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Blessed Is Roy - The Peacemaker!

Tony Cascarino on the Man u-Arsenal row, Chelsea’s progress and why Glen Hoddle had to go.

Tony Cascarino, 25 Sep 2003

Everybody’s going on about what happened at the end of the Man U/Arsenal game, but it was nothing compared to Lucas Neill’s horrendous tackle the week previous on Jamie Carragher. Him saying that there was no intent and he didn’t deliberately go over the top doesn’t wash. It was a coward’s challenge and one that the F.A. should be far more concerned about than the playground pushing and shoving we saw at Old Trafford. Martin Keown’s goading of Ruud Van Nistelrooy may have been silly and childish, but it didn’t result in somebody being rushed to hospital with a potentially career-ending injury. I played with Paul Elliot and saw how his whole world caved in when a bad challenge by Dean Saunders forced him to retire.

Returning to Sunday, the one thing that did shock me was Roy Keane acting as peacemaker! I think back to the arguments we had at dinner and in training and wonder, “Is it the same person?” He could be very hard work. Fair play to Roy, though. He’s managed to cool his temper without losing the aggression that’s essential to his game. A couple of seasons ago, he’d have been starting the melee not ending it!

You can never write Manchester United or Arsenal off in terms of winning the title, but more and more I’m thinking that Chelsea might just sneak in ahead of them.

Whatever about Seven-Goran Erikkson taking over after Euro 2004 and already having an input into which players come to Stamford Bridge, Ranieri has done a tremendous job of knitting all that talent together. People will say, “How could he fail with the players he’s got at his disposal?”, but there were no blank cheques last season and he still managed to get Chelsea into the Champions’ League.

Publicly, Ranieri might chastise Damien Duff for complaining that he’s being substituted all the time, but privately he’ll be delighted that he’s so desperate to be out there on the pitch. Damien’s been reported in the papers as saying, “I’m not prepared to spend half the season sitting on the bench”, but there’s no way he’s going to walk away from a side that has Cudicini, Desailly, Makelele, Crespo and Mutu in it.

The only club where you’ll find more quality players nowadays is Real Madrid and, no disrespect to Damien, I don’t think they’re going to come in for him quite yet.

Crespo might have something to say about it in coming weeks, but at the moment Chelsea’s best buy has to be Adrian Mutu. A predator’s instinct, speed, confidence on the ball, the ability to catch the offside trap every time…he’s a class act.

Mutu’s also one of the reasons why I think Chelsea will go further than any of the other British clubs in Europe. They’re certainly a better bet than Arsenal who were shockingly poor at the back against Inter. Zygan took a lot of criticism last year at the heart of the defence, but Sol Campbell hasn’t done any better. I don’t believe Lauren’s a right-back, Touré’s certainly not a centre-half and Ashley Cole is still prone to making schoolboy errors. It’s also worth remembering that Henry didn’t make it in Italy; Vieira was let go as a kid by Milan; and Bergkamp had two poor seasons before leaving Inter. Add all that up and Arsenal struggling in Europe isn’t such a mystery.

North of the border, Celtic will be disappointed that they were beaten by Bayern Munich, but heartened by the fact that for long periods they made the home side look ordinary. They’ve still a good chance of progressing, which is one of the reasons that Martin O’Neill won’t be taking the Spurs job.

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