Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Alan Green: Demolition job on Spurs puts Manchester City in frame for title

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Rafael van der Vaart of Tottenham (L) tackles Edin Dzeko of Manchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Luka Modric of Tottenham looks down dejected during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Harry Redknapp manager of Tottenham looks on ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Rafael van der Vaart of Tottenham leaves the pitch injured during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Edin Dzeko of Manchester City leaves the pitch with the matchball after scoring four goals after the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Michael Dawson of Tottenham sits in the goal dejected as Edin Dzeko of Manchester City scores his third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Sami Nasri of Manchester City applauds the fans after the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Micah Richards of Manchester City battles for the ball with Benoit Assou-Ekotto of Tottenham during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Edin Dzeko (R) of Manchester City celebrates scoring his fourth goal with teammates Gareth Barry and Sami Nasri (L) during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy looks on ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Gareth Barry (R) of Manchester City (L) battles for the ball with Luka Modric of Tottenham during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Sami Nasri of Manchester City controls the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Peter Crouch of Tottenham heads the ball wide as Joleon Lescott of Manchester City looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Roberto Mancini manager of Manchester City (R) issues instructions to his player Pablo Zabaleta as Harry Redknapp manager of Tottenham looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Rafael van der Vaart of Tottenham in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: FA chairman David Bernstein (L) shares a joke with Manchester City executive chairman Garry Cook ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Rafael van der Vaart (R) of Tottenham battles for the ball with Yaya Toure of Maanchester City during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: David Silva (R) of Manchester City controls the ball as teammate Sergio Aguero looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City at White Hart Lane on August 28, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

So, whose ‘statement on Sunday’ will prove of greater lasting importance? My instinct tells me to go with City.



Yes, I know — I was there — that United’s ‘eight’ barely reflected their dominance of the game but I’m afraid Arsenal were so abject on the day most anyone would have beaten them. I felt so sorry for Wojciech Szcyesny, he bore no blame for any of the goals that buried in his net; indeed, his many saves prevented double figures.

As for the rest of the Arsenal team . . . Ramsey aside, they were pitiful. Any player can lose possession but there was no excuse whatsoever for giving up, for not trying to win the ball back. I shudder at the memory of how people like Arshavin, Rosicky, Van Persie and, when he came on as substitute, Chamakh barely broke sweat.

And I appreciate that there were nine players missing through injury or suspension. However, didn’t that only emphasise the weakness of Arsene Wenger’s squad? You can choose a ‘B XI’ for Manchester United and be confident they would finish in the top half a dozen places in the table. Not so Arsenal.

Wenger said in a press conference last week that Arsenal’s season would “begin on September 10th”.

Can that be acceptable? What about spending some of that £70 million or so that you have in the bank? On the other hand, who of stature would want to join Arsenal in their current state? Money-grabbing so and so that he is, perhaps Samir Nasri got out just in time . . .

But, please, let’s not get caught up in the eulogising of the champions. I think Chris Smalling and Phil Jones are both excellent — Rio Ferdinand, in particular, watch out — but the praise being lavished on Danny Welbeck and Tom Cleverley is way over the top. Cleverley as the successor to Paul Scholes? Not yet, not by a long way.

In contrast to United, Manchester City played opponents worthy of the name. I don’t get the stubbornness over Luka Modric. If a player wants to leave, why not let him go if you’re being offered silly money? But Tottenham STILL have the basis of a very good team and a very good squad. That’s why their demolition on Sunday deserves attention.

You could tell from City’s approach, right from the off, that Roberto Mancini is feeling more confident about taking off the leash. Yes, being Italian, he gets angry about conceding a goal even when you’ve scored five — that’s why he’ll always play at least two holding players in midfield — but Aguero, Nasri and Silva were like whirling dervishes further forward. And Dzeko is fast making me re-think my description of him as a lumbering oaf.

As Harry Redknapp said afterwards: “They’re going to be difficult for anyone to contain.” Too right.

I think my forecast will be right too — the title will remain in Manchester but the edge is towards City. And, damn it, now we have another international break!

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