Sorry I haven't posted on here for ages, I'm afraid posts over the next twelve months are likely to be similarly intermittent as I focus upon my masters degree. I'm currently back in Cornwall for the summer, and due to the terrible internet connection I have here, I haven't been able to get together the screenshots I want/need to do any new posts. This will hopefully be rectified when I go back to uni in a few weeks, time permitting, so until then posts will either be scarce or very text heavy. Fortunately I think it's possibly a bit early to try and read too much into the tactics of teams as they settle into new systems and bed in/get accustomed to new players and managers.
Despite what I just said, I would like to offer a couple of things I've noticed so far this season.
Arsenal and Gervinho
When Arsenal brought in Podolski, Cazorla and Giroud I thought that might be the end of Gervinho's first team opportunities. Theo Walcott, despite receiving constant criticism from almost everybody (unfairly in my opinion as I'm a fan of his) seemed more likely to retain his place in the side. That has not been the case however as Gervinho has started both of Arsenal's Premier League games this season. This alone isn't really a particularly interesting obervation especially as the similarities between Walcott and Podolski, particularly their struggles against compact/deep lying defences, contrast with Gervinho's extremely high number of touches in the opposition box last season. When I looked into Gervinho's performances last season mroe closely however, I noticed something that may have contributed to my unfair decision to write him off so quickly, particularly when taking his performances for Lille into consideration. The point of all this is basically that last season he scored all his 4 goals before the african cup of nations and 5 of his 6 Premier League assists as well as his only assist in the Champions League. Now that he has had 12 months in London, a full pre-season with the team and doesn't have the distraction of the ACON (something that arguably also contributed to Demba Ba's lack of goals after the competition, albeit in conjunction with the arrival of his compatriot Cisse) I wouldn't be surprised to see him improve greatly this season.
On his arrival Hazard faced two questions in particular about his ability to succeed in the Premier League, the same questions asked of David Silva and Juan Mata in particular before him.
Firstly, people questioned whether he would be able to cope with the "physicality" of the English League and so far he seems to be doing just fine. This isn't exactly surprising as Mata and Silva also adapted very quickly and are roughly the same height/size, in addition Hazard came from the arguably more physical French League so he was always likely to overcome this supposed hurdle.
The other question on Mata and Silva, one which they both struggled to provide a positive answer for, is their ability to sustain their level of performance over an entire season. Both were used to a winter break and both seemed to suffer in the second half of the season. The same may not be true for Hazard though. Although Lille also had a break last season, from 21 December to January 15th, Hazard played 48 games last year and 52 the 2 previous years. This is a significant increase on the 36, 25 and 45 games of Silva in the 3 years previous to joining Manchester City and, although not quite as big a difference, Mata's 43, 51 and 47 appearances.
In addition to this Hazard made 8 appearances for Belgium in each of these 3 years and was afforded a long summer break due to the inability to qualify for the Euros. This means not only has he almost certainly played a significantly higher number of matches per year in the last 3 years, he also begins the season fresher from the extended break.
Last season Liverpool's season was, to an extent, unhinged by the injury of Lucas Leiva. The team relied on his fitness so heavily, both due to his key role in the team and the lack of adequate cover. Interestingly, this over reliance is one of the first things Brendan Rodgers sought to rectify by bringing in first Joe Allen and then Nuri Sahin on loan. Now, although Lucas is injured again, it has not sparked the panic it did previously and Joe Allen in fact showed how effectively he can cover in this role despite it not being his preferred position. The addition of Nuri Sahin therefore covers for Allen's absence higher up the pitch and allows Gerrard license to play a role less constricted positionally, one which he flourished in under Benitez. Although this projected midfield lineup does oversimplify the intricacies of Rodgers manipulations through redefining the positions as DM-CM-AM, DM-DM-AM, DM-CM-CM etc it is clear to see that his forethought has already paid off.