Archive for the ‘Arsenal’ tag
While Rafa Benitez jumps to the tune of Roman Abramovich, Pep Guardiola’s refusal to sell his soul only enhances his reputation
In the eyes of the vast majority of football lovers around the world, Roman Abramovich has reduced Chelsea to a laughing stock by the outrageous way he runs the West London club.
But the reason that managers like Rafa Benitez continue to line up for slaughtering at Stamford Bridge is simple: money and silverware.
On the one hand Abromovich (above) is impossible to satisfy, firing a succession of managers simply because they have lost a couple of matches – regardless of how many trophies they deliver. The counter argument is that the Stamford Bridge club has enjoyed an unprecedented era of success since the Russian oligarch came along with his millions. And for many Blues fans that is all that counts.
With few exceptions in football, managers have a limited shelf life. As George Graham told me on the day he was appointed manager of Arsenal: “Most of us know that one day we will be sacked.” The difference at Chelsea, since Abramovich took over, is that the axe is almost certainly going to come sooner rather than later.
New boss Rafa Benitez claimed at his unveiling that working for Abramovich will be “easier” than for George Gillett and Tom Hicks, despite admitting he had never even spoken to the Chelsea owner. The thick skinned former Liverpool boss will shrug off his inevitable unpopularity with Blues fans because he will be well rewarded for his efforts, regardless of whether or not he lasts the duration of his six month contract.
If he succeeds in delivering silverware it will be another achievement to add to an already impressive CV and getting the sack at Chelsea is far from being a career wrecker. So it is easy to see why the Spaniard who has been out of work for over a year was quick to jump at the opportunity to put his neck on the line. Don’t bet againt Benitez kicking off with a win against Premier League champions Manchester City at the weekend.
The simple conclusion to draw from Benitez being crowned Chelsea’s ninth manager in just over eight years is that Abramovich believes he is the man to get the best out of his much-maligned £50 million pound signing Fernando Torres. The irony is that the arrival of Benitez will, in my opinion, increase the pressure on Torres to prove he is not a busted flush.
Meanwhile, the dignity of the West London has been tarnished yet again by the brutal dismissal of Roberto di Matteo, despite becoming the first Chelsea manager to win the Champions League and as well as adding an FA Cup into the bargain.
To quote The Independent’s James Lawton, Abramovich’s treatment of Di Matteo suggests that the club has “a certain rottenness at its core.” And that is the rub. Money can buy you many things but it can’t buy you dignity and honour.
It is also reassuring to know that some football managers have a bigger pricetag than any amount of money can buy. For Pep Guardiola to resist the riches thrown before him by the Russian is the delicious postscript to this tacky tale of West London extravaganza of obscene proportions. Guardiola has in many people’s eyes enhanced his reputation by ignoring Abramovich’s advances. That is something that will send his desirability soaring at a club like Manchester United who will one day be looking for a successor to the greatest British football manager of all time.
Jose Mourinho has made no secret of his wish to move in at Old Trafford when Sir Alex Ferguson eventually retires. But the Real Madrid boss will surely be challenged by his former Barcelona rival if the United hot seat becomes available any time soon.
Below: Abramovich parades the Champions League trophy (left), Di Matteo wonders what his future holds (right) and Guardiola enjoys his Barcelona dominance (below).
Arsenal were right to stick by Arsene Wenger – and the canny Frenchman continues to prove his doubters wrong
This time last year the clamour to force Arsene Wenger out of the Arsenal hotseat was reaching fever pitch. But as I said at the time and on many occasions since, sticking with the most successful manager in the club’s history was always the right thing to do.
Whatever club you support you have to admire the way the Frenchmen continues to prove the doubters wrong and sticks to his principles of playing attractive football and building a team without breaking the bank.
Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie are just three of the star players who have deserted Wenger. But the Gunners boss knows how to put together a winning team on a limited budget – as new signings Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski are the latest arrivals to demonstrate. And you have got to give him enormous credit for that.
Eyebrows were raised when Wenger boldly declared, before this afternoon’s 1-1 draw against champions Manchester City, that his current squad is the best he has had during his time at Arsenal. But write the Frenchman off at your peril.
What Wenger told the Daily Star Sunday: “As a squad, I have more quality. This is the best since I have been here.When you consider the players out injured like Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Emmanuel Frimpong, it only adds to what I believe. Yes, the best.”
Andre Villas-Boas must drop skipper John Terry if he wants to prove he is strong enough to manage Chelsea
Ridiculous as it may sound Andre Villas-Boas’s Stamford Bridge honeymoon is already over – and the rookie Chelsea manager could be out of a job before the New Year.
While Roberto Mancini has spectacularly come of age as a Premiership manager by turning Manchester City into a genuine force to challenge Europe’s best, the problem facing AVB is that his boss Roman Abramovich has no patience. The Russian billionaire will be counting the disastrous cost of failure if Chelsea fail to qualify for the Champions League and that will now be a worry after two successive home defeats to rivals Arsenal and Liverpool.
