By Tim Todd, Gladhander
Good morning everyone. Just a few notes on the game yesterday before I have to take my truck in to get the locks repaired.
First, it’s always funny to see how many people are duped by Jose and his handshakes. If you have any lingering doubt that Mourinho intentionally uses handshakes as part of his little mindgames and one-uppmanship, let me give you a couple of examples.
First off, he likes to go over and shake hands before games are over. He actually does it all the time. He tried to do it to Roy Keane and Neil Warnock and they refused him. The British press had a field day with that one, of course blaming Keane and Warnock. Because you know, handshakes are important.
Sportsmanship, however, is more than just handshakes. Sportsmanship means that you don’t run 50 yards down the pitch to celebrate in front of the opposition manager and then try to shake his hand before the full time whistle. That’s what Moruinho does. That’s the opposite of sportsmanship.
Second, he has done this thing where he shakes all the players’ hands before but he did it in the dressing room last time. It was after Chelsea’s 4-2 loss to Bradford (incidentally, he tried to shake hands with Phil Parkinson before the full-time whistle but the Bradford manager refused) in the FA Cup. But he did that behind closed doors. This was the first time that he stood at the end of the line like it was a wedding reception and he was the bride, making everyone shake his hand. And more importantly, this was the first time he did it in front of the camera as the opposition team was going to celebrate in front of their fans.
But what makes the whole thing so glaringly fake is the words he says right after his little public display. In his post match interview he is anti-congratulatory! He said that Arsenal “found themselves ahead 1-0 for no reason” that “Chelsea dominated the game and had all of the initiative” and that Chelsea were basically the better team and Arsenal didn’t have any reason to think they should win the game.
That’s why no one should shake his hand — ever. Because he’s going to look you in the eye and say “congrats” and then turn around, 30 seconds later, and tell everyone why you didn’t deserve to win.
And what about Oxlande-Chamberlain’s goal? That was a goal which was deserving of a win. The Ox (or AOC who plays for AFC) has shown some real signs of growth already this year. He’s a right footed player and mostly plays on the right for Arsenal. This normally relegates a player to whipping in crosses. But what makes Ox special is that he can and does dribble to his left. Which is exactly how he beat his man in the Chelsea match.
Ox is also a highly right-footed shooter, taking most of his shots with his right foot but again as you saw against Chelsea, he fired in a rifle with his left foot. So, again, and not to pound the Jose drum, but for Mourinho to say that we got the goal out of nothing or didn’t deserve the goal is simply sour grapes. Oxlade-Chamberlain beat Chelsea with a magnificent individual effort, dribbling to his weak side and shooting with his weak foot. If anything deserved to beat Chelsea, it was that.
The other thing I watched pretty closely was Petr Cech’s play. Cech looked like the real deal as a keeper for me. Just two things illustrate what I mean.
The first is that Cech is a vastly experienced ‘keeper so he has an innate understanding of his goal and the space around it. When Ramires shot his header, Cech went up and it looked like he was going to palm the ball away. But he didn’t because he knew that Ramires’ shot was over the bar. There was another shot, past the far post, which he just let go, again, because he seemed to know that the shot had no chance. By just the simple fact that he knew he didn’t have to make a save, Cech probably saved Arsenal two corners. That seems like a small thing but against a club like Chelsea who look to score on Arsenal from corners, it’s actually a big deal.
The second is that Cech punched John Terry in the head. Now, I know it’s normal to want to punch JT in the head, but I think it showed a level of aggression and fearlessness that I want from my keeper. Arsenal are a small team, the opposition is going to look to score off crosses, corners, and set plays. This is especially true for a team with Fabregas who is basically the Spanish David Beckham. So, Arsenal need a keeper who can come out to help his defense with these aerial balls from set plays. What I hope happens is that Arsenal get significantly better dealing with these types of attacking plays this season. Arsenal were the worst in the league at them last year and frankly have always struggled with this aspect of the game.
The other thing is, and I don’t know where this started, but there’s this weird thing that people say now about Theo Walcott; that he makes runs which frees up space for others. It’s a neat little twist on “facts” because it’s something that I suspect is impossible to prove. Even if you could get two people to agree on what this means it would be even more impossible to show that it has any positive effect. Unless there are situations where you can show me Theo Walcott taking a defender away and then someone popping up into that space and scoring (or assisting) I’m going to have to relegate this to one of those myths about Walcott. I’ll look for it, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist (because that’s proving a negative), but I don’t see it.
The other myth about Walcott is that in the Charity Shield, Chelsea “denied him space” and stayed compact. That is patently untrue. Chelsea played a high line with loads of space in behind. Walcott was simply far too static in that game and it showed in his stats. 10 touches in 65 minutes, for a center forward, is shocking. Instead of standing around smelling John Terry’s breath, Walcott should have been dropping deep to collect the ball and get his teammates involved or “making runs in behind” the line. But he didn’t — he didn’t even have an offside.
You could see how much better Arsenal got in the counter attack when Giroud came on. Arsenal had 8 shots in the time Giroud was on and just 3 in the 65 minutes Walcott was on. Not only that but the Arsenal shots were big chances. Giroud wasn’t sitting around winning headers, either. He dropped, collected, played the ball to a runner, and then made a run himself. Textbook center forward play.
I know that people will freak out now because I’ve criticized Walcott, but don’t worry a hair on your head. I like Walcott. I’m certain he’s the kind of player we need at Arsenal if we have any chance of winning the League title. I just think he had a lazy stinker of a game against Chelsea. Yep. And I know he got an “assist” by passing the ball to Ox, who then beat two men and a keeper.
Anyway, all day Sunday I was buzzing. I even wore my Arsenal shirt (the Highbury commemorative shirt with Bergkamp on the back) out in public. Beating Chelsea is sweet enough but beating Mourinho is even sweeter. It reminds me of how we beat United at Old Trafford and then went on to win the FA Cup.
One by one it feels like Arsenal are shedding the chains of the past. Spend some mucking funny? Arsene bought Ozil and Alexis. Keep our best players? Only Plodoski was sold and Wenger just locked down Walcott and Santi to long term deals. Arsenal are a “foreign team”? Ladies and gents: Walcott, Wilshere, Ox, Gibbs, Welbeck, Ramsey, Chambers, etc. Team constantly injured? Shad Forsythe (though, Wilshere is still being “rested”). No plan B? I’ve seen plans A,B,C, and D in this team (possession, pressing, sitting deep, and countering). Can’t beat United? Welbeck helped us. Can’t beat Mourinho? Oxlade-Chamberlain helped us. Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in 10 years? Back to back FA Cups and Charity Shields (not a trophy).
It feels great. I feel lighter. I am so looking forward to this season. And now that we’ve beaten both United and Chelsea, here’s hoping we play them both as many times as possible this season.
Bring it on.