Tag Archives: Premier league

special one

Jose Mourinho loses it all at the Bridge

Jose Mourinho lost his first ever Premier League match at home and in the process lost the League title, his best midfielder, his assistant, and his mind.

Chelsea looked rattled by Sunderland’s in your face approach to the game from the start and no player was more rattled than Ramires. Ramires was subject of a fairly hard aerial challenge which put him off scoring and that was followed minutes later by a nippy tackle, both from Sunderland midfielder Seb Larsson. But the Brazilian’s reaction to his treatment was simply outrageous, he punched Larsson in the face. Worse, replays show that the punch was intentional as Ramires looks back at Larsson before lashing out.

No one knows if Mike Dean saw the incident since he didn’t stop play and seemed to be waving play on for the earlier Larsson tackle. But we must assume that he didn’t see the punch because if he did see it, then there is a serious problem with his judgement as a referee. Assuming that he didn’t see the punch, it seems a clear case that Ramires will be punished very harshly by the FA for violent conduct. Three match ban would be the minimum in this case but the FA could impose harsher punishment given the nature of the attack.

It was a fiery match but Chelsea looked good money to pull out the win and Sunderland were lucky to escape the first half with the scoreline 1-1. Chelsea started the second half the way they had ended the first, attacking Sunderland’s goal almost at will. The stats bear out the fact that Chelsea were unlucky not to win the match.

The Blues took 31 shots, 15 on target, 8 of the on target shots were right in front of goal and a further three of the missed shots were taken in the same positions. That’s 11 shots right in front of goal, any of which you would normally expect a top team to score. Yet a combination of good keeping by former Arsenal player Vito Mannone and good luck kept Chelsea at bay.

Not finding the breakthrough, and with their title hopes in the balance, the pressure started to mount on Chelsea and the cracks started to show. Fullback Cesar Azpilicueta made several crucial errors and in the 80th minute compounded a slip with a horrible tackle that brought down Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore in the penalty box. The sideline official waved for the foul and Mike Dean pointed to the penalty spot with his usual dramatic flourish.

Up stepped Liverpool loanee Fabio Borini and after a stutter step walk up, sent Mark Schwarzer the wrong way to put Sunderland in the lead. It’s ironic that Chelsea would have their title hopes undone by a Liverpool player on loan since Chelsea have actively pursued the loan system as a means to stockpile players while keeping their payroll down and destabilizing the Premier League.

Before the net had stopped rippling Chelsea’s bench went apoplectic and fitness coach Rui Faria confronted Mike Dean burning with rage. Held back by Mourinho and others, Faria was screaming at Dean over something and Dean had no choice but to request he be removed.

Chelsea pressed and pressed for the tying goal but there was no getting through and as the clock wore down fans watching on television knew that the most exciting thing to happen next was probably going to be Jose Mourinho’s post-match interview. And the Special One didn’t let anyone down.

Asked for his opinion of the match, Jose, his voice dripping with sarcasm, congratulated his players, the Sunderland players, the referees, and head of the referee’s association Mike Riley for a great season. Thankfully the Oscar music started playing in his head and spared us suffering through him thanking his dog for licking his face with such “perfect breath”, his wife for a “great back rub”, Abramovich for the “huge warchest”, Torres for “scoring bags of goals”, the British media for “fair reporting”, America for the “moon landing”, scientists for “global warming” and “evolution”, and god for “creating the world.”

Mourinho ridiculed Arsene Wenger earlier in the season calling Arsenal’s most successful ever manager a “specialist in failure”. But given his own history of outrageous behavior when his team lose, once poking a man in the eye, perhaps Mourinho should be branded a “specialist in poor sportsmanship.”

Qq

 

podolski

Arsenal’s controversial threesome lift the Gunners over the Hammers

Arsenal came back from a 1-0 deficit to beat West Ham 3-1 yesterday. It was a match which featured a Podolski brace, a Giroud wondergoal, the return of Aaron Ramsey and Arsenal climbing back into 4th place. And after the match, the fans went into hyperbole overdrive.

Aaron Ramsey limped off injured the last time these two teams met on Boxing Day and has been slowly working his way back to full fitness for three months. He played 112 minutes in the FA Cup win over Wigan and Wenger gave him a rest to start this game but when he did come on in the last 20 minutes Arsenal’s pace quickened, they controlled the midfield, and they created a number of good chances. In just a short 20 minute cameo, Ramsey created two shots for teammates, including a cushioned header assist for Podolski’s second goal, and took two shots himself. He also put in a tackle high up the pitch which resulted in a good chance missed and provided Arsenal’s front line with deadly service throughout. It says a lot about Ramsey that he can miss 3 months of football and still be in contention for our player of the season.

