Sky Sports pundit offers his verdict after Arsenal capitulate at Watford, Manchester City's defensive frailties are exposed and Tammy Abraham just can't stop scoring
Tuesday 17 September 2019 08:27, UK
In his weekly column, Paul Merson highlights Unai Emery's failure to sense the danger at Watford, while Pep Guardiola's decision to rest Kevin De Bruyne backfired at Norwich.
I've got to put it on the manager. People will say there were experienced players on the pitch, but he's the manager and they're paid to listen to him. You can't have a manager give instructions on how to play and then they go out and do their own thing. There would be mutiny, so they're listening to him and he's not getting it right.
His substitutions weren't right. They needed to keep the ball in that game but they kept giving it away cheaply. The only player who didn't give the ball away all game was Mesut Ozil. You just knew that Arsenal needed to score another goal but he was bringing youngsters on in a game when you're under pressure.
Since this new rule started when they can pass the ball in the six-yard box, why have they all started doing that? No one did it last year, and now they're all doing it.
The manager should have seen that and got the message out onto the pitch to stop that and get the ball forward. If they don't win the first ball, they can win the second ball, and go from there. If Watford did win the ball in their own half, they have to come through three-quarters of the pitch to score. What are they trying to do?
Liverpool open up a five-point lead at the top to become the new Premier League favourites, while Arsenal play themselves into trouble.
Sometimes these players think they're something special and won't be closed down - it's pathetic. At Watford in the first half, it was a walk in the park for Arsenal, they're 2-0 up and you're thinking it's the end of the football match. But I don't know many other teams where the next minute, you're hanging on.
Watford had been beaten 3-1 at home to West Ham and 3-0 at home to Brighton. You're pushing them out the dressing room at half-time, it's the last thing they would want to do is go out on the pitch for the second half.
Only Arsenal would give them a chance to get back in the game.
The shackles came off and Watford felt like they had nothing to lose, but the manager got it horribly wrong. I couldn't believe he brought Ozil off. Who else is going to open up a team bar him?
To get Sokratis to play out from the back... the lad can't play. He's not David Luiz. He can pass, he's comfortable on the ball. No way can Sokratis play the same way. They need to play three at the back as they're not good enough to play a four. They let in too many goals and make too many mistakes.
It's like anything in life, if you keep on doing the same things, you'll keep on getting the same results.
You could tell within 10 minutes this was going to be a drama game from the way Man City played.
The way they were passing it around, it was all so lackadaisical. They thought they were turning up to wipe the floor with Norwich, and it backfired. Why didn't Kevin De Bruyne start? Straightaway the manager is sending out a signal to say that this is a walk in the park.
You should play your best players and get the game done and dusted in 30 minutes, and then De Bruyne could come off. What City do all the time when they have to chase games is end up by throwing a load of forwards on who end up getting in each other's way.
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Mahrez, Sterling, Jesus, Aguero and De Bruyne all on. In the end, De Bruyne was playing as centre-half to get the ball the last 10 minutes. There was nowhere for anyone to go.
Pep is without Laporte, so he needed to play his best team. Klopp does as he knows this is a league that can bite you. It's a big gap now and if Liverpool go to Chelsea this weekend and win, City are in trouble.
It looks like Stones' confidence is shot while Walker is just all pace. The second goal, he's just got to step up but because he's quick he's thinking he's going to be alright.
You've got to have a bit about you for the team, it's a simple step up to play offside. I said they would miss Laporte, and they already are. That was against one of the lesser teams.
Tottenham made Crystal Palace look average. They are a team that have won away to all the big teams, but in the first 45 minutes, Spurs were back to the side we all know on Saturday, but for me it's already too late for them to catch Liverpool.
Harry Winks is such a massive player for them, the way he gets the ball moving quickly. They've got the movement of Son, Kane and Lamela.
They looked a proper team and as soon as the first whistle blew, they meant business. They rolled the ball back to the centre-half, the lumped it forward and Winks put it over the bar within 10 seconds.
The fans didn't have to wait. They took the game to Palace, and they didn't know what day it was.
It's all about getting a break. When you look at Phil Foden at Man City, he's a phenomenal footballer, but he never looks like getting a game. You need a break. Would Abraham be scoring all these goals if there wasn't a transfer embargo and Frank Lampard wasn't at Chelsea? Absolutely no chance.
He and Mount would've been out on loan somewhere else. So you've got to give massive credit to Lampard. They have the embargo, but he could still have played more experienced players. He's got a World Cup winner on the bench.
This is a big job for Lampard, but he's believed in these kids. If it goes wrong, there's only one man getting the sack, and that's Frank. Mount and Abraham have been their best two players this season, and Abraham's goals have been good.
I played the last five games of a season for Arsenal one year and scored three goals. I thought the next season would be my year and then Arsenal were on the brink of signing Tony Cottee for £4m. But he chose to go to Everton.
If he had gone to Arsenal, I wouldn't have played. I ended up playing over 400 games for them, so you need a lucky break, but you have to take it.