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Arsenal, United on different paths

Arsene Wenger has set his sights on Premier League title.
Arsene Wenger has set his sights on Premier League title.
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Warren Barton

Warren Barton draws on 16 years of professional soccer experience as a studio analyst for FOX Soccer. With more than 350 Barclays Premier League appearances, Barton starred for Wimbledon before rising to prominence with Newcastle United and the England national team. Follow him on Twitter.

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We saw some truly beautiful football this weekend in England, and I suspect Jack Wilshere’s goal for Arsenal will be on highlight reels for years to come. That was English football at its best, and it capped a great week for my country. We’re not only going to Brazil, we’ve got our lads playing like Brazilians!

I’ve always said the table doesn’t lie, and when I look at the results this weekend, I see the four teams who are going to be battling it out for the crown sitting one through four. Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool all look genuine. And, no, I’m not surprised that Manchester United is struggling to keep up.

United is not as good a team as they were. They have a lot of players who have lost a step, and I think Sir Alex Ferguson sensed that when he retired. But something else is missing too, and that’s what worries me the most. I saw a lot of heads down, and a lot of tackles being pulled out of. That’s not the United we knew: they are just not playing with the same kind of character and pride.

Under Sir Alex, no matter who was out on the pitch, United radiated confidence. The heads were never down, they were up, looking for someone to pass the ball to! I’m afraid that confidence is gone. And when that confidence went, so did the fear they used to strike in other teams. I don’t think opponents feel United can pull out those famous late wins right now.

That said, I don’t like hearing the calls for David Moyes to go from the fans. It’s unfair to Moyes – who didn’t become a bad manager overnight – to not give him a chance. This was never going to be easy, and it would take any manager time to settle in at a club like Manchester United. It may not happen this season. But remember, even Sir Alex needed some time to make his mark at this club. I hope Moyes is given the same leeway.

I’d like to talk a bit about my old club, who held Liverpool 2-2. We’ve had some hard times of late in Newcastle, and we all saw the fans marching through the city before the match. They want so much more from this club, and I cannot blame them. But this was a solid result for us, a good point against a good Liverpool side, and it came when we only had ten men on the pitch for an hour.

The young man sent off, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, made a mistake, right enough. I always tell my players that you cannot give the referee a chance to make a call in the penalty area. When you place your hands on a player like Luis Suarez, you know he’s going to go down. I thought it looked soft on replay -- but Andre Marriner doesn’t have replay, so while I didn’t like it, I cannot blame him for reaching to the back pocket.

I saw a lot of strength even though we were a man down. I thought Chiek Tiote had a massive game for us, and when we were able to isolate Aly Cissokho, I think we exposed some of Liverpool’s basic weaknesses. Last season, this was a 6-0 loss. This draw was much better. It’s going to be an up and down season, but we showed character Saturday, and I hope Alan Pardew is able to go back to the dressing room and build off it.

The beautiful game of the day was in London, where Arsenal look very dangerous. They are simply enjoying their football, and when you have that joy and confidence, it’s very difficult for teams to beat you. Wilshere’s opener was magnificent, a beautiful “Arsenal” goal with Olivier Giroud that opened the match right up. Aaron Ramsey is having what may be a career year, and that goal was something you see from the boys in Brazil!

The difference is Mesut Ozil. He has transformed Arsenal from a group of individuals into a team with his passing and his vision. He was known for his assists, but so good is Arsenal now that he also walked away with two goals on the day! Arsenal are the best team in the league right now – but there’s a long way yet to go, and Arsene Wenger is right to downplay their chances.

CENTURY MAKER

Relive the best images from the Premier League weekend, which proved significant for Steven Gerrard.

Chelsea, United, City and Arsenal are all in action this week on FOX as well, as we have a thrilling week of Champions League football ahead of us. This is going to be a massive week, with Milan vs. Barcelona on FOX Sports One, and Arsenal-Dortmund on FOX Soccer Plus this Tuesday at 2 p.m. ET. FOX Soccer Plus has a free preview on as well, right at the perfect time! Wednesday we have a great doubleheader from 11:30 ET as CSKA host City early and United face Sociedad late.

I love chatting with you guys, so do take a moment to follow me on Twitter at @WarrenBarton2. I've got a question for you all as well: I think Wilshere's goal this weekend may well be the goal of the season. Send me a message on Twitter and tell me if you agree or disagree Don’t forget, you can always ask questions to me at @FOXSoccer or @FOXSoccerDaily. And do check out all the behind the scenes video on our new FOX Soccer Daily page. That’s been a lot of fun! As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you again next week!

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