Premier League wrap: Lessons as Man City win derby & Liverpool stall
What did we learn as City earned the Manchester bragging rights and the race to the top four took more twists?
Manchester City have the spine to regain the title
Sergio Aguero epitomised the quality that won Manchester City the title last year with his thumping winner at Old Trafford on Monday but like his colleagues, has lacked consistency this campaign as they surrendered their title to United. (Although the ‘Champions’ scarves on sale outside Old Trafford last night perhaps sums up the complacency displayed last night by their heros on the pitch.) United were subdued but City can take pride from their dogged performances. The City attack has become rather predictable apart from the explosive brilliance of David Silva, Carlos Tevez and Aguero. If they struggle or are injured then Roberto Mancini’s men lack the penetration they destroyed teams a year ago. The core of the side is superb; Joe Hart, Vincent Kompany, Yaya Toure, Silva, Tevez, Aguero. Away from them the squad is rather weak and needs rejuvenating over the summer to regain the title. Nothing wild is needed but defensive quality to support Kompany is essential, while a new facet to their attack would relieve the burden on the Argentine strikers. Meanwhile, Phil Jones has returned from a season blighted by injuries to really impress. He was commanding and brutal last night, emphasising that he should start at centre-back for United and ultimately England.
Stoke are well and truly in a relegation battle
A 3-1 loss at home to relegation-threatened Aston Villa is bad enough but the Potters now find themselves three points off the drop zone with only one victory in the league this calendar year – and that was against fellow strugglers Reading. The defeat on Saturday was remarkable considering the Britannia Stadium is usually a fortress for Tony Pulis’ side. But the crowd was mute, the play was lethargic and they failed to bully their inexperienced opponents. And the bad news continues – they next face Manchester United, who will be desperate to turn around their derby disappointment from last night. The Potters then take on QPR, Norwich and Sunderland is titanic scraps for survival. Worse for Stoke is that they don’t possess match-winners – they rely on grit and organisation. And evidently this has evaded them in recent weeks. Furthermore, their strikers including Cameron Jerome, Jonathan Walters and Peter Crouch are simply not tucking away chances. The current bottom three of Wigan, QPR and Reading attempt to play expansive, positive football. If they fail to put a run of results together then the Potters could be hauled back to the Championship.
Talk of Rodgers improving Liverpool is nonsensical
A lot has been made of Brendan Rodgers’ short tenure at Anfield so far and some have even recently branded it a success. To put it kindly, it seems they have been guilty of hyperbole. Liverpool this season have been extremely inconsistent and at times have displayed some attractive flowing football. For example, the flourishing talent of Raheem Sterling on the right wing has been a welcome addition but he has succumbed to fatigue, while Philippe Coutinho looks a decent signing from Inter Milan. Saying that, they have heavily relied upon Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard. Without them Liverpool would be in a host of trouble near the bottom. To be nine points off Champions League qualification and 28 off the top is embarrassing for a club with such a rich history. The problems are more corrosive in defence but in attack the efficiency and determination must increase dramatically to improve the points haul. To be entertaining one week and diabolical the next cannot be seen as an improvement under Rodgers, with the goalless draw against West Ham on Sunday a fine example of the stagnant state the club is at. It’s a huge summer ahead at Anfield as they prepare for life without stalwart Jamie Carragher. And it would be astonishing if Suarez doesn’t leave for a top European club.