Tuesday 29 April 2008

Faint hopes still glimmer

A performance that rather summed up our season, some fantastic football at times interrupted by some rather embarrassing lapses in concentration at the back. Derby tried hard, but effort without quality to back it up is rather useless and it always appeared that we had several further gears which could always be used if necessary.

Bendtner opened the scoring following a bit of Derby pressure, a neat one two with RVP and a cool slotted finish put us one up. RVP then missed a sitter, just before McEvely equalised as he was afforded far too much time and space to control the ball (possibly with his arm) and stab home past a helpless Fabianski. RVP then scored a cracker, a chipped ball through from Kolo sprung the Derby offside trap and he chested down, and neatly volleyed home into the roof of the net from ten yards, 2-1 at half time. Worryingly RVP came off at half time with yet another muscular complaint.

The second half saw us start very brightly indeed, some lovely passing and movement saw several glorious go begging with Walcott and Adebayor the chief culprits. Ade did make it 3-1 eventually when a tapped home following Eboue's stab on, only for Derby to pull another goal back, Earnsham's clever movement and Gallas' rather nonchalant defending combining to put Earnshaw through to slot home neatly. This spurred us back into life and three splendid goals followed, Walcott's deadly finish along with two tidy Ade specials, 6-2 it finished. Mind you with a less retarded linesman and some better finishing it could have been over ten.

Overall it summed our season up well, there's just something not quite right defensively. We seem to lack a bit of aerial prowess at times, although we do have plenty of pace, the disruption to the settled back four following Sagna's injury certainly hasn't helped. Song looks a great prospect, but is centre back his best position? If Flamini goes then the path may be clear for Song's arrival in the centre of the park. There's certainly no major surgery needed, but things do not seem solid enough for me at the moment. The Gallas Toure partnership has certainly been our best pairing and should be our starting combination for next year.

I was impressed by the bustling of Denilson, a clever footballer who reminds me a little of Paul Scholes, except he's not such an ugly c*nt. While Fabregas is such an outstanding player it's simply a pleasure to watch him play. Walcott has developed fantastically well this year, he looks an awesome player already and he is definitely more at home on the left than the right. I shouldn't forget to mention a certain striker called Emmanuel Adebayor who has proven his quality this season, a great goalscoring record and a great team player, he's imporving all the time as well. Eboue hasn'y been as awful recently, he worked hard and put in a few good crosses last night, but he remains the weakest link in our midfield and I really think a top quality right sided player would add tremendously to our chances next season. The future is bright nonetheless, come on you Gunners.

Saturday 26 April 2008

The big decisions

Change the f*cking record I hear you say, but I won't, I am stubborn git and will stick to my machine guns. One can always read too much into the actual results of games, as dodgy decisions can often have massive impacts on the outcome of games, consequently resulting in the better teams losing games that they did not deserve to lose.

Take Manchester United against Chelsea today, 1-1 was the score, chances at both ends and the game hung in the balance, cue the referee stepping up with a very dodgy useless decisions. I thought that there had to be some intent for a penalty to be given for handball, lots of referees clearly think otherwise as they've been dishing out numerous pens this season for very unintentional handballs. Carrick's arm got in the way of the cross, much in the same way that Gallas' arm had accidentally got in the way of a chipped ball into the box, the ref pointed to the spot.

Chelsea win 2-1 and the title remains in the balance, even we now have a very slim chance of success, albeit about as slim as an anorexic's little finger. The point is that these big decisions change games and they do not always even themselves out over a season. In the last few weeks in the Premiership we've seen the Drogba offside goal against ourselves, the dodgy Gallas penalty at Old Trafford and now the dodgy Carrick penalty at the Bridge, not to mention several decisions earlier in the season like the Birmingham penalty at St Andrews for Clichy's clean tackle. These decisions turn games and consequently titles, and it really frustrates me because the FA could wipe out a significant number of these errors if they chose to embrace modern technology, rather than ignore it and stick their heads in the sand.

