Tags Posts tagged with "title race"

title race

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ARSENAL v CHELSEA

Chelsea have made a good start to the London derby against Arsenal at the Emirates, even if they have so far failed to score in what has been a frantic first half.

The game’s first opening came when Arsenal won a free-kick on the left hand side after Branislav Ivanovic fouled Alexis Sanchez, Thibaut Courtois easily gathering the freekick. As expected, Chelsea started the game sitting back in their defensive half inviting the home side to attack in order to catch them on the counter. Their first attempt to do so resulted in Oscar being denied what appeared at first a clear penalty when he was tripped by Hector Bellerin, but closer inspection suggests that it would have been a soft penalty had it been given.

Another penalty was not given just over five minutes later – this one far more obvious – when a superb pass from Arsenal’s former captain Cesc Fabregas put Oscar in again. The Brazil international was clattered by the oncoming Gunners keeper David Ospina, who made no attempt to play the ball which was eventually cleared off the line, to consternation of Jose Mourinho. Referee Michael Oliver then made it a hat trick of penalties and a brace of bad decisions when Fabregas was tripped by Santi Corzorla in the 22nd minute, Oliver compounding his error by incorrectly booking the Spaniard for diving.

Arsenal had their own appeal for a penalty after the half hour mark when Gary Cahill appeared to block an Olivier Giroud shot with his arm, but the referee waved it away before the half’s best chance fell to Ramires who ran on to a pass from Willian, the toe poke on goal being too weak however.

The game has generally been fast paced so far with both sides willing to get forward in order to create chances. The most productive approach play has come from Chelsea as Arsenal, though having the bulk of possession, have created little in the way of clear chances on goal, the best coming from Mesut Ozil just before the break after a series of neat passes resulted in a shot that was easily caught by Courtois. Chelsea have been able to find space in the Arsenal back line and this gives hope that it will be Chelsea to break the deadlock in the second half.

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ARSENAL v CHELSEA

With injuries playing a part in this latter part of the season,  Diego Costa remains ruled out of the team selection for the crunch match between Arsenal and Chelsea. The line-ups are as follows:

 

Arsenal: Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mertesacker (c), Monreal, Coquelin, Cazorla; Ramsey, Ozil, Sanchez, Giroud.

Subs: Szczesny, Gibbs, Debuchy, Wilshere, Flamini, Walcott, Wellbeck

Manager: Arsene Wenger

 

Chelsea: Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Azpilicueta, Matic, Fabregas, Ramires; Oscar, Willian, Hazard.

Subs: Cech, Felipe Luis, Zouma, Loftus-Cheek, Mikel, Willian, Cuadrado, Drogba

Manager: José Mourinho

 

Referee: Michael Oliver

Venue: Emirates Stadium, London, UK

Kick Off: 4pm GMT

 

 

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JOSE MOURINHO

Chelsea was often criticized by pundits, fans and journalists in the last months for the style of play: very pragmatic and with not very offensive displays.

It’s true that the last six Premier League victory came for just one-goal margin, as well it’s true that the team got the best goal difference and also is the side that lost fewer games in the League. Maybe these people also forgot what a fantastic football Chelsea played until december, securing a great part of their current advantage – also a mental advantage- in the months of the season.

Mourinho now analyses this situation, explaing what happened and why the team changed their style of playing in an interview to Chelsea website:

“In the first part of the season we had Courtois, Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry, Azpilicueta, Matic and Fabregas, Willian, Oscar, Hazard and Diego Costa”

“Everybody knew the Chelsea team. We then progressively lost the balance of our team. From a certain moment Diego was injured, Diego was suspended,  Matic was suspended, Fabregas was injured, Diego was injured again”

“When you lose crucial pieces in your team the team loses certain kinds of qualities. I didn’t think about it; it was just a consequence of things. When I go to the cup final with Zouma in that position and the triangle built in the other way it’s a consequence of Matic’s suspension”

“It’s very enjoyable to deal with the difficult moments, in a strategic way, and for the players to have a great feeling that this is very important. In football the team spirit, the team ethic, and the strategy is like a life raft”

“I don’t want a bigger squad. I want the team to be ready to deal with the problems. As every team normally has, we have had our problems during the season – and we have been able to deal with them”

“I hope to start next season the same way we started this season, because this is the way we want to play, and this is the team we really enjoy. We are the team that has scored the second most goals. We are the team that has conceded the second fewest goals, and we are the team with the fewest defeats”

“We have scored some of the best goals of the season – and I am not speaking about individual actions or spectacular goals like Charlie Adam’s – I am speaking about spectacular team goals. We started that at Burnley with the Schurrle goal, one of the best goals of the season. We have repeated that almost week after week”

“We are having everything in our season. If we manage to win the Premier League we did everything right”.

