Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cup final suicide

I will try to write an objective report having seen us hand Birmingham the game in the final few minutes of normal time, but it's going to be hard given the circumstances. Arsene got it badly wrong today, Rosicky's inclusion in the midfield left us looking lightweight in that region, this resulted in Birmingham have a long period of pressure in the first half where they could well have got a second goal. Theo's absence was massive, whenever he is absent we badly miss the right sided width he provides and this again showed today.

The first half was poor. When Bowyer was incorrectly flagged offside we got lucky, the reason Birmingham came into the game was the fact that were outnumbered in the midfield battle on two many occasions, the Birmingham corner that led to their first goal came when Sagna gave the ball away casually in a dangerous area. Having said that Zigic was given too much space for his header and our defenders did not attack the second ball well enough. Szczesny was then forced into a great block from Zigic when clean through. We did then have a good spell before half time, RVP's fantastic volley was special, we didn't really want half time to come.

Other than a slightly fortunate chance when the ball broke kindly for Birmingham and they hit the post, the second half was one way traffic, we pounded them as the half wore on. Really we should have taken one of the chances that came our way, Nasri blasted a couple at Foster from good positions, Foster made some decent blocks, but we didn't really force the Birmingham keeper into any top notch saves, most of our shots were straight at him.

Birmingham were distinctly second best in the second half but they got the goal and that is what counts. Koscielny must take the blame, his delay in clearing and his mishit clearance left Martins with a tap in, it was truly agonising stuff, it came at a time in the game when we were creating chance after chance, Birmingham looked dead, yet this suicidal piece of defending gifted them a win that they so scarcely deserved.

Birmingham did well given their limited resources and lack of talent, but I feel Arsene played into their hands with his team selection, part of the problem is our lack of some decent all round midfielders in the squad, a fully fit Ramsey would have been perfect alongside Song and Wilshere, also our lack of absolute pace in the squad is obvious without Theo fit. The way Birmingham play is not attractive and it crosses lines at times, but they were always going to turn the game into a scrap and we should have been more ready for this than we were. Well done Birmingham, we may have shot ourselves in the head, but you took advantage and made us pay for our lack of tactical awareness and sloppy defending.

Rooney gets away with murder, yet again

This was a classic case of the refereeing bias and incompetence in the Premier League, it is also a great example of how useless the FA are at enforcing the rules of the game. Rooney's assault on McCarthy was disgraceful, it was a premeditated smash with the elbow, a really aggressive and violent act, a clear straight red card offence, arguably it was one that merited more than a three match ban given its violence.

The comments from the Manu camp afterwards betray a hypocritical club that knows it can bend things its way. Phelan claims they cannot dispute a referee's decision, it doesn't seem to stop them when decisions go against them does it? While Ferguson's pathetic defence of Rooney's assault is beneath contempt, the red faced bully claims it was 'nothing'. Arsenal players have been sent off for nothing at Old Trafford, Rooney's attempt at decapitating McCarthy with his elbow was not 'nothing'.

Clattenberg is either useless or corrupt, there is no other explanation. Rooney's deliberate swing of the elbow was a clear red card offence, if Clattenberg saw it and decided it didn't even merit a card then he is incompetent, if he saw it, knew it was bad and doesn't like sending off Manu players then he is bent. It remains clear that if the FA wanted to act, even if Clattenberg mentions that he had seen the incident in his match report, then they have the power to act. I have written on this previously and the FA's own guidance makes this fact rather clear. Maybe the FA will act, I rather doubt it though.

If Rooney walks at 0-0 then it is a different game. Yet again Manu get the benefit of some thoroughly dodgy refereeing and take full advantage. It is a great shame the the Premier League is not fair and that the FA have no desire to improve this situation. The FA are limp and pathetic in allowing this rank inconsistency to continue, they do not have the balls to act and stand up to the corrupt ruling body FIFA. This comes in the same week that FIFA deliberately block the introduction of goal line technology by subjecting it to some completely unrealistic criteria such as being 100% accurate, nothing in the world is 100% accurate.

So on the day that the Gunners face Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final with the useless Mike Dean in charge, we run the risk of another great footballing occasion being wrecked by incompetent and/or biased refereeing. Thanks a lot the FA and FIFA, you truly are cretins of the highest order for doing nothing about this shocking situation.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Can mature Gunners break duck?