Chelsea may go on to win the title and then the history books will show them to be the Premiership champions for 2007-8, it will be forgotten what an average side they are given their massive outlay on players, it will be forgotten how Manchester United and Arsenal were far superior sides over the course of the season, through the misleading eye of retrospect these details will be forgotten. So it's about bloody time the FA brought in video technology to reduce the incidence of these glaring errors, perfection is obviously not achievable, but we could do a damn sight better than this.

Thursday 24 April 2008

Super Gilles Grimandi

Afternoon all. Arseblog made the point over the weekend that Hleb should have sorted Murty out good and proper, rather than the rather girly slap that got him a deserved 3 match ban. With apologies to 1979 Hleb should have got a red card, deserved his ban for being an idiot, and the fact that the FA are inconsistent doesn't change that. Just ask Aliadiere.
So, here's a short half to one that we did get away with. The legendary Gilles smashing the Argentine Simeone in the face in the Arsenal v Lazio match in 2002. Great stuff from someone who's commitment was far greater than his talent, and we loved him for it. Eboue would be the world's best player ever if we could transplant Gilles' commitment into him.
If Gilles wanted to give Murty a reminder, he would have left him in a heap with a bloody nose, accidently stood on his nuts and then chinese burned him when pulling him back up. Gilles earned his red cards.

Monday 21 April 2008

FA - feckin arseholes

Another great example of the FA's incredibly inconsistent disciplinary system looks set to be the case of Alexander Hleb and a small slap of Graham Murty's face. If the FA look at this incident and ban Hleb for three games it will perfectly encapsulate how their disciplinary system reacts to the media and not directly to events on pitch.

How many times have we seen an Arsenal player slapped as Hleb slapped Murty with nothing happening because the media and the FA chose not to react for no good reason? A recent example was Owen Hargreaves slapping Gilberto in the face at Old Trafford, and this was after Tevez had left his studs in on Gilberto's shins. Strangely no one mentioned this on the TV, the referee did nothing at the time and Hargreaves got off Scott free. And who could forget Ruud Van Horseface's uppercut on Freddy Ljungberg that was caught on camera, the referee again did sweet FA, while the media and the FA chose to ignore the incident.

It is also rather revealing that whenever an Arsenal player is slapped in the face, that player is accused of overreacting, however when an Arsenal player does the same to an opposition player it is highlighted and seen as a definite red card. Cesc Fabregas has been slapped in the face on several occasions this season and I cannot recall a single one of his slappers being punished for their actions. This seems a tad fishy to me.

How much longer must we put up with the FA's pathetic excuse for a disciplinary system? I think it will be a while before they try to sort out their biased and haphazard system. They continue to ignore calls for integrating technology into the game , while other sports forge ahead by using technology to their advantage. Just who is in charge of the FA? Are they just incompetent or do they deliberately reist change so that they can continue to selectively enforce the rules of the game in a way that favours certain clubs?

Sunday 20 April 2008

Back in town

We proved far too strong for Reading, indeed a 2-0 scoreline was rather flattering to Reading, as a combination of woodwork, good goalkeeping and luck kept the score down.

It was particularly fitting that Emmanuel Adebayor scored such a fine goal combining a great first touch and a calm accurate finish, as he has come in for more abuse from fickle idiots than anyone else. It was good to see Gilberto get on the score sheet, what a model professional the man has been this season.

Song put in another encouraging display at centre back, and Theo is now consistently showing why Arsene shelled out so many millions on his unproven talent. Van Persie's increasing fitness and sharpness is icing on the cake, I just hope he doesn't get injured in the European Championships this summer and that he can stay fit for the whole of next season.

The title is just about a mathematical possibility, although only the ultra religious would believe that it is still practically possible. It's good to see the boys answer their fickle doubters, it's also rather amusing how some people change their tune from one week to the next. Suddenly players who were written off as useless are the best thing since sliced bread, funny how things change isn't it!

I also found it interesting that in the Boro Bolton game a penalty was not given when a ball was hit into a player's lower arm, an arm which was held vertically at the player's side just as William Gallas' had been at Old Trafford last weekend. Funny how some people change their minds on this kind of decision week in week out, and their opinion will invariably depend on which team they favour, funny that.

