The Chelsea-Arsenal derby at Stamford Bridge, so comfortably won by the hosts, was badly blemished not merely by the bizarre clash between an outraged Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho, but by far too many ugly, dangerous fouls which went unpunished by Martin Atkinson, a permissive referee, and the fallibility of Chelsea’s medical staff, which could have cost their injured goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois so dearly.
Laid out by his collision with Arsenal’s Alex Sanchez, he was examined for less than a minute by the Chelsea doctor, Eva Carneiro, and allowed to play on for fully 13 minutes. At which point, bleeding from an ear, he was finally and belatedly indeed taken off the field. That he was found in hospital not to be seriously injured is neither here nor there.
The point surely is that he could so well have been and that FA directives at the start of this season strongly appear to insist a player be taken off in such circumstances. One recalls a worse incident when Tottenham’s keeper was laid out and the then Spurs manager now coaching in Russia inexcusably overruled his medics by insisting that Lloris stay on.
Atkinson could and probably should have sent off very early on Chelsea’s Gary Cahill for a shocking foul on Alex Sanchez, which was what caused Wenger to confront Mourinho as he strove to make a justified protest.
Later the young Arsenal full back Chambers should arguably have gone off, given a second yellow card which wasn’t flourished, while why wasn’t Lauent Kosielyn expelled when giving away that penalty, and in the process clearly denying a goal scoring opportunity? Had Cahill properly been dismissed, what a different game it would surely have begun. Which not to deny that at full strength, Chelsea were far the better team.
You do wonder about Mesut Ozil, an anonymity in this game whatever he might recently have done at Villa Park, playing against a team half of whose players were suffering from a bug. £42 million seems increasingly to have been an excessive amount; nearly double what Chelsea paid for Arsenal’s former star midfielder Cesc Fabregas whose jewelled through pass gave Costa Chelsea’s second goal.
But if Wenger this season and last seems to be losing his way, every possible credit to him for daring, many years ago, to make the much smaller, much younger Fabregas the midfield successor to the heavyweight Patrick Vieira.
Arsenal have had their triumphs this season and made short work at The Emirates of Galatasaray, but much more significant surely was their limp performance in Germany against a Borussia Dortmund team which has been struggling in the Bundesliga.
The game at Chelsea showed that despite that hat trick against Galatasaray and other good goals, Danny Welbeck, who might also have gone off for a crude challenge on Cesc Fabregas, is not yet the finished article.
Distant memories. At Watford last Saturday, I found myself sitting next to a Derby-born journalist who knew County’s history impressively. Not least when I mentioned to him a Derby centre half called Leon Leuty, who, flanked by two solid wing halves in Bullions and Musson, helped Derby beat Charlton 4-1 in the first FA Cup Final after the war at Wembley.
I had admired Leuty’s cool, technical abilities, though like another elegant stopper – Alan Hansen – he had the reputation of giving second chances. Once, at the Earls Court arena, during a display by leading English players of football skills I, then a schoolboy, had found myself sitting next to him, remembering only hearing him say to the man on his other side, “I’ve got bloody stomach ache.”
Alas, he was fated to die very young, at the age of 35, from leukemia. My companion in the press box told me that his mother was in love with Leuty, and would gladly have gone off with him. Leuty if I recall correctly played only once for England in a charity match which didn’t carry a cap. Poor soul. He deserved a better fate.
Dave Reddin has the somewhat grandiose title of FA head of performance services (no I can’t make much sense of the appellation either. But seemingly he is a formidable sports analyst, who greatly impressed the Rugby people when helping England to win the World Cup in 2003. Quite what that, however meritorious, has to do with association football is a little puzzling but seemingly he is competent.
Quite why Roy Hodgson was allowed to leave the discussion before Reddin produced his report is bewildering. Yes, Roy had apparently been aware of its contents but this surely was a chance for him to respond to its criticisms in front of the committee. Certainly there are questions to be answered, but that the report was presented so many weeks after the World Cup seems hardly logical.
We know that sticking Wayne Rooney out on the left wing against Italy was a mistake, that another was not to take the hugely experienced Ashley Cole but to prefer an international novice like the teenaged Shaw was indeed an expensive mistake, since Leighton Baines, the first choice, was anything but convincing and playing a 4-2-3-1 formation which had failed in the past was always going to be risky.
But why delay so long, not just with the report, but till Roy had left the meeting? How about a resume?