FOX Soccer Exclusive
City clinging on to title hopes
A thrilling weekend of soccer is behind us again with some fantastic goals, and some real drama on the field. I think we saw the passion and power that only the British game can provide. I say British because this weekend a Welsh club made history, winning a major trophy in the English League.
Swansea won their first-ever major title in their 100 years of existence, winning the League Cup 5-0 against tiny Bradford. It was a complete performance and while a 5-0 win was hard on Bradford, it was the kind of display we’ve come to expect from Michael Laudrup’s side. The passing was spot on, the movement was crisp on and off the ball, and Bradford were never able to get upfield and even take a shot on goal until very late.
The only blemish on the show was seeing Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman argue over a penalty kick. The youngster wanted a chance at a hat-trick, but he shouldn’t have acted like that once the decision was made. He’s a young man and he will learn, but I thought it was right for Laudrup to take him off the field – not only to calm him down, but to let him get the applause for what had been a fine game.
You also have to applaud the Bradford fans – their club has been through so many hard times and they came out in great spirit today to support their club. They were truly classy from start to finish at Wembley and no one can say they didn’t deserve to be there. After all, they beat Arsenal, Wigan and Villa to get there.
The Premier League races continue to boil, and while many would say that Manchester United – with a 12-point lead atop the table – have it won, Manchester City is keeping them honest. They turned in one of their best performances of the season against Chelsea, neutralizing Demba Ba up top and displaying the kind of crisp technique that has been missing from their game in recent matches. And that goal from Yaya Toure was brilliant.
City have a tough mountain to climb, but they do have character and the players to go on a run. They made Chelsea look very ordinary on Sunday and apart from Tim Cahill, I was disappointed in the Blues’ performance. Obviously, the penalty kick was a key moment and credit Joe Hart – who has not been consistent – for making the play.
Manchester United were clinical in their Saturday game against QPR. This team looks like a machine. They were very impressive, very focused and I think if you look at a player like Giggs, you see why. He makes the game look so simple, but he never gives the ball away, he’s thoughtful about his decisions, and the confidence he delivers oozes through the rest of the team.
Look also at the man-management of Sir Alex Ferguson. He’s a master at it. When I chatted with him in Madrid, the conversation was all about trust, and getting people around you who know how to do their jobs. I don’t see Manchester United losing four games because of that kind of focus. What Sir Alex talked to me about wasn’t tactics or systems, but courage and moments. It’s so simple, but it was educational and it is definitely valuable.
I think Rafael’s goal this week shows you how valuable that philosophy is. A few weeks back, Sir Alex took the lad off before the half against Reading, and he didn’t take it well, went storming down the tunnel. Sir Alex sits him for a few games, and Rafael realizes what the bigger picture is, then comes out with a wonder goal like we saw Saturday.
Finally, Arsenal had a difficult week, and they made work of it against Aston Villa. Let’s be honest, they were expected to beat them anyway. But they have quality there, and the style that Arsene Wenger has this team playing is something that no one wants to see go out of football.
Let me give you some food for thought: Wenger never hides behind excuses. He never said that the club had to spend money on a stadium instead of players, and he never made excuses when the team sold off some of the best he had. He’s been very loyal and he doesn’t hide. The man deserves some credit. And Arsenal were winners this week - they gained some ground thanks to Chelsea and Everton losing, and they still have a shot at a top four finish. So I think folks that are beating the drum about Wenger should think twice.
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @warrenbarton2. I do love the banter with you guys, so keep it up! And I hope you join us next weekend because we have some big games coming up including the North London derby. That is going to be very important this season. Thanks as always for reading and watching, and I’ll see you here next week.