01 May 2014

Arsène loses out to Mourinho yet again.

Let's get one thing clear. I despise Mourinho. Loathe him. Whether it's the short-term, filthy lucre approach, the overweening, self-indulgent insecurity and pomposity, the petulance, or worse, I just can't stand the man. He's fantastic at motivating his squads (or trashing them, depending on whom you ask). He does have some tactical nous (although any manager whose tactics consist so largely of "buy a bunch of really good players" isn't really managing so much as amassing). I hate that he called Arsène a "specialist in failure." I love the idea that Real Madrid might win the Champions League without him at the helm. Even more, I love the idea that Chelsea won't be there to face them. Having been outclassed at Stamford Bridge, he's close to out-specializing Arsène in the failure-department.

Is this how you did it at Anfield?
There is the small matter of Chelsea finishing ahead of Arsenal in the Prem, of course. I was walking a tightrope as I rooted for Chelsea to progress enough in the Champions League to sap their energies from the Prem, but once they beat Liverpool, that plan went out the window like so many out-of-favor midfielders named Mata. Chelsea need just one more point from two matches to finish above us. So it goes. However, despite Mourinho's assertions about his little pony, Chelsea were early-season favorites to contend for the Prem (a preseason poll from The Guardian showed 38% of votes cast for Chelsea. Not scientific, necessarily, but helpful corroborating evidence). For them to then be contending is, well, predictable. 

However, I'm not here for a mature, reasoned, assessment of two clubs' fortunes. I'm here to wallow. I'm not ashamed of it. I'm rolling around in the mud, reveling in it. Feels good. I'm not above a little spite, a little schadenfreude, certainly not at the expense of the Specious One. After all, he went out and did what we all expected him to do. In both legs, first at the Vicente Calderón, earning a dour, scoreless draw, and again at Stamford Bridge—and it looked like it was going to work, too. Torres scored against his former club to end Atleti's away-goals advantage, and all that was left for Chelsea to do was to sit back and defend deep against a squad whose only weapon was the counter-attack. Right? Right. Mourinho's tactical cynicism could hardly fail him in these circumstances...until, deliciously and delectably, they did. Casual or careless defending allowed Atletico to equalize as they first double-teamed Turan in the corner, leaving Thiago open to receive Turan's pass and loft it to the far post for Juanfran to poke it back across the goal (leaving a hapless John Terry to flail helplessly), leaving it to Adrian to slot home. The comedic stylings continued when Eto'o brought down Diego Costa, leading to a hilarious penalty that saw Costa take nearly two minutes just to get set up before blasting the ball through the roof of the net. Whether that cheekiness will endear Costa to the Chelsea board over the summer is an open question. By the time Turan added a third goal, the spectacle was complete. 

For all of Mourinho's tactical specialities, he was destroyed by a squad that showed greater guile, confidence, and versatility. He started six defenders but still conceded three goals at home, exposing Mou as a one-trick pony, regardless of size. He called Arsène a specialist in failure. Well, in parlance sure to appeal to his mindset, and in keeping with the wallowing I'm, well, wallowing in: Mou, it takes one to know one. Take some consolation from the fact that you've bested Arsène yet again, although in a way you could have hardly anticipated. Neither you nor Arsène will win the Prem this season, but Arsenal do have a trophy to play for. 

However, I'm not so petty as to want to win the FA Cup just to waggle it in Mou's face. I'm too big for that. My primary reason for wanting to win the FA Cup is simple enough: I want Arsenal to win. If we do win it, I'll admit that some small part of me would like to remind Mou that only one club in London won silverware this year. Now I just have to decide whether I want Real Madrid to win the Champions League. It would, after all, show that Real are champions at a level that Mou could not lead them to. It would make his replacement, Ancelotti, a three-time winner. Then again, if Atleti in, they prove that money doesn't buy championships. Tough call. Either way, the final will take place in Mourinho's hometown. Without him. That's a winner we can all get behind.