The best adjective to describe Wednesday's important win and three points against Stoke was 'mature', it was genuinely this kind of performance. Over the last two to three months we have seen more of these kind of performances and with these our hopes have risen, Sunday gives us a massive opportunity to consolidate these hopes and win a trophy. There is now a bit of decent pressure on Manu as they approach a few tricky fixtures, although the Mancs remain favourites for the league title, they will be sweating more than just a little bit now.

Arguably we should have been more than a goal up against Stoke, but the fact that we held on to this single goal lead with a fair degree of comfort said a lot about the maturity and confidence that the side has developed of late. We are keeping more clean sheets, we are defending leads better and we are becoming far harder to beat. Part of this is undoubtedly down to the terrific Szczesny between the sticks, he oozes confidence which affects the whole back four, he also has the ability to make big saves and dominate his box, his save at full stretch from Carew was another top notch piece of keeping from the young Pole. Johan Djourou's emergence and Wilshere's work rate in front of the back four have also been the other two key reasons for our increased solidity.

Obviously the loss of Cesc and Theo to injury is not ideal, however we still have more than enough to beat Birmingham if we perform to the best of our ability at Wembley on Sunday. Cesc's hammy does not look like it will keep him out for more than a game or two, it would be foolish to gamble with his fitness, Theo looks like being out for two to three weeks. The big choice for Arsene will be whether to move Nasri back into Cesc's position, replacing Nasri in the front three with Bendtner, or to play Diaby instead of Cesc. Personally I'd stick Nasri in the midfield three, then stick Bendtner up front:

Sagna Djourou Koscielny Clichy
Song Wilshere Nasri
Bendtner RVP Arshavin

Diaby may well get the nod, I don't know, but I just see the injury prone midfielder as being a bit too erratic, plus Bendtner has been doing a good job for the team of late. It looks like Diaby/Kos/RVP are all fit. Birmingham have more than their fair share of absentees, and it looks likely that they will stick the big lump Zigic up top and punt a lot of balls up to him. Frankly the referee is as big a threat as anyone in the Birmingham side, as UntoldArsenal explain, Mike Dean is a terrible terrible referee, he also appears to make a lot of decisions against us and very few for us, there is a good chance that this hapless little weasel will try to steal the headlines on Monday morning.

Just to finish with some other random stuff. It's good to see Aaron Ramsey is in contention for the upcoming midweek cup replay against Orient, he completed his short loan spell at Cardiff with a well taken goal as they won 2-0. Kyle Bartley is getting some excellent experience on loan at Rangers, he has a good chance of coming into the first team squad for next season. This excellent piece on Barca's rank hypocrisy is well worth a read, they routinely poach kids themselves but when they lose their own kids without any rules being broken they seem to think that this is completely unacceptable, strange that tapping up players who are under contract is also allowed in their eyes as long as it is Barca is doing the tapping up. Sad to hear that the ex-Wolves and Spurs player Dean Richards has died at the age of 36 after a long battle against serious illness, rest in peace Sir.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Neanderthals tomorrow

So the eagerly anticipated visit of Stoke City Rugby Football Club awaits, unfortunately it's being anticipated for all the wrong reasons, much like the way in which our sad media covered Shawcross' awful tackle on Aaron Ramsey, the focus is all wrong. Tony Pulis and his Stoke side are not popular with neutrals for obvious reasons, they are even less popular with Arsenal fans. There is something about Stoke's rather basic and savage philosophy that particularly grates, they are as anti-football as one can get without rolling the tanks in.

Stoke fans who dislike my take on events and who happen to stumble upon my objective perfection here may well wish to read this excellent perspective from the ever subtle Mr Booth at rantingmad. The ref tomorrow is Peter Walton, I also happened to glance ahead to the ref for the cup final and it's Mike Dean, what a terrible disaster, Dean is an utter weasel of an official.

