England's top clubs reveal identities
We’re through our first “Super Sunday” of the season, and it went off with a bang. No, there weren’t a lot of goals again this weekend -- just 13 total -- but we’ve learned a bit about the big teams and we’ve already found out which teams are in serious trouble. And of course, then there’s Gareth Bale, who became the most expensive player ever Sunday with his more to Real Madrid. That is a huge statement about the power of British football.
Return to radar
We have to start at Anfield, where Daniel Sturridge has been Liverpool's hero so far this season. Three games, three goals, three wins, with none bigger than his on Sunday against the Reds' archrivals. It was a super goal off the set piece with the young man going around the keeper and getting set to receive Daniel Agger’s flick-on. There was nothing David de Gea could do about the goal, and once it came, Liverpool were able to exploit Manchester United's weaknesses in midfield to see the game out.
You see Liverpool's program starting to work. Last year, Brendan Rodgers found out who could play and who couldn’t, and put the foundations in place to remake the squad. They have a ways to go, but this is all very positive. And one other thing: how Rodgers and the club have handled the Suarez situation has been exemplary. They’ve laid down the law, kept it from being a distraction, and now all the pressure is on the player. If he comes back and plays up to his potential, it will only benefit the club.
It’s worth noting that David Moyes has always had a poor record at Anfield -- this was actually his 12th winless trip there -- but it is surprising that he was unable to at least grab a point. This was the first time we sensed a bit of panic in this team, and it doesn’t bode well. Now, Moyes was hurt when Wayne Rooney was lost to a training ground accident, but he made a mistake by not taking Shinji Kagawa along with him. For long periods, United were static in midfield, with Tom Cleverley and Michael Carrick unable to get a hold of the game. Kagawa showed he was a superb creator last season, and it is strange that Moyes chose to idle him against a side that is showing a lot of flair.
It’s early going yet, of course. Liverpool have flaws, and Manchester United still have one of the best lineups in the game. But United look like a team missing a couple key pieces. We should all keep an eye out Monday and see if they can pull out a late deal to shore things up. They looked very predictable Sunday, and teams do not fear them right now.
Arsenal have been under a lot of pressure, and Sunday’s win against city rivals Tottenham will have reassured a lot of their fans. For most of the game, Arsenal were the better side, sharper in attack and more creative in midfield. But you saw the difference when Jack Wilshere had to come off, and that is worrying to say the least. With him, Arsenal are a team with a cutting edge. Without him, they are a team without depth. Wilshire and Theo Walcott are really at the heart of everything positive that Arsenal do, and the club are over reliant on the pair. Wilshere is a young man who has had injury problems, so the hope is the club would go out and strengthen the squad. But they haven’t done that.
However, spending a lot of money and changing your squad around doesn’t always work. To their credit, Tottenham took the money from Bale’s sale and gone out and got some promising players. But the team that took the field at Emirates Stadium looked like they had just met, and it is going to take a great deal of time for this group to gel. It's great to see Andros Townsend look so positive -- England needs that kind of play, especially given that Rooney, Sturridge, Phil Jones and perhaps Wilshere will all miss two very big World Cup qualifiers.
Road to Brazil
Of course, that first game is England vs. Moldova (live, FOX Sports 1, Friday, 3 p.m. ET) and I’ll be with Rob Stone to bring you all the action. This is a big game for England, as we sit two points behind Moldova in Group H, and we must then head to Kiev to face a very good Ukraine. We have a world-class team, but no team can lose that many gifted players, so I think we’ll all be hoping the physios can put our lads back on their feet.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @WarrenBarton2 or tweet questions to @FOXSoccer – and you know I love the banter! Join us for FOX Soccer Daily at 4 p.m. ET all week long, and don’t miss my team in their quest for the World Cup. Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll see you very soon!