herald

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Chelsea roused by City wake-up call

CARLO Ancelotti is no slouch. A bad loss to Manchester City in the Premier League and within a few days, he refocused minds touched by complacency and the result was a great win over Marseille.

No messing in the Champions League.

Marseille were no match for a group of players on their game and hungry to erase the experience at Eastlands and move forward.

It happens to all good teams. Three or four games roll by in a blur and it all comes so easily. The goals flow and you feel invulnerable.

At that moment, there's always a Manchester City waiting in the wings but in this case, the wake-up call delivered to Ancelotti and his players could not be more pointed.

I don't believe that Manchester City will win the Premier League but Ancelotti cannot afford the luxury of such presumption.

He must treat them as a rival and what better reminder to his squad. Take an eye off the ball and punishment follows. Manchester City have won the last three games between the two sides but I would wager there will be a different result next time out.

Roberto Mancini's players are individually more than good enough when they raise their performance for a big game, which they did against Chelsea and in the process put Ancelotti on his guard.

Last night in the Champions League, Chelsea were back to their very best and they put Marseille away with some comfort.

Ancelotti is too good at his job to allow minds to wander for more than one game and he clearly delivered a forceful message on the training ground and in the dressing room before the game.

The result was a crisp, efficient and comprehensive win which sets them up nicely in what is proving to be a handy enough group.

Arsene Wenger would have been delighted to be able to say the same after Arsenal's win over in Belgrade in a game marked by fantastic goalkeeping performances from both Lukasz Fabianski and Vladimir Stojkovic, the former Wigan man who didn't cover himself in glory during his stint in the Premier League.

Both men pulled off a string of saves in an entertaining game but Wenger won't be able to celebrate either the performance of his Polish No2 goalkeeper or the result.

It wasn't a great performance from Arsenal and he will know that but he has six points and is already well on the way to the knock-out stage.

I fear that the Champions League or indeed, any of the cup competitions, will ultimately provide Wenger's best chance of delivering a trophy this season.



Dogged

I've almost given up trying to figure out why he doggedly refuses to do what everyone else on the planet knows he should do and spend some serious money on a goalkeeper and a few decent defenders.

I've always felt that Wenger sees the game through one eye, an ability which allows him to see wrongdoing against his players but filters out anything his own lads get up to.

But he seems to be wearing very dark glasses when it comes to his view of his goalkeeping staff.

We've all talked about this until we are blue in the face but it doesn't make any difference to Wenger.

He will plough on with lads like Fabianski and Almunia who will have great games and awful games but will never achieve the consistency you must have if you are serious about challenging for the league title.

I don't know whether Wenger's stubborn streak is fully engaged on this subject or not.

He wouldn't be the first great manager to dig in his heels and tell the world to mind their own business.

I don't know of any really top manager who didn't or doesn't possess a stubborn nature. It's very difficult to do the job well without being dogmatic and certain about your beliefs -- come what may.

Whatever is going on in his head, he has not addressed an absolutely crucial element of his squad and he will suffer for it for the next nine months.

I note that Alex Ferguson has been scouting young goalkeepers in recent weeks and that's just good housekeeping.

Ferguson pays close attention to his goalkeeping staff and understands how much strength his squad can draw from a confident and calm presence like Edwin van der Saar.

I expect Manchester United to get back on track in Valencia tonight even though Wayne Rooney is out of action for three weeks and in all likelihood, very firmly out of sight as well.

Ferguson tried to play him and hope he would forget his worries once he stepped on the pitch but that hasn't worked and now it's time to give Rooney time out of the limelight.

It's a huge loss to the team, but Rooney hasn't been playing that well anyway and I reckon they will manage well enough in Spain tonight.

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