Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Alan Green: Arsenal take United stand in title quest

However much I've admired Arsenal this season, I have to admit my praise has been tempered by the thought they'd yet to play anyone of consequence.

That ended at Anfield last Sunday.

Now THAT was a test and the match was titanic, as good a game as we've had in the Premier League this season.

And afterwards, I didn't need to balance my thoughts - unquestionably, the Gunners 'passed' the test.

Though Liverpool had enough chances to win the game, they were second best in most areas.

Arsene Wenger was rightly delighted to see his young charges abide by his principles of passing and movement and the Anfield crowd, as knowledgeable a football audience as there is, recognized that their team was outplayed.

Though Liverpool really needed to win, a draw was as much as they could hope for in the circumstances.

Cesc Fabregas drew attention, as always - that's a remarkable 10 goals already from someone about whom, supposedly, 'goal scoring' was a weakness - but Alexander Hleb was immense.

It didn't take him one season to settle into English football; he required two but, at the moment, he's almost unplayable.

Anyway, at lunchtime, Arsenal have another opportunity to emphasize the point made on Merseyside - that they're good enough to sustain a campaign to win the title.

Arguably, Manchester United at the Emirates represents an even bigger test of title credentials.

Earlier in the season, I thought United merely accumulated 'results' even if they didn't always play well; no longer.

There were even signs against Middlesbrough last weekend that made me revise my doubts about the 'partnership' of Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney.

The Champions play as fluently as Arsenal but in a more direct, 'in your face' manner.

Instead of death by a thousand cuts, an Arsenal design, United always look for a piercing fatal blow.

I still believe they would improve further by having an out and out striker in the side and if, as seems likely, Sir Alex is running out of patience with Louis Saha's continual lack of fitness, I can see the manager making a major striker signing in January - arguably he should have done so in August.

Will Berbatov be happy at Spurs now that Ramos has taken over?

How can Anelka possibly be happy at Bolton under Gary Megson?

Either striker would surely fit Fergie's requirements.

Truthfully, though I'm never one to shy away from making forecasts, I find it very difficult to be confident of what will happen today in North London.

If Arsenal score first, I can see them winning but United are hardly sheepish with regard to finding the net themselves - four goals in each of their last four games.

Perhaps, it will finish as it did at Anfield 1-1.



Levy lurks in the shadows

I was delighted to see that Daniel Levy's little ruse in staying away from Juande Ramos' debut press conference as the new Tottenham boss failed miserably.



How pitiful was it to put Damien Comolli up in place of the chairman?

Did Levy think we wouldn't notice while he slipped disgracefully away into the shadows, watching on a television set somewhere in the bowels of White Hart Lane?



Honestly, I can't remember ever viewing any other chairman or director with such contempt, not even the Halls or Shepherds at St. James Park.

All this will catch up with Levy unless Ramos performs wonders with the team.

Whatever the plusses or minuses of Martin Jol as manager, Spurs' fans overwhelmingly sided with the Dutchman.

Any struggle for Ramos and it'll be the chairman's head they'll want on a platter.



Brazil no seventh heaven!

The 'romantic' in me says there'd be nothing better than sitting down in the Maracana to describe my seventh World Cup Final.

The 'realist' says it won't happen.

FIFA may have awarded the World Cup to Brazil in 2014 but, actually, they had no choice given that they'd decided long ago it was going to South America and that, not long ago, the only remotely viable alternatives, Argentina and Columbia, simply gave up.

The truth is Brazil, as a country, is an economic disaster.

They say they'll spend £550 million building or refurbishing 18 stadia, only nine or 10 of which will be used. What?

When it's costing £450 million to build a new 'Anfield'?

No, it would be far better and infinitely more morally acceptable for the Brazilian government to spend any money it has on its PEOPLE by removing the slums of Rio and Sao Paulo.

The USA and England will be on secret standby for 2014 and far likelier venues for my 'seventh'.

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