ham look to do the same by playing for every point and for every goal in hopes of staying in the top seventeen.
While historically the number promoted teams aimed for was forty points to remain safe, statistics show that the actual number is just below 36 points to reach that goal. In the last five season the difference between staying up and being relegated was decided by a single point or less (goal differential), so the race to 36 is on for these new teams along with some of the "bottom feeders" who made through from last year. If you are wondering, West Ham won over Aston Villa, Reading managed a 1-1 draw with Stoke City, and Southampton were defeated late by reigning league champions Manchester City.
Star of the Weekend - Every player not named Clint Dempsey at Fulham
Perhaps the second biggest story coming into the kick-off of the season, behind Robin Van Persie's move to Manchester United, was Fulham striker Clint Dempsey's unresolved transfer request. Dempsey finished fourth in the league in scoring last season, carrying the team to a ninth place finish almost on his foot alone. With one season left on his contract with Fulham, Dempsey had requested a transfer to one of "big teams" in the league so we could have a chance at European tournament play.
But with the issue unresolved coming into Saturday the fans of Craven Cottage looked a bit concerned at just how the team would react without their leading scorer. The Cottagers answered with a resounding, "who are yah", by putting up five goals against Norwich showing that no one player makes the team, it's the sum of the parts. While we hope the Dempsey issue gets resolved this week, we take our hat off to the rest of the team for keeping their focus on the match and putting the ball in the net.
With Manchester United and Everton still left to play on Monday, here is a look at the top and bottom four in the table through Sunday's matches:
1. Swansea - 3 points, +5 GD (1-0-0)
2. Fulham - 3 points, +5 GD (1-0-0)
3. West Brom - 3 points, +3 GD (1-0-0)
4. Chelsea - 3 points, +2 GD (1-0-0)
17. Wigan - 0 points, -2 GD (0-0-1)
18. Liverpool - 0 points, -3 GD (0-0-1)
19. Norwich - 0 points, -5 GD (0-0-1)
20. Queens Park - 0 points, -5 GD (0-0-1)