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PETER CROUCH: Darren Moore's sacking by West Brom was ridiculous

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Darren Moore’s sacking by West Brom is the most ridiculous I’ve seen… while Arsenal’s superb week highlights their big mistake with Aaron Ramsey

  • West Bromwich Albion shockingly sacked manager Darren Moore last weekend
  • Moore’s dismissal came despite the Baggies being fourth in the Championship
  • Aaron Ramsey shone for Arsenal as they beat Manchester United and Rennes
  • Ramsey’s form highlights how mad the Gunners were not to offer him a new deal 
  • There were ugly scenes during Aston Villa’s 1-0 win over rivals Birmingham City
  • The Second City derby is the most intense fixture I have ever experienced

Peter Crouch for the Daily Mail

Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail

Peter Crouch is a columnist for Sportsmail

These things should not surprise me. I have been a professional footballer for more than 20 years and I’d like to think there is nothing much I haven’t seen.

Then something happens like last Saturday and you find yourself open-mouthed, shaking your head in disbelief. Managers get sacked all the time these days but how on earth did West Brom find reason to get shot of Darren Moore?

Honestly, it is the most ridiculous — and needless — sacking I have ever seen. I’ve read the reasons West Brom gave but, really, they don’t add up. I spent the first half of the season watching the Championship story unfold and it is a ferocious league. Believe me, Darren had done a fantastic job.

Darren is someone who I have always respected. When I was 19 and moved away from home for the first time to Portsmouth, he was my skipper at Fratton Park. In those tough, early days, Mooro was always there, offering advice and doing all he could to help me settle.

He knows football inside out and understands what is required to make a dressing room run smoothly.

Mooro was a brilliant captain and you could see the natural progress for him after he finished playing was into coaching and management.

Championship club West Bromwich Albion shockingly sacked Darren Moore last weekend

Championship club West Bromwich Albion shockingly sacked Darren Moore last weekend

Championship club West Bromwich Albion shockingly sacked Darren Moore last weekend

So when West Brom appointed him last year, I was delighted. He took over a club that had gone into freefall and had sacked two managers. They looked dead and buried after Alan Pardew had gone but, against the odds, he almost pulled off a miraculous escape. 

It’s worth a reminder that among his first results were a 1-0 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford and 2-2 draw with Liverpool at The Hawthorns after West Brom had come from two goals down. You could see that the players bought into what he was doing.

West Brom had a duty to give him a proper crack at the job after his caretaker spell had gone so well. In September, Stoke played them at The Hawthorns. I played 90 minutes, but I got no joy against their back three and the final score of 2-1 didn’t reflect West Brom’s superiority.

They are one of the best teams in the Championship. Yes, there has been some inconsistency in results lately, but no team in that division goes through a campaign without a blip; the odds on automatic promotion may have increased but they are certainties for the play-offs.

This is what I don’t understand. Why would a club make such an extraordinary decision when things are going well? Darren, from what I could see, had done little wrong and it is depressing that he has been treated in such a way.

Management these days is an increasingly thankless task and it’s another example of why some people don’t like our industry when they see a good man being treated this way. I really hope there aren’t any long-term implications for him.

You’d think he’d walk into another job. Will that be the case? I hope chairmen in the future look at him and see someone who can help their club. If he finds himself out of the game and unable to get back in, West Brom need to ask themselves why.

Moore was dismissed after West Brom lost to Ipswich but his overall record was impressive

Moore was dismissed after West Brom lost to Ipswich but his overall record was impressive

Moore was dismissed after West Brom lost to Ipswich but his overall record was impressive

Arsenal will struggle to replace Ramsey 

It has been a good week for Arsenal with big wins over Manchester United and Rennes but it’s another week that has shown the error of their ways. I have written a couple of times this season about Aaron Ramsey and you will know my position — I found it madness they were not prepared to offer him another deal and I can’t believe they are losing him to Juventus for free.

Ramsey is quality. He is the type of footballer that should cost someone £40million in a transfer fee alone. If Arsenal want to replace him like-for-like, that is the type of investment they will need to make, along with top-end wages. They will find it is no straightforward task.

It’s brilliant for him that he’s getting the chance to play for a club like Juventus. Good luck to him. I hope he’s a huge success and believe he will be. But for Arsenal to make the same mistake so soon after losing Alexis Sanchez has left me scratching my head. It was avoidable.

Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey shone for Arsenal as they beat Manchester United and Rennes

Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey shone for Arsenal as they beat Manchester United and Rennes

Juventus-bound Aaron Ramsey shone for Arsenal as they beat Manchester United and Rennes

Second City derby pips the rest for ferocity 

I was fortunate to play in a number of big derbies, from Merseyside to north London and the South Coast, but none of those felt as intense as the Birmingham derby.

Unless you have sampled Birmingham versus Aston Villa, you might struggle to understand what I mean.

I was at Aston Villa in my early 20s from 2002 to 2004.

It’s not that it is the most prestigious fixture in the land but the intensity is like nothing I have ever experienced. If you made a mistake, it felt like your own fans wanted to lynch you — never mind the opposition!

The first one I was involved in, Dion Dublin, who was at Villa with me, got sent off for butting Birmingham’s Robbie Savage.

Aston Villa No 9 Dion Dublin was sent off for butting Birmingham City's Robbie Savage in 2003

Aston Villa No 9 Dion Dublin was sent off for butting Birmingham City's Robbie Savage in 2003

Aston Villa No 9 Dion Dublin was sent off for butting Birmingham City’s Robbie Savage in 2003

Something mad always happens, from Villa goalkeeper Peter Enckelman letting a throw-in roll in to the net under his feet to fans running on the pitch and insulting the players.

It took a horrible turn last week. I was appalled to see what happened to Jack Grealish. Normally when a fan gets on to the pitch, there is some humour — streaking used to be the thing to do — but for a player to be punched was disgraceful. 

Of course, this was an isolated incident, and I wouldn’t say I am going to bed now worrying about what will happen in the future, but football is a global product and we cannot afford for these incidents to ruin the image of our game.

Clubs and authorities have to find the right answer but, in the match itself, Grealish came up with the best answer of all.

He reminded me of Lee Hendrie, in that he was someone always involved in big moments.

To score the winning goal after what he went through has made him an Aston Villa legend.  

Villa star Jack Grealish was attacked by Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell during last week's derby

Villa star Jack Grealish was attacked by Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell during last week's derby

Villa star Jack Grealish was attacked by Birmingham fan Paul Mitchell during last week’s derby

MY WEEK

WHO’S CAUGHT MY EYE: Cristiano Ronaldo 

It won’t be a surprise choice but Cristiano Ronaldo was unreal against Atletico Madrid. If ever someone was going to score a hat-trick to complete a turnaround, it was him. He didn’t catch my eye, he caught everyone’s eye! 

NEXT UP FOR ME… 

There were some big results for Cardiff, Brighton and Southampton last weekend and that has made things a bit tight at the bottom of the table. Our game at Turf Moor with Leicester, then, takes on even greater importance before the international break. 

WHAT I’M LISTENING TO…  

I have put together a belting compilation on the BBC Sounds App and called it ‘The Match of the Day mix’. There are some proper tunes from Ian Brown, The Arctic Monkeys, Oasis and Kasabian. Check it out! 

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WHAT I’VE BEEN UP TO…

Commitments meant I had to make do with watching the Cheltenham Festival on TV rather than going to the races.

I have been jealous of all those who were there in my place!

I have to say, on a separate note, I was blown away by the reception I received at Anfield when I came on last week. It was a lovely gesture. 



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Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud would love to haunt old club Arsenal

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‘My blood is blue now’: Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud would love to haunt old club Arsenal in the Europa League final

  • Olivier Giroud insists he bleeds blue as he prepares for Europa League final 
  • The Chelsea striker is determined to impress against his old club Arsenal 
  • Giroud stressed that he’s happy at Chelsea and is in talks over new one-year deal

The little twists of fate are not lost on Olivier Giroud as he prepares for Baku and an end-of-season reunion with his former club.

Giroud was forced from Arsenal at a time when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived and overloaded the numbers competing for the one place up front in Arsene Wenger‘s team.

‘I was going to the boss and telling him we can change,’ he said. ‘I would say, ‘We can put two strikers up front’, but Mesut Ozil used to play No 10, like a second striker, and I was OK with that.’

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud wants to haunt his old club Arsenal in the Europa League final

Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud wants to haunt his old club Arsenal in the Europa League final

Giroud decided it was best to move on and Chelsea paid £18million. Eighteen months later, he is Maurizio Sarri’s single striker, trusted to lead the line in the Europa League if rarely in the Premier League, where Gonzalo Higuain has been preferred.

The Frenchman has been prolific in Europe, with 10 goals and three assists, making him the top striker in the competition ahead of Eintracht Frankfurt’s Luka Jovic.

