18 August, 2008

Gameweek 1 - The Start of Something Beautiful

Happy Monday and welcome to STT's first Premiership roundup on a weekend that saw 9 victories and just one draw. A host of new faces graced the league this week, with some excellent debuts, sopme suspect haircuts and some very hard to spell names.

I can’t believe it’s been over a year now since Sniffing the Touchline made the jump from a mind-map written in biro on the back of a fag packet to a fully functioning self-sufficient (almost) online multi-media node. The time has flown by, and obviously we couldn’t have done it without all of you faithful readers out there hitting ‘refresh’ 50 or 60 times a day and permanently setting it as the homepage on every computer in the office.

Unfortunately, due to increased workloads and busy extra-curricular schedules, weekly reviews are going to have to take a slightly different tack to last year’s comprehensive rundowns after this first-week schmorgesboard. The weekly awards will still appear, albeit in a reduced capacity, but the ball is now in your court to pick the Team of Week and suggest your own additional awards, the best of which will then be written up midweek by an up-and-coming member of the creative staff here at STT HQ. Ok, the tea boy.

Anyway, over to the action.

First up, the Champions of England and Europe were held by a surprisingly good Newcastle side yesterday afternoon, who contained a sub-par United and took advantage of defensive uncertainty to surprisingly take the lead at Old Trafford, a bogey-ground of the Tynesiders for decades now. 45 seconds later and Untied were level, but baby steps for King Kev eh? Arsenal looked very strong for the first 20 minutes against the Baggies and secured the points early on through new starlet Samir Nasri, but then West Brom realised which league they were in and actually put in a spirited showing, albeit without much cutting edge up front. The two other new boys, the cities of Hull and Stoke, had very different fortunes, with the Yorkshiremen recording a very nice win over likely fellow strugglers Fulham, and Stoke enduring an afternoon to forget against a solid yet skillful Bolton side.

Everyone's pick for fifth place this year (again) is Spurs, but they had a tough day against a creative Middlesbrough side despite their Summer influx of young talent, losing 2 – 1. Elsewhere, the knowledgeable STT's pick for fifth, Aston Villa, turned on the class against a flat Man City side that may actually struggle this year under Mark Hughes. Sparky’s old club Blackburn meanwhile, waited until the 91st minute to get a very good 3 – 2 victory at Goodison Park, while Liverpool also left it late to take Sunderland down 1 – 0, with a cracker from that man Torres sparing the Red-side-of-Merseyside’s blushes. Wigan and West Ham both showed that they have it in them to secure mid-table mediocrity, with an early Dean Ashton double securing the points and impressing Mr. Capello.

Lastly, Chelsea were truly breathtaking against a Portsmouth side that haven't won on the opening week of the season in 20 years. The 5 man midfield of Deco, Lampard, Ballack, Obi Mikel and Joe Cole seemed to be nonchalantly passing sideways, while always moving forward with ease and were ably supported by Cashley and Boswinga bombing forward. Chelsea looked twice as good as Arsenal, Liverpool and United put together. It was scary stuff. Scarier still though is the fact that, if they keep playing with this freedom and attacking verve, people might actually start to (whisper it) like them again too…

Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):

Keeper – Shay Given (a great return to form after an iffy 07/08, securing a point for the Toon)

Defence – Jose Boswinga (the new Cafu, believe) David Wheater (had the ball in the net twice) Steven Taylor (United did't score while he was on the pitch) Anthony Gardner (can play in this league)

Midfield – Jonas Gutierrez (Spidey looked immense) Deco (was only the second best midfielder on the pitch, until Ballack limped off. I might have a man-crush on him) Xabi Alonso (unwanted on Merseyside, but stole the show in 45 minutes) Samir Nasri (“the new ZZ” actually looked like he might be the new ZZ)

Up Top – Dean Ashton (2 goals for the pizza loving blonde) Gabriel Agbonlahor (a 7 and a half minute hat-trick, get me)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the WeekDavid Dunn's barnstorming effort takes the biscuit, although Torres's strike was as clinical as Quincy and Deco's effort was sexy as it was effortless. No points for Bolton’s Steinsson however because it was obviously a cross.

Nutmeg of the Week - Spidey Gutierrez on Possebon in United's penalty area, which led to some pretty comical diving. However, Gutierrez's Spider senses told him that this wasn't really appropriate behaviour on your debut and he got up without a fuss.

Save of the Week – Shay Given's scrambling double save from Rooney and Scholes kept Newcastle level against United and (more importantly) gave cheer to 8,000 shirtless men.

Barnets of the Week – There was just so much hair on display at Old Trafford yesterday that it looked a bit like an Australian sheep shearing contest. Newcastle's Colocinni has been compared to Michael Bolton, but the frizzy mops that live on the heads of Rafael Da Silva and Rodrigo Possebon mean that I have absolutely no chance of telling them apart.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week– Frank slotted home a decent penalty against a beleaguered David James. He also earned more yesterday than I do in a year. The shit.

Opinion Most Rammed Down Your Throat of the Week –No one is going to break into the top four this year, apparently. Really? Someone get a Tardis and present a lack of excrement to a detective in a deerstalker!

Miss of the Week – Gareth Barry could only skew wide from about 6 yards out while facing an open goal.

Fashion Statement of the Week – Liverpool's grey kits are a throwback to their last Championship winning team of the 80s, but would fit in better at a retirement home bridge table than on a football pitch. Really took the heat off those horrendous fluorescent afterbirths on display by the Wigan and Manchester City players.

Leg Breaker of The Week – Deco's high footed challenge on Lassana Diarra was very nasty and most out of character for the Brazilian born Oliver! extra. Fortunately, Diarra eats pennies and shits nails, so managed to jog it off.

Get Well Soon Card of the Week - Valerei Bojinov had a very strong preseason and looked like he was ready to lead City's attacking line. He'll be out for around 6 months with a torn Achilles tendon, to go with his year long layoff for a ruptured cruciate ligament. You've got to feel for the guy; those are 2 of the hardest footballing injuries to recover from.

Heroes of the Week – Phil Brown could probably be carried around in a Sedan chair and lauded as the second coming of Windass by the people of Hull after an opening day victory that has taken the pressure off. The Guvnor has also had a pretty damn good start to Premiership management.

Zeroes of the Week – There isn't a clear cut choice for this, but Tony Pulis didn't exactly hang around to shake hands after Stoke's welcome to the Premiership. Harry Redknapp looked sheepish after Pompey's drubbing and Mark Hughes may already be in trouble of losing his job.

Personal Highlight of the Week - STT was lucky enough to be entertained at Stamford Bridge this weekend and saw something truly beautiful. Deco was hot, as was the weather, but we were lucky enough to glimpse a sight of the holy grail of WAGdom - Abigail Clancy. Suffice to say, there were many jaw injuries on the pavements of West London yesterday aftenoon.

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