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Coming in off the long run: Premier League kicks up controversy

CHARLIE HANTLER
Last updated 14:21 16/09/2012
Robin Van Persie
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HAT-TRICK HERO: Robin Van Persie celebrates his match-winning goal, completing his hat-trick, for Manchester United against Southampton.

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The Premier League is underway once again and there are already a myriad of controversial topics to discuss, along with many surprises, and the usual big guns getting off to a good start.

The first big shocks came with Michael Laudrup's Swansea getting off to a flying start, little-known Spanish signing Michu starring, and they show no signs of slowing down any time soon.

The Welsh outfit were expected to struggle in their follow up season in the top tier after losing manager Brendan Rogers, and dominant midfielders Joe Allen and Gylfi Sigurdsson, to Liverpool and Tottenham respectively.

Laudrup, despite being regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, wasn't widely expected to meet the standard Rogers had got Swansea to, yet they are playing fluent football and look good value for their high placing on the table so far.

They may be upset by the loss of their solid left back Neil Taylor, with a lack of well known defensive options, but then again very few people had heard of Taylor, Ashley Williams, Michel Vorm or Nathan Dyer before last season.

They also look to have new stars emerging in the form of Leon Britton, Wayne Routledge and the fantastically named Angel Rangel.

They have made up for the loss of winger Scott Sinclair to Arab-fuelled powerhouse Manchester City with the smart signing of wing Pablo Hernandez from Valencia, which shows they mean business.

This is a club with ambition. They have also signed Ki Sung-Yeung - referred to as the 'Korean Steven Gerrard' - who had such an impact at Celtic.

Another team who have really shown their ambition is Queens Park Rangers, who appeared to be signing anything that moved during the transfer window.

They have a team of great depth but many of the players have failed to make an impact at previous teams, so it will be interesting to see if they can look as good on the field as they do on paper - evidently, not so far.

The other big early shock, although maybe not so big for some, was Everton ridding themselves of their usual early season blues and getting a well deserved victory over my beloved Manchester United at Goodison Park. Is this their season?

They've managed to hold on to quality players in Leighton Baines, Marouane Fellaini, and Phil Jagielka, and have bought in quality in the form of Steven Pienaar, Kevin Mirallas and Nikica Jelavic (late last season).

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If the contract issues with Fellaini are resolved, I can see the Toffees challenging for a European spot.

United, on the other hand, looked lacklustre, but are now starting to pick things up with new signings Shinji Kagawa and Robin van Persie, from Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal respectively.

It was unfortunate to see Wayne Rooney sustain a rough injury in the miraculous win over Southampton, but United most definitely have the options to cover him, with international strikers Danny Welbeck and Javier Hernandez in the wings.

This leads me on to the title race, which seems to be a three-horse one between the two Manchester clubs and Chelsea, who have been inspired by new signing, Belgian wiz-kid Eden Hazard, and the return to form of Fernando Torres.

Although they did slip up and were completely outplayed by Atletico Madrid.

City look to be going from strength to strength, with the ever-controversial Carlos Tevez nearing top form, and new smart signings such as Jack Rodwell, Javi Garcia and Maicon appearing to be wise business.

A far more competitive league than last season, look for a tight title race with the top eight going United, City, Chelsea, Spurs, Arsenal, Everton, Swansea and Newcastle.

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