TEAMtalk's Premier Picks

TT's Premier Picks: Pleased to Michu

Sunday 19th August 2012 19:36

Michu: Celebrates goal for Swansea

Michu: Celebrates goal for Swansea

Magical Michu of Swansea and Fulham's John Arne Riise are among those praised in TEAMtalk's Premier Picks, along with supportive West Ham fans.

TEAMtalk picks out some of the key points from around the grounds on the opening weekend of the Premier League season.

Arsenal 0 Sunderland 0

Even with Robin van Persie and Alex Song out, and three debutants in, it was still a case of 'same old Arsenal' as the Gunners drew a frustrating blank against Sunderland.

Santi Cazorla made an encouraging first impression, but not even he could inspire the hosts to breakdown the stubborn Sunderland defence. The Spaniard saw plenty of the ball in between the Sunderland lines but on the occasions his passes penetrated Martin O'Neill's back four, the Arsenal attack wasted Cazorla's creativity.

Cazorla aside, Arsenal lacked the incisiveness and potency offered to them last year by their now departed captain. Lukas Podolski worked hard but was forced deeper and deeper by Carlos Cuellar and John O'Shea before he retreated to the bench, while Olivier Giroud blew his big chance when he sliced wide late on after Cazorla produced the pass of the match to put his fellow debutant through on Simon Mignolet.

Abou Diaby capably covered for Song's absence, but there was still a spark missing for Arsenal. Arsene Wenger will finish the week almost £40million richer than he started it but, on Saturday's evidence, the cash would be better spent on his side before September 1 rather than sitting in the bank.

Ian Watson

Fulham 5 Norwich 0

With Premier League stalwart Damien Duff and newcomer Mladen Petric grabbing the headlines following Fulham's emphatic 5-0 win over Norwich on Saturday, the performance of John Arne Riise went somewhat unnoticed at Craven Cottage.

Riise was a regular for the Cottagers last season but failed to live up to expectation upon his high-profile arrival from Roma, as the Norwegian looked as though he'd lost some of the quality that made him a fans' favourite during his Liverpool years.

However, if his performance against the Canaries is anything to go by, Riise appears to have rediscovered his determination and desire, producing numerous meaningful runs down the left flank, even after the Cottagers entered cruise control.

At 31, Riise still has plenty to offer boss Martin Jol and, should he build on the early signs that he's back up to Premier League standard, we may well see that trademark left-foot thunderbolt unleashed sooner rather than later.

Jamie Casey

Manchester City 3 Southampton 2

Manchester City fans could be forgiven for harking back to the memory of their dramatic victory over QPR in May. But even they couldn't have anticipated the very next Premier League game at the Etihad Stadium following such a familiar pattern as City took a first-half lead then threatened to throw the game away before winning it late on.

There was even an equaliser from Edin Dzeko and Roberto Mancini will be grateful that the Bosnian played his part after Sergio Aguero was forced off with a worrying knee injury. But with Carlos Tevez back to something like his best, City have options and there was a calmness to them when behind here that should concern their rivals.

Despite wondering what might have been, Southampton will surely be encouraged by their efforts upon the club's return to the top flight after a seven year absence. James Ward-Prowse was a surprise starter but the 17-year-old wasn't the only player adjusting to a step up in class as experienced centre-backs Jose Fonte and Jos Hooiveld were both caught out before the break.

And yet, Saints resilience was inspiring. Rickie Lambert added his not inconsiderable weight to the old truism that natural goalscorers will find the net at any level, while Steven Davis looks a shrewd acquisition from Rangers. Nigel Adkins will know there will be less daunting challenges ahead and if he can keep his side's spirits up, then this could yet be a springboard to success.

Adam Bate

Newcastle 2 Tottenham 1

Tottenham may have edged ahead of Newcastle into fourth spot last season but it was the Magpies who claimed the three points in the season opener on Saturday. It was a heated contest, although much of the fire was in the dugout.

Alan Pardew was sent to the stands after pushing a referee's assistant before Andre Villas-Boas was a picture of unconfined joy when Jermain Defoe equalised. But a bit of trickery from Hatem Ben Arfa won a penalty and the Frenchman converted to ensure it was the Newcastle boss who was smiling at the end.

