Not that there was much doubt beforehand, but any lingering feelings that Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea side are merely pretenders to throne were disspelled on Sunday afternoon at the Emirates Stadium. Led by the utterly annoying, infantile and equally inspiring Didier Drogba, Chelsea put Arsenal to the sword in a comprehensive 3-0 demolition of their London rivals. A result which not only kept Chelsea five points clear of Manchester United, but in a single afternoon seemed to deflate all talk of Arsenal being genuine title contenders while at the same time enhancing the belief that this year could well be a big year for Ancelotti’s collection of veterans.
Not that Arsene Wenger is ready to write the title off just yet. The Frenchman was typically unbowed despite his team being utterly dominated by Chelsea and refused to believe that Arsenal were not genuine title contenders. While, mathematically, it is prurient not to write Arsenal off just yet, their beautiful, yet fragile form of tippy toes football was crushed under the Chelsea juggernaut and the defensive frailties that have haunted them all season, returned at key moments to seemingly condemn Arsenal to, at best, a third place finish and a decent run at a cup competition.
It seems its very much a case of new faces, same results at Pompey. That may be a bit harsh on new manager, the deliciously wobbly-jowelled dog from the Churchill adverts, Avram Grant who must have wondered exactly what he has taken on at Fratton Park after their 4-1 blitzing by Manchester United. Gifted a penalty by the combination of an assistant referee’s myopia and home-town pity, Portsmouth briefly levelled before United moved into first gear and added three more, including a hattrick from new father Wayne Rooney. Rooney has intimated that he expects to score more goals this season now that he is taking penalties “and now that we have Michael Owen here, who we have brought in for his theatrical, aerial gymnastics” he didn’t add, but probably could have done.
The Red half of Merseyside awoke this morning smiling. A rarity for Liverpool fans this season. Their 2-0 win over Everton may give the beleaguered reds fans cause for partisan local celebration at the expense of their Evertonian rivals, but it does mask an utterly shambolic performance by the Liverpool that was 10/10ths perspiration and absolutely no inspiration whatsoever. Certainly the better footballing team lost the game and David Moyes will know his sides profligacy in front of goal cost them at least a point. Still, given the news that Everton’s future stadium is now down the pan because Tesco’s couldn’t persuade the local council to give them permission to build Everton a new stadium in Kirkby, it wasn’t the worst news this week as even that pales into insignificance when compared with the ghastly news that Moyes has been earmarked for the Scotland job.
The rest of the top four chasing teams all drew. Tottenham and Aston Villa shared the points at Villa Park. Is there a footballer alive who looks more intellectually challenged than Gabby Agbonlahor? Graceful, pacy and inspirational on his day and yet, for all the world, he looks like tying his shoelaces would baffle him. In comparison, Wayne Rooney would earn a place on “Eggheads”. Villa probably were lucky to hang on in the end as Tottenham fought back well in the second half and took a point thanks to Michael Dawson’s screaming three pointer. Handball? No, it was his arm, but hey ho. It cheered Harry up. I was getting worried about him. Sat in the rain looking damp, bereft and forlorn at times. God help him if he’d been about when Sergei Rebrov was at the club, he’d have been flinging himself off the tallest building in the Bull-ring if that was the case at the weekend.
Best wishes to Sam Allardyce who is recovering from a minor heart operation. The Blackburn manager hopes to be back for next weekends game against Liverpool. This is probably because this game now looks to be a certainty to be devoid of any interest whatsoever between two of the Premier League’s dullest teams, so Sam should be fine.
Lastly, congratulations to Phil Brown for inspiring Hull to much improved form. A 3-2 win over Everton was followed up by an impressive 1-1 draw against Manchester City at Eastlands. (How that went down in the Manchester City boardroom I’d love to have known). Not only that but I think he was the first, along with Sam Allardyce when they were at Bolton together, to dream up this “backroom staff must wear earpieces and microphones” idea that seems to be all the rage. It’s disconcerting to see managers, coaches and physio’s sat on the bench like a troop of inelegantly dressed, Madonna wannabes. I can understand it if one of the team is up in the stand and the other is on the bench, but when they are all sat together in the dugout, they just look a little, well, mental really. I’m just waiting for the day when the stadium PA announcer accidentally logs into the frequency used by the staff and broadcasts it to the crowd. What great entertainment that would be, though I bet most clubs would hastily install a bleep machine for matchdays.
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