FOX Soccer Exclusive
City's date with history worth the wait
The Barclays Premier League enters its final week, and once again we have many story lines; Manchester City are looking like champions, we’ve got a good idea on the bottom three and Survival Sunday is shaping up to be a massive day in England.
What I noticed from Manchester City really impressed me today, even if it came at the expense of my beloved Newcastle. City are now in prime position to win the league title next week. Performance in the first half was very solid and professional: City nullified Newcastle’s passing lanes and took the home fans out of the equation. It was a mature, experienced performance and you have to credit Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany and Joleon Lescott for being solid in the back. Winning teams build from the defense, and you saw how composed their backline was today.
In midfield, we saw two things; the first that City’s interchanges in the final third were deadly, the second that Roberto Mancini was very astute in subbing in Nigel de Jong. The introduction of de Jong raised some eyebrows, but Mancini knows that Yaya Toure is far more influential when he can roam in an advanced position. Having de Jong in there to cover him in space gave Toure the freedom to score goals.
Most of all, City looked sharp after coming off a very emotional derby game. They had the chances, they had the crispness, and they had the fitness.
I think neutrals have to be happy to see City here. Their fans have stuck by this team through everything, and coming from the depths to within striking distance really is something to be proud of. It was very moving to see how emotional their fans are for their club. It's easy to understand how much they've suffered over the years.
Newcastle moves backwards
I don’t want to take the shine off what has been a magnificent season, but I think the Champions League is a step too far for the Toon. This is not to say the season is a disappointment. Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Fabricio Coloccini, Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and the coaching staff of John Carver and Alan Pardew, have been marvelous.
I think Newcastle are in the same mold as Tottenham right now. If the club can add a bit more depth, they will be very competitive at the top. The biggest problem I see next season (speaking as a defender) is that everyone knows what Ba and Cisse can do now. They will have to raise their game above what is known, and it will be a challenge.
Finally, I thought it was wonderful to see the statue of Sir Bobby Robson go up before the game. That was a touch of class, and you could tell how much that meant to all the fans and the club as a whole. He was a great man and a great coach, and it is a gesture that befits a great club.
I think both Spurs and Arsenal will be able to hold on to their places in the league table. Both London clubs should put themselves in a place to qualify for Europe. Arsene Wenger must be very frustrated how his team played against Norwich. Arsenal needs to add six players in order to compete with the likes of United and City. My gut feeling is that even if they do qualify, Robin van Persie is gone after this season. He desperately wants to win trophies and not just qualify for tournaments. He understands that he can go to another club and double his wages. It’s not all about the money, but you know that will be a factor.
Goodbye Bolton, Blackburn
Bolton threw away a 2-0 lead at home, which might as well signaled the end of their hopes this season. Now they are relying on others for help, and it’s going to be hard for them to get up. They have given up too much this season, and they’ve really missed Stuart Holden. They haven’t had a goal scorer which has proved to be an on-going obstacle.
Blackburn will join them. What you see there is really what you get — they have been challenged in every single game and I don’t think they can dig it out. When you look at QPR and Wigan over the past few weeks, I think the bottom three is pretty well set. Home form is what keeps you up, and Rovers have found it hard at home.
Survival Sunday is our final day of the season, and I do hope you join me on FOX Soccer for what will be a massive day. As always, you can follow me on Twitter at @warrenbarton2 and ask a question to us any time @FOXSoccer. Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll see you soon.
Former England international Warren Barton is the lead analyst for FOX Soccer Match Day, Goals on Sunday, and UEFA Champions League coverage.