Friday, 31 December 2010

Wenger's bias and the misfits

Having had time to reflect upon the late dropping of two valuable points at Wigan, a few things have become clearer and I think there are some painful home truths that can no longer be ignored. Before I vent some steam I should make it clear that I am a big fan of Arsene Wenger and would not want anyone else managing our club. However this does not mean Arsene does not make mistakes and sometimes no matter how great you are, you must appreciate where you are going wrong to change direction for the better.

Our defensive solidity has been sadly lacking this season. We have conceded too many goals, a lot of these have been from set pieces and we have let some big leads slip. There are several reasons for this and one Arsene recently openly admitted was the lack of leadership at the centre of our defence. The prolonged absence of Mr Vermaelen has been a problem, he is one of our more motivating and vocal players, while the combination of Koscielyn and Squillaci has not been convincing. The goalkeeping position has also been a huge problem area, although Fabianski has improved, many still doubt his ability to command the penalty box.

A big problem related to a lot that has gone wrong is Arsene's stubbornness and the fact that he gives certain special players many more chances than others. Lucasz Fabianski would have been shipped out of many clubs by now, although we have seen how Arsene's faith has been rewarded by his recent improved showings, it is very questionable as to whether Fabianski will ever be good enough to be our long term no1 keeper who can bring us trophies. Personally I can only see Fabianski going so far, and it is hopefully only a matter of time before Szczesny takes his place as our no1 goalkeeper.

Johan Djourou has been impressive all season long but it has taken him a remarkably long time to cement himself in as a potential first choice player. After yet another excellent display against Chelsea he must surely be considered our best fit centre back, it is rather strange that it has taken him this long given his performances, maybe part of it has been that his return has been graduated due to his prolonged absence with the knee injury. The lack of a commanding centre back against Wigan clearly played its part in our late capitulation.

The midfield has been the main problem area for a very long time now. Essentially we have lost a lot of excellent combative players over a relatively short time frame (Gilberto, Flamini, Diarra) and never properly replaced them. We now have a squad with a lot of attacking technical midfielders but very very few players who can run around and get stuck in. Against Chelsea we saw the importance of the bustling and fighting midfield play of Song and Wilshere, you simply must have players doing the harrying and the pressing, you also need players who will not be beaten easily and who will keep chasing back no matter what.

We are ok when both Song and Wilshere play, the problem comes when either one of them or both are not in the side. Their replacements are simply not up to the task. Denilson is a decent all rounder, not bad at anything but not really good enough at anything either, certainly his defensive game is nowhere near good enough to play as a deep midfielder. Diaby is an enigma, a great talent but he has no natural instinct for defending or pressing, he lacks the tempo and drive to be a defensive midfielder that can be relied upon, really he is an attacking central midfielder, the problem is that he is not as good as Cesc and is very rarely played in his proper role. The rest of our midfielders are just attacking players like Nasri, Cesc, Arshavin, Walcott and Rosicky. Ramsey is a good all rounder and when fit can add a bit more drive than the likes of Denilson and Diaby, Frimpong's cruciate was also an unfortunate one at a bad time.

Overall I do think that Arsene has a special place in his heart for Denilson and Diaby, and somehow I have a sneaking feel that their performances haven't really justified his faith in them. The same is probably also true for Carlos Vela but that's another story. The problem is that Arsene's slightly blind faith has left us painfully short of balls in the midfield department and this was obvious against Wigan on Wednesday night. Realistically we should have brought in a solid midfielder in the summer, we knew Frimpong was out for the season, we knew Ramsey would be gone for months and we knew that neither Denilson or Diaby can defend reliably. A lot of focus has been put on the 8 changes from the Chelsea to the Wigan game, personally it wasn't the '8' that was important, it was the fact that we had no solid midfielders to come into the mix for Song and Wilshere. Arguably we could have done with a Fabrice Muambe type on Wednesday night, one that Arsene may well end up regretting he let slip.

There are so many problems with our defense that it is hard to address them all at once, that's my excuse for waffling on like this anyway. What is clear though is the fact that Arsene Wenger needs to stand up and take notice of the fact that our defence is not up to it, he has to do something about it. Certainly an element of this must be done with more time spent drilling the defence on the training ground, another big element is adjusting the playing staff in the squad so that we have the right mix of attributes in order to be able to put out an organised defensive unit with a midfield that can sheild it adequately. Arsene needs to work hard on the defence, if he doesn't we'll be seeing more defensive capitulations like Wednesday's.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Pathetic defending sees points dissipate away

There are many ways in which one can try to excuse this dropping of two valuable points, but fundamentally one has to acknowledge that we were 2-1 up against ten men and we yet again surrendered a lead with some poor poor defending. It is the manner of this second Wigan goal and the fact that our own manager admitted that no one bothers to take charge of our organisation at set pieces that sealed it for me, it's so frustrating and it has been going on for so long now that it is no longer excusable in any way.

There were quite a few changes as expected and I don't blame the manager for this in itself. Problematically Eboue could not cope with N'Zogbia and this resulted in lot of danger down our defensive left side all night long. Our weak squad was exposed yet again in terms of midfielders who can get stuck into a fight, Wilshere and Song were rested, this left no one who was capable of mixing things up in a fairly robust fashion. The squad is not good enough, Denilson and Diaby are not good enough defensively, this was plain to see again, as it has been many times in the past.

It may be harsh to blame Fabianski for the second goal, but in my opinion it is undeniable that a more commanding keeper would have done far more to prevent that goal. Fabianski was again caught in two minds, in no man's land. He is never going to be good enough to be our first choice keeper and the sooner Szczesny becomes our regular number one the better.

