Monday 31 December 2007

News for hammers clash

Bacary Sagna looks set to be rested with Justin Hoyte deputising, while Emmanuel Eboue and Theo Walcott return to the squad. Interestingly Arsenal have also activated a clause in young Matthew Connolly's contract to recall him from Colchester in January. I just wonder if Matthew Connolly has done enough to rise above Johan Djorou in the grand scheme of things? He has done well and was recently called up to the England U-21 squad.

The only changes I see for tomorrow are Sagna for Hoyte, Rosicky for Diaby and Adebayor for Bendtner to leave a line up of:

Almunia; Hoyte, Toure, Gallas, Clichy; Hleb, Fabregas, Flamini, Rosicky, Adebayor, Eduardo.

I very much hope we go for a 4-4-2, I suspect West Ham will go for 4-5-1 but we should sacrifice a bit of possession for the cutting edge that two up front brings. Even though Bendtner didn't have his best ever game, he was involved in the first two Eduardo goals; it makes such a difference having two up top to put the opposition under that bit of extra pressure, the extra bustle means you get a few balls breaking for you out of nothing. Please indulge us Arsene.

Saturday 29 December 2007

An unexpected bonus

Most Gooners would have taken a point from today's tricky away fixture at Goodison park, I certainly would have,; so getting all three is a massive bonus, especially when man united failed so dismally at Upton park. In fact I would go so far as to say that today's win could be our best result of the season so far, just remember that Everton have been on an absolutely awesome run of form of late.

Wenger plumbed for 4-4-2 as many fans would have wanted, however it certainly didn't go to plan in the first half with Everton taking a deserved first half lead through Tim Cahill. Everton had a few other half chances and it appeared that the Arsenal players were pretty happy to get off the field at half time. It's worth mentioning that referee had an excellent game, not something I often claim, but he wasn't conned by some rather theatrical falls from Yakabu and Arteta.

There were signs at the end of the first half that things were beginning to click, and Eduardo's neat finish from Clichy's long ball completed the transformation as the confidence began to return to our play. Eduardo finished very tidily again to put us a goal ahead, he really has a great instinct in front of goal, reminiscent of Fowler in his prime in the way he gets the ball out of his feet quickly and shoots before the keeper has had a chance to blink. Bendtner then deservedly saw red for a dangerous tackle just before he was due to be substituted off. Everton crumbled and an embarrassing mix up at the back saw Adebayor left with the easiest of tap ins. Rosicky added a fourth after Arteta had been sent off for a flying elbow, as tempers flared again.

I just hope that today can be looked back on as a pivotal moment in this season's title race, we will need to carry on from here and keep on picking up three points week after week. Hopefully Eduardo can go from strength to strength now, and I'd imagine he'll start against West Ham on Tuesday. Bendtner has learnt an important lesson while our first half showing must act as a reminder that we have to be focused for every single minute of the ninety.

Football is only a game and Phil O'Donnell's sad death today after collapsing while captaining Motherwell serves as an ample reminder of this. RIP Phil and our thoughts are firmly with your family and friends tonight.

Thursday 27 December 2007

More of the same

I don't want to come across as being too negative, as a point away to Portsmouth is not a disaster, however it certainly isn't as good as all three. Arseblog is spot on, as is Arsenal-Maina, with their analyses, and as you know I agree in their disagreement with the tactic of using 4-5-1 incessantly.

Pompey were happy with a point and they defended with men behind the ball, and who could blame them for this? Not me certainly, however it was slightly daft to play Ade on his own up front again. We do not have the personnel to play 4-5-1 effectively in this type of game, we don't have the dynamic inside forwards you need to threaten from the wide areas. We don't get the best out of Ade when is so isolated, and he rarely gets the ball in dangerous positions, always seemingly isolated with his back to goal.

There were very few incidents of note until the final fifteen minutes. Dioup should have been off for a shocking tackle on Rosicky, while Eboue was harshly booked for a nothing tackle. Portsmouth broke well and Benjani, who looked offside, broke clear; Almunia did well and forced him wide so that Clichy could nip in to steal the ball to avert the danger. Bendtner did very well, using his pace and direct running to good effect, one can only imagine how many more chances we would have created if he had been given more than a paltry ten minutes. Gallas missed from five yards, blazing over, while Rosicky hooked wide from a great Bendtner cutback when it appeared easier to score. 0-0 it finished, not a bad result, but not a good one either.

