Well folks we are officially on our way to the new season and it couldn't have started out with more excitement. We had an amazing set of goals scored, from free kicks to volleys, an astonishing 3 penalty saves, both Manchester clubs striking 4 goals and many talking points from the first round of fixtures. Tomorrow we finish week 1 with the mush anticipated clash between Chelsea and Aston Villa. The week will be tight due to the 2 week day matches, so we will do a quick analysis of the weekend and follow up with player picks after Wednesday's match.
Onto the matches:
Liverpool v Stoke: The early kick off which saw Daniel Sturridge score the 1st goal of the new campaign. The fantasy prospects look very good for Liverpool, even with Luis Suarez still sidelined for 5+ matches. Sturrage looks a great option, Phillippe Coutinho continued his sparkling form from last season and Iago Aspas looked bright, one to keep an eye one. The goals will come this season for Liverpool's attack. Mignolet looked a bit nervous on his debut, but the team looked galvanized after his PK save from Walters. I believe Mignolet will be a strong option in many weeks this season. Stoke for the most part didn't look too unchanged under Mark Hughs. Apart from a couple threatening attacks, one which saw Robert Huth crash the ball off the crossbar, Liverpool mainly controlled the tempo and possession. One big question: How is Walters still on Penalties? Stoke's only bright light was the confidant performance of Asmir Begovic who kept Liverpool at bay with save after save. Something for Wenger to consider?
Arsenal v Aston Villa: Definitely the shock of the weekend, especially after Arsenal started so brightly. What can we say really? Arsenal just collapsed after their opening goal. Sure, calls did not go their way, that was clear. But Arsenal can have no objection to the first PK and the response after the goal was dismal. Christian Benteke was a monster, constantly bullying Arsenal's backline. It was huge for Villa to retain his services. Look for Aston Villa to be out of the relegation fight this season and Benteke to build off of last season form. Ashley Westwood is on FK's, and Antonio Luna looks a decent attacking fullback option. For Arsenal, bottom line it is still early, but without reinforcements Wenger faces another struggling season, regardless if he has had top 4 finishes in his 17 seasons in charge. Stay away from their broken defense, but Oliver Giroud, Theo Walcott, Santi Cazorla and co should still be good attacking options this campaign.
Chelsea v Hull City Tigers: Solid if not justified result. Jose Mourinho was victorious on his return to competitive action at Chelsea. Frank Lampard proved he can still play the 90min and knock in amazing free kicks. On a positive note, Juan Mata has declared himself fit to face Villa, however Mourinho has ruled out David Luiz. I expect Lampard and John Terry will both retain their starting berths, unless Mourinho decides to shift Ivanovic back inside and bring in Azpilicueta, but not so sure that happens. We all hope Lukaku gets the nod, but it could very well be Demba Ba who starts. We will surely be frustrated more on striker rotation as the season progresses, especially if Chelsea capture Wayne Rooney. Chelsea will need to be ready, Villa will be full of confidence after their demolition of Arsenal. Hull City provided some clues as to how they will fair this season. Tom Huddlestone took over direct FK's when he came on, but Robert Koren should retain corners. We really can't pass judgment on Hull City this early especially against an opponent such as Chelsea. Expect a relegation fight however.
Manchester Utd v Swansea: For all the talk of losing out in the transfer market this summer, Moyes successfully steered Utd to a comfortable 4-1 win. RvP and Welbeck scored 2 each, while new boy Wilfred Bony scored a consolation goal for Swansea. I expect RvP will have another 20+ goal season for Utd in the league as long as he stays healthy. But the emergence of Danny Welbeck is what interests me as a cut price way into Utd's attack. If Wayne Rooney is sold to Chelsea, Welbeck could be a bargain pick up. We will wait and see if Moyes can persuade Everton to part with Fellaini and/or Baines. It will be interesting to see if Kagawa will get more playing time under Moyes. Swansea had a tough opening fixture, Bony should provide the goal scoring support Michu needed last season. It is imperative that Swansea keep ahold of Michu, if the Arsenal rumors are true, if they want to maintain their solid premier league form.