Added to this was some terrible refereeing from Lee Probert and officiating from the linesmen. The Wigan penalty was never a foul, even if it was a foul, it was definitely outside the box, N'Zogbia was slowed down more by wind resistance that the minutest of touches from Koscielny. The way in which Caldwell spoke to the referee and intimidated him just before N'Zogbia's red card showed just how little balls and control Probert had. The final nail in Probert's coffin was his failure to give us a stonewall penalty as Nasri's freekick was blocked by the most blatant of deliberate handballs in the box. Piss poor from the officials all round.

I am not going to try to pin this defeat on the officials though, Wigan looked extremely dangerous throughout, they could have had more goals than the two they came away with tonight, our defence seemed all over the place at times. We are simply not good enough at the back, part of this is our keeper's lack of aerial power, part of this is down to the individuals at the back, a massive part for me is the lack of defensive players in our midfield who are able to shield and assist the back four. The buck stops with the manager and our persistent leakage of sloppy goals is symptomatic of a problem that he has failed to address for too long.

Maybe I'm being negative but frankly I feel it is fully justified, the negativity I am trying to express is about the manner of our capitulation and the way in which we are doing this on a worryingly regular basis. The win against Chelsea was only three points, we have seen almost the same amount of points pissed away tonight due to our complete inability to defend a simple set piece. The frustrating thing is that it wouldn't take much to transform us into a more solid defensive outfit that could hang on to leads, I just hope the manager stands up and takes note of where we are going so badly wrong defensively.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Blue flag turns to white for surrender

I can hardly speak this morning, the combination of a sore throat and a bit too much shouting last night has left me this silent way, still like many of you this morning, I cannot stop grinning, last night was by far our best home performance of the season and it was a statement of intent. The fact that we didn't expect to win made it all the more satisfying, ending a terrible losing run against Chelsea in terrific fashion.

A massive reason for our change in fortunes was Arsene's selection. I cannot overstate the importance of starting with Djourou at the back, also the inclusion of Walcott on the right flank changed the whole shape and balance of the team for the better. Song also stuck deep on the whole and this gave the back four a shield, added to this was the never ending scrapping that Wilshere did in the midfield, it is undoubtedly something that we have lacked at times.

We started the brighter, Van Persie had a great opening which let his match rustiness show, we had good shouts for a penalty ignored by the pouting Clattenberg, who seemed intent on giving us very little overall. Terry somehow escaped the book for a terribly cynical foul, only Clattenberg could explain how he let him get away with that. Then a rather key moment, Drogba picked up the ball after a misplaced pass in the midfield, he strode forward and hit a firm low fizzer, it nipped narrowly wide, maybe it is this kind of moment that has gone against us in recent games, last night it went our way and it was the first goal that made all the difference.

The midfield bustled, Song was back to his ox-like best, Wilshere grew as the game wore on, so did Cesc. Theo was rusty initially but he threatened more and more as the minutes past, there were some early hints of the damage that he would cause later, we had so much more balance with him running that groove on the right flank. Djourou was Drogba's keeper, he was aggressive, never delaying in his attempts to make the Ivorian's night an uncomfortable one, he was strong as well as being extremely perceptive with a couple of fantastic sliding interceptions when Chelsea threatened to break clear. I should also mention RVP who had by far his best game since his return from injury, he found space and linked up things neatly, as well as getting stuck in to anything that moved in a blue shirt.

The opening goal was crucial, Chelsea are suited to sitting back on a lead and the fact that this opener forced them to come our of their shell was key in the way in which they fell apart in the second half. Some neat passing in and around the Chelsea box saw Cesc tripped, probably a penalty, but Clattenberg played on, probably hoping that Song would miss, he did not, he slammed the ball into the bottom corner, have that Chelsea, have that JT, have that Ashley. At that moment I think we then believed we could do it, had we conceded first I am not sure we could have recovered.

Few of us expected Chelsea to crumble at the beginning of the second half, but this is precisely what they did. We have Chelsea no room to breath in the midfield and this is what catalysed the second half goals. The second goal saw Essien pressured into an error which released Theo in the inside right position, he was calm and clear headed, he took his time and sqaured the ball to Cesc for a simple tap in. The third saw Theo nip in to intercept, he played the ball to Cesc who returned it with interest, Theo's finish was top notch, he made it look far easier that it was, Cech had not a chance. Chelsea did get a goal back through an Ivanovic header from one of many incredibly soft free kicks gifted to them by the generous Clattenberg.

The goal we conceded was a bit disappointing on several fronts. Firstly I think it showed that Fabianski will never dominate his box as a Szczesny would, the ball travelled a long way and was met by Ivanovic only a few yards out, Fabianski could and probably should have done more. Secondly our defensive line dropped too deep and allowed Terry/Ivanovic to drift dangerously close to the goal, although Terry was offside and Ivanovic borderline offside, we should have held a more disciplined higher line to play them both offside.

Still after Chelsea's brief moment of hope, we held firm and never really looked like conceding a second, despite Clattenberg's continual donation of soft free kicks to Chelsea in our defensive final third. The attitude, work rate, ethic and commitment of all eleven players was there for all to see. Chelsea ran out of ideas and were reduced to hopeful punts in Drogba's general direction, players like Malouda, Kalou and Essien had been made anonymous by some excellent defensive performances, both individually and as a unit. Walcott's presence pushed Cole deep and massively reduced Chelsea's left sided threat. The better chances fell to us, Nasri missed with just Cech to beat, Diaby dallied when he should have struck early with his left foot, Rosicky hit the post when flagged 'offside' despite being onside.

A big big win for many many reasons. Firstly it gives us belief that we can beat the best and that we are good enough to do this. Secondly it shows the manager that we do need to play with our brains a little bit more, we played sensibly yesterday, we didn't allow Chelsea the opportunity to kill us repeatedly on the counter, in fact we did that to them; sometimes one must not throw the kitchen sink at the opposition, one has to be a bit cagey, one has to be patient to get that pivotal first goal. Thirdly the work ethic of the team and the way in which we gave Chelsea no time to settle on the ball was key, Wilshere and Song were instrumental in this. Fourthly it should not be understated how key Theo Walcott was in all this, his pace and hugging of the right flank gave us a shape and threat that we often lack, his presence pushed Chelsea onto the back foot from the off. Great win, I don't care if I can barely whisper a word this morning, it means so much to beat Chelsea, we must not forget that it wall all mean nothing if we cannot build on this and pick up some more points on our travels before City visit us in just over a week's time. Come on you Gunners!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Make or break?

