Another round of the Barclays Premier League came and went serving the usual dose of thrills, spills, dream debuts and shocking wins.
Manchester City laid their Champions League midweek demons to rest with an authoritative comeback victory over previously unbeaten Everton, Liverpool went top of the league momentarily with a well deserved win over Crystal Palace at Anfield, United scampered through the Stadium of Light thanks to a certain teenager while Arsenal and Tottenham both dropped points- the former settling for a draw at the Hawthorns while the latter slumping to a shock 3-0 reverse at home to West Ham.
Here are some of the talking points:
1. City’s inconsistencies may cost them in the title
The blue half of Manchester began the season with cause to be optimistic after a series of managerial changes in the city - especially in the red half. The brash and abrasive Roberto Mancini replaced by the affable and ‘bigger’ Manuel Pellegrini and Sir Alex Ferguson leaving the Old Trafford hot seat after what seemed like forever to be replaced by David Moyes.
The squad was also subjected to some change- volatiles Tevez and Balotelli left with Navas, Negredo, Jovetic , Fernandinho and Demichelis arriving. The season got off to the best possible start for the Citizens with a resounding 4-0 win over troubled Newcastle. And then the topsy-turvy switch was turned on.
City lost at Cardiff, demolished rivals United 4-1 at home then lost at Aston Villa 3-2. They twice led in that game only to be pegged back every time. After the footballing lesson they endured at the hands of Bayern Munich in mid-week, they found themselves behind at home to Everton
after Lukaku’s strike.
If it was not for the Toffees’ lack of a cutting edge and some schoolboy defending, they may have well lost the match. It is this inconsistency and whether it is addressed or not, above anything else, that may ultimately prove to be the decisive factor in whether City ends the season with silverware.
2. Mourinho’s midfielders picking up the slack
Yes he was probably wrong - I will rephrase that, he was definitely wrong - to let Lukaku go but in the scheme of the things, Chelsea do not look like a side in need of a forward that much.
It is a long season and over the years, almost all of the sides that have ended up winning the league have had at least one centre-forward banging in goals…the Shearers, the Henrys, the Bergkamps, van Nistelrooys, Drogbas, Agueros.
However, Mourinho’s sides have never really been dependent on strikers for goals, he has always been a manager who would rather have two or three or all midfielders who can score regularly and that is the case again this season. From Deco at Porto to Lampard and Ballack at Chelsea to Sneijder at Inter and Ronaldo at Real Madrid.
Now, in his second stint, he still has Lampard who will always guarantee you goals, Oscar has already banged in a few of his own - including against Norwich - when Ba and Eto’o toiled, Hazard and Willian came of the bench to score.
With Mata having earned Mou’s trust and now playing regularly, Ramires having the freedom to bomb forward at will, Chelsea have more than enough firepower in their midfield. Who needs Romelu?
3. United’s defending must be Moyes’ main concern
David Moyes must be concerned about the slack defending that has characterised his tenure so far at Old Trafford. In the recent past, even under his predecessor Sir Alex, United still had periods where their defence was the poorest of the top four clubs.
During those times, the club stayed afloat by outscoring the opposition, a tactic that did not always work. Now with United still having problems on the offensive front, the last thing they need is a faltering and shaky backline.
United have only kept two clean sheets this season, Southampton have five. In midweek against Shakhtar, Nemanja Vidic, partnered with Chris Smalling held out for 23 minutes. Wave after wave of attacks came, before a mistake by the captain gifted Taison the opportunity to equalise.
At the Stadium of Light, Vidic, now partnered with Phil Jones, handed the initiative on a plate to Craig Gardner after committing an identical mistake to the one in Donetsk. It could have got worse for the champions when Jones was dispossessed by Gardner after dallying far too long, only for the Sunderland man’s indecision allowing him to track back and make a last-ditch tackle.
Giaccherini was guilty of spurning a glorious chance after De Gea had made a super save tipping his goalbound effort round the post after Johnson carved open United’s right hand side. Johnson again ripped United’s static backline to shreds before seeing his initial shot blocked then smartly shimmied his feet, took out Vidic and found the diminutive Italian in acres of space who then wildly blasted over the bar. Evra was all at sea, his teammates even further.
Granted, the constant chopping and changing of the backline is not helping United’s cause but that alone cannot be an excuse for such shambolic defending. None of the persons who have been tasked with that job are greenhorns; they are all full internationals with at least a season’s experience with the club. Moyes, you have been warned.
4. SAS - Sturridge and Suarez the best strike duo in the league right now
Suar-idge, Stur-ez, or whatever you may choose to call them, are the most lethal striking duo in the league at the moment. The pair had not really played together since Sturridge’s arrival in January due to the Uruguayan’s well-documented indiscretions.
But, when they did get to play together, there were fireworks. They both scored in that Chelsea match where Suarez opted to bring ‘Vampire Diaries’ to Anfield. Sturridge picked up the goal-scoring burden when his partner was suspended, impressively operating as the lone front-man in Liverpool’s end of season run.
This season however, that potential is being realised. After a summer of back and forth over his future and rejected bids from Arsenal, Suarez finally returned against United in the Capital One Cup.
He started alongside the Englishman and their budding partnership was evident for all and sundry at Old Trafford. SAS took turns teasing the United backline throughout the entire match, one half of the duo peeled out to one side while the other took up a central position and they kept interchanging to dizzying effect. A myriad of spurned half-chances tainted their display but their mesmeric movement, understanding and technical likeness was great to watch.
Against Sunderland, they were absolutely unplayable. For all of the hosts' running and work ethic, three moments of sheer quality separated the two sides. Granted Sturridge did score with his arm and, nobly of the forward, he did admit to it after the game. There was nothing illegal about the other two goals though. Sturridge was the provider both times, beating his man an laying the ball, twice, on a plate for the South American to hit a brace.
The trend continued against Crystal Palace at Anfield. Their performances typified individual quality, both scoring brilliant solo goals, but they had many moments where they linked up almost telepathically throughout the match, Suarez sending an effort narrowly wide after a quite fantastic reverse pass from Sturridge then the later seeing his effort hit the base of the post after being teed up by the former.
A rendition of ‘We are, we are’ rang around the famous ground and on this evidence, the chorus may be more than just that come the end of the season.
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