Paul Parker

Same old failings at Arsenal

Paul Parker

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of the weekend: Liverpool v Arsenal

It is not often two big teams meet on the
opening weekend and both sides would probably rather have a more gentle first
match. It should provide great entertainment, however, with Roy Hodgson looking
to win over a sceptical public at Anfield. He has made a good start by keeping
Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres at the club, and seems to be getting the
dressing room on side in his understated way. Rafa Benitez's lack of
man-management skills cost him his job in the end, but it seems Hodgson is a
much better communicator. Arsenal's weaknesses look to be the same as ever -
starting in goal. Every championship winning side needs a goalkeeper who is
solid at worst and brilliant at best. Arsenal simply do not have that. When
they look behind them at Manuel Almunia or Lukasz Fabianski will they be filled
with confidence? I doubt it. It is a mystery why Arsene Wenger has not
addressed this.

of the weekend: Manchester United v Newcastle

Spirits are high at Old Trafford after last
weekend's impressive Community Shield performance, but I would not read too
much into that. Paul Scholes was sensational at Wembley, yet in a competitive
fixture he would not have been allowed so much space. United are notoriously
slow starters and a solid Newcastle side can nick something from this game.
They earned a point at Old Trafford on the opening day a couple of seasons ago,
and also did so at the start of the 1993-94 - also their first season after
promotion. There is also a good chance West Ham could turn over managerless
Aston Villa but I would not really consider that an upset in light of the week
Villa have had.

to watch: Wayne Rooney

Everybody wants to know if the World Cup
was just a dismal aberration, or if Rooney's slump in form is more serious. I
expect him to come good, but his appearances in recent matches have not been
impressive. He was below his best in the Community Shield last week and got
booed off playing for England on Wednesday. He has shown the petulant side to
his personality we hoped he had stamped out last season, and has thrown his
rattle out of the pram a couple of times when things have gone against him.
Even though Javier Hernandez has arrived at Old Trafford, United are still
heavily reliant on Rooney, and he needs to show he is mentally and physically
ready to spearhead another title challenge.

pressure: Ian Holloway

This week Martin O'Neill 'won' the sack
race before a ball had even been kicked, and it looks like it could be Holloway
in the firing line next. It seems bizarre, considering the amazing job he did
getting Blackpool promoted, but Holloway has put pressure on himself by calling
out his chairman and demanding transfer funds. It could be a disastrous
campaign for Blackpool, the sort of thing that could make smaller teams
reconsider if they really want to go up. I hope they show some fight and make a
fist of life in the top flight, but I fear it could be a long season for the

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