Luis Suarez does things that no other attacking player in the world does. All of the discussion about who is better, Ronaldo or Messi, deserves to have Suarez included in the conversation. But that Suarez plays at a club that hasn’t featured in Champions League since the 2009-10 season and because of his own self-inflicted bad boy image (as contrasted with the carefully crafted Messi persona), he isn’t getting the mentions in the discussion he deserves. But Suarez’s goal scoring rate and rate of quality goals is currently second to none globally. Ibra hasn’t scored the sheer volume of spectacular goals and Messi has not been involved in spectacular team moves that Suarez has been a part of since returning from his most recent long-term suspension.
Based on the reactions to Manuel Pellegrini’s mathematical prowess midweek in Munich, you would think Manchester City had lost that match. But what in fact happened was that the Blues rallied from a two goal deficit at the home of the European Champions and won a match. This came days after dropping points to a Southampton side that was missing several key performers. The potential impact of the Bayern result cannot be over-stated. Much of the Citizens woes away from home have been due to concentration lapses, lack of fight, poor tactical planning and coping with playing on narrower pitches. While the later problem wasn’t solved in the Bayern victory, the first three points were remarkably corrected in one 90 minute evening of soccer. While this does not mean City are over the away sluggishness just yet, the signs are that the side has moved forward and is beginning to gel.
Meanwhile, Manchester City’s Fernandinho is in my opinion is redefining how the holding midfield position is played in English football.
In the match between Manchester City and Arsenal, Kieran Gibbs’ absence was perhaps the single biggest factor in the game. Nacho Monreal’s performance was nothing short of a shocking and it must pose question for Arsene Wenger as to whether he needs more full back cover (or perhaps needs to try using Carl Jenkinson at left back when Gibbs is unavailable.)
After several years of existence as the prototypical yo-yo club, West Brom has stabilized as a Premier League club. Yet the board has not released enough cash to guarantee continued Premier League status. Steve Clarke found himself working on an extremely tight budget and dependent largely on loan players to make an impact. As one of the best tacticians in British football, Clarke won’t be out of work for long (maybe he returns to Chelsea to work with Jose Mourinho) and the Baggies are sure to rue the error in judgment demonstrated by sacking him. Then again perhaps the goal for West Brom’s board is to go down without spending much money and collect parachute payments while trying to come right back up. It’s a formula they once perfected and conceivably could be aiming to replicate again?
Manchester United is back on track after a win against Aston Villa. How much margin for error does United have coming home this season if they want to win the title? Reaching 89 points, the title winning total the last two seasons is impossible but if 80 points is the target with so much competition at the top, United still do have a little margin for error, but very little. Assuming United drop all three points at Chelsea, and draw at Arsenal, draw at home with Manchester City and Liverpool, they can only drop five more points this season. Beating City or Liverpool would certainly help things for the Red Devils. Perhaps those two fixtures are now must-wins in the larger scheme of things because of the points they deny the opposition.
Missed in the news about QPR’s new stadium proposal was the signing of Yossi Benayoun. QPR’s enormous wage bill just keeps growing under Harry Redknapp. The R’s sit tenuously atop the Championship but not being promoted could spell absolute disaster before moving to a new ground. Besides, where are all these Rangers fans going to turn up from to fill a 40,000 seat stadium?
Speaking of QPR the rumors of signing Nahki Wells in January must be disturbing if you are a Bradford City supporter. Wells for me is one of the brightest young stars the Bantams have had in sometime, and he combines pace with an uncanny finishing ability. Letting him go at a time the club is just beginning to recover from the decade long self-inflicted doldrums would be a bad sign.
One of my favorite yet most predictable moments of the ITV Keane/Vieira documentary was when the presenter asked Roy Keane who the best manager he had played for was and Keane said, “Without a doubt, Brian Clough”. The presenter retorted “Really, not Sir Alex Ferguson?” Keane responded in classic fashion “You asked the question, I answered you.”
The performances of West Ham United continues to be frustrating. Despite getting fairly good wide play and some control over central midfield, the Hammers continue to misfire badly. I am not sure Andy Carroll, even when fit, is going to solve these problems.
Norwich City continues to misfire at home. In Sunday’s 1-1 draw with a tired Swansea side who had lost in Switzerland on Thursday, Chris Hughton’s side dominated the second half and created lots of half chances but didn’t get the three points they needed.
Editor’s note: Read Kartik’s previous Monday Soccer Insider columns.