Comment & analysis round-up
Quote of the day: “It’s funny because he doesn’t do a lot but he is efficient in what he does. You would be surprised by the number of balls that he touched today. Drogba is in a period where he kicks the ball and it goes in. You can’t tell me that for the first goal, the ball went where he intended it to go. At the moment he just goes for it and it goes in. The first was the goal of a striker in complete confidence… How can he see Eduardo kicking the ball out of Cech’s hands when there was a Chelsea player in front of him? That was a massive mistake by the referee. I just think that we made mistakes and the referee got the turning point of the game wrong: 2-1 is different to 2-0 at the start of the second half. The referees this year … our game with Man United, the Chelsea game … they have been decided by the referee. The referees don’t want video but it’s difficult to understand why not. Why doesn’t he ask? Because he’s too scared to be intimidated, to be under pressure to use the video.” – Arsene Wenger.
Runner-up: “I believe we will win the title.” – Carlo Ancelotti.
Today’s overview: Arsene Wenger is found moaning across the backpages after Chelsea hammered the Gunners 3-nil at the Emirates on Sunday. And the fourth estate refuse to let the Professor’s whinging go unnoticed.
According to Richard Williams, “a man who wishes to advance statistics in support of his contentions, however, must also learn to live with those that flagrantly contradict his argument, and there can be nothing excessive in a pessimistic reading of the cold figures showing that Arsenal have now lost four out of 13 league games this season, conceding 18 goals in the process.” Equally dismissive of Arsenal was Oliver Kay. “This was men against boys. Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, took issue with that depiction afterwards, but he was kidding himself. Chelsea were in a different class â€” not technically, which seemed to be Wengerâ€™s point of reference, but in terms of their tactical approach, their physical prowess and their controlled aggression.”
Sam Wallace tries to find excuses to justify Wenger’s all-so-wrong post match comments. “It does Wenger no favours when he tries to wriggle out of what was painfully clear to everyone else at the Emirates, or at least the 20,000 or so Arsenal fans who hung around until the final whistle… The kindest thing we can say about such an intelligent football man is that Wenger was simply traumatised by what he had seen and was temporarily incapable of facing the truth.” Martin Samuel also jumps all over Wenger’s comments, coughing “Wenger can juggle those numbers however he likes. He can produce computer print-outs, graphs, spread sheets and those little circle things with all the different colour slices like Trivial Pursuit counters. Arsenal were no more than Premier League roadkill. Chelsea were a speck in the distance and they barely knew what hit them.”
Continuing to flag up Arsenal’s weaknesses was Mike Norrish. “Three attempts on goal. Three. For all that possession, for all those attacking positions, Arsenal never really tested Petr Cech. We must applaud Chelsea’s exceptional defence, but many Arsenal fans would have been exasperated by their side’s lack of penetration.”
Wenger’s cock-eyed opinion of Didier Drogba is also taken to task by Matt Hughes. “Drogbaâ€™s threat is such that he can make the most level-headed individual take leave of their senses, even ArsÃ¨ne Wenger. The Ivory Coast strikerâ€™s bullying of these opponents is utterly relentless, yet Wenger bizarrely claimed he did not do much after a game in which he scored two brilliant goals. It was not his only utterance that was divorced from reality.” Keeping with Drogba, Alan Hansen makes the case the that the Ivorian is the best forward in the league. “Some observers might go for Fernando Torres or Wayne Rooney as the best striker in the Premier League, but the more you see of Drogba this season, the more he is showing the strength, the goals and the ability to lead the line that he displays when he is at his very best.”
Spreading the Chelsea-love, Dominic Fifield is full of praise for Ashley Cole. “Cole has waited three-and-a-half years for an occasion such as this, an opportunity to choke the abuse from fans who once sang his name and now spit it out only in disgust. Arsenal continue to be singed by players they once counted as their own. This was a reminder of what they have lost.”
Lastly on the Blues, James Lawton poses the notion that Carlo Ancelotti is outdoing the achievements of the Special One. “Under Carlo Ancelotti… Chelsea are threatening to achieve levels of performance and achievement that even the ambition and the panache of Jose Mourinho failed to conjure… Under Ancelotti there seem to be new certainties, the kind of assurance that makes the possibilities of defeat remote.”
Liverpool may have won the Merseyside derby, but that does not mean the Anfield giants impressed anybody.
