The Premier League returned this weekend with many teams having already made their big summer signings, giving us an opportunity to examine what this influx of talent can bring to their clubs Ã¢ÂÂ and English football in general.
Much of the build-up before Everton v Manchester United focused on Robin van Persie, but Shinji Kagawa is arguably the more important summer signing for Sir Alex Ferguson, given the lack of creativity from the centre of midfield shown last season. The playmaker arrives off the back of a double Bundesliga title success with Borussia Dortmund, and appeared to settle well in his first Premier League game.
Kagawa was active across the pitch, with 91% pass completion (68 out of 75), and made 20 passes to Wayne Rooney Ã¢ÂÂ the joint-highest passing combination in the match. Unfortunately for Manchester United, this was often after Rooney had dropped into a deeper role rather than turning the defence, but it was a promising start for the Japanese signing. Robin van Persie is more of a known quantity to English supporters, but had precious little to show for his 22 minutes on the pitch Ã¢ÂÂ just 4 completed passes and no shots.
Two other top-six clubs brought in creative players over the summer. Santiago Cazorla joined Arsenal and against Sunderland he had a very promising start to his life in England, as shown by his attacking-third passes. He frequently looked to play the ball forward, turning the massed Sunderland defence and creating a weekend-high 7 chances for his teammates.
Eden Hazard was hardly as prolific for Chelsea at Wigan, only attempting 6 attacking-third passes Ã¢ÂÂ but he did leave the field with an assist and a penalty won, so it was hardly an unproductive start for the highly-rated Belgian. And unlike Arsenal, who had to press for 90 minutes against stubborn Sunderland, Chelsea and Hazard could sit back after going 2-0 up within 10 minutes Ã¢ÂÂ although it could be argued that they might have counter-attacked with more intent and success as their hosts chased the game.
Moving deeper into midfield, Jack Rodwell and Joe Allen began their competitive club careers with assured performances. Manchester City's only summer signing thus far, Rodwell completed 89 of 93 passes and didn't look out of his depth in his first game for the champions against Southampton. He also made three interceptions, a block and a tackle: he could well be vital if City lose Yaya Toure to the Africa Cup of Nations in January.
Joe Allen is already the centrepiece of Brendan Rodgers' attempt to move Liverpool towards a more possession-based approach, and at West Brom he was equally adept at keeping the ball Ã¢ÂÂ like Rodwell, he finished with 96% pass completion.
Finally, goalscorers (sorry, Robin). Neither Fulham nor Swansea could have hoped for better opening-day results Ã¢ÂÂ or more promising performances from their new attacking signings, Mladen Petric and Michu: both finished with two goals and an assist.
In the absence of the departed Andy Johnson and Bobby Zamora Ã¢ÂÂ and the not-yet-departed Clint Dempsey Ã¢ÂÂ new signing Petric was Fulham's striker against Norwich but frequently dropped off to link well with his teammates, completing 14 of 15 passes in his 67 minutes on the field. Meanwhile, Michu slotted into the Swansea midfield well at QPR with the requisite high pass completion expected at the Welsh club: 33 out of 37 found their mark.
Wigan Athletic 0-2 ChelseaChelsea had just six shots in this match, their fewest in a PL game since September 2007 (4 vs Man United). Eden Hazard only made 17 successful passes in the whole game and just three into the final third.
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