I suspect Arsene will continue with the 4-5-1, but I feel this is an error, we just don't open teams up with Ade on his lonesome up top. We need to revert to 4-4-2 and fast, otherwise the points will continue to be squandered.

Sunday 23 December 2007

Pissed off with 4-5-1

Maybe I'm completely wrong, but I think the excessive reliance on 4-5-1 is threatening to wreck our season. Spurs were there for the taking on Saturday, injuries galore and a back four that even Derby County would hope to bang a few past. When I saw the team line up with Ade on his lonesome up front, my heart sunk, as I knew that 4-5-1 would give Spurs a chance to win a game that they should have no right to.

We even started brightly with a good hook just wide from Flamini, but as the half wore on, Spurs came into it, our ineffectiveness was there for all to see; we just didn't look like scoring. Spurs had far too much space and room to play, Berbatov was sometimes bringing the ball down with time to make a quick cup of tea before strolling goalwards. There was no pressure on the ball and we were far too slack with the ball, loosely giving away possession left, right and centre. Fabregas and Hleb had particularly poor first halves, finding Spurs players with machine like regularity.

We did start the second half with more desire and tempo, and were rewarded with a great goal courtesy of good work from Rosicky, then Fabregas who back heeled to the striding Adebayor, who neatly side footed past the larger than life Robinson. It didn't take Spurs long to equalise, having squandered a sitter moments earlier when Keane hit the crossbar when it would have been easier to score, Berbatov found space to drive home a thunderbolt from a rather acute angle. I thought Almunia could have done better, but having seen replays since, it is hard to imagine how he could have reacted, such was the pace on the shot.

Next was the controversial bit, Styles pointed to the spot when Toure lunged towards Berbatov in the box. Replays conclusively showed that Toure clearly got his foot to the ball before making any contact with the diving Bulgarian, Berbatov did make a bit of meal of the clash and certainly made sure that Styles' mind was made up for him. Never a penalty in my book but Styles always seems happy to be sure of himself when he shouldn't be. Keane choked the penalty and Almunia guessed right, thank the lord. Later on Taarabt tried to con the ref into giving another penalty, fortunately Styles didn't fall for this trickery, and saw that Taarabt was going down before Sagna made any contact. At the other end Rosicky was taken out in the box twice, and it was done quite cynically on both occasions. Nothing doing for some reason only know to the incompetent Styles.

Step up Mr Bendtner. Corner to the Arsenal, great run from the back post and he rose majestically to power home past the hapless Robinson. Spurs never looked like getting back in the game, however it was rather too close for comfort. I just felt that if Ade had had some support up front, we could have buried them much earlier, and wouldn't have had to rely on Almunia's heroics.

Anyway the three points were essential given that Chelsea and Manu both picked up their full complement today. Interestingly our Champions League opponents AC Milan were in derby action against Inter in the San Siro today, Inter winning 2-1 thanks to a second half howler from the gravity prone Brazilian Dida. AC Milan didn't look very convincing at all and Inter deserved their win, however Pirlo and Kaka are awesome talents who only need small sniffs to punish you. Pirlo's range of passing and free kicks make him a constant danger, while Kaka's pace and balance mean you can never relax; they can kill anyone on the counter attack. It will be a tough tie, however there are a few chinks in their armour these days, and if we get it right on the day, we can certainly do them.

Wednesday 19 December 2007

Have that Hughes and your hatchet men

What a fantastic performance from a young Arsenal side in managing to go away from home against Blackburn, who are currently sixth in the league and certainly no shrinking violets, and come away with a fully deserved win. Cracking stuff.

The young gunners dominated the first half and Blackburn simply couldn't get close to them, 2-0 up thanks to a great volley from Diaby and a lovely neat finish from Eduardo when one on one with Friedel. The game was changed when Blackburn undeservedly scored just before half time, Derbyshire was well offside when played through on the right before crossing for Santa Cruz to finish well past Fabianski.