Obviously tonight is massive. Chelsea have been on a bad run, while we have been consistently erratic thus far. It is a game that many say we simply cannot afford to lose, this is true, and if one looks ahead at the next couple of weeks fixtures then there are quite a few of these coming up (Wigan (A), Birmingham (A), Man City (H) ). The simple reason that we cannot afford to lose many more games is that we have lost five league games already, a very poor record for a club that claims to be challenging for the title.

If I try to take a step back from the season so far to have a look from a more objective stance then it is obvious that we have not been good enough. Five defeats in seventeen games is poor by anyone's standards for a top side, we have also conceded more than a goal a game, this defensive frailty is part of what is wrong. I don't like to sound this negative when we still have a lot to play for, but I would be lying if I said that I was confident going into this game, Chelsea have a great record against us in recent times and Didier Drogba seems to score against us as a matter of routine. Various people have had their say on why things have not gone as well as Arsene would have expected and many of these people have had a good point.

Looking at the players available tonight shows the lack of balance we have in our squad. The defensive edge of midfield will have to come from Song, Wilshere and possibly Diaby. Song has been playing in a bizarre free role of late, Wilshere is a great talent but just a kid, while Diaby struggles to impose himself on a regular basis. Cesc may be back but he doesn't address the lack of balance, we simply have too many technical players who do not have enough in their lockers to get in the way of the opposition and make us a brick wall that is a real obstacle to be broken down.

I don't think the 4-3-3 system is good for many reasons, a big reason for it being a failure is the fact that it takes away a bit of responsibility for defending from the wide players and can leave our front man rather isolated. It works well when you are dominating the game but is a useless system when you are playing it with too many attacking players and chasing shadows. Something you have to able to do when playing badly is become an obstacle that the other team cannot break down, our 'Invincibles' were a great example of this, without the ball they were a proper unit, the same cannot be said of the current team.

Having said all that we can still make the best of what we have got and we do have a lot of talent at our disposal. Szczesny and Djourou should both start as these two are far more aerially dominant that those who Arsene regularly selects in their places, the latter young Swiss is the one would does potentially have the game to stop a Didier Drogba type. I would be tempted to drop Arshavin given his recent form, play Nasri on the left and Walcott on the right. While if Cesc starts then there is only room for one of RVP and Chamakh. The most important thing will be keeping things tight at the back and not conceding a cheap goal early on, something we have done against Chelsea with a depressing regularity in recent seasons. Come on you Gunners, it's time to stand up and be counted.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas Gooners

I have never understood why Christmas day falls on December the 25th. Dennis Bergkamp was born on May the 10th. Merry Christmas Gooners.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

White or shite christmas?

It's a sign of becoming a grumpy old man when the snow really pisses you off and I think I am precisely that at the moment. I am tired and completely fed up with the amount of time wasted because of this damn snow. The first few hours were fun, then I realised that the snow wasn't the right type for making a large snowman and I have been angry ever since. We lost the Stoke game to the snow and there will always be a chance of losing the Chelsea game too, hopefully it will give Didier Drogba time to twist something important on the ice and put himself out of goalscoring action.

Ian Holloway always cheers me up and the above clip is utter magic. He doesn't mince his words and gets across the massive frustration that so many of us feel with the muppets in charge of the game of football at FIFA. I would love to see Mr Holloway removing a certain FIFA man's head and seeing it roll along the floor with a rather gormless expression on it.

These little gaps are often nice opportunities to take stock of what is going on with the Arsenal players spread around various clubs in Europe. A couple close to home have been getting a fair bit of positive attention of late, Henri Lansbury is doing well on his emergency loan at Norwich and starting every game, Kyle Bartley also seems to be doing well at Sheffield United and getting a lot of experience under his belt.

On the injury news I would ignore the rubbish about this new 'Vermaelen injury blow', it is absolute tosh. Essentially TV has an annoying Achilles problem that is now settling down and he is gradually getting back to things. He was never going to be rushed back at breakneck speed, it was always going to be slow. Nothing has changed, he is expected to be back in late January or so and this is no different than would have been expected a month ago. He is on track. There is also good news for Kieran Gibbs, he is going to be back within the next couple of weeks, while Diaby and Fabianski are now fit for action.

Overall one has to be a little bit encouraged by the general fitness of the squad, we are not far off having most of our big names fit, famous last words no doubt. There are rumours that Chris Samba is about to hand in a transfer request at Blackburn, I have to say that despite having only seen bits of him, he is the right kind of player for us. We could do with a big strong chap who can play in the middle of midfield or an centre back, especially given his aerial power. Here's hoping that the Chelsea game goes ahead and that Lucasz Fabianski isn't quite ready, it would be nice to see young Mr Szczesny in first team action again. Come on you Gunners!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

We should dedicate this day to Aaron Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey was cranking through the gears last season, and just as he was becoming an important and integral part of our first team squad, that moment happened. On February 27th 2010 Ryan Shawcross went into a tackle on the young Welshman rather late using excessive force and the rest is history. As the above salient comments make clear this kind of violence has no place on a football field and there is simply no justification for it. The game today against Stoke has been postponed and I thought this would be an opportune moment to pay tribute to young Aaron and his continuing comeback from this serious and potentially career ending injury.

