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Butler: Barclays Premier League delivers in opening week

Noel Butler, TSN.ca
8/23/2013 2:29:01 PM
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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford surely understands the long-held sentiment; a week is a long time in politics. If the compelling storylines emerging from the opening week of the BPL season are any indication then we are certainly in for another peach of a season in England's top tier. Here are my highlights from a week that was.

A WINDOW TURNS INTO A REVOLVING DOOR - Going into the transfer window Arsene Wenger let everyone know the red half of London was in for some serious spending this summer. Nearly two months in we're still waiting. Those who barked Anglo Saxon-riddled expletives at the economics graduate following a feeble effort in Arsenal's opener were left scratching their heads after the name Johan Cabaye was added to the ever-growing list of failed bids. As an encore yesterday, the club announced ‘No Mas' in their pursuit of Liverpool's Luis Suarez with all signs their immediate attention was now on signing ex-Gunner Mathieu Flamini. Let go by Milan at the end of last season Flamini walked out on Arsenal at the end of the 2007-08 season. I guess at this rate RVP will be back in an Arsenal shirt circa summer 2018.

AWAY THE FANS - On the eve of the season Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore stated the BPL's desire to increase the attendance of travelling supporters. The campaign got off to an ideal start with the league announcing that over opening weekend eight of 10 visiting clubs completely sold out their ticket allocations. The affection from the terraces must be rubbing off on the pitch. Of those 10 matches fully half of them resulted in victory for the visitors. The most improbable had the 3,000 strong Aston Villa support suffer a collective case of 2012-13 campaign amnesia come the final whistle at the Emirates.

DEJA VU? - When the blue half of Manchester claimed the most unlikely of BPL crowns on the final day of the season they started their 2011-12 campaign with a Monday night home fixture. Swansea was the opponent that day in a match that saw City run out as very convincing 4-0 winners. Fast forward to Manchester City's 2013-14 opener and the destruction of Newcastle by a similar score Monday night. Adding further intrigue, David Silva and Sergio Aguero featured on the score sheet against Newcastle as they both did against Swansea on opening day 2011.

GLT 1: CHELSEA 0 - It was Frank Lampard's goal that wasn't versus Germany at the 2010 World Cup which swung the FIFA debate on goal line technology. With GLT making its introduction in the BPL this season how ironic it was that on opening weekend Hawkeye was put into full effect following a corner from the Chelsea midfielder. Hull's Allan McGregor did just enough to prevent the ball from fully going over the line after Lampard's corner was headed goal-bound by Branislav Ivanovic. If it had been a goal, referee Jon Moss would have been alerted within a second by a buzzer triggering on his watch. I wonder if Wenger has a similar watch for when Arsenal finally manage to land a player during the transfer window.

GNASHER LUIS HEARTS LIVERPOOL - Having made the mandatory apology to his teammates on the eve of Liverpool opening their campaign, how comforting it must have been for some of the Kop faithful to bump into Suarez as he emerged from a car outside Anfield ahead of kick off against Stoke last Saturday. Agitating for a move all summer long only a complete cynic would suggest Suarez decided to take his daughter with him to prevent opportunity for any of the Liverpool fans to vent their true feelings on their star striker. Suarez who is halfway through a 10-match ban for biting Ivanovic towards the tail end of last season will only be available to play for Liverpool or [insert Champions League club here] at the end of September. No confirmation if Suarez bit a team mate in training Thursday after news leaked out Arsenal had finally abandoned their £40,000,001 pursuit of the man with the most infamous teeth in all of world football.

HARDLY A “PITCHURE BOOK” STORY - Confined to the bench as Manchester United took to the Swansea pitch, “Want-away Wayne” cut a pitiful self as he watched the champions take the 2-0 lead. Even though the £250,000-a-week striker featured in both of United's later goals Rooney's mood didn't improve after he was introduced just after the hour mark. Wayne opted not to join in the goal celebrations, preferring a shoulder shrugging trudge back to the halfway line instead of joining in with his team mates as they performed a touch line love in with David Moyes after RVP had claimed his second goal of the day. Rooney also stayed well away from the team celebration after Danny Welbeck scored United's fourth. No prizes for guessing what action shots from the Liberty Stadium made the back pages of the tabloids last Sunday.

HOME BUT NOT ALONE - Such was the “Jose Effect” Sunday as this most venerable part of West London awoke much earlier than usual. The ground filled up a good hour ahead of kick off as no one in the 41,000 capacity crowd wanted to miss out on the Happy One's return to the Stamford Bridge bench. Even Roman Abramovich couldn't resist the Mourinho lure as the owner paid a pre-match visit to the Chelsea dressing room. Abramovich even featured in the match day programme, a first as the club celebrate a decade of Roman Rule. It was Mourinho, though, who held the fans breathless as they waited for him to emerge from the tunnel. The teenage-type adulation which followed, as he took his place on the bench, was in marked contrast to the wholly divisive Stamford Bridge scenes from last season.

START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON THEN - The BPL's very own walking and talking stick of dynamite just can't help himself. One game in and Ian Holloway is already on an FA misconduct charge following incendiary words directed at the referee after his Crystal Palace opened their campaign with defeat at home to Spurs. Holloway was back to his emotional self in mid-week with ill-judged comments about Chelsea not conceding a late penalty against Aston Villa - Holloway outwardly questioning if the refs had it on for the less glamorous sides. The Crystal Palace manager freely admits he's not at his best when he doesn't get what he wants, advising the media if they didn't believe him then all they had to do was ask his Mum.

VALUE FOR MONEY – The last word has to go to the man who was so instrumental in ensuring Sir Alex Ferguson received the perfect retirement gift. Robin Van Persie's contribution last season made a complete mockery of the widely-held adage players need a season or two to bed in and get used to their new surroundings. Scoring in his Old Trafford debut, the Dutchman potted goals from near and far all season long and with them secured a 13th BPL title for Ferguson. After scoring in Fergie's final game in charge, last season's top scorer needed all of 33 minutes to get off the mark this season. If Gareth Bale is worth upwards of €100m to Real Madrid what mathematical model do you use to calculate Robin Van Persie's value to Manchester United? Anyone got Einstein's phone number.

TSN & TEAM Radio is your BPL home this season. Double Header Saturday Kicks Off with Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion at 10am et/7:00am pt followed by Aston Villa vs Liverpool at 12:30pm et/9:30am pt.

You can reach and follow Noel Butler at:

Noel.Butler@BellMedia.ca

@TheSoccerNoel on Twitter

Noel Butler

Noel Butler


Noel Butler is an analyst for TSN's soccer coverage and his blog can be read on TSN.ca. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/TheSoccerNoel and listen to his radio program oranges@halftime on TSN Radio 690 Montreal.

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