Weaker men would have crumbled in the second half, but the young gunners battled very hard. Blackburn did get an equaliser when Santa Cruz firmly headed home from a Bentley free kick. Denilson was sent off for a two footed challenge and Arsenal were down to ten men with half an hour of injury time looming, not many people would have backed them to win it from there.

However the youngsters are made of stern stuff, they crafted a fantastic winner in the first period of extra time, Song burst through with the ball from deep to release Eduardo; Eduardo took the ball out of his feet and buried it past Friedel before the keeper was even able to move. Blackburn huffed and puffed with many long balls into the box, but they couldn't prevent Arsenal walking away with a place in the semis.

All the youngsters did themselves proud, Fabianski made some good saves, the defence did well with Song shining in particular, the midfield were outstanding while Bendtner and Eduardo worked well in tandem. It really gave me such pleasure to see the malignant Savage getting nowhere near the ball for 120 minutes, David Dunne also deserves a special mention for being a particularly unpleasant individual.

On an unrelated matter Sol Campbell has been speaking of footballer's human rights:

"I think it is out of hand now," he said in a BBC interview. "We all can
take the booing and light banter but when it gets to the realms of verbal abuse
it's a bridge too far. "I think the FA, PFA and even the Government should get
involved because these situations are happening at sporting arenas. If this
happened in the street you'd be arrested.""This is the 21st century. This is a
human rights situation where professional sportsmen - managers as well - people
are abusing them verbally. I think it's just gone too far."

It has gone too far, people as stupid as Campbell are earning thousands of thousands of pounds a week for kicking a ball around a rectangle and then complaining that people who attend should not be able to get involved in supporting their team. Sol Campbell needs to get a grip on reality, the trouble with footballers these days is that many of them are detached from the reality that most people have to live in. I certainly do think there are limits to what should be chanted, however where does one draw the line between light banter and moderate banter? There are big differences between shouting racist bile and judging someone as a tosser, then telling them about it.

The likes of Cole and Campbell should expect and take the abuse that they get at grounds around the country. There are limits as far as certain types of abuse including racism, however I get the feeling that Campbell's light banter would not extend to 'f*ck off Campbell, you big c*nt". Stop being so bloody precious and whinging on about your human rights, a bit of abuse is part and parcel of football, and if it wasn't going to football matches would be about as much fun as watching 'Strictly Come Dancing' on the beeb. So shut it Campbell and concentrate on letting a few goals in when Arsenal travel to Pompey later this month.

Monday 17 December 2007

Diarra raises the white flag...

The weekend papers all carried the story that Lassana Diarra wants to leave Arsenal. This quote from the Telegraph:

"When I signed for Arsenal I was made promises by the people who recruited me....But since the start of the season the only matches I've been involved in have been low-key, and to be honest I'm getting fed up with it....With Mister Wenger, there's no problem whatsoever. I'm not going to criticise him or speak badly of him. I'm not the kind of person who creates problems.....But I signed for Arsenal because I was led to believe I was going to be playing, and there would be healthy competition for the spot. That hasn't been the case."

A couple of things strike me about this. Ok, it's more than a couple.

1. Wenger picks the team. If Diarra is unhappy about playing then that is directed at Wenger. Diarra saying "I don't want to criticise Wenger or create problems" is nonsense.

2. Who are these mysterious people who signed Diarra and promised that he would play? Either someone has spoken out of turn, or more likely, Diarra is an idiot for believing the fluff his agent fed him for 30% of the signing on fee.

3. Diarra complains that he has only played in low key matches, yet he is a French international. Well, welcome to Arsenal Mr Diarra. We have full internationals on loan elsewhere because they can't get into the first team - e.g. Djourou. Our bench this season is crammed with full internationals who can't get into the first team e.g. Bendtner, Eduardo, Gilberto, Walcott, Lehmann, Senderos etc. He is an idiot if he thinks playing for France means he is good enough to play for Arsenal.

4. The last part of his complaint is nonsense. If he thought there would be "healthy competition for the spot" then why is he complaining about the vast amount of healthy competition for the central midfield spot. Idiocy again.

Now, usually in these situations, the player can say something like "it made more sense in French". The lost in translation defence was tried and tested by Anelka, Vieira and Pires at times.

