The Gunners’ season has been bitty in parts given the up-and-down rollercoaster ride they seem to find themselves in year after year, but Arsene Wenger saw one of the best team performances from his side this season.
It is underestimated how important a player like Danny Welbeck is for a team’s squad. Whether he was playing at Manchester United or down in North London, the English forward is a workaholic. He might not be the deadliest in front of goal or the one who can thread an inch-perfect pass through for his teammates, but he more than makes up for it in the way he covers the pitch.
There’s a great cliche about England players running a lot and how that’s their only strength. But if you have a forward that is as hungry as Welbeck in your front line, that puts immense pressure on the opposing defenders to distribute the ball. That should not be forgotten.
Welbeck, as he always does, chased down Southampton’s defence and continually dispossessed them. He also got on the scoresheet. He might have had a lengthy injury period, but he doesn’t show it with the way he's reintroducing himself to the Gunners faithful.
If he can stay fit for the rest of the season - which seems to be a big ask - then that will only be a positive in Arsenal’s hunt for another Premier League trophy.
Jurgen Klopp’s blunder
There is no denying that the FA Cup has decreased in sentimental value in recent years.
A lot of the traditional, ‘bigger’ teams are fielding their academy graduates for game time and are, in fact, losing to non-league clubs because of the drop in quality and unfamiliarity.
I can understand that if you are competing on all fronts - both domestically and in Europe - then something is going to have to give. History has proven that you can’t win the quadruple and so you prioritise. If that’s the FA Cup, then so be it.
But what’s not fine is when Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s manager, decides to make NINE changes to a team that got beaten by Southampton midweek to play against Championship Wolves.
No, Liverpool aren’t in Europe. No, Liverpool aren’t in the League Cup. They are currently 10 points behind Chelsea in the Premier League. I understand that Klopp is looking ahead to Tuesday’s fixture against Antonio Conte’s men, but what he did on Saturday was nothing short of embarrassing.
To underestimate Wolves in the way that he did has caused great shame on Liverpool. By losing that game, at Anfield, they now only have 16 games - in all competitions (one) - left of their season. 16.
It’s pathetic that Klopp couldn’t go on a cup run and also try to compete for the Premier League, wherein they currently are fourth-placed. It’s a different story if they are sitting at the top.
Chelsea and Arsenal, who are first and second, won at the weekend to progress into the fifth round of the FA Cup, but the mighty Klopp turned his nose up at the competition. It’s obviously not good enough for him.
Manchester United’s strength in depth
Manchester United are the only English team still competing on all four fronts.
They might be 14 points off Chelsea, but they are still in the Europa League, League Cup final and FA Cup. You can’t fault Mourinho for choosing to go on a cup run and win some silverware. After all, that is the nature of the business.
The weekend’s match against Wigan showed why it is important to have quality players in the squad raring to play.
Bastian Schweinsteiger hasn’t started a game in over a year. Yet, with the utmost professionalism, the German World-Cup-winning midfielder put in a stellar performance and managed to find a goal and assist Marouane Fellaini’s opener.
The likes of Timothy Fosu-Mensah, Sergio Romero and Luke Shaw, who have been on the sidelines or not even in the match-day squad for months, came into the starting XI and completed the necessary job.
Manchester United’s quality in depth is something to be admired and if Jose Mourinho thinks they can compete on all fronts, then there’s no reason why Red Devils fans should think otherwise.
Mourinho’s not sneered at the ‘lesser’ competitions, he’s embraced them. A certain German manager should look to do the same.Published 30 Jan 2017, 11:33 IST