Saturday, 30 April 2011

A depressing familiarity

There have been some loud echoes recently, the way in which we lost the Birmingham cup final from a strong second half position, the way in which we have thrown away a chance at winning the league title (again) and the way in which we lost away at Bolton last weekend. The recurrent manner of our league capitulation is extremely depressing and frustrating. Despite these frustrations there is no excuse for some of the abuse and vitriol that has been aimed in the manager's direction of late.

It pains me to say it but time is running out for the manager. He faces a massive decision, does he do nothing, carry on ignoring the obvious and risk losing his job? Or does he admit failure and then address certain glaring failings in our squad in order to turn things around?

I sincerely hope he does the latter and the signs are that he will, my fingers are firmly crossed. Lee Dixon's interesting opinion in the Independent is well worth a read. I just wonder if certain Arsenal players have become too comfortable at the club, there seems to have been too much complacency in our performances time and time again, is Arsene's 'vegetarian parenting' resulting in an unacceptable slackness which is consequently undermining our performances? I wonder.

The vast majority of us can see where things have gone wrong, we have lost our physical power, we do not quite have the raw pace we used to, we lack experience in the squad, we have an excessive amount of small technically proficient midgets, the balance in our elevens and squad has been lost. The problems we have are interwoven and inseparable, the lack of experience goes together with our lack of defensive organisation at times, our inability to grind out results stems from inability to defend leads, our lack of tactical variation stems from our many of the above.

This season has gone, maybe we can salvage a bit of pride over the remaining games, I sincerely hope so. It is now undeniable that significant change is needed to transform us into a side that is capable of lasting the distance. Even with significant change there will be no guarantees of success, but it has to be shown that our failings have been acknowledge and acted upon. Let's get behind the team and give the manager a chance of turning things around.

Friday, 22 April 2011

If only we were managed by 'Arry Redknapp.....

Then we may be still fighting for a Champions League place this year, our club would not have won the league for over 50 years and we would see spending millions while not even genuinely challenging for the league title as a work of genius. Of course you all know I'm yanking your chains to a degree but there is a very serious point here.

That point is that the English media are not consistent in their applause and criticism, to put it mildly. At the moment if you were an alien reading the English papers you would think that Arsene has been deliberately trying to run Arsenal FC aground, while 'Arry Redknapp is some kind of footballing (not tax accountancy) magician. This was translated into the other night's away draw at the Lane being seen as a victory for Tottenham and a disaster for Arsenal. It's strange that the media concentrates so much on this six years without a trophy, I haven't seen Tottenham's 50 years without the league title mentioned half as much and it's a far more damning statistic.

Take this article from John Cross, allegedly an Arsenal friendly journalist at the Mirror. It typifies the way in which our own media so often struggle to see anything with any perspective, on one hand the article puts the media at the centre of the Universe, but on the other it refuses to acknowledge the role in the media in the breakdown of its relationship with Arsene Wenger. Arsene has quite rightly and justifiably run out patience with the gutter press, he has consistently given a lot more than most managers and what he has given has been repeatedly distorted and used against him, strangely there is no mention of this from John Cross.

A lot of garbage has been spewed forth in recent weeks on all matters Arsenal related in the mainstream media, luckily these days there are plenty of amateurs producing a lot of more insightful and interesting reading material. A lot of aggression and arrogance displayed by professional journalists towards bloggers is because they are scared for their livelihoods, it is a defensive reaction, they are afraid.

Everyone has their vested interests. Professional journalists need to sell papers and generate hits, this means they are driven towards producing sensationalist drivel, and after a while they start to believe their own dross. The beauty of amateur blogging is that there are very few vested interests at work, especially if there is no advertising carrot coming into play, and hopefully this can help reverse the trend towards reactionary nonsense.

Every Gooner will have an opinion on where they want the club to go in the summer and every one's slant will be slightly different. One man I respect and trust a great deal is Lee Dixon, this excellent and thought provoking interview points towards a few areas that must be worked on.

