Tag Archives: victory

Leo"s London: You"re not safe yet Andre Villas-Boas

You”re not safe yet AVB, you still have to face Manchester City

Why did Andre Villas-Boas have to go and spoil it

A “slap in the face” for Chelsea”s critics is one thing to claim after a marvellous Champions League victory. Persecution quite another.

The Jews were persecuted by the Nazis during the Holocaust, asylum cases are based around protection from persecution, but are super-wealthy, cosseted Premier League stars persecuted Not so much.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas

Jump to it: Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas

It is fair to say the manager known for crouching and springing up on the touchline was a little jumped up after Chelsea”s win against Valencia.

Instead of revelling in the polished performances of his players, the superb displays from Didier Drogba, Oriol Romeu, Raul Meireles, Ramires, Petr Cech and just about everyone else in the team, he struck out childishly at the treatment of him and his team by the media.

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Villas-Boas could have claimed a tactical victory after altering his side”s approach, he could have taken the plaudits for being brave enough to drop Frank Lampard.

But no, he claimed Chelsea had suffered from “continuous persecution” because critics had reacted to their unusually inconsistent form by drawing conclusions from the overwhelming precedents available.

Villas-Boas is the seventh manager at the club since Roman Abramovich bought them in 2003. Only two so far have lasted for more than a season.

So with Chelsea slipping away from the title race and struggling in Europe it was reasonable to suggest the manager would be under pressure.

If he was not, why did he get assurances – twice – from Abramovich that his job was safe

Misunderstanding the language cannot be used as an excuse by Villas-Boas, either. He speaks English fluently. So much so, in fact, he sometimes doesn”t know when to stop.

Was he trying to foster a siege mentality at the club Unlikely, given that he chose the moment to voice his displeasure just when Chelsea had earned plenty of plaudits.

Perhaps Villas-Boas was trying to employ the word persecution to claim his club had been persistently harassed or annoyed rather than subjected to ill-treatment.

But even that would be nave. The manager and his team have not, as faras we know, been persistently pursued in private and given a hard time because they are not winning as much as usual.

Party time: Didier Drogba

Didn”t I do well: Drogba scored twice against Valenia

Villas-Boas has worked at Chelsea before, too, and has seen far more extreme circumstances than these. He admitted after taking the job that he knew what was expected of him and the team, the same expectations which have led to criticism.

Whining that Manchester City have been given an easier ride as they, too, have struggled in the Champions League is also ridiculous.

Surely, as an intelligent man, he recognises it is the first time City have qualified for the competition and that comfortably leading the Premier League helps their case. Surely, as an intelligent man, he is aware of Abramovich”s fascination with the competition and desire to succeed in it.

And if Villas-Boas was still intent on slapping down his critics despite the strong foundations for their comments, why didn”t he wait until after Monday”s game against City when proof of Chelsea”s revival could really be confirmed.

Wenger needs reinforcements

Arsenal”s resurgence since that painful defeat by Tottenham in October has been encouraging and seems to have won over many of the supporters who were turning against manager Arsene Wenger.

But those now expecting a return to the glory days should wait until after the transfer window before they let themselves dream.

Calamity: Vito Mannone

Calamity: Keeper Vito Mannone tees up second goal for Olympiakos

Arsenal are a good team and are looking like top four material once more but the competition at the top is fiercer than ever and Wenger”s squad is still thin.

Tuesday”s defeat at Olympiakos was not a result of great significance as Arsenal had already won their Champions League group, but as an indicator of the strength of the squad it was instructive.

There were several Keystone Cops moments and Wenger still needs reinforcements for the spine of his side as it is too reliant on key players such as Robin van Persie and Thomas Vermaelen staying fit.

Bringing in three quality players in January seems unlikely but if Arsenal do not make at least one top class signing in the transfer window they will need more luck than they have had in years to compete for trophies.

Tweeter of the week: David Gold Rapport: David Gold

Rapport: David Gold

West Ham”s joint chairman has not always been a favourite person of this column after his and David Sullivan”s clumsy and sometimes crass attempts to revive the fortunes of West Ham.

Regularly landing his helicopter on the club”s training ground and milking the limelight didn”t help, either.

However, after putting his money into the club and appearing to steer the club towards some stability in the Championship, Gold has engaged with West Ham fans frequently on Twitter.

There are no stand out quotes from him or outstanding gestures of goodwill but his willingness to frequently answer questions about fan issues and players” fitness is to his credit.

Young wary of safe option as Manchester United face make-or-break clash in Basle

Young wary of safe option as Manchester United face make-or-break clash in Basle

Ashley Young is adamant Manchester United will not adopt a safety-first attitude in their make-or-break Champions League encounter with FC Basle.

After tossing away a two-goal lead against the Swiss champions on matchday two and then failing to overcomeBenfica at Old Trafford a fortnight ago, Sir Alex Ferguson”s men must avoid defeat if they are to book their customary spot in the last 16.

Hit and miss: Ashley Young

Hit and miss: Ashley Young”s form has mirrored United”s season

It is not quite what Ferguson intended when the draw was made, and even qualification will be bitter-sweet as United are almost certain to be condemned to a runners-up berth which would set up potential meetings with heavyweight quartet Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich.