With skipper John Terry – embarrassed by Arsenal when the Gunners trounced the Blues 5-3 last month – again the fall guy as Liverpool won 2-1 at the Bridge, Villas Boas must decide whether or not to stand by his captain.And that hot potato is a dilemma that could define his future in West London.
The Portuguese manager is only 34 years old and has only been sitting in the Stamford Bridge hot seat for 18 matches. But his appointment is only ever going to work if Abramovich makes it clear he is giving him the time he needs to re-build the Blues. And there is less chance of that happening than Carlos Tevez winning a Mr Manchester popularity contest. Especially with Abromich already making it know he would love to reappoint Guus Hiddink
Whether or not John Terry is guilty of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand during Chelsea’s 1-0 defeat at QPR, it was not acceptable to see the England captain spitting venom at Rio’s younger brother in front of a worldwide TV audience.
Terry may be an inspirational figure to some of his team mates.But that does not make him fit to be a role model and captain of his country. How many times is the overhyped Chelsea skipper going to be allowed to bring shame on England? Fabio Capello made the mistake of reinstating Terry after he’d sacked him as skipper following the Wayne Bridge affair and ironically replaced him with Rio Ferdinand.
It will be interesting to see if Capello stands by his man now, whether or not Terry is found guilty by the FA. Personally I’d like to see Terry booted out for good – and he can take Capello with him. I’d rather see England lose than succeed with Capello and Terry at the helm.
Terry, who claims it has all been a “big misunderstanding” is in line to be recalled for Chelsea’s clash with Arsenal on Saturday after being left out of the midweek Carling Cup win at Everton. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has announced it is assessing evidence from the incident after receiving a complaint.
Earlier, Ferdinand thanked fellow players for helping him cope with the situation.
“I’d like to thank players like Jason Roberts for the support they have given me,” Ferdinand told the Telegraph. ”Not just professionals at other clubs but my team-mates at QPR. They’ve been fantastic for me. Having team-mates around you, like I have, is nice to feel and nice to see.”
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KING CANTONA’S RETURN WILL CROWN TRIBUTE FOR SCHOLES THE GREATEST ENGLISH FOOTBALLER OF 21ST CENTURY
How fitting that Paul Scholes – the outstanding English footballer of his generation – will be honoured by the return of Eric the King to Old Trafford.
Eric Cantona will coach the legendary New York Cosmos who take on Manchester United on Friday 5 August in the testimonial for the incomparable Scholes.
Cantona quit United in 1997 after winning four titles and two domestic doubles in his five seasons at the club.
“I am looking forward to returning to Old Trafford in my new role with New York Cosmos,” said Cantona.
“I wish to congratulate Paul for such an incredible career at Manchester United.”
Scholes, who announced his retirement in the wake of United’s Champions League final defeat by Barcelona, said: “I have spent my whole footballing life at Manchester United, so this will be an emotional farewell.
“I hope the fans enjoy the night, especially seeing the boss and Eric battling it out in front of the dugouts.”
40 YEARS ON – AND ARSENAL’S DOUBLE WINNER BOB WILSON IS A HERO TO BE PROUD OF AFTER HIS BRAVE CHARITY CYCLE
It is a little known fact that Bob Wilson became the first English-born footballer to play for Scotland in 1971 – the year Arsenal won the double for the first time. Much has changed in the 40 years since Bob was in goal for the Gunners as they claimed the League and Cup double. Footballers today are paid a king’s ransom for playing just one season at the top level. Many can earn in a week the £250,000 Bob set off trying to raise for charity when he cycled 500 miles in 11 days. But don’t let that overshadow what a great achievement it has been for the former Arsenal keeper in this his 70th year.
” I have been lucky to have enjoyed many football triumphs, most notably my greatest year in 1970/71 when Arsenal won ‘The Double’,” says the great man who wanted to do something special to mark the 40th anniversary of his finest hour as a footballer. “So how should I celebrate this my 70th/71st year? By following my heart and doing something challenging to support the Willow Foundation, the national charity I set up with my wife, Megs, in memory of our daughter, Anna.”
The 500 mile cycle from London to Newcastle took Bob to every Premier League football club in the UK followed by a visit to Hampden Park, where he made his international debut. You can donate here
Congratulations to Swansea on becoming the first team from Wales to win a place in the English Premier League. And well done to dignified manager Brendan Rodgers for leading his team to a thrilling 4-2 win over his former club Reading in the Play-Off Final at Wembley. It has been a traumatic year for Rodgers who lost his mother Christina in 2010 and his father Malachy is suffering terminal cancer. It is good to see one of football’s genuine nice guys finally enjoy the sweet taste of success. The former Manchester United youth team player was tipped for the top as a manager by Jose Mourinho back in 2004 when he invited Rodgers to join his backroom staff at Chelsea.