Having been chatting to many family, friends and fellow Gooners in recent days I think that many of us are thinking similar things. As Le Grove pointed out today, there will be money to spend and if we can cull some of the dead wood then there will be a lot of money available. I don't agree with all the names they have listed, certainly I would like to see Denilson, Almunia, Vela, Rosicky and Squillaci shipped out, but this is part of the solution.

Another part will be bringing in a small handful of the right experienced players. The other key parts are sorting out the defensive coaching, we need to be better set up and better organised as a team defensively, we need to work harder and be more organised when we do not have the ball. Apparently we do not even have a defensive coach, why not get the legendary Martin Keown into this role? We also need to adjust our tactics for different opposition, our away record is excellent, but modifying our tactics at home when we play against sides that like to park the team bus in front of the goal is also key. I would simply love to see Arsene prove his critics wrong. Come on you Gunners.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

The big decisions do NOT even out

So many an 'expert' seems to think that it is absolutely inevitable that all the big decisions will always even themselves out over a season, I have always thought this theory to be absolutely nonsensical, it relies upon a stupid man's lack of statistical understanding and an assumption that he have a set of excellent unbiased referees who are not swayed by any exterior forces.

I thought it would be interesting to look back over the last couple of months or so to see just how many big crucial decisions have gone for us and how many have gone against us. In order to try to be as fair as possible I have tried to bite my lip and be as objective as possible, hard I know. I have categorised the big decisions as being RED CARDS (correct, soft, incorrect), DISALLOWED GOALS (correct, soft, incorrect), and PENALTIES (correct, soft, incorrect). I feel these are the big game changing decisions, if I have missed any in the following games then please feel free to let me know.

Newcastle (A) 4-4 Draw
FOR - nil
AGAINST - RED CARD diaby (soft), RED CARD barton (incorrect), PENALTY (incorrect), PENALTY (soft), DISALLOWED GOAL for offside RVP (soft)

Wolves (H) 2-0 - nil contentious

Stoke (H) 1-0 - nil contentious

Sunderland (H) 0-0
FOR - nil
AGAINST - DISALLOWED GOAL for offside Arshavin (incorrect), PENALTY and RED CARD for same incident Bramble on Arshavin (incorrect)

West Brom (A) 2-2
FOR - nil
AGAINST - RED CARD Jerome Thomas on Sagna (soft)

Blackburn (H) 0-0
For - RED CARD (correct)
Against - nil

Blackpool (A) 3-1
For - PENALTY foul by Koscielny (incorrect)
Against - PENALTY RVP shoved over 2nd half (incorrect)

Liverpool (H) 1-1
For - PENALTY (correct)
Against - PENALTY Lucas (soft), PENALTY Kuyt handball (incorrect), PENALTY Kiyriakos on RVP (soft)

Tottenham (A) 3-3
For - nil
Against - DISALLOWED RVP goal (incorrect), PENALTY (correct)

Obviously this is always going to be subjective to a degree, however I have tried to be as objective as possible and relied more upon the general opinion of people I respect and trust to be more objective than myself. Overall the results are absolutely startling.

Overall of a total of eighteen big decisions in the last couple of months, 3 decisions have been for us and 15 against us. Of the 15 decisions against us, 9 have been incorrect, 5 soft and 1 correct. Of the decisions given for us which only amount to 3, 2 have been correct and one incorrect. The 3 disallowed goals have consisted of two clear errors and one borderline soft decision where RVP was level. Here is the breakdown

For Arsenal - 2 Correct 0 Soft 1 Incorrect

Against Arsenal - 1 Correct 5 Soft 9 Incorrect

The penalties section makes astonishing reading, we have had only 2 decisions for us, Cesc's against Liverpool and the Koscielny foul at Blackpool, a startling 8 decisions have gone against us in this same period. The fact that cannot be argued with that is 100% objective is that we have been given 1 penalty in this period while our opponents have had 4, strange given the way that we dominate games in terms of both territory and chances.

