Weekend Round-up: Matchday One: The Quickening

There are a million stories in the naked city. But after Matchday One: The Quickening, there is really only one story, and lucky for me and my fellow Gooners, it's the mighty Arsenal, who won at Everton, 6-1.

"Arsenal lack the squad depth, experience and toughness needed to win the league."

"The Gunners can't possibly win if they don't spend any money."

"With the exits of Adebayor and Toure, Arsenal' will fall out of the top-four and the Champions League."

Countless quotes like these had been bandied about for months; now, I can't help but laugh at the pundits, backing off their words so fast that they leave skidmarks. The talking heads on television and radio, the print media and countless blogs, having written off Arsene Wenger and the Gunners in the preseason, have done nothing but fellate Arsenal (and Wenger) with their spoken and written praise since those 90 minutes were up. Rightly so, and completely expected. The "experts" need to spend as little time being wrong in order to look as though they know what they're talking about, until they blow it again. I personally loved having Arsenal as an afterthought before this season, since it makes any success that much sweeter later on.

The Gunners put paid to that with the biggest opening day win in Premiership history. A game that was, headed into Matchday One: The Quickening, the best matchup on-tap, between the previous season's fourth- and fifth-place finishers, sure didn't pan out as expected.

If you didn't see it, then you missed a systematic dismantling of a good Premiership side, Everton, by the Arsenal that was so complete and decisive that the usually dedicated Everton Scouse were walking out of Goodison in droves by halftime. Arsenal's passing was silky, direct, incisive and deadly, leaving the Everton defense in shreds. The defense performed brilliantly, working together and ending almost any threat the Toffees would pose before it could begin. The midfield and forwards harried the opposition, offering no space with which to work, and upon winning the ball wasted no time getting it upfield and beginning attack after attack after glorious attack. It was F**KING FANTASTIC. I haven't been so excited watching a league game since the days of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Pires & company. Everton were on the run from the first few minutes on and were kept on the back foot for 90 minutes.

Game analysis? What, you want specifics? Fine. Arsenal opened the scoring after 26 minutes, Bendtner surging in from the right after a clever move, playing the ball to Cesc who laid the ball into the path of Denilson, who, wonder of wonders, hit a rocket shot from outside the area that curved into the top-left corner. Shortly after, Everton had their most sustained attack, holding Arsenal back in their area for a few minutes, culminating in Denilson clearing a ball off the goal line from a headed corner.

The Gunners continued to slice apart the defense with precision passing and movement, and after 37 minutes they had doubled their lead, Thomas Vermaelen scoring a header from a Van Persie free kick on his Premier League debut. Just a few minutes later he was joined on the scoresheet by his partner in central defense William Gallas who scored a brilliant header from a free kick taken by Cesc. The Gunners went into the break 3-0 up and confidence was abundant. Everton looked despondent, and didn't make any resurgence after the interval. Cesc scored in the 48th, after a long attack started by Denilson, who passed to RvP, who set El Capitan free with only Howard to beat, and he did so. Bendtner came off in the 63rd for Emmanuel Eboue after having had a brilliant match, but the Arsenal attack kept up, Cesc taking a throw from Almunia, driving down the other end and scoring his second. Cesc celebrated after this by holding an Arsenal shirt reading "JARQUE" numbered 21, dedicating his man-of-the-match performance to the memory of Daniel Jarque, the Espanyol captain who recently died at age 26, a friend of Fabregas'.

The Gunners weren't done yet, however. The man that many people had pegged to score in this match, Andrei Arshavin, put a toe-poke from the left that ricocheted off the back post, right to the feet of Eduardo, who just doesn't miss from there. Not a great day for US international 'keeper Tim Howard, who was under fire for the entire match. Everton managed to get one back, in injury time, when Louis Saha, who has either been injured for two seasons or on the international space station, netted when Pienaar's shot was parried away by Almunia. It certainly didn't dim the spirits of the Arsenal fans with me at Nevada Smiths on Saturday. The singing and celebrating continued long after the final whistle blew. The Everton reaction would be somewhat more subdued, although I imagine it felt like this.

And I would be derelict not to mention in particular the outstanding performances put in by Thomas Vermaelen, who even apart from scoring looked aggressive, confident and commanding at the back, and Alex Song, who is rapidly making me re-think our need for a new holding midfielder. He was all over the midfield, collecting the ball and getting it up-field for attacks, occasionally joining in. He had his best game in an Arsenal shirt by far. More of this from these two, please!

My talking about it really doesn't do it justice, but you can bask in the ethereal glow of the Gunners' performance here.

But, even though there's only one team in London (The Arsenal, of course), there was plenty of football to be played this weekend, so let's briefly recap, shall we?

Chelsea v Hull City

Prediction: Chavs 2-0 Hull Reality: Chavs 2-1 Hull
Hull put up a good fight, and Chelsea needed to be rescued by the last-minute heroics of Didier Drogba. Didn't look all that impressive, so hard to say if Chelski was just lousy or if Hull were that good.