The only absentees for us are Kosielny and RVP (short term injuries-back for Sunday touch wood), Diaby (injured and suspended), Vermaelen (hopefully back soonish). I am sure Arsene will have an eye on the cup final though, still I can't see him not playing Djourou given his aerial prowess against the Stoke assault. It would also seem wise to play Song, given his aerial strength, especially given Diaby's absence. I'd hope to see Bendtner starting up top given RVP's injury and Chamkh's poor form, it will be a bit of a poser as to whether to line up with Arshavin or Nasri. Generally I'd expect a pretty much full strength side though:

Sagna Djourou Squillaci Clichy
Song Wilshere Cesc
Walcott Bendtner Nasri

The result and performance at the weekend against the mighty Os was a bit disappointing to say the least, still we're still in the cup and it wasn't all negative. I have had a hectic spell at work so have had to catch up on the game this week, wasn't as bad as I expected to be honest, we created more than enough to have buried Orient, with some better finishing it would have been done and dusted well before the equaliser. The defending was poor for their goal, Miguel was particularly at fault with Gibbs, both far too square and caught on their heels.

This Stoke game is a tricky one, it's on a bit of a come down after beating Barca, it's before a cup final too, there's a real danger of dropping points, precious precious points too. Stoke are a very tricky side to play, despite the negatives of Pulis, he has done a terrific job in terms of results and the way they play makes them tough tough opponents. Come on you Gunners!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

A mighty effort - Gunners do us proud

As a football fan I think last night's game has to be up there as one of the greatest games I have ever seen, I doubt I will see many better games throughout my whole lifetime, it was that good. Both teams contributed to a magnificently high quality encounter, and if I'm honest either side could have won it, it was tight and on a knife edge for long periods.

Other than some cramping lower abdominal pain from ingesting too many sausage rolls on my way to the Emirates, last night was a night to savour, it is these kind of nights that it is all about, words cannot do these kind of occasions justice. Barcelona are the best side in Europe at the moment and we are not far behind, this combination on a coldish evening in February with the Emirates' floodlights glowing brightly made for a terrific night's entertainment. Eboue came in for Sagna, Nasri was fit enough to start, while Puyol's absence saw Maxwell in at left back with Abidal centrally.

I had kept my hopes deliberately low after last year's game, and we started well for the first ten minutes or so, we looked fairly comfortable and retained the ball well. Unfortunately this didn't last and as the half wore on, Barca came into their own, they dominated. Swarms of Barca players surrounded us whenever we had the ball, their athleticism and work rate was magnificent, fortunately no team can sustain this for ninety minutes and they had to tire at some point. Having said that we were a bit loose with the ball in the first half, our movement was a bit one dimensional and we were a bit slow to move the ball around.

RVP had a great chance early doors after some great work from Walcott and then Cesc, his shot was well blocked by the legs of Valdes. Barca then seemed to come to life, pressing us into some rather uncharacteristic errors. Messi chipped wide when clean through, Szczesny did well to stay big til the last moment. Villa then scored when seemingly offisde, unfortunately Clichy had sloppily played him on. Messi then had a goal disallowed for offside, mighty tight that one. Despite not being at our best, largely because of Barcelona's excellence, we created a couple of other great chances, Cesc's cross shot when clean through on the keeper from a tight angle saw Barca's defence scrambling, RVP then sliced a shot wide from a good position in the box. Half time came and we were still in the game, far far better than last year but Barca had made us look pretty average at times.

We came out aggressively and purposefully in the second half, Barca were not given as much time and space, plus humans simply could not maintain the break neck tempo of the Barca game. We huffed and puffed without creating much clear cut, still it was encouraging that Barca weren't dominating as they had in the first period, we held onto the ball better and were a bit more combative, it helped that the ref allowed a bit more fair contact than he had in the first, by the end of the game he simply wasn't being fooled by some of the Barca play acting.

Wilshere was not only tireless in the midfield, but he also ran the game for long periods, he was our one midfielder who was able to create time and space for himself, jinking away from Barca players and leaving them for dead, awesome stuff from the young man and was the catalyst for last night's recovery. Koscielny was also absolutely superb, rarely giving Messi time to settle, frequently timing his interceptions and tackles to perfection. It should also not be forgotten that without some of Szczesny's expert goalkeeping and making the goal seem small, we would have been more than 1-0 down before RVP got us back in the game last night.