Despite our failings in terms of squad depth and experience, combined with some clear tactical errors, it is abundantly clear that we have most definitely not had the rub of the green this year in terms of the big game altering decisions. In a similar time frame we have seen Manu escape defeat at West Ham thanks to a dodgy free kick and penalty, Rooney avoid a red card for a reckless elbow at Wigan and Blackpool denied a clear penalty against the Mancs at a key time in the game.

So next time you hear some expert say that luck evens itself out over a season, do not believe them, it most definitely does not. In fact one can argue that when there is very little between the top sides the league title is probably impacted upon more by these key refereeing decisions than anything else. There were defensive failings at Newcastle when Djourou went off but I firmly believe that with a competent official we would still have come away with three points, alas we will never know.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Guts and some Looney tunes football

What an insane game of football. An incredible tempo and pace that saw both sides throwing the kitchen sink, washing machine and dish washer at each other for the whole ninety. There was controversy, there was frustration, but I don't think anyone can really complain about the heart shown by the players today, they fought and gave their all, and in my opinion they were more than a tad unlucky not to come away with all three points.

Walcott scored before some had taken their seats, a slick finish having been slipped through neatly by Cesc. Tottenham then struck back through Van der Vaart, Diaby let him run free and his touch and finish were pretty damn clinical. Nasri then struck a cracker, Gomes didn't even see his stunning twenty five yarder. RVP then gave us a cushion, his initial header from Walcott's delightful chipped cross was acrobatically saved by Gomes, the rebound was dispatched with interest.

The pivotal moment for me was Tottenham's rather fortunate second goal just before half time. The ball broke outside the box and Huddlestone hit it first time, it could have gone to row Z or the corner flag, it flew towards the bottom corner, possibly taking a small deflection on the way through. There was technique I know, but Huddlestone could hit another ten of those and not score a single one. The loss of the two goal cushion before half time was pivotal.

Having said that we could and probably should have made the game safe after that, with the score at 3-2 we looked dangerous on the break and there was plenty of space to exploit. Theo came close and was always a threat, but we never quite had the conviction to bury the game. So when Lennon was played through in the inside left position and Szczesny charged out, I feared the worst, Lennon was barely touched and went down like a sack of spuds, Atkinson duly awarded another soft penalty against us. Van der Vaart made no mistake.

The game could have gone either way after this, both keepers made some fantastic saves, RVP had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, it was particularly annoying that Van der Vaart was offside several times but the linesman let him get away with it. I have to mention Martin Atkinson, he is just not a very good referee, it was the little decisions that he got wrong time and time and time again. Tottenham players were consistently not playing the ball and obstructing Arsenal players, Atkinson just couldn't see this all night long. At least Atkinson didn't get sucked in by the pathetic Modric's blatant diving. Arsene's substitutions were poor, Bendtner and Arshavin did little, I would have left Theo on.

The league was not lost tonight. Tonight we saw an excellent performance from a side that worked terrifically hard and played for each other. There were also some much better individual performances. One has to give a lot of credit to Tottenham as well, they never gave up, although their approach was rather direct, they showed a lot of character to come back from two goals down. It was a great game of football all round and we should concentrate on this. There's no doubt if we had played this well against the likes of Sunderland, Liverpool and Blackburn, we would have quite a few more points than we do now.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Does anything justify the anger and the hate?

I can understand the frustration, I also agree with a lot of the well reasoned and coherent criticism of Arsene Wenger's failings at the tail end of this season, I am bitterly disappointed that our season looks to be collapsing into nothing again. However what I cannot feel empathy for and what I cannot condone is the tone and the harshness of some of the abuse that is currently being directed at the manager and certain players by certain Arsenal 'supporters'.

