Joe Cole believes the most capped Nigerian player will make a better goalkeeper ahead of some other great goalkeepers he played alongside.

 

The 37-year-old, who announced his retirement from football yesterday, believes the Nigerian would make a better stopper than the likes of Petr Cech, Pepe Reina and David Seaman in a five-a-side team.

Joe Cole had an illustrious career that spanned 20 years – playing alongside some of the best players in world football.

Picking a five-side team, Joe Cole, surprisingly, put Nigerian international Vincent Enyeama, who they both played together when the former Chelsea midfielder was on loan at Lille from Liverpool in the 2011-12 season ahead of some other great goalkeepers he played alongside.

Explaining his choice of Enyeama, the 56-capped English international said, “I could’ve gone with Petr Cech, David Seaman, Pepe Reina. But If we’re talking five-a-side, this guy’s the best shot-stopper.

“You knew if this geezer was in your team in five-a-side, you were winning.”

 

Also making Joe Cole’s team was Eden Hazard, John Terry, Arjen Robben, and Luis Suarez.

Published in Awa Football

This time last season, Alvaro Morata was winning the battle of the strikers. The 11th weekend of the 2017/18 Premier League season saw Chelsea host Manchester United, with the star strikers they had signed in the summer. For United, their forward Romelu Lukaku fired blanks for a fourth successive league game, while for the Blues, Morata headed the only goal of the game, his seventh league strike for the club, and more importantly a big-game decider.

But if that was supposed to spell or act as a springboard for a joyous time in the capital for Spanish striker, it hasn’t turned out that way. Morata only scored four more league goals last season, only seven more in all competitions, not the best reading for a 75million-pound striker. ‘The last year was difficult for me, with injury’, said the forward after Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Crystal Palace this weekend, a game in which he scored twice and was named man of the match. ‘I played not fit, and now I’m good’.

Morata does seem to be looking good lately, actually playing football, not seemingly getting it over with. Actually seeming to enjoy the game, not getting burdened by playing. It didn’t look to be the case towards the end of last season, with the striker looking to have lost all will to play. Perhaps it was a case of getting settled in his first season at the club, but he started well, six league goals in his first six games.

Maybe it was a case of realising that Diego Costa’s shoes were quite big to fill when the going got tough, when pushed turned to shove, when the getting-to-know-you points of the season faded and the hustle and bustle part took over, but for Morata something seemed to go missing. Something seemed to be weighing him down. The unlucky misses graduated to glaring and never-should-have-been misses, and then advanced to the Spaniard not being in positions to get chances anymore, and then becoming second fiddle to Olivier Giroud as the campaign reached its ember stages.

That bad season ended up costing him a spot in Spain’s World Cup squad, the man who led the line in the European Championship in 2016, who seemed to fit perfectly with the Spanish system, was hardly worth a lick two years after. The form and mood rolled into this new campaign, Morata looking off the pace in most games, Giroud might not have provided, but his hold-up and link-up play, particularly with Eden Hazard, was reaping dividends for the club, something Morata wasn’t doing. And even in games in which Morata scored, the celebrations seemed mute, subdued, like it hardly mattered. Like it was just about getting it done with and moving on. Perhaps it was the knowledge of his poor form, but Morata seemed to be on island on the pitch, even when the Blues were having fun under Maurizio Sarri, he didn’t seem to be.

Didn’t; the key word. Because Morata seems to now. If he goal and celebration at Burnley at the end of October showed he was finally playing football, then his goals and celebrations at home to Crystal Palace showed he’s finally enjoying playing football, finally enjoying scoring. ‘Alvaro has improved in the last month in confidence and personality’, said Sarri. ‘He has also improved from the technical point of view, now he’s able to play more with the team. He has physical and technical potential and I think he can improve more.’

Sarri seems to be right on all counts, Morata highlighted his physical and technical improvements in the way he took his goals against the Eagles, while he showed his improvement in confidence when he had time and tried to chip Palace goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey late on, which didn’t come off. Perhaps the most important thing about his goals this weekend, was the fact that they were the goals that decided the match. Morata’s previous goals in the league have just about been inconsequential or would be rendered ultimately inconsequential, but this time he wasn’t just a goal-scorer, but a match-winner as well.