RVP's equaliser came when a goal didn't really look possible, he had been played through in the inside left channel by a Gael Clichy dink, from an almost impossible angle he blasted the ball low and hard into the net, what a hit from his trust left peg, Barca couldn't quite believe that we had scored and we took further advantage. Nasri was played in on goal in the inside right channel, it looked like he would shoot but he played it across goal, I'm sure many of us though 'why did he not shoot', but then we saw why, the ball slid across perfectly for the diminutive Russian Andrei Arshavin to arrive with impeccable timing and coolness of head, his finish made the chance look easy, it was not, a great finish, a great goal, worthy of winning any game. Barca still had time to rally, Szczesny needed to be alert to deny Alves and when the ball was finally hoofed away, many of us breather a massive sigh of relief.

We had won, what a game and what a performance against such a fantastic Barcelona side. Whatever the second leg brings, and it is admittedly far from over, we can be proud that we gave a great account of ourselves last night, we have shown we can compete with the best, but it would be even better if we can beat the best over the course of the two legs. Sagna's return will be more than a bonus. Wilshere and Koscielny were my outstanding players, with RVP and Szczesny not too far behind them. Credit must also go to Arsene for getting the substitutions right, they really did affect the game. Still for the moment let's just enjoy the win, these kind of victories don't come along very often and they must be savoured. Well done you Gunners!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Arsenal 2 Barca 1

We won! No battery!

Come on you Gunners and retrospect

Apologies for the short nature of the post today, the mrs has stolen the computer and this comes from my phone. It's hard to think of anything else but tonight's game, it really is huge.

Barca are favourites and we should use this to our advantage. One thing often forgotten about Barca is their phenomenal work rate and fitness. They all work incredibly hard and cover a hell of a lot of ground in pressing errors out of the opposition. The reason for their defeat to Inter last year was probably the long coach trip that left their legs a bit short of juice for the away leg. We will have to match their work rate and press them as they intend to press us. This will be key.

Finally well done to spurs, even if it was against a fairly mediocre milan side, going to the san siro and winning is some achievement. There were some rather notable moments of controversy including a reckless flamini tackle and gattuso's madness.

One thing that has seemed a little stupid since is the media's laziness and double standards. Flamini's tackle has quite rightly been labelled a disgrace, but why are so many similar tackles ignored when they are on arsenal players and labelled 'fair' because they won the ball. It is also strange that violence is rightly criticised on one hand but glamourised on another, all depending on who was violent and not on the nature of the actions themselves.

'Professional' journalists always seem happy to sneer at us ' amateurs' but I think a lot of this is simply an act to take away from the fact that a lot of them are running scared because the so called 'amateurs' are now frequently exposing a lot of the laziness and sloppiness of the mainstream media. A great example of this laziness is the fact that so many in the mainstream swallow the myth that retrospective action is not possible if the referee punished the incident at the time. This is simply not true, precedents show this and there is no Fifa law that prohibits retrospective action under these circumstances. The problem is that the mainstream media lazily propogate this chinese whisper without bothering to investigate its truth. Anyways, rant over, come on you Gunners!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

No pressure - it's on Barca

There's no doubt Barcelona come into this tie as favourites and we must use this to our advantage. I won't read much into the reports that Barca are fatigued, I'm sure a lot of this is mind games, but the absence of Carlos Puyol is definitely an important loss for them, especially if Abidal plays at centre back, he really is not the most robust in that position.

Tactically I think it's fairly simply, we must smother them in the midfield, this means that Song and Wilshere will have to play like whippets on speed, Cesc is going to have to track back and help out, the forwards are also going to be key. If we allow Xavi and Iniesta too much time on the ball, they will feed Messi and they will kill us. However if we can close the game down in the midfield, with help especially from Theo and Arsh/Nasri, then we have a chance. Jack and Theo have said as much, the importance of limiting the time and space Barca have in their midfield will be key.

The fact that we have a solid centre back pairing of Djourou-Kos is a massive plus. Djourou's emergence has been one of the major positives of the season so far. Koscielny is also speedy and suited to European football. It should also not be forgotten that we can really threaten Barca from set pieces, they are not great in the air, we have some decent aerial threats and with some good deliveries this could be a very fruitful avenue for us. Mark my words.