If you cannot criticise without spitting venom then you would do better to grow up, count to ten and then come out with something reasoned and polite. Behaving like petulant aggressive adolescents doesn't do one's arguments or reputations any favours in my opinion. I am used to this kind of behaviour from spoilt and unappreciative Manchester supporters, but I expect better from Arsenal fans. As adults we should try to put football into perspective, we should try to behave maturely and not fly off the handle in a knee jerk manner without engaging our brains.

The manager seems to damned whatever he does these days. If he accepts defeat gracefully then he is just too wet and doesn't care, if he gets a bit angry and shows some passion then he should be more graceful. If he criticises his players in public then he's a bad manager and if he doesn't then he's backing incompetents. A lot of the abuse he gets in the media is so unfair it's not true, so inconsistent and riddled with double standards it stinks.

The manager has made mistakes but there's a way of pointing this out that's acceptable and a way that's just plain unacceptable. Certain players need moving on, some just aren't good enough, some just aren't one hundred percent committed to the club. The tactics have also been completely lacking on too frequent a basis, playing a lone striker against a team that sticks ten behind the ball just doesn't work well.

However if it's a 'with us or against us' bipolar situation then I'd rather stick with Arsene Wenger than supporters who will attack each other for chanting a certain player's name, than supporters who will attack each other when things aren't going quite to plan, than supporters who will regularly put more energy into jeering their own players rather than getting behind the team, than supporters who cannot express themselves both reasonably and politely in their criticism of the manager and players, than supporters who always point our what they haven't but ignore what they have. I hope the lads can put a committed performance in tomorrow night and make a real point. Come on you Gunners.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Stupidity and gamesmanship steal Liverpool a point

It was a game that summed up our last few weeks, so near but yet so far, extremely frustrating, we were undone by a complex mixture of factors, certainly several of our own doing, certainly some were out of our control. It's the kind of game that leaves you tearing your hear out at the roots, football can be a cruel master on days like today but that's life, it's terribly unfair but you have to learn from these moments, then move on to better things.

Overall Liverpool defended very solidly and restricted us to only a handful of clear cut chances but over the entire match it was hard to argue that we deserved the three points. Reina looked to have killed our hopes with a terrific late save from RVP, we rallied well with ten minutes to go and pushed hard for the winner, this was after playing poorly for a long time in the second half. Arshavin and Bendtner made a difference, and in the end it told with RVP converting from the spot after a clear foul on Cesc in the box.

The game looked won, there were only a couple of minutes on the clock, the ball was hanging around on the edge of our box, we missed a few chances to clear, Lucas then dived for the umpteenth time in the half and the referee generously awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. By the time it was taken we were well over the extra eight minutes, the ball broke harmlessly towards the wing, Lucas went for it, Eboue followed, somewhat stupidly, Lucas slowed down and exaggerated the minimal contact that he looked for, again the referee generously awarded Liverpool the spot kick, Kuyt converted, our title dreams were crushed.

Eboue had a terrible game defensively and this was summed up with his naive play that allowed Lucas to cheat his way towards another decision from the referee, the hapless Mariner. The diving from Lucas and Suarez was particularly poor throughout the game, time and time again they hurled themselves down after minimal contact. For this reason I have sympathy with Eboue, he was silly and stupid, but Lucas conned him, it was never a penalty, he stopped running for the ball and made the most of the very little contact that he had himself deliberately engineered. The handbags between Dalglish and Wenger were nothing to even bother writing about, that won't stop the gutter press though.

Overall it's just terribly disappointing all round but if we're honest we just have to admit that we have not been good enough when it has counted, we have dropped too many points in the last few weeks, point that you cannot afford to drop if you hope to be champions. The fact that we were done by a bit of gamesmanship makes it that little bit harder to take, but we still should not have given Lucas the opportunity, we had several chances to clear that ball before Lucas dived for the first time. Still, let's not scapegoat Eboue, we would be more sensible to learn from the fact that we have not been good enough in many ways over many weeks. This title was not lost with one moment of idiocy, there have been many moments that have contributed.

