Guest writer Iain Anderson, of Why Say Anything fame, gives his take on the Premier League’s weekend action and the upcoming international break.
Manchester City fans have every reason to be happy at the moment. Despite a fairly drab goalless draw at Aston Villa, during which City could and should have scored at least two goals, they remain top of the table thanks to a drawn London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham at the Emirates.
Manuel Pellegrini seems to have found a way of not losing when he has important players missing through injury.
Not too long ago, City would be going into the next Champions League game needing a win to keep their hopes of qualification alive. Now, without Aguero or Silva, arguably their two most influential players, they have already qualified with two games to spare. Their achievements in beating Moenchengladbach away, then Sevilla home and away should not be underestimated. It may have needed late goals in two of these games to get the win, but the game lasts for ninety minutes, so credit to City for persevering rather than accepting draws in both games.
Playing a 4-2-3-1 system has been good to City and we should be saying the same from the game against Villa. Both Sterling and De Bruyne missed chances that, from a distance admittedly, looked easier to score. Very late in the game Fernando managed to hit the crossbar with a header but by this stage it obviously wasn’t going to be City’s day, not for a win anyway.
Pellegrini looked resigned at the end of the match. He couldn’t say his team didn’t deserve to win the game because they did everything except score but, this fact alone, means that they didn’t deserve to win. Also, a defeat would have been a little unfair on Aston Villa who, if nothing else, defended to the last man and showed a character few of us thought that they had. It will be interesting to see if that character remains once the new manager is no longer the new manager.
The look of resignation on Pellegrini would have changed to one of relief when he heard the final score from the Emirates. Arsenal failed to take advantage of City’s “slip-up” and remain in second place on goal difference.
So the winners this weekend were literally the winners. Leicester City and Manchester United both gained two points on City and Arsenal. Claudio Ranieri continues to defy the critics and Louis van Gaal continues to ignore the critics, both of them with some reason.
So next is the ‘international break’, where teams go and play meaningless friendlies and risk injury to key players just before the busy Christmas period. But we have to look at the positives. So, for example, England will find out something we already know and that is that they are not as good as Spain or France. Mr Roy will try to kid us that losing these friendly games is great experience for the youngsters he probably won’t play in them.
Next March, just before the final run-in of the season there will be another ‘international break’, when England will find out they are also not as good as Germany and Holland, despite the latter being unable to qualify for the Euros from an easy group.
The international managers have to be careful now though. The injury rules have changed thanks to a certain Arsene Wenger. Now, if a player is injured in any of the next three games after the international, then the injury originated during the international.
Take Aaron Ramsey. He played for Wales against Andorra. Then he played against Watford for the whole game. Then, after seventy minutes of the game against Bayern, he suddenly remembered he had actually been injured in the game against Andorra but had forgotten to tell anyone. Arsene decided that Chris Coleman obviously knew this and was keeping it secret so accused him of being a nasty person.
The upshot of all this is that league managers will be even more reticent about releasing their players, even though Wenger is guilty of waffling of the highest order, because this is an important time of the season and they don’t want to be without players like Aguero and Silva.
Which takes us back to where we started and so is a good place to finish.