“The performance was outstanding, both our creativity and our movement, and there was a really good tempo and rhythm to our game. (bbc.co.uk)
The fact of the matter is that Liverpool need to be more ruthless in front of goal. They had 20 shots in the entire game and only nine were on target. Sunderland had just six shots and four on target, yet they scored the same amount of goals as Liverpool in the game.
Despite Sunderland’s excellent defensive displays and attacking threat, they have accrued only three points in four games. With Martin O’Neal at the helm though, the Black Cats should finish in a respectable position this season.
In the day’s other draw, Manchester City battled 1-1 with Tony Pulis’ Stoke side, who are undergoing a slight transformation. With Steven N’Zonzi, Michael Kightly and Charlie Adam all starting as Michael Owen was on the bench, Stoke have more variety to their play now, meaning they are far more dangerous. City gave debuts to Scott Sinclair, Maicon and Javi Garcia with the latter scoring the equaliser, but they were out of sorts in the absence of Sergio Aguero. David Silva, who has just signed a new five year deal, though suffering a dip in form, was needed for more creative spark. Peter Crouch scored a controversial goal as he fumbled his way through the City defence, seemed to control the ball with his arm a few times, before slotting home.
City are now on eight points and have failed to keep a clean sheet so far this season. Stoke are now on a ten game streak of failing to win a Premier League game. They’ll have a tough trip against Chelsea next to avoid that increasing to eleven.
Saints though, have scored in every game and it was down to a Wojciech Szczesny spill that let Danny Fox slam a consolation home. Talk of Arsenal as title contenders will either die down or boil over after their next two games; Manchester City and Chelsea away. Southampton have scored against teams who finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Premier League last season which should be an ounce of encouragement for the coming games.
Manchester United dispelled any hint that they would struggle without Wayne Rooney or Robin van Persie when they trounced a woeful Wigan side 4-0. Alexander Buttner produced a dominating debut as he scored from a marauding run into the box and set up Hernandez for United’s second goal. The imperious Paul Scholes scored on his 700th appearance for United and Sir Alex Ferguson won on his 500th home league game in charge of United.
Wigan were dreadful at Old Trafford and have lost all seven league matches at United, conceding 24 goals, since promoted in 2006. The Latics back four continuously struggled to cope with Nani’s trickery, Welbeck’s runs, Scholes’ passing and Buttner’s weaving runs. If they don’t address their defensive problems soon, this may be their season to go down.
Arsenal 6 1 Southampton
Aston Villa 2 0 Swansea
Fulham 3 0 West Brom
Man U 4 0 Wigan
QPR 0 0 Chelsea
Stoke 1 1 Man City
Sunderland 1 1 Liverpool
Reading 1 3 Tottenham
Everton – Newcastle (Kick-off Monday evening)
In perhaps the most exciting game of the weekend, Manchester City stumbled to a 3-2 win against plucky Southampton at the Etihad. The Saints talisman Rickie Lambert started on the bench but came on after an hour to transform them into a genuine threat for the champions. Within four minutes he brought the score to 1-1, after a first half strike from Carlos Tevez. Saints manager Nigel Adkins second substitute, Steven Davis, scored almost straight away with an almost identical strike to Lambert’s. Panic had wavered across the Etihad. But City showed why they were champions when Samir Nasri pounced on a poor clearance to grab the three points.
Following FIFA’s announcement of their team of the year, a sense of unjust and scepticism soon set in. The team sheet is as follows;
Four Real Madrid players, five Barcelona players and two Manchester United players comprise this unimaginative list of footballers who have ruled 2011. Don’t get me wrong, these players have all contributed to the year in fine style with their sublime goals, incisive passing and will to win. That is not the issue. The issue is the heavy one sided nature of the selection. Three different clubs make up the entire XI, only two different leagues are represented with the split being nine from La Liga and only two for the Premier League. This seems very unfair for other players who have had an excellent year for their clubs, who have not been selected.
