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Turning A Drama Into A Crisis

The F.A. over-reacted to the Arsenal-Man Utd playground tiff – and Alex Ferguson knows it.

Tony Cascarino, 06 Nov 2003

I’m not in the least bit surprised that Alex Ferguson’s accused the Football Association of “cutting a deal” with Arsenal to reduce their fines and suspensions. The feeling was, “Oh, that’s Fergie throwing another of his tantrums”, but I think it was a lot more calculated than that. By making out that they’ve done Arsenal this huge favour, he’s pressuring the F.A. to go easy on Rio Ferdinand when they decide what punishment he should get for missing his drugs test. The sad thing is that the F.A. are so all over the shop it might just work.

Nobody knows for certain except Alex, but I don’t think he really believes that Arsenal being fined £175,000 and having four players banned for a total of nine games was too lenient. Especially in light of UEFA only fining England and Turkey £4,000 and £13,000 respectively for what went on in the tunnel in Istanbul. If they reckon a bit of playground shoving and name calling warrants £175,000 worth of fines and four suspensions, God only knows what the F.A. are going to do to Andy Cole for punching Southampton’s Michael Svensson. Hang him probably!

I actually think that what Cole did was far worse than anything that happened between Arsenal and Man U. What with Neil Lucas’ atrocious tackle on Jamie Carragher in the game against Liverpool, there seems to be a discipline problem at Blackburn. I thought that with the additions Graeme Souness made to his squad during the summer that they’d be challenging again for Europe, but there they are in the drop zone. George Graham used to say, “Never buy a player who thinks he’s doing you a favour coming to your club”. Well, that to me is Andy Cole and Dwight Yorke at the moment. They may have won all the honours there are to win with Manchester United, but that doesn’t matter a jot when you’re getting beat 2-0 by Leicester City.

A player who’s let his team down even worse than that is Mark Viduka. Missing the start of training on Friday and the pre-match meeting on Saturday is bad enough if you’re playing well, but his form this season has been poor. If he’s not prepared to roll his sleeves up, Peter Reid should get him out of the club as quickly as possible. I tell you, the likes of Alan Smith and David Batty, who are Leeds through and through, won’t be impressed at all with Mark Viduka’s carry-on. In fact, I imagine they’d be only too happy to buy him a plane ticket so that he can get his dream move to Spain or Italy!

I’m writing this before the Lazio game, but if they negotiate the group stage okay, I’d tip Chelsea to go further than any of the other English clubs in the Champions League. They’ve got by far and away the best squad of the three, and arguably the best striker in Adrian Mutu. It’s too early to say whether he can match their goal tally, but Mutu certainly works far harder than Henry and Van Nistelrooy with his tracking-back and challenging for balls all over the pitch. People I know at Stamford Bridge say he’s the same in training, which wins you the respect of other players.

The Beskitas hiccup aside, Chelsea have knitted together incredibly well this season. Come the big games, Ranieri will know his best 11 which, in my opinion, has to include Mutu and Crespo up front; Damien Duff out on the left; Gronkaer who may not be the best crosser but frightens the life out of people with his pace; and Makelele, Veron and Geremi in midfield. I’d keep Joe Cole on the bench for the time being because defensively he still has a bit to learn.

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