For starters, congratulations to my local club the Fort Lauderdale Strikers on a (revived) club record 7,653 in attendance for the renewal of the old NASL rivalry with the New York Cosmos. The Flight 19 Supporters Group, which I am a member of, unveiled a TIFO that gained attention and helped create a great atmosphere. It was a special night for me as the last time these two sides had played in Lockhart Stadium, I was a ball boy. That was in May 1983!
On the topic of American soccer, I am hearing rumblings from well-connected sources that Major League Soccer will announce multiple expansion franchises at this year’s MLS Cup. One team is almost assured — the current third division champions Orlando City, who just attracted 20,000 plus fans to the USL PRO title. The other(s) could be Atlanta and/or Miami, but we will keep you posted here at World Soccer Talk as we learn more.
It’s always great to win the derby but before City’s support gets carried away about beating a Manchester United side without Rafael and Robin van Persie, it’s important to note that Manchester City still has only one point in two away matches against likely bottom half sides. Furthermore, if the match proved one thing, it proved City is completely different when Vincent Kompany is anchoring the back four. Kompany’s recent injury and suspension record coupled with continued fitness worries for Micah Richards and Gael Clichy mean the Blues are far from consistently being solid at the back.
Manuel Pellegrini has rated David Silva higher than Samir Nasri early in his tenure, something I don’t agree with. Thankfully for City on Sunday, Silva is injured, forcing the manager to pick Nasri. He responded with the most brilliant creative display a City player has had in a derby in years.
Nasri operated as a horizontal playmaker despite beginning on the left side of midfield. He was able to drift and find space, linking up well with Aleksandar Kolarov and Jesus Navas. Manchester United’s impotent central midfield seemed helpless to stop Nasri’s movement. Michael Carrick had his worst game in recent memory, though I understand he was suffering from flu-like symptoms. That should have motivated the newly signed Marouane Fellaini to impose his will on the proceedings. But Fellaini was ineffective, despite having won more league matches (as an Everton player) against Manchester City over the course of the last three seasons than anyone in the Manchester United squad.
Alvaro Negredo’s inclusion in Pellegrini’s team sheet was surprising. But he was very effective and direct in his play, linking up well with Sergio Aguero and holding up play effectively. He also was a danger on set pieces, setting Yaya Toure’s goal (City’s second) with a clever header.
Ashley Young’s lack of influence over big matches continues at Manchester United. Shinji Kagawa has not played a single minute in three big league matches David Moyes has faced in the last month, which is an absolutely shocking statistic.
Over at West Ham United‘s Upton Park, Roberto Martinez changed the tenor of the match inserting new boys James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku at halftime into a dire match. The moves injected life into Everton and created space for Ross Barkley, where he thrived.
West Ham has failed to find any luck whatsoever early in the season. Couple this with an injury crisis, and you have a team that is failing to meet expectations. Nonetheless when the squad selection becomes less forced, I expect Big Sam to have more options and more ability to change the way the Hammers play at home.
Finding space is a key to Hull City’s early season success. Robbie Brady is continuing to be a threat going forward. He has an uncanny knack of finding space on the counter attack or against the run of play. George Boyd was similarly expert in finding space to set up the Tigers winner. We saw similar off the ball movement against Manchester City in a loss three weeks ago and when reduced to ten men in a victory against Norwich in August. This sort of heady off the ball play will serve Steve Bruce’s side very well as the season wears on and the relegation battles heat up.
Paolo Di Canio’s unorthodox behavior notwithstanding, his transfer moves this summer were nothing short of awful. Sunderland have fixtures with Liverpool and Manchester United before the international break and by dismissing DiCanio now, Ellis Short will give the new manager two difficult games with no expectations to work out kinks in the squad.
Arsenal is winning with ease despite missing a number of key contributors due to injury. I keep hearing from people that my feeling that Arsenal can win the Premier League this season is a mistake because the Gunners lack depth. Well the depth of Arsenal has been already been tested more than the depth of any other top side and a quick glance at the table shows Arsenal sitting at the top.
Bayern Munich finally looked like the side we expected before the season in a dismantling of Schalke in Gelsenkirchen. With Borussia Dortmund rotating its side and dropping points to Nuremberg, questions have to be asked about BVB’s depth and ability to push Bayern the entire season.
The PSG-Monaco game, dubbed “el Cashico” by a cynical press, was a brilliant advert for Ligue Un in the first half. However the second half demonstrated the caution of both Laurent Blanc and Claudio Ranieri as neither wanted to lose the game until PSG began pressing late. Edinson Cavani had a chance to win it late but Monaco didn’t break and the game ended in a dull 1-1 draw after a cracking start.
Rafa Benitez has Napoli playing so well and so tactically smart, I believe they may really challenge Juventus for the title this season. AS Roma got off to a flier of a start and are sitting atop the table, but they’re sure to fade sooner or later. As for AC Milan, I would expect Massimiliano Allegri to be sacked soon. Milan got off to a similarly poor start last season and recovered to just grab the last Champions League place from Fiorentina on the final day of the season, but this year I do not think that is going to cut it for Allegri.