Tag Archives: Arsene Wenger

Key games in the Leicester miracle (part 2)

This is part two of my list of key games in Leicester City’s amazing Premier League title winning season. I will list what were in my opinion the key games (not all Leicester’s) from the second half of the season (January 2nd – May 2nd).

1. Tottenham 0 Leicester 1. This game won by a goal from unlikely scorer Robert Huth was important first because it ended a slight wobble (no goals in Leicester’s last three League games) and second it was an away win against the team that turned out to be their main rivals for the title.

2. Leicester 3 Stoke 0. Important because Vardy ended a six game goalless streak and this win took Leicester back to the top of the table where – as it turned out – they would stay.

3. Arsenal 0 Chelsea 1. Arsenal could have knocked Leicester off the top spot the very next day. But their fragile temperament was exposed again. An early red card for Per Mertesacker and a goal by Diego Costa gave outgoing champions Chelsea the “double” over Arsenal and raised question marks about Arsenal’s ability to sustain a title challenge.

4. Leicester 2 Liverpool 0. Two goals by Vardy – one a goal of the season candidate – gave Leicester revenge over one of the two teams to have beaten them in the League and maintained their three point lead.

5. Arsenal 0 Southampton 0. Another bad night for Arsenal. They huffed and puffed but ran into a great performance from Saints keeper Fraser Forster. Arsenal were now five points behind Leicester and to their fans horror were below bitter rivals Tottenham in the table.

6. Manchester City 1 Leicester 3. This was the game. The game that made people sit up and take Leicester seriously. A seriously impressive performance with two goals by Huth and one by Mahrez put Leicester five points clear at the top. City would have gone top had they won but this game led to the end of their title challenge.

7. Arsenal 2 Leicester 1. Heartbreak for Leicester. 1-0 up and playing well until Danny Simpson was sent off. Even so Leicester looked like hanging on for a deserved point until sub Danny Wellbeck scored in the fifth minute of injury time. Arsenal celebrated like they had won the League – even taking dressing room selfies! A kick to the solar plexus for Leicester who now faced a real test of character.

8. Manchester City 1 Tottenham 2. This game showed that Tottenham were for real. Goals by Harry Kane and Erik Lamela gave Tottenham a huge win a “double” over City and meant there were just two points between Leicester, Tottenham and Arsenal at the top of the table. The heat was on…

9. Leicester 1 Norwich 0. And this was one of the key games of the season. Leicester struggled for 89 minutes and looked like dropping two points. But instead substitute Leonardo Ulloa scored to give Leicester the ugly, late 1-0 win that Ferguson’s Manchester United and Mourinho’s Chelsea specialised in. Wins like this win titles.

10. Manchester United 3 Arsenal 2. Another disaster for Arsenal embarrassed by 18 year old Marcus Rashford who scored two and had one assist on his Premier League debut. Arsenal were now five points behind Leicester and in trouble.

The next three games were all on one night – March 2nd. Leicester had been held 2-2 by West Brom the previous night and Tottenham had a chance to go top of the table while Arsenal and City had a chance to make up ground. Incredibly they all lost.

11. West Ham 1 Tottenham 0. West Ham were the seasons spoilers and were at it again. On a raucous night at Upton Park a goal by Michail Antonio prevented Tottenham from going to the top of the table.

12. Arsenal 1 Swansea 2. Of all Arsenal’s flops this was the worst. Swansea prioritising their relegation six pointer against Norwich on the next Saturday fielded a weakened team lost an early goal and still grabbed a famous victory. The natives at the Emeriates were getting seriously restless.

13. Liverpool 3 Manchester City 0. City had beaten Liverpool in the League Cup Final the previous Sunday but Liverpool gained instant revenge with a crushing win. City were now ten points behind Leicester and after this incredible night Leicester’s title win started to seem – to quote WWE star Randy Orton –  “destiny”.

