I’m sure I have a vague memory of some football being played in the Millennium Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
As I recall, the game was between Arsenal and Chelsea – in the Cup Final, I believe. As far as I can remember, Arsenal played brilliantly in the first half but Chelsea ran out winners in the end. At least, that’s what I thought had happened – because 5 days later it seems that there was, in fact, no football on Sunday – just a great big, disgusting, shameful, brawl.
As I left the stadium, the fracas that occurred in the last few minutes had almost been forgotten, with the actual match being the main talking point amongst most fans. However, on returning to the car and listening to 6-0-6, it turns out that the only incident that Alan Green thought worth talking about in the entire game was the “brawl”! And since then, the furore surrounding it has only gotten worse every day.
Its as if Emmanel Eboue and the rest have committed such atrocities that there is no punishment available that can be meted out to them which will quell the appetite of the press. Toure shoved Mikel. Lampard and Fabregas had a shoving match and Eboue pushed Bridge in the back. That’s all. No-one was killed, the game continued, everyone shook hands at the end. What is the problem?
The problem, quite clearly, is people like Alan Green – who has a massive vendetta against Arsenal, whether we’re successful or not. His level of ranting and self importance on Sunday was high, even for him. Every single call he took was about this one incident – he ranted on about what a great game the referee had, and deliberately cut off in mid-flow someone who phoned in to point out that the referee’s “great game” had involved sending off the wrong player and missing an offside goal!
Once I heard all this rubbish being talked on the radio, I forecast that it would blow up into something much bigger than it ought to and I was right. As a direct result of Alan Green and the rest of the media, this pathetic shoving match has gone from being “an unfortunate end to a superb cup final” to something more akin to a war crime. What on earth is going on?!
As far as I’m concerned, the players were all a bit wound up for whatever reason, they had a bit of a barney, a couple of them got sent off (rightly or wrongly) and that’s it. Isn’t it? Why the hell should the FA be looking at video evidence and charging the players if the referee has already dealt with the matter? I thought their rules stated that, if the referee has seen the incident and administered punishments, then there is nothing more they can do?
If the FA want something to look at on the video of this game, then why the hell don’t they spend some time worrying about Wayne Bridge’s reaction to being cuffed on the back of the head (looking up, screaming in agony, collapsing onto the ground and laying there for 3 minutes being tended to by the physio) ?
More importantly, why are they not making any noise whatsoever about charging Chelsea for the disgraceful behaviour of their fans for throwing objects onto the pitch when Arsenal players were taking corners? If the argument is that “it was only celery, and that can’t hurt anyone” (as was Alan “ha ha ha, wasn’t it funny” Green’s argument on Sunday) then I suppose that means that throwing things at players is OK as long as its not dangerous. It does seem a slightly strange policy though – “please do not throw objects of more than 1kg at the players during play”.
Nothing has been said about this since Sunday – all I’ve heard is about the potentially lengthy bans that the players involved are likely to get.
The trouble is, now that the media have made this into such a huge issue, the FA have no alternative but to act. Or at least, they do have an alternative – announce that the incident was dealt with by the referee and that there is nothing more they can do- but they are too spineless to use it.
So, once again, the media get to control the fallout, and once again, Arsenal suffer. The “Roles of Shame” are out and the talk of how many Arsenal players have been sent off under Arsene Wenger has begun. The media do not compile statistics about how many players have been sent off under the leadership of other managers. Just Arsene. How many players have been sent off under Mark Hughes or Chris Coleman? No idea. I really don’t like it when Arsene gets involved in these arguments about individual decisions but this time, he’s right. The linesman was wrong, and we are being badly victimised by these ridiculous, pointless charges.
The fact is that the Carling Cup Final of 2007 was a superb football match. Arsenal wiped the floor with Chelsea in the first half, but their finishing let them down and Chelsea took their one chance and the teams went in level. Things were more even in the second half, with some of the Arsenal youngsters looking tired as the game went on. The moment the game changed was when Diaby caught Terry in the face with a clearance. The players were all shocked by what happened, particularly Diaby who not only injured himself in the process but looked shaken by the whole affair and was substituted soon afterwards. Unfortunately for us, he was our best player, and my choice as man of the match – and without him we looked poor. Hleb is no replacement for such a powerful, influential player and, with Walcott and Denilson exhausted and Baptista and Senderos beginning to look useless, Drogba scored the winner.
Overall, I think we deserved at least a draw and maybe even a win against a very durable, but dull Chelsea side.
Chelsea – or “Bolton Gold” as I prefer to call them – have more money than Fat Sam’s lot which does buy them a bit more guile, class and strength in depth. But it fails to stop them resorting to precisely the same tactics that Bolton use week in, week out.
For Kevin Davies, read Didier Drogba, for Ivan Campo read Frank Lampard. The plan is simple – if you can, hoof it to Drogba. He will chuck himself at the centre back repeatedly in such a way as to get a decent percentage of free kicks for the team in central positions and at least give the ref something to think about when it comes to deciding whether or not the opposition are dirty or not. The rest of the team are tasked with continual niggling and diving, all the while ensuring that they are just about on the right side of the law in order to maximise the chances of winding up the opposition whilst also avoiding punishment. It is simply terrible to watch, and points to a complete lack of ambition and confidence on the part of Jose Mourinho. He has an almost bottomless pit of money behind him to build whichever type of football team he likes and he chooses to go for the lowest common denominator in order to allow him to play the percentages and grind out trophies. It works, of course, but surely Chelsea fans could have expected something a little more interesting to watch than that, given the Russian bank account they are all so proud to have access to?
People used to say Arsenal were boring under George Graham but, as my brother said after the game, “I’ve seen it from both sides now, and I know which one I prefer”.