Did Jose Mourinho send his players out on a wind up?

Jose Mourinho’s interview with BT Sport after Chelsea’s controversial 2-0 win over Arsenal gave us some insight into the man and his philosophies about football. It seems like one of his philosophies may be to tell his players to cheat.

The interviewer started with what seemed an anodyne question which contained the phrase “won’t pretend there wasn’t controversy” and it was that last word which Jose latched onto with his answer:

“I don’t know where is the controversy? For me, no controversy. The game is about many different aspects: the tactical, the technical, the emotional… the physical. And through the combination of these factors you have the best team and normally the best team wins. We were the best team.”

Managers often claim ignorance of events in the game, Wenger even once famously said “I didn’t see it” and admitted in 2009 that he just says those kinds of things to protect his players. Jose probably knows that his player smacked Koscielny in the face, shoved Koscielny’s face with his hands, chest bumped Koscielny, and that he had a kick out at Oxlade Chamberlain right before Jose took him off. And comically, Jose even denied that he took Costa off because he looked like he might pick up a red card. Calling him the “man of the match” for a performance which included zero goals.

So, that is a normal answer from a manager who wants to protect his player, a playr he knows should probably receive a three match ban for his actions. But it was a completely left field answer to the next question which revealed that Mourinho might approach these games by telling his players to get involved in these kinds of events intentionally.

Asked “Arsenal are complaining that Diego Costa sparked the incident that led to Gabriel’s sending off, what’s your view?” Jose responded with a very typical “Arsenal always moan” preamble and then launched into a very odd aside:

“I played my first derby, as a manager, in September 2000 and I remember my words to my players from September 2000: ‘to win the derby, emotional control.’ I play in derbies in Spain in Portugal, in England, in… in Italy, and… I always repeat the same words before derbies: ‘to win derbies, you need emotional control’.”

It’s a strange rant and difficult to tell who he is talking to. There’s a sense that he’s accusing Wenger of naivete with his whole “I’ve played many derbies and I always urge emotional control” but there is ample evidence that is he does say “emotional control” (he and) his players don’t listen.

When Arsenal met Chelsea in the League Cup final in 2007 there was a clear lack of emotional control on both sides as Howard Webb issued three red cards after Arsenal’s Kolo Toure reacted to constant Chelsea kicking with a hard tackle. Both teams erupted and started a fight which saw Adebayor wrongly sent off when Eboue appeared to slightly touch a Chelsea player.

There was a lack of emotional control when Jose’s Inter saw two players sent off in a fiery Milan derby. After the match, Jose bragged that his team would have won with 7 men.

There was a utterly disgraceful lack of emotional control in the Classico when on field antics erupted into sideline antics and Mourinho stuck his finger in Tito Vilanova’s eye.

And of course, there was a lack of emotional control in yesterday’s match against Arsenal as Diego Costa smacked Koscielny in the face repeatedly:

then scratched Gabriel on the back of the neck…

Diego Costa Scratched Gabriel's neck

Diego Costa Scratched Gabriel’s neck

got into a big war of words with Gabriel in Portuguese and then made a huge meal of it when Gabriel barely touched him in retaliation:

The player who showed cool emotional control in that situation was Laurent Koscielny, after being smacked three times and then shoved to the ground, Koscielny walked away from Costa.

Referees, the League, and players on other teams need to be aware that Costa and Chelsea are looking to wind them up. The point of the wind up is so that if there is any act of retaliation, no matter how minor like the Gabriel “kick”, they can then scream at the official, surround the official, and demand that the player be sent off.

Everyone has seen the replays of this match and what Costa and Mourinho have done. As a result Chelsea should carry a huge target on their back for the rest of the season or at least a target on their backs until they clean up their act and win football games through superior football rather than through trickery and thuggery.



Chelsea v. Arsenal: which Lo Pan?

Which Lo Pan? Little old basket case on wheels or the ten foot tall roadblock? — Jack Burton

There’s a scene in the film Big Trouble in Little China where the character Jack Burton is trying his best to believe the unbelievable things he’s been seeing and asks his friend Wang Chi to explain how a character named “David Lo Pan” could both be a frail old man in a wheelchair and an 8 foot tall master of Chinese black magic. Wang tells him that Lo Pan was cursed to walk the earth forever as a spirit which vacillates between the two states of old man and young sorcerer.

As an old man, Lo Pan is a frail man in a wheelchair and certainly lacks the bodily presence to harm anyone. Though even from his wheelchair he commands an army of powerful followers to do his bidding.

