Editor’s Note: “Get Stuck In” is EPL Talk’s weekly column featuring review, analysis and opinion on all the happenings in the Premier League each week from different EPL Talk bloggers and podcasters. If you currently write for EPL Talk and would like to contribute to “Get Stuck In”, contact Jesse Chula at JesseChula(at)gmail(dot)com.
Manchester United are an Entirely Different Side Without Their Two First Choice Strikers – Jesse Chula
But shouldn’t we have already known that?
When news broke in the hours leading up to kickoff of Manchester United’s away match to face Stoke City that Wayne Rooney hadn’t even traveled with the squad, United supporters quickly looked to Javier Hernandez to lead the line for United with Dimitar Berbatov. While Berbatov, last season’s co-leader in goals scored, seemed a fair enough replacement for the ‘ham-strung’ Rooney, Michael Owen proved an inadequate stand-in for Hernandez when the Mexican was forced off after just eleven minutes due to a collision with Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic.
Owen had entered the match at the Britannia Stadium after bagging a decent enough brace away to Leeds United in the Carling Cup midweek and his appearance against Stoke City on Saturday only proved that the Potters are no Leeds. United’s front attacking two of Berbatov and Owen lacked pace, creativity and at times, meaningful involvement. Credit Stoke City for another brilliant display at home, for staying organized and for continuing to focus on their strengths, even if they were numerous balls into the box to Peter Crouch. Their focus paid off. Stoke equalized in the 52nd minute when Crouch rose unmarked in the box and headed home from a Matthew Etherington corner.
In the grand scheme of the 2011-12 Premier League title race, fans and supporters, bloggers and pundits, must all keep in mind the effects injuries have on the top and title-chasing squads. Although the point earned away on Saturday for the defending Champions wasn’t necessarily a bad one, United will have realized that they’re a totally different side without the quickness, creativity and brilliance of Wayne Rooney and Chicharito up front as their failure to dominate possession gave way to numerous chances for Stoke City to grab a winner.
Stark Reality Hits Swansea In The Face – The Gaffer
If you watched the first twenty minutes of Chelsea against Swansea on Saturday, you would have seen the Swans play the Blues off the pitch. Swansea maintained the possession, passed around international players such as Juan Mata and others with ease, and created a couple of dangerous crosses into the box.
In addition to that, Swansea had a shot from Nathan Dyer which was deflected against the crossbar. Then there was a clearance off the line by Chelsea from an Ashley Williams header. Let’s not forget the last gasp moments in the Chelsea box with Swansea missing a few gilt-edged chances. And last but not least, there was a consolation goal from a free kick where Williams headed the ball in after Jose Bosingwa switched off from marking him.
Despite some of the positives that can be taken from the game, this game was a slap in the face to me as a Swansea City supporter. It clearly showed that Swansea are missing two important pieces. The first is a player who can change games in midfield. After Fernando Torres got himself red-carded for a two-footed tackle on Mark Gower, Swansea had a massive advantage to play the remaining 50 minutes of the game with an extra man. However, no one seemed to rise to the occasion for Swansea. There was no one who took the bull by its horns and took the game to Chelsea. Instead, what we continued to see was a pretty passing game but no Swansea player pushed Chelsea back. Contrast how Swansea played against Chelsea with the spirit shown by Stoke against Manchester United. It was night and day.
That sort of player who can change games and lead the charge is a Joey Barton or Kevin Davies.
That brings me to the second thing that Swansea is missing. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but we need a creative midfielder. On Saturday, both Joe Allen and Mark Gower did really well in midfield as defensive midfielders who pushed forward from time-to-time. But they weren’t providing clinical passes to Leroy Lita, Scott Sinclair or Nathan Dyer. Lita didn’t get the service he needed to give him a chance at scoring.
Earlier this season Brendan Rogers turned down the opportunity to sign Marcos Senna from Villarreal. Rogers said that it wouldn’t be fair to the other players that Senna would be making a significantly higher wage structure than them. But sometimes you have to pay for a key that will unlock the door for Swansea.
The stark reality that hit Swansea in the face this past weekend against Chelsea was that they need to be more aggressive when given an opportunity, and their current midfielders need to be more creative when moving forward. Hopefully the Swans can improve in these two areas because elsewhere they’re on song.