Sharethematch.com ambassador Andy Gray was talking exclusively to tribalfootball.com…
THERE’S no point writing off Manchester City’s title chances at the end of December – they still look very good in most areas and Manchester United are certainly not as formidable as they need to be currently.
You just have to remember they were behind going into April last year but they still won the title so being seven points down just after Christmas means very little.
It’s not the end of the title battle. If anything it hasn’t properly begun yet because of how much football there is still to be played.
I don’t think teams have sussed City out because they are still winning games, but they have worked out how to make it a lot more difficult for them.
I think since the second half of last season teams have worked out City’s weaknesses and they’ve not adapted that as well as they could or should have.
Most teams see that City don’t have a great deal of width and that is quite easy to exploit.
When they get narrow and high up the pitch teams are squeezing them and making it narrower, putting lots of people in front of the 18-yard box.
City just do their little give-and-go’s in front of the box without really going wide, if you can shut down their full backs from trying to get into the game it can hurt them because you need width in the Premier League.
Gareth Barry is a guy you want in the centre and if you don’t have wide men playing off him you’re going to struggle to create chances against organised defences.
I think in games where this happens he needs to get some width, and he needs to bring some players in who can get out into those positions and spread defences because at the moment this isn’t happening.
They need to start putting a bit more effort in scoring early in games, I think they’ve got one of the worst records for scoring in the opening stages of a match this season. The thing about that is it allows teams to become more confident if you aren’t able to score before half-time. If you do, it kills the game off and it helps ease the nerves and play your natural game. The Sunderland game was an excellent example – they could have killed it off and yet they ended up losing the game.
I’ve seen them play tremendously well at various times this season, I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen, but what they need to do is get that consistency.
But those are games where champions might not win, but they don’t lose. If you come away with a point from the Stadium of Light you can think ‘fair enough’ because it’s not the worst result in the world, we’ve battered them and it didn’t go our way – let’s move on.
But to lose saps the morale and builds frustration. That’s the the difference at the moment between City and United currently - their inability to score late goals as often, or at least their inability to win games despite conceding a goal or two.
It’s very difficult to retain a title and this season has demonstrated that might still be true, but they certainly have a chance because United do not look unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination.
Andy Gray is an official ambassador for Sharethematch.com – Football’s Social Network. Available now for FREE online or at the App Store; http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/share-the-match/id450784289?mt=8