There's no doubt there is a fair bit of bad feeling between us and Barca, and from my completely objective standpoint I have to say that's largely down to Barca being arrogant tosspots. Their continual use of the media to unsettle our best players and their incessant tapping up of Cesc have been so far below the belt it's not true, for that reason the 'Hands off Cesc Fabregas' chant sounds a thoroughly good idea. This excellent article on the fickle nature of Barca's support is well worth a read too, it's a timely reminder that you always need to make a big effort not to turn into that kind of fair weather fan. Come on you Gunners!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Solid and standard - the title can be ours

That was just what the doctor ordered, after last week's second half Dowd induced capitulation, a display of discipline and solidity was just what was needed. We got that, no more, no less. Wolves couldn't compete, they tried hard, and to be fair to them, kept the ball pretty well when they had it. In the end two nil flattered Wolves, it could have been far more as Mick McCarthy graciously admitted afterwards, but Wolves did have a good fifteen minutes spell at the end and could possibly have nicked one too.

The whole team defended well as a unit, Wilshere and song were supporting the back four throughout, until the former was substituted, while the back four all had pretty solid games. Djourou and Kos combined well, Wolves may have had a decent penalty shout in the first half, I couldn't see it well from where I sat, the full backs were solid, Clichy definitely seems to have tightened up his game defensively in the last couple of months, far fewer errors than he was making last year.

The rest of our work was based upon our solid pressing defensive platform. Cesc was at the heart of much of our creative work, Theo's pace and movement was dangerous, while Arshavin is finally appearing to shake off his poor form, he was far more incisive and cutting that he has been of late. RVP was our spearhead, the focus of our attacks and the man who never delays in pulling the trigger. Cracking finishes for both goals, the first saw him make a tricky volley look easy, the second saw a brilliant bit of control rewarded with an excellent second touch for a finish. It was a shame that I missed the second goal, my bladder got the better of me, still the big screen meant that I did see it shortly afterwards.

The Wolves keeper Hennessey made some fine saves, our finishing did let us down at times as well, but to complain too much about this would be foolish, the overall performance was more than adequate to dispose of Wolves, we also managed to give a couple of players a few minutes rest before the visit of Barca on Wednesday night.

If we can keep out key players fit then we have a very good chance of winning the league this season, I genuinely feel that. Manu are very beatable and despite beating City yesterday, they were far from convincing. We are not favourites, but still Manu have the harder run in and if we can put a good series of wins together we can put them under some proper pressure. Let the stupid Mancs and the media get carried away with the fat chav's 'wonder goal', the wonderous thing for me was that such a fat granny shagging chav could get himself more than three inches off the ground.

Finally I couldn’t help but notice the FA’s comments on ‘social networking sites’, they have reiterated what we already know on this, ie that players need to be careful as to what they say on certain issues, otherwise it may be deemed as bringing the game into disrepute. It is funny that the FA’s complete lack of courage in taking on dangerous tackling and complete failure to try to help referees by introducing technology into the game are not deemed worthy of bringing the game into disrepute. It seems that criticising a bad refereeing decision is a terrible sin, while doing nothing about a totally inadequate system of officiating that we have is fine, typical double standards from the FA.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Dowd and inconsistency

The refereeing inconsistency that blights our game refuses to go away. Last week Diaby was sent off for reacting to a reckless Barton tackle, many of us had presumed that his red card was for two pushes which each merited a yellow card, this was what Dowd could clearly be seen to be explaining to Diaby as he was being dismissed. This was the interpretation that many felt was the only way a red card could be justified, MOTD assumed this was the logic of the referee.

Bizarrely Diaby has a three match ban which does not tally at all with what I have explained above. The fact that he has a three match suspension means that Dowd reckoned that one of his 'shoves' was violent enough to merit a red in its own right, and this is yet another example of Dowd's rank incompetence and inconsistency.