The actual truth, of course, is that Diarra's agent is trying to put his client in the shop window again for January and wants to print some rubbish in the belief that it will raise his clients' profile.

Its a shame, but so be it, I say, give Flamini the bumper contract his performances this season and loyalty over the years deserve, keep Gilberto on the back burner and sell Diarra to anyone willing to pay us a few million for him. The great dolphin headed idiot.

Lastly, on a tangent, the flip-side argument is that what we are witnessing with Diarra is a full international who actually wants to play football rather than collect his pay cheque and sit on the bench. Wouldn't it be refreshing to see English players take a similar attitude occasionally?

Sunday 16 December 2007

A perfect end to a perfect day

How I enjoyed seeing the full time whistle blown as Ashley Cole lay on the floor writhing in agony as he attempted to get Cesc sent off, poetic justice if ever there was. It was a roller coaster ride of a game, the pace didn't relent for one moment, especially in the second half where it really opened up and became an end to end ripper.

The return of the midfield trio Flamini, Cesc and Hleb made all the difference, Arsenal started very brightly from the off and started nipping the ball around nicely. Chelsea defended solidly and there were very few clear cut chances in the first half. One particular incident stood out when Terry launched into a two footed lunge that fortunately didn't make too much contact with Cesc, a straight red card should have been forthcoming, but Wiley had to be consistently incompetent. Eboue left his studs in on Terry, but there was nowhere near the malice in this challenge, a yellow waz fair. Just towards the end of the half, Cech misjudged a cross and Gallas headed home, one nil at half time.

Chelsea pushed forward more in the second half, but lacked a cutting edge without Drogba in the side. They crafted a few long range efforts which Almunia dealt with comfortably, Wright-Phillips had their best chance by far when he missed from six yards, Almunia seemed to do enough to put him off. Joe Cole cythed down Eboue and was lucky to only see yellow, while Obi Mikel escpaped a booking for a very crude obstruction on Cesc. Alan Wiley doesn't seem to understand that deliberately blocking someone off is a foul when you are out of reach of the football.

We were unlucky not to add to our solitary goal, one goal was harsly give offside while another was disallowed for a 'foul' by Adebayor. Fortunately it did not matter in the end, and Cesc finished off the game nicely by chopping down the unpleasant greedy petulant Cole. What a dissappointment for poor Ashley, especially given that Clichy looks so much better than he ever did. The whole team did well today, the defence was solid, and the midfield were outstanding. Rosicky appears to have finally stayed fit enough for long enough to find a bit of form, at last. It's great to have the incisive RVP back up front, we look a different proposition with him back. Overall a thoroughly deserved win and a return to form at just the right time before some rather tricky fixtures. Bring on the nasty Blackburn on Tuesday.

Saturday 15 December 2007

Good joke Arsene

The Mirror covers Arsene asking people to lay off poor Ashley Cole this weekend. Ashley Cole may be a man with very little brain, but this hardly excuses his actions and words that betrayed Arsenal Football Club. Ashley and Chelsea will not get a friendly reception and neither should they. The Telegraph covers the same story but does mention the rather significant absence of Drogba.

Drogba is an awesome player, although an embarrassment at times due to his eagerness for the rolling around on the turf, and he always looks dangerous against us. His record of five goals in six games against us is pretty decent too. Essien's absence is also significant, especially when several key Arsenal players (Flamini, Fabregas and Hleb) are very close to returning. With no injuries to either side I'd be a lot more scared going into Sunday's game than I currently am, obviously we must not underestimate Chelsea, however I think we definitely have the edge.

A good article in the Online Gooner pointing out the rank hypocrisy exhibited by the FA, and also hinting at the real root causes for England's failure at international level; namely a lack of emphasis on technique. In other news Arsenal have taken Nikolay Dimitrov on trial from Levski Sofia, he's a 20 year old left winger. While David Moyes has been chatting a little breeze:

"If Arsenal had played the way we played in the first half people would all be
talking about it. We were very good."

I'm not quite sure why David Moyes is so jealous of Arsenal. He might get a bit more praise if his Everton side consistently played good football and didn't play such physical direct stuff all the time. Anyway fingers crossed for Sunday, go gently on poor Cashley.

Friday 14 December 2007

Racism hidden in the english game?

