Rodgers’ team is a work in progress

Given the vast fan following and rich history, Liverpool’s every new season starts with renewed hope and the team this term, at least, looks different under fresh appointee Brendan Rodgers.

Liverpool’s title winning days are just dreams from a very distant past now and the Merseyside club (despite a second place finish in 2008-09) is way away from the top echelons of British football. Regardless of the heavy summer spending a season back under Red legend Kenny Daglish, the side failed to mount any challenge to the English title and finished miles outside the four Champions League slots.

Given the vast fan following and rich history, Liverpool’s every new season starts with renewed hope and the team this term, at least, looks different and more importantly dazzling (and vibrant) under fresh manager-appointee Brendan Rodgers. Apart from a horrendous Martin Skrtel back pass (who had put his side ahead with a thunderous header from a Steve Gerrard corner from the right in the 34th minute), Liverpool, in Rodgers’ first home game at Anfield, matched the current champion toe-to-toe. And magically, it did manage to hold sway over the midfield, even the team was outnumbered there, while playing a 4-3-3 formation. Roberto Mancini’s City, with a five-man midfield (3-5-2), was no way near its fluid best and should thank its champion’s luck to come out unscratched.

Following the former Swansea boss’ ball retention mantra, the likes of Joe Allen, ever dependable Gerrard and the surprisingly versatile Jonjo Shelvey (who replaced the injured Lucas just five minutes in) and adrenaline junkie Raheem Sterling (in the left wing) ran assiduously, linking and building play, exchanging short passes. However, this idea did have its shortfalls, ultimately resulting in Carlos Tevez’s equaliser from that Skrtel’s moment of madness, in the 80th minute.

The Manchester Blues looked bereft of ideas (especially in the first session) without David Silva and the injured Sergio Aguero as Mario Balotelli was his petulant self, showing no heart in forging a partnership with the hardworking Tevez. The introduction of Jack Rodwell (freeing Yaya Toure from his holding role) and David Silva, saw City putting pressure on the host, resulting in the two equalising goals.

The Kop, nevertheless, enjoyed the “new” Liverpool and everybody would acknowledge that Rodgers’ team is a work in progress. But the direction and willingness to adapt is surely to be lauded and Anfield can again be a Red Fortress if the American owners do put in enough faith in the rebuilding process.

Chelsea, too, is rebuilding and has bought a wealth of talent with Roman Abramovich’s GBP32 million. The introduction of Belgian international Eden Hazard has brought in a certain silkiness to the Blues’ game, previously missing, and has even spurred the till-now misfiring Fernando Torres.

The duo ran Newcastle’s defence ragged and quickly made the match a no contest as Chelsea went to the breather with a two-goal cushion. Elsewhere, the less-fancied Scotsman, David Moyes, is also enjoying one of the best starts in his long Everton career as the Toffees cantered to its second league win in two games. After doing a Houdini act to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United, the side opened up a helpless Aston Villa (looking more miserable with each passing day) 3-1, away from home. Another Belgian, Marouane Fellaini, was the standout performer here, as even the ever cautious Moyes acknowledged the threat possessed by his squad and sounded off a warning to the moneybags who take their spot at the top for granted.

United, however, did manage to bounce back from the recent trauma as new arrivals Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie found their scoring boots, in a hard fought 3-2 victory over Fulham.

But no such luck for either Tottenham or Arsenal. The two title contenders are still awaiting their first wins of the season and were held for a draw by West Brom and Stoke City, respectively. Michael Laundrup’s Swansea continues to run riot, winning 3-0 against West Ham and drawing praise from an unlikely source, Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas, for its slick, Barcelona-esque style of play.

QUOTE HANGER

We have won two out of two. We’ve always been good finishers to a season, and we’ve just got to make sure it doesn’t happen in reverse. The job is to keep us going in the right direction.

— Everton manager David Moyes.

There are people who criticise me and that’s normal because of the way I am on the pitch. I get angry, I get tense. My wife says that if people reach conclusions as to what I am like based on what they see from me on the pitch they would say I am a guy who is always annoyed, always in a bad mood, they’d say what must it be like to live with me. There are two of me, two different people.

— Luis Suarez in an interview to The Guardian.

It’s always good to score an early goal on your debut. It was a good goal, a difficult goal because it was a good cross from (Patrice) Evra, but it bounced before me so I had to time it well, which I did. Most of those shots go over or wide because it was a very tight angle, but luckily enough today it went in.

— Robin van Persie on his debut goal for Man United.

Look, if you want to convince me that we lost an exceptional player, you are wasting your time. I was the first to say that. We have to find a way to get around that by sharing more goals than we did before with van Persie. I think we can do that.

— Arsene Wenger on life after van Persie. THE SCORES

August 26: Stoke City 0 drew with Arsenal 0; Liverpool 2 (Skrtel 34, Suarez 66) drew with Manchester City 2 (Y. Toure 63, Tevez 80).

August 25: Chelsea 2 (Hazard pen-22, Torres 45) beat Newcastle 0; Aston Villa 1 (El Ahmadi 74) lost to Everton 3 (Pienaar 3, Fellaini 31, Jelavic 43); Manchester United 3 (Van Persie 10, Kagawa 35, Da Silva 41) beat Fulham 2 (Duff 3, Vidic o.g.-64); Norwich 1 (Jackson 11) drew with QPR 1 (Zamora 19); Southampton 0 lost to Wigan 2 (Di Santo 51, Kone 89); Swansea 3 (Rangel 20, Michu 29, Graham 64) beat West Ham 0; Tottenham 1 (Assou-Ekotto 74) drew with West Brom 1 (Morrison 90).

August 22: Chelsea 4 (Lampard pen-18, Cahill 69, Torres 81, Ivanovic 90) beat Reading 2 (Pogrebniak 25, Guthrie 29).

August 20: Everton 1 (Fellaini 57) beat Manchester United 0.

Latino Techno

The Latin influx in the EPL is ever more prominent this season with the likes of Oscar (Chelsea), Angelo Henriquez (Manchester United) and M. Boselli (Wigan) joining the party.

Contrary to earlier notions about the South Americans’ antipathy to the drab English life and weather, preferring the sun-kissed, more ‘bohemian’ mainland Europe to it, more Latinos are plying their trade at almost every level of the English game.

Earlier, players like Juan Sebastian Veron (Man United), Diego Forlan (Man United), Jared Borghetti (Bolton) and Hernan Crespo (Chelsea), despite being the leading lights at home and elsewhere in Europe failed to ignite in England and were unjustly branded as South American duds.

It’s a different story now!

The match between Liverpool and Manchester City, in many ways was also a battle of Copa supremacy. Two of the legends from the region, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Argentine Carlos Tevez were leading the charge for respective clubs.

Honours were shared in this battle, too, as both found the net. While Tevez’s goal made all the right noises about a striker’s opportunism, Suarez’s carving effort was an exhibition of sublime skill which probably only the magicians from the dusty roads of the Montevideo, Sao Paolo or Buenos Aires could conjure.

The introduction of the South Americans has at last brought some heart to the English game with sides changing tactics — veering away from traditional English long balls to a more flowing, passing game — to suit the style of the mega-buck acquisitions. While sleak-passing Swansea was a revelation last season in the otherwise predictable setup, bigger teams like Liverpool and Chelsea, are trying to imbibe that culture, this year round. This change in tactics is surely going to make the Premier League a whole lot more attractive.

Compiled by Ayon Sengupta