It all means that Dowd got things badly wrong, again. Diaby shoved Barton and Nolan, maybe one could justify two yellows if you're being really harsh, but very few people would agree with Dowd's interpretation of events in that one was violent enough for a straight red card, especially in the context of Nolan's more violent blow to the back of Szczesny's head. Shocking refereeing from Dowd, yet again.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Keeping the Wolves hungry

I'll keep this brief as why waffle on when one doesn't need to? Firstly the injury news is broadly good for tomorrow's game, Song and Djourou sound like they're fit, RVP is back (on antibiotics currently according to his twitter), so this all means that our only significant absentees are Vermaelen (3 weeks minimum), Diaby (suspended/injured!), Nasri (maybe 1-2weeks more hamstring) and Rosicky (injured).

In my opinion three points is vital and I'd put out a strong first choice eleven, completely ignoring Barcelona on Wednesday. We have over four days to prepare between the two games and you simply cannot risk dropping points against Wolves, with Manu facing City this weekend, we have a chance of gaining some ground.

Wolves come off the back of a fine win against Manu and they will not come to make things easy for us. Chris Foy is the ref and he's certainly no Dowd, thank God, his record of officiating our games is pretty favourable relatively speaking.

The excellent Untold Arsenal site is well worth a read, their detailed analysis of the inconsistency of refereeing in the Premier League is worth a read on its own, the BBC picked up on their proper journalism the other day, sad that our professional colleagues in the media can't do more original work like this themselves, unfortunately many journalists simply don't have the mathematical or scientific backgrounds to understand some of these issues as well as they should be able to.

On the topic of referees, to me it is clear we have a big problem, not just in the UK, but in the whole of world football. FIFA's hierarchy is corrupt and they have done nothing to improve officiating in recent years, their refusal to bring in technology is nothing but complete madness.

In the UK there is certainly plenty of wiggle room for dodgy dealings. The way in which match officials are selected each week for PL games is far from transparent, meaning that we cannot be complacent that something not unlike Serie A's match fixing scandal isn't going on right under our very noses at this moment. The way in which referees are assessed is also far from transparent, arguably a far more open system of appraisal would be far less open to corruption in many many ways.

Certainly refereeing is not the only area in football under the media spotlight at the moment, the current parliamentary inquiry into football governance has been exposing some rather interesting morsels of information this week. Of particular note Lord Triesman's comments about the power of the Premier League were well worth a read. The Premier League's interests do not necessarily marry up with the long term interests of the game in general.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Djourou/Interpol and the Toon fall out

So Johan Djourou has injured his knee, this is concerning given the major knee surgery he had not that ago. Essentially I think he had a bit of the knee joint lining replaced (probably autologous chondrocytes) and the big concern will be that this repair has failed and dislodged into the joint, meaning the knee has become swollen and painful. It may turn out to be nothing much, however I am sure we will know more after an MRI scan, it's simply impossible to know the gravity of the situation now.

Apart from Newcastle fans and a few standard Arsenal haters, the general consensus of opinion is that Dowd played a massive part in Newcastle's comeback yesterday. The fact that Nolan stayed on the pitch and the second penalty were clear errors, even Graham Poll has backed Jack Wilshere's assertions of inconsistency. The commentators started laughing at Dowd's decisions on the stream that I was watching and this said it all for me.

The strange news this evening that has been breaking is from France and it concerns the Arsenal-Newcastle game. Personally I have no idea whether this has any truth to it or not, but the fact that French TV are reporting that Interpol are fishing around the Arsenal-Newcastle game is more than just a dodgy rumour on some individual's blog. The original news source is here, this appeared before the TV footage.

Maybe this will turn out to be absolutely sod all, maybe not, but there may be something to it if a reputable French TV channel is reporting it. They must be reasonably sure of their sources as they would be very open to litigation if there is no substance to it. Either way I'm just reporting what they are reporting, the fact that it is gathering such momentum says a lot about the refereeing performance we saw yesterday, it was so biased that only a Geordie would try to pretend that it was not primarily Phil Dowd that got them their point from the game.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Dowd 4 Arsenal 4: is the game corrupt?

It is hard to be angry with the team today because they deserved the three points for an excellent overall performance, in the end they were undone largely by an absolutely terrible refereeing performance from Phil Dowd. Arsene has been pretty coy following the match but he knows this too, I am impressed that he has controlled his words so well, he was 'surprised' with the penalty decisions, a cleverly worded response.