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jamie_carragher
Ex Liverpool defender and now Sky pundit Jamie Carragher

Ex Liverpool defender and now Sky pundit Jamie Carragher states that next year Chelsea will have a really serious rival for the title: Arsenal.

The Gunners have been in a good run since February, but since they had a bad start, they are 10 points behind anyway and for this reason they could not be serious title contenders, but for Carragher next season will be different:

“Next year, though, Chelsea won’t have it all their own way and no team is better placed than Arsenal to dislodge them”

“There is a different feel to their form and performances this time around and Wenger said recently he could ‘smell’ something happening”

“You just hope, however, Wenger and Arsenal’s board don’t get fooled into thinking they have got all the tools they need at their disposal. This is not the time to be complacent. This is the summer when Arsenal must go for it and make the big additions that will stop them being nearly-men.”

 

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Arsenal play-maker Mesut Ozil believes Sunday’s London derby between his side and Chelsea will be memorable despite it being relatively inconsequential in the title race.

Chelsea go into the game 10 points clear of their hosts at the top of the table. A win will mean all the have to do is defeat Leicester City on Wednesday to be champions of England. Arsenal’s recent challenge for the title has come as a surprise to many after it was believed they would settle for fourth spot this season. They are second due to a very good run of form in the past weeks as well as Manchester City’s collapse.

Whilst a few Arsenal fans are still retaining the slightest of hopes their team could overcome the deficit, Ozil described the chances of finishing first as “theoretical”.

“Even if we only have a theoretical chance of winning the Premier League, the meeting of the two teams with the most points of the league is something special.”

Ozil signed for Arsenal for over £40 million from real Madrid in the summer transfer market of 2013 and helped the club win the FA Cup last season.

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Mourinho-Diego_Costa
Mourinho-Diego_Costa

Paul Merson believes Diego Costa’s absence from the Chelsea team will be decisive in the Blues’ quest to secure a first Premiership title since 2010.

Merson, who served the Gunners for many in the 1990s, says Chelsea will set themselves up to stop Arsenal scoring when they visit the Emirates on Sunday without their main striker, as they did against Man Utd at home last week.

“If Costa’s fit it’s a different game, but if he’s not fit I can’t see any goals,” Merson told the Express.

“Last week, Chelsea had 30 per cent of the play at home but Man Utd never looked like scoring.”

Chelsea have missed Costa when he has been unable to play this season, and injury and suspension have kept the Spain international out a various points since he joined the club last summer. Chelsea are also missing Loic Remy, also injured, and could be without veteran striker Didier Drogba after reports he picked up an ankle injury in training, meaning they could start with the promising 17-year old Dominic Solanke as the main man up front. There is also the option of deploying Eden Hazard as a striker but Mourino has been reluctant to do this in the past two seasons.

 

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JOSE MOURINHO
Chelsea manager José Mourinho © Francesca Ceciarini

Jose Mourinho press conference ahead of Arsenal clash:

Didier is fine, Remy is not fit for sure, Diego Costa we will make a decision tomorrow”

“Diego is a very important player for us, but we’re coping every match without it, Remy and Drogba did a good job without him, we played in a different way without him…we’re playing more strategic, we’re less artistic, we would like Diego Costa to be back, we decided Solanke not to play yesterday with the U21, so we will select Didier and Solanke or Didier and Diego. Diego is in doubt for tomorrow, but if he doesn’t play Arsenal he will play Leicester for sure”

“I agree with Zidane that Hazard is one of the three best players in the world: he’s a fantastic talent and player, if we win the Premier League his season will be absolutlly fantastic, if in the top of that he wins PFA award will be nice”

“Reception for Fabregas at Emirates? I don’t know. To be fair I am not worried with that, Frank Lampard played at Stamford Bridge with no problems, with a good reception: if he has a bad reception, he is not the kind of players that will have problems and will be affected by it…he played in Barcelona with an Arsenal shirt, so no problem for him”

“I know why he [Fabregas] chose Chelsea, I don’t know what made him didn’t choose Arsenal, and I don’t why he left Arsenal. He’s an important player for our project, and normally good projects end with titles, so this is the only thing I can say”

“Wenger is not my rival, I don’t feel that, I think is just the manager of a big team and rival in the same city where I work and live, for me there is no difference: it was the same when I was at Inter with Milan manager, or Real Madrid with Atletico, or Porto with Benfica..”

