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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Terry refuses to buckle as Drogba takes Arsenal apart once more

IT took just seven minutes of Chelsea's 2-0 win over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge today for John Terry to prove the point I've been making all week. Under incredible pressure, the axed England captain can produce the goods on the field. It matters not that he is the subject of continuing media speculation, that he gets booed at every touch, that he has been publicly humiliated this week.
At Chelsea today, it was his towering header over Arsenal's otherwise impressive Alex Song which set up the opening goal for Didier Drogba, the Ivory Coast striker who loves to score against the Gunners.
That's why Fabio Capello's decision to axe Terry before the World Cup is flawed. Okay, we all understand the reasons for it - the relationship with Wayne Bridge's former partner was always going to be a problem - and the Italian has proved he is omnipotent in the England camp.
But you won't find a better man than Terry to lead the World Cup campaign this summer. His morals can be questioned and even on £150,000 a week his bank balance may be under pressure, but the man is a mountain on the field.
So too is Drogba of course. He scored his second after 22 minutes when Frank Lampard set him free on the breakaway. The Drog had plenty of work to do from there, but he went past two and smashed it in with his left foot. 2-0. End of story. There was once a time when a man called Nwanko Kanu from Nigeria scored a hat-trick to help Arsenal to a 3-2 win over the Blues in October 1999.
But Chelsea haven't thrown away a 2-0 lead since then and certainly these Blues didn't let it slip.
Expensively constructed, well led by Carlo Ancelotti (who has stuck by Terry), they will remain Manchester United's only true rivals for Premier League supremacy.
And Arsenal, despite having most of the possession in the second half, revert to their customary position under the miserly Arsene Wenger. Well run, economically put together, but not real contenders.
Five years without silverware will soon become six. Third place may be defended despite pressure from Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa.
But for Arsenal fans, these last two Sundays, featuring emphatic defeats at the hands of United and Chelsea, have been hard to swallow. Sure, today was better than the 3-1 defeat at home to Sir Alex Ferguson last week, but how many times must we sit hear saying: "Arsenal were the better side but they didn't win, they don't have the firepower."
Without a genuine striker or a world class goalkeeper, Wenger continues to stick to his spending plans, if spending nothing can be called a plan.
And he does well to keep them in the Champions League shake-up year after year with players like the ineffective Denilson, dropped today, playing a major role.
But there will come a time when Arsenal fans want more. When they want something in the trophy cabinet. Much like England fans really.
And whatever you might think of John Terry's personal life, did you see him make a mistake at the back today?

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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Out-powered. Out-classed. For Arsenal, the war is over

SO that's it for another season, Gooners. The Premier League trophy will have to wait for yet another year. After Arsenal 0, Chelsea 3 today, the Blues are 11 points clear of their north London rivals. And that gap is not going to narrow on the evidence of yesterday's showdown.
As Jamie Redknapp said: "Out-powered, out-classed. Chelsea were on another level to Arsenal."
He's right of course. I saw Nigel Winterburn yesterday trying to think of Arsenal players who would get in the Chelsea team. Eduardo and Andrei Arshavin wouldn't have a hope against Didier Drogba, who scored two yesterday, and former Gunner Nicolas Anelka, who simply cut his old side apart. The injured Robin van Persie is hardly in that class either.
Winterburn suggested Thomas Vermaelen, who contributed an own goal yesterday, but given the dominance of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, I can't see a place for the Verminator either.
And in the middle of the park, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard, Michael Ballack and Co are hardly going to be threatened by lightweights like Alex Song, taken off at half-time, and Denilson. Men against boys.
Typically, Arsenal played their pretty football. But despite the imploring Emirates crowd, the shots never came. In front of goal, the loss of Emmanuel Adebayor remains glaring. Wenger's moth-filled wallet should have creaked open for a new striker when the Togo international went to Manchester City, but it never happened.
And the one real chance, where Arshavin scored at 2-0 down in the second half, was righly ruled out for Eduardo's high foot, which took the ball out of Petr Cech's hands.
Drogba, who now boasts ten goals in nine games against Arsenal, said: "I like to play against them. They used to be the team everyone in France supported. I really like a win like this. I was pointing at my right boot as I came off to show the red laces, my part in the campaign against AIDS.
"Last season we showed we could be champions but we lost a lot of points at home. This season, we don't give the opposition any chances. We have more confidence, it's easier."
John Terry said: "Once again, we soaked it up. Going forward, we were exceptional. Our midfielders were going through the middle of them. We have to stay together now. You can see people throwing their bodies in front of balls. Fighting for eachother."
Carlo Ancelotti certainly seems to have his team playing for eachother, a trick Jose Mourinho managed but Avram Grant, Phil Scolari and Guus Hiddink couldn't quite match.
Ancelotti, five points clear at the top, said: "Today in defence we were fantastic. Offensively we could do better, sometimes we lost the ball. We have to stay at the training ground."
Sure, Manchester United shrugged off Portsmouth yesterday with a Wayne Rooney hat-trick - and didn't Ryan Giggs do well - but Chelsea are different gravy.
Of more imporance in north London? Fourth place. Spurs are third at the moment at look like they might stay there after their 1-1 draw against Aston Villa. Fifth-placed Liverpool saw off Everton 2-0 to win the Merseyside derby and start putting pressure on Arsenal.
And Wenger has to accept, as the seats at the Emirates emptied long before the finish, Arsenal fans fear years of under-investment could finally see the Gunners slip out of the top four.
Wenger, whose pledge to end the five-year trophy drought is looking a little hollow, said: "The first part of the game was all us. Their first shot of the game went in. We find ourselves 2-0 down at half-time and it's difficult. We were very unfortunate to be like that a half-time.
"I watched the decision on the goal we scored five times, I still don't understand it. It was their player who had a foot up (as he said that, the television replay showed Eduardo kicking the ball out of Petr Cech's hands before Arshavin's fine finish). We had plenty opportunites where, with a better first touch and more belief, we could score.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of. It all went Chelsea's way today. I was not specially impressed with what happened on the pitch but they took their chances well. We're not in the title race right now but it's up to us to come back into it."
And Arsenal fans everywhere held their head in their hands.

Labels: arsenal lose, chelsea win, , nicolas anelka, premier league title