@Jay29ers from Design Football got in touch again with another article suggestion. We’re not sure we fully agree with the execution of an interesting concept but we’ll put it to the floor. Take it away, Jay:
Monday, April 27, 2015:
Arsène Wenger’s position as Arsenal manager was hanging by a thread last night after Jose Mourinho seemingly coerced him into tactical suicide.
Chelsea’s 3-0 victory at the Emirates came at the end of a week of verbal jousting that the Frenchman had both initiated and spurned an opportunity to distance himself from. The result leaves the Gunners four points outside of the Champions League qualification places, after a weekend that saw Manchester United and Liverpool take the opportunity to leapfrog Southampton into third and fourth places respectively.
Seven days ago, a routine press briefing was enlivened by Wenger’s questionable assertion that Arsenal’s “first eleven” was technically superior to that of their West London rivals. A point intended to highlight his side’s injury woes throughout the season – bizarrely vocalised in a week when Wenger’s squad could boast an entirely clean bill of health – was jumped on, and ostensibly taken entirely literally, by Mourinho (“Arsenal’s one to eleven better than Chelsea’s?”), who scoffed at the idea when probed for a response by the media.
Obviously riled, Wenger held firm on Friday’s appearance in front of microphones and cameras. Accordingly, Mourinho grunting “He still thinks that? Ok, Chelsea’s second eleven can beat Arsenal’s first. You know 1933 FA Cup Final?” acted as a final red rag to a bull that no one could have previously predicted Wenger would play so ably in this pantomime. Heads were scratched amongst the proverbial Fleet Street cognoscenti, but eventually the proposition that Arsenal should select their players in possession of squad numbers one to eleven, and Chelsea theirs from twelve to 22, was understood and relayed.
Instead of rising above the Portuguese’s gamesmanship, Wenger released his inner-Marty McFly and – we presume stopping short of writing “Nobody calls me chicken” on his submitted teamsheet – duly dispensed with the resurgent Theo Walcott (#14) and the recently dependable Aaron Ramsey (#16). With no number 5 on the squad list since Thomas Vermaelen’s departure, artistic licence allowed the retention of Alexis Sanchez (#17), in this case as an entirely ineffectual centre-forward.
One impending crisis was averted through Mourinho being as good as his word, in a manner of speaking. The inclusion of numbers 24 and 26 in the form of Cahill and Terry, and certainly number 2, Branislav Ivanovic, made a mockery of the “second eleven” notion, but as simply to fill the gaps in the requisite squad section it broke no unspoken “rules”. Conversely, with an ultra-attacking 3-4-3 formation, and Willian and Mohamed Salah having defensive duties from midfield, the Emirates faithful would ordinarily be licking their lips. Unfortunately, with Lukas Podolski recalled to a starting lineup he surely would have assumed was now in his footballing past, and the other flank occupied by the flagging Tomáš Rosický, the industrious Chelsea wide men looked confident from the outset.
The only success for the home side was limiting the enduringly magificent Diego Costa to no goals and just the two first half assists – the first a pullback from the byline for an onrushing Andre Schürrle to tap home, the second a teasing dink forward straight into the path of the Brazilian right-midfielder. The look the adopted Spaniard gave as his teammate offered thanks truly said “Willian, it was really nothing.”
Shortly after the break, Salah justified his place with a neat run and low drive into Szczęsny bottom right-hand corner, immediately alerting all around that the game, and the challenge, was up. Enter number 4, Cesc Fàbregas, to half-hearted boos from the rapidly dispersing crowd.
In his post-match interview, Mourinho heaped praise on his troops – now champions elect – and kept his gloating to one barbed prediction: “Mr Wenger will never beat me.” In the Arsenal hot-seat at least, he may just have blown his final chance.
Arsenal (0) 0 Chelsea (2) 3
Goals: Schürrle (9), Willian (28), Salah (53)
Yellow cards – Arsenal: Debuchy (33), Podolski (61), Özil (70), Wilshere (74)
Arsenal (4-2-3-1): 1 Szczęsny; 2 Debuchy, 4 Mertesacker, 6 Koscielny, 3 Gibbs; 10 Wilshere (16 Ramsey, 77), 8 Arteta; 7 Rosický, 11 Özil, 9 Podolski; 17 Alexis Sánchez (12 Giroud, 45).
Chelsea (3-4-3): 13 Courtois; 2 Ivanovic, 24 Cahill, 26 Terry; 22 Willian, 12 Mikel, 21 Matić, 17 Salah; 18 Rémy, 19 Diego Costa (4 Fàbregas, 60), 14 Schürrle.