As a sorcerer Lo Pan is a towering figure who can walk through walls, control minds, and conjure evil spirits. However, his main attack seems to be to shoot light out of his eyes and blind his opponents. That blinding, though, isn’t permanent and can be cured with a little splash of dirty puddle water. Lo Pan has another attack, where he shoots a beam of light out of his ring and conjures some sort of pinkie-controlled ancient Chinese warrior vapor guy. But that was easily defeated by a crazy old man with a gem from his Six Demon Bag.

In a lot of ways Arsenal are like Lo Pan.

First, they seem cursed to switch between 8 foot tall road block and little old basket case on wheels with each match they play this season. Arsenal were the 8 foot tall roadblock against Chelsea in the Charity Shield. Arsenal shot light out of their eyes and blinded Chelsea when Ox scored with a perfectly struck left footed goal. Then Arsenal stood in front of Chelsea, smiled and urged them to attack.

In the very next game, Arsenal rolled in on a wheelchair, mumbling “now this really pisses me off to no end!” as West Ham made Arsenal pay for their frailty. Then it was back to road bloc in the win against Palace, a first half basket case performance against Liverpool followed by a second half roadblock performance which actually carried over for a few matches up to the moment that Arsenal reverted back into a basket case on wheels and lost 2-1 to Dinamo Zagreb.

So, which Lo Pan are we going to get tomorrow at 4:45am local time? No clue. The pattern seems to be that the basket case version of Arsenal is more ephemeral than the road block and that they switch. One game bad, several good. This is a good sign because I’m hopeful that the terrible result in Croatia means we will get 8 foot tall imposing road block with light shooting out of our eyes tomorrow. Never you mind that the blinding light is easily washed out with a splash of water from a dirty puddle! We just have to make sure there are no puddles near by.

Chelsea for their part have been nothing but basket case this season. In fact, an Arsenal win tomorrow could literally put them at the bottom of the table. That’s how poor they have been on the pitch this season.

Chelsea’s problem is that they have been distracted by their manager’s antics. What were once quaint mind games and quirky personality traits are now starting to wear thin with his players and with his own staff. Mourinho is famously paranoid and hot headed so when he recently banned “banter” at the club I was left wondering if it was because he was afraid some of that banter might be about him.

Mourinho has cause to be paranoid, he is currently under investigation for apparently calling the female pitch-side doctor a “filha da puta” when she went onto the pitch to treat a player. And the doctor is reportedly considering a lawsuit against the Chelsea boss, though what the lawsuit is over I don’t quite understand.

On the pitch Chelsea have had a host of problems, most of which stem from many of their players not being up to par. Branislav Ivanovich has been a rock for Chelsea over the years but this season that rock has shown cracks. Mourinho dropped him for the mid-week clash and slid Azpilicueta over from left back into his natural position at right back and started Baba Rahman in the left back spot. This means Azpilicueta will be tasked with stopping Alexis Sanchez who typically plays on the left, despite being right footed.

Mourinho will also look to shut up shop and in all likelihood we will see him play four defenders and two defensive midfielders. You make think I’m joking but I can see him playing Kurt Zouma as a “defensive midfielder” along side Matic, with Fabregas free to do what he does best, create from deep.

Up front, unless Chelsea were sending out false intel, Willian and Pedro are both unavailable meaning that Chelsea’s right midfielder should be Oscar, though it could be Ramires, depending on how much Jose wants to dirty the game up. Oscar is a good all round player but Ramires is one of the dirtiest players I’ve ever seen. That choice will signal much of what Jose’s game plan is.

Of course, Ramires barely holds a candle to Diego Costa in the dirt department. Costa is the Pigpen of world football, a cloud of dirt swirls around him at all times but he will (hopefully) be marked by Arsenal’s Gabriel.

Gabriel got into a tussle with Stoke’s Arnautovich the other day and refused to back down, giving back exactly what he got. Lest we forget, Arnautovich is the guy who shoved Debuchy while he was in the air and dislocated his shoulder. But it was Arnautovich who was taken off the pitch, when his manager sensed a foolish red card coming on.

Gabriel is also Brazilian, which is where Costa was born, but he changed to Spanish citizenship right before the Brazil World Cup and as a result is one of the most hated Brazilians on the planet. So, while we often call these matchups “battles” in the figurative sense, we could have a literal battle between Costa and Gabriel tomorrow. My hope is that Gabriel winds Costa up and not the other way round.