Eintracht are out, beaten on penalties by Chelsea in the semi-finals and Jovic, who is closing in on a £52.4m move to Real Madrid, can score and assist no more.

Giroud still has one to play, the big one against Arsenal, his former club who are now managed by Unai Emery and have been propelled to the final in Baku by seven goals against Valencia from the £100m twin strike force of Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette.

‘It seems things are different,’ smiled Giroud. ‘Sometimes they play two up front. When I was there it never happened.’

Giroud admits it will be 'tough' to play against Arsenal but is looking forward to the occasion

Giroud admits it will be 'tough' to play against Arsenal but is looking forward to the occasion

Giroud admits it will be ‘tough’ to play against Arsenal but is looking forward to the occasion

The prospect of duelling for a trophy with Arsenal, where he spent five and a half years, is sweet for the 32-year-old.

‘I always like playing against my old teams,’ said Giroud. ‘It’s going to be tough, and it could be painful if it’s not going the right way, but you have to put the feelings and memories aside.

‘I enjoyed the years I spent there. It has been a big part of my career, my first club in England and it will always be special, but now I feel my blood is blue. The same as the national team, blue suits me well.

‘I settled in quickly. I felt like part of the family straight away. I knew a few of the players and I’m a sociable person, I always try to communicate. It wasn’t difficult to integrate. I always see it as a new challenge. 

Giroud enjoyed his time at Arsenal but stressed Chelsea are more obsessed with winning

Giroud enjoyed his time at Arsenal but stressed Chelsea are more obsessed with winning

Giroud enjoyed his time at Arsenal but stressed Chelsea are more obsessed with winning

‘I couldn’t have hoped for it to be better. And now I want to win my second trophy with Chelsea. To finish as top scorer and help my team. Our target is to win a trophy every season and this is the last chance.’

This, he believes, is where you find the key cultural difference between the two London rivals, cast at opposite ends of football’s identity spectrum since the turn of the century. One obsessed with winning and the other obsessed with beautiful football, although the lines have become blurred by the end of the Wenger era and Sarri’s arrival at Stamford Bridge.

‘The main difference is Arsenal always tried to give the chances to the young players,’ said Giroud. ‘It felt like more players formed at the club could have the opportunity to play. Maybe you would get more time at Arsenal. They would be more patient.

‘At Chelsea you have to be ready quickly because in terms of trophies it has been the best club in England for the last 10 years.

‘You don’t have time at Chelsea and when you are young it is quite difficult to find your place. You can see we have a very good academy producing very good players and a few of them are in the first team and that is a good example for the future generation.

‘I don’t want to kill the dreams of these young Chelsea players. They are very talented, but it makes sense because Chelsea invest more in every transfer window and they buy more top players in the world who are more experienced.

‘I am just being honest. People who know football and the Premier League and these two clubs, they know Arsene Wenger could not spend too much money. It was the philosophy of the club and because of that — or thanks to that — he would give the opportunity to young players.’

Giroud stated that young players at Chelsea don't have much time to succeed

Giroud stated that young players at Chelsea don't have much time to succeed

Giroud stated that young players at Chelsea don’t have much time to succeed

Giroud with his son Evan at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea's game against Watford

Giroud with his son Evan at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea's game against Watford

Giroud with his son Evan at Stamford Bridge following Chelsea’s game against Watford

Giroud won’t say which method he prefers but he is thriving in Chelsea’s demanding environment. Within six months of his transfer, he won the FA Cup, which he won three times at Arsenal, and kept Lacazette out of the team as France won the World Cup.

Having returned from last week’s trip to the United States to play in the Final Whistle on Hate game, he is finalising contract talks.

His original deal is about to expire but Chelsea want to exercise their option for one more year and, with Higuain set to be sent back to Juventus after the Europa League final, Giroud has been convinced to stay.

‘I feel very happy at the club,’ said Giroud. ‘Maybe I need a bit more game-time but I won’t give up. That’s my mentality. That’s how I’m made. It’s not sorted yet but we are talking about another year.’

The Frenchman insists that he is happy at Chelsea and is in talks regarding a new one-year deal

The Frenchman insists that he is happy at Chelsea and is in talks regarding a new one-year deal

The Frenchman insists that he is happy at Chelsea and is in talks regarding a new one-year deal



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Miracles Do Happen As Former Player Santi Cazorla Simply Proves Arsenal Wrong In Letting Him Leave

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Rarely are players missed as much as Santi Cazorla is at Arsenal. Without him, an integral part of the creative midfield machine has been absent, resulting in the gunners inability to play in the traditional Arsenal style.

