Premier League Roundup: Tottenham, Arsenal, Swansea bag wins on crazy opening day

3 Comments

The Premier League is back!

Rejoice!

On the opening Saturday of the 2014-15 campaign we had it all.  Stunning goals. Red cards. Late drama. Huge upsets. Missed penalties. Comebacks. Yeah, it was a belter.

In case you missed any of the action from the seven Saturday games, we have recaps, reaction and videos below.

Get stuck in!

Arsenal 2-1 Crystal Palace

Without a manager, nobody gave Palace a chance away at Arsenal. Tony Pulis walked out on the Eagles on the eve of the season but they took a shock lead when new signing Brede Hangeland headed home from a corner in the first half. However right on half time Laurent Koscielny returned the favor for Arsenal as the central defender nodded home Alexis Sanchez’s free kick. Try as they might, Arsenal could not break down a stubborn Palace side who had Jason Puncheon sent off late in the game for two yellow cards. But right at the death Aaron Ramsey tapped in from close range to score the game-winner for the Gunners.

Leicester City 2-2 Everton

A frenetic game at the King Power Stadium as Aiden McGeady curled in a beauty to give Everton the lead, but the Foxes were level inside 90 seconds as Leandro Ulloa equalized on his debut. The game ebbed and flowed as the Toffees pushed hard to get back in front and they did so just before half time as Steven Naismith finished superbly from close range to put Everton 2-1 up. Leicester came back into the game in the second half and substitute Chris Wood equalized five minutes from time to seal a point for the Foxes.

Manchester United 1-2 Swansea City

Louis van Gaal’s debut as Manchester United boss could hardly have gone worse as the Red Devils lost at home on the opening day of the PL season for the first-time in history. Swansea City took a shock lead in the first half as Ki slotted home but newly installed captain Wayne Rooney scored an acrobatic effort to make it 1-1 just after the break. United looked as if they would grab a late winner, but it was Swansea who did just that as Gylfi Sigurdsson popped up to stun Old Trafford. Not the start LVG was hoping for.

Stoke City 0-1 Aston Villa

Both teams battled hard at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday and Aston Villa prevailed in windy conditions. Andreas Weimann got the game’s only goal in the second half as he battled through two challenges and then fired an effort across Asmir Begovic and into the far corner. Stoke huffed and puffed but Villa kept a clean sheet to seal an opening day win.

Queens Park Rangers 0-1 Hull City

QPR dominated large spells of this match but Hull stuck to their task and completed a classic ‘smash and grab’ win at Loftus Road. Faurlin, Barton and Mutch all come close for QPR in the first half but the Tigers took the lead after the break when James Chester lost his marker, Rio Ferdinand, and headed home the game-winner. In the 85th minute QPR were awarded a penalty kick as Chester was adjudged to have handballed but Charlie Austin’s spot kick was saved by Allan McGregor and Hull held on.

West Bromwich Albion 2-2 Sunderland

The visitors went ahead thanks to a howitzer from Lee Catermole. It was just his second goal in 102 games for the Black Cats. But before the break West Brom equalized as Saido Berahino scored a penalty following Victor Anichebe being hauled down by Valentin Roberge. The Baggies then went ahead as Berahino scored again and it looked like new boss Alan Irvine was set to seal a debut win. However, Sebastian Larsson popped up late on to nick a point for the Black Cats in an entertaining and even match at the Hawthorns.

West Ham 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs were up against it from the start at Upton Park but ground out a win during Mauricio Pochettino’s first game in charge. Kyle Naughton was sent off for a rather harsh looking handball decision in the box but from the resulting penalty Mark Noble put the ball wide. In the second half West Ham’s defender James Collins was sent off and in stoppage time Eric Dier slotted him after a mazy run to hand Spurs a win on the opening day.

Arsenal sends Gabriel Paulista to Valencia

Getty Images
1 Comment

Arsenal has a thin defense, but that hasn’t stopped Arsene Wenger from thinning the squad even further.

Gabriel Paulista is headed back to the Spanish top flight after the completion of his transfer to Valencia. The Brazilian was sold for a reported $12.8 million, just below the $14 million price tag Arsenal coughed up to Villareal back in January, 2015. He will partner with Manchester City loanee Eliaquim Mangala at Valencia.

The 26-year-old made 64 appearances for the Gunners across all competitions, including 46 in the Premier League. His only goal for the club was Arsenal’s first of a 2-0 win over Bournemouth in December, 2015. His high-water mark with the club was a 120-minute performance against Manchester City in the FA Cup semifinals where Arsenal came back to win 2-1 on an Alexis Sanchez goal in extra time.

“We would like to thank Gabriel for his contribution to the club and to wish him well for his return to La Liga with Valencia,” Arsenal said in its confirmation of the deal.

Paulista was utilized more than expected last season thanks to an injury crisis at the back, and still the Arsenal squad doesn’t seem fat enough to offload defenders, but Gabriel’s over-aggressive nature and tackling inaccuracy led him to an early exit.

With Arsene Wenger now deploying a back-three, the only natural central defenders currently on the roster are Laurent Koscielny, Per Mertesacker, Shkodran Mustafi, and Rob Holding. Koscielny is suspended from a red card at the end of last season, and Mertesacker is battling a head injury. Sead Kolasinac, Nacho Monreal, and Calum Chambers have played CB for the Gunners in the recent past, but it is not their natural position.