Aston Villa v Wigan Athletic

Prediction: Villans 2-0 Wigan Reality: Villa 0-2 Wigan
Probably the second biggest shock scoreline of the weekend. I LOVE this result. Wigan put a boot up Villa's ass, attacking well and moving the ball well, while Villa just didn't look like they even showed up. If the Villans fail to turn up again next time out, I'd say it's time to bail on their players in fantasy. Maybe Gareth Barry meant even more to this team than we thought.

Blackburn v Man City

Prediction: Rovers 1-1 Man Shitty Reality: Rovers 0-2 Shittybank
Adebarndoor proves the adage "The sun shines on the just and unjust alike," by firing home to give Citeh the lead on his debut, and Stephen Ireland added one of his own just before injury time. By all accounts rovers didn't acquit themselves well in any sense, but then, it is Blackburn Rovers.

Bolton v Sunderland

Prediction: Bolton 1-1 Sunderland Reality: Bolton 0-1 Sunderland
Darren Bent proves not to be a complete waste of money (just 90% or so), heading home the winning goal for Sunderland early on. Bolton put in a typically Bolton-esque performance by not scoring.

Pompey v Fulham

Prediction: Portsmouth 0-1 Fulham Reality: Pompey 0-1 Fulham
Fulham get an away goal from Bobby Zamora, who up until this preseason couldn't score a goal if you put him unmarked, directly in front of an empty net gave him an electrified goal-scoring machine. I suspect somehow that the Chinese are involved.

Stoke City v Burnley

Prediction: Stoke 0-0 Burnley Reality: Stoke 2-0 Burnley
Either Stoke are better than I thought, or Burnley are worse. Stoke haven't changed anything from last season, their best offensive weapon is still Rory Delap's throwing.

Wolves v West Ham

Prediction: Wolves 1-2 West Ham Reality: Wolves 0-2 Hammers
Mick McCarthy, the Jimmy Carter of the Premiership, looks set for another one-term-and-out after the Irons put the Hammers down (see what I did there?) on his Wolves with goals from Mark Noble and Jack Collison. Bright start for the Hammers, beginning of a long season for Wolves.

Man Ure v Birmingham

Prediction: Man U 3-0 Birmingham Reality: Man U 1-0 Brum
A particularly underwhelming performance from United, who palpably miss Ronaldo. This is a Birmingham side the champs should have put to the sword, but could manage no more than a rooney tap-in from a missed header. 3 points, but Chelsea, Arsenal and others have to smell blood in the water.

Spuds v Scousers

Prediction: Sp*rs 1-3 Liverpudlians Reality: Sp*rs 2-1 Hubcap Thieves FC
Wow. A Tottenham club with virtually no healthy defenders who spent much of last season in the relegation scrap took the trendy pick to win the league this year, Liverpool, and footballistically raped them in the face. Liverpool managed a Gerrard penalty (go figure, the ref awarded a penalty to Liverpool) but were thoroughly outclassed by Sp*rs. I find I don't mind a spuds win so much if it helps us out.

Everton v Arsenal

Prediction: Everton 2-2 Arsenal Reality: Everton 1-6 Arsenal
This just makes me want to predict a 2-2 draw for every Arsenal match this season. Never felt so good to be wrong.

Arsenal are saying all the right things, Cesc naturally leading the way, saying:
It is just the first game in the title race, that’s all. We must keep going like this. We know we can do that if we continue to play like we did against Everton. But I must underline that it is just the first game. We won 6-1, but this is football, one day you are the best and two days later you are the worst team in the world. Let’s keep it real, this is game one and there are 37 to go so we will talk at the end to see how we have done.

And what else could he have said? It's what you expect a true captain to say. Arsenal want trophies this season, and Cesc most of all. He would've been Man of the Match against Everton even if he hadn't scored at all; he was all over the pitch, in defense, in attack, leading by example. It's his pledge.

And speaking of pledges, if you haven't caught this commercial from Nike, give it a look.

F**K. YES. How can you not love Arshavin? I can see fearing what he can do to your team (Liverpool, I'm looking in your direction), but he's just adorable. He's like a cross between Pele and a teddy bear. And seeing Eduardo say "I'm Back" just gave me a chill... as I'm sure seeing him actually back will give chills to defenders all season. I think the video speaks to Arsenal's expectations of themselves this season, and the focus from Cesc seems unwavering. The fact of the matter is, this is the fruit of all of Arsene's rebuilding, the "youth policy," all of it. They have the talent to win, they have the desire to win, and there's not been a better time to do it. So now all that's left is, well, to win.

Finally, Arsenal have their away leg to Celtic in the Champions League tomorrow, so this will be a nice test for the boys against the Bhoys, and Celtic Park always has a great atmosphere for European matches, and this should be no different. Pride and some 35 million pounds is riding on these two ties, the players and fans all know the stakes. For this away leg I think I'll just predict 2-2 and see what happens.

Right, so I'll recap that and more on Friday. So until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

-B, a gooner.