The Premier League saw plenty of great games this weekend, with Manchester City’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool at the Etihad Stadium chief among them. Here, news.bwin.com/en/ discuss the major talking points from an entertaining 90 minutes.
Daniel Sturridge has improved Liverpool’s play immeasurably
There were more than a couple of murmurs of discontent when Liverpool announced the signing of Daniel Sturridge from Chelsea. We’d all heard the stories: poor attitude, big ego, not a team player, motivated by money.
Even Reds boss Brendan Rodgers and captain Steven Gerrard were moved to fire none-too-subtle hints in Sturridge’s direction that he was drinking in the last-chance saloon when it came to playing for the top clubs.
They needn’t have worried. Sturridge has been sensational since moving to Anfield, adding a completely new dimension to the Reds’ attacking play, and his fantastic goal in the 2-2 draw with his former club Manchester City at the Etihad was his fourth in six appearances for the Merseysiders.
What’s more, his all-round game has been excellent and he couldn’t have put in many better performances in his short career than he did on Sunday. Still just 23, his best years are ahead of him and should he maintain his current form on a consistent basis, Liverpool could have a bargain on their hands at £12 million.
Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero might have scored, but they can still do better
It used to be that a striker’s game was all about goals and nothing more. If he scored, he had done his job. If he wasn’t scoring, then he was adding nothing to his team’s cause. It really was that simple.
But as we know, the modern forward needs to be doing so much more than merely hitting the back of the net, which is why Roberto Mancini’s post-match criticism of Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero did not come as a surprise.
Both scored on Sunday – Aguero with a touch of genius – but their overall contribution was such that Mancini fired yet another warning shot in the pair’s direction – one of many the Italian has delivered to his forwards this year.
Unlikely as it may seem given the attacking riches at their disposal, City have (relatively) struggled for goals this season, and just 47 in the league is fewer than Arsenal and Chelsea and 13 shy of Manchester United, which is surely a principle reason why Mancini finds himself nine points behind in the title race.
If the Italian is to have any hope of reeling in the Red Devils, he needs Dzeko, Aguero and Carlos Tevez to start playing to their full potential.
Yaya Toure’s return can’t come soon enough
Liverpool were only the third team this season to go to the Etihad and register more possession than the hosts, a fact that will no doubt please Reds boss Rodgers, who loves nothing better than to monopolise the ball at all costs.
But this was down as much to the failings of the champions’ midfield as it was to the success of the visitors and it should have Mancini slightly concerned.
It is not very often that City boast just 47% of the ball, but in following Arsenal and Fulham, Liverpool showed that when not at full strength, the City midfield, especially when it contains Gareth Barry and Javi Garcia, can be pedestrian and lack the required authority. Lucas and Steven Gerrard in particular exposed this on Sunday.
Which is why the news that Ivory Coast have been knocked out of the Africa Cup of Nations will be music to Mancini’s ears. Yaya Toure will be available for next weekend’s trip to Southampton and after two successive below-par displays, City will need him to return at his driving, swashbuckling best for the run-in if the race to catch Manchester United is not going to be a forlorn one.
Liverpool’s wait for a win against the big boys goes on
As encouraged as Rodgers will be by the display at the Etihad – it was comfortably Liverpool’s best away performance of the campaign, at the home of the champions, too – the fact remains that the former Swansea City boss is yet to oversee a victory against a team currently in the top half of the Premier League, a worrying statistic for the Anfield club.
It may seem churlish to highlight this in a week when the Merseysiders have been to Arsenal and Man City and come away undefeated from both encounters, but the longer it goes without a Liverpool victory against the elite sides, the more of a mental stumbling block it will become and Rodgers has to ensure it doesn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There is already an element of that: twice this week Liverpool have led late on and failed to finish the job and you wonder if the statistic is already playing on their minds.
That said, a week in which two mightily encouraging performances have yielded two points at two difficult grounds show that Rodgers is close to breaking his duck.
Liverpool were right to play on for their first goal
Personally speaking, I was happy to see Liverpool’s first goal, which Sturridge scored as Dzeko lay on the floor ‘injured’ at the other end, stand as one of my pet hates in modern football is the notion that if a player goes down injured, the ball must automatically get kicked out of play.
I am prepared to make an exception for a head injury, obviously, but far too often a player will lie stricken on the ground as the opposition break forward, knowing that if he just lies on the floor, more often than not the referee will stop the play so he can receive treatment.
Come on, how often is the player on the turf actually injured? Hardly ever, and it is just a convenient tactic to stop their opponents in full flow. There was nothing wrong with Dzeko – therefore the play need not have been stopped. If only more officials took a leaf out of Anthony Taylor’s book, the game would instantly be a better one.
Of course, the real controversy should centre on the fact it was definitely a foul by Daniel Agger on Dzeko, but that is a different debate. Once a free-kick wasn’t given, Liverpool had no obligation to kick the ball out.
Let’s hope more teams adopt the same attitude.