Mignolet's bad kicking is the reason for Liverpool's success, whilst one man keep notes on F365 mails. Plus England excitement, Arteta and a bad Walsall experience...
There are some harsh words for Manchester City and Manuel Pellegrini in the Mailbox this morning, as well as some rather nicer ones for Tony Pulis and his magic hat...
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Conclusions From The Red Camp
1. Liverpool did not deserve anything more than they got. Throughout the first half, Chelsea dominated the game despite the expectation that Liverpool's midfield should have run the game. Lampard and Luiz were both quietly excellent whilst Allen, Henderson and particularly Lucas dithered on the ball and allowed Hazard and Willian especially to run the game. Another mistake from Skrtel was all it took for Chelsea to take advantage.
2. However, the second half was a more balanced affair, with Liverpool finally dominating possession but there was simply no incisive finish. Although the midfield finally got up and running, Glen Johnson was particularly guilty of stalling Liverpool's play and was deservedly hauled off before the end. Suarez was largely anonymous but that can be attributed to Coutinho's wastefulness throughout. The credit for this though must be attributed to Chelsea as Mourinho completely outclassed Rodgers with his tactics, with the tactical deployment of Willian, who effectively stopped Johnson and Sterling combining and thus nullified Liverpool's threat down the right flank, possibly the best example of this.
3. Despite Mourinho's tactical edge, Liverpool could still have salvaged something from the game had Skrtel not allowed Eto'o (more on him in a bit) to edge in front of him for the second Chelsea goal. It's becoming ever more clearer that starting with Skrtel effectively guarantees that Liverpool won't keep a clean sheet as he commits at least one mistake per game. Liverpool's potency in front of goal recently has disguised this fact but Rodgers needs to take notice and act (a.k.a. drop him).
4. The first half performance of Eden Hazard was simply magnificent. He dragged Liverpool's defence all over the place, taking advantage of Agger's unfamiliarity with his position (why play Agger at LB when we have Cissoko anyway? He's been poor but is still a better option in his actual position than Agger) and wrecking havoc across the back four. His performance dropped slightly after half time but that can be attributed to Mourinho's change in tactics towards containing the Liverpool fight back.
5. How Samuel Eto'o was on the pitch by full time is a mystery. The early high tackle on Henderson was at least a yellow card and the stamp (honestly don't know what else to describe it as) was a straight red offence regardless. Why he had to mar an otherwise excellent performance is beyond me.
6. Following on from that, Howard Webb must be held accountable for seeing the offence in the first place and then doing nothing about it. Either he bottled it, didn't believe it was a penalty and a red card or chose to ignore it. Either way, it's travesty if this man is deemed our best referee based on this performance and Brendan Rodgers has every right to feel aggrieved.
7. However, the officials performance should not hide the fact that Liverpool were poor throughout and didn't deserve anything, a stark contrast with the City game where Liverpool were arguably the better team for much of the game. It should be noted though that Liverpool were without 2 of their best players in Sturridge and Gerrard and therefore this is not the end if the world, merely a squad stretched too far (Brad Smith is evidently not up to it at the moment by the way, he was awful when he came on even if it is against Chelsea). Reinforcements are clearly needed if Liverpool are to cement their place in the top 4 come May.
And The Blue Camp
* See what happens when we have a midfielder who can boss the area and can act as a play maker? Coupled with a striker who can score a goal = the most dominant Chelsea's display this season (the first half).
* Jose followed Arsene's tactics against pool having helped by the suspension of Ramires and uselessness of Essien (less Mikel, better). We had 5 passers in Luiz, Lamps and the trio behind Eto-o regularly winning the ball and showing superiority in possession and intricate passing in the first half. Never allowed Pool time on the ball and thereby not allowing them to play their passing game.. Hence Suarez was a lone figure for almost full first half.
* That we had to again go behind in a home game (i'm losing count of this) was another disaster waiting to happen.
* But we are showing amazing resilience to going behind in games and probably won 14 points from losing positions in the league...
* Naturally a lot of pressing and efforts mean the players tire down and the injuries to Lamps meant Mikel was on.. When Mikel is on, the inevitable happens - slowing of game (wish someone told Andy Townsend that jose didn't actually put Mikel to kill the game defensively but it was due to the injury to Frank).. It was a question of consolidating the position from then..
* Credit to pool they tried their best in the second half especially hitting the bar but I'd say we were still better in the number of chances created (the glorious misses by etoo and torres comes to my mind).
* Penalty appeals - In my honest opinion it was a stupid act by etoo given Azpilicueta won the ball from Suarez.. However, it was nothing big to suggest a penalty either as it looked as though eto-o was trying to body check Suarez (albeit pathetically)... Another day perhaps a penalty, last night no..
* Oscar's challenge on lucas was a clear Red.. Lucky Webb thought it was a 50-50 and played on.. Lucas could also have been sent off for his behaviour after the tackle.. Fair play to webb when he didn't send Lucas off..
* On the whole, never felt nervous last night and was a deserved win..
Aravind, CFC, Chennai
Following on to your comment piece on whether referees should be selected on the basis of geography: apparently it doesn't make any f*cking difference.