F*ck Shawcross, his refusal to acknowledge any blame for his reckless aggression and his lack of an apology. F*ck Tony Pulis and his incessant bitterness directed at our manager and club for having the audacity to complain about this appalling tackle. F*ck all those who feel sympathy for a player and football club that have no desire to change from their reckless clogging ways, Dembele of Fulham being another recent notable victim of their dangerous assaults. F*ck all the supporters of this football club who condone Shawcross' actions and his refusal to change his ways. F*ck Stoke RFC and their dire approach to football that belongs in the dark ages and not the Premier League. F*ck all those in the media who have made a victim out of Shawcross. F*ck all those current players and ex-players like Wayne Rooney who gather behind the aggressor in order to perpetuate the myth that this thug is a poor innocent victim in this whole affair.

This day should be for Aaron Ramsey. Aaron is currently on loan at Forest and building up his fitness, we wish him all the very best on his road to recovery. I could wish for nothing more than Aaron Ramsey to be back in the Arsenal team when the Stoke fixture is rearranged, nothing would be more poetic than for Ramsey to play a key part in demolishing Stoke at the Emirates, perhaps nutmegging the cumbersome Shawcross on his way to a hat trick, we can but dream. So for all of you who are supping a pint or glass of wine at this moment in time, disappointed that the game is off, I suggest you raise a glass to young Aaron Ramsey, thanking our lucky stars that his career is not over and then he lives to fight another day.

Exclusive: Shawcross spotted on way to Emirates

Exclusive photographic evidence of Ryan Shawcross making his way to the Emirates stadium has found its way to me this morning. This scoop comes courtesy of the large party of security staff who are travelling with this rare primitive northern beast in order to protect his delicate and innocent frame from those nasty neanderthal Arsenal supporters.

I can also exclusively reveal that rumours first aired on Arsecast yesterday surrounding this primitive beast's rather strange personal habits and finger excursions are completely untrue. For any of you who want to listen to these fabricated slurs on the great beast's name then go to around 27 minutes into the Arsecast, I do not condone the Arseblogger's libellous words but in order to feel the beast's pain one must listen to the fabrications in their full glory.

It is sad that such a rare and noble species has been victimised in such a manner by these ghastly people, Shawcross beast cannot change, it is in his genes, let us stop the brutal discrimination and just love this rare animal the way he is. The Shawcross beast has a genetic need for snapping the healthy tibia of his fellow professionals on a regular basis; it is not his fault that his genes make him slow, cumbersome, stupid, overly aggressive and have an overwhelming desire to see blood and bony fragments on the turf. Let us respect this noble sub-species on this great day, and be warned do not approach this hairy character, he may be hungry for more Arsenal related flesh once more.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Shawcross the victim: media hang your heads in shame

One of the most appalling things about the Ryan Shawcross tackle on Aaron Ramsey that broke the latter's leg has been the biased and slanted way in which the media has covered the whole affair. I felt this should be highlighted in bold before this weekend's encounter.

The facts of the matter are that Shawcross was late and dangerous with his tackle, this recklessness and out of control force resulted directly in a horrendous and potentially career ending injury. Shawcross has not apologised for the tackle and has not even acknowledged that it was a bad tackle:

"Whenever I play for Stoke I am 100% committed and that will be the same as ever when I next play. Hopefully, when I am back from suspension, I can do well again. The fans and a lot of people around me have been fantastic in their support over the past few days."

"There was absolutely no malice in the challenge. I would never, ever go out to hurt a fellow professional."

Firstly the media reacted as if Arsene Wenger was out of line to criticise a reckless tackle that left one of his best young players needing emergency surgery in hospital, utterly ridiculous. There was minimal focus on the violence of the challenge and Shawcross escaped with only a three game ban thanks to the FA's useless disciplinary system.

Since the incident Shawcross has regularly and repeatedly been portrayed as the innocent and unfortunate victim. 'Shawcross is just a victim...', 'He's a committed player, but he's never going to go into a challenge looking to hurt someone', 'He's a lovely kid and he's been exemplary since he's been at this football club. It was breaking his heart coming off the pitch' and on and on.

Frankly I don't care whether Ryan Shawcross is Mother Theresa in his spare time, he is most definitely not the victim in this story, he is the perpetrator, the aggressor, the man who flew out of control into a tackle in which he knew he had little chance of getting anyway near the ball. Since the incident he has clearly not reflected on events and realised the error of his ways, he has simply said he will carry on being overly aggressive and violent. This chap does not deserve our sympathy or empathy.

The painting of Shawcross as a victim, much in the same way that Martin Taylor was painted as an innocent victim after he had crumpled Eduardo's ankle, shows just how biased and far from objective many so called 'journalists' are in our media. The most recent example of this is the coverage of 'Shawcross getting over the incident', what utter tripe, get over what? Recklessly breaking another player's leg and potentially ending their career while you escape with a three match ban and your legs fully healthy?

has had nothing to get over, the media focus here is all wrong. At least some in the media have said things how they are, I would urge you all to read this excellent Guardian piece which does precisely this, sadly it is a minority of the coverage that hits the nail on the head in this manner.

Stoke RFC and Pulis the petty/Barca in CL

I've been reflecting upon Monday's night's great disappointment and I would imagine that many of you have been doing the same. It wasn't great but it wasn't awful, it was somewhere in between. Defensively we did ok and Mr Szczesny did far better than ok, overall Manchester United created very little of note. The frustrating thing was out lack of attacking threat, we gave the ball away far too cheaply time and time again, I know Manure pressed us well, but this was not the sole reason, we were just sloppy and slack going forward. None of our attacking players played well.

The balance of the side didn't appear right, it's hard to put an exact finger on the problem spot. Overall though we just didn't have enough of a cutting edge, both in terms of brute power and in terms of raw pace. It was generally just a bit easy for Manchester United to keep us shut out. Andrei Arshavin had a poor game after a couple of excellent performances in the league, Chamakh didn't do much, Rosicky didn't add enough either. Our full backs were kept deep by Manu's pressing and we didn't have enough width as a result. This was rather predictable, in retrospect in would have been wise to have started with more width, playing Theo on the right and dropping Nasri to the central midfield role.

