Manchester City v Sunderland - Barclays Asia Trophy Final

The impact of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho on the future of Gareth Barry

Leave a comment

After Manchester City’s 4-0 throttling of Newcastle United on Monday, there were many talking points. One of the more neglected ones concerned the future of Gareth Barry.

For the last three seasons the England international has owned one of the two holding midfield roles with the Citizens, starting 89 of 98 contests that he appeared in between 2010 and 2013.

Never one to dominate the limelight, Barry’s primary quality is his consistency. Always prepared. Always reliable. Almost always making the right decision.

Unfortunately for Barry, reliability is no longer a trait that earns one playing time at the Etihad. At least not with the likes of Yaya Toure and Fernandinho around. After yesterday’s clinic it’s safe to say Manuel Pellegrini has found his holding midfield pair for 2013-14.

Yaya Toure has delighted Premier League audiences with his marauding runs and beastly performances since arriving at Eastlands from Barcelona in the summer of 2010. With Fernandinho joining the mix on a $47 million (£30m) transfer fee this past June, City looks to have found the perfect partnership.

The 28 year old Brazilian was everywhere in yesterday’s destruction of the Magpies. From short passes that linked City’s defense to its attack, to precise diagonal passes to his wingers, Fernandinho’s ability to accurately ping the ball around the park gave City a look of unpredictability that befuddled Newcastle. On defense Fernandinho was almost always behind the ball but even when he wasn’t, he was back-tracking, sliding in with possession changing tackles.

Fernandinho’s decision to sit back meant it was Toure who typically featured in the counter-attacks. But in the coming weeks keep an eye out for Fernandinho’s offensive prowess. Surely Chelsea have not forgotten what a nuisance he can be in attack, as it was only 10 months ago when the former Shakhtar man banged home the game-winner in the 2-1 victory over the Blues in the Champions League group stage.

In short, it’s safe to say that Pellegrini has found his tandem to operate in the pivot. And if either of those two are ever to come out of the game then the Chilean manager has Javi Garcia, who featured in defense yesterday when Vincent Kompany limped off, and Jack Rodwell, who, at the tender age of 22 years old will need consistent burn if he is to continue his development.

Which leaves Barry.

It’s been over a year since he’s featured for England yet from all accounts, the midfielder still holds out hope of playing in Brazil next summer. “Ideally I would like to be playing for my country,” Barry admitted last May when City was in the U.S. on a week long visit.

If that dream is to become a reality then it would behove Barry to look for a transfer or loan deal. And just like that, The Guardian is reporting that Everton manager Roberto Martinez is interested in taking Barry (as well as Aleksandar Kolarov) on loan. The primary purpose of such a deal would be to provide cover in the event the Toffees sell Marouane Fellaini (and possibly Leighton Baines) to Manchester United.

But Barry is good enough to make an impact at Goodison Park even if a deal for Fellaini is not made. Barry’s skillset is not confined to just being reliable. He’s also a top-notch passer of the ball, versatile, the consummate professional and an underrated leader. Although he shows it less frequently now than he did with his days at Villa Park, Barry also possesses a mean left peg.

His spirit would fit in quite well at Everton, playing in front of an equally sound and under-utilized England international, Phil Jagielka. Last year it was Thomas Hitzlsperger who was brought in to provide coverage for Darron Gibson’s injury woes. The German has since departed but Gibson’s hobbles have not, as the Irish international was unable to feature in the Toffees opener at Carrow Road due to a knee injury.

There’s little doubt that spending the season at City would be a thrilling experience. But to do it from the bench at 32 years of age in a World Cup year?

Barry has better things to do.

VIDEO: Should Marcos Rojo have been sent off for two-footed challenge?

Leave a comment

The box score only shows a yellow card for Marcos Rojo in the 16th minute, but the game tells a much different tale.

Early on in a physical battle, minutes after Gareth Barry seemed to have been let off without punishment for a hard foul on Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rojo left his feet and flew in with both studs up on Idrissa Gueye. Referee Michael Oliver showed him only a caution, but replays showed that Rojo was airborne for a moment, and his crunching challenge landed directly on Gueye’s right leg.

[ MORE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic puts Manchester United 1-0 up on Everton ]

Looking at the moment of impact, it seems a miracle that Gueye was able to pop straight up from the challenge without so much as a scratch, as it could have been much, much worse had Rojo’s feet landed in a vulnerable spot on the Everton midfielder’s leg. Referees never like to condemn a team to such a disadvantage in the early stages of a game, but this seemed to be an incredibly dangerous moment.

Everton ended up with a 1-1 draw in the match after former Everton midfielder Marouane Fellaini conceded a late penalty just two minutes after coming off the bench, but the Toffees likely would have benefitted even greater from playing 74 minutes with a man advantage.

Did Rojo deserve a red card? Or did Michael Oliver get the decision right? The guys in studio at halftime seemed to agree that Rojo should have been sent to the showers.

Everton 1-1 Manchester United: Fellaini concedes late penalty

Leave a comment

Jose Mourinho has complained all month that Manchester United is the unluckiest team in the Premier League, and he will have more fodder for his rant – deserved or not – as the Red Devils conceded a late penalty as they drop points at Everton in a 1-1 draw.

It appeared that Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s goal in the final minutes of the first half would be enough, but Everton was gifted a way back as a lumbering Marouane Fellaini conceded a penalty just two minutes after coming off the bench, and the game finished level despite a flurry of activity down the stretch.