Two utterly incompetent refereeing displays on the bounce, but Webb's takes the biscuit - simultaneously offering up evidence not only in support of the above paragraph, but also of the mantra that All Cops and Pigs.
Eto'o, who should've been sent off early doors, scored the equaliser. Later on in the game he fouls Suarez in the box and stays on.
What's our mate Howard up to whilst this is going on? He's looking right at it. It's been suggested that he's let it go since Suarez doesn't have the ball; that's bullshit. Howard's been around the block enough times to know the rules.
Other than that, I thought it was a decent game for about 75 minutes. I felt bad for Brad Smith; clearly this came far too early for him. Every touch was rushed, hurried and heavy and he wasn't alive to the way the darker elements of a Mourinho side's play. Speaking of which, I certainly haven't missed that. Eto'o, Cahil and Oscar late on. Awful.
And to top it off, I'm back at work.
Nick Glover, Scouser in Brum.
Rodgers Exponent Of Lazy Stereotype
Brendan Rodger's comments (in relation to diving) on the game being "more honest" in England as compared to Europe and South America smacks of essentialism that goes back to the 18th Century.
Managers, players and the media should stop portraying the English game as somehow "more honest" and by extension more manly than its counterparts in the rest of the world. For every "foreign" player who dives, I'm fairly sure that there is an English counterpart (Ashley Young, Theo Walcott, - I can go on).
My point however is that these are broad generalizations that managers should not be making.
Referees Are Underperforming
These last few days have been a new low for referees. Its no use repeating the cliches; "teams should just get on with it", or "it is wrong for fans and coaches to accuse referees of bias", or "his view was obstructed", or "he has a reputation for diving so don't believe your own eyes or the cameras" or " its too early in the match to show a red card for a leg breaker", or my personal favorite "but he is allowing shirt pulling and wrestling at corners in both penalty areas so its okay".
The reality is that if any of us made the kind of errors the referees made in Liverpool's two away matches against Man City and Chelsea in our day jobs we would be fired. I am sure the officials are not bias, but for goodness sake how many more offside howlers must football fans endure before something is done to cure "daydreaming linesman syndrome"? And how many more shirts will Martin Skrtel pull or how many more knees will he stick into opposition forward's backs before he gets sent off? And how many more (body checks, elbows to the face, rugby tackles, - take your pick) must John Terry perform before he is sent off by a referee who is not intimidated by "captain marvel"?
We all understand the physical nature of the game but who else feels players get away with too much? Show a yellow card and give a penalty at the first corner and then the whole pushing and shoving will stop. Players should learn to play the ball not other players. When we played football (a long time ago) the only physical contact allowed was shoulder to shoulder charging. Now penalty areas resemble the WWE Royal Rumble.
Sorry but when you have an elite club of people running refereeing in the PL exclusively then they owe it to the players and fans to get it right. Otherwise if we wanted poor officials we could just give a 50 pound tip to the groundsman and he could referee the match for the day; no need for all the qualifications and training.
I really feel for the underdogs who have a great day against superior opposition only to be denied points by officials who do not respect the importance of doing an honest days work and just staying awake for two hours (not 8 like the rest of us). No matter who you support, your team will eventually fall victim to a game changing refereeing blunder. There are four refs per game and a hundred cameras. No more excuses , just get it right.
Waleed Almasri, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
We Must Support Everybody By Now
Jose is correct - there was no penalty. On the other hand, Chelsea should had a penalty for the foul on Hazard, conveniently ignored by F365. The anti-Chelsea bias at F365 is alive and will never change.
Surely Nicolas Anelka has to receive the same punishment or worse for his 'quenelle' celebration. For those who don't know, the salute that he did is widely known in France as an anti-Jewish gesture, created and popularised by a comedian, Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, who is infamous for antisemitic views (his performances have involved all sorts of offensive references to Jews and the Holocaust, and he's been repeatedly fined for anti-Jewish statements and Holocaust denial). The salute is meant to be a variation on the Nazi 'Heil Hitler' but vague enough to avoid prosecution for racial incitement. It's become popular as a way of expressing anti-Jewish sentiment in France and elsewhere.
So it's pretty indisputable that Anelka made a gesture that is offensive to Jews. He has, of course, claimed that he wasn't aware of this meaning. But even if that's true, it shouldn't protect him. Suarez also claimed that he didn't realise that the word 'negro' was offensive, but he still got an eight-match suspension and fine. And anyway, just as Suarez's denials were pretty suspect, so are Anelka's. He is good friends with Dieudonne, and must be completely aware of his antisemitic track record and of the meaning of the 'quenelle'.
The FA have his year been attempting to combat the use of anti-Jewish language at football matches (especially the word 'Yids'), promising to prosecute and ban any fans found guilty of using it. Given this campaign, it would be extremely hypocritical if they failed to give Anelka a serious punishment.