Crystal Palace v Tottenham: Robert Soldado grabbed the vital penalty kick goal, but aside from that, really didn't have much else. He will surely find his feet, and with the news Gareth Bale will leave for Real Madrid for 93mil + Coentrao, Soldado will have plenty of players to provide him service. Replacements are already being lined up, we could see a storm of buys from AvB before the window closes if the deal goes through. For Ian Holloway's side, we will need to see if Chamakh can break into Palace's starting line up, otherwise not much here as of yet.
Norwich City v Everton: A pretty even match over all which saw Norwich new boy Van Wolfswinkel score the equalizing goal. One big note was the inclusion of Ross Barkley in the starting live up for Everton. Martinez has hinted he will use Barkley, and priced @1.99 could be a great filler. (although with the new budget do we really need them now?) Norwich will settle into the lower portion of mid table this season maybe putting in a couple surprise upsets. Van Wolfswinkel looks a decent buy in certain matches, but watch it, he had -7 for FC on top of his goal. Everton will do well under Martinez as long as they retain Baines and Fellaini. One thing to watch is Fellaini's position, he was more withdrawn in the opener, his attacking potential could be cut this season. I expect Arouna Kone to come to the forefront for Everton in the coming weeks.
West Bromwich Albion v Southampton: Ricky Lambert scores a last minute PK (finally some one scored a PK right?) to bring all 3 pts to the Saints. Not much here to note, you may be tempted for Anelka on occasion, otherwise Dorrans is taking FK's for WBA. SOT have bought well with Victor Wanyama, expect more of the same from the old prospects this season. You probably won't be looking here too often.
Sunderland v Fulham: Certainly I think we expected more out of Sunderland in their opening fixture. With the likes of US International Jozy Altidore part of their summer recruits, I think many of us waited with anticipation to see how Di Canio's Sunderland would perform. Progress has been made with a list of new recruits, but work still needs to be done. I expect Altidore will be useful in particular matches, maybe not week in week out. We all hope Adam Johnson can find his form again and return to being a fantasy asset. As for Fulham, the big one to watch here is Adel Taarabt. Should be taking a share of FK's, but didn't produce the performance we hoped in week 1. If he can find his feet, looks a strong bet and boosts Berbatov's potential. Fulham better watch their road form if they want to improve from last season.
West Ham United v Cardiff City: Probably the expected result. West Ham are experienced in the top flight and Cardiff will do what most new comers do - struggle on the road. Joe Cole grabbed the opening goal, I wouldn't get too excited because as soon as you buy him he will do his hamstring in and be out 3 months. Typical performance from the senior group, but if Downing can get a run of form, one to watch for. At this point, Cardiff haven't shown us a clear player to pick, but Bellamy should be on kicks when he plays.
Manchester City v Newcastle Utd: Well Manchester City didn't disappoint did they? Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero look to be City's first choice pair, at least for now. Dzeko was unlucky to not score, but Ctiy looked dominant even before the Red Card. Negredo will be a great option once he can break into the team. Navas and Silva look strong options on the wings, I expect Navas to start racking up the assists. It will be nice to get a look at Jovetic, but that is down the line. Otherwise, next week looks strong for City, both attack and defense. Newcastle look out of sorts. Yohan Cabaye was omitted from the squad, probably due to the speculation around him, but Newcastle were a completely different side lacking his creativity. Newcastle have the players to do well, a testament to their 5th place finish 2 season back, but right now they look disorganized. If they can get sorted out, then the likes of Sissoko, Cisse, and HBA can come back into fantasy contention.
Tomorrow finishes a fantastic opening fantasy week. We will continue with player picks and injury/suspension after Wednesday's match. How have you done so far? What were the biggest talking points from the first round of matches?