FOOTBALL An extraordinary start to the Premier League
Shocks galore on opening day of new campaign
What an extraordinary beginning for the Premier, alias the greed is good, League. And what huge irony in the fact that Brendan Rodgers, having elected to leave Swansea City where he had built up such a fine close-passing team last season to be manager for Liverpool – taking their gifted young midfielder Joe Allen with him – should come such cropper at West Bromwich Albion, where his team, who’d lost there only once in decades, crashed 3-0. While Swansea, under the new management of Michael Laudrup, thrashed Queens Park Rangers 5-0 on their own Shepherds Bush ground. This was a humiliating defeat which ended in what seemed utter demoralisation, which I was there to see with disbelief.
Laudrup, in his playing day, was a refulgent star inside-forward for his native Denmark, for Barcelona where he spent numerous seasons, for their bitter rivals Real Madrid and for Juventus in Turin. He was a supremely elegant, inventive and effective player, to whom once even the King of Spain cheerfully deferred when they happened to cross paths in a restaurant.
He has wasted no time in using his Spanish contacts, derived from his time with such teams as Getafe and Mallorca, to reinforce a Swansea team which already seems set to embark on a new tactically astute adventure. Last Saturday, one admired all three of the players he had brought from Spain at, as he said afterwards, surprisingly modest prices. The man of the match was surely the rangy attacker, Michu, whose second splendidly struck goal, first time, was praised, afterwards, by Laudrup.
Michu arrived from unfashionable Rayo Vallecano, where last season he scored 15 goals. As for QPR, who bought no fewer than eight new players during the summer, invertebrate, alas, seemed the relevant word. Only 1-0 down at half time, they looked dismally shaky, and they simply collapsed in the closing phases, Swansea’s last three goals being virtual gifts.
As for Liverpool at Albion, they were largely outplayed by the home team, with that splendid Nigerian attacker in Peter Odemwinge, a scorer, in fine form, even affording itself the luxury of missing a penalty, though they did convert another. True, Liverpool had Daniel Agger, who conceded one of those spot-kicks, sent off, but it was hardly a valid excuse for their sad demise. It could have been worse, and you wonder now whether Rodgers, against his tactical beliefs, will be forced to think again about using that traditional English centre forward Andy Carroll as more than the late sub he was at the Hawthorns. However, his style doesn’t suit Rodgers.
Fulham’s 5-0 thrashing at Craven Cottage of Norwich was another surprise, the more so as they did it without last season’s top-scorer, the American Clint Dempsey, who has been a seeming refusenik, anxious to join Liverpool, who, in the event, seemed to cool off. Perhaps now they will acquire him. In the absence of Dempsey, Fulham found a new marksman in the impressive Bosnian, Mladen Petric.
And whither Arsenal, now, to their dismay, deprived of Robin Van Persie, gone to Manchester United? They looked toothless against Sunderland; but why sell Alex Song to Barcelona?