8th February 2017: Chelsea’s One Hand On The Title?

Chelsea 3-1 Arsenal

James: To be honest, I didn’t think Arsenal played terribly in the first half, but once again one half of decent football is causing Arsenal big points, and they’re now truly out the title race. We can maybe forgive them for being outrun in midfield with the injuries they had, but that’s no excuse for the poor performances of star players like Alexis Sanchez, who was very, very, very poor. On the other hand, Chelsea were as efficient as ever. They used the space well and took their chances. This is a team that deserve the title for such an imperious run of form. There’s not much else that can be said! Chelsea are too good for everyone right now.

Sam: Chelsea deserved the victory, but Arsenal were too easy to play through. While the first goal was a foul, you could see why Alonso’s challenge went unnoticed as the extent of the challenge was only realised after the ball went in and by looking at the super slow motion replay. Chelsea’s second goal was very good play from Eden Hazard, but the Gunners’ defence was too soft. One of the first things you learn as a defender is if an attacker is bearing down on goal like the Belgian was, you bring him down and take a yellow card for the team. Arsenal didn’t do that for Watford’s second goal on Tuesday night, and this happened once again on Sunday. The rest was just damage limitation for the Gunners. It was obvious that the team was looking towards Ozil and Sanchez for inspiration in attack and it wasn’t there. Both of them have barely turned up in the big games for Arsenal this season when it really matters and on the basis of their recent form, neither deserve new contracts.

Wenger Out?

James: 12 years without the Premier League title is undoubtedly a disappointing statistic for Arsenal fans. But I think there needs to be some perspective here. Arsenal are still in and around Man Utd, Man City, Spurs and Liverpool, who many fans claim have ‘better managers that Arsenal could have had’. Well, maybe, but they’re hardly in a better position than where Wenger’s taken Arsenal this season so far. Chelsea have just been far too good this year and no ones kept up. Since Arsenal paid off the stadium debt, and had ‘big money’ to spend, they’ve won two FA Cups, and finished 4th, 3rd and 2nd. So, are things really that and under Wenger? The team still entertains with brilliant total football and produce big moments for fans to cherish. It’s not all perfect, but come on, it’s not as bad as people make out. Be careful what you wish for, I say.

Sam: I hate the phrase ‘Wenger Out’ because it’s an incorrect term to use. Nobody at Arsenal is going to sack him after all he has done for the club, and rightly so. So when fans say ‘Wenger Out’ it gives off the impression that the fans are trying to hound him out of the Emirates, which isn’t right in my opinion. He’s given his entire career to the Gunners and built the club up almost singlehandedly to the monument it is today in English football. If he leaves, Arsenal threaten to lose the stability that they have with him, and could end up in the state that Manchester United are in right now and fail to qualify for the Champions League, which would be detrimental considering Arsenal aren’t a walking franchise like the Red Devils, so wouldn’t be able to attract the top players if they end up in the Europa League. Every good story deserves a fairytale ending and the Frenchman should only leave Arsenal when he’s got it.

Leicester’s Form

James: They undoubtedly aren’t the team of last year, though we can’t be too surprised. Mahrez and Vardy have proven to be ‘one-season wonders’, and the back four look lost. The issue is, Leicester can’t focus on just the league because the Champions League is so demanding and they do have a chance of going through if we see them in last years form! I think they need to stick with Ranieri, play a midfield 5 to make up for the loss of Kante, and get Vardy playing on the shoulder of defenders again. The ONLY thing that may work in Leicester’s favour, is the fact that teams will know they’re there for the taking, and therefore Leicester can look to counter attack like they did so well last season. I think they’ll stay up, but only just.

Sam: The Foxes are in REAL trouble. The Champions League recommences next week, meaning that Mahrez and co could get distracted from the league by European exploits, which could damage their bid for survival. Another issue with Leicester is that because last season was such a freak fairytale, their fans won’t really mind if they get relegated, as last season happened and they’ll never forget it. They should stick with Ranieri because he deserves that loyalty, but if they do go down then they should relieve him from his duties as it becomes a completely different project then.

Gabriel Jesus

James: What a signing he’s been! He’s clearly got an eye for goal, and seems to fit the profile of a typical Guardiola player. However, I think as time goes on he’ll see himself more and more on the bench as the big end of season games come thick and fast. Jesus is benefitting from playing in a side that have little pressure on them with the title all but won, and as the pressure begins to return I think Aguero will play more and more and continue to prove why he’s one of the best players in the world. Gabriel Jesus is undoubtedly a player with world class potential though, let’s hope it works out for him!

Sam: It’s clear that Guardiola has said to him, “go out and play your game” for the opening few matches and he’s certainly enjoying the freedom that he has. The only problem I have about this is that we’ve seen this before in the Premier League. Weren’t we talking about Memphis Depay in the same way after a few games into his United career? City will obviously turn back to Aguero for the bigger games and it will test Jesus’ character when he goes back to being second fiddle. It’s great for the Citizens though, as they seem to have a ready made replacement for Aguero when his talents start to fade.

Philip Lahm Announces Retirement

James: The word ‘world class’ is overused perhaps. However, when it comes to Lahm, he is worthy of that title. A World Cup winner, Champions League winners, and countless more trophies to his name, he’s led his club and country through the big games with an incredible amount of professionalism. He’s considered such an intelligent player by all his former and current coaches, that Guardiola even felt the need to put him in midfield – the mark of total football. It will be a real shame not to see him play after this season, but what a career he’s had. Maybe Kimmich can fill that massive void left behind?

Sam: What a legend he is. When you look at one-club players that English football has produced, it really comes up second best compared to what Lahm has done. Steven Gerrard was brilliant at Liverpool, but he played for an inconsistent Liverpool team over 20 years, which won the Champions League won year but failed to qualify for it another year. Ryan Giggs at Manchester United, again was brilliant, but he grew with the success of the club as it was only after his debut and his introduction to the first team when United became one of the dominant forces in English football. Lahm however, joined a team that was rich in history and success, and somehow made it better. Nearly 650 games for club and country at the highest level and never falling is a massive achievement and I hope he never is forgotten.

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