Observations on a Premier League Match

Last updated : 18 August 2008 By Andy Beill
1. We now know why Boaz Myhill hasn't become a Premier League team's first choice goalkeeper sooner: players like Mark Schwarzer. He was excellent today, and he's not even one of the big name keepers in the division. He made some great saves and caught all crosses. Was possibly slightly out of position for our first goal and taken a bit by surprise (although I had a gut feeling just what Geovanni was about to do when he got the ball!), but didn't make any other mistakes and almost denied us the win.

2. We all expect Myhill to be in the thick of the action this season and get to show off his shot-stopping skills, and certainly against better teams that will be the case. Today he had other things to deal with. Fulham frequently played the ball behind the defence, landing it around the 18-yard line. These balls are difficult for the centre backs to turn back on and control, and today Myhill successfully came out to the edge of his box to deal with them. He must maintain the confidence to continue in this manner, as any mistake and mix-up could easily lead to a goal or handling outside the area.

3. Mistakes get punished. Fortunately Fulham weren't ruthless in front of goal, but over the rest of the pitch whenever our players mis-controlled, dwelled on the ball, misplaced a pass, or were unable to use their weaker foot, an opposition player nicked it off them and broke forward. Players like Simon Davies, Jimmy Bullard and Danny Murphy have such quick speed of thought, as well as technical ability, and took any opportunity for the ball.

4. There are some players in our squad who we all assumed would comfortably be good enough for the Premier League. Michael Turner and Sam Ricketts didn't have bad games today by any means, but they didn't find it easy. Who had Richard Garcia down as one to step up a level? Not many, I suspect. Less we forget what an important player he was last season. How we struggled when he was injured or in Australia. Nick Barmby gets the credit for the equaliser in the play-offs second leg but it was of Garcia's making, and he scored the goal of the tie later on. I thought he had a fantastic game today and was a useful outlet for clearances.

5. Of the new signings, George Boateng looked a great footballer. Having both him and Ian Ashbee in the midfield really helped us, and I can see why Phil Brown's been in for further midfielders like Sean Davis as well. I have little confidence in Dean Marney or Bryan Hughes, for all their qualities, coming in to do the same job. Anthony Gardner has a great presence and was exciting to see go up for corners with Michael Turner, even after going 2-1 up. The opposition are forced to keep players back when players like them go forward. It was also the first time I've seen Geovanni and I think he fits well the position he played today. Marlon King was lively but we didn't get to see much of him attacking the penalty area. Hopefully we will.

6. Let's not get carried away. Actually, no, let's get carried away. If you can't enjoy City winning the first game of the season - on this of all seasons - there's something wrong with you. But let's remember that, relatively, Fulham weren't very good. We had at least half a dozen goal-scoring chances today, courtesy of a rather poor opposition defence, but won't get that many in most games. Schwarzer saved some of them - so will the other international quality goalkeepers in the league. We came close with a couple of others: Barmby's header in the first half and Turner's header from the second half corner; in other games, they will be all the chances we get, and "close" is still "nil". Fulham had quite a few chances themselves, and we were lucky that - their well-taken goal aside - they finished poorly.

Today's result was important for many reasons. We've got the "monkey off our back" with our first win and eased the pressure in the following games. The players and fans have the confidence that we can compete in this league. We've taken 3 points from a team set to battle relegation with us. And the hype is now over, we're on with business, and from now on football matches are what it's all about. We are Premier League, and I could get used to it!

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