I say that knowing full well the dangers of post-match hyperbole. But Ramsey is simply a tireless worker who is constantly presenting himself for the pass, who demands the ball in pressure situations, who quickens the pace of Arsenal’s midfield, and whose vision for finding teammates and for getting himself into important positions upsets the opposition defenders. And when Arsenal lose the ball he works hard to get the ball back. It’s no coincidence that he leads Arsenal in a number of those stat categories, then, and that his reintroduction to this Arsenal team couldn’t have come at a better time.

Meanwhile, Lukas Podolski scored two goals yesterday and after the match slipped into the role of New Arshavin: the player everyone argues over whether he is being played out of position, whether he needs more playing time, whether he should bother defending, and whether he is not getting the respect he is due.

Podolski is actually a simple player to figure out. He is inconsistent away from home (scored in just 6 of 30 away appearances) and not terribly good against top clubs. He also requires excellent service to score but once he has that service he is deadly. He has a wicked cross on him and has hooked up with Giroud on numerous occasions to great effect. He’s not going to play defense and you almost don’t want him to because when he does it’s usually messy. He is almost certainly a better forward in a two striker system, but you can’t really play him as a number 10 because he’s not creative enough.

Fortunately, he is perfect for the final five game run in. First, Arsenal will be playing all little clubs for the remainder of the season. Second, Arsenal’s 4-3-3 is a fluid formation meaning that Podolski is basically playing as a second striker, albeit a wide striker. And third, while the defenders were yelling at Podolski to drop back against West Ham, Cazorla, Kallstrom, Arteta, and Vermaelen were all able to cover for him. So, Podolski’s good qualities should win out over the bad, I think, for these last 5 games.

Giroud also suffers from post match anti/pro hyperbole and he’s also not really much of a mystery. He’s a hard working player who, because Arsenal didn’t have a viable backup, has basically run himself into the ground — he had a combined 14 lost possessions yesterday (dispossessed, turnovers, offsides) which is high even for him. Even when fully fit he has a tendency to miss gilt edged chances and his record over the last two seasons as the player who has missed more of them than any other proves that. But if he just plays instinctively, he’s able to pull off moments of football so beautiful that you wonder if he’s even the same person! Yesterday was a perfect example of Giroud: playing little chips in to teammates, being harassed off the ball, missing a shot one-v-one with the keeper, and scoring a goal from a long pass which he plucked softly out of the air and simply powered past the keeper.

Every match is critical now in terms of earning a 4th place finish and the team knows it. Podolski was interviewed after the match and his assessment of the end of season run-in was perfect for its simplicity: “The FA Cup is after the season. We’ll leave that for the moment and focus on the Premier League… we must understand that we have hard matches to come – we play away at Hull City and Norwich. It’s not easy but if we win all of our matches we’ll qualify.”

For anyone who feels like finishing in the top four isn’t important you only need to take a look at how the media (ironically) play up the fight for fourth between Arsenal and Everton. These same reporters who guffawed at Arsene Wenger’s suggestion that 4th place is an achievement are snapping at the story that plucky upstarts Everton might nip Arsenal to the 4th Place Cup. Finishing 4th is worth 10s of millions of pounds, both in terms of prize money but also in terms of player recruitment in the off season. Everton want to convince Lukaku to stay and they will have a powerful hole card if they can offer Champions League football. Meanwhile, Arsenal need to recruit possibly 4 players this Summer and the cost of doing that kind of business will be doubled if we don’t have Champions League football to offer.

In the end, a good win for Arsenal and puts the Gunners back on track for 4th place. We still have to win every remaining fixture and hope that Everton drop points but given the opposition that they face I’d put the money on Arsenal to finish 4th again. I’d also put money that our three most talked about players from yesterday’s match, Podolski, Giroud, and Ramsey will have a big say in where we end up in the League table at the end of the season.

Qq

Man at the match, Chary: The ecstasy and the agony – last gasp Flamini tragedy

A horrendous ricochet in the Arsenal goal mouth in the last minute of ordinary time allowed the Swans to grab a draw after the Arsenal took the lead with two quick second half strikes, following a first half goal for the visitors.

A re arranged fixture, from February, saw Arsenal try to regain some League composure after the annihilation suffered at the bus stop in Fulham at the weekend.

A bigger environmental difference there couldn’t have been compared to the previous home fixture, the Saturday lunchtime FA Cup draw which was played out in spring sunshine and warmth.

On this occasion a bitter wind blew around Ashburton Grove and was felt by me especially in the upper tier, Clock End where I took my seat and looked to gauge the mood of the crowd.

