FOX Soccer Exclusive
Sunday great display for English soccer
FOX Soccer's lead analyst reflects on the latest news in and around English soccer.
I don’t think you could ask for a better Sunday of football than the one we saw today. It was a great advertisement for the English game at Wembley and everything you’d want out of a North London derby.
Let’s start with Liverpool, where Kenny Dalglish got a very important win, and we saw a magnificent display from Cardiff. Liverpool are a massive club, and I think this result helps them on several levels. The first is that it breaks six years without a trophy - that’s a given. More important, it gives them a foundation to build on for the future. We have all seen how Manchester City have built on their FA Cup win last season, just as we’ve seen what happened to Arsenal when they lost to Birmingham City last season on this same stage.
This may be a result that also allows Liverpool to go out and attract some more big names, because it signals that under Dalglish, the club can be successful. And for fans over here, this is huge. Americans love winners, and this only helps them grow their fan base. That’s very important these days, as I think we all realize.
Cardiff put on a great show, and it’s cruel that they had to lose in that way. I didn’t think we’d be chatting about Anthony Gerrard instead of Steven Gerrard. But that crucial miss shouldn’t take away from the fact that Cardiff showed what second division football can offer, and that’s great for the Championship as well. They have to be proud of the way they played, and it really came down to the fact that Liverpool kept their nerve. Cardiff showed heart, staying power, and they scored when they had to.
Liverpool got a big boost from Dirk Kuyt, and I think the team's overall experience helped at the end with Glen Johnson sinking his penalty. On the other hand, Steven Gerrard had his saved, and Charlie Adam missed, so I think you have to credit the club as a whole, not just individuals. I give the applause to Dalglish and the backroom staff. This is a step towards restoring Liverpool’s great tradition.
One final thing I hope fans noticed: At the end, Steven went over to console cousin Anthony before celebrating. I think that moment summed up everything that is important about the game - even at a massive time like that, sportsmanship is far more important than the end result.
Arsenal have sights on third
In London, I think Arsenal got a massive win today. The pressure around the club has been intense, and this result will ease a lot of that. It was a great game to watch from a neutral point of view because it showed what quality and ability the English game really has.
We saw the brilliance of Robin van Persie and Gareth Bale, as well as the quality we’ve been waiting to see from Theo Walcott. At 2-0 down, you might have thought Spurs would be running away, but Arsenal showed that they can come back. Yossi Benayoun and Alex Song were just great today, doing everything that needed to be done to allow the attackers to do their jobs.
Arsenal have to think they may now be able to catch up with Spurs. They have a difficult game against Liverpool next but Tottenham have Manchester United, so if the Gunners can build on this, they can make it a race. Moreover, this restores the pride in North London after their dismal games at the San Siro and Stadium of Light.
Perceptive needed on Kean
I thought Manchester City were outstanding against Blackburn, and the thing that jumped out at me was the percentage of possession they enjoyed. 78%! That’s a Barcelona stat. I did expect this kind of performance with Yaya Toure coming back full time. I think he has been the engine for them and has really given them a lot of confidence.
But I’m really disturbed by what has happened to Steve Kean at Blackburn. It’s appalling that his family is being harassed and that he needs a bodyguard to go out with his wife and kids. That’s a disgrace. Kean is doing the best he can in that situation, and the fact he is being threatened for it is not right. You can judge him by his results on the field right enough, and you can let him have it in the stadium. I’m sure he would also take it on the chin at a fan forum. But for him to have to have protection `round the clock on city streets? That’s not what this sport is about.
United ready to take City to wire
United are keeping the pressure on, and it’s remarkable who they’re doing it behind. When you consider that Paul Scholes hadn’t even kicked a ball in anger in six months and now he’s leading the team — and we’re talking about him perhaps going to the European Championship for England — is simply phenomenal. And Ryan Giggs? His 900th game, and he comes out today and scores the last-minute winner? Hollywood. Both men deserve the credit they are getting.
We’ve got races on now at both ends of the table, but I think the showdown between City and United will go to the wire. Sir Alex Ferguson has his team persevering and believing. It’s astonishing, really.
Pearce right to call in kids
Finally, England face a tough game against the World Cup finalists Holland Wednesday. I spoke to Stuart Pearce when he took over as coach last week and I think he’s right to give the younger lads a chance to book their place. Frazier Campbell, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones all have a chance to shine. This is a big test, and I’ll be happy if they go out and just give a good account of themselves. I know Stuart will provide them with the preparation, the belief and the energy – and you know, they might just pick up the win.
Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.
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