It seems the club have no one of the same quality as the dynamic Spaniard and they will eventually have to go to great lengths to replace the one player they couldn’t and still can’t do without. As transfer fees go, the £10m Arsenal paid Malaga was nothing short of theft.

Since his departure and re-employment, I’m sure I’m not alone in checking out his progress at his current club, Villarreal this season.

As I did, I recalled his absolute and undeniable class in a red and white shirt. I recalled his energy, his vision and his exquisite touch which are now gracing La Liga instead of North London.

But, let’s rewind this astonishing story that has resulted in a call up to the national side after so much misery.
Cazorla missed 18 months of his football career after an horrendous Achilles injury that required several operations. He had a severe infections which turned into gangrene and it nearly cost him his foot.

Operation and recuperation were very much part of everyday life for Cazorla. It was an injury in which he lost an unbelievable eight centimetres of his tendon and placed his career at the brink.

Arsenal extended his contract by a year while he was absent but when the chance to extend that came around, Arsenal pulled the plug. The medical assessment at the time indicated that he wouldn’t be able to compete at the top level again and taking into account the midfielders age, he was released.

Whoever made that assessment is now looking incredibly stupid because Cazorla came back with a vengeance and has since made 45 appearances in all competitions for Villarreal, scoring seven goals and delivering 11 assists, not bad for someone who’s career was over.

He featured in one of the most exciting games in La Liga in April’s 4-4 draw with Barcelona and because of his exceptional performances and key contributions, he’s been called up to the provisional Spanish national squad, the first time since 2015

When Cazorla heard about his national team call up, he apparently cried and no wonder. He has gone from being a potential amputee, to a cast off, to hero, to the Spanish squad. What a phenomenal turn around in fortune and totally deserved.

I’ve been an Arsenal supporter for many years and you don’t get to see that many special players in a lifetime but I have been lucky enough to see more than my fair share and along with the Bergkamp’s and Henry’s you can add the name of Cazorla.

Not out of sentiment but on pure skill and merit, because Cazorla could have been in the same side as both, he could have been in any of Wenger’s top sides including the Invincible’s.

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He was and is a top, top player and the most positive, inspiring human being in football, overcoming injury and misfortune.

In all the time he was injured, he never once believed he wouldn’t grace the football field again and he never gave up or felt sorry for himself at any point.

I hope his resurgence continues and Cazorla features for Spain in the way he always should have when he played well for Arsenal yet was constantly overlooked.

Follow Arsedevils for news and updates on Arsenal.

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Chelsea step up preparations for Europa League final

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Chelsea step up preparations for Europa League final as Eden Hazard and Maurizio Sarri’s futures hang in the balance

  • Eden Hazard was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday
  • Maurizio Sarri is also being lined up by Juventus to be their new head coach
  • N’Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Chelsea have stepped up their preparations for their Europa League final clash with Arsenal as clouds hang over the futures of talisman Eden Hazard and manager Maurizio Sarri.

Hazard, who was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday, will be allowed to leave this summer.

Sportsmail understands the Blues are concerned that if they let him leave Stamford Bridge for free next summer – when his contract expires – there would be repercussions for their Financial Fair play figures. 

Eden Hazard was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday evening

Eden Hazard was seen showing off his tremendous dribbling skills on Monday evening

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante was back in training as he recovers from a hamstring strain

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first trophy

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first trophy

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first trophy

Sarri, who was not photographed at Cobham training ground, is also being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri. 

One player who was in action on Monday, was N’Golo Kante, who is on his way back from a hamstring injury.

This is a major boost ahead of the final in Baku on May 29 as the Blues midfielder is now likely to be fit for the match.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was also in action showing off his reflexes as he bids to win his first club competition. 

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot in Baku. 

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength. 

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out with Mateo Kovacic.  

Maurizio Sarri is being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri

Maurizio Sarri is being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri

Maurizio Sarri is being lined up by Juventus to replace outgoing coach Massimiliano Allegri

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot

Hazard and left-back Marcos Alonso were seen squatting as they fight for a starting spot

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength

Olivier Giroud, who will be hoping to start the match, was spotted working on his strength

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out on Monday

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out on Monday

The player who might stop Giroud starting is Gonzalo Higuain who was working out on Monday



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