Before I begin, a round of applause for Mr. Wenger for giving us the most hilarious moment of the week. Two managers fighting it out at the touchline is funny, but when you have a timid ol’ fella like Wenger going up against Mourinho and managing a PUSH… Oh My God! Kind of like the Junior High geek failing miserably in giving it back to the High School bully. Haha.
Talking Points : Arsenal, Chelsea and Others
Back to the less serious matters of football, I think this is also a good starting point for my Talking Points of the week:
Wenger is Rattled… Badly:
You could see it coming from the pre-match comments. Wenger was still hurting from that 6-0 demolition, not least because it was his 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. Wenger also made tactical changes but those changes meant that Arsenal was always on the back foot while going forward because the first instinct was to not concede. But sadly, that is not Arsenal’s game nor is it Arsene Wenger’s philosophy. Wenger wants to control possession and dictate terms in a game but that also suits Mourinho’s counter attacking philosophy. This was Wenger playing to the perceived weakness of the opponent and not to his own strengths. And that is the first sign of the psychological edge Mourinho holds over Wenger.
Adaptability is the Middle Name of This Chelsea Team:
That’s the biggest reason why it didn’t work out for Arsenal. The final stats may show Arsenal having better possession but that is not even half the story. Chelsea dominated the first half possession and was happy to allow Arsenal all the possession in the final quarter of the game. More importantly it was the distinct fashion of the two goals. The first came from a moment of magic from Eden Hazard amid total domination through possession by Chelsea. The second came off Chelsea coping with all that Arsenal had to offer, rather easily, and then scoring the perfect counter attacking goal. Those are two extremes of style of play and depicts the pragmatist thread with which Mourinho has weaved the fabric of this team.
Things are Coming Together Rather Nicely:
Two things that I had written about previously were: Eden Hazard and the gap at the top of the table. While the world was raving about Fabregas and Costa, and rightly so, I had stressed on more than one occasion about the quality of Hazard’s performances. Yesterday, he really announced himself this season. He hasn’t been out of form or anything and will remain the guy to pull off a magic moment every time this team needs it.
With a couple of back to back draws earlier in the month, I had also written about the need for carrying forward the momentum. One of the pointers I had used was extending the lead to 5 points at the top of the table. And that is how it has panned out. So job done for September and we can hope for better things ahead in the Premier League.
What’s Going Wrong in Other Competitions:
So while the Premier League has been a smooth ride, Champions League and League Cup have raised a few questions. I cannot point a finger at any one thing but three games that we have played outside of the Premier League, we have not buried the opposition as we should have done as per our league form. Is it the tiredness of the weekend, considering it is still early season? Maybe. Because Mourinho has come out and said that there were a number of players who did not really have a preseason. With our next three games outside of the League against Shrewsbury Town and Maribor, I really hope that we can set the record straight.
The Journey Ahead and the Competition:
This is really the fun part of being in October. You start looking at the congested fixture list and wonder how well your team is going to do. Of course, the current fixture list will get even more congested when we beat Shrewsbury. (All due respect Shrewsbury folks!) But it is also worth noting what the competition has coming towards it. I don’t think besides City, there will be any other challenger for the title. And although there is no easy game in the Premier League, City have played against Liverpool, Chelsea and Arsenal already and their next matches against the top 7 are all at home – Tottenham, Man U and Everton. We have Man U and Liverpool away with Tottenham at home. I know there will be reverse fixtures, but what the table looks like at the end of December is also very important because except for Arsenal last season, all teams who have lead the table at the end of December have gone on to win the EPL title! So there you go. We may face a defeat or two and the pressure will only increase. Interesting times ahead.
Manchester United is 4th in the table. I will forgive you if you break into a laugh now, but on a very serious note, Man U could do what Liverpool did last season. They are getting scrappy wins, and I know it’s only a couple but they are still wins. Di Maria is a match winner, Falcao will score goals throughout the season and Van Gaal will sort his defense out.
Tottenham are looking good too. Pochettino has slowly been able to mould this team to his philosophy but I get the feeling that they are a striker short. Adebayor is a lazy, lazy guy and Soldado is just not clinical enough.
Arsenal, as always, are down with injuries. I think it will again trouble them throughout the season. But more importantly, they will struggle because of a lack of a leader. Saying it for the second or the third time, but this could be the season the Gunners fall off the top 4.
Liverpool’s post Suarez era has had a few bumps. Rodgers has a huge task on his hand along with Champions League. The additions will take time to adjust and I see Liverpool struggling in the first half of the season. If they can manage fatigue and injuries, we may see some thrilling football again from them in the second half of the season.
What do you think about the week that went by? Anything else that took your notice? I know I haven’t covered Fabregas but I would have just been repeating myself while taking more digs at Arsenal. I thought I would take it easy on the Junior High geeks. I usually have a wish for the week ahead, but considering the international break (again!), I just hope Costa returns back injury free. Blue Blood as ever, KTBFFH.