James Milner is THE MAN
The worst thing to have happened to James Milner is probably the creation of that @BoringJamesMilner “parody” Twitter account. It distorts the narrative on someone who should be considered one of the most underrated players in the country by focusing on his personality, or lack of. In the summer, there was talk that Milner wanted to leave City and Arsenal and Liverpool were heavily interested. Fans of both clubs turned their noses up. Milner had an imperious first half in the game against Spurs. His short ball back to Frank Lampard was decisive in winning the first penalty. The second penalty came from another Milner ball. That wasn’t all he did. Playing on the left and drifting in to join the midfield, he was important in City’s counter attacks. In the 44th minute, his tackle on Etienne Capoue in the midfield kick started one of them. He functions as a quick outlet through which the ball is released as witnessed by his 47th minute ball to Jesus Navas from the tip of the halfway line. All round threats don’t come better than Milner and he’ll be a key cog in whatever success City attain this season.
Spurs highlight the good and bad of high pressing
The International break was fraught with book extracts. Roy Keane’s by far the most dominant. Rio Ferdinand, Amy Lawrence’s book to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Invincibles and Marti Perarnau’s book on Pep Guardiola’s first season at Bayern Munich were other highlights. The Guardiola extracts were more tactically illuminating than the others. In light of this, it must be recalled that one of the keys to the Guardiola ethos is a high pressing game. This is a style favored by some of the most astute young managers about amongst them Jurgen Klopp, Diego Simeone, Brendan Rodgers and Mauricio Pochettino. Christian Eriksen’s goal for Spurs highlighting the merits of a high pressing game in that it forces the opponents to make errors closer to their goals which obviously negates recovery. The downside of high pressing was also captured in the manner in which City tore into Spurs repeatedly. With Nacer Chadli, Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen, Erik Lamela and Ryan Mason trying to win the ball high up, Spurs constantly found their forward lines and first line of defence taken out with one pass with Etienne Capoue forced to push up to try and pinch the ball. When this proved unsuccessful as it did a couple of times, City were allowed a free run at the defence which had they been less profligate would have ended in a cricket score.
Choking in the big games might just be a North London thing: Last season, in three away games against the three teams above them, Arsenal conceded 17 goals. Spurs were even worse. They got tonked 6-0 by City (5-1 in the reverse fixture), 5-0 by Liverpool (4-0 in the reverse fixture) and 4-0 by Chelsea. At least, Arsenal even score. What is it about the water they drink in North London water that makes their teams so erratic in the big games? Why is that despite the turnover in managers, the pattern at Spurs is still so consistent?
Arsenal and Manchester United need to find a way to unpark buses and sort out defending:
First of all, can we have a round of applause for the maven that is Alexis Sanchez. Sanchez is another one to add to the list of Catalan/Madrid cast offs blitzing the Premier League. His controlled volley against City was brilliant, so was his goal against Hull. The manner in which he went past Curtis Davies and fired the ball into the goal is exactly why Arsenal charge premium price for tickets.
If I were an Arsenal fan, I won’t be particularly concerned at the manner in which that game went. Yes, it was a draw to Hull but 8 out of 10 times, Arsenal would have won that game. It’s when the pattern of play is not so decent that alarm signs can be raised. Where I would be concerned was the manner in which Hull in probably their only two attacks of the game mustered goals and the fact that they’ve won only two games this season . Steve Bruce’s side did a good job in killing the rhythm with their rotational fouling and whilst the incompetency of the referee was an issue, these are problems Arsenal as a big team would have to deal with and it is imperative they find a way past it.
Perhaps, pushing their centre backs to the halfway line to compress the space and ensure there are always extra men would have worked had Per Mertesacker’s lack of pace not been an issue. Credit due for the manner in which they have constantly fought back this season but the question is why do they keep finding themselves in that position?
For United, another hard fought match against lowly opposition. Whilst Albion were resilient, the onus was on United to break them down and they struggled. Giving away cheap goals didn’t also help.
These two giants of the late 90s and 2000s(less in Arsenal’s case) need to sort out their defending. It’s becoming common occurrence to see David De Gea and Wojciech Szczesny serve as mere passengers yet the scoreline is never favourable to their sides.
Southampton and West Ham are proving the pundits wrong
As the season began, two of the more common tips were that Sam Allardyce at West Ham would be the first Manager out of a job and that Southampton would struggle to stay in the league.
In Allardyce’s case, he had been instructed by his board to play a more attractive brand of football as a last resort before facing the sack. For Southampton, after selling the likes of Ricky Lambert, Calum Chambers, Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana for big money, the harbingers of doom went all out.
Both clubs invested wisely and astutely. West Ham secured the signings of Alex Song, Carl Jenkinson, Enner Valencia and Diafra Sakho (scored in six successive games) who all made outstanding contributions against Burnley. The East Londoners presently sit comfortably on the table and Allardyce is enjoying himself.
In Southampton’s case, their annihilation of Sunderland which adds to the coronation of Ronald Koeman and Graziano Pelle as Manager and Player of the Month, the talk is of possibly reaching Europe. Pelle has been a revelation and is proving to be a solid addition to the short catalogue of successful transfers from the Eredivisie. Dusan Tadic has also equalled the record of assists in one game. Southampton sit prettier on the table proving that the pundits who predicted their demise were off the mark.