Soccer

Midweek Musings: Match-day 23 Wrap-up

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Gareth Wheeler
1/29/2014 8:29:14 PM
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Midweek Premier League action in the books: so many talking points to get to.  Bring on the Musings.

- Harsh.  Manchester City was fortunate in a 5-1 win over Spurs at White Hart Lane.  Sounds weird, doesn't it?  The score-line was inflated by the sending off of Danny Rose.  Down 1-0, the Spurs left back was sent off early in the second half, deemed to have fouled Edin Dzeko on a clear-cut goal scoring opportunity.  Red.  Penalty.  Converted.  Game over.  Rose actually got the ball on his challenge and very little of Dzeko.  Not a foul or a sending off. 

Referee Andre Marriner didn't point to the spot; his linesman made the call.  Although the call was wrong, whenever a player lets an attacking player get goal-side inside the eighteen, it's grounds for disaster.  Diving challenges from behind as such will almost always be called.  Harsh on Rose.  It's ridiculous the rule sends the player off in that circumstance.  Isn't the penalty enough of a punishment?  Disappointing, as Spurs did well getting back into the match with physical, determined play.

- Stat of the Day, Part 1 courtesy Rob Harris (Associated Press): City's financial loss announced Wednesday was £51.60m.  They beat Spurs 5-1, 6-0 this season.  Creepy.

- City has 68 goals on the season through 23 matches.  They scored 66 all last season.  They have 15 games to go.  Simply incredible. 

- No player is as dominant in attacking areas, with the ball on his right foot, than Sergio Aguero.  The finish on his opener was exquisite, putting it past Hugo Lloris on the angle, as delicate as can be.  He hit one off the post from a ridiculous angle earlier on his right foot with power and precision.  Defenders need to cheat Aguero; playing him to his left and hope for the best.  Aguero limped off at the start of the second half with a hamstring injury, he had just returned from a calf issue.  

The extent of the injury will be determined Thursday, anxious times.  The team is a powerhouse, but Aguero is a difference maker.  Without the Argentine for a prolonged stretch, a true assault on trophies in all four competitions is a reach.

- City is now top the table, but will face a motivated Chelsea Monday who dropped points in a 0-0 home draw against lowly West Ham.  Chelsea dominated but simply couldn't score, incredibly outshooting the Hammers 39-1.  Manager Jose Mourinho took out his frustration post-match, hitting out at West Ham's 'style'. 

"This is not Premier League; this is not the best league in the world. This is football from the 19th century."  The statement by Mourinho is entirely hypocritical and embarrassing from a manager renowned for playing dull, defensive football away from home.  Yes, extraordinary defensive commitment in blocking shots and standout goalkeeping from Adrian stole a point, but Mourinho parked the bus at Old Trafford and the Emirates this year.  He has done so countless times while at Inter and Real Madrid.  Mourinho came off as a bitter, desperate man Wednesday.  Poor form.

- Juan Mata's Manchester United debut was unsurprisingly impressive, especially considering he hadn't played since January 1st and trained sparsely since his transfer became inevitable.  Mata lined up behind Robin van Persie in the 2-0 win over Cardiff, pressing high when need be but finding comfort in dropping deep to play a ball possession, play-making role.

His passing was reminiscent of Paul Scholes, particularly starting the movement on the first goal.  His confidence and composure on fills a need.  The signing of the 25-year-old is an absolute coup for United.  Manuel Pellegrini and Arsene Wenger hitting out at Chelsea's decision to transfer Mata within the Premier League speaks to the threat United will always be, the rest of this year and beyond.

- Reports say United manager David Moyes is intent of adding 'five more Matas' to his current group.  It's a scary proposition, and a premature one.  United paid a club record £37m for Mata.  The club has now only spent over £20m on a player five times in the last decade.  Manchester City spent over £20m each on four players last summer, and 15 players overall in that span.  Chelsea has purchased 12 players over that number.  Is United finally willing to go where other big clubs have been for years? 

- £300,000 per week is a steep, but necessary price to pay Wayne Rooney to keep him at Old Trafford.  The terms of a new contract are reported, but not official.  The 28-year-old has been sensational this campaign, putting the clouds of uncertainty and distraction of last summer behind him.  The captains' armband seems right with no other suitable heir apparent and Rooney on course to become United's all-time scoring leader.  A focus Rooney leads by example on the field.

- Adam Lallana for England?  I'll unveil my prospective England World Cup team in the coming weeks.  But Southampton's Lallana makes the side.  His sixth goal coming in a 2-2 draw with Arsenal is testament to the quality and work-rate of the midfielder.  How about Luke Shaw for England as well?  Should it matter if he's just 18?  Ashley Cole's form has been poor.  And Shaw is that good.  Already.

- Time for Wenger to get Kieran Gibbs back in the starting XI.  Gibbs strong season was derailed through injury over the holidays.  The drop-off between Gibbs and Nacho Monreal is significant.  Although it's been admirable of Wenger to reward Monreal for his work, Gibbs has to start.  The back four is a strength with Bacary Sagna, Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker.

- Daniel Sturridge 3-0 goal for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby was the goal of the week. With a searching long-ball looped over his head, Sturridge looks over both shoulders on the run before volleying over the oncoming Tim Howard.  Sensational balance, focus and a sweet finish that shouldn't be overlooked by an ugly penalty miss.  No Englishman not named Lampard, Gerrard or Baines can be trusted from the spot.  Sturridge was also called greedy as he searched for the hat trick.  The criticism is unfair.  He's paid to score goals and up 4-0 is as good a time as any.  Leave him be.

- Stat of the Day, Part 2 courtesy ESPN FC: three top goal scorers in the BPL – Suarez, Aguero, and Sturridge – have missed 19 games combined.  They've scored 51 goals.  Wow.

- Everton manager Roberto Martinez has revealed star striker Romelu Lukaku's ankle injury isn't as bad as originally feared.  It looked ugly when teammate Gareth Barry toppled over him.  Lukaku is expected to miss weeks, not months.  Spurs are their toughest opponent in the next three, and Lukaku cannot play February 22nd against Chelsea anyway.  So perhaps, in a weird way, Everton catch a break. 

- I've been calling a Sunderland revival for weeks.  The team is not only in the Capital One Cup Final but also out of the bottom three.  There is talent in the side, especially in the back and in the midfield. Heaps of credit to manager Gus Poyet for making sense of a mish-mashed squad.  While I predicted Sunderland's ascension, I did not foresee Crystal Palace climbing out of the relegation zone.  The fight and work rate in Palace has been phenomenal all season.  Questions remain whether they can find enough goals in the final months.

- Aston Villa can all of a sudden score goals.  Eight goals in the last four games and Villa have picked up seven points in the process.  In the previous five, they scored two and only picked up a point.

- Yohan Cabaye to PSG is a loss for Newcastle. But with or without the Frenchman, they are still a mid-table club.  Expect a step back in the coming weeks with talisman 11-goal man Loic Remy suspended for the next three after his sending off at Norwich City.  The next three games against Sunderland, at Chelsea, and Spurs is a massive challenge and test of character.

- Cardiff City is last in the table on 18 points, but is hardly the weakest side.  Three of their last four have come against Arsenal and the two Manchester sides.  Baptism by fire for new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer who took over during this nightmare run of fixtures.  The additions of Wilfried Zaha on-loan and Fabio from Manchester United, as well as Kenwyne Jones from Stoke should help.  There is enough in this team to climb out of the bottom.

- Transfer window closes Friday. Enjoy the madness.

Andre Marriner Danny Rose (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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