The Premier League kicked off last weekend, but which newcomers impressed the most?
The Premier League got underway with some typical, fast paced action over the weekend. There were upsets, stalemates and a host of thrashings too, with 27 goals being scored in the opening round.
Four of those goals alone came from two Premier League new boys, with Michu snatching a brace in Swansea’s 5-0 smashing of Queens Park Rangers, whilst Mladen Petric notched his own debut double in Fulham’s win over Norwich at the Craven Cottage by the same score line. It is always interesting to see how players from different leagues all around the world come into the Premier League, famous not only for it’s quality of football but also the speed and physicality with which it is played, and adapt to it’s often ferocious style.
Though this season’s transfer window has been a quieter one than usual, with clubs spending less to avoid the pinch of the upcoming Financial Fair Play rules set to come in at the end of this season, there have still been a number of interesting imports. Here are five to keep an eye out for, on the basis of the first week:
Eden Hazard - Chelsea
Chelsea reverted to their usual habits with some very aggressive spending in the transfer market over the off-season. A number of young, talented players have been brought in, such as Oscar and Marko Marin, but the player set to capture the imagination of the Stamford Bridge faithful more than all else will surely be Eden Hazard.
After offering a glimpse of what might be to come in the Community Shield, Hazard’s Premier League debut in Chelsea’s 2-0 win over relegation candidates Wigan only served to confirm his quality. Hazard, who can play in central as well as wide positions, buzzed around all over the pitch, starting just behind Torres in the number 10 role.
Barely 120 seconds into his Premier League debut, the Belgian attacking midfielder already had an assist to his name, feeding Branislav Ivanovic with a glorious pass to set up the opening goal. Only five minutes later he had another one, when he skipped past Ivan Ramis with ease before being clumsily tackled resulting in a penalty.
Hazard came at a premium price from French champions Lille, but his performance on Sunday has provided an early indication as to why Roman Abramovic fought so hard to sign the dynamic trickster at the expense of his title rivals.
Another three assists in Chelsea's 4-2 win over Reading midweek only serve as further example of his amazing potential.
Michu – Swansea
To anyone who watched their fair share of Spanish football last season, the only surprising thing about Michu’s fantastic Premier League debut was that it was being played out for Swansea and not a bigger (sorry Swans fans) club.
Michu scored an impressive 17 goals from midfield in La Liga last season, and Michael Laudrup was more than happy to take the gamble on the 26 year old when no one else seemed interested. A brace for the Spanish debutant, not to mention his assist, made for a dream start to life in the Premier League and already has the Swansea fans asking, “Allen who?”
More than just a goal scorer, however, Michu looks extremely comfortable on the ball, and completed 33/37 passes over the 84 minutes he played. That’s hardly surprising though, after all, he is Spanish.
Santi Cazorla – Arsenal
Speaking of Spaniards, Santi Cazorla is another Spanish import looking to bring some tiki-taka to the Premier League. In the same vein as Hazard, Cazorla is a versatile attacking midfielder, equally adept in wider positions as well as in central areas and represents something of a coup for Arsene Wenger.
A member of Spain’s World Cup and European Cup winning squads, Cazorla was signed on the cheap from Malaga after the club’s wealthy benefactors pulled out of the club financially in an attempt to offload wages from the club’s books. At 27, Cazorla has plenty of senior experience, with both club and country, and is only going to get better as he approaches his best years.
His debut for Arsenal was an exciting glimpse of what is to come, with the Spanish international at his creative best. He completed 94% of his attempted 77 passes, with the majority being made in Arsenal’s attacking half, and created a total of 7 chances for his teammates, leaving a question marks over his fellow debutants Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
Thankfully for those two, with this tidy little bucket of fun buzzing around behind them they’ll have plenty of opportunities to redeem themselves.
Mladen Petric – Fulham
Comfortably the oldest player on this list, Petric kicked off his Premier League career with a real bang. A wonderful brace and an assist to boot for the Croatian striker, this could be the start of something special for the Fulham fans, as they look to continue to improve under Martin Jol’s guidance.
Snapping up such an experienced and worldly striker on a free transfer will prove an incredibly astute piece of business from the Dutch manager.
It is perhaps debatable whether or not Petric’s debut delight was attributable to his own talents, or the lack thereof of the Norwich defenders and the striker should find it harder to come by goals next week at Old Trafford (or not, on Tuesday morning’s showing), but Petric’s style and experience should serve him very well in the Premier League.
Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United
Robin Van Persie might have stolen the headlines as far as transfers at Old Trafford are concerned, but it is this Japanese sensation that United fans should be really buzzing to see more of.
Easily Manchester United’s best outfield player on Tuesday morning against Everton, not that that is saying much, Sir Alex Ferguson will be delighted with his relatively cheap acquisition of this classy attacking midfielder, particularly after watching him make a fine start to his United career at Goodison Park.
Much like Cazorla at Arsenal, United’s profligacy in front of goal perhaps reflected badly on Kagawa’s debut, but though the result was one he would like to forget, his individual performance was a silver lining in an otherwise bleak day for Manchester United.
Kagawa was United’s chief (read only) creator of any chances of note, and was one of United’s best users of the ball, particularly in the attacking third, where he only misplaced four passes.
Follow Matt on Twitter: @mg91