Onto Stoke Rugby Football Club. They really are a bunch of neadtherthal cloggers both on and off the pitch, remembering their large scum-infested hooligan element. Pulis is one of those bitter twisted men who can never let anything drop, his inner burning hatred of anything non-English and non-leg crunching is never relaxed. Recent comments in the media portraying Shawcross as a victim are pathetic, it should be remember that this average clogger broke Aaron Ramsey's leg with a bad tackle. Shawcross has not yet apologised for this and he has never admitted that it was a bad tackle. The media and Pulis are both accomplices in this regard, the dishonest and manipulative stories that portray poor Shawcross as the victim continue while Ramsey works his way back to fitness, it is lucky for the brute Shawcross that he has not wrecked this young lad's career. Shawcross deserves no sympathy, he has repeatedly shown himself to be a weak and violent individual, he is most certainly no victim, unless one sees his whole existence as a nasty accident.

Pulis' lame comments on the number of cards Arsenal have picked up are misguided and stupid. Remember this is the same loser who wrote a letter to the FA to complain when another manager likened his team's playing tactics to a Rugby Club, it seems Pulis feels he is allowed to comment on everyone else but no one can criticise him. As shown at Old Trafford on Monday the card tally is a very poor indicator of a team's dirtiness, we picked up several very soft yellows, while the worst offences were ignored by the cowardly Webb. We see this routinely at the Emirates, Arsenal get a massively disproportionate number of yellow cards per foul compared to the opposition. Also look at our red cards this season, most of them have been very very soft and for two yellow cards, we have not had a player sent off for anything violent this season. Shut it Pulis you despicable tool.

I hope we can come up with a strong performance against Stoke. It would be good to see Szczesny, Djourou, Walcott and RVP start. Finally to the CL, we have drawn Barca, fate told us that was coming! It's a great test for us and I am sure they were will be a tougher proposition than we were last season, our new defensive unit is far more formidable that the Silvestre-inclusive unit of last season. If you want to win the biggest cups then you have to beat the best teams and that is precisely what we shall have to do. I am not quite yet sure of the dates, I am keen to travel to Barca and have a fifty fifty chance of making it depending on the date of the away fixture. Come on you Gunners!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Video of Fletcher barging the referee

It may not have been quite Di Canio but the slightly grainy video shows just how weak Howard Webb was in punishing dissent from Manchest United players on Monday night. Darren Fletcher quite clearly chases the referee and barges him, there is most definitely physical contact.

Sky strangely edited out this incident on replays and made absolutely nothing of it on their highlights or news programs. No one in the media has even mentioned it, as far as I can see.

Fletcher expressed clear dissent and barged the referee, it was a red card offence, you simply can't make physical contact with referees when dissenting in such an aggressive manner. The fact that Webb didn't even book him tells the story of his weak officiating, of note Rooney also swore at the linesman on at least one occassion, telling him to eff off.

Ignoring the game itself and the poor Arsenal performance, it is quite appalling that Flecther should behave in such a manner and that Webb allow him to do so. 'Respect' was quite clearly nowhere in evidence. One can guarantee if an Arsenal player had done what Flecther did then they would have been red carded and destroyed in the media. The FA and media's silence says more than words could do on the special treatment that a certain club continues to enjoy.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Manure continue to intimidate as Arsenal fail to deliver

What a bitty game, it never really got going and seemed to have nil nil stamped all over it, to give credit where it is due, it was a truly fantastic finish from Park who is one of the few United players who is not a despicable human being. The fact that we so rarely threatened the United goal was rather obvious and also rather concerning.

Firstly I think Arsene got the tactics and line up wrong. I would have started Nasri centrally in the midfield three, I would have had Theo wide right and I would have told Arshavin to stay on the left and not roam around all over the shop. We were so slack with possession and there just wasn't enough attacking width. Another option would have been to play a more 4-4-2 style system with RVP behind Chamakh. It was pretty obvious that very few of our midfield and attacking players delivered,

Having said that it was a fairly tight game overall, United shaded it on chances, but not by much. The big positive must be Szczesny's outstanding showing, he looks the real deal and an Arsenal no1 for years ahead for me. It was just extremely disappointing to not take advantage of a United side that really looked like they were there for the taking, the problem was that we just weren't good enough to do it on the night.

The officiating was toilet standard and a large part of that was down to Howard Webb's rank incompetence. His one sided handing out of yellow cards to Arsenal players was beyond belief, at the same time he let far worse go from Manure players, a Vidic tackle on Chamakh in the first half springs to mind. The penalty was also an absolute joke decision, even if it did brush Clichy's arm then it was never a deliberate handball, a very very poor decision.

The biggest joke was the fact that Darren Fletcher basically shoved Howard Webb in a blatant act of dissent in the first half. It was a clear red card offence, he barged the bloody referee, yet the media will ignore this and sweep it under the carpet. It flabbergasts me that a player can do this on television in front of millions and he gets away with it. Rooney told various officials to f*ck off without punishment again. It's one rule for Manure and one rule for everyone else in this regard, the balance is just tilted that little bit in their favour year in year out and it allows them to squeeze a few points where other teams would not.

I will analyse things more thoroughly in the next few days, my initial thoughts are that this result was just more of the same, we had an off day I know, but there have been too many of these, maybe we just had a few too many small technical ball players on show and there wasn't quite the right balance of pace, power, technique and skill on show. Anyway just to finish on a positive, Wojciech Szczesny is a legend in the making. Also how enjoyable was it to see that ugly uneducated chav Wayne Rooney miss that penalty, priceless, I would rather never win a trophy that support a team that is made up of a majority of such c*nts.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Incoherent logic - Republik argument deconstructed

There has been a lot of talk on the Internet and elsewhere surrounding Alex Ferguson's comments regarding the below the belt chants that continue to be directed at Arsene Wenger by Manchester United fans. Firstly let's look at Sir Alex's comments:

“It should stop. There’s been a focus on fans’ behaviour and the chants towards Arsene Wenger and other managers. It’s ridiculous and I think the police should be doing more. They should be stepping in. Manchester United and their supporters should know very well the chants that have been levelled at us over the years and understand the sensitivity, and the criticism directed at members of the club itself. I don’t agree with it at all and hopefully our fans appreciate it comes to me too. I hope other clubs share the same views I do. There is enough to admire in our game without having to denigrate people.”