From a British perspective, journalists love to wax lyrical about Barcelona and Real Madrid. Sky Sports show La Liga games with Barca and Madrid too regularly, accompanied by programmes dedicated to analysing and discussing the Spanish League. Even airing ‘The Cesc Fabregas Show’ revolving around the ex-Arsenal midfielder and his progress with the Catalans, guarantee no Arsenal fan will be interested in that and given the long saga over whether he would leave or not boring the public to death, neither will many neutrals. ITV are the worst culprits for me when it comes to lauding these two teams. Their commentary on, arguably Arsenal’s finest game of 2011, their first leg 2-1 win against Barcelona in the Champions league, was bordering sickening every time they talked about the Spanish side. Jim Beglin and David Pleat unnecessarily glorified every single pass, shot, tackle, save and run Barca made, whilst Arsenal’s efforts to try and win the game were described as being futile. Commentators are meant to be impartial to who they are watching but surely their allegiances would be with the English team, in a European tie if any?
FIFA’s selections reflect this over exuberance.
To me the choices should highlight to the world a selection of players who have consistently performed at a high level for their club and country, stayed out of controversy in the press and have exuded an all round professional attitude to the game, whilst heavily contributing to their sides success.
The selections of Messi and Ronaldo are a no brainer in that respect. They are both on another planet in terms of football ability. I more have an issue with who was not picked.
As a replacement for Rooney I would have chosen Robin van Persie. Arsenal had a year to forget but van Persie has had a sensational year, just one goal shy of taking Alan Shearer’s record of most goals scored in a calendar year (35) in the premier league. This is something which is worthy of recognition. Rooney’s achievements in 2011 compared to van Persie’s are far inferior.
The Bundesliga saw the emergence of Borrusia Dortmund’s creative midfielder Mario Goetze, who at just 19 years old has made himself the first name on the team sheet for the German club. I would omit Xabi Alonso from FIFA’s XI and put Goetze in his place. Similarly to Jack Wilshere, before the 2010/11 season, Goetze had made just 5 appearances for his club but then went on to be an ever-present in his side. His age makes his exploits even more remarkable to, being named FIFA’s Golden Boy of 2011, ahead of Wilshere, Eden Hazard and Christian Eriksen and winning the Bundesliga.
Sticking with the Germans, I believe Philipp Lahm deserves a place in the full back position instead of Dani Alves. Captain of German giants Bayern Munich, the 5ft 7 left back has been irreplaceable in not only the Bavarians first XI but for his country as well. His consistency, professionalism, decisive tackling and surging runs make him Bayern’s ideal choice as captain. He would be ahead of Dani Alves purely because of Alves’ tendency to go to ground on soft challenges and subsequently nurse a fake injury. This is something FIFA will surely want to stamp out of the game.
Other players worthy of note are Mario Gomez’s scintillating form for Bayern, Neymar’s goal haul for Santos and his Goal of the Year effort alone, Eden Hazard’s participation in Lille’s title winning side of 2010/11 and his current form of nine goals and six assists this season show he is continuing to grow and Edinson Cavani’s superb form for Napoli continues from 33 goals last season to 14 so far this season.
There is an argument to suggest that the selection does not mean anything and that it’s another pointless accolade for players. I would not disagree with that argument. The selection represents FIFA’s way of thinking in that they promote and award those who have already been awarded heavily. Other players around the world, who have done just as much, if not more, deserve the credit that their performances have merited.
Encounters between these two sides in recent seasons have on the whole not disappointed in terms of world class football and quality goals. City’s last win against their rivals, in all competitions, came in last season’s FA cup semi final where Yaya Toure’s second half strike was enough to settle the tie. Despite just the one goal, the game was played at a fast and exhilarating pace.
The community shield on the 7th August was their first meeting this season. The red devils won 3-2 but the contest was hotly contested by City, who were 2-0 up at half time. Nani was able to create a winner in the 93rd minute, after a defensive mix up from Kompany.
