Silver service for Blues
Few of us like Monday but The Fifth Official does, for it brings with it a chance for him to point the finger and laugh. Here he pulls out the pretty, the puzzling and the downright pig-ugly from a week brimming with potential victims.
Hostages to misfortune
Only one place to start this weekend and that is deep in the chasm between the wavelengths of Laurent Koscielny and Wojciech Szczesny - so wide you could fit a pair of A380 super-jumbos in it and still have room for a Wembley-sized shrine to their disappointment. No doubt about it, it was a shoddy and hilarious way to extend the most talked-about trophy 'drought' in recent times.
But the Gunners have only been without silverware for six years. Well, boo-freaking-hoo to that because Birmingham have toiled for 42 more for their moment in the sun. In the end, after all that blood, sweat and tears, triumph was handed over on a silver platter with a luxury hamper of Champagne and caviar thrown in for good measure.
As time stood still, perhaps the hapless pair briefly thought they'd get away with the greatest cup final howler of al time when they saw Obafemi Martins lining up an open goal, given that he's missed easier chances than that while at Newcastle, but alas, no, this was a gift even he couldn't turn down.
At times like this, even the smallest crumb of comfort can help to ease the pain, so here is my tiny speck: neither has to shoulder the burden of a career-defining mistake alone. If Arsenal's season duly implodes (starting with Leyton Orient on Wednesday), and both Koscielny and Szczesny fail to recover, they'll at least have company when they are destitute and reduced to drinking cough mixture to numb the everlasting pain.
Electrocute the Roonatic
After the Roonatic's thuggish and completely unnecessary elbow on James McCarthy during Manchester United's customary thrashing of Wigan, perhaps electrocution is too good for him. That's the punishment Fergie predicted the press would bay for, as he inexplicably tried to defend his striker.
Ridiculous statements from the United hierarchy didn't stop there, as Fergie's pet grump Mike 'Terry' Phelan delivered a payload of hypocrisy so big, it made Nick Clegg look almost honourable. Given the persistent harassment the United bench affords officials, Phelan managed to keep a straight face as he chirped: "We can't dispute the referee's decision. He's kept the game flowing and we're happy with that. We should lie low a little bit, and let the powers that be take [control of] the game." The man's a comedy genius. Rooney's vicious pot shot was wholly out of keeping with a regulation United win against Wigan, who did what they always do against the big clubs: put up a bit of a fight in the first half before meekly falling to pieces in the second. It was even more predictable than usual thanks to someone's brainwave of laying down a new carpet for the visitors to stroke the ball around on, rather than letting them toil away shin-deep in mud.
The Roonatic will learn his punishment on Monday, while Chelsea await the outcome with baited breath. They look pretty fired up ahead of Tuesday's game, as Ashley Cole can testify.
Shooting from the lip
It seems Cashley's penalty humiliation against Everton hit him harder than we thought given the news that he inadvertently shot a work experience student at Chelsea's training ground. In my humble, but almost certainly correct, opinion, anyone who sends a spot kick so wildly off target should never be allowed anywhere near firearms.
Why Cole was parading an air rifle round Chelsea's training ground I'm not sure. Why he then pointed said gun at a young chap on the internship of a lifetime is anyone's guess and quite why he fired the thing without checking if it was loaded or not shows a complete disregard for human life - even if it was only a student. Seriously, and thankfully, the pellet delivered only a glancing blow but still drew blood and traumatised young Tom Cowan.
As if Chelsea's season wasn't embarrassing enough. Cole's gun-toting antics raise serious questions about Carlo Ancelotti's authority over the players, who may well have been conducting their own turf war at the club's Cobham training ground for weeks now. Mind you, if Cole's weapon of choice was an air rifle, I'm betting John Terry's was a water pistol.
Brokeback Handshake Mountain
Perhaps instead of all those endless summer courses on team building, how to assemble the perfect five-man midfield or how not to spend £17 million on an ageing Roque Santa Cruz, Mark Hughes should go on a two-day conference to brush up on his pathetic handshake technique.
After an unseemly handshake spat with Tony Pulis earlier this season, Sparky launched another Brokeback Mountain-style episode with Roberto Mancini, the man who cuckolded him at Man City. It was all down to Hughes' disgust at a lack of eye contact, as if they'd emerged from a night in a tent under the stars together, only for things to become awkward over coffee. But Sparky misread the signals: surely the cowardly Italian couldn't look his opposite number in the eye after usurping him in such spectacular fashion two years ago.
After being spanked at Craven Cottage this was a valedictory point back at Eastlands for Hughes, who was returning for the first time since his unseemly sacking was let out of the bag at half-time during City's match with Sunderland in December 2009. But he missed a trick, as his post-match antics had everyone talking about a camp handshake and not the two-fingered salute his Fulham side had just flicked towards City's directors box.
The ESPNsoccernet office has been bombarded with questions from punters in recent weeks along these lines: How can Tottenham beat AC Milan and then lose to Blackpool? And how, in turn, can Blackpool then go to Wolves and get spanked? The question can be answered with a question: Do you ever have two identical days at work?
The office might look the same every day and the supporting cast too (including delicious Wendy from accounts. My, is that a new top?) but you can go from hero to zero in the blink of eye. One minute it's cigars all round after closing a big deal; the next, HR are on the phone wanting clarification on your 'busy hands' antics at the Christmas party.
That is why DJ Campbell and Richard Kingson went from being the toast of Blackpool on Wednesday to plain old toast at Molineux, as the striker saw red for a shove of Richard Stearman's face, and the 'keeper dived over a tame Jamie O'Hara shot to open the floodgates. This season's Premier League is as inconsistent and unpredictable as a legless Meerkat, and that is precisely why we love it.
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