Arsenal stumbles as Manchester City, Chelsea power on

Olivier Giroud and Arsenal found tough sledding against Stoke over the weekend.

Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC

We have to start off this week with my old club, Newcastle. Normally, I like to do that, but I think we all know what happened on the sideline between manager Alan Pardew and Hull’s David Meyler, and that makes this week’s column a little painful.

As a former player, a former captain and a manger now myself, there can be only one response: It’s not acceptable, and Pardew has to face whatever is thrown his way. That kind of thing has no place in the game whatsoever. It left a very bad taste in my mouth seeing that. It comes after a really good week for the club and a good win, so to have something like that tarnish everything is exactly what the club, the fans and everyone around Newcastle didn’t need. You have to condemn that in the strongest possible way.

We all know this isn’t the first time Alan’s been in trouble. He’s got a hot temper and he’s got to rein that in. I also know Alan personally, and I know that he is man enough to step up and accept whatever punishment he receives. The club’s already fined him, I know the owner is furious, and we’ll have to wait and see what the FA says now. I hope Alan learns from this.

Manchester City won a very important trophy for the club this weekend. Yes, they were expected to win it, but if they had not, I think there would have been a lot of questions, and a lot of doubts seeping in. Give credit to Yaya Toure, who is becoming the big-game player that great teams have. Manchester United had Roy Keane, Arsenal had Patrick Vieira, and now you are seeing what happens at City when Yaya gets angry. This win really sets them up well for the run-in; I think they can and will build on this.

The news wasn’t so good for Arsenal, who I think have, predictably, blown another chance. Arsenal fans will get on me for this, but there’s that Achilles’ heel there. There was only one thing that surprised me about this weekend’s result – and the decline they have been in: It didn’t surprise me at all. I expected it. We’ve come to associate that kind of slump now with Arsenal and it’s a shame. I think they are still paying for not buying a top-quality striker to go alongside Mesut Ozil, and I fear they will again finish third or fourth now.

Chelsea, on the other hand, are in a groove. Jose Mourinho knows how to win games down the stretch, and I think we saw that kind of determination against a Fulham team that’s in real trouble. Andre Schurrle’s a player, and Chelsea have one or two men – Eden Hazard, Oscar – who can make the difference. I think it’s going to make for a fascinating race. Manuel Pellegrini and Jose Mourinho are as different as they come, and the players they have boast very different personalities as well. With Liverpool nipping at their heels – Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge have been sensational – I think these final weeks will be very enjoyable to watch.

The USA have a big game against the Ukraine on Wednesday in Cyprus, and of course right now all our thoughts are with that country during this time of crisis. On the field, I think Jurgen Klinsmann is very eager to get his team back into match shape. Rob Stone and I visited them a few weeks back and you can tell that he wasn’t to keep that momentum going. It’s going to be a good opportunity for some of the younger players, and I just hope they can make the most of their chances.

PAPER CHASE

My England of course plays Denmark, and that will be a critical game for us as well. There’s not much time left now before Brazil and I think Roy Hodgson’s got a lot of decisions to make.

I do want to give a special congratulations to Cal South ODP ’98, who won the national championship Sunday in Phoenix! My son, Milo, was on field, and he scored as well. I just want to say how proud I am of him, and the entire team!

As always, you can follow me on Twitter @WarrenBarton2 or tweet questions to @FOXSoccer – and you know I love the banter! Thanks as always for reading and I’ll see you next week!