FOX Soccer Exclusive
Man City destined to win title
FOX Soccer's lead analyst reflects on the latest news in and around English soccer.
What a weekend of football we had. The spotlight was on Arsenal and Manchester United, but I think we might well have seen the champions — they were playing up in Manchester.
Arsenal and United is a great matchup and a super rivalry but, from a league point of view, I felt that the game between Manchester City and Tottenham was the more important one. With the way Harry Redknapp had his team playing, and the hiccups that City hve had in the last weeks, I believed this would be a key game for both teams.
City slickers the team to catch
What an exhibition that game was! It had the drama and all the passion you could ask for — it was just a great bit of entertainment. City, even without Yaya Toure and Vincent Kompany, showed they know how to win a big game. Maybe this is their year – I felt that they not only showed real character, but also have that sparkle of luck. Everything is falling for them. I’ve been in this situation where, as a team, you start to feel that no matter what, things are going to go your way. I also know how it feels to be on the other side of that – there’s been times when you just feel the other team is going to get the breaks. I think City are showing they can win the whole thing.
We have to talk about Balotelli. The young man has that shirt that asks 'Why Always Me?' and after seeing him stamp on a player, the answer is obvious. Only he knows if he meant to catch Scotty Parker, but it looked obvious and intentional to me. On the other hand, I also thought Ledley King should have been sent off – that was a deliberate foul to stop a goalscoring opportunity. So, maybe on the balance Mike Dean got everything right. Certainly, that was as cool a penalty kick finish as you’ll see from Balotelli. It’s frustrating, one side of the young man is petulant, then you see him win the game in that fashion with maturity beyond his years. If he can get rid of the former, you’d have a great player.
United a cut above Gunners
At Arsenal, I think it’s obvious after today’s game against United that there is a big gulf between these two teams. I think United looked head and shoulders better. Song and Ramsey couldn’t get anywhere near Carrick and Giggs, and Rooney just works so hard – in the final minutes he’s defending and then he’s getting the ball up to Welbeck! That’s what a winner does.
Contrast that with Robin van Persie. He’s great when Arsenal has the ball, but what does he do when they don’t? Not enough. He’s being compared a lot to Thierry Henry, but I think he and Henry are a million miles apart. Henry was always working, always running back, always doing the other parts of the game. I didn’t see that in van Persie today, and I thought that was very noticeable last week against Swansea as well. You know, it’s OK to say, “give me the ball, and I’ll score” but you need to get back and help out the other guys as well. That kind of commitment is why Henry has a statue in front of the stadium — and that’s why Rooney will have one at Old Trafford some day as well.
Sub sank Arsenal hopes
Today was also the first time I can recall that the faithful there have turned on the Professor. They were right to question him: the sub was a bad decision. I don’t care if Wenger has made 50,000 substitutes or whatever. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was in the zone, and causing United all kinds of problems. Forget his age, forget the fatigue – it was simply the wrong call.
Cracks starting to appear
I’m not surprised by Kenny Dalglish’s reaction this week at Liverpool. I played under him, and he’s the best at protecting his players but enough is enough. They’ve been drawing too many games at home and the effort and performance was not there against Bolton. Liverpool fans deserve better and so does Kenny.
People are blaming Kenny’s tactics and philosophy but the fact is the players aren’t giving the effort. It just hasn’t been there. It’s not about missed chances — I think managers will always accept missed chances — but not giving your all? It’s not acceptable. That’s why I get so upset when I hear players complain and say they’re giving 100% all the time. That’s what you’re supposed to do! The difference between a winner and loser is desire. Liverpool’s players aren’t showing it, and all those players are letting themselves down.
Our man Clint
Finally, I want to talk about Clint Dempsey — even though he scored a hat trick against my beloved Newcastle! I’m happy it was him. It really is a great milestone not only for him but for American soccer. He is breaking so many boundaries this season and I think his performance will encourage the likes of Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, and other men who make their way over to Britain from the MLS. He is a quiet man, a modest man, and he seems to just thrive under pressure. Clint’s ready to take the next step to a Champions League team — certainly the Big Four should be looking at him — and I just hope he stays in England. I know there are a lot of teams overseas who will look at him as well.
As always, remember you can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2, and I’ll see you next weekend for the FA Cup games. Have a great week and thanks as always for reading.
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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