Sport Soccer

Saturday 17 March 2018

Jose Mourinho maintains grip over Arsene Wenger with League Cup win

Arsenal 0 Chelsea 2 - League Cup fourth round

Jose Mourinho embraces his former Real Madrid star Mezut Ozil
Jose Mourinho embraces his former Real Madrid star Mezut Ozil
Jose Mourinho leaves the Emirates with Arsenal player Mesut Ozil's shirt

Henry Winter

Jose Mourinho left with Mesut Ozil's shirt, and once again with Arsenal's scalp.

Arsene Wenger has now failed to defeat Mourinho in nine competitive games and his Arsenal side never looked like troubling Chelsea in this tie, particularly with the abject Nicklas Bendtner in attack.

Chelsea were better, sharper, hungrier and blessed with deeper playing resources than Arsenal. Goals from two talented Spaniards, Cesar Azpilicueta and Juan Mata, who cannot get in Mourinho's first-choice XI, underlined the difference.

The game will surely nudge Wenger into buying in January, particularly in attack where they look so anaemic when Olivier Giroud does not start.

It also encapsulated the contrast in squad strengths late on when Mourinho removed Samuel Eto'o and sent on Demba Ba, while Wenger replaced the excellent Aaron Ramsey with Ju-young Park. Arsenal fringe players like Bendtner and Ryo Miyaichi were poor and both were withdrawn.

Bendtner was taken off by Wenger probably to save him more humiliation, and the rising wrath of the Arsenal fans. Chelsea 'keeper Mark Schwarzer had only one real save to make, and that from Giroud who arrived when Arsenal trailed 2-0. Too late.

By contrast, Chelsea's players, few of them first-choice, were terrific. Mata was man of the match, Willian looks to be picking up the frenetic pace of English football while Michael Essien and John Obi Mikel largely controlled midfield. Apzilicueta kept raiding down the right.

Azpilicueta, whose lengthy surname has prompted Chelsea fans to call him 'Dave', took his chance here, scoring midway through the first half.

The goal was a reward for his decision to make a lung-breaking run in support of a Chelsea counter-attack, and also his gamble on a defensive mistake, which duly came, echoing the Joe Hart-Matija Nastasic mix-up.

Mourinho's celebrations at a second gifted goal in succession were more muted, more respectful to the opposition manager. There had been all the usual talk of the old enmity between the managers, of Mourinho's "voyeur" jibe and the 'Snarling Cup' final of 2007, and yet there has seemed a rapprochement in recent times.


An hour before kick-off, Mourinho was seen climbing off the bus, high-fiving Gunnersaurus, and then, shortly before kick-off, waiting at the top of the tunnel to greet Wenger warmly.

The reception from the Chelsea fans was less gracious towards the hosts, reminding the locals that their former player Ashley Cole had won a European Cup with them and that it had been "eight years" since Arsenal won anything. Their volume rose after Azpilicueta's goal.

"We are top of the league,'' chorused the home fans. They have bigger targets but this was lacklustre fare from their team before the break, particularly Bendtner.

Wenger had fielded a stronger side than usual in the League Cup, with Laurent Koscielny, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere all starting. They had a few early chances, a David Luiz mistake allowing Miyaichi a run down the right but his cut-back was thumped clear by Azpilicueta. Then Samuel Eto'o cleared a Cazorla corner.

The better chances were being created by Chelsea even before Azpilicueta struck. So much for the idea of a 'B' team. Chelsea were packed with talent.

Eto'o led the line, Willian frequently tested Carl Jenkinson while also switching with Kevin de Bruyne and Mata.

Mata and Willian, both contributing strongly, combined in the centre before the Brazilian drove the ball to De Bruyne, who slipped inside and shot from the edge of the area, straight into the arms of Lukasz Fabianski, the Arsenal 'keeper, who was beaten after 24 minutes.

Chelsea broke swiftly after negating a Santi Cazorla corner, the charge led by Eto'o, who quickly played the ball to Essien, Chelsea's captain. Ramsey challenged, and the ball ballooned up, seeming to drop into an area patrolled by Jenkinson and Wilshere.

Any danger seemed minimal. It seemed a straightforward header back to Fabianski, who moved into a sensible position to receive it. Wilshere indicated to Jenkinson what to do. The right-back headed upwards, delaying the ball's arrival towards Fabianski, allowing Azpilicueta to poke the ball in.

Chelsea's work-rate was superior, their hunger for the ball greater than Arsenal's. Mata tracked back, earning applause from Mourinho. Willian was putting in a powerful shift.

For Arsenal, Ramsey worked hard, going close with a deflected shot, but the likes of Bendtner were little short of embarrassing.

Ramsey gamely tried to drag Arsenal back into the tie, and Ozil arrived to replace the anonymous Miyaichi, but Chelsea soon added a second. Controlling the ball with his left, Mata then connected with his right, imparting such power that Fabianski had no chance.

Arsenal fans' desire for the removal of Bendtner was soon granted. Giroud arrived and soon went close. But Chelsea almost added a third.

Ramires ran through, flicked the ball past Fabianski but Koscielny cleared off the line. Ba was then through on goal until impeded by Vermaelen, who was remarkably fortunate to stay on.

Luiz's free-kick flew just over. The Emirates was half-empty by then. The Chelsea fans were all there, singing about Wembley.

Arsenal now have only three competitions to focus on – and an important transfer window in January. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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