Belgian – Eden Hazard has lit up the Premier League with six assists and one goal in three games
Graceful Swans flying high
Ciaran: Swansea. ‘Swansalona.’ A team who proved last season that a side can be promoted to the Premier League, play good football and succeed. After Brendan Rodgers moved to Liverpool, Michael Laudrup was announced as manager and, strangely, many pundits tipped them for relegation. Now, it’s only two games into the season, but it’s looking like they could be proven very, very wrong. After two matches Swansea are flirting with the top of the table and have the greatest goal difference of any team in the league (+8) by virtue of two big wins; 0-5 away to QPR and 3-0 at home to West Ham. It can be argued that both of these opponents are not the most difficult Swansea could have faced but it needs to be remembered that QPR have splashed the cash in an attempt to strengthen their squad and West Ham were tipped by some to stay up whilst Swansea are relegated.
A key factor in Swansea’s impressive opening start to the season has been the signings they have brought in – the most impressive being the Spaniard, Michu. After losing out on Gylfi Siggurdson’s signature, a midfielder who would score goals was needed, Laudrup pulled off a coup of in getting a midfielder who was the top scorer in his position in La Liga last season for a fee of only £2m. So far this season Michu has 3 goals and an assist, an impressive return which, if continued, could see him be one of the signings of the season.
Another signing who has impressed for the Swans is defender ‘Chico’ Flores. Signed for £2m from Genoa, the defender has played in the heart of the defence for both games and has helped Laudrup’s side to keep two clean-sheets and almost got onto the scoresheet versus QPR, seeing his header rebound off the crossbar. Two more midfield signings featured for Swansea against West Ham, the first being Canadian Jonathan De Guzman on a season long loan from Villarreal. De Guzman is a player the manager knows well, having managed him at Mallorca in the 10-11 season. The other, record-signing Ki, did not play in the match but was paraded to the home fans before the game, following his transfer from Celtic. Laudrup has strengthened the side well and if they can keep their performances at the level they are at currently, Swansea could have a very good season.
It’s going to take time for Paul Lambert and Villa
Ian: The ex-Norwich manager is third manager in three seasons, having replaced Alex McLeish last season and while Lambert was touted as a breath of fresh air to rid the club of the malaise that has blighted it, but has endured a difficult start at the helm at Villa Park. Villa are now 12 games without a win, their last coming in March. Lambert showed himself to be adaptable and tactically astute at Norwich last season. Villa have kept the ball better in their opening two games, but have lost on both occasions. Time is not something managers get a lot of today in football, but Lambert needs it, because it looks as if it will be a hard slog for him this season.
Wayne Rooney is now droppable
Ian: Those that witnessed Manchester United’s defeat to Everton on Monday night will have saw how Wayne Rooney huffed and puffed around the pitch for 90 minute. The England international looked short of match-fitness, while his first-touch was particularly poor, highlighted when Shinji Kagawa attempted to link up with him on a couple of occasions only for Rooney to scuff the ball. It was no surprise then, to see that United lined-up this afternoon with Rooney on the bench, with Robin van Persie being given his home debut. Rooney, despite scoring 27 league goals last season, did look unfit at many stages, but Ferguson persisted with him. Now, with the signing of van Persie, Rooney’s place has come under threat. The Dutchman, along with Kagawa, Ashley Young and Antonio Valencia looked incredible fluid against Fulham. Rooney did come in the second-half, but was stretcher off and brought to hospital after a particularly nasty gash on his leg. Van Persie’s home debut ended with a goal, while Rooney looks set to be ruled out for up to four weeks.
The Toffees make a flying start
Ian: We have been hearing for years now, how well David Moyes has done on a restricted budget at Everton and after over ten years in charge now he seems to have done it again. Slow starts have hindered the Toffees in recent seasons, before their customary flourish towards the end of the season, where they make a push for the European places. After successive seventh place finishes Moyes’ side have won their opening two games of the season, for the first time since August 2007 – the Toffees are now unbeaten in their last 11 Premier League games, stretching back to last season. With Steven Naismith, Steven Pienaar and Kevin Mirallas all arriving this summer and no injuries to report thus far, everything looks to have clicked into place, after 1-0 win and a 1-3 win over Manchester United and Aston Villa respectively.
Belgians – the Premier League’s new guilty pleasure
Ciaran: So far this season we have seen Chelsea’s Eden Hazard assist 6 goals and score one in just 2 games. Everton’s Marouane Fellaini also received many plaudits for his magnificent performance in their opening fixture against Manchester United, which he capped off with a goal, and his second headed goal of the season today helped Everton to a three-nil victory against Aston Villa. A player that has long impressed is finally being recognised for just how good he can be.
Everton also have another Belgian in their ranks, in Kevin Mirallas; who made his debut for the Toffees today, the pacey forward had the ball in the back of the Villa net but it was ruled out due to an offside call. Elsewhere Moussa Dembele, put in an impressive performance for Fulham against Manchester United and defender Jan Vertonghen played a part in what was almost a Tottenham clean-sheet – but for a late West Brom goal. Romelu Lukaku also played in this match, looking to secure his second goal in two games. Lukaku had a tough first season in England, getting few chances with Chelsea, but a loan move to West Bromwich Albion looks to have reinvigorated him and given him a new confidence and he threatened the Spurs goal on occasions. He could cause problems to many defensive lines across the country this season.