Paul Pogba’s up and down Manchester derby display, Liverpool’s lack of attacking cover and why Man City are massively over-hyped are all discussed in this week’s Monday Verdict.
MUCH-HYPED MAN CITY NOWHERE NEAR THE BEST THE PREMIER LEAGUE HAS EVER HAD
Events over the past week has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that this Manchester City side are far from the best the Premier League has ever seen.
Don’t get me wrong, Pep Guardiola’s side have been far and away the best side in England this season and will be worthy Premier League champions once the race is finally done and dusted.
At times their football has been breathtaking too – with Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva at the hub of some quite beautiful football this season.
But for those saying that City are the best team in English history, a serious reality check is needed….
For all the plaudits coming their way, City have now lost more games in all competitions this season as Manchester United’s Treble winning team of 1999. That United side, as things currently stand, had also played a whole 15 games more….
And has City’s dominance been down to the inconsistencies of other sides around them? Purists will again point to 1999 when, at that time, United weren’t in a one-horse race in the Premier League with Arsenal and Chelsea both running them close that season.
Then there’s Europe….
That season, United had Barcelona and Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage, before then having an excellent Juventus and Inter Milan in the knockout rounds, before again facing a dominant Bayern side again in the final.
For those still trying to work it out, United lost three in the league and also one in the League Cup that season, and they went unbeaten in the UCL and obviously in the FA Cup.
But aside from comparing City’s current side to United’s in 1999, there’s been other remarkable sides in recent seasons too.
The Arsenal Invincibles of 2003/04, Chelsea under Jose Mourinho in their first title triumph of 2004/05 and another United side – their Champions League winning side of 2008 – with Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney at their pomp – also deserve their place among our all-time recent greats.
As I mentioned earlier, City are head and shoulders above everyone else this season and Pep’s side But the best team in English history, do me a favour….
FORGET NEW KEEPER, LIVERPOOL NEED BETTER BACK-UP ATTACKING OPTIONS
One thing was startlingly obvious in Liverpool’s goalless draw at Everton on Saturday and it wasn’t the fact that a top class goalkeeper is still their Achilles heel.
Loris Karius was excellent in what was a low quality game, making one magnificent stop to deny Yannick Bolasie, but it was a game in which Liverpool were toothless in attack.
With Mo Salah sidelined with a groin injury and Firmino rested until late on, it was left to Sadio Mane, Dominic Solanke and Danny Ings to provide the forward thrust – and there was none.
Mane did not look the same player without his other two musketeers, while Ings and Solanke were both understandably a bit rusty as the Reds ended up clinging on at the end as Everton pushed for a late winner.
Jurgen Klopp strengthened his defence by bringing in Virgil van Dijk, while Naby Keita will arrive to bolster the midfield this summer but if Liverpool are serious are challenging on every front next season then they must upgrade their attack.
Yes Adam Lallana was missing and would have filled one of those forward spots but Liverpool could really done with an out and out central striker to provide more of a threat.
As for Karius, everything he did was exemplary and you get the feeling that the more he plays the better he will get.
So Liverpool should forget spending big on the likes of Jack Butland, Alisson and Gianluigi Donnarumma and look to invest in a bit more firepower to help their ‘fab three’ take the odd rest or two.
ASSESSING PAUL POGBA’S PERFORMANCE V MANCHESTER CITY
Paul Pogba commanded a lot of the headlines after a remarkable performance in the Manchester derby.
The United midfielder had been the focus of much attention before the game after City manager Pep Guardiola claimed he had been offered the player, whose future has been the subject of considerable recent speculation, in the transfer transfer window. And with two goals in a 3-2 win, the colourful France midfielder certainly made sure he stayed in the spotlight….
Here, Pogba’s performance is put under the microscope.
Grabbing even more attention
Pogba did little to hide from the cameras as he arrived at the Etihad Stadium sporting a blue streak through his hair. The shade may have been more green than City sky blue, and he may have originally dyed it while on international duty with France, but his decision not to remove it for the derby brought criticism. “If you are a wise individual, you don’t attract attention when things aren’t going your way,” Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville said. “Coming here with blue hair today, win it’s fine, lose and that’s going to get mentioned forever more. It’s ridiculous.”
The 25-year-old cut an isolated figure either in the centre of the field or wide on the left as City dominated the first half. His hopes of playing a more advanced role looked forlorn. Yet as United rallied in the second half, so did he. He began to look more dynamic, snapping into dangerous positions across the park quickly. It was quite a turnaround and he gave City much to think about.
Pogba had little option but to try to defend as City launched attack after attack before the break. He did well to intercept one David Silva pass but there were few other highlights. He was often bypassed and struggled to retain the ball. He even lost possession after making an ill-advised decision to try to run the ball out of his own area, a mistake that could have proved costly.
At half-time, Pogba was looking far from a player that cost £89million. With so little possession, he had been unable to dictate play and City had coped with him easily. It was a very subdued performance but he returned for the second period re-energised. Suddenly he was a threat in possession and with his running off the ball. He first tested Ederson with a smart shot before grabbing the two goals that transformed the contest.
Even though Guardiola had said the cost of signing Pogba would be prohibitively expensive, at half-time it seemed like there was no way the Frenchman could even claim a place in the City side.
City looked a class apart and Pogba all at sea. But he proved his worth after the restart, coming the fore in dramatic style. It was a display that showed how much of an elite player he is when he is focused and fully firing.
If he could replicate his second-half form over 90 minutes and on a regular basis, the £90m fee would look a snip….
But then there lies the United dilemma and the source of Mourinho’s frustrations. Getting him playing that way on a regular basis will show us just how good a manager he really is, because clearly going down the bollocking route is not having its desired affect.