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EPL Week One: A Look Back

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The English Premier League is back, and not a minute too soon. After months of transfers and coaches hirings and firings and rumors and speculation on how the new EPL season would eventually shake out, we are finally into the season. No more wondering, the games are on and we will find out soon enough who the real contenders and fake pretenders are.

Since the EPL is clearly the most popular league among SBI readers I decided to not only create a Fantasy EPL League (which kicked off with more than 300 members), but also to add an EPL correspondent to the SBI stable. That correspondent will be James Tyler of The Unprofessional Foul, who will bring us his weekly musings on the world of the English Premier League.

Now, without further ado, here is James to give us his take on the first week of the EPL season:

Christmas in August as the EPL returns

By JAMES TYLER

Welcome back EPL, we’re so glad to have you back.

The droop between Euro ’08 and the beginning of the EPL season was, for me, the break-out-the-Tums time. The wait was full of angst and agony, seeing big-name players arrive at clubs who didn’t need them while the middle-of-the-table sides scrapped for each other’s leftovers. Barry stayed put at Villa, Ronaldo backed down, and Ronaldinho laughed at Manchester City’s attempted courtship.

However, the opening weekend of the EPL season is my Christmas, as all the gossip is set aside and we get our first look at the contenders and pretenders.

So how did it all shake out?

While most would focus on the big 4’s fortunes this weekend (including Chelsea’s easy 4-0 win over UEFA Cup hopefuls Pompey and Man U’s surprising 1-1 at home to Newcastle), the biggest story comes from Yorkshire. Hull City is in English football’s highest division for the first time in their history, and they capped the crowning achievement with a well-deserved, come-from-behind win over last year’s basement dwellers, Fulham.

The London side that barely avoided relegation last year made the long trip up north and were outclassed by the newcomers, who deserved that 81st minute smash-and-grab by Caleb Folan, started by Craig Fagan’s pickpocketing of Paul Konchesky on the edge of the box. Fagan’s square pass across the area left goalie Schwarzer way out of position and Folan had a simple tap-in to send the crowd at KC Stadium into delirium.

These flashes of theft and robbery might be exactly what Hull City need to stay in the Premier League, but for one week, they’re on Cloud 9. It’s always nice to get off to a good start, but they’ll need another 40 points this season to stay up, and it’s a lot easier to get them early.

Robbery was the theme of the weekend; Blackburn stole 3 points at Goodison Park from an Everton side that never knows when to quit, Liverpool nicked a win at Sunderland thanks to a moment of brilliance from Torres, arguably the world’s best striker, Villa striker Gabriel Agbonlahor grabbed 3 opportunistic goals in 8 minutes against Man City in a 4-2 home win, and ‘Boro took 3 from Spurs, arguably the off-season’s biggest bandwagon. 

Tottenham made the biggest splashes in the transfer market, selling off their iconic striker Robbie Keane (who made a name for himself in the worst way this weekend, blocking his own strike-mate’s certain goal when the game was still tied at 0-0) and spending big on Croatian midfielder Luka Modric and Blackburn’s best young asset, winger David Bentley.

And yet, all the pomp and optimism wasn’t enough. After an impressive pre-season with tons of goals, ‘Boro were far more awake and scored two well-deserved goals in the last 20 minutes after having a clear goal waved off in the first-half. An injury-time own goal gave them some jitters, but they held on for a 2-1 win.

The other big story of the weekend involved financial robbery of a different kind. Former Chelsea striker and Romanian international Adrian Mutu was ordered to repay 13.68 million pounds in damages to the club after FIFA ruled him in breach of contract. In 2003, Chelsea paid 15 million for him, only to sack him a year later after he tested positive for cocaine and was given a seven-month worldwide ban from the beautiful game.

There will be an appeal, but it brings home the gravity of this game we love so much. For all the on-field drama, there is plenty that takes place off it (Barton, Di Canio, and now Mutu), and while some of it is especially unsavory, I’m just glad to have it back. Adrian will probably not be forced to pay all of the damages upon appeal, but it’s refreshing to see players getting punished for their transgressions.