I have long had the feeling, backed up by many anecdotes, that there is still a lot of xenophobia, bordering on racism, still present in English football. The recent response to Fabio Capello's appointment as England manager has simply confirmed this for me.

Firstly the majority of people out there seem to agree that Capello is a great choice, there is simply no English manager with anything like the experience or track record. The fact that the last English manager Steve Mclaren did such a poor job should demonstrate that English is not necessarily best. Sven had his critics and undoubtedly had his flaws, however he had the best record of any England manager of recent years; reaching the quarter finals of three major championships consecutively. His English predecessors were arguably vastly inferior, here I'm talking of the likes of Keegan and Hoddle.

Despite the complete lack of a decent English candidate, there is still a significant amount of banter from certain media pundits and members of the public that claims the England manager must be English. The vast majority of these people have no argument containing logic, they just don't like 'foreigners' and consequently don't want one managing their national side. When it is pointed out to them that the last English manager was useless, they ignore it and reiterate their dislike of all things foreign. Maybe this is just xenophobia, I would put it nearer overt racism though. Steve Coppell has commented:
"I am a proud English manager and would have loved an Englishman to have been in charge. You look at the list of contenders and what he (Capello) has done ticks all the boxes but I just wish he was English."
Steve Coppell's comments are not racist by any means, but why this obsession with an English manager? Now to comments from Tony Adams:
"I wouldn't have had Capello as England manager because I just wanted an Englishman to take this country forward "
These comments are moving in the direction of being rather xenophobic. Just who would Tony Adams have selected as the new England manager, Harry Redknapp!?! With all respect to 'Arry, he hardly has the experience or proven track record at the highest level that Capello has. I have always admired Martin Keown for his intelligent opinion and he avoids the xenophobic line that others seem to cling to:
"I think the players will know their roles. I don't think it will be sexy football but we want to win and qualify for competitions and I think this is the best man for the job."

There are xenophopic undercurrents in the preferential treatment of English players by referees, but I don't have time to get into that today. However when Arsenal get physical it's 'dirty' but when Arsenal get kicked to pieces it is 'good old English football'. Part of the reason for English football's failings on the international stage is the blatant xenophobic undercurrent in our game; if we valued good technical football a bit more, and enforced the rules of the game a bit more consistently, then we may make a bit more progress. I thought this letter from football365 summed it up well:
"You've replaced a man who's accomplished little with a man who is a proven winner and also carries no baggage from the previous underachieving regime.

How on Earth can there be any complaints?

Ah, but you're English, of course there'll be complaints. "

Thursday 13 December 2007

Back to winning ways

A much more positive affair than Sunday's nightmare saw Steau Bucharest defeated, but it was not enough to steer Arsenal away from the big guns for the second round draw of the Champions league. It'll be one of Inter Milan, AC Milan, Porto, Barcelona or Real Madrid next; Porto would be best of a bad bunch really.

I'd prefer to stick to the positive about last night's game as arseblogger has done. Bendtner continues to impress and he surely must have some role to play on Sunday, while Theo is looking far improved, even if the goals are not yet flowing. Diaby's encouraging return also adds a bit more strength to our squad with the fixtures piling up. It's great to have RVP back too, we missed him last season when he was out and we've certainly missed his inventive flair over the last few weeks, great to have him back.

Overall last night will have boosted out confidence going into the biggy against Chelsea on Sunday. We've got some of our bigger guns coming back to fitness just at the right time. On another note, it will be great for England if Capello signs on the dotted line today. A great manager with balls who deserves to be given a lot of time to put things right and a great degree of patience. I hope the tabloid press develop some brains so that they can refrain from bringing out the knives early on. England have picked a good manager for once, so let him get on with the job, and give him the time and space to do it properly.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

Moving on to Bucharest

The dust has settled following the disappointing defeat away to Middlesbrough, and many different explanations have been offered since Sunday. Arsene was magnanimous in defeat agreeing that Arsenal deserved to lose, certainly this is a good way of motivating the troops who will be a little bit down in the dumps.