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MANCHESTER IS THE NEW MILAN: A CITY UNITED AS THE CENTRE OF THE FOOTBALLING UNIVERSE. CAN LIVERPOOL STRIKE BACK?
Welcome to the dawning of a new era with the City of Manchester now well and truly the centre of the footballing universe. And mark my words this is great news for United because there is nothing like a new challenge to keep you on your toes.
In case you needed a reminder the United are still the top dog, it was sweet irony that once again United eclipsed City on the day Roberto Mancini’s men claimed their first trophy in 35 years.
As City beat Stoke 1-0 at Wembley to win the FA Cup thanks to Yaya Toure’s late strike, United fans were already back in Manchester celebrating another Premier League triumph and a record-breaking 19th League title courtesy of their 1-1 draw at Blackburn secured by Wayne Rooney’s penalty.
But this was a day for Manchester to be United in celebration. Not just because the City can proudly boast the unique feat of winning two trophies on the same day. It is great for Manchester to be the undisputed Mecca of fooball. Even Milan can no longer match the glamour of England’s hotbed of football. And the odds are that the new intensity is here to stay.
I remember the end of the 60s when United and City last dominated football in this country. It was great for both clubs. And this time that great rivalry can last much longer than it did back in the days of Best, Law, Charlton and Lee, Bell, Summerbee.
With Liverpool getting their act together under the legendary Kenny Dalglish, what are the odds on the North-West giants occupying the top three positions in the Premier League next season and eclipsing the fading stars of Chelsea and Arsenal.
My bet is that Sir Alex Ferguson’s record-breakers will face a rejuvenated challenge from Liverpool next season as the Merseysiders seek to match United’s 19th League title. When Chelsea frivolously handed the Pool £50million for Fernando Torres Dalglish invested the money wisely and now has a good mix of established stars and exciting upcoming youngsters.
But the real fascination will be how much ground can neighbours City make up on Fergie’s champions after ending their 35 year wait for a trophy to add to their qualification for the Champions League.
There is no doubt City must spend another vast fortune if they want to rival the Reds at the top table. But that will be harder said than done despite their untold riches and their Champions League status.
The reason is the introduction of UEFA’s new Financial Fair Play rules.
Michel Platini has warned that the likes of big-spending Manchester City and Chelsea, and some of Europe’s biggest clubs, will have to ‘face the music’ if they do not comply with the new FFP regulations.
UEFA’s latest figures show that financial problems affecting European clubs are getting worse, with spending on player wages up almost 10 per cent – and increasing at a faster rate than income.
Under their new rules, clubs will face possible bans from European competition from the 2014/15 season if they spend more than they earn in the three years before.
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Roy Keane, who famously missed Manchester United’s 1999 Champions League Final triumph, is backing his old club to upset Barcelona at Wembley.
United’s legendary former skipper says Sir Alex Ferguson’s men are definitely good enough to beat Barcelona in the final on May 28 to become Champions of Europe for the fourth time.
Says Keano: “At Wembley, the United fans will take over the stadium. In a one-off game, with fans behind them, of course they can do it.
“They will have to do really well to beat this Barcelona team and my concern would be not picking up injuries. The Barcelona starting XI is brilliant, outstanding, but their squad is probably not as strong as United’s.”
Suspension ruled Keano out of the historic 1999 triumph over Bayern Munich. But it was his remarkable performance in the 3-2 semi-final win at Juventus that got United to the Final.
He scored from a header to start United’s comeback in Turin and drove the team forwards at every opportunity in what many believe was his finest hour as a footballer. Sadly, earlier in the match, Keane had received a yellow card for a trip on Zinedine Zidane that ruled him out of the final.
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There is much more than the Premier League title at stake when Manchester United face down defending champions Chelsea in the mother of all showdowns at The Theatre of Dreams on Sunday.
When Sir Alex Ferguson famously arrived at Old Trafford 25 years ago and said he’d arrived to knock Liverpool off their perch this is what he was talking about. A record breaking 19th League title will see The Red Devils finally eclipse their Merseyside rivals.
The football world asked themselves who was this crazy Glaswegian who thought he could achieve what seemed an impossible feat when he made his proud boast all those years ago.
“How long did this guy think he was going to be in the job,” says former England boss Graham Taylor, a reaction that was pretty much the universal response from everyone in the game.
But here we are a quarter of century later and the last man standing who can stop Fergie achieving that impossible dream is Carlo Ancelotti manager of a resurgent Chelsea side who have clawed back a 15 point deficit to stand just three points behind the League leaders with three matches remaining.
Victory for the Blues will put them top on goal difference with two to play. But any other result will surely put United on the road to the prize that United fans want above all other.
It s going to be a classic content, the occasion guarantees that it will be something special. And how great will it be for Fergie to effectively secure the record 19th title with victory over Ancelotti in front of a full house at Old Trafford – not to mention 600 million homes around the globe.
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