The English Premier League (EPL) Week 2 is in the books, this week we saw Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa cap their home debut with goals, Swansea continued to impress with another victory to make it eight goals in two games, Arsenal continued to struggle, Manchester City got out of Jail and Everton gave notice to the rest of the league. Let's look at the Tops and Flops of the EPL and see who stood out in Week 2.
Robin van Persie and Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United)
If both players were able to link-up so effectively in their very first full match together, other EPL teams may ask what they will be like when given the time to develop further understanding of each other’s play? Van Persie is the perfect lone frontman, often dropping deep to link-up play and confuse defenders yet still having the ability to ghost into the area to dispatch of chances as he did with his unstoppable half volley. Against Fulham, Kagawa displayed similarly elusiveness, often finding space in between the Cottagers midfield and defence and distributing the ball effectively (90% pass completion on Saturday). Throughout the season many teams will travel to Old Trafford with hopes of getting eleven men behind the ball and holding out for a draw, they may find it a more difficult task with these players constantly probing and shifting positions.
Fernando Torres, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata (Chelsea)
To leave Juan Mata out of this list as he didn’t get a goal or an assist would be erroneous, the interplay amongst all three frontmen was fantastic and surely the type of football that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has long been desiring. It’s only August so we cannot jump to conclusions that Chelsea will be title contenders this year after finishing 25 points off the pace last season, but they have made the perfect start so far.
Moussa Dembélé (Fulham)
Almost as good a performance as you can have in defeat. Whether it was keeping the ball (51 passes completed out of 53), dribbling past United players (nine successful dribbles) or making tackles (seven successful tackles), Dembélé produced a performance on the biggest stage that many at Fulham long thought he was capable of. With Clint Dempsey eager to leave the club it is imperative that Fulham keep hold of the Belgian midfielder with Tottenham Hotspur reportedly sniffing around. The challenge for Dembélé is improving on his two goals and two assists from last season, a paltry figure for a player of such ability.
Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
The only Arsenal player that looked capable of creating something with 6 shots, 2 clear chances created and 66 passes completed. Surely his first goal is not far away.
Wayne Routledge (Swansea City)
After bouncing around six clubs in eight years it is refreshing to see Routledge rejuvenate his career and play an important role in an attractive Swansea team. Routledge has capitalized on Scott Sinclair’s desire to sit on a bench in Manchester for the next three years by putting in some underrated performances for the Swans and got his third assist of the season in the 3-0 romp over West Ham. Routledge’s work-rate up and down the left-wing personifies the team ethic held by Swansea, it’s not about brash individuals, but about the team working hard for one another in both attack and defence.
Romelu Lukaku (West Bromwich Albion)
In only a 30 minute cameo Lukaku changed the complexion of this game. Using his pace and powerful running he exploited the space in behind the ill at ease Tottenham centre-halves William Gallas and Jan Vertonghen. Twice he had goal bound headers cleared off the line, the second of which Spurs never managed to clear leading to James Morrison’s equaliser. The nineteen year old Lukaku certainly displays the raw talent and attributes to be a success in the EPL, let’s see if he can display such danger over 90 minutes.
West Bromwich Albion
A point was the least they deserved from White Hart Lane, they had to weather the storm in the first 60 minutes, but were far the better, and more organised team as the game wore on. Everton up next for the Baggies, if they can avoid defeat then it will have been an excellent start for Steve Clarke’s troops.
The worrying thing was the ease at which the Gunners were held to a successive goalless draw for the first time in 125 games by a Stoke side who looked content to play for a 0-0 draw from the first whistle. Like Sunderland the week before, Stoke were happy to let Arsenal have the ball, however the protracted build up play of the Gunners meant that Stoke were rarely stretched. Robin van Persie and Alex Song played a part in 47 of Arsenal's 74 EPL goals last season, how they missed them on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
There is never a good time to get injured, but right after you have been dropped for the new £24million who scores on his debut seems like particularly bad timing. The worry for him is that he may not be missed too much by United while he is away.
A player that must be exceedingly frustrating to watch as an Arsenal fan due to his tendency to make the wrong choice whilst in possession. No shots on target in two games, perhaps he would fare better if he always did the opposite of what he thinks he should do!
With no wins in twelve matches and only three goals in eight matches the rot has well and truly carried over from last season for Villa. But in truth it has been a painful decline for the Villans over the last two years, going from a team who finished in sixth place to a team dangerously flirting with the drop. In this time it has been a mixture of Villa selling their best players (James Milner, Stewart Downing, Ashley Young), players getting older and rapidly losing form (Richard Dunne and Stephen Warnock), players underperforming (Gabriel Agbonlahor, Fabian Delph, Steven Ireland, Charles N’Zogbia) and poor signings being made (Jean Makoun and Alan Hutton) which have left Villa in the mess which new manager Paul Lambert must sort out. Villa have relied heavily on their academy but surely after this humbling defeat against Everton those at the club must realise that players such as Nathan Delfouneso and Barry Bannan aren’t cut out for the EPL and reinforcements are needed urgently.
James Collins (West Ham United) and Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)
Two terrible goals to concede, the phrase ‘If in doubt, kick it out’ comes to mind.
Stewart Downing (Liverpool)
Manager Brendan Rodgers was quoted as saying “I said when I first came in, I wouldn't judge people on their status, on what they are or what they have done, but on what I see in front of me.” The fact that after one league game Rodgers would prefer to start a 17 year old against the EPL champions rather than the £20million Downing says a lot about his current, and future standing within the club.
Jussi Jääskeläinen (West Ham United) and Shay Given (Aston Villa)
After their respective gaffes both keepers really did look 37 and 36 years old respectively. At least Adam Federici and Rob Green may be feeling a bit better after their struggles last week.
Stoke City Fans
There are no words to describe a minority of fans who continue to boo Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey after his leg was broken by Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross in February 2010. A fitting punishment for them is watching the most tedious football in the EPL this season, only 33% possession and one shot on target against Arsenal, don’t expect that to improve much throughout the year.