Young admits he is still a relative newcomer to the tournament.

However, he has been with the Red Devils long enough to know there is not a chance of United sitting back to secure the point they so desperately require.

“It would be dangerous to think we only need a draw,” said the former Aston Villa man. “No one at this club has that mentality.

“We still have it in our hands to go there and qualify, which was the main target and we will be trying to win.”

Although he was part of a United side that carved out yet another single-goal victory at Villa Park on Saturday, Young is still to find the devastating early-season form that secured a succession of high-scoring wins.

It proved exactly why Ferguson was prepared to splash out 18million on him, triggering a move Young did not need to have second thoughts about.

Blow: United were held 3-3 by Basle at Old Trafford

Blow: United were held 3-3 by Basle at Old Trafford

“They don”t come much bigger than Manchester United,” he said.

“I have always had confidence in my own ability and the club had enough confidence to sign me.

“I know quite a few players through England, so I settled in straight away.”

With Javier Hernandez ruled out for a month, Danny Welbeck only just back from a muscular problem suffered on England duty and Dimitar Berbatov sweating on his fitness after aggravating an ankle injury in the Carling Cup defeat to Crystal Palace last week, Young may be required to fill a more orthodox attacking role.

It is something he has done with a measure of success for England, after being shuffled into the slot by Gerard Houllier during the Frenchman”s time at Villa Park.

Not that Young has a preference for where he wants to play.

“I don”t have a favourite position,” he said.

“As long as I am in the team I am happy. The modern-day footballer has to be versatile.”

David Silva: Manchester City can still win Champions League

Forget failing to qualify, City can still WIN the Champions League, roars Silva

Manchester City playmaker David Silva insists winning the Champions League is still not out of the question as the players will not accept defeat.

Roberto Mancini”s side have to beat Bayern Munich, who have already qualified as Group A winners, on Wednesday and hope Napoli drop points at Villarreal.

It leaves City”s maiden Champions League campaign balancing on a knife-edge but Silva is confident they can get through what has been a rollercoaster group stage to book their place in the last 16.

Brrrrr: David Silva (left) and Samir Nasri in Manchester City training at Carrington

Brrrrr: David Silva (left) and Samir Nasri in Manchester City training at Carrington

“We need to improve upon what we”ve achieved already and keep progressing as a team,” said the Spain international. “Of course, we”ve got to do well in the Champions League and, well, we should aim to win it. Why not I don”t think that is out of the question.”

City”s first foray into the Champions League got off to a bad start with a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Napoli and then a defeat in Munich which was memorable for being the origin of the now long-running Carlos Tevez saga.

However, they bounced back with home and away victories over Villarreal and appeared to be back on track only to lose in Naples to put their progression in jeopardy.

But although Bayern have dropped only two points in five matches Silva is confident Mancini”s squad will be looking to beat the Germans.

Silva said their mentality had partly been forged by the FA Cup final victory last season, which ended amajor trophy drought spanning four decades.

“Itwas a key season for us. We won our first trophy for 35 years and qualified for the Champions League, claiming a place among the best teams in Europe,” he told the official Champions League magazine.

Tussle: Manager Roberto Mancini watches Mario Balotelli and Pablo Zabeletta

Tussle: Manager Roberto Mancini watches Mario Balotelli and Pablo Zabeletta

“We”re up there with the elite now and this is enabling us to attract winners. These players know how to win, must win and accept nothing else.

“Winners don”t believe in fate like others do. They simply cannot accept defeat.

“The UEFA Champions League is certainly where we want to be and the level we have been aiming for.”

Silva has earned rave reviews for his performances in the Barclays Premier League for City this season – his second in England – in particular.

The 25-year-old believes he has found his feet in the hurly-burly of English football”s top flight.

Warming up: City head into Europe on the back of a win over Norwich

Warming up: City head into Europe on the back of a win over Norwich

“It”s now getting a bit easier for me,” added Silva, who left Valencia in the summer of 2010 to join the revolution taking place at the Etihad Stadium. “When you experience playing in two different leagues, you learn to adapt; you pick up elements from the best virtues of each culture.

“You adapt to the speed of the Premier League and you combine that with your Spanish instincts, to spend time on the ball, what you”ve learned about reading the game.

“Football in England is much more direct than in Spain – not just in terms of tactics or style, but in the overall approach. Even when you”re winning 2-0, the crowd are urging the team to get the ball up to score a third.”

Italian job: City are reliant on Napoli dropping points at Villarreal

Italian job: City are reliant on Napoli dropping points at Villarreal

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks beyond 200th European match

Arsenal boss Wenger speeds past milestone on drive for victory in Europe

This being Arsene Wenger, his 200th European match was not an anniversary he had even considered.

The Arsenal manager’s mind drifted back to the ‘many hotels and many planes’ his Monaco and Arsenal sides have occupied on gruelling midweek journeys around Europe.

‘I am deeply convinced top-level sport is about leaving the past behind you and focusing on what is ahead,’ he said.