We killed Newcastle in the first half and this should not be forgotten. Some outstanding play and some truly excellent goals. It could have been more than the four. Walcott's tidy opener, Djourou's powerful header, RVP's powerful finish from Theo's cutback and the best of the bunch for me, RVP's thumping header from Sagna's delicious curling cross.

Then came Dowd. Joey Barton was lucky to be on the field after just the first half, a shocking tackle on Diaby missed by Dowd, then another reckless one through the back of Arshavin, not a free kick and not even a card. Then early in the second half Barton went through the ball in a way that was designed to break Diaby's legs, Diaby was then sent off for a rather tame shove in the back of Barton's lower neck. Barton escaped completely unpunished. Diaby deserved a yellow and Barton a red, instead down got it hopelessly wrong and leg breaking was again encouraged by our incompetent officials.

It is easy for some to have a go at Diaby and judge him. He was stupid to a degree but he has almost lost his career to tackles like this, he is bound to get angry, it's instinctive, and his reaction was pretty mild, certainly not enough to justify a red card, especially in the context of Nolan doing worse to Szczesny late in the game. Unfortunately Dowd didn't stop there.

He handed Newcastle the initiative with an incredibly soft penalty, Koscielny barely made contact and the contact that was made was minimal, Best played for it and the incompetent Dowd provided, even though he was in a poor position to see the lack of contact made. This changed the game as the sending off had done earlier, Newcastle had been gifted a man advantage and a goal.

The second goal was probably the only one where our defending can be blamed. Best was slightly lucky with the way the ball broke and he finished well, Clichy dived in a bit and the centre backs didn't cover well enough.

The second penalty was even more of a joke than the first and that is saying something. There just wasn't a foul, the players went up and Dowd simply donated Newcastle their second goal of the day from the spot. I was watching on foreign TV and the commentators burst out into laughter, that says it all really. The fourth was academic, Dowd had been the primary driver behind Newcastle's comeback, although it was a fantastic hit from Tiote, Newcastle would have been nowhere near this goal being meaningful if it had not been for Dowd's shocking partisan decisions. Interestingly the fourth Newcastle goal came following yet another non free kick when Barton dived over after shoulder to shouldet contact with the powerhouse Tomas Rosicky!

It is so hard for us to win the league when we are up against incompetent decision making like this from officials on such a regular basis. It is easy to try to deflect attention elsewhere, Diaby was silly, our defending was not perfect, I know these things, but it is undeniable that the main reason for our demise today was the recurrent incompetent decision making of a terrible terrible referee. Phil Dowd is either useless or corrupt, I do not say this lightly. The only decision that went our way all day was when Newcastle incorrectly had a goal given for offside.

Manu simply do not have to climb these kind of mountains, in fact the reverse is often true. We have thrown some games away this season, but this was not one of them, Phil Dowd wrestled it from us and handed it to Newcastle on a plate, there is only so much one can look to blame ourselves when we are up against this kind of rank bias. In fact I am f*cking proud of the lads today, I would have been tempted to walk off the pitch today had I been playing, RVP played on and scored an excellent goal which was chalked off by the linesman despite him being level.

It was just one of those days when we were beaten by the referee, shame on you Phil Dowd, you were beneath a disgrace today, if the game had any credibility there would be a formal investigation into your performance today, it was so bad that it has left me questioning the honesty of the Premier League. A sad sad day for football indeed.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Character and Fight should be taking the headlines

Sod the useless Lee Mason, sod the Everton manager David Moyes who seemed intent on diverting attention away from his team's surrendering of a lead by throwing wild accusations around about Cesc Fabregas, sod the pathetic commentators who seem to have one rule for Arsenal players and another for the team that keep fouling them, sod the lot of them. I am sure the headlines will ignore the fact that this was a great team fightback against the odds, a team that was unfairly one goal behind after a shocking piece of officiating.

Everton played well and made things difficult for us, I wouldn't have expected anything else. Still there was more than a massive slice of luck involved in their first 'goal'. Saha was miles offside, about four yards or so when the ball was played. Koscielny tried to acrobatically intercept the ball and got the slightest of touches on it, bizarrely the hare brained officials must have deemed this touch by Koscielny to be a deliberate pass, a clear misinterpretation of a shit rule that never needed changing in the first place. Some rather retarded pundits seemed to think that this decision could be justified, anyone with half a grey cell can appreciate that this was a first degree howler, an truly appalling piece of decision making. Overall Mason's performance was breathtaking for all the wrong reasons, the 'holic has summarised his ineptitude nicely.