It’s important to not over-elaborate things, though, to keep things in perspective. After all, Morata’s tally was higher than this last season, and in this win over Palace, for the first 23 minutes he only touched the ball three times (thanks for that Football365, by the way). Sarri stated afterwards that Morata has to ‘play for the team and his team-mates’, and those stats of the first 23 minutes don’t make for good reading in that regard.

But Sarri was also keen to mention that Morata is young and ‘can improve very fast’, and improvements are showing. Goals are a striker’s currency, and Morata looks to finally be paying. More importantly, he seems to be having fun doing so.

  • United fail to completely convince, but mount second-half rally again

Sometimes number define everything. Going into stoppage time at Bournemouth’s Vitality stadium, Manchester United were on the cusp of just two wins in nine games, drawing a game they probably should have already been beaten in since the first half. ‘At halftime, I thought I was the luckiest manager in the Premier League, to be at 1-1 in a half in which it should be 5-2 or 6-2 (to Bournemouth)’, said United manager Jose Mourinho as he acknowledged a rather awful first half from the Red Devils.

But Mourinho also rightly highlighted his side’s improvements in the second period, another game in which United improved after a lacklustre first 45 minutes. Marcus Rashford popped up with a late winner, and now the numbers read; three wins in four in the league. The conviction might not be completely there, but the improvements and results are undeniable.

Elsewhere

  • It was an emotional moment 10 minutes after halftime at the Cardiff City stadium, as Demarai Gray put Leicester in front, in the Foxes’ first game since the tragic passing of chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha. Off came the shirt and the message ‘For Khun Vichai’, as the squad gathered. Then after the celebrations, came the caution, as Gray was booked for removing his shirt. This is by no means an indictment on referee Lee Probert, who had no choice but to enforce the rules, but isn’t it time the rules were reviewed?
  • If this game at home to Liverpool was supposed to show how behind Arsenal still are in terms of development and matching the rest of the top six, then it failed to do that. The Gunners produced a performance that stymied Liverpool, and there was no sense of deflation when they went behind almost against the run of play, no sense of ‘not this again’ that has pervaded the club in recent past. Their equaliser and point was deserved, so was the applause from the Emirates faithful at fulltime. Arsenal are still far being title challengers, and might not even make the top four this season, but the signs of progress are almost impossible to ignore.
  • It was a first win of the season for Newcastle, at the 11th time of asking, Ayoze Perez’s goal seeing the Toon past Watford to halt a run of five straight home defeats. More importantly, Rafa Benitez’s side are out of the drop zone, until Fulham and Huddersfield meet, that is.
  • Manchester City weren’t at full tilt, yet put six past Southampton. Just like they weren’t at full tilt when they put five past Burnley some weeks ago. Just usual, champion stuff.

Results

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

Cardiff 0-1 Leicester

Manchester City 6-1 Southampton

Wolves 2-3 Tottenham

Chelsea 3-1 Crystal Palace

Everton 3-1 Brighton

West Ham 4-2 Burnley

Newcastle 1-0 Watford

Bournemouth 1-2 Manchester United

Monday Night Football: Huddersfield v Fulham

Published in International Watch

Emma Haye, Chelsea Women's football coach argues that Martial might be a better player under Klopp

Anthony Martial was a subject of a move away from Old Trafford in July-  having found playing time limited at the club last season – a major factor that did not make him part of the French squad to the World Cup.

With limited game time at Man United, Martial’s agent went public in July of his desire of looking for a career for his client away from Old Trafford.

While the 22-year-old has been in top shape this season – scoring three goals in six premier league appearances already this season, a move away from Man United is still a possibility

Chelsea Women’s football coach Emma Hayes believes the Frenchman needs to be loved by Jose Mourinho.

According to the 42-year-old, Martial would make a better player if he were to be playing under Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

“For Martial, he requires right to a caring, attention and love from his manager, she said.

“Some might argue if he plays under Klopp we will be seeing something different. I think for Mourinho, everyone knows he demands a great deal from players – in the training ground.

The Chelsea manager who posited that the former Monaco winger needs to learn from Luke Shaw advised him to also develop a soft skin for criticisms.

“Luke Shaw is an example for Martial, he is a player who has come under torrid time from Mourinho.

“Players don’t want to accept the criticisms. There’s a degree of truth in it, and you have to reflect it. Perhaps for Martial, maybe as he’s maturing he might recognise that,” Emma, added.

