Rich Laverty takes a look at some of the weekend’s action across the country, which includes Jesse Lingards’s performances at Manchester United, Manchester City’s goalkeeping woes and Arsene Wenger’s future at Arsenal.
Jesse Lingard…what’s he all about?
As a Manchester United fan I’m continually left a bit perplexed by Jesse Lingard. He can be utterly frustrating and certainly makes you feel like he’s just not good enough to be a regular red at the best of times.
But every so often he does something magical, something which at least reminds you he’s capable of being a valuable squad member. Would he have got anywhere near a regular starting spot in some of United’s greatest teams? Highly unlikely, but we’re living in a different age now. He also has a habit of saving his best for important moments, his three Wembley goals cannot be forgotten. On Sunday he fluttered between the superb and the ‘tear-your-hair-out’ until, all of a sudden, he unleashed a 25-yard screamer to all but seal the game.
Another United player used to make me feel the same way, Park Ji-Sung. A fan’s hero, a give it your all kind of player who lacked outright technical quality but just had that knack of popping up at a really important time, especially if the opposition happened to be managed by Arsene Wenger.
Manchester City’s answers don’t lie in Turin
There’s been a hell of a lot of discussion surrounding Pep Guardiola’s goalkeeping woes this season, quite rightly given most of them have been brought on by his own decision making. Either way, it does appear lately he’s realised Willy Caballero is the lesser of two evils compared to the somewhat hapless Claudio Bravo, but his decision to make do without Joe Hart does at least appear justified.
Hart hasn’t had a good year in Italy and let in yet another soft goal on Saturday as Torino drew 2-2 with Inter Milan. Hart’s an enigma, as he’s shown for England he’s capable of absolutely astounding saves but also regularly reminds us that he’s capable of a clanger at the worst possible time – most memorably against Iceland.
Yet undoubtedly Hart will get Premier League offers in the summer. What we do know is a club of City’s stature can’t continue with either of the three as number one. But who does Pep turn to? Donnaruma? Handanovic? Lloris? We’ll find out in the summer…
Arsene Wenger’s predicament
Poor Arsene Wenger, he’s been discussed a lot in Weekend Wanderings and even as someone who grew up at the height of the Manchester United/Arsenal rivalry, I have to admit I’m starting to feel a little sorry for the man.
He’s 67, he clearly loves his job, Arsenal and football as a whole more than most involved in the sport and seems to be struggling with the idea that he just hasn’t kept up as football has changed. His tactics remain the same as they did 20 years ago. The Frenchman has said continuously over the years he has a fear of retirement.
While signing a one-year extension would keep the romanticism of going out on a title-winning high alive, it simply isn’t going to end that way. It’s almost as if the board have asked him to plod on for an extra 12 months so they can avoid making the same mistakes Manchester United did following Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure in 2013. While it makes sense in certain ways, it isn’t half cruel on someone who deserves to walk with whatever reputation he has left.
I don’t understand the Championship
Living in West Yorkshire I have several friends who support Huddersfield Town and even more who support Leeds United. Two veterans of the Championship but I’m not entirely sure even their fans understand the league.
Years ago it used to feel ultra-competitive, 10 to 12 really good quality teams who could all compete for a promotion place, but right now it feels like it’s just the best of a bad bunch. Newcastle and Brighton are clear at the top but both have been made to look completely average in certain matches over the last few months.
There’s not too much excitement behind them either. All four play-off spots look fairly sorted after Fulham (yes, the same Fulham who ripped apart Newcastle apart last week) were torn apart by Wolves at Craven Cottage. Leeds and Huddersfield along with their current play-off partners Sheffield Wednesday and Reading have all been uninspiring at times this season. Only David Wagner’s Huddersfield have shown any real spark and even they were thoroughly humiliated at lowly Bristol City on Friday night.
So is it actually that there still are still a number of strong teams who just lack any sort of consistency or is the Championship just going to the dogs?
Follow Rich on Twitter @RichJLaverty