FOX Soccer Exclusive
Dempsey, Friedel part of historic win
Where else is there to start but with Clint Dempsey and Brad Friedel? Both men made history this weekend as Tottenham broke a long-time duck and won at Old Trafford for the first time in 23 years. It’s a huge achievement for the club, a vindication of Andre Villas-Boas and most of all, great to have two of the best American players of all time involved.
Make no mistake: this is a massive moment for America. Brad had a superb game and the fact is, when we look back on the best of the Premier League, his name has to be involved. For me, he’s right up there with the greats – van der Saar, Seaman, Schmeichel – and this is another feather in his cap.
Clint is the best outfield player America has produced and sent to this league. When you consider that the list contains men like Claudio Reyna, Joe-Max Moore, Landon Donovan and my colleague Brian McBride, that really is saying something. His 51st goal did what Gary Lineker did for Spurs in 1989 and it will be remembered for just as long.
You could tell what that goal meant to the club: Villas-Boas’ celebration was genuine, and coming away from this Spurs will be full of belief. Also, United come away with a big, big dent. They have huge problems and how they address them could define their season. There’s a lack of speed at the back, they don’t communicate well and they are far too loose. Spurs could have had four on them in the first half and United’s second half fight-back shouldn’t make people forget that.
When you lose games like this one, your psyche takes a hit. I’ve been on both sides of the coin. When Newcastle beat United 5-0, I was so proud, and we just felt on top of the world. When we lost to United in 1995-96, I have to be honest: we started to doubt. Losses like these sow seeds of doubt no matter how much you deny it. The great teams come away from both kinds of experiences and dig out the results.
That’s why I think the North London game will have some repercussions. There was a real opportunity for Arsenal to stake a claim here, and a rare coaching mistake by Arsene Wenger cost them dearly. This game may have some of these players – who already have had to deal with Alex Song and Robin van Persie leaving the club –doubting themselves a little bit.
Wenger doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, but why he left out Per Mertesacker I cannot understand. People say the German is not the quickest, and he is not, but I see him as the heir to Tony Adams. Mertesacker is a field general, and he knows that what is important is that you know where your partner is on the field. You don’t have to be the fastest as long as you have awareness. Adams and Steve Bould partnered very well for Arsenal in the golden era and I think Mertesacker and Vermaelen have that same understanding now. But without Mertesacker, time and again, on set-pieces, that awareness was found lacking. Arsenal paid the price.
Most damaging of all to Arsenal is the fact that I don’t think Chelsea are even firing on all cylinders, and yet they are top of the league. That’s real credit to Roberto Di Matteo, for sure – but I see this also as a time when Arsenal could have shown they really are a better team, but didn’t.
Look, we talk about the Stokes and the Swanseas as the bread and butter games in this league, but the fact is the Big Four clashes are when your players find out what they are made of. All this October, these teams will be playing each other on FOX Soccer and I think the mental part of this game will be critical. United and Arsenal have to dust themselves off and get on with it.
I want to speak quickly about Liverpool and it’s good to see them get their first win. As I think you’ve been seeing on our show BEING: Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers wants his players to be brave, be proud to play, and to respect the club. At Swansea, he had some space to grow the club; he doesn’t have that at Liverpool, so getting this win is a huge relief. But even in Liverpool’s losses I think you saw glimpses of a style that was attractive and signals that when the team gels, they will be very good. I think he has been wise to stick with Luis Suarez and whatever he said to Raheem Sterling has made that young man just tremendous.
Last but not least, I’ve heard a lot about my old team and Demba Ba’s goal. It was a handball I think, but you get the rub of the green sometimes, and that’s just how it is. But Ba’s first goal — to me, that’s a candidate for goal of the season right there. It’s right up with Robin van Persie’s goal against Fulham. If anyone’s got any other candidates, please let me know!
And you can do that by following me on Twitter @warrenbarton2 and ask a question to any of us at any time @FOXSoccer. We love to hear from you and we always pick the best questions each week for Stoppage Time on GOALS ON SUNDAY.
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