September 25, 2013

Manchester City exposes United’s flaws

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

There has been plenty of criticism stacked on Manchester City in the past few weeks, first after losing to Cardiff, then struggling to a scoreless draw against Stoke. It seems that it has earned its redemption.

The Sky Blues torched Manchester derby rivals United 4-1 on Sunday at the Etihad. And it could have been much worse for the Red Devils.

City was at its best playing the counter attack, something that new manager Manuel Pellegrini built his team to do. Perhaps that’s why his squad struggled against the inferior sides. It can be pretty hard to score in counter attack when your opponents always have two lines of defenders behind the ball.

United’s “noisy neighbours” were lightning quick in attack, getting forward in numbers that United were unable to defend, with most moves ending in an unmarked man burying a cross that David de Gea had little to no chance on.

Of course, we can’t judge United too harshly on just one loss (it’s not Arsenal), but there are a few things that can be taken away.

-Without Robin van Persie the attack lacks bite. With RVP in a suit on the sidelines, United played Danny Welbeck up front with Wayne Rooney, Ashley Young, Antonio Valencia and Marouane Fellaini in support. None of the replacements were up to the task, as Rooney was only able to pull back a goal with a late free kick. If this is what United has to offer without its talisman, I’m not sure if this is a contending team.

-Fellaini in particular didn’t look great. He was supposed to be United’s gem of the transfer window and a player that David Moyes knows well. If that’s the case, why was he constantly working outside the box trying to get the ball in? The big Belgian should have been the one working to get on the end of headers.

-Was this just home-field advantage at work? I doubt it, but the real test will have to be when the two sides meet later this season at Old Trafford.

-Moyes showed he was clearly a step below Pellegrini in terms of managing. There were few adjustments from the visiting side and just one sub – Tom Cleverly for Ashley Young – which was actually a negative move. Where was Chicarito or Shinji Kagawa?

ONLY ONE REMAINS

With Liverpool going down at the hands of Southampton, we have only one undefeated team remaining after five games and I’m not sure you’ll guess who it is… Pause for time to guess

Yes, the Reds own Merseyside rivals Everton are the last team to get a tally in the loss column. But we’ll talk about the Toffees another time.

It seems like we’ve found the flaws in Liverpool’s game. The Reds were forced to start four centre backs due to injuries at the full back position. That really hurt their ability to move the ball out from the back, like manager Brendan Rodgers likes to do oh so much.

And when the ball got up into the opponent’s end, Liverpool lacked the creativity that Philippe Coutinho so readily supplies.

But maybe it was just the opponent. After all the previous team to defeat Liverpool was Southampton back in March.

There could be an answer around the corner – and I don’t just mean a new opponent. Yes, Luis Suarez is ready to return from suspension. That could solve any attacking problems the Reds have, but we’ll just see how long he stays happy, engaged and out of the referees’ books.

AROUND THE PITCHES

Arsenal’s run of form continues with a big thanks to Mesut Ozil, who had a hand in all three of the Gunners goals. If he keeps this up, Arsene Wenger may just be persuaded to make some more big-money signings … How about that Aaron Ramsay? His strike on Saturday gives him seven goals for the campaign … Spurs left it late in Cardiff, grabbing the win in the third minute of injury and on their 29th shot of the game. While only 12 of them were on target, it’s still either an indictment of how poorly they were hitting the target or how well they played against the Welsh side. I’m not sure which one though … Swansea showed no Europa League rust beating Crystal Palace 2-0. I figured they’d be tired having played a tough match in Valencia earlier in the week, but that was not the case. It’ll be interesting to see if the Swans can keep it up though … Congratulations to John Obi Mikel for scoring his first goal. That’s not just of the season, that’s since joining Chelsea – a team he joined almost seven years ago. Sure he’s a defensive midfielder, but that’s just poor luck to go scoreless for that long.

FINAL THOUGHT

Sunderland fired manager Paolo Di Canio after his team’s 3-0 to West Bromwich Albion, a team that had scored just once on the season. The Black Cats sit on just one point and at the bottom of the table.

It’s curious to see the plug pulled so quickly on Di Canio, after all he did just bring in 14 new players over the summer and sold several of the team’s veterans. Another curiosity: How weird is it that the number of new players brought in is higher than the number of matches Di Canio managed at 13.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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