Football FanCast columnist Ross Mooring is delighted that Carlo Ancelotti is making him eat his words.
Earlier this year I wrote a blog bemoaning Carlo Ancelotti’s impending appointment at Stamford Bridge and after the away defeats to Wigan and Aston Villa nightmares about Luiz Felipe Scolari returned to me in my sleep, but now, well let’s just say, I’m eating my words and thankfully, they taste delicious.
Of course, it’s easy to be full of praise for a manager and team that so successfully bulldozed their way past a talented and effervescent Arsenal side, but the manner of victory in holding off Arsene Wenger’s side for half an hour, applying the killer touch and then coasting the second half was something to behold. Even in last year’s 4-1 defeat of our north London rivals there was a touch of fortune after an early onslaught by the home team failed to produce a goal, but this time all areas of footballing performance were mastered by both Ancelotti and his players.
Earlier this season following a couple of wins to open the season the Italian spoke of his team improving in the coming months once the players had understood his tactics and system and at the time it seemed like normal coach-speak, but boy was he right! Of course he has the fortune to be able to call on tactically astute players already at the club, but the first team consists of exactly the same rabble that fell on their faces this time last year. It seems true then to say that great players need leadership and someone to keep them moving forward.
As for Wenger’s comments after the game, he continues to take defeats against Chelsea as if the west Londoners were taking it in turns to kick his pet dog – perhaps he still clings to the pre-Mourinho days when Arsenal held court over the Blues. Calling Drogba’s first strike unintentional, when the Ivorian clearly opened his boot to side-foot the ball goalwards, admittedly off crossbar and post, smacks of someone in denial. Then to talk of Arshavin’s disallowed goal as being a turning-point is more than a tad crass; firstly, Samir Nasri handled the ball just seconds earlier so the Eduardo challenge – which was debatably a foul, Cech did not have control of the football and the Croatian really has every right to go for it – is moot and secondly, even if Arsenal had pulled one back they were not showing much life regardless! It was Didier Drogba’s backpass which had resulted in that passage of play if one rewinds further.
Furthermore, had Chelsea not struck twice to close out the first half there is no denying that Bacary Sagna’s earlier foul on Nicolas Anelka in the penalty area would have given Ancelotti more cause to say the same thing.
With a provisional eight point gap and without Robin van Persie it is difficult to see a way back for Arsenal in this season’s title race, but Carletto still has to stay the course (and in more ways than one, 20 games is too few to completely judge a manager) to keep up the ‘clear favourites’ tag which currently adorns the team’s royal blue shirts. A trip to Manchester City next weekend is a different kind of litmus test with the Citizens eager to find form once again. Jose Mourinho’s first defeat as manager in his debut title-winning campaign was at Eastlands and there is an abundance of talent to test John Terry and co.