Premier League

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City hiccup clears way for United chance

Sir Alex Ferguson has challenged City's mental makeup during the PL title chase.
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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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FOX Soccer's lead analyst reflects on the latest news in and around English soccer.

It’s been a difficult week for Liverpool, a mixed one for Manchester City, and we saw the best that football can be at Bolton. Fabrice Muamba remains first in our thoughts, and it was heartening to see how the fans and all of football have rallied to him.

United’s huge opportunity

We saw a very difficult game for Manchester City at Stoke and witnessed a wonder goal from Peter Crouch. Easily one of the best goals of the season!

I do think from City’s point of view, though, they’ll have looked at this week and thought four points was a reasonable expectation, given Chelsea’s recent form and Stoke’s advantage at Britannia Stadium. The problem is that with United’s giving them a run, they need maximum points.

We witnessed something special out of Yaya Toure on Saturday, though – he is showing real determination. But honestly, City’s not firing on all cylinders.

Now, the focus moves to Monday, where Manchester United faces a Fulham team that they have a very good record against. I think everyone would expect Sir Alex Ferguson to come out of there with all three points, and that’s going to make things very interesting down the stretch.

Trouble at Anfield

Kenny Dalglish was my coach of course, and I think that after Liverpool's last two games, he will be under pressure. He put some of that on himself, and the expectations are high. Knowing him as well as I do, what he will do is protect his players, and then sort this out behind closed doors. I think he has to start asking some questions and I think the coaching staff will have to figure out a way to get his group to play better.

What he’ll do with the media is another story. There is going to be a lot of criticism, and I think Dalglish will start by reminding folks in the press that Liverpool won the Carling Cup, for their first trophy in six years. I think he’ll remind them that Arsenal haven’t won anything in the same span of time. And I think he’ll point out where the club was when he took it over. He will say that he should be judged at the end of the season, but he will not throw the players into the fire.

PREMIER LEAGUE GALLERY

See all the action from the weekend's Premier League action.

 

The fact is, he’s disappointed. They got beaten by two poor teams this week. They lost at home to a sucker punch, and the performances were simply not good enough. Quite frankly, the players have to come out and take responsibility. I think it can be very easy to hide behind Dalglish and let him take all the criticism, but they haven’t been good enough. They should step forward and say that, then go back and work on changing it.

Too little, too late?

Arsenal dominated a very poor Aston Villa team that is just trying to survive. Frankly, Villa isn’t good enough and the goals they gave up were poor. But the other side of the game was seeing Arsenal play with attacking flair and professionalism. I like how they are getting back and defending when they have to, and staying very organized. You must credit the partnership of Mikel Arteta and Alex Song for that. They complement each other very well and the late goal that Arteta grabbed was just icing on the cake.

It’s a just a shame that all of this is coming a little late. Arsenal’s still a couple of players short of contending in the Champions League and challenging the Manchester clubs. When this team is under pressure, it falls apart. They started well, but when the scrutiny started, they wilted. This showed me they need a few world-class players.

FABRICE'S FIGHT

See the worldwide support for Bolton's midfielder Fabrice Muamba.

 

I hope this late run doesn’t cover up the cracks. I hope Arsene Wenger is aggressive in the transfer market this summer. The fact is they are short and still have big needs.

Muamba in our hearts

I just want to end here and say that the Bolton fans were magnificent. That was a difficult game for the Blackburn Rovers’ players — that’s a tough situation to be in when I think everyone is hoping for a positive result at home because of Muamba’s situation. That said, it was a fitting result, and I hope it helps his recovery. He’s got a long road ahead of him, but the outpouring of support is so gratifying to see.

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @warrenbarton2 and ask me questions through the @FOXSoccer account. And don’t forget to tune in midweek for our big Champions League matches. Thanks for reading and 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.

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