Some Mid-Season Conclusions
Arsenal - Everyone has played each other once and we are top of the league. The stats don't lie and we have played Citeh and Manyoo away which are probably our 2 hardest games plus we usually do better at the Bridge than we do at home against Chelsea because they can't play with 11 defenders at home. Obviously all the pundits on MOTD will still think we have no chance and that we have failed all our big tests, but if we do as well in the second half of the season as we did in the first, then we have a chance. A lot was made of our win over West Ham, but I think the win over Newcastle was even more telling. Against the Hammers we were the better team and our pressure told in the end. Against Newcastle we were awful, couldn't string two passes together but somehow still won. We may not be favourites for the title but we have a chance. I would have taken that in a heartbeat after the Villa game.
Man City - Amazing on their day and clearly the title favourites, but that dodgy away form will be causing Pellegrini some sleepless nights. The rest of the league will be hoping they don't sort it put because if they do, then it's all over for everyone else. Aguero is the next best player in the league after Suarez and they have looked a bit flat since he got injured, so the amount of time he is out may be a big factor.
Chelsea - How are they only 2 points off the top? So, so lucky and someone needs to check out how much money has gone from Abramovich's account to the ref's association. Obviously in with a chance if Jose can eventually work out how to get the most of his embarrassment of riches. It's not like it's his job or anything...
Everton - Clearly can't win the league but what an amazing job Martinez had done. Did Manyoo go for the wrong man? I remember reading a lot of Everton fans complaining about him in the mailbox early in the season. I wonder if they still feel the same way? For me he's the best young manager in the league and the perfect replacement for Arsene when he eventually goes.
Liverpool - Very unlucky in their last two matches and have been on the end of some atrocious officiating. For once, the Liverpool fans have a right to be paranoid. Rogers has done a pretty good job and they play some good stuff. In Suarez they have the best player in the league by a long way and if he stays fit they could finish in the top 4, which I'm sure everyone at the club will be happy with.
Man Utd - Stale and clearly lacking something but still only 8 points off the top, which is not really that much. With a squad that's got winning etched into their muscle memory, they can't be discounted. Personally I don't think they can win it, but like Liverpool, if the end up in the top 4 in a transition year, I'm sure they wont be too upset. Especially if they can beat City in the League Cup final.
Spurs - As an Arsenal fan I'm not sure that my comments on Spurs will have much value, but I do think sacking AVB was a bit premature. They are 8 points of the top in a transition year with a load of new players finding their feet. Surely they could have waited a bit longer to find out how he was going to do. Not too sure that Sherwood will do any better but looking forward to the cup game. Should be a belter.
Adonis (Top Of The League) Stevenson, AFC
Schedule Doesn't Favour City
The first half of the season is over and the top eight have all played each other. Manchester City has destroyed Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham, Manchester United, and Newcastle by a combined score of 25 to 6, but all of those games were at home. Man. City lost their only away game against top-eight teams, to Chelsea, 2 to 1. I expect that the second half of the season will be much tougher for Man. City, given that they must face Arsenal, Liverpool, Everton, Tottenham, Manchester United, and Newcastle away.
Chelsea has played only two home games against top-eight teams (beating Man. City and Liverpool), and will thus get to play the other five top-eight teams at home. Liverpool has played only one home game against top-eight teams (beating Man. United 1 to 0), and will thus get to play the other six top-eight teams at home.
Arsenal has played four top-eight teams at home (beating Tottenham and Liverpool and drawing with Everton and Chelsea) and will need to play well in their coming home games against Manchester City, Manchester United, and Newcastle.
I had thought that it was inevitable that Manchester City would win the title, but the schedule says otherwise. It looks like there are at least four teams with a reasonable shot at the title.
Ron Jeremias, (Arsenal, Washington, DC)
Angry With Johnny
I usually enjoy reading John Nicholson's articles on F365, but I have to say reading his latest one genuinely made my blood boil.
Where to start. So Tan and the bloke at Hull (I can't be bothered to look up his name) own their respective clubs and can do what they want with them, because it is their money they are putting into those clubs. Really, does John know for a fact that they are putting their own money into the clubs. Is he 100% certain that they are not in fact taking out loans against those clubs, thereby loading them with massive debts for which interest is also being charged. In which case perhaps it is the banks that own those clubs. So presumably John would be happy for those banks to close those clubs and turn them into supermarkets instead. Because after all if the owners can do whatever they wish what does it matter.
The fans should shut up and put up according to John. Which does make me wonder why he writes about football in the first place and his constant references to his days of attending matches in the 1970s, who gives a f**K. All that matters is who owns the clubs, they are the only people that matter. F365 should instead be called Chairman365 and focus exclusively on the clothes/cars/yachts/jets owned by those owners.
The football bit is only of interest to the little people, and who gives a flying f**k about them. In fact how dare the little ever voice any kind of criticism of anyone who has a single penny more than them, if only we could return to the cloth cap doffing Victorian days, oh sorry I forgot our leaders are already taking back to those glorious days when people knew their place.
Pardeep 'so angry that I can barely type' Singh.
Was a little bleary-eyed reading your report on our game yesterday and it did take a while to understand what you actually meant by 'drilling a fine low shot into Thomas Sorensen's bottom corner'.
Watching these late games in the pub are not good for the brain I think/
John THFC, Saigon