Meanwhile, reports in England have it that Martial has rejected Man United’s contract offer to extend his stay at the club.

Martial, whose current with United will be ending in 2020, was signed from Monaco in 2015 in a deal worth £52m.

 

He scored 17 goals in all games in his first season at the club.

Published in International Watch

Jose Mourinho had said he wouldn’t go overboard celebrating Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, a sign of respect to his former side. And on Saturday lunchtime, he was hardly noticeable at the beginning, as he almost invisibly took his seat in the dugout. The manager may have been quiet in the dugout – until the final minute, that is – but on the pitch, his side were full of noise, responding from a setback once more, and very nearly getting a win at SW6 for the first time in five years.

‘The team played very well’, said the Portuguese. ‘As a team, we played very, very well. Individually, in the second half, they (the players) raised the bar, especially the attacking players who brought the game into a different dimension.’ That latter part was the area in which United’s first half was very much far from satisfactory, the only attempt they made was when Romelu Lukaku headed a cross wide from close range.

For much of the first 45, United were listless up front; the only area in which they were lacking. Their defending was very much better than the one in the first half at home to Newcastle a fortnight ago, although their defending of the corner that led to Antonio Rudiger giving Chelsea the lead would have caused the manager irritation, as it did Paul Pogba, the principal culprit.

‘We conceded a goal from a set-piece, but we were in the game so the distance between the first and second half was not as big as it was against Newcastle’, Mourinho added. And the first half was nowhere near as shoddy and hapless as it was against the Toon at Old Trafford, but Chelsea still looked comfortable, Eden Hazard not getting as much room as he has had this season, but the Blues were still in control. ‘…for 60 minutes we played our football’, said Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri. ‘Then after it was 1-1 we didn’t play our football, only long balls and we didn’t win the second balls. In this type of football United are better.’

And in and around the time United got their equaliser, they had started to look like the better side, a sustained spell of pressure arrived, Chelsea goalie Kepa had to parry away an attempt from Juan Mata seconds before Anthony Martial found the net. Then United were on top, Chelsea, as Sarri said, took their foot off the gas, even though David Luiz headed an attempt wide and Ngolo Kante forced a fine save from David de Gea.

Paul Pogba had taken control of the game, Mata was getting the freedom to roam, with Hazard and Jorginho’s influences for Chelsea subdued, and when Martial rifled home his second left, the goal seemed inevitable, and from there on it looked like there would be only one winner. Chelsea looked shorn of ideas, the passes were no longer coming off, and a first defeat at home to United since 2013 looked on the cards.

But at the last minute, something would come. With the clock running, the time for patient build-up had passed, and the Blues had to go for it, and after Luiz hit the bar with a header and De Gea saved the rebound from Rudiger, Ross Barkley popped up with the leveller in the final minute of stoppage time. ‘I’m really pleased with everything apart from the result, which is an awful result for us’, said Mourinho.

Mourinho was also at the heart of some handbags right after Barkley equalised, with one of Sarri’s assistants, Marco Ianni, celebrating the goal right in front of the United gaffer, in what seemed like a taunt. ‘…I’m not annoyed with anything’ replied Mourinho when asked about it. ‘What happened was with Sarri’s assistant and Sarri was the first one to come to me to say he would resolve the problem internally with him and, after that, his assistant came to me in Sarri’s office to apologise to me.’

Mourinho said he accepted Ianni’s apology, but most importantly, there’s a level of acceptance to United’s performances of late. There’s still enough room for improvement, but the Red Devils’ new-found knack for responding to adversity should be taken seriously.

  • Terriers show fight even if win and goals remain elusive

Another home game, another scoreless outing for Huddersfield, who haven’t celebrated a goal at their own ground since April. But unlike most performances in that time, here at home to Liverpool, the Terriers played with intent and intensity, and were very unlucky to lose to the Reds. ‘We don’t have luck,’ said manager David Wagner, and it’s hard to argue with that, on the evidence of this game, where they had more than 10 shots, but one on target, would feel they should have gotten a penalty, and also struck the post via skipper Jonathan Hogg.

‘The most important thing is that the group is mentally strong, they have shown today they are tight and that they have the willingness and desire to perform in a Huddersfield Town kit’, added Wagner, who as well as midfielder Alex Pritchard, has expressed belief that the wins will come. If they keep this up, it’s surely just a matter of time.