The general consensus was that only the FA cup and a fourth place spot would be enough to prevent serious disquiet amongst the fan base, an opinion voiced by various voices up and down the Holloway road, after the match, whether by the door man at The Bailey pub or the girlfriends of Arsenal supporting blokes trying to rationalise what the season had become.

The Welsh contingent of supporters we’re largely quiet until they scored, quite odd for supposedly hard core away support; and when they did sing it was in their native tongue which no one else understood or wanted to understand.

They came from the Valleys

They came from the Valleys

The home side started the first half with tentative moves attacking the goal at the Clock End however it was clear their confidence had been shaken by the effects of the previous game.

Santi corner

Santi corner

The corners that were gained came to naught, even Santi was affected by this hesitancy as many of his deliveries failed to pass the first man.

Another predictable side effect of the previous game was whenever Gibbs got on the ball the “Come on The Ox” calls were heard.

From virtually the first Swansea attack a lofted cross resulted in the opening Swansea goal, to my eyes it looked like the BFG was out jumped and that Chesney was rooted to his spot by the subsequent header; two poor pieces of play one might say.

Cue the Welsh corner waking up and time wasting from the Swansea goalie.

It was gratifying to see that the home crowd whistle at any suggestion of time wasting by the opposition goalie as was seen soon after the Swansea goal which has not always been the case. This seemed to have some effect as by about the half hour mark Vorm’s time wasting seemed to have been curtailed.

Going into half time, while Arsenal probed and pushed for an opening the frustration was kept in check even though there was a short burst of booing on 45 minutes that could not be dismissed.

With the start of the second half Arsenal seemed to be knocking at the door of an opening and the Swansea goal lived a charmed life due to good saves from Vorm or threaded through balls just failing to find Olly or whichever of the midfielders had dared to go forwards, usually this would be Rosický was the most attack minded.

Whilst the Ox was having a mixed game, occasionally looking dangerous and then trying some heart attack passes, he was surprisingly taken off not much later than 10 minutes into the second half and replaced by The Pod.

Lukas soon made an impact as just as the frustration at the over-elaboration of many attacks was starting to peak a quick advance by Gibbs, running towards the North Bank, was followed by a cross the pod latched onto and scored the equaliser.

The relief all around was topped when, seconds later Olly poked home to put the home side in front and stun the away support.

A nervy win looked on the cards so then on came Källström for Rosický and in the short time he played he seemed to keep it simple, intercept well and make some no nonsense clearances as well as some clever medium range passes. It would’ve have been great to see what his set piece delivery was like as the team are in dire need of someone who can hit a decent free kick.

As some of the early departees set off with the score at 2-1 it looked like the Arsenal were pushing for a third yet the vulnerability of a counterattack was there.

Swansea were happy to take long range strikes and one shot from Shelvey, his bald shining pate glistening in the floodlights, arced away from goal three quarters of the way through its flight, so the warning signs were there. There was no shortage of quick passing and energetic bursts forward from the Swansea attackers as they fought for a way back into the game.

A late break down our left flank, which appeared to follow a straight channel in the line of my sight, saw some neat passing result in some penalty are space for a Swansea forward; a misunderstanding between BFG, Chesney and Flamini saw a combination of unlucky deflections guide the ball into the Arsenal goal. On no, I thought, a Desmond (as in Tutu/2-2), horrendous.

In the moment Flamini’s head dropped, as he realised we’d dropped two points, the pathos of his reaction made me realise how much it hurt him, and I felt sorry for him.

I admire his street fighting, terrier-like tenacity and he’s the last player I’d want to suffer such a crushing piece of bad luck.

A body blow and the chap in the row in front of me, who had seemed to be developing a migraine with the frustration of watching our play deteriorate during the game, whacked his chair shut in frustration as the net rippled below us.

The nature of the crowd was a touch more schizoid than in previous games because, for example, at the restart after the equaliser and seeing 4 minutes of injury time being signalled there was a surge in crowd volume urging us on to score a third yet when forward play broke down groans and unhappy declarations of a players, or the whole team, incompetence rang out all through the game.

Despite the clear need to score the Arsenal pressure failed to be decisive in the final third; this highlighted the need for a top line striker to scare opposing defenders with his trickery. Olly is not that type of striker and despite his goal on the night replacing him with Sanogo did not change the attacking threat.

At the final whistle the away team were still looking dangerous on the counter attack but the score stayed at 2-2 and some kind of fracas kicked off amongst the Swansea players and match officials.

Final whistle melee

Final whistle melee

Plaintive chants of

“Wemb-ley, Wember-ley”

intermingled with murmurings of discontent as the Arsenal supporters filed out at full time and slowly, and fitfully, merged and dissolved into the chill night air.

By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)