March 25, 2014

Arsenal showing how to lose a title race

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

It was an embarrassing game for visitors at Stamford Bridge on Saturday morning.

Arsene Wenger’s crew has been leading a master class on how to blow a title race since January and this lopsided loss to London rival Chelsea may just be the nadir.

This collapse started months ago, when the Gunners refused to buy reinforcements in the transfer window, winding up with just Kim Kallstrom, a 31-year-old midfielder who is injured and won’t ever play a game for the team.

It was all downhill from there as the team kept on dropping points, the cracks showing in its armour almost on a weekly basis.

This game was about as much a train wreck as it could have got. Many will point to the fact that the Gunners were down to 10 men just 15 minutes into the game, but that would be overlooking the fact that the Blues were already up 2-0.

But now, about that red card: It was one of the most bewildering things I’ve seen in soccer in a long time.

I’m not sure what Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was doing in the first place, sticking his hand out to deflect a shot wide of the gaping net. Surely he knew that every one of the 40,000+ in attendance would see this blatant handball, right?

So, the Ox was sent off right? Wrong.

Referee Andre Marriner instead sent off fullback Keiran Gibbs, who wasn’t involved in the play at all. A little bit of mistaken identity, if you must. Sure, Gibbs and Oxlade-Chamberlain do look a little similar, but this is something that simply can’t happen in the modern game.

Well, it was all downhill for Arsenal after that colossal mistake.

The final tally: 6-0. One of the worst beatings this season in the Premier League on a day with a lot of them.

Chelsea tore apart Arsenal, over-run in the midfielder thanks to Jose Mourinho’s brilliant tactics. Wenger had no counter, failing to even solidify the back and go into a shell to keep the score down – goal differential does count, you know.

You would think that in his 1,000th game as manager of Arsenal, Wenger would have something planned, like, you know, any sort of strategy.

But instead of celebrating his massive milestone, all the talk is if this is it for the aging Frenchman.


Chelsea wasn’t the only title contenders able to score seemingly at will on the weekend. Manchester City scored five against lowly Fulham while Liverpool hit six against Cardiff City.

Each team had a hat trick scorer – Yaya Toure for City, Luis Suarez for the Reds – and showed their true claims to the title.

You always knew that the Sky Blues would have a field day against the relegation-bound Cottagers. The real question was how long the stars would play them with the Manchester derby on Tuesday.

Well, it got out of hand quickly and we even saw Jack Rodwell come onto the pitch as a sub – that should tell you enough about how this game went.

As for the Reds, it doesn’t seem to matter that their defence allowed three goals to the weak Bluebirds, because if you score six, you’ll always get three points.

It seems that even their central defenders are offensively gifted, with Martin Skrtel picking up a brace.

Liverpool’s title chances really come down to two games only: When Chelsea and City come to visit Anfield. It’s pretty hard to believe that a team with this type of strike force will have any problem with the other sides in its schedule.


It looks like Tottenham and Everton were keen to keep up for their spots in next season’s Europa League. Each won to build their lead over seventh-placed Manchester United – more on it later. Everton sits at 54 points with two games in hand while Spurs is on 56. United, at 51, looks like it might not have to even worry about Europe’s second-tier trophy next season … Crystal Palace is in desperate need of goals if it wants to avoid the drop. Tony Pulis’ side has scored a measly 19 all season with just six on the road. But I guess when Marouane Chamakh is your top scorer, this sort of incompetence is to be expected … How can Aston Villa go from beating Chelsea last week to losing to Stoke City this week in historical fashion? Stoke – for the first time in their Premier League history – scored four goals on the road.


Sure, there’s little chance it could actually happen, but how spectacular would it be if Luis Suarez somehow put up a 100-point gameweek?

He has another game to go on Wednesday against lowly Sunderland and already has 40 points if you made him captain – which was the likely choice this week.

Sure, he would probably need five goals, but that’s not really too far out of the question, is it?


David Moyes should thank his lucky stars that he was able to hold on to Wayne Rooney.

The future Manchester United captain scored two lucky goals to beat West Ham on Saturday, when the Hammers actually looked the better side for most of the contest.

Rooney’s audacious chip from midfield was terribly misplayed by West Ham keep Adrian and the second goal was an awful clearance, pounded across goal right at the striker. Many have to be wondering if Moyes would still have his job if he wasn’t a Scotsman and didn’t have Sir Alex’s seal of approval.

Had the Red Devils gone with someone like AVB, that gaffer would likely be out by now for languishing in seventh place with a squad this talented and expensive.

And as for United fans feeling it has all turned around after advancing in Champions League and winning at Boleyn Ground, just remember that the Manchester Derby is today and it won’t be pretty.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

Leave a Reply