The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “Carlo Ancelotti’s team were as devastating as they needed to be, with Didier Drogba preying on these opponents as usual. The Ivorian was close to a hat-trick with a free-kick that cracked against the crossbar but his impact had already been sufficient. If anything, John Terry might have been slightly frustrated by the anodyne attacks. The centre-half would have relished more opportunities in which to prove that he is undiminished by disappointment after being stripped of the England captaincy.”
Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Such an educated Frenchman as Arsène Wenger must know the meaning of déjà vu. Once again, Arsenal failed to live with the physical demands of the game. Once again, they were caught out on the counter. Once again, they lacked a central attacking force. Unlike Chelsea. Once again, Didier Drogba destroyed Wenger’s side.”
The Times, Oliver Kay: “This felt like watching an old movie for the umpteenth time. It was a bit of a mish-mash, unsure at times whether it wanted to be art house or blockbuster, but, to the surprise of nobody except Arsène Wenger, it ended up as an action film, starring the irrepressible Didier Drogba.”
The Independent, Glenn Moore: “This defeat ends Arsenal’s championship challenge. They were top on 20 January, but one point from successive matches against Aston Villa, Manchester United and Chelsea have left them nine points behind the latter who are back at the summit. Although Arsène Wenger insisted his team would not give up, Wednesday’s visit of Liverpool is now about the minor placings.”
Official Chelsea FC Website: “Didier Drogba took his goal tally against Arsenal to 12 in 12 games today as we dominated the Gunners at Stamford Bridge.”
That was the week that was…
Football without Chelsea would, as the last week has demonstrated, be a pretty dull affair. If we didn’t exist, you’d probably have to invent us.
Given the recent headlines, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Blues were captained by the bastard offspring of Warren Beatty and Oliver Reed. JT has had a bit of a week of it at the hands of the media, whose view of what should happen amongst the upstanding football folk of leafy Surrey is evidently far more ‘Terry and June’ than ‘Terry in June’ (and April, and Summer, and Vanessa…)
Exaggeration by the hacks has played a part, of course – having read some of the stories, it brings to mind Ian Botham’s suggestion that had he been involved in half of the off-field shenanigans recounted in the press, he’d have struggled to find the time, or indeed the energy to play any cricket.
The Perroncel-Terry-Bridge saga gathered pace rapidly last weekend after the not-so-super injunction was lifted by Justice Cocklecarrot; one small step for freedom of the press, one giant leap for overblown self-righteousness. And by the time we were scrapping our way to a point up at Hull, what started as a slightly seedy love triangle had morphed into a fully-blown shag dodecahedron. Miss Perroncel, it seemed, had a bit of a thing for a Chelsea player. Or five.
It’s difficult to think of anything or anyone that has worked through a football team so successfully since Champions League chasing Spurs copped for a dodgy lasagne a few seasons back. One wonders whether a former fitness coach at Cobham had actually prescribed an occasional go on young Vanessa as part of the players’ training regime.
Meanwhile, Wayne Bridge’s relatively dignified silence was scuppered by the well-meaning but ultimately rather brainless “Team Bridge” T-shirt effort from a few of his team-mates; it all looked a bit tragic – somewhere between a ‘Loose Women’ diatribe and a bad episode of ‘Sex and the City’. Lots of “leave it Wayne, he’s / she’s not worth it…” and the like.
Mercifully, Don Fabio jetted in to put an end to the sorry saga on Friday, summoning JT to Wembley for a ‘showdown’ which turned out to be even shorter than some of VP’s relationships.
Relieving Terry of the England captaincy was largely symbolic (I keep thinking of Mr. Banks having his bowler hat, carnation and umbrella trashed by his superiors at the bank in ‘Mary Poppins’), but will hopefully keep our captain away from the front pages in the longer term and allow him to sort his rather complex off-pitch life out.
So has it been a lesson learned? JT’s chequered past and the revelations that he has spent a mind-boggling £750,000 silencing various former conquests suggests not, but Capello’s swift action (whether his own or otherwise) and advice that he should seek help may finally ring true in this instance.
The debate over the boundaries of private and public life will continue; JT’s role in the uneasy relationship between press freedom and the public’s ‘right to know’ looks to have become something of a legal milestone – whether large sections of the Fourth Estate will use it for anything more than the titillation of the masses with tales of what the rich and famous get up to between the sheets or in the back seats of their Bentleys remains to be seen.
Was there anything else? Oh yes, transfer ban lifted – the lawyers have been busy this week. One of the more interesting contract disputes of recent years (hey, I like that sort of thing, OK?) has been resolved with Chelsea and Gael Kakuta being cleared of all charges brought against them.
