In the words of former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini “a derby is a derby”. That between Arsenal and Chelsea ended a scoreless draw, allowing Liverpool to top the table on Christmas day. A fierce contest between both London rivals in a wind-swept, rain-soaked Emirate Stadium with so many talking points- the big one being referee Mike Dean’s calls.
Arsenal failed to reclaim the much coveted top spot- as teams that mark the birth of Jesus Christ at the top of the Premier League table have won the championship in the last four seasons- and Chelsea refused to get much farther from the top, but suffix it to say this has been the most unpredictable season ever in the Premier League era.
Liverpool should be warned- how Rafael Benitez’s men failed to clinch their first ever Premier League trophy in the 2008/09 season, only for Manchester United to emerge champions again- the last of three occasions such unfaithful omen had occurred. Yet with the ever-blazing Luis Suarez’s and Brendan Rodgers’ techniques at their disposal, the ‘Reds” penultimate 2013 match against Manchester City on Boxing Day and the trip to Stamford Bridge the following Sunday offer more of the excitements to fans the world over, gathered in every corner round TV sets waiting for the unexpected to unfold or chanting ‘You Will Never Walk Alone’ at the heart of the unfolding in Anfield. The bottom line is, any of the top five teams at this point could all end up top of the table on Boxing Day and before the opening of the winter Transfer Window.
For the first time in as many years Manchester United are not among the top four on Christmas day and Tottenham Hotspur could have just dozed off a bit- but not out- following the replacement of Andre Villas-Boas with Tim Sherwood on Monday night. Pondering on Jose Mourinho’s realistic intuitions after 17 rounds of matches, the prospective champion must pay the price for freedom before May, hence the league has transformed.
“Okay we don’t go to Christmas as leaders but we go with evolution because last season the championship was already lost by this point,” the Portuguese boss said after Monday night’s draw with Arsenal. “Now, we are there.
“Man United and Tottenham are not in the top four but they should be. It is a unique situation, an unbelievable championship because we are all there.”
Much have been said about the new ‘Gunners’ and Mesut Ozil’s masterclass but Arsene Wenger was rather furious of Chelsea’s not-so-surprising, yet, defensive approach to the London derby.
They came to park their bus inside the Emirates and steal another victory, said the Frenchman: “They locked the game up and waited for a counter attacking chance. It took us a while to get into our flow. I thought always in the final part of the game we would win but when we had the chances we could not take them.
“It was a very intense game but a locked game.”
The fans and, even referee Dean felt the heat after his final whistle produced a chorus of boos and chants of “boring boring Chelsea” from the Arsenal faithful frustrated at their team’s failure to break Mourinho’s stronghold on the famous showpiece between two of the best teams from the capital city.
Indeed Franck Lampard had the most salient of opportunities to rock the hosts’ boat when his powerful effort bounced off the underside of the woodwork in the first-half, but Olivier Giroud could have come up with nothing less than two of the jokers for the night, notably, his hopeless angled finish into the side-netting, having being left with time and space in the Chelsea area.
Of course, there were some moments to debate. John Obi Mikel could easily have seen a red card for a shocking first-half challenge on Mikel Arteta that went unpunished by the referee and Arsenal were convinced they should have had a penalty when Theo Walcott tumbled after Brazilian midfielder Willian stepped on his foot just before the interval.
“I haven’t seen the challenge from John Mikel Obi again but my ankle is swollen big time. He broke my shinpad and was late,” Arteta said after the match. “…Theo Walcott is saying that it was also 100% penalty. We were unlucky tonight.”
Depending on who you have been discussing the messy incidents with, you should be fed up of the usual discordant view after another night of football in the most unfriendly condition, akin to Friday Night brawl.
“Mikel’s was a hard tackle, an aggressive one,” Mourinho admitted. “Football is for men- or women with a fantastic attitude.”
Even with the match crying for help, Wenger decided to make no substitution as some Santi Cazorla or Mathieu Flamini’s genious could have added depth to the hosts’ prodding.
“I made no changes as we had a good balance and I felt that we had enough strength to see it through,” Wenger added.
Stalemate it ended, up next is a trip to Boleyn Ground for the second-placed Arsenal and Swansea’s visit to Stamford Bridge, all a day after Christmas.
Better still, the busy Christmas period now seems to point its mischief radar at the Anfield club, who hosts City and visits Chelsea in three days.
Two points covers the new league leaders, Arsenal, City, Chelsea and Everton at the moment and, who said it matters who tops the league on Christmas day.