Daniel Taylor is the first to hurl the criticism at Liverpool, labelling the Reds “a team lacking any form of incisive edge without Fernando Torres, their talisman. Liverpool looked like a Europa League side which, for a club of their ambitions, is simply not enough.” Tony Barrett then launched himself onto the bandwagon, chiming “disjointed, bereft of confidence and, arguably most importantly, without Fernando Torres, the only genuine front-running outlet on their books, Liverpool were second best for long spells to an Everton side who had won only once in their previous ten matches… Rarely can the derby-day bragging rights have been taken with so little to brag about.”
Mickey-taking, Rory Smith joshes with Liverpool about their successful weekend in the Premier League. “It is a measure of how disastrous Liverpoolâ€™s autumn has been, how abject their form and how pitiful their points haul that they decamped en masse to the other side of Stanley Park delighted by the news that Tottenham had been held at Aston Villa, Hull had scored a late leveller at Manchester City and even â€“ damnation indeed â€“ cheered by Stoke and Sunderlandâ€™s failure to win.”
Ian Ladyman interjects to wonder whether David Moyes would ever walk from Goodison Park. “Unless Everton change hands in the near future â€” which looks unlikely â€” Moyes will not compete for the major trophies he deserves. And even the most hard-hearted Evertonian would surely not begrudge him an opportunity to exert his considerable influence as a coach and assessor of players elsewhere.”
Arguably kidding himself, Patrick Barclay makes the case the Everton’s woes will disappear once their squad regain their fitness. “Their proximity to the relegation zone is an illusion on this evidence. You expect spirit in derbies, but this was quite something, Pienaar leading the way, harrying red shirts at every turn and yet, when he got the ball, distributing it with intelligence… When the fitness situation eventually improves, so will results â€” and maybe again the FA Cup will come to the rescue.”
Moving onto Manchester City, Sam Wallace goes out his way to plead for Mark Hughes to continue in the Eastlands’ hot-seat. “If Abu Dhabi, and its billionaire rulers really want to show that they belong at English football’s top table, then they should consider it another way. If they want to prove that this is not just a crass experiment in blowing as much money as is humanly possible on a chaotic football club with a proud history of under-achievement, there is another option. Keep your money in your pocket, sheikh. Stick with Hughes.”
Having watched Spurs take a point at Villa Park, David Pleat suggests how the Midlanders could improve their team. “Villa need a charismatic schemer to aid Petrov. This side lacks a player to unlock doors, command the ball and set their pacy forwards running in on goal: a Cesc FÃ¡bregas or Stephen Ireland might do the trick. In the meantime, Villa are making the best of their current resources.”
Avram Grant-bashing continues this Monday, and Martin Samuel cheekily throws a couple of nasty question in the Israeli’s face. “First question: if Avram Grant is the nice chap that everybody claims him to be, how come at just about every club where he is appointed director of football, the manager gets the bullet within months and he gets his job? Second question: if the job of director of football is so vital, how come Grant is not working with one now?”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic collects the praise after scoring the winner in El Classico. Gushing, Sid Lowe showers the Swede. “The first gran clÃ¡sico shown at cinemas lived up to its billing and turned out to be a thriller, packed with twists and suspense. When the dust settled on a tense and absorbing contest, there were many heroes but one stood taller than the rest. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the star who had appeared set for little more than a cameo role but came from the bench to crash home the volley that gave Barcelona a dramatic 1-0 victory.”
On Real, Matt Dickinson commented “this was said to be one of Madridâ€™s better performances of the season but, if so, it still amounted to considerably less than the sum of their very expensive parts.”
Staying with continental football, Gabrielle Marcotti uncovers the secret to Braga’s success this season in Portugal. “[Braga] are one point behind Benfica in the Portuguese league with a game in hand â€” they host mid-table UniÃ£o Leiria tonight. They are also one of the surprise packages in European football… Itâ€™s hard to find a pattern to explain this success. Unless you turn to the one constant at the club: AntÃ³nio Salvador, their wheeler-dealer president.”
Finally, we close out with the transfer lies.
The Mirror splutter “Wolves are eyeing up a January move for Aston Villaâ€™s Â£3m rated England under-21 international midfielder Craig Gardner,” before the red-top’s James Nursey drops the bomb that “Manchester United are ready to move for Micah Richards if rivals Man City finally lose patience with the defender.”