No grand conspiracy here, as far as I can see; a dispute over the mechanics and legality of a contract rather inflamed by a spot of corporate cock waving on the part some of the individuals involved. The departure of a controversial chief exec and Roman’s conversion of the remaining debt into equity in the weeks after the ban was lifted on appeal might suggest that we are maybe just a little keener to embrace our role as one of Europe’s elite clubs.
It says here that we’re playing Arsenal too. There really is no rest for the wicked.
How fortuitous for the black / white / no grey area guardians of football that today’s visitors to the den of vice and iniquity that is Stamford Bridge were football’s new puritans. A group of young men, bastions of all that is good and right in the beautiful game whose fresh-faced outlook – oh, you get the picture. Let’s be honest, the closest they are likely to get to any sort of sexual scandal is for Arsene to find a copy of ‘Razzle’ and some crusty Kleenex in Theo Walcott’s kit bag.
According to young Fabregas, the only thing likely to be fucked in SW6 today was Arsenal’s title challenge should they fail to leave with anything less than three points. As January’s festival of goals and crushing victories for the Blues gave way to slightly shaky performances up at Burnley and Hull; this could well be a pivotal moment in the season for both sides.
I always approach games against Arsenal with a degree of caution – probably has something to do with some truly shocking results and slices of utterly crap fortune handed down to us over the years (Kanu, Silvinho, Winterburn, it’s only Ray Parlour etc.), but today the realisation dawned – the crux of it is, they really aren’t a team for us to fear any more.
Possession statistics will be quoted by their manager and fans alike, but rarely has any team looked more comfortable without the ball than Chelsea did today. Arsenal were almost stereotypical in their inability to make any kind of showing against genuine title challengers – they’d have hammered Blackburn or Sunderland with that kind of performance, but the air down in SW6 is very different.
Within ten minutes of Mike Dean’s first whistle, the old favourites were rolled out. A set piece plus the presence of Drogba – the more things change, the more they stay the same. Some majestic footwork and a sublime finish from the mighty DD before the half hour and the game was effectively over as a contest. Arsenal responded, fitfully in the first half and more consistently after the break, but two shots on target (both well handled by Cech) and lots of attractive but ultimately meaningless passes – some two hundred more than the Blues – is simply not the stuff of title winners.
Well, if it is, Carlo and Fergie really are doing something wrong.
At times, the actions and demeanour of Wenger and his side spoke volumes. The manager’s trademark arms outstretched stance seemed to ape the frustrated fisherman, demonstrating the sheer size of the one that got away; Fabregas’s odd gesticulations to the card-waving Dean after a fruitless tussle with Drogba late in the game looked like those of a frustrated schoolboy impotently shouting “B-b-b-but – he’s bigger than me!”
Ah, Drogba. Surely the only options left for the Arsenal manager now when faced with a fixture against Chelsea are to pray for his retirement or to put in an offer for our magnificent Ivorian. Either that, or buy some better centre halves. Good to have you back, Didier.
This very fine bottle of Pinot noir leaves me little option but to score today’s performances on the Robert Parker ‘Parker Points ®’ wine rating scale. 90-95 is basically outstanding, 96-100 exceptional. Argue over tasting notes, additional points for nose and complexity of character as you see fit, but don’t expect an answer from me as I find all this ratings lark a load of old guff if I’m honest.
- Cech 98
- Ivanovic 97
- Carvalho 96
- Terry 96
- Cole (A) 97
- Mikel 97
- Ballack 94
- Lampard 95
- Malouda 95
- Anelka 97
- Drogba 99
Zhirkov, Kalou and Cole (J) receive a relatively neutral 93 and need to be laid down for greater enjoyment at a later date.
Man of the Match
Some fine performances all round, but Drogba gets the Ferrero Rocher this weekend.
Wrapping it all up in a few sentences
Given his record against the ‘Big Two’ (let’s not pretend it’s ‘Four’ any more, shall we?) in the post Vieira / Pires / Henry et al era, one wonders how much longer the powers that be up at the Emirates will keep telling themselves that Arsene knows. A purist he may be – admirably so, to a point – but the further down that road he travels, the further away he gets from the harsh realities of Premiership life. Realities like Drogba and Rooney, for example.
As for us, the week ended far better than we can have reasonably expected it to a few days ago. Gooners brushed aside with fairly consummate ease, top of the league and a largely enjoyable ninety minutes without sight of any French lingerie models (no bad thing in the current climate), Max Clifford or Carlos Tevez’s fed-with-a-catapult-as-a-child-face in a stupid slogan T-shirt.
Thirteen games to go, two points clear. It is about to get interesting…