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Arsenal are 2-0 down…
This is Arsene’s 2014 FA Cup final. Arsenal went into the final as clear favourites. A loss was unthinkable. There was talk of Wenger leaving if he wasn’t victorious. And sure enough, as the final kicked off the pressure of years without a trophy showed on the players. Arsenal went 2-0 down early in the first half. They ended up fighting back to win 3-2. The relationship with the fans was restored.
You could say that Arsenal now find themselves ‘2-0’ down in the league after the result against Man United. But win against Swansea and they’ll be three points behind Leicester and potentially Tottenham. Arsenal could yet recover like they did in 2014, when the pressure was on. They even went on to win the final 4-0 the following year. So who knows, win the league this year and next year…
…or on the other hand, they could just lose to Tottenham on Saturday and the dream is over.
Is Cazorla dead?
As we all know, if Arsenal say a player will be out injured for a few weeks, we actually won’t see him play for several months.
So, as Arsenal fear Cazorla is out for the season…is he actually dead?
Oliver Dziggel, Geneva, Switzerland
We want deforestation
So I just read that Marouane Fellaini is back in training and that van Gaal said the team would become stronger with him fit again. I have nothing against Tree. It’s not his fault that he’s complete sh*te. It’s the manager’s fault for playing him repeatedly. He can’t attack, he can’t defend, he can’t pass, he can’t win headers over players half his size and height and no one knows where to play him.
Fellaini has featured in 15 Premier League games this season. United have won four (one of them was an 80th min substitute appearance against Everton and he perhaps influenced the result only in the Liverpool away game), drew five and lost six in those games. In fact, the first loss without Fellaini featuring in the team was a couple of weeks ago against Sunderland. That’s a total of 17 points in 15 games (43.1 points over 38 games). Without him in the team, United have 27 points from 12 games. (Over 38 games 85.5 points-enough to win the title 9 times in the Premier League era).
Now I’m not saying that it’s entirely his fault that United is not challenging for the title. But it’s astonishing that a player like him is still on the books at a club like Man United. No other aspiring big or big club in the world would play someone with his set of skills even in an emergency.
So when you get rid of Kagawa, Nani, Welbeck, Anderson, Di Maria, Cleverley, Fletcher, etc. in midfield and say that getting rid of dead wood is going to help the younger players, it’s disgusting that Tree is still at the club. Because he does nothing. He’s a Tree.
Sasank (Remember when Lahm won headers over him in the Champions League?) MUFC
I’m not sure what to feel after that match. City (Leicester) were clearly the better side throughout but somehow West Brom kept us from leaving with three points. I hope Arsenal and Spurs fans were watching because I’ve read a lot of rubbish this past week about how we always get lucky results or dodgy refs (as if that Arsenal match two and a bit weeks ago never happened but I won’t get started on that…) yet here we are battering a team and getting almost nothing to show for it.
I’m not even mad at the players because it was another objectively good team performance from us with the second goal in particular a beautifully worked effort for club legend Andy King to bury (and how delighted I am at that!). Nor am I mad at Clattenburg because even though I could write out a long rap-sheet of inconsistencies in his approach to each team 1. I’m not an Arsenal fan and 2. its effect on the result was still rendered entirely negligible by the sheer volume of chances we created; the crossbar alone kept the score down from 4-2 and that’s before you include the myriad clear opportunities which ended up making their way into Foster’s grateful arms (West Brom’s MOTM no doubts about it) or getting sliced over the bar.
All in all I’m chuffed at yet another good showing from our lads after the blip against Norwich (the irony here is not lost on me) but the final result feels like bitterly scant reward for our efforts especially in the context of how it affects the title race.
Still, at least it’s out of the way and now the pressure is firmly on Spurs for their duel with the Hammers. Not that it looks like it matters; this Spurs team seem indomitable at the moment. Grr.
Adam, LCFC (Come on you Irons!)
…That was a thoroughly entertaining game of football, if not quite the result we wanted. From the last two games, we have deserved four points.
The first goal was sloppy on our behalf, would never have happened with Kante in there breaking down the play. But, at the same time, Kante wouldn’t have scored the goal King did.
Fantastic free-kick from Gardner, won’t see many better than that.
Our attacking play against a defensive side was very encouraging. It shows that we are able to break down teams who set up for a point. We had enough chances to win comfortably, but West Brom put bodies in the way well.
The fans were brilliant as well, can’t remember ever seeing the home end roar so loud when conceding to push the team on. The players deserve that support with the entertainment we’ve been treated to.
Good luck to Spurs tomorrow. Poch is a very likeable manager who has built a likeable team. If we weren’t doing so well, I’d definitely be wanting Spurs to do it.
It would be incredible to win the league. But even if we don’t, Leicester have given me so much joy this season. The whole city has been bouncing for a year now. This is what football is about.
