Avere il braccino: it is the Italian phrase that Roberto Mancini started using in interviews and press conferences around the turn of the year and it means, literally "the arm grows short". Or, in other words, it is the failure to seize the moment. Yet in the end Chelsea and Mancini's Manchester City, for all the problems both have endured this season, for all the wobbles at times, were truly magnificent when it really mattered.
It has been an extraordinary season. There has been Carlos Tevez's refusal to come on in Munich; Arsenal's 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford in August and then City's 6-1 win there in October; Harry Redknapp's court case; the second occasion upon which John Terry has lost the England captaincy; Fabio Capello's departure; small mammals invading the pitch during games and any number of incidents involving Mario Balotelli.
That is before we even consider the occasions when it became considerably more serious than we bargained for, in the case of Gary Speed's suicide and the collapse – and miraculous recovery – of Fabrice Muamba. For the rest of it, the great riotous cast of characters in English football have lived up to their billing. It's just a shame it has to end. These are my memories of the moments that mattered, and some that didn't.
24 October: "It is important children should not mess with fireworks. They can be very dangerous if they are not used in the right way. People should follow the firework code." Wise words from Manchester's new "fireworks ambassador", Mario Balotelli, just days after he has to escape through a window of his burning house after fireworks were let off in his bathroom. He blames "a friend".
Carlos Tevez on 28 September: "I wish to state that I never refused to play. There was some confusion on the bench and I believe my position may have been misunderstood."
About 60 rounds of golf in Buenos Aires later, Tevez issues this statement on 22 February: "I wish to apologise sincerely and unreservedly to everybody I have let down and to whom my actions over the last few months have caused offence."
13 May: Tevez wins his third Premier League title. 14 May: City apologise for Tevez waving a piece of cardboard with "RIP Fergie" written on it in marker pen, during City's title parade. 17 May: Tevez says he isn't sorry. "When he [Ferguson] speaks badly about a player, nobody says he has to apologise."
Dom Luis Andre de Pina Cabral e Villas-Boas: the sadly under-used full name of Chelsea's former manager, which would have cost a small fortune for supporters to have printed on their replica shirts. He will be remembered for:
1) The touchline crouch which looked "edgy" at first but in time, and with bad results, came to look like he was trying to adopt the foetal position.
2) Being the first manager to use the verb "transcend" with confidence in press conferences.
3) Being the manager of a team capable of winning the Champions League – just not the XI that he happened to be picking when he was sacked.
A cat's chants
"A cat, a cat / A cat, a cat, a cat" [to the rhythm of "Attack, attack / Attack, attack, attack"]: inspired chant by the Kop when a cat invaded the Anfield pitch during Liverpool's league game against Tottenham Hotspur on 6 February.
An expensive meal
31 December: Wayne Rooney dropped by Sir Alex Ferguson for a Boxing Day meal with his wife Coleen and team-mates Jonny Evans and Darron Gibson and their respective partners. United lose the game 3-2.
13 May: United lose the Premier League on goal difference.
9 January: Thierry Henry scores Arsenal's winning goal in the FA Cup third round tie against Leeds United amid joyous scenes at the Emirates. Given how little they had to celebrate by that point in the season, a 5-3 win at Stamford Bridge aside, beating a team who finished 14th in the Championship with a goal from a 34-year-old in semi-retirement in the MLS was something to cling on to. Arsène Wenger says: "It was a little bit like a dream".
Benoît's big day
Benoît Assou-Ekotto is asked by a Canal Plus interviewer what the significance of 16 August 2009 was in his career. The answer they were looking for was that it was the date of Assou-Ekotto's first goal for Tottenham, in more than three seasons at the club. Assou-Ekotto: "Was it the day my dog died?"
22 January: with 13 minutes left and the score 1-1 against Manchester United, Wenger brings on Andrei Arshavin for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and the response from the home fans is notable. They boo. Even Robin Van Persie is caught on camera shouting "No!" when he sees the number go up. Arsenal lose 2-1. Wenger says later: "I have been 30 years in the job, I have made 50,000 substitutions and I don't have to justify every decision to you."
Harry's dog day
Day nine, trial of Harry Redknapp on two counts of cheating the public purse, Southwark Crown Court. Counsel for the prosecution, Mr John Black QC, asks why, in naming his Monaco back account Rosie47, after his dog and the last two digits of his year of birth, the Tottenham manager had felt it necessary to add the final two numbers. Redknapp: "Because there was another Rosie account [at the bank]." Black: "Perhaps named after someone else's dog?" Redknapp: "Could be. Or it could be someone else's wife. If she was half as nice as Rosie was, then he would have had a good wife."
12 February: Zambia win the African Nations final 8-7 on penalties against the Ivory Coast in dramatic circumstances. It includes the Zambia team singing together throughout the whole penalty shoot-out and, in the taking of his penalty, a run-up by Kolo Touré only marginally shorter than those Curtly Ambrose used to make. Touré is the first of 15 penalty-takers not to score.
The wisdom of Sir Dave
14 February: "Then, 50 years later, some guy came along and said, 'You're liars,' and they actually stole it. It was called Fifa. Fifty years later another gang came along called Uefa and stole a bit more." How Sir Dave Richards, Premier League chairman, summarised his view of the history of football in three sentences for the benefit of a conference audience in Qatar. Later he fell into a "water feature". He is still chairman of the Premier League.
Goal of the season
24 March: Out on the right side of Manchester City's area, Peter Crouch took one touch with the inside of his foot and another to send the ball dipping over Joe Hart's head and into the far corner. Even Marco Van Basten only did that once or twice a season.
Liam the lip
30 April: Manchester City 1, Manchester United 0. Liam Gallagher finds his way into the Etihad Stadium press conference room to give an impromptu speech in which he suggests Sir Alex Ferguson has been "on the whisky". Even given his track record, the Oasis frontman still proved less trouble during the title celebrations than Tevez.
Fans pitch in
13 May: grown men slide on their knees on the Etihad pitch. Some hug stewards. One waves what looks like part of the goal above his head. City winning the title in injury time prompted one of the best-natured pitch invasions in memory. They even cleared off the pitch of their own accord.
Didier at the wheel
19 May: a marvellous, gutsy Champions League final victory for Chelsea. Highlights of the night? Jose Bosingwa muscling his way to the front of the trophy presentation and refusing to budge. Roman Abramovich lifting the trophy in his cardigan. Didier Drogba running around the pitch using the trophy as a steering-wheel, miming changing gear with his left hand.
As with Manchester City, they may have been put together by a billionaire with money to burn but, my goodness, Chelsea have spirit.Reuse content