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City look strong in controversial win

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Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo celebrates scoring against Newcastle.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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These are the dog days of the Premier League right now, where you just have to grind wins out and get the job done. The teams in the title race – Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool – all did that, and Monday the pressure will be on Arsenal to follow suit.

Arsenal’s players will have watched all the games this weekend – I know, because that’s what we used to do when we had a Monday game – and they’ll have said, right, City look very good, and Chelsea, you’re not going to shake them. Arsene Wenger will have said, we have to take care of ourselves, and he’s right. The Gunners have to go to Villa Park, always a tough place to play, and get the job done.

It’s funny looking back now on the first time these two teams met this year, because Arsenal lost and the fans were all chanting “Wenger out.” Now, it’s Paul Lambert under pressure and they really don’t have a lot of leeway. The FA Cup loss was very bad, and if Villa doesn’t start getting some things strung together at home, they are going to be in trouble. It’s not a good time for them to be facing Arsenal, for sure.

I must say I’m still trying to figure out what happened at St. James on Sunday. The disallowed Cheick Tiote goal was a major turning point in the game and the refs simply got that wrong. We’re always talking about how we can get more goals in the league, so to see a cracker like that waved off is scandalous. No one impeded Joe Hart at all, and you see none of the City players questioning it –Hart said as much afterwards – but the refs see something no one else does. It’s a just a shame because it was a very enjoyable game, and you hate to see it hinge on something like that.

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But while I think my old team played very well – we’ve been very solid since the humiliation at the derby – you have to give a lot of credit to City. They look very powerful, and with Hart back to full form, I think they are the title favorites. It’s good to see Hart back and making big saves, because England needs him at the World Cup in top, top form.

I cannot say the same for Manchester United, who won, but still could not make up any ground. They have to forget about the title and focus now instead on getting their house in order. They’ve got to get in the top four, got to sort out the situation with Wayne Rooney and just hope that the injury to Robin van Persie is not as severe as the reports suggest. They’ve got to rebuild and that process really starts right now.

It was good to see Daniel Sturridge come back for Liverpool, and I was also delighted to see Tim Sherwood and Les Ferdinand win another with Spurs. Liverpool looked very professional this weekend, while Spurs I thought got another boost to their confidence and look on the right track. Getting those tough wins at this time of year is really all it’s about.

West Ham also got some big breathing room. I know Big Sam very well, and while his style of football is not something I’d enjoy playing, he’s a good coach and he can keep that team up. The FA Cup really let a lot of people down, and I think this was a good first step towards getting some of that confidence back.

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Fulham had a tougher weekend. It’s good to see Clint Dempsey starting, but they are in a dogfight. I think Fulham is a side that can go and win three in a row – but they also are capable of losing three more in a row. They need to pick up a defender in this window because they are shipping goals in. You see the heads down and unless they shore that back up, they are going to struggle.

I love chatting with you guys, so do take a moment to follow me on Twitter at @WarrenBarton2. It’s a lot of fun to be able to banter with you guys! And don’t forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer. We’re back with the FA Cup this Tuesday and Wednesday, and I do hope you tune in for that, because there are some interesting games between some very historic teams. As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you again next week!

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