* Three wins on the trot and we’re back in the top half! Unbelievable scenes.
* We either couldn’t get out of second gear in the second half or chose not to. Both signify a slightly concerning mind-set but three points were still achieved.
* Finally some youngsters were played. It’s what we’ve been crying out for for ages and our enthusiasm for youth was mostly vindicated. In the first half Traore and Kenedy showed some really nice touches and good confidence.
* Unfortunately they also showed their lack of experience in two key moments: Traore when he was through on goal and Kenedy completely switching off for the Norwich goal.
* I couldn’t have been the only one disappointed not to see Ruben play last night after signing a new contract. His is the ‘riskier’ position being in the centre but he’s shown good maturity recently and if he can’t play against Norwich (no disrespect) than he’s not ready to play for Chelsea.
* Those calling for the Chelsea bosses to give Hiddink the full-time job, crying “they’re fools, they have the perfect guy in charge right now!” – he’s said many times before he doesn’t want the full-time job, he’s getting on a bit now and has earned his retirement.
* I hope we announce Conte soon; more and more he’s looking like an excellent potential appointment. I’d have him over Simeone every day of the week.
* Costa was significantly offside, unlucky for Norwich. Great finish though, he’s playing so well and mostly removed his twuntish nature.
* It wasn’t a backpass; it flicked off Jerome through to Courtois.
* 10 more games and we’re only looking up. Any kind of European place would be a great result right now.
It’s just mental
In this crazy Premier League season…
Chelsea are now only five points from fifth despite being relegation candidates a few weeks back.
Tottenham can go top tonight with a win despite so far no-one mentioning that they are title contenders.
Man Utd have played rubbish all season yet remain in fifth and will probably get fourth.
Leicester dropping points is a surprise.
The only constants are that Liverpool are terrible and Arsenal have their annual mid-winter collapse
Alex (Still smarting from Wembley, revenge tonight please) Jegede
Is it though? It could all become ‘normal’ soon
Is this hugely captivating season about to unravel? Despite this being the most exciting (for Man Yoo and Chelsea fans read as excruciating) season in the Premier League era, it is usually this time of the season where reality takes shape. In the modern football world where the expected glory or disaster of your football team is based on, usually, the last two games it’s obviously where you stand at game 38 that counts.
My concern here is that the table is not going to end up as exciting as we first thought. As usual there will be a few anomalies, such as Chelsea and Man Yoo not challenging for the Premier League let alone a Champions League spot, however the relegation candidates won’t be too far away from what people considered and then you look at Palace falling down the table, Chelsea creeping back up (will probably finish 5th or 6th)….it’s all starting to look a bit more ‘normal’.
Only 28 odd games in and football teams playing Leicester have magically realised they need to play a deep line to maximise any chance of a points return – so will that expected Leicester struggle now come, which will be ironic as it is now people actually have some expectation they will win it. My beloved Spurs are on a terrific run but have some terribly hard games against various teams that include three of our most hated rivals, the most vitriol one being this evening immediately followed by our moany neighbours this weekend and then Chelsea later down the line (the good version). Talking of those pesky and moany neighbours, they’ve a very winnable game tonight. Take that into a NLD this weekend with a huge desire to see Spurs fail/collapse and claim three more points, then the ‘crazy’ 2015/16 Premier League has a completely different landscape.
Leicester, Spurs, Watford and West Ham still look like they will finish way above their (perceived) station come the finish line and these achievements cannot be understated, but we will all be left with a tinge of disappointment come what May if Arsenal or Man City are lifting that Premier League title?
Special mention to Aston Villa too, as they’ve achieved levels of being shit that even the most pessimistic Villa could not have imagined.
Glen / Spur in Thailand \
Even the devil can’t stop this Leicester
Before the season started, my Liverpool-supporting mate and I decided to adopt a second club for this season. I must point out that I support Manchester United.
We decided to do this based on the fact that supporting the traditional top four teams made life supposedly easier. It was meant to be a sorta football adventure. Get the lows as well as the highs. Life isn’t a bed of roses they say.
For me, Aston Villa was the reasonable choice.
After seeing them do a whole lot of summer business (although letting Benteke go was a huge mistake), I was convinced they would have it easy this time around. They couldn’t do any worse than last time. Probably a 14th place finish or better.
My Pool-supporting friend chose Leicester City. I was surprised and questioned his choice cos I was convinced they’d struggle again and they’d go down this time. He simply replied ‘we can never tell for sure’.
So the season started with both teams winning. Though I must confess, I slept through a third of Villa’s first match with Bournemouth. The match was so lacking in quality and invention. Gestede won that with the only goal of the match. And that proved to be one of only three league matches that Villa have won all season. The fortunes of both teams couldn’t have been more different.
