Tuesday 24 April 2018

Arter's day encapsulates Bournemouth's epic journey

Harry Arter having one of many conversations with referee Mike Jones during Bournemouth’s win at Stamford Bridge
Harry Arter having one of many conversations with referee Mike Jones during Bournemouth’s win at Stamford Bridge
Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

Chelsea supporters are used to seeing the referee being cajoled and helped to make decisions at Stamford Bridge but not by a player in a team who started their 2008 League Two season on -17 points.

For Bournemouth on Saturday, Harry Arter was that player and, as the hub of everything that was good about the best result in the club's history, it was obvious why Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane rate him highly.

It wasn't just the slick passing moves of which he was part but there was a cuteness about his play and a recognition about what was needed in any situation that was absent from anyone of the stars wearing blue.

At one stage in the second half, Arter was fractionally late to tackle Pedro who went up in the air and landed like a javelin.

The Spaniard hadn't even fully hit the ground before Arter was starting the process of avoiding a booking by gesticulating at referee Mike Jones that he didn't deserve a yellow card. It worked. Jones gave him a stern talking-to, Arter nodded earnestly and trotted back into his position as crowd frustration turned to anger.

Fifteen minutes after coming on as a substitute, Diego Costa barrelled into Adam Smith in a tackle that would have gone largely unnoticed had it not been Diego Costa involved.

In an instant, Arter was again in Jones's ear as a ringleader in trying to get Costa booked and ratchet up the tension still further. Three minutes later, after Costa's next foul on Matt Ritchie, that pressure bore fruit and a combination of the striker's stupidity and reputation ensured he was given a yellow card. Arter let Jones know that he had made the right decision.

Talking to the referee in order to influence a current or future decision isn't something that's particularly praiseworthy if you're on the moral high ground but it's something that goes on in sport - even, shockingly, rugby - and can be the difference between having a crucial, marginal moment go for or against your team.

There were some other fine non-sporting moments from Arter which, you would imagine, the Ireland management team enjoyed.

Warming to his role as pantomime villain, Arter decided a Bournemouth goal-kick with 10 minutes remaining was the perfect opportunity to stretch his calf but, by doing it in front of his own goal, it meant Artur Boruc was delayed in taking the kick-out.

At 0-0, it only wasted a few seconds but doing it right in front of the Chelsea faithful in the Matthew Harding Stand was typical of the confidence coursing through the player and team that they belonged on this stage.

The anger that he provoked from Chelsea fans was a rare moment of noise from the home faithful which prompted Bournemouth fans to chant "This is a library" on several occasions during the game. That there was mostly silence in response rather underlined their point.


After Glenn Murray's goal, Arter was the last one to vacate the centre circle which delayed Chelsea from re-starting. When Jones told him to hurry up, Arter, helpfully again, pointed to the sideline where Chelsea were about to make a substitution, as if he'd known that all along and his slow walk back into position had nothing to do with wasting time.

What was so conspicuous was how Chelsea were letting him get away with it and it's hard to believe that had John Terry been around, the Jones-Arter bromance would've been anything other than an aspiration.

Right through the middle of the pitch, Chelsea's players barely said a word, apart from Costa whose gesticulations look so angry that an encouraging handclap could be construed as a declaration of war.

Captain Branislav Ivanovic occasionally made his way into the middle from right-back but, with his own form so poor, he had enough to worry about already.

Chelsea certainly have better players than Bournemouth but everything about the visitors' display underlined the difference between a team playing with freedom and determined to enjoy itself versus one fearful of making mistakes and taking extra touches to avoid giving away possession.

The result was that Chelsea looked ponderous when trying to build attacks and regularly launched punts up the pitch in the hope of getting the ball to the likes of Eden Hazard a bit quicker.

In contrast, one free-kick in the first half summed up Bournemouth's outlook when it was given 10 yards inside the Chelsea half.

The vast majority of Premier League teams playing at the home ground of the champions would have clipped in a cross in the hope of getting a header on goal.

Instead, Bournemouth took the free-kick quickly and made Chelsea's defence look like a batch of disinterested substitutes in a pre-match possession game.

With Arter heavily involved, they produced six short, sharp passes which ended with Josh King drawing a fine save from Thibaut Courtois and a realisation from everyone that this was going to be another difficult evening.

When reading out the other results before kick-off, Chelsea's announcer mocked Manchester United's stalemate with West Ham as "another sizzling performance" and conspicuously mentioned James McClean's goal for West Brom as if looking for a reaction from the crowd.

Two hours later and the only people laughing were the thousands in red and black whose chant "we came from League Two" underlined their journey.

It was Bournemouth's day and Arter's day, and nobody watching their style would begrudge them having many more.

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