And well he might. Newcastle have retained their star names and added quality to the squad with the addition of Vurnon Anita. Even Demba Ba is scoring again. Perhaps the only concern would be the slack defending from Danny Simpson that allowed Aaron Lennon to cross for the equaliser - and the signing of Mathieu Debuchy could yet boost the team at right-back.

With Tottenham, things may not run so smoothly on this showing. Defoe is an improved player when it comes to linking the play but Spurs still look light on attacking options and without Luka Modric prompting from midfield, Villas-Boas is in dire need of some invention in his midfield too.

Adam Bate

QPR 0 Swansea 5

This was supposed to the game where QPR showed they have moved to the next level after a summer of major investment at Loftus Road. But while Park Ji-Sung, Fabio da Silva and Junior Hoilett were in the line-up, any repeat of this scoreline will have Hoops fans wondering if the level they're heading for is the Championship.

In truth, Mark Hughes' side were chasing the game from inside the first 10 minutes when Michu gave Swansea the lead and their second-half desperation led to a score that flattered the visitors. But take nothing away from the Swans - this was a stunning riposte to suggestions they may suffer from 'second-season syndrome'.

On this evidence, it could be quite the opposite. Laudrup has used his knowledge of the Spanish league to bring in players such as the aforementioned Michu, Jonathan de Guzman and Chicho. Michu bagged a brace here and the Swansea boss has reason to be confident his acquisitions can make light of the loss of Joe Allen and the potential exit of Scott Sinclair, who came off the bench to make it five here.

Adam Bate

Reading 1 Stoke 1

Reading showed the battling qualities on Saturday which will stand them in good stead as they seek to retain their top flight status.

Despite a 34th minute howler from Adam Federici which gifted Michael Kightly a goal on his Stoke debut, Brian McDermott's side showed the steely determination which took them to last season's Championship crown.

Reading new-boy Garath McCleary showed his worth coming off the bench and winning the penalty, while Adam Le Fondre was unfazed on his top flight debut to notch the leveller.

Tony Pulis sought clarification after referee Kevin Friend allowed the game to continue before bringing play back and awarding the penalty.

But, after a slow start, he will have seen plenty to be pleased about, with Jon Walters particularly impressive upfront and Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross commanding in the centre of defence.

Steve Pass

West Brom 3 Liverpool 0

West Brom will be pleased to have Zoltan Gera back in their ranks after a lengthy injury lay-off, with the Hungarian scoring a sublime wonder-goal. He smoothly used his chest to bring down a cleared corner before smashing his effort home from 25 yards.

Another key performer for the Baggies was Shane Long and the striker enjoyed a bright display, but a low point was his awful penalty which he dawdled to take before trickling it agonisingly into the waiting gloves of Pepe Reina.

Despite that penalty miss, Albion were the better side against a below-par Liverpool, who were let down by an ineffectual Downing on the wing, with the England international contributing some woeful crosses.

Another problem for Brendan Rodgers' side was the familiar lack of finishing, with Luis Suarez fluffing his lines on several occasions.

Rachel Griffiths

West Ham 1 Aston Villa 0

West Ham will be happy to have signed defender James Collins for the second time because he was a rock at the back for the hosts. They grew with confidence as the game went on and deserved the win.

Ricardo Vaz Te and Mohamed Diame will be an important figure for Sam Allardyce's side this season. Both impressed and took the game to the opposition.

The moment of the match was when Vaz Te bamboozled Nathan Baker with a sumptuous piece of skill on the near touchline.

What will please the Hammers most will be how the fans got behind their side when things weren't going quite so well as the opposition started the brighter and kept possession for long periods.

Their home form will be vital in their fight against the drop.

Raz MirzaWigan 0 Chelsea 2

Eden Hazard deservedly stole the headlines as Chelsea beat Wigan and his was the performance of the match. Contributing to both of the Blues' goals, he couldn't have asked for a better debut.

Unfortunately for the Latics their new signing Ivan Ramis had a drastically different first appearance and had to be a contender for worst debut of the weekend. The centre-back made an error which led to the opening goal before conceding a penalty in a torrid opening few minutes.

Ramis did improve as Wigan found their feet and the hosts pushed Chelsea hard towards the end, with substitute Jordi Gomez deserving a mention for his audacious overhead kick which he very nearly pulled off.

Rachel Griffiths

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