The English Premier League got off to something of a limp start to the 2011/12 season with five out of nine matches ending in draws. Manchester United and City both started with wins with City beating newly promoted Swansea quite convincingly 4-0. Welcome to the big league Swansea.
Last seasons League One Champions, QPR also had a rude awakening, losing 4-0 to Bolton on the opening day. Boys I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore.
Manchester United‘s narrow win over West Brom came courtesy of a late (81st minute) deflected cross from Ashley Young, resulting in an own goal for Steven Reid. United had taken the lead early through Rooney, but West Brom equalised in the 37th minute when United‘s new goalkeeper David de Gea failed to stop a tame shot from Shane Long.
Newcastle and Arsenal played out a 0-0 draw in a repeat of the fixture that last season produced 8 goals and may have started the demise of Arsenal‘s battle for the title. Once again Joey Barton was hugely influential. His niggling contributing to 5 Arsenal bookings and Gervinho being sent off in his Premier League debut.
Arsenal went into the game without their most influential mid-fielders. Fabregas and Nasri both on the verge of exiting and Jack Wilshire out with an ankle injury. Gervinho on debut was busy and looked dangerous at times, but not when he slapped Barton.
The incident between Barton and Gervinho became the most inluential in the game. Gervinho went down in the box and Barton thought he was diving. He dragged Gervinho to his feet by the back of his shirt and shorts. There was a scuffle, with other Newcastle players getting in between the two of them. Gervinho reached over the top of the players and lightly slapped Barton on the side of the head. Not seeing the irony or hypocrisy of faking it, Barton went down like he’d been hit with a 50lb hammer. This resulted in Gervinho being sent off, but Barton only receiving a yellow card, despite the fact that he instigated the whole incident.
Arsenal passed well and dominated for the first 10 minutes of the game, but after that Newcastle were very competitive. Vermaelen was back commanding the defence and although Newcastle created some good chances, everything was kept out.
Szczesny looked confident in goal and although he is very young he looks like the future for the number one roll. However he did manage to get himself booked, stupidly running the length of the field to join in the fracas that followed the incident between Gervinho and Barton. He wasn’t the only Arsenal player to lose his head. Alex Song stamped on the back of Barton‘s leg when he was on the ground and although the incident was missed by the officials on the day, he later picked up a 3 week ban.
So, very early in the season things are looking difficult for Arsenal. Fabregas finally signed for Barcelona in the week, Man City are hotly chasing Nasri‘s signature, Wilshire is still injured, as are Gibbs, Diaby and Djourou and to top it off, both Gervinho and Song are banned for 3 weeks. Looks like this weeks Liverpool clash at the Emirates Stadium will be a tough one for the Gunners.
By Max Power