RIP Danny - let's win this for him

There are certain times when one sees sport put firmly into perspective and Danny Fiszman's sad death this week was one of those moments. Many glowing tributes have since emerged and I feel it appropriate to repeat a small piece of them here:

"Danny did an enormous amount for this Club. He came on the Board in 1992 and he was a visionary Director. He and I became very close friends, we travelled to all the away matches together and in the year 1999 we first embarked upon the new stadium project. He and I were delegated by the Board to lead that and I really could not have had a better person to work with. He was highly intelligent, he was good at everything he did and I was very fond of him. He was a very special man."

These are Ken Friar's words and he is a man I have a lot of respect for. Although my insider knowledge is limited, on the few moments when I have written to the club, they have always responded with politeness and though, Ken Friar is clearly a key part of the class act that is Arsenal Football Club.

Some people keep criticising the club for a certain lack of communication and they have a point to a degree. Still one must always understand that part of the club's tradition is the stiff upper lip and a dignified silence on occasions when it would be much easier to come out with a poorly thought out and reactionary response.

Fiszman seemed to personify the understated dignity of the club and he did so much excellent work in a similarly understated manner. He sold on his shares to Stan Kroenke and I see this as his final sensible act, although some doubt the American's intentions, I reckon Danny was a pretty fine judge of character and I hope this will be proven by Kroenke over time. The fact that Usmanov cannot take control of our club is also a massive massive bonus, the malignant vulture will have to get used to this fact.

Anyway attention today turns to the visit of the scousers, Liverpool FC, and this is yet another last chance saloon for the players to keep the fire burning this season. We will be boosted by the return of Szczesny and Djourou, important given the physical power of Andy Carroll, while it looks likely that Sagna will miss out, whether Song will return to the eleven is another matter.

Three points today are vital, with Manchester United showing their complete lack of class in losing their FA Cup semifinal yesterday, it is key that we capitalise on any potential loss of confidence by keeping tight at their heels. Either way, whether we win anything or not, I would hope in the future that we can lose with more dignity than Manchester United and Rio Ferdinand did yesterday. I hope Danny's legacy can be one that sees our club continue it's classy and respectful traditions, rather than morph into a money grabbing whore of a club like Manchester United.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Blackpool win being surpassed by bigger news

So the big news this morning is that Stan Kroenke is now the majority shareholder in Arsenal Football Club having agreed deals to buy Bracewell-Smith's and Fiszman's, this now means that Kroenke is obliged to make an offer to buy out the rest of the club's shareholders which is at 11,750 pounds per share. I would urge everyone who does have a share or a chunk of share to hold on to it, keeping our stakes is important. I have to say that Stan Kroenke taking over the club is definitely a better option that a fat corrupt criminal taking charge, fingers crossed he can be our benevolent dictator for many years to come.

Yesterday we needed a little bit of luck to defeat a courageous Blackpool side that never stopped fighting. Jens came in for the injured Almunia and one has to to say, that Jens played far better than Almunia would have done, he also lead and commanded as the Spaniard would not have done. The first half we dominated for the most part, Blackpool had a bit of early pressure but after that it was one way traffic. The first goal coming after some excellent work from Diaby, RVP fed the ball perfectly back into his path and Diaby tapped in easily. Eboue spanked in a cracking second goal after a neat one two on the edge of the box.

The problem was that we didn't finish Blackpool off from this point, we missed several great openings. RVP had a couple of very good chances, Nasri had one saved well by Kingston and the other unfortunately struck the foot of the post and bounced wide, Diaby took an extra touch when he really should have scored as well. This allowed Blackpool the room for the fightback in the second half. RVP looked like he could well have had a penalty at the end of the first half, strangely there were no replays when he was barged down just as he was about to pull the trigger when through on goal.

