Schoolboy tales and schoolboy errors
This week I’ve decided to bring out the comfort blanket and snuggle up with Messrs Mourinho and Wenger again. Unfortunately there was no such blanket for baby Costa to cling on to on Sunday as he threw his toys, sorry bib, out of the pram when he was an unused sub against Spurs.
Papa Mourinho however, chose not to be bothered by the mini tantrum as he addressed the press after the game. The Chelsea boss claimed there was “no issue” after the incident and preferred instead to focus on his striker’s desire. The Blues’ boss, Mourinho, said: “For me his behaviour is normal. A top player on the bench will not be happy.”
You may may mock Costa’s reaction as childish (as I may well have alluded to) but ultimately I would take a striker kicking off at not playing over one who would happily sit on the bench week in week out, picking up his wages. He clearly has a desire to succeed, however that manifests itself, and that is something to be valued.
Moving onto the game itself and Mourinho claimed he was happy with “The best Chelsea this season.” A first look at the stats would find many questioning this, with his team registering just the one shot on target , but to limit a rampant Spurs team as they did will serve to boost Chelsea’s confidence. Bit by bit you feel that Chelsea are recovering but to ask them to even make up the numbers for Champions League qualification come May, is asking a lot.
But if Mourinho’s charges have resembled spoilt schoolboys at times this season, Arsene Wenger has persisted to make schoolboy errors. A mediocre draw against Norwich this weekend was not only two points dropped, but at least another two players on the treatment table. On the face of it, injuries can be seen as bad luck for a manager but when you look at the circumstances surrounding Alexis Sanchez’s withdrawal on Sunday, you have to apportion blame at the manager’s door. On the Chilean striker, Wenger claimed, “I would have rested him but he said he was fine to play.”
Now this may be me being wise after the event with a huge slice of hindsight, but surely when your star player tweaks his hamstring in midweek, you don’t risk him away to Norwich? The fear would have been losing, as Arsenal nearly did anyway, while resting the striker, yet what Wenger has to deal with now could be far worse. As he said himself, “He says it is a kick on his hamstring, I believe that is not the reality. I fear it is not the reality.” Missing Sanchez for the large part of December would be a huge blow to an already injury hit squad which brings the manager’s judgement into focus even more keenly. He will know that a player like Sanchez will never want to miss a game. For most of the time that would be a positive attribute in a player, but when it comes to injuries it can be a hinderance. Wenger should be able to pull rank and take responsibility for starting a player carrying such an injury. His post-match comments give me the feeling that he knows this all too well.
For all the frustration that Mr Wenger will be feeling after his weekend though, you can multiply that many times over for the incumbents at the foot of the table. I won’t spend too much time on Steve McClaren’s words of woe as they have been covered by far more informed sources than I over the last few weeks and months on these pages, but suffice to say, they won’t go without derision. He gets no prizes for recognising that Newcastle are in a relegation fight but to say that the team is “doing the right things” is enough to question the man’s sanity. Two wins and the worst goal difference in the league – crack on lads.
Last but not least, one man who is seemingly unburdened by the threat of relegation is Garry Monk. Speaking after the weekend’s defeat at Liverpool, the Swansea boss claimed, “There’s never any danger of that team being in a relegation fight.” The stiff upper lip and bravado is understandable to a point, but when your only win in ten games comes against Villa, there comes a time when reality is a more valuable motivational tool. Let’s see what next week brings eh, Garry?