Premier League Playback: Youngsters, United keep calm, Spurs’ PK drought

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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.)

Premier League Schedule – Week 1

Result Recap & Highlights
Arsenal 1 – Aston Villa 3 Recap and watch here
Chelsea 2 – Hull City 0 Recap and watch here
Crystal Palace 0 – Tottenham 1 Recap and watch here
Liverpool 1 – Stoke City 0 Recap and watch here
Norwich City 2 – Everton 2 Recap and watch here
Sunderland 0 – Fulham 1 Recap and watch here
Swansea City 1 – Man Utd 4 Recap and watch here
West Brom 0 – Southampton 1 Recap and watch here
West Ham United 2 – Cardiff 0 Recap and watch here

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…

STANDOUT PERFORMERS

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.

Premier League Star Performers

Player Reason
 1. Robin van Persie (Man Utd) 2 goals, sublime passes
 2. Ross Barkley (Everton) 1 goal, MF powerhouse
 3. Philippe Coutinho (Liverpool) Creative genius, tireless
 4. Luke Shaw (Southampton) Driving runs, pace
 5. Christian Benteke (Aston Villa) 2 goals, beast up top

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.

BIGGEST FLOP

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.

STAT ATTACK

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.

Wolfsburg holds off Braunschweig with Vieirinha blast (video)

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Outworked and outperformed in the first half of their playoff second leg at Eintracht Braunschweig, Wolfsburg needed a wake-up call to steady its hopes of staying in the Bundesliga.

That came off the boot of longtime right back Vieirinha, as the Portuguese veteran ran onto a rebound and fired a 17-yard arrow into the goal to boost Wolfsburg aggregate lead to 2-0.

[ MORE: Barcelona names new manager ]

That would mean the 2.Bundesliga hosts would need three goals to give the second tier a third promotion this season. An 82nd minute red card to Braunschweig’s Maximilian Sauer effectively ended those far-off dreams.

Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were relegated in the season, and Stuttgart and Hannover were promoted from 2.Bundesliga.

Barcelona announces Valverde as next manager

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Six days after leaving his post at Athletic Bilbao, another dream job has been signed, sealed, and delivered to Ernesto Valverde.

The ex-Barcelona striker is joining the Blaugranas as the replacement for accolade-winning coach Luis Enrique, who stepped away from the position after Saturday’s Copa del Rey victory.

[ JPW: Huddersfield completes the dream ]

Valverde, 53, played two seasons with Barca in the late 1980s, and previously coached Espanyol, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Valencia. His spent most of his playing career at Athletic and began as their manager in 2013.

Here’s what Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu said about Valverde:

“Valverde has the ability, the knowledge and the experience. He promotes players from the youth teams and he has a style and a way of working like ours. He has a philosophy of the game that is very Barça and he is a hard worker. Also, he is passionate about applying technology to both training and matches.”

Valverde becomes the fourth manager to take charge of Barcelona since Pep Guardiola left in 2012 (Tito Vilanova, Gerardo Martino, and Enrique are the others).

Huddersfield seal fairytale promotion to Premier League

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LONDON — Huddersfield Town have been promoted to the Premier League.

Let that sink in.

[ MORE: Wagner reacts to “fairytale” ]

The Terriers, for the first time in their history, will play in the PL and for the first time since 1972 they will be in the top-flight of English soccer.

German-American manager David Wagner has worked a miracle to turnaround a team who finished in 19th place in the Championship last season. They beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks on Monday after a tight, tense 120 minutes of action at Wembley Stadium, holding their nerve to seal an estimated windfall of $218 million next season and up to $372 million if they survive in the PL for another season.

All day long, and perhaps all season long, it has felt like Huddersfield were destined for promotion.

Huddersfield sold out their full allocation of tickets, 39,150, and their fans made the most noise all day long. There was no contest.

In central London Huddersfield’s fans piled on to the tube heading to Wembley for their day of reckoning.

“It’s his first full season as a fan!” said a proud mother decked out in a Huddersfield shirt as she hugged her five-year-old son proudly. “What a time to start!” replied a stranger, also a Huddersfield fan.

Excited chatter filled the 15 minute tube ride from Baker Street to Wembley Park as fans “I can’t believe it,” said one fan to another, quietly. “It will hit home when we get into the stadium,” his friend replied.

Steven Sunderland stood outside Wembley with his wife Melanie and their daughter Megan.

He summed up the surprise that Huddersfield were even one game away from the Premier League to start with.

