Something that fell by the wayside this weekend; Southampton had three 18-year-olds in their starting lineup and four academy products on the pitch on the opening day.
And they completely dominated West Bromwich Albion to win 1-0 at the Hawthorns. So many youngsters on a team winning in the Premier League, what’s going on?
Much has been made of the lack of young English talent playing in the Premier League in recent seasons, with the huge influx of foreign players being blamed for the English national teams failure.
But upcoming clubs like Southampton have invested heavily in youth development over the years. (Gareth Bale, Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain et al.)
Eighteen-year-old left back Luke Shaw was the pick of the bunch, but 18-year-old right back Calum Chambers and 18-year-old central midfielder James Ward-Prowse both acquitted themselves superbly as the Saints should have eased to victory.
In the end it took Shaw to conjure up the game-winning moment, as the teenagers surging left flank run saw him taken down in the box in the 90th minute, and England international Rickie Lambert (yes, you read that correctly) slammed home the PK.
Maybe England will start looking to clubs like the Saints, Aston Villa and Everton for their next crop of young talent?
Lots of young English stars shone on opening weekend…
But one man who stood head and shoulders above the rest, again, was Dutch international striker Robin van Persie. RVP, 30, was in menacing form in Swansea on Saturday evening, scoring twice and tormenting the Swans defense.
Elsewhere Everton youngster Ross Barkley continues his rise through the ranks, as the 19-year-old midfielder spanked in a beauty at Carrow Road and bossed the midfield with his strength and power. At the heart of Liverpool’s creativity was Brazilian Philippe Coutinho. It took the former Inter Milan star a while to settle last season after his January move, but the tiny trickster weaseled his way in and out of Stoke’s backline masterfully. Cutting in from the left flank, he’s sure to create plenty of problems this season. Watch out for the boy from Brazil as he pushes for a place in the World Cup squad.
We’ve already mentioned Shaw, but the Southampton youngster burst forward time and time again from left back. It’s only a matter of time before he gets an England call up. While Aston Villa were brave and bold at the Emirates, as Belgian striker Christian Benteke scored twice. But he wasn’t just his goals, the Villa forward held up the ball to ease the pressure when Arsenal were hammering at Villa’s door. Another dominate display from Benteke.
BEST GOALS OF THE WEEKEND
There were some top contenders for goal of the weekend. Ross Barkley smashed home a stunning left foot howitzer to draw Everton level against Norwich, while both of RVP’s goals were sublime in their own way. An instinctive, acrobatic finish for his first and a driving run finished by a hammered left foot shot from outside the box. Frank Lampard weighed in with a screamer and Danny Welbeck’s deft chip rounded off United’s rout.
Great goals. Just glad to have the season back so we can talk about them.
Arsenal’s players did not read the script ahead of the new season.
With Arsene Wenger under pressure after failing to add star players in the transfer market, the Emirates was not a happy place to be on Saturday afternoon.
Paul Lambert’s unfavored Aston Villa strolled into North London with many people predicting a hiding. They strolled back to Birmingham with all three points after a 3-1 win thanks to two Benteke penalties (one he missed but finished off the rebound, the other he scored) and an inspired display from USMNT ‘keeper Brad Guzan.
The Gunners looked devoid of ideas and their cause wasn’t helped when French defender Laurent Koscielny was sent off for a second bookable offense. Back to the drawing board for Wenger, tactically and in terms of his transfer targets.
Nervous tension will continue to rise at Arsenal as the transfer deadline nears.
THE NEARLY MEN
Stoke City. They were played off the park against Liverpool at Anfield on Saturday in the early kick off.
But Mark Hughes’ side had three or four tremendous chances to score and punish Liverpool for all their wasted chances.
German defender Robert Huth smashed a thunderous volley against the crossbar at the Kop end in the first half. (The crossbar is probably still shaking now.)
While Jonathan Walters was denied in the second half thanks to a fingertip stop from Simon Mignolet.
And then of course came Stoke’s big chance in stoppage time. A daft handball from Daniel Agger gave Walters the chance to snatch an undeserved point for the Potters. But he fluffed his lines as Mignolet saved his PK and then the rebound from Kenwyne Jones.
Opportunity missed by Stoke’s American contingent.
STOP THE WORRYING…
Manchester United fans. David Moyes’ men will be fine this season. They showed that and more on Saturday after clinically dispatching Swansea City 4-1 at the Liberty Stadium.
Many were predicting United would suffer a huge fall from grace this season after winning the title last year. Moyes has had no major upheaval over the summer but he’s also had no major additions.
Wayne Rooney coming off the bench for the final 20 minutes or so is a relief for United fans. We’ve heard nothing from Rooney all summer long and while his future remains uncertain at Old Trafford, he made a tremendous decoy run for RVP’s second goal and set up Welbeck for the final goal.
All in all, a great start to the season for Moyes. The pressure is off… for now.
Tottenham were awarded a penalty kick on Sunday at Crystal Palace. “So what?” your probably thinking. Well, it was kind of a big deal. Spurs didn’t get a penalty kick in the favor during the entire 2012-13 Premier League. And they haven’t scored a penalty in the league since May 6, 2012 when Emmanuel Adebayor dispatched a spot kick in the 1-1 tie with Aston Villa at Villa Park.
Quite remarkable. I spoke with Andre Villas-Boas after the game-winning goal had been scored by Roberto Soldado at Selhurst Park, on his Premier League debut. AVB had a wry smile plastered across his face.
“Today we celebrate one official penalty, especially after last season.”
GOAL-LINE TECHNOLOGY WATCH
This will be a regular feature in the Monday morning review, but don’t worry ladies and gents, this will get more interesting.
After costing each club over $400,000 to implement at their Premier League stadium this season, goal-line technology was only used twice this weekend.
First the goal decision system (GDS) was used as Fabian Delph’s shot for Villa against Arsenal hit the post and rolled along the line. The referee didn’t receive a message on his wristwatch and the game continued.
While at Stamford Bridge on Sunday for Chelsea vs. Hull City, Branislav Ivanovic’s header was under the scrutiny of the many cameras. But Alan McGregor kept his shot out as the hawk-eye system was used.
Let us know what you think of the goal-line technology. The jury’s still out for me. How often will it actually be used?
Join us every Monday as we recap the best moments from the past weekend in Premier League Playback.