Friday 18 April 2008

Needles in haystacks

As Arsene reveals that he only wants to add one or two top quality players this summer, it seems that no one else is listening to him; De Guzman, Amauri, Sahin, Green, and Krancjar are the latest names to be linked with us in the past 24 hours, and the bloody season still hasn't even finished.

Meanwhile the Guardian revealed that Theirry Henry picked up about ten million quid for his final season's 'efforts' at Arsenal, surely meaning his move to Barca was motivated by things other than football and it makes his transfer away look like particularly excellent business for the club.

Ian Wright, while a great Gunner in his playing days, has not done much recently other than embarrass himself by showing off his remarkable lack of intellect on television; what a dreadful shame that the BBC will be deprived of his unique talents. Wrighty reckons fans want people who dress like them who they can relate to, and he also thinks he was unfairly portrayed as the 'court jester'; some would argue his own stupidity made him appear stupid and if fans really wanted people like their mate Dave from down the pub on telly, then they should just f*ck off down the pub and leave the telly to provide something a little more interesting.
The team news for Reading sees the following players miss out: Diaby (suspended), Hoyte, Sagna, Eduardo, Almunia, Flamini, Sagna, Rosicky (injured). Denilson returns to the squad but is nowhere near match fit, meaning that Gilberto will continue to deputise for the Flamster. It would be nice to see Theo get a full game under his belt, and maybe a front two of Adebayor and Bendtner would give the relegation threatened Royals something to think about. Reading will be fighting for their lives, but I reckon the most important thing will be concentrating at the back and ensuring that there are no sloppy lapses. Come on you Gunners.

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Harvesting from within

We all know that Arsene is likely to dip into the transfer market this summer, but is is just as likely that the next sparkling talents to emerge in the Arsenal first team will come from within our own walls.

Nacer Barazite is surely going to get his chance at some point next season, the pacey direct attacking midfielder has impressed in the reserves this year and spoke of the the quality we have at the reserve team level. It seems that Armand Traore may well be moved up to the left side of midfield next season, a role for which he appears well suited given his pace and sweet left foot.

Denilson was also back in action for the reserves, another highly gifted youngster who has impressed whenever he has featured in the first team. The young french striker Gilles Sunnu may be a little further away from the first team, but seems to have been impressing Neil Banfield and got his first goal for the second string last night. Another young south american talent Pedro has reportedly signed and is to be shipped out to Salamanca next season in Vela fashion.

It's easy to get carried away and dream of sinking a 100 million on new faces, and some bloggers do enjoy feasting in this kind of Championship Manager like frenzy while unfairly writing off good players that we already have on our books. These armchair gurus have rather selective memories, conveniently ignoring the hundreds of donkeys that they have suggested as suitable transfer targets for Arsenal over the years, while only remembering the odd success story that they had predicted simply by chance. It must be remembered that it is easy to spend millions on dross, while too many new faces can seriously disrupt the team and squad that one already has in place.

So without any new signings we will already have Carlos Vela returning from Osasuna and Eduardo returning from injury, while the likes of Barazite, Traore, Denilson will also be pushing hard for starting positions. We do arguably need one or two top quality additions to our squad, with right midfield looking the position that most needs refurbishing, however I'm sure Arsene will want to ensure that there is some room left, in which our great young talent can emerge.

ps spare a thought for poor old big Phil who is reportedly distraught after the Liverpool defeat, he's had a decent few months aside from that game and comes across as a truly lovely bloke

Gated from criticism

While some bloggers have a uncensored comments policy, some sites like ANR for example allow no comments at all, this means that they are only open to criticism on other people's sites. A recent example of this was a rather over the top piece by Myles Palmer which Arseblog has quite rightly criticised, in my opinion only of course.