On the left, Chelsea will probably start Eden Hazard. His job is to receive the long balls from Fabregas and fall over when touched. Wenger will almost certainly play Hector Bellerin to mark Hazard. Bellerin could have a tough game on his hands.

As for Arsenal, Wenger has a pretty easy decision about which team to field: none of the players he rotated impressed on Wednesday.

That means Arsenal will likely start Theo Walcott up front, much to the divided opinion of Arsenal fans. Walcott, though, is on form having scored 4 goals for club and country in his last three appearances. Walcott also likes to score against Chelsea and if he scores it will be his 6th goal in 15 apps against Chelsea, tying with Newcastle for his most scored upon team, so that might work a treat!

Behind him there’s Sanchez, Ozil, and after Ox’s disastrous game against Dinamo, Wenger needs to bring back Ramsey on the right. Yet another player who divides Goonerdom.

Ramsey is Arsenal’s ventilador, with his constant movement he breathes life into the Arsenal team. And while he is often criticized for drifting inside too much and making runs behind the defensive lines it’s always done to present his teammates with a passing option.

Ramsey for me is the key to Arsenal’s midfield. People look at the obvious — Coquelin breaking up plays and Santi on the ball (and those two need to start tomorrow) — but Ramsey’s movement on and off the ball is key to opening Chelsea’s defensive back six. Ozil does a similar thing with his movement and awareness of space, from a central position, and having two of those guys on the pitch at the same time makes it that much harder for Matic and Zouma to lock down the area around the 18 yard box.

On paper (and in real life) Arsenal have the beating of Chelsea. I’m not suggesting this will be an easy match, the easy match was Wednesday against Dinamo. Rather, I’m just saying that Arsenal could beat Chelsea. But which Arsenal will show up? The one which beat Chelsea in the Charity Shield or the one which lost the next game against West Ham?

The roadblock or the basket case?



Arsenal look like an Ox in a china shop as they lose to Dinamo in Zagreb

Everything else was done: dinner finished, dishes washed, chickens in the coop, and clean laundry in a pile on my guest chair*. So, I sent my daughter to take her bath and sat down to watch the Spanish language recording of Dinamo v. Arsenal.

I had already been alerted to the outcome by my smart phone. Specifically, the Arsenal official app decided that I needed to know the score at half time, which was 1-0 to the hosts. Once I know that kind of information it’s impossible to concentrate on anything else. So, I was aware of the score, the red card, and a few other details for most of the day but even with that knowledge the match itself was quite a surprise.

I take notes on matches and my notes from last night start out exactly like the match itself: organized, neat, clipping along like they are going to do well. Arsenal dominated for the first 20 minutes, were very organized, and had two early chances to win the game. But right after that, the notes go sideways: there are all kinds of spelling errors, I don’t even bother changing “ere” back to “are” and I end the notes with “Football oftren turns on a single mome”.

Giroud had Arsenal’s best chances in those first 20 minutes. His first was a powerful header which was saved brilliantly by Carvalho and the second a goal-line scramble created by a drag-back from Ox. Giroud’s miss from close range continues his trend of just not being able to score normal goals — though I thought for sure he was going to score that one because Ox’s back pass was so bad that it ricocheted off Giroud’s shoulder for the first “shot”. Then it rebounded off his shin and out for a goal kick. Perhaps he should try bicycle kicking everything in from now on?

Watching the match knowing that Giroud was sent off I got to spend extra attention on the Frenchman and I think I can understand why the referee sent him off (even though I disagree with the call). Giroud was playing aggressively and complaining a lot.

He fouled a guy and was called for it early on. It was one of those fouls where the forward spreads his arms and the defender pretends like he just got his face smashed in with a vicious elbow. Giroud started the complaining at that point.

Then his first yellow card came when he was actually fouled and the referee called it the other way. Giroud was going up for the ball and he was undercut by the defender. The defender made almost no effort to win the ball, he simply knocks Giroud out of the air and the big man lands on his back. This is called “undercutting” someone in basketball and is the cause of many playground fights because it’s so dangerous to the jumping player; when he has his legs taken away from him while he’s flying in the air, his body will spin uncontrollably and he can land on his head or neck causing severe damage. That’s exactly what happened to Giroud, so I’m not at all surprised by his vociferous reaction but the referee was clearly done with Giroud’s remonstrations.

