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Premier League looks wide open
The Premier League is really starting to heat up, and after this weekend’s results, we’re starting to learn which teams have legs – and which are going to struggle. I’m not sure there’s a clear favorite for the title, as every contender this season has a weakness, but for the fans, that means real excitement. This league is simply unpredictable this season.
Before we get to Chelsea and Manchester City, two teams that had disappointing weekends, let’s talk a bit about David Moyes and the topic that was across all our back pages this weekend. Moyes publicly dressed down one of his own players, Ashley Young, for diving after Man United's Saturday win over Palace, and I’m of two minds about it.
As a player, I have to be honest: This is not what you want your manager to do. All it does it take an issue that really should be settled man-to-man behind closed doors and take it out into the media. This makes for good stories – and yes, we’ll be talking about it on FOX Soccer Daily on Monday! – but as a player, it makes your life difficult. Moyes is taking a risk here by sending this message, and the risk is that his players will feel they cannot trust him.
So much of this game is psychological. Nowadays in the Premier League everyone’s fit, everyone’s very well prepared, and to say that it’s a game of inches isn’t right any more. It’s often splitting hairs. You’re surrounded by very good players, so what games now come down to is belief and desire. It sounds like a cliché, but it’s not. It’s true. Sometimes, disagreements and problems are the difference on a day between making the big plays and winning, or not – and losing. So, it’s a risk for a manager to go out and do what Moyes did.
However, also speaking as a player, I don’t like diving. I think it’s cheating and I think there’s no place for it in the game. I think it ruins matches and I’m always happy when the refs get it right and book players for it. I tell my own players not to do it. Young has been talked to about this before, by no less than Sir Alex, so I think Moyes feels it’s time to bring it out in the open. I applaud Moyes for saying he doesn’t want it in his squad. That’s the right thing for the game and for fair play – even if it is a risk.
Now, we do have to talk about Arsenal and Tottenham, who are unexpectedly at the top of the table. Mesut Ozil had a superb debut for the Gunners, but how different would that game have been had Martin Atkinson not blown the call on Jozy Altidore’s goal? We’ll never know, but it was a poor decision: Atkinson should have rewarded Sunderland and played advantage; instead, he wiped off what could have been a game-changing goal and the Black Cats paid a harsh price. That shouldn’t take anything away from Ozil’s debut – he’s a real player and he can change games for Arsenal this season.
Tottenham, on the other hand, never looked troubled by Norwich, and they’ve got off to a great start after the departure of Gareth Bale. I was very impressed by Christian Eriksen for Spurs: he continued to find space and looked like a man who can steer the team. He was involved in both goals, and if he and Paulinho continue to show the kind of understanding they did on Saturday, Tottenham are going to be very tough to beat.
Manchester City and Chelsea also have to be mentioned. Jose Mourinho knows that a team is going to lose games, but he cannot be pleased about how his side played at Goodison Park. Credit Roberto Martinez for showing no fear and having his Everton play Chelsea honestly, but this was a very poor game and Chelsea were quite wasteful. If Chelsea had simply played a more direct style, they would have come away with at least a share of the points. They did not, and Everton benefited.
Manchester City were always in for a tough game against a former manager in Stoke’s Mark Hughes, but the fact is that the Potters were the ones who failed to take their chances, and it was City who were hanging on. Manuel Pellegrini’s expensive team still looks like a work in progress, and he wasn’t helped by having so many players away on international duty. But these kinds of lackadaisical shows won’t be tolerated for long, and Pellegrini must get this team playing well ahead of Sunday’s massive derby against United.
But before that, City must play Victoria Plzen as the Champions League kicks off exclusively on FOX Sports. We have some huge games for you this week Tuesday and Wednesday, and I’m thrilled to once again be able to bring them to you. Our coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET, live on FOX Sports 1 – you do not want to miss it!
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 all week! And don’t forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer or @FOXSoccerDaily. As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you again next week!
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