As for Liverpool, it was another unconvincing display, as Jurgen Klopp himself noted, but Mohammed Salah’s goal keeps them level on points with leaders Manchester City.

Elsewhere:

  • Speaking of Manchester City, the champions weren’t at their sparkling best, by their lofty standards, but still went on to put five past Burnley. City have a goal difference margin of 10 more than any other side at the moment, and there was also another moment of joy in seeing Kevin de Bruyne back in action.
  • Cardiff are finally up and running, as Neil Warnock’s side came from behind at home to beat Fulham, scoring four goals in a single game for the first time in Premier League history. As for Fulham, another defensively slapdash day sees them drop into the bottom three. If they keep conceding at this rate, they’ll end up shipping 103 goals.
  • Still at the bottom, Newcastle have dropped to the foot of the table, after losing to Brighton, a fifth successive home loss. There were boos again at fulltime, most of which were probably directed towards Mike Ashley, but surely Rafa Benitez has to start coming under pressure for losing some winnable games on home soil.
  • It was a trip back down to earth for Wolves, who were victims of Watford’s quickfire form, conceding twice in 58 seconds, for a first home defeat of the season.
  • Another game, another narrow win for Spurs, who 1-0’d their way victory again, this time at West Ham. Mauricio Pochettino’s side remain far from convincing, but are still only two points from the top.

Results

Huddersfield 0-1 Liverpool

Bournemouth 0-0 Southampton

West Ham 0-1 Tottenham

Cardiff 4-2 Fulham

Chelsea 2-2 Manchester United

Newcastle 0-1 Brighton

Wolves 0-2 Watford

Manchester City 5-0 Burnley

Everton 2-0 Crystal Palace

Monday Night Football: Arsenal v Leicester

Published in International Watch

Time will never not keep making fools of us. A year ago, a meeting between Chelsea and Liverpool had very different headlines; the champions against a Reds side who are soft-centred and increasingly vulnerable at the back, a game between Antonio Conte’s Blues who rose to every adversity and Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side who didn’t look like they could compete on two fronts. When the season began, this fixture, still some two months away back then, was seen as a Chelsea side who’d take an enormous amount of time to achieve cohesion and buy into Maurizio Sarri’s philosophy against a Liverpool team who are Champions League finalists and now look the most furnished to challenge league champions Manchester City.

It’s still mostly seen as the latter, but Chelsea beginning the season in much more upbeat fashion than many thought makes it look like both sides are closer than initially assumed. Not that Sarri is among those who think so. ‘They (Liverpool) are a step ahead of us at the moment’ said the Italian manager. ‘We have started to work all together only about 40 days ago, less 10 for the international break, so for us it’s a bit early. We have to work then, maybe, in one year we will be at the same level as Liverpool’.

Chelsea began the season with five league wins from five, then preceded to play out a goalless draw at West Ham in their sixth, in a game that serves a timely reminder that the Blues are far from fully acclimatised to Sarri-ball. ‘We need to move the ball quicker, I think’ Sarri added. ‘We need more improvement without the ball. We are improving in the defensive phase. In the last two or three matches we’ve done very well. But we have to improve in the offensive phase, especially in this kind of match’.

And the Italian is not wrong on the Blues having to improve on the offensive and defensive fronts. Liverpool are increasingly becoming a balanced side, offensively formidable and defensively resolute, which means Chelsea have to set up an unlockable defence and find a key up front. Eden Hazard has shown he could be that key, the Belgian skipper who seems to be enjoying life under Sarri, and whose moment of individual audacity decided events when both teams met in the League Cup on Wednesday.

That game may be likely to be taken in sequestration, as League Cup fixtures generally are, but it should do no harm to Chelsea’s confidence as they host the would-be champions this Saturday. Chelsea are still as a bit of underdogs in this game, but the Blues have always seemed to love being in unfancied positions, and coming up with the goods.

For the acclimatisation that the Blues still have to do, for all the general consensus about Liverpool being a cut above the Blues, a win at Stamford Bridge this weekend and the Blues go above them, and have a chance of starting October as the country’s top side. It’s always being parlous to write them off.