Wayne Rooney’s fantastic Bicycle kick was the deciding goal in another even encounter in the two side’s last league meeting. In fact, City fans have to look back as far as February 2008 for their team’s last league win in the derby. So why might their meeting tomorrow be one to watch?
So far this season, both halves of Manchester have lit up the premier league with their lightening quick football and goals. Great individual performances have been aplenty for both sides with Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Nani, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones for united and Edin Dzeko, David Silva, Samir Nasri, Mario Balotelli and Sergio Aguero have all sparkled for City.
A glance at the table, and you will see that City lead with 22 points, with United trailing by just two points. A win for United will not only put them top, it would also bring City closer to the other teams close behind.A win for City would put them five points ahead and would give them great momentum to increase that lead.
How they might line up:
Manchester United- They will most likely play Nani and Young on the wings, Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic are sure to take the CB roles. If Sir Alex Ferguson opts to use Park Ji Sung, as he often does in the big games, then Rooney will most likely be up front with Park supporting. If Park does not play, Hernandez could be used up front with Rooney dropping just behind.
Manchester City- Mancini has a plethora of multi-million pound attacking talent at his disposal. Balotelli, Silva and Aguero are the ones he will most likely line up front leaving a disgruntled Edin Dzeko and frustrated Samir Nasri on the bench. Gareth Barry is sure to hold the midfield and Yaya Toure is most likely to be in front of him. Mancini though must be careful as Adam Johnson, Pablo Zabaleta and James Milner have all impressed when used, so they will want to start to.
A question that has been lingering over Everton FC, and the premier league, for several years now has been why Mikel Arteta has not been prised away from Goodison Park sooner than August 31st2011? He made the move to Everton in January 2005 from Real Sociedad initially on loan. That season Everton were pushing for a UEFA Champion’s League place which they achieved thanks to the help from Arteta. He then signed a five year contract for a paltry £2 million after his loan finished in June 2005.
Season after season from then on, Arteta cemented himself among the Premier League greats. He received numerous Player of the Year awards, North West Player of the Year, Midfielder of the Year and even Sports Personality of the Year via the Liverpool Echo.
His career stats for the Merseyside club read well to, in 208 appearances in all competitions for them he scored 33 times and made 41 goals.
So why hasn’t he been snapped up by a title contending team before?
One of Arteta’s strengths is his loyalty to the club. Every performance he has on the pitch oozes with passion, determination, leadership and vigour. Everton FC under David Moyes are known for their strength and direct style of play, thanks to Arteta’s vision and passing abilities, so it would seem he doesn’t need to move anywhere else as he’s idolised by their fans, will always be first on the team sheet and feels valued by the club.
What more does a professional footballer want?
For most players it’s money. But in Arteta’s case his move to Arsenal was resoundingly not about money. He reportedly took almost a 30% pay cut to join the Gunners. His move was about his own ambitions to become a champion’s league player, be part of a title contending (only just) team and put his name firmly in the Premier League history books.
This signing represents a moral victory for football. All too often we see greedy players and their greedy agents negotiate contracts with obscene wages. This victory is made all the sweeter by the fact that he has gone to Arsenal. Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy’s move to Manchester City materialised because of the riches that awaited them.
Had they truly wanted to become better footballers, be in with a shot of gaining trophy glory and becoming world superstars, they would have stayed at a club like Arsenal with rock solid foundations, financially as well as behind the scenes and with Arsene Wenger who is renowned for improving players.
At least the gunners have gotten rid of the negativity in the dressing room and replaced it with a player as humble and loyal as Mikel Arteta.
On the pitch, it remains to be seen whether the Spaniard can create as many chances as his countryman Fabregas did. Arteta though can be viewed by the fans as a watered down version of Fabregas in relation to his ability to pass, read the game and make pinpoint crosses to forwards, Arteta though adds a cool head, proven leadership and experience which is exactly what the Arsenal team need. Oh and we can assume he won’t get homesick and pine for a move back to Spain to.