Joe Hart at crossroads with Man City
I actually saw people getting up from their seats and filing out as time wound down at Stamford Bridge Sunday and I had to ask: “What are they thinking? Don’t they know the Premier League has more drama than any other league in the world?” They do now, after Fernando Torres snatched a late winner to give Chelsea a massive win – and raise a lot more questions about Manchester City’s title intentions.
This entire week was full of drama; from Manchester United’s last fight-back against Stoke, to Arsenal’s short-handed win over Palace in a London derby -- to my old team, Newcastle, falling at the death to our archrivals. It pains me today to even say their names, but I will tell you that I always enjoyed the games against Sunderland as a player. They were good fun with great support for both teams, and to me, that’s really what makes a match special. But that is one we always, always want to win.
But let’s start in London, where I think Manuel Pellegrini now has a decision to make. Depending on how you look at it, Joe Hart cost his team one point or three points today against Chelsea, and I’m starting to wonder if he might cost them the title. I was talking with Peter Schmeichel this week, and he pointed out that it’s not how many big saves a keeper makes, it’s how many mistakes he makes: that’s how you tell the quality of a keeper. Hart has been a good servant for club and country, but something has gone wrong, because he is making too many mistakes, very costly ones indeed.
Something went wrong for Newcastle at the Stadium of Light today as well. Aside from Cheik Tiote, this was very poor from Newcastle. I’m disappointed for the fans. The players simply didn’t perform. They allowed Sunderland to pull them into a scrappy match, and they are better than that. I know how much this match meant for Sunderland and Gus Poyet – it really was a must-win for him – but I think now Alan Pardew’s under pressure. This is a big loss, no doubt. I also think it’s time to stop pointing the finger at Mike Ashley. He’s spent the money and you look at that lineup, and you see a team that should beat Sunderland. That all said, I am happy for Jozy Altidore – I thought that was the best I’ve seen of him and he was, for me, the man of the match.
Manchester United may have had a pivotal moment on Saturday. It sounds odd to say this, but even beating a Stoke, a team at the bottom of the table, can change your season. It’s not a joke: in football, when you get a win that breaks the pressure, it can spill over into everything else. I saw how the lads celebrated and I just knew what a relief it was to them.
We have to talk about Wayne Rooney: he’s the best in the league, and if he’s not in there, that game would have been lost. He has put aside all the noise from Sir Alex Ferguson’s book, and all the talk about a transfer and is just enjoying his football now, and it shows. He and Chicharito made a big impact, and if David Moyes can build on this now, United could be on the right path.
If Rooney is enjoying his football, then what does that say about Luis Suarez? He is world-class, scoring three great goals and setting up a big game against Arsenal next weekend. Now, I don’t think Liverpool can win the title, but I do think Suarez will help them push toward it. In fact, I think he will lead Liverpool to heights they haven’t been in a long time.
I would be remiss not to mention the other side of Liverpool. Tim Howard was great on both Saturday and Sunday this weekend. What a world-class penalty save that was to help lead Everton to the win, and how great was it to hear him on the air? I thought that was a solid debut and I want to be one of the first to welcome him into the broadcast fraternity! I hope we get to hear more from him.
Quickly, I think Arsenal are looking very efficient right now. Maybe it’s the German influence, but I think they are looking a bit like champions. And I was really impressed by Neymar’s debut in El Clasico this weekend as well. I’ll tell you, he’d look very good in a black and white-striped shirt!
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 – even after Newcastle lose! And don’t forget, you can always ask questions to us at @FOXSoccer or @FOXSoccerDaily. And check out our brand new FOX Soccer Daily show page, right here on FOX Soccer! Thanks as always for reading, and I will see you Monday!