Elsewhere:

  • Newcastle know they can ill-afford another result that’s not a win, especially at home. Rafa Benitez’s Toon Army host Leicester this weekend, and there’s the fear of whether the Spaniard’s demeanour over players is rubbing off on the squad. Another defeat, and the questions won’t go away.
  • A win at Everton, a clean sheet against Chelsea, West Ham are starting to look an actual team, with a plan. But whatever progress they’ve made will be tested this weekend when they host Manchester United. United are not in the most bubbly mood themselves, with potential civil war and mutiny probably making it the right time to face the Red Devils.
  • Cardiff remain winless, and the Bluebirds still seek lift-off. They host Burnley this weekend, who, for all their overachievement last season and them getting their first win last weekend, are the kind of opponents whom a win against won’t be too fanciful.

Fixtures

West Ham v Manchester United

Arsenal v Watford

Cardiff v Burnley

Everton v Fulham

Chelsea v Liverpool

Huddersfield v Tottenham

Manchester City v Brighton

Newcastle v Leicester

Wolves v Southampton

Bournemouth v Crystal Palace

Published in International Watch

Eden Hazard is on the level of Pele and Maradona

Thursday, 27 September 2018 10:22

Carragher believes only the greats of the game could score the goal Hazard scored last night and that the Belgian is the best player in EPL

Eden Hazard has been in sterling form this season, and last night was decisive – as he came off the bench to score the winning goal in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool.

The strength shown by the Belgian en-route to scoring the winning goal earned him praise and a comparison with two of the greatest of the game from Jamie Carragher.

The 40-year-old who believes Hazard is the best player in the Premier League told Skysports that all the greats of the game have the power shown by Hazard yesterday.

The former Liverpool defender said, “Think of the Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola and you can even go back to Diego Maradona and Pele.

“They can’t be bullied in football. Even though they are great players you think how do you stop them? You can’t knock them off the ball and he has got strength in the legs and the backside.

“I said on commentary that he is the best player in the Premier League. It’s not because he scored that goal, I believe it.

 

“I think he should have been named the best player at the World Cup.

Published in International Watch

Messi is the greatest player ever, no controversy over that, says Mikel Obi

The Super Eagles skipper has is takes on the unending debate of the better player between Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, as he believes the Barcelona man is better than Ronaldo.

The duo of Messi and Ronaldo have dominated the most covets football individual awards between them for the last ten years.

With Mikel having faced the two in the past, the former Chelsea when asked about the better player in an interview with Sportsvillagesquare.com, he said Messi was not only better than Ronaldo but the greatest man to ever play football.

He said, “There is no controversy. Mikel is the greatest player to ever played football.

“Across many competitions, I have been on the same pitch with him. I, therefore, know what I am saying.”

The Tianjin Teda of China captain, who played in England for over 10 years also revealed he planned of a return back to the English Premier League.

Though he noted he was enjoying his time in the Chinese Super League, Mikel said he would fancy a return to the English League.

“I will like to retire back in the Premier League in a few years’ time, but we will see what comes.”

“Time will tell, I am enjoying my time in China. It is a great country to live and work and I want to continue playing for another four to five years,” Mikel added.

 

Published in Awa Football

Jorginho is key, Hazard might end up playing as a false 9, says Higginbotham 

Former Manchester United youth player John Higginbotham has said Chlesea new boy, Jorginho was the brainbox behind the idea Sarri is implementing at Chelsea.

The £57million summer acquisition has been impressive since he joined from Napoli – scoring in his first competitive match, started the build-up that led to Chelsea’s first goal against Arsenal last Saturday.

Higginbotham, who also played for Derby, Southampton, amongst hosts of others English clubs claimed Jorginho ‘is now Chelsea’s heartbeat.’

“Jorginho is the man that makes Sarri-ball tick,” he told Skysport. “Because he has played under Sarri before at Napoli – and I’m not saying he’ll become the om-pitch manager- he can help the players adjust to the way Sarri wants to play.

“He’s the heartbeat of the team now, as he was eventually at Napoli, with everything going through him.

“He has strong runners strong runners either side of him, which creates space for him, and he’ll be that deep-lying playmaker and will be expected to be that shield too.”

While Higginbotham maintained that Jorginho was the key man for the implementation of Sarri-ball, he identified Hazard as another marquee player for the former Napoli manager.

The 39-year-old said there was a chance for Hazard taking up the No.9 role under Sarri.