Blackpool got a foothold back in the game when Campbell was allowed to run clear in the inside left position, Eboue didn't track him, Squillaci was also at fault, ball watching and giving Campbell all the space he needed to run through on Jens. He rounded Jens, there was minimal contact, Campbell threw himself down, the referee played on and Taylor-Fletcher had a simple tap in. The talk of it being a possible red card for Jens were nonsense for me, he didn't even touch Campbell.

This wasn't the first time Blackpool had been caught diving in the box, there was a classic example of this in the first half, and it probably was the reason for Mason not giving them a penalty later on when Koscielny caught Taylor-Flecther late. It would have been harsh on Koscielny for me, it was a blocking challenge and the ball was long gone. The third goal from RVP made the game safe and we could finally relax, Walcott expertly controlled centre left RVP with a simple chance, one which he made look a lot easier than it actually was, a very well controlled left footed finish left the Blackpool keeper prayer-less.

It was a strange game, great to get the three points but I have to say I got rather frustrated at times with some of the defending and the way in which we kept shooting ourselves in the foot by giving the ball away all too casually in our own defensive areas. Eboue was great going forwards but a liability defensively, repeatedly being well out of position and giving the ball away in ridiculous areas. Squillaci was poor, he was sucked in towards the ball and pulled away from his right sided centre back slot too frequently, this left some massive holes in which Campbell was allowed to run unchecked.

On the positive one has to appreciate that this was practically a second choice back five, we have been hit hard by injuries in defensive areas. Jens was excellent, he must surely keep his place until Szczesny is fit to return and why not give him another year? His character and leadership would be a great bonus to have in the dressing room, Szczesny would learn so much. Other than one piece of dawdling on the ball late on, I thought Clichy was absolutely superb, he won every tackle, every header and was sharp throughout, a great shame that his late sloppy error almost cost us. Diaby had an excellent game, Wilshere was solid and stood up well to some rather thuggish opposition tactics, Cesc's passing was like a knife through warmed butter. RVP's movement and overall play was superb.

Overall we got the result and that was what we needed, three points, a big three points. Looking ahead at the fixture list we need to be winning pretty much every game to have a chance of overhauling United and that is what we must do. If we can get Djourou, Sagna and Szczesny back fit then our chances of doing this will be significantly increased. Hopefully Liverpool will tire themselves tonight and pick up a few injuries, it looks unlikely that Newcastle will do us any favours by slowing down United's points collection mission. Come on you Gunners.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Let the results do the talking

There has been a lot of interesting talk in the last few days and I think a few of us are seeing things far clearer than we were, say, a week or two back. The reaction to my recent post on some of the disproportionate and unproductive attacks on the manager was interesting, a lot of comments made some very sensible and reasonable points that I agreed with.

It is good to see the manager coming up with some fighting talk and I can't disagree with Arseblogger's calm and measured take on Arsene's banter, elsewhere one can see that some people are just still a bit angry to say anything sensible or useful on these matters. One excellent point made by the manager is the amazingly biased and subjective way in which the media analyses all this stuff:

"Do you judge this season or the last four seasons? Some of the clubs behind us have done nothing for 20 years, yet suddenly they get a lot of praise."

I agree with Arsene on this, some clubs, mentioning no names, definitely not that excellent and honourable club that was spanked 4-0 by a rather average Madrid side in midweek, seem to get a ridiculously positive response from the media despite their relative lack of achievement. The bias of the media is there for all to see in this regard, generally the media are always looking to stick the knife into Arsenal, and many other clubs seem completely immune to this kind of behaviour, strange that.

If all our players had the fight and commitment of Arsene then we would not have thrown the points away recently that we have done, if results do not start to improve before the season ends then the manager simply has to take note of what has happened, papering over the cracks again would not be productive in any case.