These are sensible and fair comments. However some Manchester United fans have spun this around in the most bizarre fashion to try to look away from a problem that a lot of them continue to condone or ignore:

"It’s that time of year again. Manchester United play Arsenal so Sir Alex Ferguson feels the need to try and placate our fans and stop us singing songs about Arsene Wenger being a paedophile by likening them to Munich chants."

Sir Alex is not trying to placate anyone, he is making that simple point that the chants directed against Arsene are completely unacceptable. The statement by the RepublikofMancunia site that these chants shouldn't be compared to the Munich chants are incoherent and nonsensical, it also rather notable that Sir Alex doesn't even mention the Munich chants specifically. Both chants are agreed to be completely unacceptable by the vast majority of fans, they are below the belt and pathetic. Certainly they are not the same, but even if he did bring them both up in the same sentence then it would not be unreasonable, it would simply make the obvious point that they are both out of order, of note he hasn't even mentioned them specifically so this is purely a hypothetical argument anyway. I am not quite sure why the RepublikofMancunia and others are getting so hot under the collar about this, someone dust protest too much I feel

Gunnerblog dismantles the arguments of the RepublikofMancunia and others very calmly and effectively indeed, his article is well worth a read, the RepublikofMancunia should take the time out to read this rational balanced argument that completely annihilates his rather childish rant. I am sure we will still be subjected to more of the same lame responses that point out that no one is whiter than white, of course no set of supporters are perfect, but this is irrelevant to the clear point in question. The point is that ignoring one's own faults by pointing out the faults of others is hardly something that makes one's own faults smaller, it's a rather weak tactic that fools no one with half a grey cell.

By refusing to address an issue that is still a rather big problem at Old Trafford and trying to live in denial a significant proportion of Manchester United fans continue to embarrass both their club and themselves. I will be surprised if the infamous Arsene Wenger chants are not audible on the TV on monday, which points to the fact that it takes more than just a tiny minority to make this kind of volume. These very same Mancunians in denial try to take attention away from their own problems by accusing Arsenal fans of ignoring racist chanting at the Emirates, nothing could be further from the truth, our club has done a hell of a lot to combat this kind of behaviour and has processes in place that are way ahead of many clubs. We should not be complacent, but acknowledging one has a problem is the first step to sorting it out, quite a few Manchester United fans still haven't made this basic first step by the looks of things.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Partizan problems/MancManure/Barca/Mixed bag of ranting

Well firstly to the other night, we're through, aaaaaaaah, slow and slightly nervy exhale, it wasn't a great performance and it wasn't convincing but we did it. One has to admire our consistency in reaching the knock out phases of the Champions League, the problem is that in the last three CL games we have played I think we have seen just why we will struggle to win it this season, I hope I am wrong but I fear this is not the case.

Against Shakhtar there was some shoddy defending, the same was the case against Braga combined with some slightly reckless tactics, while against Partizan we again looked more than a tad open at the back. Firstly I don't think this is a problem with the individual defenders we have, it appears to me to be far more about our defensive setup and strategy. Against Partizan for example our defence played for offside far too much when there was no need, this frequently encouraged more danger at the back than was necessary. We have a lot of pace at the back, there is no need to play such a high line for offsides the whole time.

Arsene's thinking and comments on our defence of late have been utterly bizarre. I still can't understand the logic behind Song's advanced position, while it is certainly no coincidence that we continue to leak a lot of goals relative to the opponents number of goalscoring chances. I am not saying we should sit back and get all our men behind the ball, but I do think that we should try to have a bit more discipline in shielding the back four, while the back four should not be playing Russian roulette with the offside trap as they currently are. Mind you this wasn't the only problem against Partizan, several players were way off form, in that category I would definitely place RVP and Arshavin, poor games from the two of them in particular, Chamakh also had an off day. Overall I'm just trying to say that we need to learn how to be a bit more solid as a unit, if we can do this then we could go from being a good team into a great one.

The temperature is building ahead of our trip to the Theatre of Manure on Monday, that outspoken fellow Patrice Evra has had his say on Arsenal, Arsene has politely hinted that he is a disrespectful fool, personally I don't care what Evra says, the man has consistently proven himself to be a rather immature fool, Arsene should just pin up his comments on the dressing room wall on Monday. Gunnerblog has written an excellent piece on the way in which a large number of Manure fans repeatedly chant some rather despicable and unacceptable things about our manager.

There have been some rather poorly written and incoherent attempts to downplay what Manure players and fans have said and done by the RepublikofMancunia blog. I probably shouldn't even bother linking to a site which publishes quite a few pieces that verge on the illiterate. The author of the aforementioned site seemed to think that a relativistic argument saying that paedophile chants aren't as bad as Munich air crash chants cuts the mustard. Frankly it doesn't in many ways, including both the logical and the ethical, claiming that Hitler wasn't that bad because he was nicer than Stalin is hardly a robust argument. The fact is that some things are just obviously wrong or bad, hence trying to mitigate them just makes you look like a prized tit when you do it in an inflammatory and incoherent manner. Some people just need to grow up, it's a game of football and nothing more, there are thing far bigger than football games and we should all appreciate this.