I am inclined to agree with the Adam Elder opinion, that Arsenal were pretty tired after several away games and that this was a significant factor. There were some brighter individual performances against Boro, from what I've read not everyone agrees with me here, but I reckon Rosicky has done pretty well in his last two outings in a team that has been well below par. Goodplaya points out how much we missed several key players. The result could be just the kick up the backside that is needed at this stage of the season, before several very tricky fixtures in December.

There were many reasons for our failure against Boro, and it probably doesn't serve much purpose to dwell on them for too long; however the combination of fatigue, the absence of key players, some below par performances from some big names, a well motivated Boro side, a poor referee and a dodgy penalty all contributed to our first defeat of the season.

It will be important to bounce back against Steau tomorrow, as two defeats on the trot would not be good for morale, especially with the visit of Chelsea looming. The good news is that RVP and Diaby are very close to returning to the starting eleven, with Flamini and Fabregas not too far behind them in that order. Jens is also set to start, it's a real chance for him to put some pressure on Almunia, a bit of competition could be good for both players. Hopefully Theo will get a start, and I would like to see Nicklas Bendtner get a start too so he can build on his recent promising performances. With so many tricky games to come over the festive season is such a short space of time, it would certainly be good to have a few selection headaches.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Incompetent officiating and a poor performance

The line ups were as predicted and Boro began as expected, pressing and closing down eagerly. The game was turned on its head early on when Howard Webb presented Boro with a very generous gift, Aliadiere going over very easily when the ball had gone elsewhere, one nil down.

The rest of the first half was pretty uninspiring other than Howard Webb's rather incompetent officiating, an example of how not to referee if ever there was. Arsenal looked disjointed with too many sloppy long balls going astray, the midfield not looking its normal cohesive self and there was an ominous lack of movement. Eduardo looked short of confidence, while the midfield game lack any real tempo.

However it is made especially hard to come back when every time an Arsenal player beat a man and broke from midfield at the Boro back four, they are cynically stopped in their tracks. I counted at least five 'professional' fouls in dangerous positions that should have resulted in yellow cards, of these only O'Neil got a booking. Two clear Arsenal corners were given as goal kicks for no real reason, while Boro got a ridiculous free kick in a dangerous position when Gilberto cleanly won the ball. When cynical tactics like Boro's are allowed to prosper like this, one gets a clue as to why English football is not developing good technical talents with flair, there's no incentive to if you are cynically taken down each time a man is beaten.

Boro started the second half in lively form, two harsh bookings quickly followed from the inconsistent Webb. A lot of time wasting and some fairly disjointed football followed, Arsenal's midfield never got going and we never got on top of the game. Diarra and Gilberto do not seem to compliment each other particularly well. Boro scored a second as Tuncay followed up from a decent Almunia save and the game then looked over. There were a few positive glimpses from Theo, one incident in particular when he could have gone down in the box for a penalty, showing that he has more intergrity than Aliadiere. Bendtner looker sharp, but Adebayor had a poor game, gifting possession to the opposition on numerous occassions. Rosicky grabbed a consolation goal with a well worked second and that was that.

Overall an extremely frustrating ninety minutes. The soft penalty was exactly the start Boro were looking for, and our stuttering performance meant we never really looked like getting back into it. The midfield did not look right, there was just not enough pressure on the ball and not enough craft, with too many long balls gifting possession back to the opposition. Boro didn't deserve to win the game either in my opinion, they tried hard but didn't really create much clear cut. Small things do change games, and Howard Webb's particularly incompetent first half performance did swing things Boro's way. Having said that, we'll need to improve significantly if we are to get a result against Chelsea next weekend.

Friday 7 December 2007

The real cause needs addressing

Who could have missed the recent never ending chatter about how the 'English' game is being wrecked by foreign players. It seems rare to go a day without some good old xenophobic blame laying at everyone else's door but our own. I am English, I want to see England do well, but I think quotas are a bad idea and that restricting foreign player numbers is not the way to address the very real problems we have.

Arsene Wenger has his views on this issue and I happen to agree with him, however it seems that some people have rather short memories- do they not remember where English football was heading prior to Arsene's arrival? I would remind them that English football was stuck in the dark ages, using outdated training techniques while ignoring areas of progress such as diet and fitness. Football in this country has been revolutionised since, clubs and managers up and down the country have been forced into the 21st century; there is much more emphasis on technical football, while gone are days when players sunk ten pints as build up for a big match.

