Although Jose Mourinho and Arsene Wenger have won far more Premier League games than they have lost with Chelsea and Arsenal respectively, both managers are haunted by one particular stadium as the latest set of fixtures have proved. Mourinho witnessed his team losing at St James’ Park in Newcastle whereas Arsenal failed to win at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium for the fifth successive season.
In two spells as Chelsea boss, Mourinho has never won at Newcastle and a second successive league defeat by the Magpies on Tyneside ended the Blues unbeaten record for the current campaign. Newcastle have been unbeaten at St James’ Park since an August defeat by Manchester City and led via two Papiss Cisse goals on Saturday. However, home fans endured a tense and frenetic last 15 minutes as substitute Didier Drogba reduced the arrears with less than ten minutes remaining of normal time.
By that stage, Newcastle had been reduced to 10 players after the dismissal of Steve Taylor and with third choice ‘keeper Jak Alnwick deputising in goal during the second half after an injury to Rob Elliot. Alnwick had never previously played in the Premier League and produced a heroic performance in dealing with the late Chelsea onslaught especially during six minutes of added time at the finish. Few of the spectators left the stadium before the finish as Newcastle triumphed in a thrilling 2-1 victory leaving Mourinho to curse his wretched fortunes on Tyneside.
Meanwhile Arsene Wenger was faring no better in the Potteries where his Arsenal team were 3-0 adrift at the interval and where Peter Couch had opened the scoring for Stoke as early as the first minute. Goals from Bojan Krkic and Jon Walters added to Stoke’s lead before the Gunners replied via Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey in the second half. The equaliser would not arrive and Arsenal succumbed to a 3-2 defeat, their third loss in five seasons at Stoke.
Arsenal have not won at Stoke since completing a 3-1 victory during the 2009-10 campaign and Walters also netted last season when the Gunners were attempting a serious challenge for the Premier League title. Wenger blamed a ‘soft’ defence for yet another defeat at the Britannia Stadium and with Calum Chambers being dismissed later in the match, his misery in the Potteries was compounded even further.
Yet whereas leaders Chelsea still appear to be favourites to clinch the Premier League despite Manchester City closing the gap to three points, the title hopes of Arsenal are dwindling as they are now 13 points adrift of the Blues.
Chelsea and Arsenal will continue to win their fair share of league games this season, but Mourinho and Wenger will be happy to avoid visiting their bogey stadiums as they continue the pursuit of silverware for their respective clubs.