14. Tottenham 2 Arsenal 2. The biggest most hyped North London Derby in years produced a result that suited only Leicester. Tottenham should have won and gone to the top of the table – they were 2-1 up against ten men – but Alexis Sanchez’s late equaliser gave Arsenal a point. Instead of being top Tottenham ended the day five points behind after Leicester won 1-0 at Watford (Mahrez of course!)

15. Leicester 1 Newcastle 0. Leicester had one piece of luck towards the end of the season. They usually played before Tottenham so if they won the pressure was on Tottenham to catch up and if they slipped up Tottenham still had to win to take advantage. But on this occasion Tottenham played first. They won putting the pressure on Leicester. Add to that Newcastle – hitherto a shambles – had a new manager in Rafael Benitez and new managers sometimes give struggling teams a lift. But a brilliant bicycle kick goal by Shinji Okazaki restored Leicester’s five point cushion.

16. Liverpool 1 Tottenham 1. A point at Anfield is usually a good result but as Leicester were grinding out 1-0 wins Tottenham really needed a win. They played before Leicester this weekend but instead of cutting the lead to two points they only cut it to four. Next day Leicester had yet another 1-0 win – this time over Southampton. They were seven points clear with six games to play…

17. Leicester 2 West Ham 2. At half time Leicester were 1-0 up – Vardy again – and all was going well. Then Vardy got himself sent off for diving and everything changed. West Ham – who had played spoilers all season – scored in the 84th and 86th minutes to stun the King Power Stadium. But in the fifth minute of injury time Leicester were awarded a controversial penalty. Ulloa cooly converted to turn a morale denting defeat into a fighting draw. But Tottenham looked seriously impressive at Stoke the next night the gap was now five points and talismanic striker Vardy was suspended for two games (the extra game was for dissent after his sending off). The pressure was back on.

18. Leicester 4 Swansea 0. Leicester got a lucky break – an error by one of the best defenders in the League Ashley Williams who gave the ball to Mahrez of all people! – but once in front they played like Champions to score their biggest league win of the season. Tottenham had to catch up again…

19. Tottenham 1 West Brom 1. And they couldn’t. They took the lead in the first half but could not increase it and the longer the game went on the more nervous Tottenham got. When the equaliser came it was not a surprise. This meant if Leicester won at Old Trafford the title would be theirs…

20. Manchester United 1 Leicester 1. Which they could not do. But considering they fell behind had Danny Drinkwater sent off and they were playing a United team who had to win to help their own Champions League ambitions this was a good result. Captain Wes Morgan scored the goal that meant Tottenham had to win at Chelsea or the fairytale would come true.

21. Chelsea 2 Tottenham 2. And we know what happened here. Tottenham 2-0 up at half time looked like they would make Leicester have to beat Everton on Saturday to win the title. But like Liverpool at Crystal Palace on another May Monday night in 2014 they lost the lead and the plot ending the game with nine players being booked. And to show how amazing football is Chelsea’s equaliser was scored by last season’s player of the year Eden Hazard who had a terrible season just like his team. He had not scored a Premier League goal until Chelsea’s game at Bournemouth the previous week – Chelsea’s 34th game of the season. But his strike with seven minutes to go completed the fairytale and made him a Leicester hero.

So ends the story of what must be the most amazing story in football history. The Champions of Europe’s big five Leagues are Juventus, Paris Saint Germain, Bayern Munich*, either Barcelona, Atletico Madrid or Real Madrid, and Leicester City. It still does not seem right. But congratulations to Claudio Ranieri and his Leicester players. Whatever happens now they are in the history books for ever and will never be forgotten…

*Bayern have not yet clinched the German title but five points clear with two games to go a win at Ingolstadt on Saturday will clinch the title for Pep Guardiola’s team.