Anyway enough of the negative, on with the positive, to come back from this cruel setback took a lot of guts, determination and two well taken goals. It was fantastic to see the little Russian Andrei Arshavin neatly tuck home the first with his right peg after a poorly directed Rodwell header, he has been trying very hard of late, there has been no lack of effort, it would be great to see him take off now and use this as a launchpad. The second came unusually from a set piece, a great whipped in delivery from RVP's left foot and a thumping Koscielny header. We then shut the game down solidly.

As I said earlier it is inevitable that the media will focus on Moyes' wild ramblings, interestingly Arsene has denied that Cesc even spoke to the referee in the tunnel, strangely the media are rather quiet on this and much louder on one losing man's 'claims'. It is also strange how the media routinely ignore the foul mouthed abuse given to referees by the players of certain other big clubs, mentioning no specific names of course.

Winning last night was massive, with Manu and Chelsea both picking up three points it was absolutely crucial. If we are going to wrestle the title from 'boring, boring' Manure then we will have to put a wonderful run together, we cannot afford to lose many more games. The injuryt to Song is a slight concern and one wonders whether a certain Mr Lansbury is near a recall from Norwich. Anyway a well done to the players for showing such spirit and fight, for not giving up hope when it would have been easy to do so. Come on you Gunners.

Madness and dodgy Spuds

I didn't expect anything interesting Arsenal related to happen and it certainly didn't, another transfer deadline passes uneventfully. This was not the case elsewhere and some big money was thrown around by Liverpool and Chelsea. Torres heads south to Stamford Bridge for fifty million, while Carroll is added to Suarez to form Liverpool's new attack, at a total cost of about sixty million.

The Torres move smacks of desperation for me. Chelsea now have Torres/Drogba/Anelka and it will be impossible to keep them all happy. Torres' form for the last twelve months has been poor and his injury record dodgy, maybe he will rediscover his best form, I still feel that fifty million is a lot. Andy Carroll's fee is also extortionate, it seems Newcastle were keen to get rid and fill their pockets, this is precisely what they have done. He's a very talented powerhouse but he has a lot to live up to now.

Arsenal have bizarrely confirmed the Miyaichi transfer today and he goes straight out on loan to Feyenoord. Giles Sunu has joined Lorient on loan, Barazite has left permanently to Austria Vienna, while Kyle Bartley has terminated his loan with Sheffield United in order to move to Ranegrs on loan. It would be interesting to know the exact terms of Bartley's loan deal and whether he can come back to us at short notice should we get a run of injuries at centre back.

Arsene has already spoken on the possibility of bringing some players back from their loan deals. Ramsey is due back at the end of February anyway, I just wonder whether Arsene will be tempted to recall Henri Lansbury from Norwich given Denilson's woeful form and our lack of cover for Song and Wilshere in terms of midfielders who can get stuck in.

Finally let's have a brief laugh at Tottenham, a great result for them at the weekend against Fulham has been followed up by their failure to sign Blackpool's Charlie Adam, they made a last ditch bid to sign him but unfortunately couldn't get the paperwork sorted, great shame that. There has been a bit of discussion recently about Tottenham and the amount of money have been spending. From what I can gather their spending is rather unsustainable and the club accounts are no way near as healthy as their owners would have us believe.

Essentially if Tottenham cannot sell on their polished turds for profits (Keane etc) and they cannot increase their income significantly they may be in a bit of trouble. The majority of Tottenham shares are owned by the ENIC group, while Joe Lewis owns a majority of the ENIC group. If I were a betting man then I would guess that Lewis and Levy are keen to sell on Tottenham for a massive profit, and to do this they need to make the club look as healthy as possible financially, this will require them to increase their income by increasing stadium capacity. If they cannot do this, and if the transfer market continues to slow, meaning that they cannot continue to make big profits from player sales, then they may well see Tottenham struggle and their debt increase to dangerous levels, here's hoping anyway.