FOX Soccer Exclusive
Draw not enough for City or Liverpool
Two games truly lived up to the hype this weekend, and I was proud that we here at FOX Soccer were able to bring them both to you. Manchester City – Liverpool will be a tough one for the Super Bowl to top, and while I am admittedly a bit biased, I also thought the Newcastle-Chelsea game will go down as one of the season’s thrillers. Both were great advertisements for the power and the drama of the English game, and I don’t think there’s a league out there right now that can top it.
Manchester City needed to win Sunday, and the truth is that both teams are going to come away disappointed. City badly missed Vincent Kompany in the back and Yaya Toure in midfield — they were too stagnant for far too long. They get Yaya back soon because Cote D’Ivoire lost Sunday, and that will help them, but I think when you find yourself in game like that, your manager needs to insert a game-changer. And Roberto Mancini, once again, baffled me by refusing to that.
I cannot figure out why Carlos Tevez was left on the bench. This is a man who scores goals and gives you the presence and lift you need. We’ve talked a lot about Mancini’s selections and decisions in the past and this is another one I think we will look back at and point to as a mistake.
Let’s give great credit to Liverpool, who played perhaps their best game of the year to date. Steven Gerrard looked like the player I played against and we all remember, and Daniel Sturridge showed what a pickup he's been against his old side. But individual errors continue to haunt Brendan Rodger’s team. Last time against City, it was Martin Skrtel. Sunday it was Pepe Reina making a bad mistake. You cannot do what he did on Sergio Aguero's goal, and the fact is, Liverpool could have taken maximum points from this fixture. Instead, they’ve collected only one.
Newcastle really impressed me this weekend, and I think this is a really important result. My colleagues over at FOXSoccer.com tease me that the team should now be called “Le Nouveaux Chateau” with all the buys we have made from France, but these moves have already been well justified. Moussa Sissoko has proven his value already and having Yohan Cabaye back to full fitness provided a major boost. Back to back wins for us, even if we’re now “Le Toon”, is massive!
Having said that, I have to be honest and say that if I were wearing a blue shirt, I’d have wanted a penalty kick as well. Demba Ba’s injury was a game-changer and while I don’t think Fabricio Coloccini was being malicious, it’s a foul, and it’s a penalty. The ref didn’t see it, but it’s a mistake.
I do think that the way Newcastle played, though, ultimately was the difference. Frank Lampard and Juan Mata did give Chelsea two wonderful goals, and had we not shown the drive and energy we did, the result could have been different. I take my hat off to the fans there: they got behind the players and spurred them on.
I want to mention Nacho Monreal, who really impressed me in his first game at Arsenal. Stoke is a very different team from what he saw in Spain, and I don’t think Monreal skipped a beat. I think his signing will settle the Gunners down – and will also send a big message to a couple other players.
I’ve been very disappointed in Andre Santos, and while anyone can and does have a bad day, I cannot excuse what I see as a lack of desire and effort on his part. I think it’s hard on Kieran Gibbs, but Arsenal had to batten up in the back. I also want to single out Lukas Podolski: for my money, he’s the best signing of the year for Arsenal, and he’s really showing the character and power that team needed.
Quickly, transfer day saw some surprises, and of course the saga of Peter Odemwingie is still making waves. What’s being missed in this is that QPR really needed to get a striker or two in, and by failing to get him or Peter Crouch, they are lacking the ability to turn draws into wins. They did go out and get bodies, and got a good defender in Chris Samba, which will give them a lift, but I wonder if Harry Redknapp will be left wishing he had a bit more over this final stretch.
Aston Villa are in a bit of the same boat. I think Paul Lambert has a lot of belief in his locker room and in the boardroom – but his team is just too naïve. Leaving Marouane Fellaini alone at the end of a game on a set piece, as they did in their draw with Everton, is suicidal. To me, this is a huge concern – they’ve had opportunities to address this and change the mood, but haven’t been able to do it.
Finally, I hope you all will join us Wednesday for a very special game: England v Brazil, which is live on FOX Soccer (2 ET). Brazil was actually my last cap for England, and even though it was only for a few seconds, it’s nice to say you got a chance against a team like that! This is our 150th anniversary as well, so it’s very, very special for our nation, and I’m really pleased to see both countries are fielding strong teams for it. I hope Ashley Cole gets his 100th cap, and I hope you join me to see Wayne Rooney, Neymar, Jack Wilshere and Hulk battle it out.
As always, if you’ve got a question, ask away at my Twitter account @warrenbarton2. I love bantering with you guys, it’s really very fun for me. Thanks for reading and for watching – and good luck to England this week!
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