What we learned from the weekend - 1st March 2014
Capital one cup glory for Manchester City over Sunderland, calm down about Soldado, Tottenham and Arsenal are missing a spark and Paul Lambert deserves far more credit for his Villa shake-up.
Despite the diminishing reputation of domestic cups in recent years, the weekend of finals cannot be matched, and as Manchester City triumphed over gutsy Sunderland 3-1 at Wembley on Sunday, It seems only right to talk about Manchester City, of who normally have a good reputation for winning titles and trophies by making it as hard for themselves as possible, whether that be conceding twice at home to relegation troubled QPR in match where victory would see them claim their first Premier league title in years, or losing the F.A cup to relegated Wigan, courtesy of a header from 5 ft 10, Ben Watson, but there wasn’t some form of attitude over Manchester City this weekend, they were confident and where going to win, and they did so. Now despite the recent pattern of winners of this competition dropping off in the league, with both Swansea and Birmingham fantastic examples in recent times, I don’t believe this will happen to Manchester City.
The return of Sergio Aguero and performances from key players Samir Nasri and Vincent Kompany will hopefully catapult Manchester City forwards and I would be surprised if they ended the season without another trophy in the case. Despite facing a 2-0 defecate and a trip to Camp Nou in the Champions league, I believe they have the players to turn that around. Barcelona are known for being fragile at the back, whilst Aguero is known for exploiting the space. Whilst in the Premier league, Chelsea have misfiring strikers, Liverpool are weak at the back, Arsenal are unreliable and will drop off (further) and Manchester United and Tottenham are dead and buried. The title is there for City, and should they win their two games in hand, they will be top on goal difference. And with a home tie against Wigan in the Quarter finals of the F.A cup, 4 trophies isn’t too unrealistic for Manchester City fans.
Back to the Premier league games, and first let’s talk about Tottenham. Recently they’ve been very poor in the beginning of matches, particularly against the smaller sides and should’ve been 1-0 down in the first half against Crystal Palace a few weeks ago, but against Cardiff at White Hart Lane on Sunday, their typical solo goal came in the first half, courtesy of the man in the shadows, Robert Soldado, his first goal in open play since October. That is a dreadful statistic for an international striker, with experience of playing for Real Madrid and Valencia at the top level of football, cost Tottenham £28 Million and was a contender for leading Spain’s line in the upcoming world cup. Now don’t get too excited Tottenham fans, as I personally don’t think he’ll get many more this season.
It doesn’t take a genius to notice, that Robert Soldado simply isn’t made to be a premier league striker. He isn’t particularly the greatest athlete, he isn’t strong or quick, but he sure can finish, and that’s what the £28 Million was spent on. But Tottenham don’t need a finisher, under AVB and Redknapp Tottenham always just needed a presence in the box to hold up and bring others into the game. Tottenham have simply signed the wrong Spaniard, put the younger and cheaper Alvaro Negredo in that Tottenham side, and he’d made the world of difference. Hind sight is a beautiful thing.
Despite an explosive start to his Arsenal career, Mesut Ozil’s form has drifted in recent weeks, resulting in him being dropping to the bench for Arsenal. He was supposed to be their main man, the player who drives the club and makes it his own. Liverpool has Suarez, City have Aguero, Chelsea have Hazard and United have Robin Van Persie. Tottenham had Gareth Bale, but their transfer policy restricts them from expanding to the next level. These are the players who consistently make the difference in games, and any defender hates playing against them. Currently, Arsenal and Tottenham are the only sides at the top who’re lacking in this player, sure Ozil could be Arsenal’s and Eriksen could be Tottenham’s, but at the moment neither team have that bright spark, which will result in both teams respective failure this season.
Last season, Paul Lambert was ridiculed by the media and pundits for putting so much money, faith and time into youth players, signing young unknown players such as Christian Benteke, Ashley Westwood and Matthew Lowton to name a few, as well as giving more opportunities to Fabian Delph, Kieron Clark and Andreas Weimann. Personally, I thought this critism was unfair, and yes they were always going to struggle last year, but I knew if they survived, they’d be fine in future years, and finally we’re beginning to see that. The 4-1 victory over struggling Norwich, highlighted by performances from Westwood and Benteke just shows how far the midlands side has grown and matured. And Paul Lambert deserves more credit than he’s currently receiving.
Their isn’t that much difference between what Lambert is doing at Aston Villa and what Brendan Rodgers is doing at Liverpool, except the latter is receiving far more credit for the job. Both have rebuilt their respective sides under heavy pressure from fans and board members, both didn’t look too impressive in their first season and both are now showing their worth.
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