I have concluded that Arsene has simply got the balance of his squad wrong, the odd individual has also not pulled his weight, this is true, but largely our problems stem from a more systemic malaise than can only be addressed by some fairly substantial ideological changes in the summer. We have lost that balance between pace, creativity, flair and steel that won us so many trophies in Arsene's early reign, we have become too obsessed with the technical and forgotten just how important physical fight and bite can be in grinding out results when one is not playing well. We also do not have quite as much killer pace, we no longer sting on the counter quite as dangerously as we used to.

We simply had to beat Blackpool tomorrow to have any chance at all of staying in the title race, injuries see us left rather short in certain areas, again I may add. There is some good news in that Szczesny and Djourou are very close to returning to training, the bad news is that Walcott, Sagna and Song may all miss out thanks to various ailments. Frankly I am starting to get bored with the talk, it is the outcome of events on the pitch that matter.

It is a bit of a chicken and the egg scenario, but repeatedly being close and not quite doing it cannot be simply down to bad luck, when it becomes a recurrent phenomenon it then defines you as not being winners, as not being quite up to it, and there does come a point when enough is enough, and substantive changes then become a necessity. If the players cannot break the current vicious cycle of being nearly men then it becomes essential that decent changes to the playing staff are brought about to reverse this trend.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Reactionary drivel spewing forth

I think a few people need to pause for a minute and think before venting their spleens. Arseblogger has magnificently captured many of our feelings at the moment with his blog this morning, the deeply ignorant bile and vitriol does not help. The outpourings of hostility have been there for all to see, especially as regards certain idiots fighting each other at the ground on Saturday, how very sad.

Firstly some perspective, we are still second in the league table, we need to get behind the team to push them on to staying as high as we can come the end of the season. Very few people gave us a chance of being where we are now, this season has not been a complete disaster by any means, although some of the same problems have emerged. Let's stop fighting each other, remember there is still a season to fight for and get behind the lads.

Arsene deserves some credit, some managers have been labelled geniuses for finishing lower down the table with far greater resources, the naive assumption that sacking him and bringing in any old numpty would automatically bring in the trophies is utterly foolish, likewise the assumption that clearing out tens of players in the summer is the answer, utter hogwash. This is not championship manager, this is reality, so many of those names trumpeted by those armchair experts have turned out to be rather mediocre. Also one cannot be second in the table with a squad full of dross, this also makes no sense at all.

I don't like to see certain players scapegoated. It seems that there are some rather easy targets that people like to pick, while certain household names are virtually immune from criticism, mentioning no names of course. While it is undoubted that certain players have run out of time, some players who are taking a lot of stick at the moment have had rather decent seasons. Let's take stock come the end of the season and try to judge players fairly without conveniently scapegoating certain individuals.

Maybe I'll turn out to be completely wrong but I suspect that Arsene is thinking about making some significant changes this summer, there have been certain hints at this with certain team selections and substitutions in recent weeks. As has been said elsewhere Arsene must be judged on his actions and not his banter. Obviously I am not happy that our season is disintegrating into dust before my very eyes, but I am even less happy with some of the idiotic bile that is spewing forth in certain quarters. The grass is not always greener I am afraid to say, we need to try to keep some sense of perspective through these tricky times, knee jerk reactionary decisions are invariably bad ones. We should behave like adults and not spoilt children. Come on you Gunners.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Collapsing into a vacuum of complacency

The rot started with the Carling Cup final and it continued yesterday with another two dropped points in the league against a mediocre Blackburn eleven. One has to see yesterday's performance in context of our recent sloppy run, it cannot be taken in isolation if one is to understand the root of our failings this season.

Having seen the lack of determination and drive yesterday it cannot be denied that our players have become too complacent, they seem happy to put in average performances and don't fight as if their lives depended on it often enough. They don't seem afraid of not giving their all, they need to know that if they don't put in 100% they will be hung, drawn and quartered, they need to be motivated by some fear. We seem to have a culture of complacency, a squad with too many overpaid and average players.