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Its time for football managers – and the press – to grow up

So the new Premier League football season starts on Saturday. But the season hasn’t started and already there is a sour taste in the mouth. One of the main features of Sunday’s pre season Community Shield match between Arsenal and Chelsea was yet another whinge a thon between Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho culminating in their failure to shake hands at the end of Arsenal’s 1-0 victory. This feud has a tiringly long history with Mourinho calling Wenger a “voyeur” back in 2005 and the two men nearly coming to blows during a game at Stanford Bridge last year being the lowlights. Mourinho is 52 years old and Wenger 65 but you wouldn’t know it from their behaviour. I suspect two three years olds would behave in a more mature way towards each other and it is about time they grew up. Perhaps a six month ban from doing their jobs might do the trick.

But this is not the first managerial feud in football history. There has been Mourinho v Rafael Benitez – which flared up again last week even though Benitez is not even in this country – Mourinho v Manuel Pellegrini (notice a pattern here?) and in the past there was Sir Alex Ferguson v Kevin Keegan, Ferguson v Wemger, Ferguson v Mourinho, Ferguson v Benitez(another pattern emerging!). This is nothing new – managerial feuds in the UK can be traced back to the early 1970s and the feud between the two “big beasts” of management in that era – Don Revie and Brian Clough who even had a 30 minute live TV debate in 1974 when Clough got sacked from Leeds a mere 44 days after succeeding Revie in the job – but it has gotten beyond a joke. Time to grow up.

To be fair the managers are not the only villains here. The people really to blame are the UK press a  lot of whom in my opinion are not interested in football at all and only care about the off field stuff – transfer gossip managerial spats etc – and as a result the papers are full of this stuff rather than the actual game. Another problem is that managers have to talk to the press far too often – before every game after every game seemingly every day. Personally I am sick of them and when ever the awful Sky Sports News (an oxymoron if ever there was one) says they are going to a manager’s press conference I switch channels. Time for a change. If I was in charge of football all press conferences would be scrapped. This would mean that managerial feuds would not be made public as they would not talk to the press and the journalists would have to do some work for a change. You know actually thinking for themselves instead of getting quotes from managers spoon fed to them like babies. At the very least the press and TV interviews should be voluntary. Everybody goes on about freedom of speech. But shouldn’t there also be a freedom not to speak?

The cutting down – or banning – of press interviews might also have two desirable side effects. First with less – or no – interviews to report the UK press might be forced to cover both foreign men’s football and women’s football which are both woefully under covered by our sexist and xenophobic press. Secondly the banning of post match interviews would lead to less “referee bashing”. A lot of criticism of referees comes from upset managers giving interviews at the end of a game when emotions are still raw and people when they are angry say things in the heat of the moment that they don’t mean (I know I do). The FA keep saying they want referees to be respected. Banning the post match interview would reduce criticism of referees “at a stoke” – to quote ex UK Prime Minister Edward Heath.

Another beef I have with the UK press is that they get into football matches for free. Why on earth should they?. No one else does. If a fan wants to watch their team in action at the ground he/she has to pay. Sky Sports, BT Sport and the BBC don’t get into games for free. They have to pay millions of pounds for the privilege. If fans want to watch football on TV they have to pay monthly subscriptions to both Sky and BT Sport. Even to watch the popular “Match Of the Day” highlights show on free-to-air BBC 1 they have to pay a licence fee. Radio too has to pay to be able to cover the games. Why should newspapers be different? Answer: they shouldn’t be. All newspapers should have to pay for the right to get into games – say £200 a year for national papers and £100 a year for the local ones. They should also be ordered to cover women’s football and – in the case of the nationals – foreign football – far more than they currently do. The press may howl they give football publicity. And they do. But so do TV and radio. And they pay up willingly.

All this I am afraid is wishful thinking. No doubt during the season we will get the usual feuds between moaning managers encouraged by a lazy press who don’t then have to write about the game on the pitch – which should be their job  – or soil themselves by covering women’s football and foreign football – which could fill the gaps left by the  moaning managers . But I live in hope that one day there will be a “tipping point” and football fans will become fed up with grown men behaving like cry babies and our gutter press egging them on and  instead demand more coverage of the action on the pitch plus foreign and women’s football – and force our sexist and xenophobic football press out of the 1970s  and into the 21st century.