“I think Eden Hazard could end up playing as a No 9, having seen what Sarri did at Napoli Dries Mertens.

“I think he’ll end up playing as a false 9, possibly with Pedro and Willian,” Higginbotham added.

 

 

 

 

Published in International Watch

It’s quite apt to say Chelsea and Arsenal are still at the adaption stage of their different managers’ philosophies at the club, and ‘different’, in this case refers more to the identity of the managers in charge, and less to the philosophies both gaffers are trying to espouse in the English Capital. On evidence of the first weekend of the season, both managers seem attentive on a style of play that requires building from the back, getting comfortable on the ball, using the goalkeeper as an eleventh outfield player, a system which, despite yielding different results at the start, will take some getting used to.

Arsenal began with a chastening defeat at home to champions Manchester City last Sunday, and were just about given a first-class lesson on the difference between pedestrian possession and purposeful penetration, the latter of which is the level Unai Emery aspires to get to. The Gunners were palpably uncomfortable in attempting to bring Emery’s gameplan to fruition, an initial awkwardness that nearly yielded a comical own goal from goalkeeper Petr Cech, was the source of ire to Sam Allardyce, and led to an online… for a lack of better word, spat, between Cech and new Arsenal goalkeeper Bernd Leno’s former club Bayer Leverkusen.

Chelsea’s initial result was rather different, the Blues recording an ultimately comfortable win at Huddersfield on the opening Saturday of the season. But it didn’t fail to mask the unease that still lies with the side as they try to come to terms with Maurizio Sarri’s style of play. There were more than a few awkward moments, on and off the ball, not least at the back, despite the eventual scoreline, and you sense a more incisive side than the Terriers would cause the fallen champions more problems. But their immediate task is a home game against Arsenal, a side in a similar mode of adjustment.

So, this might be the perfect time for both London clubs to go head-to-head, which they’ll do on Saturday, a clash of the least-fancied of the top six teams this season, both sides who might possess similar traits of weakness, yet whose flaws probably won’t be capitalised on, as both have teething problems.

Whatever happens at Stamford Bridge probably wouldn’t set the tone for both their seasons, there will be sterner tests from much more settled sides; this is a game between two teams in need of time.

Elsewhere

  • The outlook on Manchester City might well have changed after this week’s developments, with Kevin de Bruyne now ruled out for up to three months with a knee injury. They coped well without the Belgian for most of last week’s win at Arsenal, and are unlikely to face problems at home to Huddersfield- even though the Terriers held them to a draw at the Etihad less than three months ago-, but how this setback affects their run-in will be interesting to watch.
  • The last time Manchester United went to Brighton, the Seagulls celebrated a win that ultimately sealed their place in this season’s top-flight, Jose Mourinho was grumpy and bemoaned how his squad deputies failed to perform on the night. Less than three months on, Mourinho is still grumpy, and the squad deputies haven’t been cut much slack. For Brighton, meanwhile, they seek to recover after that tame opening day loss at Watford.
  • Speaking of seeking a recovery, Cardiff and Newcastle meet in South Wales, after both sides suffered defeat in their first games. The last time Neil Warnock and Rafa Benitez had any semblance of Premier League ‘business’ that involved both parties, Benitez was accused of fielding a weakened side in Liverpool’s loss to Fulham, one of the relegation rivals of Sheffield United- managed then by Warnock, back in 2007.
  • Tottenham haven’t had the best start to the season. The lack of transfer activity, Mauricio Pochettino pointing a finger at Brexit for that, and then the delays with their new ground. A win on the opening day at Newcastle did well to mask the first one, another victory, as Fulham come to Wembley, to mask the second will do nicely.

Fixtures

Chelsea v Arsenal

Cardiff v Newcastle

Brighton v Manchester United

Crystal Palace v Liverpool

West Ham v Bournemouth

Tottenham v Fulham

Manchester City v Huddersfield

Everton v Southampton

Burnley v Watford

Leicester v Wolves

Published in International Watch

 

 The Roman Abramovich London series: Season 16 (Sarri-Ball), Episode Three (Sarri-ball welcomes Arsenal).