“It would be amazing to play all of the big clubs, Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal, clubs like that,” Sunderland said. “I never thought we would make it. No chance. I just thought if we make midtable, it would be an improvement on last season because we’ve been struggling with relegation the last few seasons. This season, David Wagner has got the team playing really well, best team spirit I’ve ever seen for a long, long time. The fans are really connected. It shows today, there are nearly 40,000 Huddersfield fans here today and they are up for it.”

Oh yes. Yes they were.

Amid dissecting the struggles of Yorkshire rivals Leeds United, talk of just going up to the PL for one year and then enjoying it “no matter how we do” was rife among the Huddersfield fans. One Terriers supporter puffed out his cheeks, gripping his can of cider nervously as he walked up Wembley Way.

Tense was the word of the day.

With the future of both clubs on the line, the game itself didn’t deliver end-to-end excitement. With an estimated $218 million on the line for next season and $370 million if they manage to stay up one year in the PL, the economic benefit for Huddersfield the club, and the town, will be huge.

When Michael Hefele headed wide and Isaiah Brown missed a glorious chance early on, you began to wonder if it was Huddersfield’s day. In the end none of that mattered.

Christopher Schindler stepped up and slotted home the winning penalty kick after Danny Ward saved from Jordan Obita as Huddersfield had reached the promised land.

Huddersfield chairman Dean Hoyle summed up his emotions after taking over the club and putting in a prudent plan for promotion involving loan players and a budget less than $12 million this season.

“I’m so emotional. To say I’ve been supporting this club since 1969, to be a Premier League team now – dreams come true,” Hoyle said. “It’s huge what it means for Huddersfield, we’re on the big stage. It proves you don’t have to blow your brains to get promoted. We’ve done it the right way.”

What impact will this have on the Yorkshire town?

Sunderland and his family summed it up perfectly as yet another underdog, just like Bournemouth, Blackpool and Burnley before them, has risen to the promised land.

“It is massive. It is the land of milk and honey if you like, the place where everybody wants to be,” Sunderland said. “It will be brilliant, for the town. Just that little bit of success makes a big difference. We’ve been on TV this season more times than we have been the last 10 seasons. Next year it will be high profile very week. Match of the Day, on TV… Champions League the year after!? You never know.”

What did Wagner have to say? He told ProSoccerTalk he wants Huddersfield to keep the identity he has helped build and nurture.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves. This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They certainly are. Even if their fans can’t quite believe it.

As some posed for photos outside the electronic board at Wembley which said “congratulations Huddersfield!” others stood around in disbelief.

A group of three young Yorkshiremen sat on the tube back to Baker Street in stunned silence.

“We are going to be on Match of the Day!” said one fan, rubbing his hands in glee as he recites an intro to next years show which, of course, features Huddersfield top of the bill.

Discussion then switches to which games they’re most looking forward to. Arsenal, Liverpool and Man United away tops the list.

“We can’t believe it. It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said one fan as they looked at each other with dropped jaws.

Believe it, lads.

Watch out, Premier League. Huddersfield are on their way.

David Wagner reacts to Huddersfield’s promotion

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LONDON — There will be an American coach in the Premier League next season.

David Wagner, 45, led Huddersfield Town to its first-ever promotion to the Premier League as the Terriers beat Reading 4-3 on penalty kicks after a tense Championship Playoff Final at Wembley which ended 0-0 after 120 minutes.

Speaking after the nail-biting win, Wagner was delighted that his team proved everyone wrong and came from nowhere to reach the top-flight for the first time since 1972.

“A lot of the pundits wrote us off before the season,” Wagner told Sky Sports. “Over the season I thought we could do a little bit more, I thought around Christmas when we’d played everyone we had a chance. What happened is an unbelievable story – a fairytale.”

The former U.S. national team forward has galvanized the club, linking the team and fans together with passion and a plethora of loan players from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Chelsea.

What he has achieved this season has left Huddersfield fans stunned as the former Borussia Dortmund II boss, who left the German giants in November 2015, has built a hardworking, organized team.

ProSoccerTalk asked Wagner if he will look at any of the smaller teams who have been recently promoted to the PL — the likes of Bournemouth, Burnley et al. — to follow a blueprint of how to plan ahead.

“We have to be focused on ourselves and this football club has to be focused on themselves,” Wagner said. “This football club has created an identity and this was always our target, that we create an identity and a style of football where even if we wear neutral jerseys people from outside are able to say ‘okay, that could be Huddersfield.’ I think it makes no sense to compare ourselves with other small clubs. This football club has its own story and I think, we are on the way.”

They are certainly on their way and we will be hearing a lot about the Terriers in the days and weeks to come.