The amazing youth takeover
Over the weekend in the Barclays Premier League the result of two matches made such significant impact on the futures of two past winners of the league title in the last five seasons. Chelsea and Roberto di Matteo arrived at Arsenal unbeaten but with question marks on the durability of the young Italian at the top end of the league table despite winning the Champions League in such dramatic fashion the previous season. I have to admit that his few months at West Brom informed my views that he just might not be successful with Chelsea and is probably keeping the seat warm for Pep Guardiola.
I have always believed that this season will be one heck of a season with at least five teams ready to give the title a good shot. Di Matteo showed his tactical acumen with the team he chose. He needed legs, energy and tactical discipline so he dropped Lampard in came the energetic and tactically astute Brazilian Ramirez and alongside the normally obdurate John Obi Mikel they formed a proper shield in front of the Chelsea backline. This shield nullified the space that Santi Carzola likes to operate in and which Lukas Podolski ghosts into from his left wing.
The wide men of Mata and Hazard joined Oscar to outnumber Arsenal's three central midfielders when the hosts had possession. Chelsea it seems turned up not to get beat - if they sneak a win then so be it. And so it turned out. Torres led the line brilliantly and tormented the two centre- backs with his runs into the channels and scored a fantastically improvised finish from Mata's delivery. He should have scored more but this was a performance to increase his confidence and indeed that of the Chelsea management team as they adapt to life without the irreplaceable Didier Drogba.
A lot has been made of the fact that the two Chelsea goals came from set- pieces but what is ignored was the intense pressure that led to the ball recycled and moved forward swiftly by the Chelsea midfielders leading to the fouls. A feature throughout the match.
What will worry Arsene Wenger the Arsenal manager most will be how his team seemed to wilt so visibly as soon as Abou Diaby went off injured. Diaby I have believed will hold the key to what the Gunners achieve this season because when the French man is on his game, fit and firing no one can live with him. He is so key to the Arsenal transition from midfield into attack and can run the ball from midfield leaving most in his wake. At his departure Oxlade-Chamberlain was asked to play from in to out so as to match up the numbers but this dulled his influence wide and allowed Ashley Cole the freedom to attack at will.
Theo Walcott might well not have bothered to get on such was his ineffectual performance in Arsenal’s ultimately futile chase for the equalizer. Roberto Di Matteo has enhanced his reputation and this match should give him great confidence and banish the horrors of the Super Cup mauling at the feet of Falcao and Athletico Madrid.
I am a big fan of Andre Villas-Boas the Tottenham Hotspurs manager. After his latest visit to Old Trafford, Harry Redknapp's many friends in the press would have had their dinner ruined. Spurs came to Old Trafford and in the first half absolutely battered the home side. They had in Sandro, Dempsey and Dembele three players with skill, speed and tenacity. They were also supremely confident in their tactics and their own ability against the opposition. They were helped by the opposition line-up. Manchester United started the match with four players over 30 years and two of them over 35!! That is supremely arrogant or rank foolishness giving the pace of the game in the PL.
There seems to be cult in England were the United manager cannot be pulled up by journalists and asked to explain why all of a sudden he thinks 37 year old Paul Scholes can be doing it at the top end of the Premier League football or how he thinks Ryan Giggs at 38 can take on and outrun any young full-back. These two players it seems are beyond criticism and worse younger players in the team that are fit and raring to go are not giving the chance to sink or swim. Time and again, Sandro and Dembele took the ball off Scholes in that first half it was embarrassing to watch. One of these saw the Belgian feed the flying Welshman Bale who had the freedom of Manchester, turned the turbo engines on and left the other over 30 in Rio Ferdinand wondering what day it was. The finish was emphatic right footed across the sprawling Lindegaard.
United did rally in the second-half but their first half performance was so bad they did not deserve a point. Yes they hit the post twice, while Van Persie and Rooney spurned really good chances to level but it would have hidden the cracks that are in the current United set- up and continue to give the manager the belief that he is right in his continual use of Scholes and Giggs. United have lost 2 league games already, that is putting a lot of pressure on the team if they want to win the league. Sir Alex has been incredibly successful and his records speak for him. However, he is not infallible. His decision to keep hold of the old players is probably going to wreck this season for him.
Spurs are on the up and so is AvB, and the very vocal Steffen Freund alongside him. The German is incredibly passionate as his voice was heard all over Old Trafford as the team hung on for the 3 points. Spurs were unlucky to lose at Newcastle on their opening game and are unbeaten since. After laying the 23 year Old Trafford jinx they are well within their rights to think that the title is possible. I will agree.
With Everton still in form, Sir Alex and Arsene Wenger might just find out that they will need their vast experience to stave off the challenges of the young buccs in this season's title race. Not discounting the Champions Man City. It is not inconceivable that one of Arsenal or Manchester United could finish outisede of the top four.
My Twitter handle is @CalvinEmeka