Welcome back, EPL. May all your weekends be this eventful.

Comments

  1. sublicon: So if a person has no roots with a particular city in England, and perhaps no reason to passionately support a club, but still wants to watch the EPL and support Amecans there, they’re a moron? It’s great if you feel the love and have a team but chill out on people who don’t

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  2. YAY to the Toon! What a start!

    I mean, who cares that ManU was missing Ronaldo and Tevez? A point at Old Trafford is a great thing.

    And who cares that we’re so paper thin that we din’t even use a single sub in that game? We never have injury problems on Tyneside.

    I’ll be in my cave drinking if anyone needs me.

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  3. People who hang in comment threads acting like sociopaths (subguy) are worse than river leeches.

    On topic: Glad to see Boro, the all around nicest and homiest team in the top floght, get an early win.

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  4. Sam, Man Utd. Tied a Newcastle team with out its other two strikers and I hate to say it Joey Barton. But whatever makes you feel better.

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  5. So Sublicon, somebody is a moron because he wants to have as many Nats playing in the premiership as possible? You got busted, and now you result in internet bullying because you’re embarrassed. Glad to see your as much of a douche here as you are on BS.

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  6. Its not surprising at all the Man Utd(not Man U) only got a point. They were missing Tevez, Ronaldo, Nani, Anderson, Hargreaves, Park, and Saha. Rooney is not fully fit and Carrick got injured early in the first half. Giggs is past it and Scholes needs more help defensively these days. Being forced to play a few young reserve players, it was expecting too much to get all three points.

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  7. RK: I can read fine. Either way, you’re still a moron – especially if you think EJ deserves to start in a Premiership club. He’s garbage and will be loaned out any minute now.

    Sonic: I’ve already identified the moron, but you can join the club if you like. There’s open enrollment all year long.

    I never cease to be amazed at people’s views and ideas on teams abroad, especially when it has to deal with teams that Americans are on, and especially these are people that don’t actually support a team, or are “[insert team with Americans here] sympathizers” who have a “soft spot” and have a knack for coming up with stupid statements like RK’s.

    That sound you hear is me smacking my forehead in disbelief. Support Fulham or don’t support Fulham. Reading went down because they scored 3 fewer goals than Fulham had last season, a stat wasn’t helped any by your boy Bobby Convey. Btw, Dempsey scored 6 goals last season – each of which were vital.

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  8. I found the start of the season fun, but ultimately unfulfilling.

    As exciting as it is to watch great soccer, there is just something wrong with a league in which you know going in that only four teams have a chance to win.

    I watched a lot of the Blackburn-Everton game, but thought afterward “these two teams are fighting for somewhere between 7 and 11.” I honestly don’t know why fans of the middling teams in the EPL put up with it.

    Oh well, hopefully the Gunners will play inspiring football that’s fun to watch.

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  9. RK, let me get this straight . . you now wish Fulham had gone down, because they got beat by Hull City in the first match of the this season. Furthermore, you wish Reading, a newly relegated team who couldn’t even win their first match in the Championship, had stayed up?

    . . . how does it feel to be a moron? I’m curious.

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  10. The last weekend of the season, I was hoping that Fulham would stay up and the expense of Reading, because they had more Americans. I wish it had gone the other way, now.

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  11. Torres: had a miserable game but there is no substitute for pure ability.

    Chelsea: Add Deco, Bosingwa, and a Big Fil and you get…scary.

    Man U and Arsenal: unimpressive but hey…it’s week one.

    Villa: Dangerous…there is a LOT of talent on this team.

    Fulham: What’s up Roy…your leading scorer from last year doesn’t make the starting XI?

    Tottenham: I hope it’s a blip because that’s too many good players and too good a coach to look that bad.

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  12. I cannot imagine Mutu being forced to pay back that money… when he was not the one who received it. It’s the clubs fault on both ends. Huge legal joke. He could pay some of his ‘bonus’ or wages… but when you’re ‘purchasing a (human) contract from another team’ you should be liable. I think Mutu was a joke for what he did, but Chelsea should take responsibilty when you buy a player that things happen and possibly have clauses from the selling team.

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