When people cross a line by showing no respect with their criticism of the manager and team, then it seems perfectly reasonable to me that this should be pointed out to them. After all as Arseblog comments, it seems that some writers like to be a little sensationalist to draw in readers, many of whom feel compelled to read in a kind of 'car crash' manner. These authors then do not appear very willing to face the consequences of having to listen to the reasonable criticism of their sensationalist words.
Petty insults and offensive abuse have been dished out, merely because some people have dared to question their right to block any polite and reasoned criticism of their knee jerk sensationalism, it appears to me that those who throw the petty insults are the ones who hide in their gated communities. Obviously I am not denying the right of people to remove comments which are rude or offensive, however editing out polite and reasoned debate is taking things a bit far, and I can only assume that their arguments are not robust enough to stand up to polite debate. How on earth can the authors of such reactionary rubbish complain when they are criticised on another person's site because their is no right to polite reply on the original authors' sites? I'd imagine they complain because one becomes deluded living in a gated community that is shut off from the outside world.
Moving on, there has been much criticism of the team and manager of late, but I think the real reason for our failure in the league this season has been our defensive sloppiness, mainly at home. At the Emirates how many times have we conceded sloppy goals, frequently the first goal, it's has happened against Villa and Boro recently and there were notable examples against Fulham, Sunderland and Birmingham earlier in the season. We have also frequently failed to hold onto leads away from home, admittedly sometimes through bad luck, but this has had a significant effect on our points tally.
The reason for this sloppiness isn't simple, I don't think it can be blamed entirely on the defenders, I just wonder if the midfield is giving them enough protection. Saliently I remember a similar defensive crisis in Wenger's early years and it resulted in the midfield acknowledging that it had to do more to help out the back four. Flamini has really been our only regular defensive midfielder and he is not as strong in the air as some. Should this lack of protection be thought of when Wenger moves into the transfer market this summer? I certainly hope so, I would like to see him add a good all round combative midfielder who could score a few goals, but who could also give us an engine room down the right of midfield, a sort of cross between Ray Parlour and Kaka, shouldn't be hard to find, should it?

Monday 14 April 2008

Media meanders from objectivity

There are many explanations for the media's propensity to err from the holy path of objectivity, I am sure you all have your own ideas, but there certainly have been several examples of late. Arseblogger pointed out this example of Alan Green's poor error. It seems that on this occasion Alan Green jumped on a bandwagon to criticise Arsene Wenger having made no effort to check the basic facts of the story. Incidentally I heard him on 5live on Sunday spouting some more anti Arsene stuff while another pundit refused to join in with the Arsene bashing, despite Green's blatant encouragement.

I find it amusing that when an Arsenal player dives, the incident is replayed time and time again, while the country's pundits feel the need to express their moral outrage for many days on end. However when Ronaldo dives it is condoned by the media, as Andy Gray did on Sunday, using an argument with logic as robust as the Titanic's design; and English players don't dive, do they?

The same happened with the differing approaches used by the media in analysing Martin Taylor and Abou Diaby's dangerous tackles. A significant part of the media tried to downplay Taylor's tackle as just an unlucky accident, with the player's character being praised as lacking any intent, the media also used the event as an excuse to attack Arsene Wenger for being upset that one of his players had had his ankle sticking out of his sock. Abou Diaby did not receive any of the character references that Taylor had done while the lack of intent was not highlighted by pundits to the same extent, despite the fact that Diaby's was not quite as reckless a challenge.

I was also slightly perturbed by the BBC's slightly evasive coverage of the Arsenal Manu game on MOTD2 last night. They failed to show several key incidents in the game, amongst them a great Bendtner header, a clip that would have included Ronaldo tugging rather firmly at his shirt. Hansen did not even consider the the penatly decision may have been a little harsh, I found this strange given that the ball rocketed onto Gallas' arm whilst it was kept vertically by his side, just where was the intent? It was also bizarre that Sky did not even replay the Evra free kick incident once during of after the game, whilst the BBC whitewashed over it at rather high speed.

Maybe I'm just a paranoid fool, but maybe not. Amazingly Fergie had the good grace to admit that we were a tad unfortunate, something the media prefer to ignore in continuing to highlight our failure to hold onto the lead. One wonders was England's defeat by Maradona's hand of God in 1986 all the fault of the defence for failing to hold onto the nil nil? You see the point I'm hacking towards.

