- I Hart the Premier League
Did you ever see the movie Office Space where they guy makes the ‘jump to conclusions’ mat? His idea was to craft something similar to the pet rock which made some guy named Gary Dahl a cool million+ in the 70’s. Such it was that the character in the movie gets smashed to bits in a car accident and ends up a millionaire stemming from a settlement or insurance claim as opposed to his not-so-genius idea of the mat coming to fruition.
My point post ‘drivel’ is that after some pretty cool results over the first weekend, it would be wise for football fans to not jump to conclusions concerning the eventual fate of Premier League clubs 1-20. It’s only the first week people. Enjoy your result, unless it was a bad one, and focus on week two. One week in the Premier League does not a Champion or Championship side make. Chelsea were always going to thrash WBA, Blackpool were always going to have the spirit of champions running through their blood after their promotion, and oppositely, Tottenham are rarely going to be held scoreless at home. As far as the aforementioned Blackpool, what an impressive result and breath of fresh air for a newly promoted side.
Since this column is largely devoted to individual performances, I’ll press on with a few worthy ones and then the standout performance of the week. As always, or if you’re new to EPL Talk, if I missed someone by not watching all ten matches, tell me about it.
Honorable Mentions –
Marc Albrighton, Aston Villa – the Villains were left a little short handed at the beginning of the week when Martin O’Neill left the club just a few days before the start of the season. Credit to Kevin MacDonald who got the lads together for a fine performance at home v West Ham. Aston Villa never lacked for attacking options in their home opener as a five man midfield of Albrighton, James Milner, Ashley Young, Stewart Downing and Stiliyan Petrov ran riot on the Hammers all afternoon. It was one of those matches where regardless of the final score, the term “it really could have been more” will be used to describe the events of the day accurately.
Tactical Note: one thing I noticed about Villa’s five man midfield is that the midfield three of Albrighton, Downing and Young seemed to change positions to confuse the West Ham defense. Albrighton started the first half on the right but his second half assist came from his well placed ball to Milner when he was on the left. Milner and Petrov were largely stuck slightly deeper in midfield controlling the flow while the other three (Young and Downing often in tandem on the left, Albrighton on the right) took turns running at defenders. Villa’s formation played out as a very attacking 4-2-3-1 with John Carew occupying the 1.
Albrighton impressed me with his darting runs down the right flank and his service into the box largely because I knew of him the least. Who was this new, young mystery man that was embarrassing the West Ham defense (James Tomkins on the left, then Herita Ilunga on the right) with almost each touch of the ball?
Villa fans will want more of the same from Albrighton who recently made his England U21 debut as their sense of uncertainty just a few days ago starts to wane. He’s a hard-working midfielder who tracked back to defend all day and showed his talent with the ball at his feet. Could Albrighton be the young English talent so many want to see emerge this season? Definitely a strong performance on Saturday, but let’s not jump to conclusions.
Milan Jovanovic, Liverpool – although the newly acquired Serb didn’t last the full 90 and didn’t necessarily leave his stamp on the 1-1 draw with Arsenal, I, along with Liverpool fans admired his display in the center of the pitch with his hard fighting style. The former Standard Liege player showed glimpses of the kind of player Liverpool lacked last season en route to a 7th place finish.
In the eighth minute, Jovanovic showed just why Liverpool purchased the 29 year old Serbian international when he picked up the ball in the center of the park and marauded past Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna shoving him to the ground as he charged forward. Sagna recovered only to be shrugged off again as the Anfield faithful roared Jovanovic’s achievements. Jovanovic then found Dirk Kuyt on the right flank before continuing his run forward into the box and when Kuyt crossed, Jovanovic was just a few feet from heading home. A nice move from Liverpool that didn’t result in a goal, but it was the ambitious announcement Liverpool fans craved early on.
Premier League Footballer of the Week –
Joe Hart, Manchester City – Hart was the sole reason City didn’t go into the break away to Spurs 2-0 down, if not more. Hart’s performance was more than a man of the match display, it was a hero of the match in my book. Part brick wall, part Mr. Fantastic stretching and elongating his body to produce brilliant saves, Hart proved he’s the best English keeper in the league.
Hart’s performance came at the most opportune of times as City boss Roberto Mancini placed former #1 Shay Given on the bench in place of Hart. A controversial decision for City supporters that they prayed would pay off in their favor. If you watched the match, you know it did. If you didn’t watch it, Hart’s performance was one of those that you heard about later in the day at the pub or from friends on the Internet. As impressive as Spurs were in the first half, I got the distinct feeling that they’d find no way past Hart on the day. He was that commanding.
Whether it’s on loan with Birmingham City or at his main club Manchester City, Joe Hart proved he belongs no where near the bench for club or country. Conclusion officially jumped.