Fabian Johnson misses Gladbach training with injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With John Brooks already out long-term due to a thigh injury, the United States may have another key injury to work around.

According to Borussia Monchengladbach manager Dieter Hecking, full-back/winger Fabian Johnson missed training on Friday due to an unspecified injury, and is now a question mark for Gladbach’s home match on Sunday against FC Koln. It could be nothing, but even the scare is cause for concern among U.S. fans.

Johnson has battled a few injuries the past couple of seasons, including a hamstring problem last spring that kept him out for nearly two months, including a pair of World Cup qualifiers in March.

Johnson’s absence would leave a hole at right-back for the United States. The 29-year-old has been deployed some at right wing for the USMNT, but he has been relatively poor at that position in the national setup, looking better when pushed further back where he is given more defensive duties, roaming forward with less frequency but more intent.

In place of Johnson, another converted winger in Graham Zusi has been seeing more time at right-back, but he offers less in the attack and lacks Johnson’s recovery speed, meaning mistakes by the Sporting KC veteran are punished more often.

Falcao scores again to extend red hot start

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Monaco is hoping to ride out the final two weeks of the transfer window with 18-year-old wonderkid Kylian Mbappe still in tow.

While they wait, they aren’t missing a beat.

With Mbappe out of the squad, Radamel Falcao has begun the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season as Europe’s hottest goalscorer. He bagged a hat-trick last weekend with Mbappe on the bench to give him four goals in the first two league matches. Then, with Mbappe out of the squad entirely, Falcao netted the winner in a 1-0 road win over FC Metz.

Falcao has scored five goals so far this year, and his club has a +5 goal differential. In a way, Falcao has already been worth six points thus far.

Thanks in part to Ligue 1’s early start, Falcao’s five league goals are by far more than anyone else in the major European leagues. Four players have scored a pair of Premier League goals, nobody in La Liga or the Bundesliga have scored more than one, and the Serie A season has yet to start.

The Colombian did the same thing last season. After eventually coming off the shelf from to hamstring and concussion problems to start the season, Falcao scored 10 goals in 10 Ligue 1 matches leading up to the new calendar year.

At 31 years old, Falcao isn’t a long-term solution and the club will clearly look to retain Mbappe despite Falcao’s hot start, but should they lose the young Frenchman, the club will be in good hands while they search for a replacement over the next year.

Arena should give Ream a look in Brooks’ absence

FulhamFC.com
Leave a comment

With John Brooks out three months thanks to a horribly timed thigh injury, the United States yet again has to scramble to fill a void at the back. It’s not the first time an injury to Brooks has left the USMNT scrambling for cover at a thin position.

In the successful Gold Cup this past summer, with a largely domestic squad in place, Omar Gonzalez saw the bulk of the time at central defender, with Matt Besler his partner through the final two matches. However, with European-based players now in contention for spots with the early September international break, those two are unlikely to continue, at least not together.

[ MORE: Liverpool holds all the cards in Coutinho transfer ]

The most obvious choice to start September 1st against Costa Rica and likely shoo-in should he remain healthy for the next two weeks is Geoff Cameron. The 32-year-old has been back and forth between defense and midfield with club and country, and although he has publicly acknowledged his preference for a spot higher up the pitch, he was used in a back-three in Stoke City’s Premier League opener last weekend and is steadiest at the back.

But with a spot next to Cameron up for grabs in Brooks’ absence, a player who should get serious consideration is United States fill-in extraordinaire Tim Ream.

Ream has had to work hard to earn his place with the U.S., and while he’s seen time of late, he’s not been a first-choice pick. The 29-year-old has four caps so far in 2017, with two of those starts, including one in the impressive 1-1 draw against Mexico at the Azteca with the US still clawing its way back up the Hex standings. Even then, Ream would likely not have earned that spot had Arena not chosen to rotate nearly the entire squad between the pair of qualifiers in that window. His other start this year, the 1-1 draw at Panama, only came after Cameron pulled out of the squad the day of the game with a late injury. The last time Ream started back-to-back matches for the U.S. came back in 2015 when he was somewhat of a regular through the second half of the calendar year.

[ MORE: LA Galaxy send Van Damme back to Belgium ]

But now, with Brooks out, Ream looks like the perfect man to fill in again. The 29-year-old defender finished last season in top form as Fulham narrowly missed out on promotion, earning the official website’s Man of the Match award in a May 2nd draw with Brentford, and won it again in the club’s final match of the season.

Without missing a beat, Ream has picked up where he left off last campaign in the first few matches this month. Last weekend against Reading at the Madjeski Stadium, Ream’s center-back partner Tomas Kalas was sent off 36 seconds into the match, forcing Fulham to play a man down for 89 minutes. Ream and company solidified the back, conceding just once in the 61st minute en route to a 1-1 draw.

The club still likely requires reinforcements at the CB position – Ream was forced to partner with right-back Denis Odoi against Reading with Kalas suspended and Michael Madl injured – meaning Ream could see an influx of competition in the coming weeks. However, as it stands, the American is far and away the best (and most improved) central defender on a club favored for promotion.

Gonzalez performed well in the Gold Cup, and Matt Besler was serviceable, but with few other options in the heart of defense to take Brooks’ place, Bruce Arena could yet again look to Ream for an in-form replacement.