The Six Pointer – Pocket aces, lazy Cascarino & more…

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That was the weekend that was.

After a three month break, the six pointer (© Sky hyperbole department) returns with the last word on the weekend’s action. Here are six thoughts on the opening games.

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1. After being many people’s tip for the title this season, Liverpool will be most disappointed with the opening performance against Spurs at White Hart Lane. Losing there for the second year running, Liverpool failed to produce much creativity of note. It was worrying how little imagination there was in midfield without Xabi Alonso. Of course, Aquilani may yet provide that but he’s a different kind of player. The game seemed a continuation of their sloppy pre-season, and though they could have had a penalty for the Voronin incident, it wouldn’t have glossed over the poor performance. While they should improve considerably for the first home game of the season against Stoke on Wednesday, it will be interesting to see whether the long term struggle to break down stubborn opposition has returned.

What will Liverpool get on the flop?

What will Liverpool get on the flop?

You could argue that at this point in time Tottenham’s squad is actually stronger than Liverpool’s. Their sub options yesterday were Cudicini, Hutton, O’Hara, Crouch, Pavlyuchenko, Naughton and Bentley. Liverpool on the other hand had Cavalieri, Spearing, Kelly, Dossena, Ayala, Benayoun, and Voronin. A few too many unproven youngsters and second rate Italian full backs there for my liking (some current injuries not withstanding).

I think Rafa could certainly do with another striker and possibly some cheap centre back cover too. He needs to remember that whilst having two of the best players in the league, you need credible backup options should they get injured. To use a poker analogy, it’s no use having two aces if someone else has three jacks.

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2. I don’t think even the most optimistic Arsenal fans expected to beat Everton 6-1 at Goodison Park. An encouraging start for Fabregas following last year’s injury problems while six goals were scored without any by Van Persie or Arshavin, their two mains goal threats this season. In truth Everton were awful but it still takes a good performance to clinically score six goals, whatever defensive mistakes might have contributed.

Solid debut.

Solid debut.

One of the most pleasing things was the debut of Thomas Vermaelen. He took his goal well having been in acres of space, but the defensive aspect of his game was encouraging. Facing the 6’5” Marouane Fellaini he was comfortable for most of the afternoon, timing his jumps well and attacking the ball. If he can continue this style of play then many of the defensive issues faced by Arsenal last year will have been solved.

One thing that l’ve seen from a few lazy pundits (Tony Cascarino and Stan Collymore who’s normally quite good) is “let’s see how they do on a wet night up north in February” or variations on that theme. The problem with Wenger’s side last season was not such games (they were unbeaten all of January, February and March) but the fact the lost five of the first fourteen – a time when pitches are still pristine and weather is dry. Let them say what they want, Arsenal are often at their best when written off.

Cliché.

Cliché.

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3. Talking of Everton, and their potential transfer buddies Man City, Saturday’s games probably showed that the Toffees would be better off selling Joleon Lescott to Mark Hughes and his money men. For a start I don’t think he’s worth £22million or whatever Moyes wants for him and even if he is, I think Everton could get a more than adequate replacement (or Phil Senderos) for about half the price and then invest elsewhere. While Saturday’s 6-1 defeat was a collectively poor showing, you could see that Lescott seemed somewhat distracted. We shouldn’t forget that Jagielka is their best centre back anyway.

Man City in contrast won their game 2-0 against Blackburn but the score line doesn’t tell the whole story. Blackburn had their chances and if Given hadn’t been playing then they would probably have won. Until that second centre back is signed I think most top teams will be capable of scoring against a partnership of Toure and Dunne. That said, City’s new look side did have something about them in midfield and attack, more than matching Blackburn’s physical approach. They are already halfway to matching last season’s total of two away wins.

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4. Impressive starts for two teams I’m keen to see a lot of this season; Sunderland and Wigan. Steve Bruce had an immediate impact and his new signings led the Wearsiders to a good away win over Bolton. Darren Bent scored the winner and looked lively while Cana and Cattermole formed an impressive partnership in midfield, providing high work rate but also some decent football. It will be interesting to see how they cope against Chelsea at the Stadium of Light on Wednesday.

Stunner.

Stunner.

Bruce’s old side Wigan meanwhile got one of the more impressive results over the weekend with a 2-0 away win at Aston Villa. Roberto Martinez was quick to establish his passing, attacking style on the team (who have a good foundation thanks to Bruce) and Hugo Rodallega scored an early contender for goal of the season. It was vital Wigan got some early points on the board to gain some confidence ahead of some tough fixtures coming up but if they continue as they did on Saturday, then a good season is on the cards. Their defeated opponents were booed off the pitch twice and Martin O’Neill has much to do before the transfer window shuts.

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5. Of the promoted sides I’d say probably Birmingham had the best showing but no one really disgraced or impressed too much. Burnley were missing some key defenders which led to some lacklustre set piece marking against Stoke. Their next four games could see them remain pointless though and Owen Coyle will do well to remind his players that the season lasts 38 games and they have plenty of winnable games to come.

Birmingham - blunt up front.

Birmingham - blunt up front.

Alex McLeish’s side was as expected, pretty solid but without much creative product. Though Benitez nearly snatched an equaliser, Man Utd weren’t especially troubled. That said, solid and but creatively ineffective is often quite successful in the Premier League so we’ll see how they get on. Wolves are missing several players so it’s hard to judge them quite yet. Mick McCarthy will need to cut out the naivety however and hope Kightly and Doyle return as quickly possible.

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6. For all Chelsea’s dislikable players, the questions about their diamond formation and whether the Premier League is the real priority, there’s no denying they are a great team at finding late ways to win. Hull played quite well but in an on form Drogba , Chelsea still have one of the best strikers in the game.

I do wonder how long they’ll persist with the diamond. It relies on the full backs pushing forward and providing width and we already saw last season that if you stop Bosingwa and Cole, you go a long way to stopping Chelsea. This was when they were still playing with wide midfielders so I can only think it’s even more obvious this season with a diamond that it‘s the full backs who need to be stopped. Still, it’s the mark of a good side that you play badly and still win.

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T.

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