Tales from the top flight

To be fair, if I’d have been done for pace as often as Cesar Azpilicueta in the first half of the FA Cup Final I suspect my hamstring might have felt a tweak as well.
I’m not sure if it was the first time Kieran Tierney pinged down the outside of Chelsea’s captain for Yo-Pierre to accelerate on to, the second time or even the third time that suggested Frank Lampard might want to do something about it before it cost his side an equaliser. By that point, ‘Dave’ had decided the only option was to hitch a ride on the back of Arsenal’s main threat outside of the penalty area. The only problem with that was he missed the first time, and by the time he’d got hold of his man – like a father trying to grab his toddler who has just made a break for the cute little puppy over the road – he was in the area and the penalty was given.
Lamps was right – Chelsea only have themselves to blame for losing that final. But Lampard is part of Chelsea and therefore needs to accept his portion. The team started playing as if they had won it already after Christian Pulisic’s early opener – and what a beautiful touch it was from Giroud to put it in his path – and that gave Arsenal the ‘just put it behind Cesar’ motivation they needed to take control.
Of course, this was a final we hope never to see again. No, I don’t mean the two teams in question or even the standard of the match. I’m talking the obvious. Emeli Sande signing on the roof of Wembley Stadium. What on Earth was that about? I thought we’d seen enough of her at London 2012 to last us a lifetime. Still, if the FA Cup Final has to happen without fans the last thing we need is Abide With Me not being belted out, right?
Early on, I was dead against Arsenal winning this match – and not just because I was hoping David Luiz might choose to have another one of those days. It was the numbers and names on their shirts. Did that style just come out of a lucky dip? Sure, Real Madrid have got a little funky with their fonts over the years but they are Real Madrid – they are typically good enough to do whatever the hell they like. Arsenal? Not so much – even if they did prove to be very, very good here.
Some Chelsea fans have pointed to Kovacic’s second yellow as being a turning point – not on your nelly. Sure, he should never have been sent off for that – but the gig was up well before that point. Arsenal looked dangerous time and time again, and the winner from their skipper was one of the FA Cup Final goals for me. The way he went past Kurt Zouma, the Frenchman ended up sitting socially-distanced in the stands with the choir who sang the National Anthem.
You have to give credit to Mikel Arteta at the same time of raising an eyebrow of doubt in the direction of Lampard. Arteta has slotted into the Arsenal way of life pretty quickly – winning FA Cup Finals is typically what Arsenal do in this era. Lampard, however – well, losing big matches at Wembley could quickly become a thing for him after his Derby experience and now this.
Lampard has a huge 12 months in his fledgeling coaching career coming up. It was all well and good picking the kids when he had to and the pressure was off. That free hit of a season has been and gone now and do we still believe that Chelsea finishing in the top four was unexpected? Given how Tottenham imploded and Arsenal were way off the Premier League pace, not finishing in the top four would have been a failure in retrospect – and now Frank has to show us how good he is in the transfer market.
Chelsea have gone big on two attacking players so far in Werner and Ziyech – Havertz looks like he may well be on the way too. Let’s just hope there’s a bit of spare cash kicking around for a new goalkeeper, three central defenders and a left-back, right?
Arteta’s primary focus right now will be to lock Auba in a room somewhere and refuse to let him out until he signs a new deal. It’s not so much how much they’d get if they had to sell him, but how much it would cost to get anyone remotely near as good and willing to play for a side not challenging at the top, albeit yet. If they lose him, next season looks like pushing for Europa League via the league placings and not a lot more.
Still, life is rosier in North London than it is in Geordieland right now.
Hands up, and be honest – did anyone really think this takeover was going to happen? I know I didn’t – and not for any of the ‘fit and proper’ tests or live streaming piracy reasons. I was gambling on it more being to do with Mike Ashley and his actual lack of desire to sell the club.
I mean, when you can make £17m from a deal not happening you can probably start to understand why he wasn’t on the phone to the Premier League each morning demanding they get a Matthew McCaugnachy ‘giddy-up’, can’t you?
The club has been for sale longer than I can remember and to fail to sell it once could be considered careless. Twice, unfortunate. Three times, bad luck. Four times – well, you’re having them all on really, aren’t you Mike?
As the legends over at ‘Have I Got News For You’ were quick to point out – the human rights side of things must certainly not be overlooked. There is every chance that the Saudi’s took a look at Sports Direct and thought it could damage their reputation.
Still, fans of Newcastle – at least that means you’ll still have Steve Bruce next season. Every cloud.