Nemesis, brute force, men against boys, battering, strength. Is it just me or are you as sick as I am of these words while watching Sky’s coverage of the Chelsea – Arsenal match last Sunday?
Those who missed out on watching the match at The Bridge or on the telly and just heard the coverage later would have thought that one team tried to play all the nice stuff while a bunch of dirty bullies kicked their way to victory. Despite the best efforts of Jamie Redknapp and Graeme Souness who managed to get a few good points across, both Richard Keys and Andy Gray did their best to stick to their pre-prepared script that Chelsea bullied Arsenal out of three points.
Gray and Keys have been doing this job for eighteen years now and bloody hell it shows. Not in that they are better at it than when they first started out but because they have been saying the same things for the past ten years at least. I sometimes think that their post match comments are reruns from games we watched in previous years.
On Sunday Chelsea beat Arsenal because of four reasons which are: 1. We have a better goalkeeper than Arsenal, 2. We have a better defence, 3. We have a better midfield, 4. We have a better attack. Which boils down to Chelsea having better players and a better team than Arsenal. Full stop. Any other words uttered on the matter are a waste of time, spouted by the biased or by those who know nothing about the realities of football.
As a final resort, some pro-Wenger apologists said that the outcome would have been different had Cesc Fabregas been playing, conveniently forgetting that Fabregas has been on the wrong end of many a stuffing, both home and away, when Chelsea have played Arsenal in the last five years.
Make no mistake about it, Andy Gray and Richard Keys have the best jobs in the world. Keys sits there asking the same questions he has done for the last ten years and Gray spouts the same old drivel, as he has done for the last ten years. And both get paid loads of money for doing so. As for their pro-Arsenal, anti- Chelsea bias, it just makes me switch channel as soon as their ugly faces hit the screen.
One last word about Sunday’s match. Many of the newspapers came up with the quote from Arsene Wenger that his team had Chelsea on the ropes. Either Wenger is not a boxing fan or else his senility is affecting his judgment as well as his eyesight. Those old enough to remember the Rumble in the Jungle (Ali – Foreman, Kinsasha, Zaire 1974, heck, it just occurred to me that it’s such a long time ago that it isn’t even called Zaire any more) will remember what happens when you have an opponent on the ropes and fail to land the killer blow. You end up getting knocked out yourself. So for all of Wenger’s pride at having a top team on the ropes for some periods of the game, a look back at history will quickly dampen his enthusiasm for his team’s periods of ascendancy during a game.
Having got that off my chest, I must move on to more positive stuff now. I have regularly used this column to have a go at Jon Mikel Obi. While I do not take back what I have written about him in the past it is only fair that I use the same medium to state that this season he has been Chelsea’s best player in the ten matches we have played so far. My main gripe, or two of them actually, about him were the tens of needless fouls he used to give away on the edge of our penalty area and the fact that whenever the ball went to him he inevitably slowed the game down, giving the opposition those extra couple of seconds to get men behind the ball. At this point I ask you to note that I have used the past tense because this season he has been a revelation.
I do not recall one single foul he has given away when he didn’t have to, his positional sense has improved no end and his ability to get himself out of tight situations and play himself out of trouble rivals that of the most skillful players in the team. At the risk of making a fool of myself, I will state what has been crossing my mind over the past few weeks – we have at last found a worthy replacement for the great Claude Makalele. I am still whispering it at the moment but I am sure that come Christmas we can go ahead and shout it out loud from the rooftops.
One last word about another midfielder who stood out last Sunday – Ramires. He got plenty of stick after the Man City game for being overpowered by Gareth Barry, Nigel De Jong and Kolo Toure. But after last Sunday’s game we got a good idea about why Carlo Ancelotti spent 18 million pounds of Roman’s money on Ramires. He really is a box to box player mixing his innate Brazilian skills with endless amounts of energy. Against Arsenal he showed that he can hold his own in what is the battle in midfield in a Premiership game.
The final analysis two months into the season is so far so good. Apart from the Newcastle defeat it has matched our expectations with the added bonus of playing the most attractive and effective football in the Premiership by a mile. Eat your heart out Arsene.