There are still problems with the English game. Nonsensical rules mean that big clubs cannot take on the best on English talent unless it is on their doorstep, meaning that clubs are encouraged to poach talent from abroad instead. However the English league is very strong, with English clubs dominating European competition on a pretty consistent basis. The English youth sides are doing well, examples of this are the U-21s who look a far better footballing side than they did ten years ago with results to match. There may be less English players in the top division, but the English players that do make it appear to be far better than in the mid 90s.

The PFA have come out with a document called 'Meltdown' that calls for a quota system to be introduced, and which appears to be spinning reality in a rather paranoid manner to protect its own interests; Gordon Taylor of the PFA claims:

"It is a crisis - we commissioned this report before England had failed to qualify for Euro 2008 because we could see which way the wind was blowing."

The crisis with the English team is down to incompetence in the FA and an incompetent England manager. As William Gallas pointed out in a recent Arsenal program, England have an excellent and talented group of players, so why on earth do they perform so badly and play a long ball game? A question that Steve McLaren should have to answer in my opinion. As Arsene says a quota system will do nothing to improve the English game or the England team, it will arguably just create 'professional substitutes'.

Xenophobic paranoia will only make matters worse, it is surely time we looked for the real cause for the malaise in the English game. England needs a manager who is tactically astute and who will select the best players, especially the best young talents. We need to continue our investment in facilities for developing young talent, we need to adopt more techniques that are used abroad to better select the attributes that are needed in the modern game, we also need to foster and encourage a better technical upbringing for our young players of the future; and then when they are ready, they need to be blooded and they need experience playing for the national side early. The quota argument just doesn't add up, just where were England in 1994 when they had over 70% English players in the top division? Certainly not at the World Cup in the USA.

Hello from another Arsenal blogger

I have been an Arsenal fan all my life, a season ticket holder for a few years, but unfortunately due to work commitments I haven't been able to attend the Emirates as regularly as I would have liked. Some would say this indicates my lack of commitment to the cause, I would say in my defense that my job keeps me in clothes and a home, thus without it I'd be in a bit of trouble, unfortunately it's a job which requires a one hundred percent commitment.

Anyway the reason I've been inspired to start blogging is partly because I am slightly frustrated with the way that some commentators are always writing off Arsenal players in a slightly offensive below-the-belt manner. I have no problem with people have a different opinion to my own, it is the way in which people choose to assassinate certain characters that I find out of order. Many people read ArsenalNewsReviews, I read his most recent piece which talks about Adebayor and Almunia in particular.

Perhaps it's just me, but I find these comments just a smidgeon unfair:

"As I've said months ago, Almunia is a clown who has improved a lot. As I said weeks ago, he is the elephant in the room."

Almunia may not be the best goalkeeper in the world, however this commentator has labelled him a clown and seems intent on never relinquishing this tag despite the fact that Almunia has been a rather consistent performer over the past two seasons. Maybe Almunia isn't the long term Arsenal number 1, however he is number 1 now and he's actually made very few errors this season. All keepers make errors, and Almunia has made fewer than most in the past two years, I'd therefore argue that he certainly does not deserve the tag of 'clown'. Maybe some people just find it hard to admit when they got things a bit wrong.

"On 90.02, Diarra hit a brilliant 60-yard ball and Adebayor made a diagonal run which was covered by right back Habib Beye, and, as the ball bounced five yards outside the penalty area, the two players ran into each other."

I disagree profoundly with this analysis of Beye's blocking of Adebayor's run. Adebayor was going straight for the ball, while Beye clearly ran into Adebayor in a direction towards the player and not the ball; for me this made Beye's actions a deliberate foul. Adebayor did not lose his bottle, this is a rather far fetched conclusion to reach when the evidence does not point towards it. Perhaps these comments show rather more about the author than they do about the football that he talks of. Perhaps a certain commentator judged Adebayor rather harshly when he first arrived and is finding it hard to acknowledge his quality. I am not the first to admit when I am wrong, however I did misjudge Ade, I did not see him becoming the regular fixture that he has become. However I am now big enough to admit I was wrong, it's just a shame that some people find this impossible to do.