“You have to congratulate Chelsea. We did not get a demonstration of football but they were efficient and that is what made the difference.”
Those were the words of Arsene Wenger as quoted by the Guardian , after his Arsenal team finished the week nine points adrift of their “non-footballing” neighbours. The Gunners were void of any creativity or imagination during their regular forays into the Chelsea half, and for any Arsenal fan it must have been painful to watch.
At least last week against Manchester United Arsenal were outclassed early on, knocked out before they could even find an opening. However, at Stamford Bridge, they were presented with several opportunities to land a telling blow or two, but their punches all lacked the power and conviction needed to injure a team of the Blues’ stature.
Wenger is often called the “Professor” for his tactical approach to the game, as well as his Economics degree and how he, in Lee Dixon’s words, looked like “his Geography teacher.”
Sadly, some of Arsene’s comments on the comprehensive loss to Chelsea have been anything but Professor-like:
“It is difficult to swallow a defeat like that when we felt we were the better team.
The first goal contributed to our defeat.
I am completely happy with the performance and spirit.
We didn't turn up against Manchester United but today we had the expected performance.
We were completely dominant.”
I would love to see some of that spirit Wenger says Arsenal had. Half an hour into the match, and Andrey Arshavin already looked disheartened as he trudged over to try and disturb Petr Cech at corners.
In Arsene we still trust , but that patience is wearing thin.
There was one comment from Wenger, however, that seemed to be astute, though ironically it had nothing to do with Arsenal, with the Telegraph reporting:
“Sometimes for people to play football can be a diversion from what is happening off the field. I had some players when they had private problems they were even stronger on the pitch because it was the place they can get out of it.”
And that bring us to....
John Terry: Captain Fantastic
John Terry was unperturbed by the media ruckus surrounding him following the revelations about his personal life, which resulted in his sacking as England captain, as he marshalled the Chelsea backline with supreme confidence against Arsenal on Sunday.
Of course, it helps that JT and Co had little to deal with apart from a healthy supply of crosses into the box, which were easily dealt with considering Arsenal’s attack lacked any capable headers of the ball.
Carlo Ancelotti referred to his captain as “perfect,” saying he has a fantastic attitude, according to the Telegraph . Clearly, Ancelotti and countryman Fabio Capello have differing opinions on how a captain’s personal life affects him on the pitch.
Carlo was also more than willing to refute the aforementioned analysis of the game by Arsene Wenger:
“Maybe they did have more possession but this is not football. Football is attack, defence and results. I think we deserved to win. We did a fantastic counter-attack and scored an unbelievable second goal.”
The Independent reports that a coin may have been thrown at Ashley Cole from the Arsenal fans section on Sunday, which may or may not lead to an FA investigation. What is sure though, is that its leads us to our next topic...
Pompey Foraging for Pennies
Portsmouth’s financial troubles defied the laws of the Earth by deepening further, as the BBC made note of. Hong Kong-residing businessman Balram Chainrai became the club’s latest owner, subject to the Premier League’s sad excuse for a “Fit and Proper Persons” test which let slip Thaksin Shinawatra and several Pompey owners with borrowed millions through the radar.
Pompey’s last owner Ali Al-Faraj, aptly nicknamed “Al Mirage” for his conspicuous absence at Fratton Park failed to provide any measure of relief to Pompey’s increasing debts and now the club is facing a winding up petition on Wednesday.
Peter Storrie has retaken the reigns of running the club, and his job now is to find new, real investment as Chainrai has no intention of keeping the club for too long. At least he’s open about it.
One must feel for the Pompey fans who not too long ago were relishing FA Cup joy, with a team boasting the likes of Jermain Defoe and Niko Krancjar.
Now they lie at the bottom of the table, with luck deserting them on the pitch as well after David James was beaten not just by Manchester United class, but some bizarre deflections too at Old Trafford.
While some teams with long standing debts could go out of existence, another team heavily in debt couldn’t afford to sack their manager. Now, they won’t be sure they even want to.
Rafa Rules The Merseyside Roost
Not too long ago, the papers were filled with nothing but comments from the media, fans and ex-players alike that Liverpool’s manager Rafa Benitez needed to leave the club after poor form saw them knocked out of the Champions League and put out of the Premier League race.
However, a Fernando Torres -less Liverpool beat Everton at Anfield on Saturday, despite playing more than half the match with 10 men following the sending off of Sotirios Kyrgiakos for a two-footed lunge. Dirk Kuyt scored the only goal from a Steven Gerrard corner, as the Reds showed a real fighting spirit that has not been seen on a regular basis this season.
All talk of sacking Benitez has faded as Liverpool’s hopes for fourth place de-fade, and with their American owners taking steps to reduce their spending in others arrears (Tom Hicks Selling His Baseball Team), the dream of some small measure of success at Anfield does not seem to be out of place.
Of course, there have been false dawns this season for Liverpool before, most notably when they conquered Manchester United before resuming their patchy performances. Can the Reds really sustain a push for European football next season, and can they outlast Tottenham, Aston Villa and Manchester City?
That little cause for wonder bring us to the final chapter of this week...
Hull Overcome The Might of Mancini’s Scarf, Spurs and Villa Showcase a Stalemate
Roberto Mancini and his scarf gave a rather short half time team talk, with Manchester City trailing Hull City a goal down at the break. Clearly more of the scarf treatment will be needed in the future after the rich boys came out to concede another goal. A 2-1 loss delivered the unfortunate verdict that the blue half of Manchester has yet to show consistency to match their cashbook.
Mancini was left ruing his side’s disappointing display even more as fellow fourth place contenders Aston Villa and Tottenham Hotspur played out a goalless draw. The telling moment of that match was when Stiliyan Petrov appeared to trip Jermain Defoe in the penalty box. The referee Chris Foy waved play on, and Villa’s Richard Dunne ’s comments about the incident will have done little to appease Spurs fans (quoted by The Telegraph ):
“It looked like a penalty, but we got a good decision and we’re happy. ”
It’s lovely to end this column with a good dose of honesty. See you guys next week. Please leave a comment if you can, perhaps some thoughts on who will finish fourth, is Arsene Wenger losing the plot, are Chelsea winning the League and just about anything else you have an opinion about.