After enjoying a two and a half month break to recover from the excitement of last season’s final weeks and months, we’re all ready to start the Premier League ball rolling once again.
I think every football fan across the nation experienced something close to a heart attack when Sergio Aguero popped up deep into added time to win the title at the Etihad. As a sport obsessed nation, we found only one cure to reduce our heart rates: more sport.
The European Championships proved that England really are pathetically bad at penalties and Spain are so effortlessly brilliant they won the whole tournament without a flippin’ striker. Maybe in 2014 they’ll see if they can challenge themselves to win the World Cup without a goalkeeper?
Then the small matter of the Olympics came and went in spectacular fashion along with millions of pounds worth of our tax revenue. Despite the grand occasion, I’m sure once everyone gets over the hype and realises they can’t run like Mo Farah, sprint like Usain Bolt, swim like Ryan Lochte or dive like Ashley Young, football will resume its usual centre stage position.
For Wigan Athletic at least, the summer can be considered a qualified success. For starters, Donnelly managed to beat his personal best of posting ninety seven threads (and counting) on the message board regarding potential transfers (beating last season’s previous best of eighty four). Congratulations Donnelly, but on a serious note, Wigan did manage to keep hold of Roberto Martinez (If you didn’t already know) and have so far been successful in their attempts to keep Victor Moses, with Dave Whelan excelling in his new role as Sky Sports News’ Wigan Correspondent regarding both issues.
The widely renowned English Barcelona have also been busy recruiting new candidates for our responses to Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. Young Scot Fraser Fyvie was the first recruit, who will hopefully follow in the footsteps of McCarthy and McArthur before him. Latics beat West Ham to the signing of Ivan Ramis, and after his debut on Sunday, I’m sure some Latics fans will have already made their mind up on him.
Then, when I read the news title of ‘Wigan Bag Arsenal Attacker’ I thought we’d gazumped Man City and Man Utd and stole Robin Van Persie from under their noses. Sadly, this wasn’t the case but Ryo Myiachi is a welcome arrival nonetheless on a season long loan, potentially as Victor Moses’ short term replacement.
There’s also been additions to the forward line in the shape of two strikers. The familiar figure of Mauro Boselli has returned from his loan spells to have another crack at English football and he was recently joined by Arouna Kone, a pacey Ivorian forward who bagged 15 La Liga goals for Levante last term.
Going the other way, I don’t feel Rodallega, Diame, Gohouri or Thomas will be sorely missed, whilst Kirkland and Sammon leave with the clubs best wishes after both gave their all for the Latics. Not that the aforementioned players didn’t, but I think the fans will remember the exit of Kirkland and Sammon more fondly because they didn’t appear to leave for money motivated reasons, unlike the first two I mentioned.
Across the Premier League, the transfer window has been relatively quiet compared to previous years, so much so that even Man City have only bought one player to date (Jack Rodwell from Everton). Chelsea spent big and spent early on Hazard, Marin and Oscar, whilst the two biggest transfer sagas of the summer seem to have reached different conclusions.
Robin van Persie chose Man United in the end in a £25 million deal, meaning United now have five first team strikers, surely too many? Although it may become six if you believe Rio Ferdinand’s Twitter account and Usain Bolt’s rumoured trial. Luka Modric however can’t seem to get his wish of a move to Madrid as Tottenham and Real can’t agree a fee. Who’d bet against the player eventually getting his wish though, even if it is via him kicking and screaming?
And so, that leaves nothing more but the matches themselves for me to comment on. With preseason predictions made and Fantasy Football teams created (even if they’ll only be managed for the first two weeks) it was time for the big kick off.
Typically, I missed it. After all the build up I managed to book a trip to Milan which overlapped the date of the Premier League’s opening weekend. I wasn’t complaining though, instead of having the DW and the illustrious capital of culture Wigan to admire on Sunday, I had the incredible San Siro stadium in Milan to set my eyes upon, which really was an awesome sight.
Regardless, I managed to follow the action from abroad and Latics, maybe predictably, converted into the first half of the season version of Wigan we’re used to seeing struggle. For the first seven minutes at least, it was more like Bury than Barcelona.
Ivan Ramis had seven minutes to forget, getting turned easily on the halfway line by the brilliant Eden Hazard for the first goal and then tripping him in the box for the second. After that, both Ramis and Wigan picked up, with Latics enjoying lots of possession and creating some chances, slightly more like Barca then. Alas, none were taken and the two early goals proved decisive.
Towards the end of the game, Wigan clearly didn’t rate their chances of winning so instead decided to host their own miss of the season competition. Di Santo missed a decent first half chance with a timid effort but it wasn’t a sitter, the award for the most impressive miss must either go to Arouna Kone or Jordi Gomez, who both missed glorious opportunities (notice the plural).
Regardless of the defeat and the Julius Agahowa like finishing, Latics remain outside the relegation zone, and as far as most are concerned, that’s more than expected.
Elsewhere, City entertained and got the three points at the Etihad despite a scare from newly promoted Southampton to start their title defence. After backing United to win the league, I had to curse my method of jinxing as they fell to a 1-0 defeat at Goodison, during which Marouanne Felliani was excellent.
The highlight for me was the post match interview between Gary and Phil Neville, which seemed more awkward than anything as two brothers had to act like total strangers that were merely partaking in a normal interview. This wasn’t helped by Gary’s introductory line of “Hello Phillip” to which Phil replied, after a gasp of breath and a change in voice tone: “Hello Gary.” As if to say, Jesus I thought I’d shaken you off after all these years.
Furthermore, after backing Swansea to go down (don’t slaughter me just yet) they managed to win 5-0 at QPR. My silver lining however is the fact that Bolton won 4-0 at QPR on the opening day of last season, and look where they ended up. I’m hoping history will repeat itself, although watching Michu’s performance, Swansea may have pulled a rabbit out of the hat.
Here are my full predictions:
1st Man Utd
2nd Man City
Goal of the Week: Amongst all the penalties, there were some decent goals scored, Michu’s two at Loftus Road stand out as the top candidates.
Quote of the Week: “I think he’s a footballer” Gary Neville’s expert view of Marouanne Fellaini’s performance at Goodison.
Funniest Moment: Surely Alan Pardew’s petulant push on the linesman wins this award, it was a crazy moment which Pardew clearly regrets, even if it does win him the Paolo Di Canio Impression of the Week Award. Just imagine if Joey Barton had done it though…