Early Doors

  • Is Wenger facing Arsenal exodus?

    Arsenal went to the Reebok Stadium on Easter Sunday hoping to resurrect their title hopes, but instead it was Bolton Wanderers who came back from the dead.

    After the Trotters' 5-0 mauling by Stoke in their FA Cup semi-final, they responded by showing the ability to kill off opposition which has so deserted the Gunners of late with a dramatic late 2-1 win.

    Owen Coyle was delighted with the way his players show the cojones to keep going even after a saved penalty was followed swiftly by an Arsenal equaliser, and when Tamir Cohen celebrated his 90th-minute winner by revealing a t-shirt in tribute

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  • Wrong time to Hammer your players

    Imagine the scenario. You are chairman of a football club which is bottom of the Premier League, two points from safety with four matches left to play.

    The team has taken one point from its last five games, your star player is struggling with injury and your next fixture is a long away trip to a star-studded side on course to reach the Champions League. Do you:

    a) Avoid the press, keep your heads down to better create a siege mentality which may help instil some belief in your beleaguered squad?

    b) Issue a good old 'rallying cry', calling upon fans and players to unite for the final few games

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  • Mourinho words can’t obscure Messi deeds

    Last night's third instalment of this mini-series of Clasicos went from the ridiculous to the sublime and then back again as Barcelona won 2-0 at the Bernabeu.

    Real Madrid's spoiling tactics and Barca's play-acting gave way to a burst of match-winning brilliance from Lionel Messi, only for Real boss Jose Mourinho to once again hog the limelight with a bizarre, paranoid and slanderous post-match rant which, to all intents and purposes, alleged a UEFA conspiracy to help the Catalan side succeed.

    Quite frankly, after already meeting twice in the preceding 11 days, Los Merengues and the Blaugrana

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  • Fool if you think it’s over

    What is it that they say about assumption?

    Heading into this weekend's round of fixtures everything seemed pretty clear-cut at the top of the table. Manchester United were looking for a fifth-straight win over Arsenal which would leave them with one hand firmly grasping the Premier League trophy.

    However, freed from the pressures of actually winning anything, Arsenal managed to not only take a deserved lead against the Red Devils but also not throw it away. Their 1-0 win at the Emirates has made things very interesting at the summit of the league.

    Courtesy of their 2-1 win over Tottenham,

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  • Final Clasico may be bitterest yet

    Amid all the bitter mud-slinging and conspiracy theories, claims and counter-claims which have blighted this unprecedented 18-day run of matches between Real Madrid and Barcelona, at least there has been one piece of news which is cause for universal joy.

    Defender Eric Abidal is back in the Barca squad for tonight's Champions League semi-final second leg at the Camp Nou, just six weeks after having an operation to remove a tumour from his liver. The France left-back is unlikely to start, but his return so soon after such an ordeal truly lifts the spirits.

    That, however, is where the goodwill

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  • Neutrals should cheer for Chelsea

    Neutral viewers of Sunday's Premier League title showdown at Old Trafford will be in the rather unfamiliar position of cheering on Chelsea.

    For so long the reigning champions have thrived upon a siege mentality, efficiently muscling their way to victories and trophies up and down the land. For so long they have been a side worthy of much respect but so difficult to love.  

    This weekend, however, anyone hoping for a thrilling end to the season should be cheering on the Blues when they travel to face Manchester United in the last game of the weekend.

    In case you haven't been paying attention, a

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  • The final Fergie always dreaded awaits

    If Manchester United are not dramatically usurped by
    Schalke in hugely improbable fashion this evening then the final Sir Alex
    Ferguson always dreaded will be in store for his side.

    For Fergie, the prospect of facing the club he
    despises and resents even more than Liverpool and Manchester City - Real
    Madrid - would have been a delicious one.

    A chance to clatter Cristiano Ronaldo; a chance to put
    the club's hierarchy in their place; a chance to undermine Jose Mourinho's
    constant coveting of the Old Trafford hotseat.

    But it will be Barcelona who await the winner of
    the second semi-final in the

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  • You can’t kill the FA Cup

    If you believed the newspaper headlines, you would think tomorrow's FA Cup final had been called off, and replaced by an orgiastic festival of ritual humiliation, in which Manchester City and Stoke compete to fill the old trophy with human excrement before hurling it, Sergio Ramos-style, under the wheels of a double-decker bus while Mario Balotelli reverses repeatedly over the thing for several hours until it is nothing but a sorry skid mark of silver on Wembley Way.

    You may be surprised to hear that is not the case. In fact, the game will be preceded by a quartet of Premier League fixtures,

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  • Who do you want to see go down?

    It's
    the time of the season when every neutral begins to choose their allegiance while every ardent supporter
    of a club threatened with relegation becomes a nervous, quivering wreck.

    It's that time when distinctly average footballers make heroes of themselves, grown men are filmed in slow motion weeping uncontrollably, and everyone suddenly remembers that there used to be a footballer by the name of Graham 'Diamond' Stuart who once performed pretty well for Everton back in May 1994.

    For
    supporters of Blackburn Rovers, Birmingham City, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Blackpool,
    Wigan Athletic and

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  • ‘Wet Sham’ deserve drop

    West Ham's season was encapsulated perfectly within 90 minutes on a frantic penultimate day of the Premier League season.

    The struggling Hammers were up to their old trick of looking like a proper football team in the first half at Wigan, racing into a two-goal lead at half-time which made it tempting to believe that they could drag themselves out this mess after all.

    Then came the inevitable capitulation. Playground defending, a Robert Green error which marred an otherwise good performance and a Carlton Cole miss from close range which almost defied physics led to a 3-2 defeat at the DW

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