Manu will be a tough proposition, there's no doubt of that, no Arsenal player of fan would be as stupid as Evra and disrespect the quality of the opposition before such a big game. Gibb's unfortunate injury means Clichy returns, it would be good to see Djourou return but I doubt he will. In midfield Wilshere will come in to add a bit more steel, Song will hopefully be instructed to do what he does best, while it will be interesting to see if Denilson retains his place. A tempting option for me would be to stick Nasri in the midfield three, play Theo and Arshavin on the flanks with Chamakh in the middle. We need to be tactically adept, there should be no getting caught on the break at Old Trafford, this would play right into Manu's hands.

Finally I just had to mention this, yet another example of the rank corruption that FIFA's systems openly allow, in simply terms Qatar have effectively purchased their votes from Spain. If anyone feels this can be justified then I would be interested to hear their stream of logic.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mike Ashley and injury/Partizan stuff

I know this is an 'Arsenal' blog but this does not mean all the talk needs to be Arsenal related, some wider issues and events have to be mentioned from time to time, for one they are interesting and secondly I enjoy having a rant about them, frankly if people don't want to read it then don't, you don't have to! Chris Hughton was yesterday sacked as NUFC manager by Mike Ashley, having achieved first time promotion from the Championship and then having made a decent start in the PL this year, it is quite astonishing that Ashley has acted in this way.

Mike Ashley is a stupid fat twat, this much is clear and has been for some time. A popular chairman who knows football well and who makes wise considered decisions he most definitely is not. The noises coming out of St James Park go to prove just what a stupid and ignorant man Mike Ashley is, although some of the comments from ex-staff and players have been rather veiled, it is abundantly clear that Ashley is not a popular man and not a man whose knee jerk reactions are doing the football club any favours. Hughton had done a fantastic job, a very popular man with the players, he had created a great team spirit having taken over when this was at rock bottom, Ashley's decision to sack him is so stupid in so many ways, it is almost hard to find words that can describe just what a stupid fat twat the man is, I think stupid fat twat does it nicely though. Mike Ashley is a great example of how luck can make you money, it certainly can't have been brains or intelligence that did it.

Enough of Ashley's stupidity. It is interesting to read a lot of absolute garbage about various injuries to our players in the media. Apparently Koscielyn 'could be out for three weeks' and this is some kind of exclusive headline. Note the words 'could be', Koscielny was clearly not knocked out and probably has a grade 1 or 2 concussion. Obviously it is slightly hard to make a prediction not knowing the details, but it is likely that Koscielny will only have to miss a week if his symptoms have settled down quickly.

Now to Mr Vermaelen. Here we have a big potential problem. The recent stories that go under the 'exclusive' banner have revealed that he will be out until the new year, this is not new news. We knew he was only in a walking boot at this stage, so it will be well over a month before he is back in the action. The problem is that he has pain in his Achilles, he has no abnormality on MRI scanning, this is a tricky condition to manage as it is so poorly understood. There is a good chance that it will just settle down and never cause any further problem, the other side of the coin is that fact that sometimes this condition never really settles down despite numerous different treatments and it can end footballing careers. I hope the Verminator falls in the former category, we'll have to just wait and see.

Partizan await on Wednesday night. I read Arseblogger's comments on the Song deployment and had to agree with every word, Arsene's logic and strategy here appear to be sadly lacking. If we can't beat Partizan then frankly we don't deserve to go through, obviously I hope this isn't the case but we cannot afford to be complacent, victory is never guaranteed. Djourou will start alongside Squillaci, it will be interesting to see if Gibbs gets the nod at left back. As always I'm damned if I can predict the midfield and attacking line up, it's a bit like predicting the weather really. Come on you Gunners!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Talksport and 'Arry - journalism of the lowest sort

Many of you probably listen to Talksport radio, I too must admit that sometimes my lack of self control means that I occasionally endure a few minutes of their low quality broadcasting, it really is straight from the gutter in an unpurified fashion. Generally it's probably worth ignoring their drivel, but this time I just couldn't resist commenting on the low quality of what they reproduce as an exclusive sporting story "Exclusive - Redknapp: 'Bale should be player of the season":

"For me, at this particular time, he’s got to be the footballer of the year in this country. I can’t think of anyone who’s done as well as him."

This is meant to be an exclusive. I shall recap the context of this so called 'exclusive', here we have a bent manager who is due in court for tax evasion ringing up a friendly Talksport hack to say that one of his players should be player of the year. Of note this is a manager who is notoriously friendly with the English press, routinely picking up the bar tabs for journalists in return for a favourable whitewashing of all Redknapp related news.

Garteh Bale's quality is irrelevant, despite having a good season with a handful of outstanding games he has a long way to go before he can be regarded as a consistent performer in the Premier League. The fact that Talksport choose to make an 'exclusive' out of a manager bigging up one of his own players is utterly pathetic, they are virtually advertising Gareth Bale for Tottenham and Harry Redknapp. This is truly journalism of the lowest gutter dwelling sort.

It would be interesting to know if the Talksport 'journalist/propaganda artist' Michael Wade has ever accepted any alcoholic gifts from a certain Tottenham manager, it is strange that Harry Redknapp can just make a phone call and this is then turned into an 'exclusive' story. To me it looks like old Harry has a very cosy, if not overtly corrupt, relationship with certain parts of the media; Harry feeds them some nice juicy morsels every now and again, while in return Harry gets a very easy ride the rest of the time.

Nothing else would explain a lot of the biased drivel we are subjected to my the likes of the dire Talksport on such an incessant basis. This is not objective journalism, it is utter rubbish. The fact that Gareth Bale was proclaimed as the best player in the world after one performance against a rather dodgy Inter side was part of the same story, the fact that Bale's routine theatrics and diving are ignored by the media is also part of the same. The cosy relationship Harry and others with the media enjoy is nothing short of a disgrace, the fact that the media pretend that they are being objective at the same time as indulging in this mutual back scratching context is beyond a disgrace.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Negative spin despite Nasri genius

We are top of the league and the media don't like it, still that won't stop the Gooner population enjoying it, no matter how much various numpties try to belittle the reality of the league table. As anyone who frequents this blog would know, I do not pretend that we are perfect, that we are a team without faults, we are not, but credit should be given where it is due, and after yesterday's win not nearly enough credit has been given in various quarters of the media.

