A Premier League season as outstanding as the one which has just finished deserved to have a thrilling, high quality climax. And this time it certainly had one with an FA Cup Final packed with skill, endeavour, excitement and, perhaps most important of all, superb entertainment for the crowd packed into Wembley and the millions watching on television around the world.
Of course, Arsenal versus Chelsea was always going to be a clash to capture the imagination and emotions of partisan fans supporting both sides. More importantly it carries massive appeal to non-committed football enthusiast….simply people who appreciate good football. It has to be just about the ultimate, classic local derby. South London (Chelsea) against North London (Arsenal).
Sadly it won’t just be the excellent, exciting football for which this final will be remembered. It’ll also be the one in which Chelsea’s Victor Moses was sent off for diving and so trying to cheat the referee Anthony Taylor into awarding Chelsea a penalty.
Many referees would have been fooled and decided that Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had, in fact, fouled Moses but slow motion replays from various angles made it clear that he had not been touched and that referee Taylor had got it exactly right.
You can’t help wondering what was in Moses’ mind since as he ran into the penalty area he surely had to see the referee was directly in front of him, only a few away and that just 11 minutes previously he had been yellow carded for a blatant tactical foul on Danny Welbeck. Presumably he dived and claimed to have been fouled because he was desperate to help Chelsea get back into the game after Arsenal had dominated play with a succession of powerful attacks and shots on target that belied their narrow 1-0 lead. With reasonable luck they could have had three or four goals in the first half alone.
Certainly a goal then to level the game with over 20 minutes remaining would have been a great fillip for Chelsea. As it was, Moses made a great contribution to handing the game to Arsenal. I have to say I don’t buy Chelsea manager Antonio Conte’s defence of Moses by claiming it was due to fatigue, saying: “If my players dive I don’t think it is with the intention to con the referee. Sometimes I think it could be tiredness. We are at the end of the season and a lot of players are tired and there is a lot of pressure.”
As I said it was an enthralling game , especially for neutrals watching who could just relax and enjoy it with no tension or feeling of pressure to win, but you have to ask why Arsenal haven’t shown anything like this level of commitment, determination and effort in recent Premier League matches. It’s all well and good for a large section of the Gunners supporters to continually criticise Arsene Wenger and demand that the Board replaces him but this match demonstrated that he was the better manager of the two on the day. The excellent players were all ones he had brought to the Club, the selection was his and the tactics were down to him.
These same points have also applied in the many of Arsenal’s unsatisfactory League games but a manager can only do so much. Once the whistle goes it is down to the players and last Saturday it was very clear that Arsenal had the players with the ability and tactics to outplay the new Premier League champions. The question all fans, the Board and, of course, Arsene Wenger must be asking is: If all the necessary ingredients were there for the Final, all brought to the club by Wenger and so also there for every game, why has the team so often disappointed? Are there unknown factors and hidden agendas at work?
Wenger’s well documented record at Arsenal is nothing short of astonishing. Making the top four in the League and so qualifying for the Champions League 20 years in succession whilst, at the same time taking in 7 Cup Final wins on the way…… making it 7 wins in 7 finals for Wenger is a track record which when seen in cold print is almost beyond belief.
It is certainly a record far, far superior to that of any other Premier League club and it is hard to imagine any other club and its supporters not wishing it was them and not Arsenal with that amazing run of success. Other major Premier League Clubs have continually chased that sort of success by changing managers often and spending incredible amounts of money on new players. This includes Manchester United where the manager’s office must have had a revolving door in recent years as the tr4ied four managers since Sir Alex Fergusson retired in 2013, at the same time lavishing massive sums in trying to replicate anything like Arsenal’s record. Yet, in spite of it all they still couldn’t make it into the top four!
I believe Arsenal fans baying for Wenger’s blood should think carefully about the old saying: Be careful what you wish for. This same old adage applies to all supporters baying for the removal of managers they believe haven’t done as well for their clubs as they, with all the tactical and coaching talent on the terraces available to them, believe they should have done.
Perhaps another old saying….Better the Devil You Know….should also be considered by millions of disgruntled supporters who mistakenly believe their club deserves better.
Other recent talking points in the Premier League last season saw the managerial musical chairs continue. Since May 2016 fourteen Premier League clubs have made at least one change of manager. In more than half of these cases the managers have been sacked as clubs seem increasingly desperate to find a winning formula.
In some cases it has worked and Chelsea with Antonio Conte taking over after a disappointing season under Jose Mourinho, being the outstanding example. Changes also worked at Crystal Palace where Sam Allardyce’s impact turned fortunes around and so relegation was avoided; at Swansea where Paul Clement did the same and at Leicester where the reigning champions were heading for the Championship before Assistant Manager Craig Shakespeare was moved up in place of Claudio Ranieri and the team suddenly started winning.
However, things didn’t work out well at Hull City even though Marco Silva appeared to be getting it right in the earlier weeks of taking over, only for it all to go wrong at the very end. Also at Middlesbrough where Assistant Manager Steve Agnew was promoted into something of a poison chalice situation which ended in relegation and also at Sunderland where Sam Allardyce left (albeit to take temporary charge of England) and David Moyes took over to oversee the threat of relegation became a harsh reality. Meanwhile Marco Silva has jumped ship and will be Watford’s manager next season.
Next week we’ll look at how the newly promoted sides may fare in the Premier League and also consider what the Championship may hold for the three relegated clubs.
Although the English soccer has finished there are plenty of matches that we can invest in, I still like the chances of Juventus to get past Real Madrid but expect it to be a close encounter, so for safety I am going for the draw after ninety minutes. On the international scene I like France to beat Paraguay and Belgium to beat the Czech Republic. All these and other matches are available on World Sports Betting now!