Arsenal vs Newcastle underscored that football is a game of two halves or as Yogi Bera is reputed to have said, “It isn’t over until the fat lady sings”. Arsenal in the first half gave us 45 minutes of dazzling offensive ball creativity. In the second half, we saw 45 minutes of defensive calamities.
Abou Diaby at the beginning of the second 45 minutes, escaped unscathed a vicious tackle, but lost his cool and pushed Joe Barton and was given a red card. That precipitated an Arsenal collapse. Dhura had to leave his central defensive position and was replaced by Squillaci. The combination of Squillaci and Koscielny was tantamount to the performance of two stooges. Vermaelen seems to be lost for the season. Chelsea went out and got Luiz. Wenger stood pat and whined about Chelsea’s $7.1 million acquisitions. Arsenal lost the opportunity to make up ground with the leaders, Manchester United, who lost to Wolverhampton.
Manchester United vs Wolverhampton
Manchester United may very well win the league by default. This Manchester United team could sputter down the stretch. Giggs and Scholes, two aging lions, could not pull any rabbits out of the hat as Manchester United lost the first time for the season and shattered the possibility of ending the season unbeaten.
Manchester United has a solid defensive line with Vidic and Ferdinand but against Wolves with Ferdinand out of the line-up, Wolves was able to score two goals. United’s offense, which on normal occasions is explosive, failed to overwhelm the gritty Wolves defence. Rooney, Berbatov and Nani are a formidable creative force but Manchester United’s mid-field is quite ordinary and that is even more the case when Anderson is not in the line-up.
Chelsea vs Liverpool
Chelsea seized the opportunity of the January transfer window to fortify their ranks. They brought in Torres from Liverpool and Luiz from Benifica. The new acquisitions failed to arrest the Chelsea rot. The goalkeeper, Cech, and central defender, Ivanovic, seemed to have serious communication problems and is that failure to communicate that allowed Liverpool to register another Chelsea defeat.
The Chelsea stars seem to be going through motions. Lampard has not been able to put his stamp on any game since his return from injury. Essien has not been his usual penetrative self and Drogba and Anelka have been in a state of goal-less wonderment.
The Luiz acquisition will shore up the defensive unit and Luiz demonstrated his worth during the brief minutes he got in the game against Liverpool. Torres was not that much of a factor in the game. Torres return to form is yet to occur and in future matches, Torres will determine if he is worth $50 million.
One wonders if the Chelsea team is suffering from an aging process or is it the inability of Ancelotti to motivate the men in blue who seem awfully uninspired?
This is the second half of the season where the sheep are separated from the goats. The teams like Chelsea and Liverpool that have bolstered their ranks will experience the difficulty of integrating the new acquisitions into the established system. Neither Manchester United nor Arsenal participated in the January transfer market. Arsenal’s failure to stiffen their backline could cost them sorely needed silverware.