Neal Thurman

Yahoo! Premier League

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Monday PL Wrap-up

Monday, August 19, 2013

What a first week it was.  As expected, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea looked every bit the title contenders that they will be.  Tottenham looked like the favorites for fourth even without Gareth Bale in the line-up even if they did look a bit out of sorts at the beginning of the match as a bunch of new pieces tried to fit together.  Liverpool were a mixed bag of profligate attacking and shakey defending but between Daniel Sturridge's strike and Simon Mignolet's penalty save they did enough to overcome some concerning issues. Arsenal, well, they were unlucky with the officiating but they were the architects of their own demise.  Outside of the "big" teams, Fulham went against type and scored an away victory, Southampton showed promise with a mix of academy products and big signings, Norwich got an important goal from their new forward for a point, and Hull showed some promise against Chelsea once Tom Huddlestone was introduced in the second half.  It was a rotten day in Wales as Cardiff were barely present and Swansea capitulated to Manchester United in an unexpected way given all of the momentum they brought with them from an active summer.

Team trends are always worthwhile but what about key information about individual players new and old and how they fared on the first weekend of the season.  You already know about the studs like Robin van Persie who did what we expect them to do but we want to make sure you picked up on all of the unexpected occurrances that might have some meaning going forward: 

  • Danny Welbeck - He has already doubled his goal production from last season which is sort of a big deal.  Whether he continues to get the playing time to be worth starting remains to be seen but he certainly didn't do anything to hurt his cause, did he?  
  • Juan Mata - We've heard rumors that Jose Mourinho isn't particularly fond of last season's PL assist leader and we found that out for sure that Mata isn't sure starter, or even a sure thing to get an appearance off the bench.  It seems unlikely that he has been demoted permanently but it DOES mean that he's a risk not to start each and every week that Chelsea have other healthy options to flank their central forward. 
  • Daniel Sturridge - He looked really good and if he'd been luckier his total could have been even higher. 
  • Oscar - Unlike Mata who seems like a big risk, Oscar looked like he has taken a big step forward and seems likely to play regularly. 
  • Roberto Soldado - He's a really good player, that's all.
  • Seamus Coleman - Despite his big match, I'm having trouble recommending that you pick up a guy listed as a midfielder who is playing at the back no matter how well he did in Week 1. 
  • Joe Cole - Remember, he did this last season too - scored early and then did )*% all for about a month after he suckered us in. Not saying it WILL happen again, just saying that you've been warned. 
  • Nacer Chadli - He made a massive improvement between the pre-season match against Espanyol and his Premier League debut.  He appears to have the physical abilities to be effective after a few more weeks of getting acclimated to the league. 
  • Etienne Capoue/Paulinho/Fernandinho - Three important holding midfielders that all looked very good.  Capoue was particularly effective intercepting 6 passes in a substitute apperance.  We'll get to this topic later in the list but unless this was a huge outlier for him, this will be a huge deal given the tweaks to the scoring system. 
  • Steven Whittaker - He was injured at the beginning of last season and it took him some time to adjust after coming over from Scotland but he started off the season with a bang with a goal and an assist.  His price is low enough that he's worth a start next week against Hull. 
  • Steve Brady - He looked dangerous and got seven points despite Hull being dominated for most of the match.
  • Ross Barkley - In addition to his goal he had a solid return of phantom points if he can keep his starting spot after Darron Gibson returns to health. 
  • Jonjo Shelvey - He didn't have the most productive of matches but he was taking set pieces and things will get better for Swansea once the competition gets a little less intense and the price is right.  The only concern is whether he loses out on starts and/or set pieces when Jonathan De Guzman returns to full health. 
  • Jesus Navas - He looked like a different player compared to the pre-season match against Arsenal but it is hard to say how much was him playing better and how much was the fact that Newcastle decided not to show up.  
  • Negredo, Jovetic, Podolski, Kagawa, and Kone - All joined Juan Mata as surprises on the bench to start the season - there were cases where some players like Santi Cazorla didn't start due to travel due to their international matches but there was no hint of those sorts of issues reported on any of these guys.
  • [UPDATE] - Jeremy pointed out that I should have explained why - other than big names and large transfer fees - that the exclusion of the above gentlemen were surprises to me.
    • Negredo did travel for Spain but he had two extra days to recover and I've been conditioned by Mancini to think that if there's an alternative, any alternative, that Dzeko will sit.  Mancini obviously feels differently.
    • I missed Jovetic's injury report - he played as a sub in City's final pre-season match and in Friday's Team News there was an implication that he was in line for a debut either as a starter or from the bench. 
    • Lukas Podolski famously had a hard time finishing matches last season but he did start 25 matches in the league last season and with Gervinho gone his spot seemed more secure rather than less.  With Oxlade-Chamberlain's injury we won't have much of a chance to see whether this was a temporary or permanent change in the depth chart. 
    • That Ryan Giggs started over Shinji Kagawa in the Community Shield could easily be interpreted, as I did, that David Moyes wanted to be respectful of his veteran players on his competitive debut - especially in a match that United would likely have won with any combination of their starters. I was expecting that Kagawa would supplant Giggs for the competitive start of the season. 
    • At the moment of Arouna Kone's arrival at Everton he seemed a no-brainer to start the season as the starter.  Nikica Jelavic was coming off a rotten campaign and was in the transfer rumors regularly.  On the other side, Kone came off of being his new/old manager's talisman when both were together at Wigan.  Jelavic did play well in pre-season but I didn't think that would be enough to overcome Kone's inherent advantages coming into the situation - obviously I was wrong about that one and, thus, surprised by it.   
  • Points Changes - If you peruse the points leader board from week one you'll find an unusual number of holding midfielders and defenders.  If you'd like some examples look no further than Jose Fonte, John Terry, Luke Shaw, Dejan Lovern, Ryan Shawcross, Aaron Ramsey, Sylvain Distin, Marc Wilson, Jack Wilshere, and Lucas Leiva among others in double figures despite few attacking stats between them.  The changes to the scoring system may seem subtle but once you see that those players all out-performed goal-scorers Olivier Giroud, Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and Wilfried Bony you should make sure you recalibrate your thinking about how you construct your line-up quickly.  You can find the adjusted points here
There were undoubtedly other interesting storylines over the course of the weekend, what did you pick out of the matches you watched? 

Neal Thurman manages the Rotoworld's Premier League coverage and contributes to Never Manage Alone which he co-founded. He is also a diehard Arsenal supporter. You can find him on Twitter @NealJThurman.
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