It’s been quite a ride, Chelsea and Abramovich; the ups and downs, the heartbreaks and the heart-warming moments, the Andriy Shevchenko and the Didier Drogba, and a lot of mails that say ‘you’re fired’ (we assume). The Russian’s ownership of the club has torn through 10 managers (yes, including Avram Grant), and Maurizio Sarri is the 11th at the helm. And this weekend, Sarri and his Sarri-ball, still at its infancy stage at Stamford Bridge, welcome Arsenal to SW6, his third game of the season (if you include the Community Shield).

So, because we here have nothing better to do, we take a look at the past 10 managers of the Blues and their first (league) games against the Gunners:

Note: This is the first game of Chelsea’s managers against Arsenal, not the first game of their managerial tenures at the Bridge, hence Jose Mourinho circa 2013 and Guus Hiddink circa 2016 won’t be included.

Claudio Ranieri- Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea (January 2001)

Claudio Ranieri was appointed as Chelsea manager on the 18th of September 2000, 12 days after Chelsea’s first meeting with Arsenal that season, when the Blues conceded twice in the final 14 minutes to throw away a two-goal lead. Hence, the Tinkerman’s first game for the Blues against Arsenal was in January of the following year, when Robert Pires gave the Gunners the perfect start at Highbury, with a goal inside three minutes. But Chelsea roared back to leave with a point, thanks to an equaliser from John Terry just past the hour mark. One-all it finished, and Chelsea finished the season in sixth place, earning a then-commendable UEFA Cup spot.

Jose Mourinho- Arsenal 2-2 Chelsea (December 2004)

Ranieri didn’t last long under Emperor Roman, just one season and the Italian was binned. In came a young Jose Mourinho, fresh from running the length of the Old Trafford sidelines, as well as winning the Champions League with Porto. His first game against the Gunners also came at Highbury, in December of 2004, when the league leaders visited the champions. Arsenal wasted little time in flying out of the blocks, Thierry Henry with an immaculate control and finish, past a standing Petr Cech, to give the Gunners an early lead. Chelsea didn’t take long to respond, though, John Terry again, his header from Arjen Robben’s corner restoring parity, but Arsenal would go into the break ahead, Henry with a quick free-kick that caught Cech and Chelsea out. Again, the Blues would hit back, early in the second half, through Eidur Gudjohnsen. Chances and attempts weren’t non-existent afterwards, Robben struck the side-netting after a mazy run, while Henry skied a shot over, eight yards from a gaping goal, but it would finish level, Chelsea steamrollering their way to the league title with 95 points, 12 ahead of the Gunners in second place.

Avram Grant- Arsenal 1-0 Chelsea (December 2007)

Mourinho too would be gone, by September of 2007, with Avram Grant quite inexplicably put in charge until the end of the season. Grant’s first game against the Gunners would come at the Emirates three months later, a game which was decided by a header from former Chelsea defender and then-Arsenal skipper William Gallas on the stroke of halftime, thanks in no small part to an error from Petr Cech. Arsenal spent most of the embers of the second period passing up chances to kill off the game, but held out for the win which kept them as pacesetters in the league then. Chelsea would eventually finish above them, but both had to settle for a spot below champions Manchester United.

Luis Felipe Scolari- Chelsea 1-2 Arsenal (December 2008)

Just about a year later, Chelsea’s newest manager, World Cup winner Luis Felipe Scolari, was to come face-to-face with Arsenal for the first time. Up until a month earlier, Chelsea had a record of been unbeaten at home in the league for four years, a run that spanned 86 games, and was ended by Liverpool. Chelsea made the breakthrough against the Gunners, Johan Djourou unfortunate enough to score an own goal, but a double from Robin van Persie ensured an Arsenal turnaround and Arsene Wenger’s side left with all three points. For Scolari, that was his only meeting with the Gunners as Chelsea boss, the Brazilian got his p45 in February of the following year.

Guus Hiddink- Arsenal 1-4 Chelsea (May 2009)

Dutchman Hiddink was Scolari’s replacement at the Bridge, juggling his responsibilities with the Russian national team alongside his temporary role at Chelsea. Hiddink had met, and beaten, Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final less than a month before their league meeting at the Emirates. In what was Arsenal’s last chance to have a shot at third place that season, Chelsea entered the break with a two-goal lead, a header from Alex and a pile-driver from Nicolas Anelka giving them a margin for error. Two became three in the second half, Kolo Toure turning Florent Malouda’s cross into his own net, while Malouda himself would add a fourth, either side of Nicklas Bendtner grabbing a goal back for the Gunners.

