Long, Doyle and Keane hit the ground running

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Updated: August 22, 2011

Irish international Shane Long has returned to the Premier League with aplomb, scoring for West Brom against the leagues’ two biggest teams in consecutive weeks, while his compatriot Robbie Keane made a similar start to semi-retirement in Los Angeles. Keane, perhaps understandably, chose the bright and glamorous option of LA over the chance to again receive hero status at one of his many boyhood clubs, Celtic. Kevin Doyle also got on the score sheet for Wolves in their win over Fulham.

The Tallaght native showed he still has a lot to offer, particularly at Major League Soccer level, when he scored on his debut for The LA Galaxy courtesy of a pass from David Beckham, another early retiree. The San Jose keeper, however, was more than a little suspect and that’s indicative of the level Keane has dropped down to. Robbie’s debut was in front of a full house at the Home Depot Arena, and he received a standing ovation on being substituted. It’s a testament to Harry Redknapp’s carefully developed image as a shrew wheeler dealer that he managed to prise 3.5 million from the American side for a 31 year old that he clearly wanted rid of at any costs.

Long however, has made the leap back to the Premier League look easy. After plundering 23 Championship goals last season for Reading, Long was chased by a number of Premier League clubs, and West Brom eventually sealed a 4.5 million deal. Long now has as many goals this season as he had in his first season in the Premier League with Reading. Against Chelsea, Long outmuscled Alex and kept his cool with a great finish, while against United, he made space well and De Gea did the rest. Foolishly, I left him on the bench on my fantasy team for both matches, but with lesser opponents than Chelsea and United to come, he should find more goals in the coming weeks. With pace and a keen eye for goal, I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a step up to a bigger team again in the next couple of seasons, along with Wigan’s James McCarthy.
Liverpool, another club who were previously linked to the West Brom man, have started the season brightly, with Luis Suarez moving almost seamlessly from his Copa America exploits to Premier League action. I previously tipped Liverpool to return to the Champion’s League spots this season, and from early analysis, that still seems achievable.
While beating a depleted and deflated Arsenal team at the Emirates should not be overestimated, they have made some solid summer signings and should prove a threat. Arsenal may struggle to make the top four this season, but if they can reinvest some of their sales proceeds on some proven players, to supplement their many prospects such as Oxlade-Chamberlain, fourth place may be within their grasp.

After Man City’s blistering start, they must now be favourites among those looking to knock United off their perch, but a lot will depend on how Roberto Mancini can juggle his marquee names and keep everyone happy. Alex Ferguson already has some major injury concerns, but with depth in most areas, they should ride out the storms.

It all promises to be another interesting season, with more teams than ever pushing for the top spots, and we can only hope it will be more than just a one or two-horse race.

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