The game had a chippy start, with a number of early thumping challenges. Referee Michael Oliver missed an easy decision, as Marcus Rojo found only yellow for his 16th minute lunge on Idrissa Gueye, clearly deserving red as he lept off both feet and went studs-in on the 50/50 ball, an incredibly dangerous challenge lucky not to leave the Everton man with a lasting impact.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

As tensions rose early, the game opened up. United seemed to have the best chances forward as they launched balls into the box, but struggled to find the final ball as the half-hour mark passed. The visitors came close to threading players through, such as Henrikh Mkhitaryan on 37 minutes, but Ramiro Fuenes Mori – in for the benched captain Phil Jagielka – made a vital sliding tackle to end the chance.

Everton, meanwhile, struggled to get out of its own half as United pressed hard throughout the first half. Finally, just three minutes before the break, Manchester United got the breakthrough. A long ball from Anthony Martial from United’s own half met a streaking Ibrahimovic guarded by Funes Mori. Goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg inexplicably came off his line, leaving the goal gaping for Zlatan to karate-kick the ball in. The ball took forever to cross the line, bouncing four times and touching the crossbar and a post before it tricked in. Funes Mori gave it a run, but having given up on Zlatan’s touch, he was just too late to prevent the goal.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Everton didn’t seem too incisive until suddenly their best chance of the game came in on 53 minutes. A one-two between Belgians Kevin Mirallas and Romelu Lukaku saw the former in on goal, but David De Gea produced a fabulous reflex save with his right leg to keep out the shot. United could have gone 2-0 up as Ander Herrera volleyed a bouncing ball on net on the hour mark, but he clattered the crossbar with his powerful shot.

The Toffees made the first change on 65 minutes with Tom Cleverley coming off to home fan jeers, replaced by Gerard Deulofeu. Neither team had a big moment as time ticked down, and Jose Mourinho looked to bring on fresh legs as he introduced Marouane Fellaini and Anthony Martial.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

As the clock wound down, it was a substitute to make an impact, but not in his own team’s favor. Fellaini, on the pitch just two minutes before he thumped into Gueye in the penalty area, and Michael Oliver pointed to the spot. Leighton Baines slotted home the penalty just past the outstretched gloves of de Gea, and Everton were level.

The home side, awoken by the opportunity for more, lurched forward in huge spurts as the game wound down. Despite the pressure, United held well down the stretch, even producing a counter-attack that nearly produced a winner on the other end if not for a vital interception by substitute Mason Holgate.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

The game represents the third 1-1 draw in a row for Manchester United in league play despite good midweek form in the cup. They sit on 21 points in sixth position in the Premier League table, now 13 back of the top of the table. Meanwhile, the point for Everton at home is also somewhat disappointing, as they’ve won just one in their last eight and have 20 points in eighth.

VIDEO: Zlatan Ibrahimovic punishes Stekelenburg mistake with incredible looping goal

Leave a comment

Of course Zlatan would score like this. Of course he would.

With Maarten Stekelenburg deciding to come off his line and challenge Zlatan Ibrahimovic all the way out at the corner of the box, the super Swede poked the ball with his trademark karate kick. His touch sent the ball looping over Stekelenburg and into the net, but not without plenty of fun.

[ RECAP: Manchester United held by Everton on late penalty ]

The ball comes down right on the line, bounces straight up into the crossbar, and comes back down still without having crossed the line. As the ball pin-balled around, Everton defender Ramiro Funes Mori realized the goal maybe could be kept out, and began to sprint his way back, but the ball slowly bounces over the line just before Funes Mori got there to clear it out. Unfortunately, replay showed the Toffees defender gave up on Zlatan’s touch; had he sprinted the whole way back, he likely would have reached the ball before it trickled over the line.

The goal is Zlatan’s eighth of the season, and put Manchester United 1-0 up just three minutes before the halftime break.

Scoring off four bounces and two posts is definitely daring to Zlatan.

VIDEO: Jurgen Klopp calls Bournemouth’s comeback a “deserved win”

Leave a comment

Jurgen Klopp clearly struggled to come to terms immediately with their collapse against Bournemouth, as Liverpool fell 4-3 on an injury time winner after leading 3-1.

The Reds were incisive throughtout the opnening hour, but once Ryan Fraser came off the bench the game changed, and Nathan Ake finally scored the winner four minutes into extra time.

“I think I have to say an absolutely deserved win for Bournemouth. Congratulations for this performance and for this big fight, what they delivered today. I think for a long part of the game we were the better side and we would have deserved to win, but in the decisive moment we gave the game away to Bournemouth. We opened them the door and they ran through with all they had, so that’s absolutely deserved because they stayed in the game and scored some wonderful goals.”

[ RECAP: Bournemouth completes stunning 3-goal comeback vs Liverpool ]

Klopp appeared to be collecting his thoughts as he spoke, often trailing off sentences to formulate new thoughts. What could be taken away, however, was that he believes, coming off a down year, that a rebuilt Liverpool squad is still learning how to complete full matches in a winning manner.

“When you’re on the way from…I would say, last year number nine in the league, a kind of average team…to a team which really wants to achieve something…when you have a start like we had, sometimes life and the impressions you can collect leads you in this direction to think ‘oh we are really good’ and we are good, but at the end only when we are 100% [will we be good].”

The German’s body language appeared to show he wasn’t too concerned about the loss, but didn’t hold back about his assessment of the team’s performance.

“First half I said – even when we were in the lead – I said that how we tried to play football was not good, it was kind of static. Then we concede a goal, then we scored a goal, 3-1 now it’s decided if you want. Obviously we gave it again away because we didn’t play football anymore so…and that’s our fault, and credit is to Bournemouth.”

Klopp finished with a chuckle, saying “if we learn from it it’s ok, and we’ll learn from it, but we were really bad.”