In my “Premier League Preview – The Challengers” post here http://wp.me/puIC6-34, I talked about the competitiveness of last season’s Premier League that among other things, saw one of the fabled ‘Big Four’ – Liverpool – finish in seventh place behind Aston Villa, Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur in ascending order. Liverpool’s poor finish coupled with the near alarming number of losses recorded by the other three – Chelsea, Manchester United and Arsenal – could also be traced to surprise defeats to teams these four would normally chalk all three points off such as Wigan Athletic, Birmingham City and a few others.
Two rounds into this season however, I like to think it’s safe to say three of the Big Four have taken good note of the value of getting the three points where it is expected of them and getting those points with authority. Champions Chelsea scored just over a hundred last term and don’t look like slowing down up front having scored a dozen goals in two games already without giving one away; half of the goals coming a few hours earlier at Wigan’s JJB where the Blues as well as the other Three struggled last term. Arsenal, following a typical lion’s-share-of-possession-comes-to-nothing draw against Liverpool, as should be expected brought Ian Halloway’s new boys Blackpool right down to the football field reality from the cloud nine highs of a four-nil win over Wigan (that’s ten conceded for the Latics…relegation candidature as stated in the note referred earlier). A major talking point was Theo Walcott’s performance which was enjoyable to all watching (Fabio Capello though fancied Wolves trip to Goodison Park instead) and the team performance was all the more impressive more so that Cesc Fàbregas and Robin van Persie played the final half hour with scores at 5-0. What Arsenal fans should however truly note from this good win is that five goals came after Blackpool were reduced to ten men, Andrei Arshavin chose the weaker opposition to perform against when a semblance of same was really expected and much needed in the Liverpool encounter and finally, it was Blackpool. Had it been Everton like it happened in last season’s opening day, I then would’ve rated it a top draw win but alas…it’s just what should be expected of a club of Arsenal’s stature. If Arsenal can perform like this against similar opposition and pick the vital points where expected (against the likes of Wolverhampton, West Brom, West Ham, Birmingham Sunderland and Stoke) as well as against the stubborn ones such as Villa, Bolton and Blackburn Rovers that the Gunners visit next week, it will stamp firmly Arsenal’s title credentials. That then allows for games against rivals (the other Three, free spending Man. City and Tottenham, especially the latter two) to be real contest where a win would truly make Arsene Wenger’s talented lads mature and make the step to returning Arsenal to winning trophies in May and not August as they’re becoming accustomed to!