28 matches later and Villa look doomed already. It has been a nightmare season for my adopted team. Last night marked the 18th league match that Villa have lost alone this season. And they appear certainties to be relegated. The defensive displays this season have been insipid at best. Losing scandalously to Liverpool, conceding three goals to Big Sam’s Sunderland. The defence and the goalkeeping have been so amateurish, you have to wonder if you are watching Sunday football league. The games I haven’t been able to catch, I check them online and read the match facts.
Well supporting a team not expected to challenge for the title and with lesser resources and limited players have been an eye-opener – as a fan, you cannot always get what you want. Watching all those borefest have made me appreciate football the more. Better enjoy it while you are up cos you can never tell when you will be down.
(I didn’t sign up for this. Plastic fan and all that.) At the time it was a smart choice. With hindsight it’s easy to say it was a dozy idea.
At the other end of the spectrum, Leicester have been the story of the season – playing breathtaking counter-attacking football. Only three losses all season. And they have surpassed everyone’s expectations (mine and my friend included) in a very big way. Topping the table in March against all odds. No one could have ever called that. It’s like the Leicester team became world class overnight. Unbelievable team spirit and work rate. A never-say-die attitude. Kudos to Claudio Raineri and his backroom staff for bringing so much success to Leicester. Even if they fail to win the title, qualifying for Europe still qualifies as a huge success.
From relegation candidates to title contenders.
Smith (Even the devil can’t stop this Leicester)
Praise for Atletico Madrid
After Atletico’s 3-0 victory last night I think that this whole Leicester fairytale should be put into some perspective. As an Arsenal fan I still think the Leicester story is incredible and hope the wheels do no start loosening on the cart now, however the Atletico things is incredible.
The difference with Atletico is that it is no longer a surprise. Atletico have conceded 11 league goals in 27 games (0.41 per game) in La Liga this season, four of those goals came in two matches against Barcelona. Removing that ‘anomalous team’ gives seven goals in 25 games (0.28 per game). Their scoring is hardly record setting, although removing the goal hungry freaks/flat track bullies of Barcelona and Real Madrid leaves Atletico as the joint-second highest scorers in La Liga.
This is a team who lost one of their best midfielders to their big rivals (Arda Turan to Barca), had record signing Jackson Martinez pull up lame and got shipped off for repair in China – he was brought in to replace prolific goal getter Mario Mandzukic. Of the starting team yesterday Vietto, who cost about 15 million pounds, was the most expensive summer signing (Griezmann cost around 22 million pounds the season before). This is a team where Fernando Torres still gets a game!
I know we have all gotten a little bit used to this impressive creation of Diego Simeone, it is still a magic trick but I think we have all stopped wondering how he does it. They are still in the Champions League with a good chance of progress against PSV and are Barca’s only real threat (if any) in La Liga.
Is Simeone really tempted by a move to the EPL? I am sure the named parties in his Will are.
As an afterthought, with Pochettino getting his defence sorted, a Louis Van Gaal full-strength backline, a Tony Pulis team defending like a Tony Pulis team, Mourinho’s bus somewhere in the league and then Simoene’s stingy backline…it could be one of the most boring Premier League Seasons in years. We might have to do away with ‘Goal of the Month’ competitions and have an ‘Interception of the Week’ of ‘Defensive Clearance of the Day’. Urrgghh.
Kevin Brant, (might do some work today), Bergen, Norway
Conclusions from Bournemouth
Have just watched my lot put in a horrendous performance losing 2-0 away at Bournemouth – without having a shot on target until the 85th minute. It was painful to watch from start to finish.
An hour ago I was fuming at what I watched but having calmed down on my walk home I just wanted to commend what a job Eddie Howe has done at Bournemouth.
It’s looking even more likely that they will stay up, something that would be an incredible achievement for him. Even more remarkable considering he only turned 38 in November. Welcome the rivalry down south given P*rtsmouth won’t be back any time soon.
As a side note. Sadio Mane’s performances this season have done nothing to convince anyone that he is Man Utd material. If they offered anything close to £20million for him I would snap their hand off. He has not scored a league goal since 25 October and has looked largely disinterested since then.
Spurs for the title, Villa, Norwich, Sunderland for the drop?
MA, South Coast
Loving Di Natale
If any F36fivers haven’t read the portrait of an icon on Antonio Di Natale then you absolutely should.
I knew he was a wonderful player but didn’t realise just how good: ‘Di Natale has scored more Serie A goals since turning 30 than Pippo Inzaghi, Hernan Crespo or Christian Vieri scored in their entire careers.’ Blimey!
James (got fat since turning 30) Barkstriker
…What a lovely feature on Antonio di Natale. It made me quite emotional.
Daniel, Beckenham (nothing to do with three hours sleep over the entire weekend due to missus being away!)