Sunday, May 1, 2011
Champs vs Chumps
By Bagga Wilks
The logical prediction for Arsenal vs Manchester United on Sunday, May 1st, 2011 would be that Arsenal’s lack of shooting power would be easy pickings for Manchester United’s two defensive stalwarts, Vidic and Ferdinand and that United’s fire-power of Rooney, Hernandez and Nasri would extinguish Arsenal’s porous defense line. But that Sunday at the Emirates, the opposite occurred.
For the first 45 minutes Arsenal’s mid-field of Song, Wilshere and Ramsey overran Manchester United’s invisible mid-field. Walcott, Van Persie and Nani mounted raids on Manchester’s backline. Arsenal dominated the mid-field play to the extent that Arsenal’s defensive line spent more time on attack than on defense.
Manchester United is not only fighting for the EPL title but during the week they “toyed” with Shalke of the Bundesliga for the semi-final of the Champions League and even though there is a second leg coming up on Tuesday, the odds are clear that the Champions League final will be between Barcelona and Manchester United. Shalke looked like a light-weight in the same ring as a heavyweight. The Champion League not only puts the best European teams in the gladiator ring of world football but it provides us with an insight to the respective strength of European Leagues. The E.P.L. is vastly stronger than the German League. It is not surprising that no Italian team qualified to advance in the semi-final of the Champions League. It signifies the weakening state of Serie A and in a larger context, the decline of Italian football.
If teams were judged on aesthetics, certainly Arsenal would be crowned champions. They showed that they can beat Manchester United and if they are to be in the running for silver in the 2011-12 season, Wenger has to spend some money on acquiring top notch central defenders and a hard-nosed quintessential striker.
This weekend, Chelsea will play Manchester United and if Chelsea wins, the title on the last day will be up for grabs. Chelsea seemed to be falling apart in the midst of battle but somehow got a second wind and are in a position to defend their title. It is a remarkable turn-around even though Torres acquired in January is still floundering. The game, Manchester United against Chelsea, Drogba’s return to form could determine whether Chelsea is triumphant or will bite the dust for 2010-2011.
Like the game against Arsenal, Chelsea will be contesting Manchester United after they have played during the week. United will have to play their starting eleven against Shalke and that may mean playing the 37 year old Giggs for ninety minutes. Giggs was rested for the Arsenal game. Manchester United without Giggs is a far less formidable opponent.
Sir Alex’s magic did not work against Arsenal. Perhaps his magical prowess has evaporated. The Chelsea coach, Ancellotti, who was on the ropes, will have scored a knockout if he finds a way to put Manchester United down for the count. The season is ending with a bang and it is a fitting ending to a season of top class competitive ball.