Manchester United will go all the way in title race, Spurs still in it and other talking points from the weekend
The Upcoming Sport answers the weekend’s debating points in the Premier league…
Another routine weekend in the Barclays Premier League, then. Match day 25 in the English top flight promised some tantalising encounters and didn’t disappoint. With four of the league’s current top seven in action against each other, it was also set to be another pivotal weekend in the jostle for European places. At the forefront was a living legend very much still alive, two warring players and cities, and a handshake, or lack thereof.
Manchester United have emerged from a tricky trio of fixtures recently against Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool with a highly credible seven points from nine. Does this now make them favourites to claim a fifth title in six years?
They will certainly fancy their chances. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side possess a wealth of experience when it comes to getting over the line and leaving their title rivals behind. Saturday’s victory over Liverpool was a further example of their unrivalled big-game savvy and the return of the ever-green Paul Scholes has also provided them with a timely boost. The notorious masters of ‘twitchy-bum time’ are approaching the final sprint in very much the same fashion as last season, having not hit top form even by their own admission, and we all know where the trophy ended up 12 months ago. However, it wouldn’t be prudent to necessarily dub them ‘favourites’, as the Red Devils still have a visit to the Etihad to face the ‘noisy neighbours’ in front of them.
Could the fact that a considerable amount of Manchester City’s players have little or no experience of winning trophies count against them in the run-in?
That is an obstacle the Citizens and many of their players will have to overcome. The likes of Sergio Aguero, Joe Hart, Gareth Barry and James Milner have never been involved in a major championship race. Their skipper Vincent Kompany may be able to call upon his league success in Belgium in his early career, but the Belgian Jupiler Pro League is hardly comparable to the Premier League. Furthermore, only one member of Manchester City’s first-team squad against Aston Villa on Sunday has tasted top-flight success in England: Gael Clichy. Other City players to possess a Premier League medal include Owen Hargreaves, Carlos Tevez and Stuart Taylor.
Roberto Mancini will, however, believe that the likes of Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli, and Edin Dzeko, all winners of major European leagues, will be able to pass on some advice to their less-decorated players. David Silva, World and European champions, may be able to help somewhat too. The joker in the pack may well be Carlos Tevez, though. Double Premier League winner across the city, he is returning from his self-imposed exile and back in England on Tuesday. City have struggled to re-create their sparkling early-season form of late and the Argentine, if he can get the fans and manager back on side, may be coming back at just the right time.
European football is back this week, with City and United both in Europa League action. Could this become a distraction and let Tottenham back into the title race?
Tottenham are still well and truly in the title race, in my opinion. Their destruction of Newcastle on Saturday was absolutely devastating, with Emmanuel Adebayor in unstoppable form. They have a couple of tough games against Arsenal and Manchester United on the horizon, but were they to come through unscathed with the gap still seven points, they cannot be discounted. Their form since the opening month of the season has been on a par with the top two and they look capable of maintaining it.
The resumption of European football will be an advantage for the Lilywhites as well. United and City may not play their strongest sides in the competition, but the travelling could have an adverse effect on the whole squad, and injuries might be picked up by important back-up players.
Arsenal are back in the top four this week after a last-gasp win at Sunderland. Will yet another Champions League finish for the Gunners silence Arsene Wenger’s critics?
In a word, no. The Emirates faithful, or unfaithful as may be the case, have pointed to a lack of serious spending in the transfer market in recent years as a sign of decreasing ambition by the Frenchman to fight for trophies. It is seven years since the North London side claimed any sort of silverware, and whilst it is understandable fans will be considerably peeved at that fact, a 15th straight season in the CL would be an achievement bettered only by Sir Alex Ferguson. Perhaps, for some fickle fans, a sense of perspective may be needed.