Carlo Ancelotti- Arsenal 0-3 Chelsea (November 2009)

It was the last day of November in 2009, and the first game against Arsenal as Chelsea boss for Carlo Ancelotti, who took his league leaders to the Emirates. In what had become archetypal of this fixture at that time, despite Arsenal having dominated proceedings and getting the lion’s share of possession, it was Chelsea who’d take the lead, Didier Drogba turning home Ashley Cole’s cross. Chelsea doubled that advantage soon after, another Cole cross, this time it was Thomas Vermaelen who diverted the ball into his own goal, before Drogba added the gloss on the scoreline with a superb free-kick after halftime, as the eventual champions of that season strolled to a comfortable victory.

Andre Villas-Boas- Chelsea 3-5 Arsenal (October 2011)

Ancelotti also headed for the door marked ‘Do One’ soon enough, and like in 2004, an Italian was replaced by a young Portuguese coming off the back of European success. Andre Villas-Boas was the new man at the Bridge then, and less than three months into the new league season, the 33-year-old gaffer was playing host to Arsenal in the league. The Gunners had started to pick themselves up at that point after a rotten start, winning two league games in a row, after achieving that same number of wins in their previous seven games, the most notable of those an 8-2 thrashing at Old Trafford. Chelsea, meanwhile, hit a reef of their own, coming into this game off the back a defeat to West London rivals Queens Park Rangers, but got on the front foot early on here, and took a deserved lead through the head of Frank Lampard. Arsenal responded soon after through Robin van Persie, but Chelsea would go into the break in front, John Terry bundling home a Lampard corner. Arsenal responded again, in the second half, via Andre Santos, before Theo Walcott put the Gunners in front, then Juan Mata dragged the scoreline to 3-3 with 10 minutes left. Chelsea sensed a win, but an over-hit pass from Florent Malouda and a slip by Terry let in Van Persie, who rounded Petr Cech and rolled the ball into an unguarded net. Van Persie would complete his hatrick in stoppage time, for a 5-3 win, that marked the beginning of the end at Chelsea for AVB, who would be sacked in March.

Roberto Di Matteo- Arsenal 0-0 Chelsea (April 2012)

AVB’s assistant at the start of the season, Di Matteo took temporary charge after the Portuguese was binned, and the Italian’s highlights included that stunning second leg comeback in last 16 of the UEFA Champions League against Napoli, that famous 2-2 draw in the semi-final second leg against Barcelona, and of course the triumph in the Champions League final against Bayern Munich in their opponents’ own stadium. But his first game as Chelsea boss against Arsenal is one that lives in the memory of few. In fact, the only thing Spotkick can recall from this game was that Robin van Persie was booked for a foul on Michael Essien. That’s enough about that.

Rafael Benitez- Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal (January 2013)

Di Matteo would be given the Chelsea job on a permanent basis after his triumph in Munich, and if that was a ploy for the manager to be sacked, it worked out perfectly, as the former Chelsea midfielder was gone by November. In came, much to ire of Blues fans, Rafa Benitez, until the end of the season. Less than two months in, on a pouring afternoon at Stamford Bridge, Benitez faced Arsenal. Goals from Juan Mata and Frank Lampard- from the spot- gave the Blues a 2-0 halftime lead, and despite Theo Walcott pulling one back for the Gunners after the interval, Chelsea held out for the win, on their way to finishing the season in third, one place and two points above Arsenal.

Antonio Conte- Arsenal 3-0 Chelsea (September 2016)

Two months into the new Premier League season, and it had begun to look uncomfortable for Antonio Conte at Chelsea, a draw at Swansea was followed up by a defeat at home to Liverpool. Next up, a trip to the Emirates. Conte’s first game against the Gunners had just about the worst first half you could think of, Gary Cahill’s error letting in Alexis Sanchez, who dinked one Thibaut Courtois and gave Arsenal the lead; then Walcott added a quick-fire second minutes after. Mesut Ozil added a third, just before halftime. In the second half, Conte reverted to a back-three, and Chelsea didn’t concede in the league again until late November, and went on a run of 13 straight wins, on their way to the title; so in hindsight, that first-half hammering was a good thing.

Published in International Watch

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