City exposes United shortcomings
This weekend was a real treat -- the Premier League shook off some of the rust, we saw some super goals, and all but Manchester United fans would say that the Sunday derby was one of the better “blockbuster” games we’ve seen in ages. It was refreshing to see the game played in such an open and entertaining manner, but David Moyes will be ruing some of his decisions.
We have to start there, because Manchester City delivered the harshest lesson yet to Moyes on Sunday: managing United is not the same as managing Everton. All of United’s flaws were in evidence; the defense is aging and makes too many mistakes; they lack a clever, creative midfielder to spring the attack against better sides; and that means they rely too much on men like Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney to single-handedly win games. With van Persie on the bench on Sunday, Rooney was isolated up top, and the scoreline reflected that.
United looked weak, and Moyes surprisingly didn’t make changes at the half. You’re down 2-0 in a derby, and this is where big managers send a message refusing to bring on Kagawa and Nani to the match. Instead he left his lineup intact, and the chance to make a statement and maybe take the game back, was gone. And we saw that reflected on the field as players were reluctanct to attack and pulled back tackles.
City also did a lot of things right, and this was the first time Manuel Pellegrini had every one of his players on song. Getting Vincent Kompany back was the key; solid in the back, calm when attackers were running at him, and smart on how he distributed the ball out. He and Yaya Toure simply throttled United and allowed Alvaro Negredo, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri to find space and carve out chances. This team has a new dimension now: they are blending technique with a physical play and a direct style that is hard to handle. Aguero was simply outstanding and took Rio Ferdinand places he didn’t want to go, and it showed.
United will take some solace that they lost this match without one of their key players -- but they have just seven points after five games.
View from the top
Let’s move to the top of the table, where North London is currently looking down on everyone. Arsenal again cruised to a very professional win over a tough Stoke side Sunday morning, and you see what Mesut Ozil brings to the table. He was involved in every goal for the Gunners, and his effect on other players. Aaron Ramsey has been given new life and Jack Wilshere has someone to play off of now. For Arsene Wenger, to bring a player like that in is huge. The question now is if Wenger can help bring in more quality signings in January.
Liverpool had a bit of a wobble, and while Southampton isn’t a bad team, Brendan Rodgers was right to question his defense after that game. They heaped pressure on themselves all day long with careless passes out of the back, and that is something that has been a habit. The return of Luis Suarez this week for suspension will cheer their fans, but the real work in training will have to be in communication along that back four. This may be a little reality check for the Reds. They have always found it difficult against the so-called “lesser” teams at home -- but winning teams shouldn’t be dropping games to Southampton.
I just want to touch a bit on my Newcastle. Alan Pardew is right when he says Newcastle lack consistency during matches. It was an entertaining game against Hull even if it went the wrong way for us, but we dropped down a gear and made a couple mistakes -- and that costs you at this level. Fact is, we are not good enough to see out games right now. We win a couple games, then we get a slap. I think there’s a bit of leadership lacking, maybe there’s not that influential figure in the dressing room. Pardew needs to address that.
And then there’s Sunderland. Paolo Di Canio became the first manager sacked this season and it’s easy to see why. I know as a player that when a man is just shouting at you all the time, you tune it out. It works when you’re 8 or 9, but when you’re a pro it just doesn’t work. And that’s all I heard coming from Sunderland. Paolo wasn’t very popular at West Ham, either, but it was all right – he speaks his mind and that’s fine. But as a manger, you have to be more disciplined and subtle. I don’t know if he can change his manner.
One more thing: I see a little bit of that in London too. Juan Mata didn’t become a bad player overnight and that makes me wonder a bit about what Jose Mourinho is doing.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @WarrenBarton2 or tweet questions to @FOXSoccer -- and you know I love the banter! Join us all this week for FOX Soccer Daily at our new time of 3:30 ET. We’ll have all the highlights and action from around the world as we get ready for a big League Cup week in England. Thanks as always for reading and I’ll see you next week!