The media tried in vain to spin yesterday's win as a lucky one, in reality although Fulham played well, we shaded the game and created more clear cut chances than the opposition. The extremely fortunate nature of Fulham's equaliser was ignored and the win was simply down to Nasri's brilliance, nothing else was really said, a few tired old mutterings about our soft centre were repeated, but nothing insightful or meaningful was added by the majority of those giving an opinion in the press.

The game should have been beyond Fulham before they equalised, Nasri's well taken opener should have been added to, a combination of slightly slack finishing and some good goalkeeping from Schwarzer kept the score at one nil. Then the controversial moment, a clear clash of heads between Squillaci and Koscielny saw the latter left dazed and confused, the referee Foy clearly should have stopped the game, a really poor and indefensible error from the official. Kamara was left free by the groggy Koscielny, he then put away a straightforward chance that simply would not have come his way if the referee had done his job properly.

The media just haven't done much to criticise this poor piece of officiating, the rules are very clear on head injuries. It is strange that the same media allows Gareth Bale to dive and pirouette without restraint without making any critical comment. Fulham then had a great chance to take the lead when Kamara was played through one on one with Fabianski just before half time, Fabianski did well and closed the angle down, the linesman was generous in not flagging the Fulham man offside.

The second half was a nervous affair. Fulham launched a rather aerial attack but didn't create that much clear cut, mainly half chances fell their way, probably the best of which was missed by Etuhu late on. The goal that won the game was top top class, Nasri made his brilliant first half effort look average with an even more sumptuous effort. RVP slid him in on the edge of the box, at pace he too two delightful touches to jink past the defender, then another neat touch to round Schwarzer, as the angle ran out, he swivelled himself onto his right foot and finished with en elevated curler from an acute angle, not far off the perfect goal, it is hard to sum it up with words.

Overall a tight game but I think a deserved win, we had some luck but so did Fulham, Mark Hughes strangely didn't mention the refereeing error that gifted them their goal. Nasri was outstanding yet again and Arshavin is looking sharper than he has done for a while, these are massive positives. The negatives must include the rather dubious cover that the midfield afforded to the back four, Song seemed too far up field at times. Johan Djourou's performance was also encouraging, we should also remember that after such a serious injury he has to be rehabilitated relatively slowly, his knee may mean that he can never play quite as many games per season as a normal player might.

Arseblog adds a good balance to proceedings with today's blog, it is indeed important that we realise there are areas we can improve, it is also important that we realise that we are doing some things very well and that the guts we have shown with some of our recent wins will only add to our mental strength, this will certainly come in handy when the going gets tough later on in the season. One can't help but feel that the return of Vermaelen will be rather key, my fingers are cross for his Achilles tendon, it would be good to see the Verminator back soon, that is all I want for Christmas.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Fulham, 4-4-2/4-3-3 and shameful FIFA

So Fulham tomorrow, it's a different challenge to Roy Hodgson's old Fulham side, injuries to ket strikers see them short up front, while Mark Hughes will probably be trying to 'stamp' his influence on the team which will have some effect, primarily on our players' shin pads I would imagine. The injuries continue to be Almunia, Diaby, Vermaelen and Cesc. Interestingly Arsene feels RVP can play in the same side as Chamakh, and I think the Wigan game's formation showed just how this would happen. RVP would slot in behind Chamkh to link up to the midfield, we would have two deeper midfielders and then two wide midfielders, meaning that the formation would more resemble a 4-4-1-1 than a 4-3-3.

We should remember that formations are not set in stone, they are fluid and flexible entities that very much depend on who is playing and how the team has been instructed to go out and play by the manager. I'm not sure on the starting eleven for tomorrow, obviously Fabiasnki will start, Squillaci and Nasri will also come in. Personally I'd like to see Djourou given a game ahead of Koscielny, while maybe we'll see Wilshere partner Song in central midfield, Nasri and Arshavin wide with RVP behind Chamakh up top. I don't know. It's a big game, especially in the context of Manure's game being postponed due to a frozen pitch, it's a good chance to get some points on the board.

The fallout continues from the FIFA's World Cup voting system that has seen Russia and Qatar handed consecutive tournaments. This is not a case of sour grapes, there are several clear problems with the process that have not been addressed in any way by the useless FIFA. Firstly it is clear that the more accountable countries were at a clear disadvantage because of FIFA's money making regulations which try to force the hosting country's government to ignore their legal systems. Secondly it is clear that the process is a political one and not an objective technical one, barely a single FIFA committee member who voted actually reviewed the technical reports on the various bidding countries' efforts. Thirdly it is clear that the votes in no way related to the quality of the bids. FIFA should indeed be ashamed, the problem is that these corrupt cretins have no shame, Sepp and his band of bunging buddies care not for football, they merely care for their own bank balances. I have to agree with Ken Bates on this one:

"We are totally unimpressed. I'm of the opinion that the big European nations should resign from FIFA and start their own organisation. The whole of FIFA could then move to Moscow and live in retirement in a nice dacha in the FIFA is a waste of space. It's a money making organisation and I don't think they give a damn about football."

This is the problem, FIFA are simply a self interested money making bunch of corrupt numpties who care nothing for the good of the game of football. It would be a great idea for several of the big countries in Europe to break away from FIFA, boycotting FIFA merchandise would also be a good way of drying up their funding. Something good must come out of all this mess, FIFA must be forced to change or die. After all why is football, the richest and most popular sport in the world, virtually the only sport not to have introduced video technology? Yes, this is another of FIFA's legacies, this bunch of numpties have done nothing to drive progress, they merely want to drive fast cars and admire their own fat bank balances. FIFA, it's time you changed or died a quick death.