United and Liverpool's Player Losses Are Chelsea and Arsenal's Gains

illya mclellanSenior Analyst INovember 10, 2009

This weekend saw one proud manager face defeat at an arch rivals ground when Manchester United was beaten at Chelsea, thanks to a dubious free kick decision.

Dubious the free kick may have been, but it is not as if United have never benefited from dubious refereeing calls on their own home ground. The free kick still had to be taken, and after it was, the ball was in the net.

Another manager of another proud red clad team watched as the team he put out  put on a toothless display at home, and were saved embarrassment by another rather dubious decision.

For Sir Alex Ferguson, it was not only the loss at Chelsea that spoiled his weekend, but also the bitter pill he had to swallow when he saw Arsene Wengers Arsenal overtake him in the league standings.

One thing about Sir Alex Ferguson is that he hates a defeat more than anything else, which is why his teams invariably do not lose often. But going behind his great rival Wenger is something that will pour salt onto an already open wound.

For Rafa Benitez, the proud Spaniard who has reaffirmed Liverpool's position as one of the world's premier footballing powers, despite his failure to emulate Dalglish, it has been week after week of torturous waiting games, as he finds himself without his two principle weapons, Gerrard and Torres, for game upon game.

The loss in form of both of these sides has seen them overtaken in the league and on the pitch by the two London sides that now sit above them on the table.

It is easy to see that the London sides are playing the beautiful game, while the northern clubs are just struggling at times to put things together on the pitch, let alone worry about making it look good.

Coincidentally, both United and Liverpool have sold players to Real Madrid, players that wanted to go, much to the dismay of both clubs sets of fans.

Manchester United, of course, sold the player that had been the jewel in its crown for the past few seasons, Cristiano Ronaldo, a princely sum for a prince of football.

Liverpool sold Xabi Alonso, who decided he would play his best season ever for Liverpool, after it was made fairly obvious by Benitez that he no longer wanted his countryman on his side after he courted the signature of Gareth Barry.

Alonso had been inconsistent in the season before Benitez toyed with the idea of making Barry a Liverpool man, and at the time, it seemed that he was on his way out. In the end, Benitez decided he did not like Villa's asking price and made up with Alonso, for a season anyway.

After these departures, there was all sorts of speculation all over the world as to who would fill the gaps left in these teams by these gifted players.

Manchester United was thought to be courting the signatures of several global superstars before settling on Antonio Valencia from Wigan and Michael Owen on a free.

Not exactly breaking the bank considering the amount of money they received for the Portuguese maestro.

But Sir Alex has remained steadfast in his assurances that he again has the players to challenge not only for the premiership, but also amongst the elite clubs of Europe in the champions league. He has been proved largely correct, as United are certainly in the more favourable position of the two clubs.

Rafa Benitez was also confident at the start of the season that he was also in the position to do the same. This without him having really signed a player who could adequately fill the void left by Alonso.

But as the season has progressed, both sides have looked below par when compared with the exploits of the season past.

While Liverpool have stuttered and lurched from game to game like a punch drunk fighter waiting for the bell, United at times have not looked any better as they have stumbled at home in the league and Europe.

However, United are still third, having put together enough good performances to stick to the heels of the London clubs, whereas Liverpool are well off the pace, despite beating their Manchester based rivals.

The major difference here was that United lost an attacker with the ability to turn games on their head with a moment of brilliance. A massive loss to any side, but in the case of United they did not really lose much in terms of the basis on which their attacks were built.

So while at times they have looked to be struggling in terms of important and game-breaking goals, most noticeably at the weekend as they barely threatened Chelsea at all, they have on the most part looked like the United of years past in terms of possession and chance creation.

Liverpool, however, lost the anchor at the heart of their midfield. This meant they lost structure and a keystone in the formation of their attack, defense and general play.

This has been almost unnoticeable when Gerrard and Torres have been present because of the confidence that the players surrounding these two gain while they are there, it has become woefully apparent when they are missing, that something quite different is going on at Anfield this season.

So it has now transpired that Chelsea sit proudly atop the table followed by an Arsenal side that was roundly written off in all quarters when the season kicked off.

Both of the London sides have looked more consistent and steady when compared with their northern rivals and though Arsenal actually lost to United, on the day in that game they were in fact the better side until they lost Arshavin to injury.

While Chelsea and Arsenal have also lost games, their overall form has proven to be far superior to the bumbling antics seen at times by United and Liverpool fans.

The loss of these key players has had a huge affect on these sides and will no doubt continue to be seen in the coming weeks.

As is often the case, one team's loss is more than one other team's gain. And it has been seen to benefit the two London sides that the northern sides have looked so out of sorts without their southern European stars.

Sir Alex will no doubt be feeling considerably more comfortable than Benitez as his team is returning to full strength and in a good position considering the stage of the season we are at.

His team is challenging on all major fronts still, which is more than can be said of Benitez's Liverpool, who are on the verge of crashing out of Europe and have already lost too many points in the league to be considered realistically as title contenders.

Benitez does of course have time to recover and will be thanking the creator that his players have time to recuperate before the league resumes after the international break.

Chelsea and Arsenal will have only themselves to blame if they let United off the hook, considering the advantage they have both garnered over the Manchester powerhouse.

One thing about Manchester United, is that you can never write them off.