Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 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: 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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