Bizarrely Andrei Arshavin was taken off for Cesc Fabregas, the little Russian was arguably our best and most motivated player, while the persistently unfit and lacklustre Fabregas seems to have become bigger than the club, immune from criticism after recent consistently poor performances. Would we be playing the dodgy 4-3-3 formation if we did not have Cesc? Maybe this question should be for another day, but I still feel that Cesc has not done enough over the course of the season, and his overall contribution, especially in terms of work rate and defending has not been adequate.

The momentum we had has dissipated ever since the loss against Birmingham. The main reasons for that defeat seemed to me to be the lack of quality depth in our squad and a naive tactical approach that left us outnumbered in the midfield, obviously this was combined with a bit of bad luck and some poor finishing. Yesterday our tactics didn't seem to work as well, Blackburn were always going to sit back with men behind the ball and our 4-3-3 system with a lone RVP up top didn't give them enough to think about defensively. Maybe I am naive in craving for more of an orthodox 4-4-2 system but this is what by gut has been telling me for a while.

I'm not a boo boy myself, never have been and never will be, but there are some obvious reasons for the frustrations that a lot of fans have at the moment. It is time for a change at the club, I hope Arsene can be the one to make the changes, but if he does not given time then a new manager must be sought. Arsene at least is seeing the wood for the trees, he noticed just how poor the performance was yesterday and that is encouraging.

Still, if we were gifted soft penalties and free kicks, and if our players were rarely sent off for last man professional fouls then we would probably be a few points clear of the deeply average United side that currently leads the league. United's side is so mediocre it hurts, yet with the help of referees they turn defeats into victories on a regular basis, it will be almost impossible to catch them now after these three wasteful draws. The penalty against Upson yesterday was an utter joke, in stark contrast a raised Blackburn arm that blocked an Arshavin shot in the first half was far more of a penalty and wasn't given.

The league this season has been dominated by the mediocrity of the 'top' sides. We have been erratic, Manu have been patchy and have never flowed, Chelsea have never been consistent enough, the winners of the league this year will surely be the the most average and unimpressive side for many a year. It is just so frustrating that we have repeatedly thrown away the chance to make that trophy our own, when everyone around us has been failing to convince. Things have to change this summer and if they do not then more the same is simply an utter inevitability.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Football's shameful corrupt face

On the day of the Cricket World Cup final, there could not be more of a stark contrast between the excellent use of video technology in this sport and football's pathetic refusal to do anything to wipe out the routinely useless decisions that change both games and seasons.

India and Sri Lanka are taking part in a great game of cricket and it is being supported by technology, in the same way that many other sports around the world have embraced technology for the better. Errors are reduced, although nothing is perfect, using technology sensibly is a massive improvement on what went on before, no one could deny this.

On this same day Manchester United are helped on the road to coming back from 2-0 down against West Ham by some appalling refereeing decisions that surely would not have happened if football's corrupt authorities had bothered to introduced technology to assist the officials. Vidic somehow stayed on the field when he should not, Rooney scored from a free kick that never was after Noble had won the ball fairly, Rooney's and United's third came from an appalling penalty decision after a clearly accidental handball by Upson.

Football is the richest game in the world, yet it still has not introduced technology in order to minimise error and make the game fairer for all, this is an absolute disgrace and frankly I am losing faith in the game that I love the most because of this stinking mess. FIFA are the chief culprits, a corrupt organisation that is completely unaccountable, one that persistently refuses to do anything that may make the game fairer. For this reason football currently stinks.

For anyone hoping for some decent objective refereeing today at the Arsenal-Blackburn game, think again, it is Phil Dowd in charge, the man who stole two points from us at Newcastle earlier this year. Dowd has a ridiculously dodgy record when taking charge of our games this year. Here's the eleven fighting against Blackburn's twelve men: Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott, Van Persie.