“For me achievement is to win tomorrow, I don’t look to numbers, I don’t look to record I have against this manager or this club. I think my players didn’t even know about that, unless they watched tv in the past couple of days and I don’t think they care about it. I think what matters is the way we prepared the game, the confidence we have”

“I think Bamford in these weeks has to care about his next games with Boro, not about his future”

“If Hodgson asks me if I can give him Gary Cahill I think we’re going to respect the rules like we did all season, even if we will have a tour”

“I think Arsenal squad is fantastic: they got incredible numbers and a lot of alternatives for every role, it’s fantastic”

“We feel that we can win: the only thing that matters on Sunday is the football game, what I wish is Chelsea, Arsenal and the referee to be top”

“If you look to the last couple of months for us couldn’t been harder for us…a lot of difficult games”

“[To win the title] We need 8 points, not 6 or 7, we need 8 points”

“How much Wenger pushed me hard back in October? [laughs] This is a top question, but since I’m honest in my answers, I cannot answer”

“Everybody is fit except the strikers”

“I cannot compare my Fabregas with Arsenal Fabregas and Barcelona Fabregas because I don’t know what the managers asked him, with me he’s doing everything we need, adapting to every role, for me fantastic contribution and season for us“.

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ARSENE WENGER

Speaking before the game against Chelsea, Arsené Wenger remarked how much is important for his side to get a win on Sunday:

“It is very important for us to beat them. I think everybody on board is highly focused to achieve it. We will prepare well to do that.

“Chelsea have been very, very efficient on counter-attacks, very efficient on set-pieces as well, so to nullify their strengths will be important.

“They have been very consistent until now. They are the team that have lost less games than any other team so the Premier League rewards the consistency and on that front, they have been defensively very strong and very consistent.

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BRANISLAV IVANOVIC

Branislav Ivanovic has been one the most important players in this Chelsea season, one of the ones Mourinho could always rely on, since he barely missed a game and was never substituted in the Premier League.

He looks back at this incredible campaign and at the forthcoming matches with Chelsea official website:

When you look at each game, one by one, you will see I have missed some in the cups, but yes, it’s still a lot,’ agrees Ivanovic.

‘As a squad we have great guys who can play every game; those possibilities are very important. We have been doing well all season so we haven’t had to try to change things too much”

‘It’s been a very long season. When you look at the first couple of games we played in the league it feels like it was two years ago! So it’s been very tough for us but we’re coming to the end now and we must stay focused”

‘We have six games to go and psychologically our first aim is to win the title as soon as possible, but we don’t need to rush. We have to study every game, we have to handle every game and we hope to win it as soon as possible.’

John Terry and Eden Hazard are the other only two Chelsea footballers that started all the 32 League games, speaking about the Belgian player he said:

“He is flying: in my opinion it’s been the best season of his career!

“He’s made a difference every game. All season he has got a lot of kickings but he never complains. He’s a hard worker on the pitch. He’s improved massively from last season and for us he has been the most important player”

“I see him every day in training and I’ve played a lot of games with him. He’s the guy who when you pass him the ball you just have to leave him alone. He will do everything. He’s something different”.

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Wenger’s record against Chelsea manager José Mourinho is awful, with 7 defeats and 5 draws in 12 games against the Portuguese manager in his two spells at Chelsea.

Despite this, the French coach is optimistic for the upcoming game that can decide an entire season:

I think we have not always lost in 12 attempts. We have been close. Having said that, the result on Sunday will just be down to the performance on the day. We are on a good run and we have an opportunity at home to beat them and we want to take it”

“We have a good run of form and good belief and solidarity. We have passed many tests recently when we were questioned. We have another test on Sunday that we want to pass”.

 

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