Next generation: Arsene Wenger takes a young team to Greece for his 200th match in Europe

Next generation: Arsene Wenger takes a young team to Greece for his 200th match in Europe

Pressed for the personal highlight of his double century of games, his thoughts turned to an excruciating near miss. Arsenal have showed startling consistency by qualifying for Europe’s elite club competition for 14 seasons in a row, but the main prize still eludes them — and their manager.

Juggling act: The Gunners boss tries not to dwell on the past

Juggling act: The Gunners boss tries not to dwell on the past

‘The whole season we were unbeaten in the Champions League — apart from the last 13 minutes,’ said Wenger, referring to the 2005-06 campaign.

Arsenal waltzed through their group and beat a Real Madrid side boasting David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo and Robinho 1-0 at the Bernabeu before holding them 0-0 at Highbury. They saw off Juventus in the last eight and dispatched Villarreal in the semi-finals.

Arsenal led Barcelona 1-0 in the Paris final with 14 minutes to go, despite Jens Lehmann’s dismissal.

199 MATCHES IN EUROPE FOR WENGER… AND COUNTING

95 European victories

54 Number of draws (eight with Monaco, 31 with Arsenal)

50 Number of losses (12 with Monaco, 39 with Arsenal)

144 Champions League matches and qualifiers with Arsenal (70 wins, 38 draws and 36 defeats)

161 Wenger’s Champions League and European Cup matches

23 Years since Wenger first took charge of a European match. Monaco lost 1-0 to the Icelandic side Valur in the European Cup on September 6, 1988

5 Goals scored in Arsenal’s first European game under Wenger, a 3-2 UEFA Cup away defeat by Borussia Monchengladbach on September 25, 1996

3 Runners-up medals: 1992 Cup Winners’ Cup, 2006 Champions League and 2000 UEFA Cup

0 European trophies

20 Number of different countries” teams whom Wenger has faced in the Champions League, UEFA Cup and Cup-Winners Cup

17 Wenger”s UEFA Cup matches

21 Wenger”s Cup Winners Cup matches

7 Number of Spanish clubs Arsenal have faced under Wenger. Germany and Italy have both provided six opponents and France have provided five

14 Number of consecutive seasons for Wenger in the Champions League. Arsenal have qualified for the competition every season since 1998

But two goals in five minutes, from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti left Wenger with a European runners-up medal for the third time.

The Frenchman, whose sides also reached the 1992 Cup-Winners’ Cup and 2000 UEFA Cup finals, said: ‘We have had many highlights because over the years you could say we have won everywhere — in Madrid, Milan, Rome, everywhere. Maybe the only place we didn’t win is Barcelona.

‘The away wins are the most special, yes. We like going away in Europe and winning because it’s difficult. That means Arsenal are remembered well all over Europe as a strong club. Out of these 200 games in Europe, most have been at the highest level and it’s been a fantastic experience.

‘It is an impressive number because 200 games usually make a whole career. It’s many hotels, many planes (but) many big games and that is the important thing.’

At the age of 62, Wenger admits he is still learning about tactics in Europe.

‘Ferguson has even more experience and you can see that it’s difficult in Europe to win in every game,’ he added. ‘The next 200 will be more difficult.’

So close: Arsenal were 13 minutes from Champions League glory in 2006

So close: Arsenal were 13 minutes from Champions League glory in 2006

But, unlike the Manchester United manager, Wenger can relax ahead of his side’s final Champions League group game. However unlikely it looked when they needed a win against Udinese over two legs to earn their place in the pool stage, Arsenal became the first English side to seal their place in the last 32 as Group F winners

Wenger, though, is confident his side will not be the only Barclays Premier League side to extend their run in the competition. He said premature exits for Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United would be ‘catastrophic’.

If Arsenal and Stoke were the only sides to reach the latter stages in Europe this season, it would affect England’s UEFA co-efficient. The ranking, which measures clubs’ success in European competition, would be highly unlikely to fall below that of Germany or Italy, but the Premier League could lose the privilege of having four Champions League places.

Job done: Arsenal have already qualified top of their group

Job done: Arsenal have already qualified top of their group

Olympiakos v Arsenal: Match preview

Wenger said: ‘That would harm us for the future. That’s what you don’t want – going to three places. Hopefully that will not happen.

‘The teams like Manchester United would then focus on the FA Cup and the Premier League (if they were knocked out of the Champions League) but let’s see. I don’t think that will happen. I want everyone to go through.’

Wenger can afford to rest Robin van Persie, Aaron Ramsey, Mikel Arteta, Gervinho, Alex Song, Per Mertesacker, Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny, none of whom travelled to Athens. Marouane Chamakh, Andrey Arshavin and Emmanuel Frimpong will be given opportunities.

There was a playful jibe from Wenger after Frimpong revealed he grew up in Tottenham having arrived from Ghana aged eight. ‘I’ve never been a Tottenham supporter,’ added the 19-year-old, quickly.

Wenger said: ‘I love Frimpong’s raw enthusiasm. The problem is to keep him on the right track. Like every generous guy, you don’t want to see him lose that. He’s a fighter.

‘You would love to go to war with Frimpong, but he also has to use his energy in a positive way because sometimes too much energy can be a handicap.’