Abject surrender by QPR at home – though all at sea – to Swansea City, under the new managership of the sainted Michael Laudrup. I was there to see QPR give up the ghost in the sombre closing stages. Then there was the collapse of Norwich City down the road at Fulham, against a home team which made light of the fact that Clint Dempsey had somewhat sulkily been standing aside. Liverpool, who he had been hoping to join, may now, after their own drab display at the Hawthorns, change their mind about acquiring him. And a dull display by Arsenal, shorn of their chief bombardier, Robin Van Persie, at home to an unambitious Sunderland.
Not only have the Gunners lost Van Persie to Manchester United, where there is now a super abundance of attackers, they are also losing Alexandre Song to Barcelona, where his earnings will now increase exponentially. Unlike Van Persie, whose contract would have expired at the end of this season, thus making him a free agent, Song’s contract had a substantial time to run. I was equally surprised by the fact that Barcelona, with all that midfield talent, wanted him and that the Gunners were prepared to let him go. On the face of it, the problem seems to have been that Song wanted more money, and lost form and discipline when he couldn’t get it, while Arsene Wenger grew fed up with his conduct, on and off the field.
Arsenal are bound to miss Song. Not only is he a powerful force in central midfield, but on various occasions last season I saw him produce a goal-making through pass. Though the Gunners have spent heavily on their new Franco-German potential spearhead, they may have to wait patiently and hopefully for the belated return of that inspiring – and unique – English playmaker Jack Wilshere before they start to score goals in abundance.
Meanwhile, England manager Roy Hodgson has every right to be worried by the way the most powerful clubs of the Premier League buy young talent only to stick it on the bench and make minimal use of it. At Manchester United you wonder how much playing time a young England striker such as Danny Welbeck will get.
Across the city, rivals Manchester City, whatever the displeasure of their manager Roberto Mancini at a supposed reluctance to give him the money he wants, are still recruiting significantly. The latest acquisition is the highly promising young Everton midfielder Jack Rodwell, on whose arrival Mancini patronizingly observed, though Rodwell himself modestly agreed with him, that he needed to toughen up. This seemed to imply exile to the subs bench, though when City kicked off, none too impressively, against a defiant newly promoted Southampton, Rodwell was a starter. True, his careless pass sent Saints on the way to one of their goals, but overall he seemed resilient enough.
Yet judged on their displays both in the Community Shield, against an understrength Chelsea, and now the Saints, Mancini may not have been evincing false modesty when he was oddly pessimistic about their chances of retaining the Premiership. (Which they may have won dramatically in their final game against QPR, though to some of us it seemed a somewhat shoddy victory against depleted opponents.)
Brendan Rodgers may yet rue the day he left a Swansea team which had played high above all hopes for Liverpool, not least when his former club, under Laudrup, annihilated QPR. If excluding Andy Carroll, who came on at West Bromwich Albion only as a very late sub, presaged a Swansea-like close-passing style, with Joe Allen presumably bought for the purpose but wasted out wide it simply was neither fish nor fowl at The Hawthorns.
Laudrup, meanwhile, has most skilfully rebuilt his Swansea team with bargain players from the Spanish league where he once played so well for Barcelona and Real Madrid and, more recently, managed various clubs: among them Mallorca from whom he has recruited three excellent players, not least the rangy, incisive attacking midfielder Michu, whose glorious first-time goal, one of two, Laudrup particularly praised.Subscribe today to World Soccer Magazine - The unrivalled authority on the game of soccer