Oddly, football is the only sport I know of where this kind of blatantly dangerous foul is not only allowed but is usually called against the guy who is in most danger of injury. Undercutting is another foul that I think players need to demand action on from FIFA and UEFA.

Giroud was clearly trying to argue just that with the official, watching the replays in slow motion I think he said “say old chap, would you mind taking this issue up with your superiors? It seems a grave oversight in the rules that a player could be undercut in such a grievous manner and have the foul called against him! Both players should challenge for the ball by jumping or the player who is on the ground should vacate the area allowing his opponent freedom and space to land safely on both feet.” The referee was having none of such dissent and issued a yellow card, to protect the integrity of this insane rule.

As soon as Giroud got the yellow card it was like someone tapped a brittle glass and any semblance of Arsenal structure fell apart. The Gunners couldn’t hold possession, they couldn’t get the ball forward, and they just seemed to switch off on defense. That’s exactly when Dinamo scored their first.


Debuchy follows his marker inside and Ox isn’t aware of the Dinamo fullback on his left. When Ox does finally notice him, it’s not even too late, but Ox hesitates:


Was he trying to play the offside? Did he think Debuchy was going to jump the pass? I don’t know, I’m sure Arsenal Supporter’s Trust will demand a full Torquemada style inquest but in the meantime I’m chalking that up to amateur defending at best.

For those wanting Ox to start up front, I think we have a clear demonstration, between this match and the first match of the season where he also made an error which led to the goal, why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a lot of work to do before he deserves to start for Arsenal football club.

Then Giroud gets sent off. And frankly, it’s a very poor decision from the referee. It’s a foul, but in real time it didn’t even look like a foul and even on replay it’s hardly a yellow card. It looked, instead, like the referee was looking for a reason to send Giroud off.

The second goal was a comedy of errors but the most damning of all was Gibbs, the man at the near post, ducking out of the header. In fact, it was Gibbs who gave the ball away to start the Dinamo counter attack which earned them the corner in the first place. Then Gibbs didn’t even bust his hump to get back, and it was Koscielny who made a last ditch tackle before the Dinamo shot.

Dinamo earns a corner and Gibbs is at the near post. He starts to jump and then ducks out of the challenge (5:15). Incredibly weak stuff from Gibbs, who walks away from the goal with his head down.

I hate to pick on individual players, because it is a team sport, but it’s very hard not to say that Ox, and Gibbs had unacceptable matches. Ox for switching off on defense yet again, and Gibbs — well, I’m a little irrationally angry when I think of that whole possession, up to and including ducking out of a header. Even Wenger took Gibbs to task saying that Arsenal are good enough to defend a corner like that.

Walcott provided the only bright moment of the game when he came on to score. The way he ran into open space, collected the pass, opened his body, and passed the ball into the net, I was thinking that his goal reminded me a lot of that guy who all the pundits love and who epitomizes a center forward in English football, that’s right, Theo scored a very Antony Martial-esque goal.

I don’t really know what is going on with the “English core” of players at Arsenal: Walcott, who has scored four goals in his last three matches for club and country, is the only English player who is at all on form for Arsenal right now. Wilshere and Welbeck are permanently crocked. Gibbs looks heartless and defeated. Chambers can’t get off the bench. And Ox should be a starter but he can’t keep his head in the game.

Wenger took a chance on the subs and the subs looked well off the pace. I was one argued this summer that there were two good teams at Arsenal and I think if we look at this more reasonably there still are. If Arsenal’s first team has taken two weeks to start to gel, the second team seems to be about two weeks behind them. It also looks like that second team needs a swift reminder that they play for Arsenal football club.

It’s a sad defeat which was marred by a poor referee decision. Arsenal now have a bit of a mountain to climb if they are going to finish second in this group. The next match is Olympiacos at home and Arsenal should win that. That’s followed by Bayern at home and I can’t see Arsenal taking anything out of that game on our current form. Then Bayern in Munich which Arsenal will lose and back to London to host Dinamo which Arsenal will win handily. But if Dinamo can get a result against Olympiacos in Zagreb it will put Arsenal and Dinamo level on points going in to the final day. On the final day, Bayern will play Dinamo away and Arsenal will play Olympiacos away. Wenger’s record against Olympiacos away is two losses, granted in one of those matches Arsenal played Tom Cruise, but it’s still not an auspicious way to end the group stages.

Just like it was an inauspicious way to start the group stages.


*I don’t fold my clothes, I like to get my shirts extra wrinkly because I’m punker than you.