The Fifth Official

Hoist by one's own petard

October 8, 2012
By The Fifth Official
(Archive)

Few of us like Monday, but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.

Andre Villas-Boas Tottenham touchline
PA PhotosAndre Villas-Boas is not pleased with Jermain Defoe's reaction

Hoist by one's own petard

This, essentially, is the game AVB had been building towards since he was cut loose by Roman for implementing exactly the sort of personnel and style changes Roman had insisted upon. The same necessary changes Roman abandoned when several of Roman's vastly overpaid and over indulged superstars decided that much like Steven Gerrard, they quite liked Status Quo.

How it must have stuck in AVB's gullet then, that his new team were essentially hoist by his own petard, at the top of which was his old assistant wielding a flag bearing the inscription 'Champions League winner' in fancy, embroidered italics. This table-topping Chelsea, playing this dynamic brand of association football, was supposed to be doing so with an AVB at the helm, not an RDM.

As soon as Gareth Bale excused himself for the birth of his child, Tottenham were seriously lacking in star quality. Chelsea, in the shape of Mata, Oscar and Hazard, were not. This is just one sense in which AVB now finds himself a poorer man, in terms of the wealth at his disposal, the depth in his squad, and even in his basic surroundings too. King's Road is in Chelsea, not in Tottenham, for a very good reason.

Hugh just knew it

It is a route even Ryanair would be loath to take on, but fair play to Arsenal for proving that you can become cloaked in jet lag after a 14-minute flight. Their ludicrous decision to fly to Norwich compounded the misery Arsene Wenger must have felt at turning in their worst performance of the season in what he called an "easy game", as they handed Norwich their first win of the campaign on a plate.

How are they planning to get to White Hart Lane on derby day? Hot air balloon? Norwich is so close from Luton Airport they may as well have bought a human sized slingshot, or built a zip wire. It probably would have been less expensive. 14 minutes? That's only marginally longer than Felix flippin' Baumgartner was in the air. And people say football clubs are out of touch with society. Well, Arsenal have said poppycock to that haven't they?

Given their flight of fancy, perhaps it is fitting the Gunners played like a battered old suitcase aimlessly spinning round and round on a luggage carousel, without ever finding a home. Instead it was the Canaries who ended the game soaring, turning in a committed, proud performance to install a little breath of wind beneath Chris Hughton's wings.

Kick it Out

Call me old fashioned but it seems an odd choice to elect not to support a movement campaigning for racial equality in football, when you are a black player desperately hoping for racial equality in football. There is no doubt, however, the actions of Rio Ferdinand, Jason Roberts, Joleon Lescott and others had a far greater effect on the cause than had they donned their Kick It Out gear.

That is not to say I neither understand, nor sympathise with their statement - that the English authorities still have plenty to do to in order to ensure their actions match their statements of outrage whenever another country is accused of racism, like the shameful scenes in Serbia last week. Is a four-match ban for John Terry really appropriate, given the emphatic verdict of the FA's own panel?

But surely, this is a matter for the players themselves. On a delicate issue that is bound to throw up a variety of viewpoints, this was an approach shared by most of the managers whose charges chose to make their point. Everyone except Sir Alex Ferguson it seems, who was "embarrassed" by Ferdinand's refusal and promised to "deal" with him. It's not often you say so, but the great man is certainly out of step on this one.

Chiek Tiote is shown the red card for Newcastle in the Wear-Tyne derby
PA PhotosChiek Tiote is shown the red card for Newcastle in the Wear-Tyne derby

Baracas is Caracas

Chieck Tiote and derby games do not go together - it's just basic science. This is the man who competes during a pre-season friendly with Woking as if it is the dying seconds of a World Cup final. So it should come as no surprise the man who looks like BA Baracas started the game as if he was a machete-wielding drug lord from downtown Caracas.

To compound Tiote's stupidity, he committed a red card offence AFTER he'd been awarded a free kick. This by a man who would struggle to contain a sandcastle contest between two toddlers, one of whom was asleep. Martin Atkinson was so far out of his comfort zone in the north east he should have had a lifejacket attached to his silky referee's top.

Tiote's dismissal butchered a promising contest into one that resembled the latter stages of Chelsea's Champions League campaign last season, with one exception: the dominant side got a slice of luck. Sunderland's late equaliser also meant, rather amusingly, that were you to take Steven Fletcher out of the equation, Demba Ba is both Newcastle and Sunderland's leading Premier League scorer. How quaint.

You're out of Lukaku

It's not easy being Edin Dzeko. Yes, he may get £100,000 deposited in his bank account every week but as far as Manchester City's pecking order goes he's firmly behind two Argentineans and an Italian striker whose brain conditioning is questionable to say the least.

But Dzeko may well be Edin up Mancini's striker charts if he carries on like this. Prior to his introduction City's brightest spark at The Hawthorns had been James Milner, which tells its own story. The trouble is, Milner's spark was snuffed out the second he'd hauled down Shane Long and got his marching orders from Mark 'he's only as competent as Battenburg' Clattenburg.

Dzeko scored twice in his 11 minutes on the field, but he should have been outshone by Romelu Lukaku, whose cameo might well have contained a hat-trick, even though his involvement was three minutes shorter. Despite his heroics, Dzeko rejected the moniker of "supersub" leaving this pundit hopelessly confused as to what a "supersub" actually is these days.

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