Sunday 13 April 2008


Another defeat, I don't know whether to laugh or cry, as I'm feeling a rather strange mix of emotions at the moment. One thing I'm sure of is that we have a great bunch of players who gave it absolutely everything today and a manager who is not far away from assembling his third great side. Not many sides go to Old Trafford and put in such an excellent all round display, but quite a few get done by some rather dubious refereeing decisions.

Song started at centre back with Toure continuing in his right back role, while Emmanuel Eboue continued at right midfield with Gilberto coming in for the injured Flamini. United played Rooney on his own up front, with Park and Ronaldo on the flanks. We controlled a lot of the possession in the first half, at one point I noticed we had 75% to United's 25%, and we did create some decent openings. Ferdinand made a good block from an Adebayor right foot stab, while Ade should have done better when one on one with Van der Saar, shooting straight at the keeper. United created some good openings at the other end and looked dangerous on the counter, Rooney forcing one top save from Jens' left leg. On the balance of chances nil nil was fair enough at half time. Of note the much maligned Eboue had a rather decent first half, creating openings in forward areas while tracking back to good effect.

The second half was a slight more frantic affair. The opening goal came when Van Persie whipped in a great cross, Ferdinand dithered, and Adebayor finished, it was slightly fortunate as it appeared to go in off his hand, either way the goal stood. We also came very close to a second as Van der Saar made a great save from a goal bound Ferdinand volley. Typically the lead didn't last long, a harmless prod into the box hit William Gallas's arm, it appeared that he was trying to chest it down, but he misjudged the flight of the ball. Howard Webb did no hesitate, rather tellingly after the game Rio Ferdinand described the penalty as 'fortunate', meaning that I hardly need comment further on the softness of the decision.

We continued to look the more likely, a Clichy cross agonisingly hit the base of a post following a Wes Brown deflection. Anderson and Tevez came on for United, while Walcott replaced the surprisingly effective Eboue. Manu then created their best and only decent chance of the second half, Lehmann made a great block from a low Rooney shot and the ball broke on the edge of the box, Evra nicked it beyond Gilberto but Gilberto made no challenge, Evra tumbled, another highly contentious decision from Webb. Hargreaves did expertly dispatch the free kick, showing what he could do when not trying to dictate decisions in the referee's face.

The game was now stretched, we pushed hard for the equaliser, two of the best chances falling to the head of Bendtner, one header was mistimed while the other forced another top save from Van der Saar. Tevez and Ronaldo continued to slide in late whenever they were tackled, one especially late effort from Ronaldo on Toure strangely didn't bring a yellow card from the inconsistent Webb. Amazingly the players fought to the death, not really showing as much tiredness as one would expect following their recent exploits, Gael Clichy summing up for me what a great spirit Arsene has cultivated in this side with another truly monumental performance. Song did admirably given his inexperience, making several excellent well times interceptions and using the ball cleverly at times. Gilberto started to look like his old self, and showed for me that we must hang on to him if Flamini does not sign a new deal. Van Persie linked up play well and some sharpness appeared to be returning, while Fabregas ran his socks off yet again.

I am sure the usual suspects will continue their chorus of moaning doom and gloom, but I saw nothing today that did not fill me with a lot of optimism for the future. Undoubtedly we need more goals from wide midfield and we have conceded too many goals at home against weaker opposition, but today's performance was outstanding and with a little luck we could have come away with at least a draw. It's a great shame that this season has turned into the season that might have been, but sometimes that not an awful lot one can do about that.

Saturday 12 April 2008

Thinking sensibly

It's easy to get carried away when things don't go one's way, it's easy to lose all reason and perspective, it's easy to slag people off without thinking, people I may add who don't deserve it. Arseblogger makes this point quite excellently in his blog today. I really can't imagine who he's talking about.

"Now, it’s natural when you go through a bad spell like we did for people to be critical. I think most football fans are critical by nature and I suspect that Arsenal fans are probably the most critical of all. We analyse our players so very closely that there’s really no margin for error. I’ve done it, many of you have done it, all the other websites do it to one extent or the other, and I wonder if we’re not making life that bit tougher for ourselves in doing so. It’s like the line that’s trotted out about Adebayor - reading around some sites you can find the most amazingly critical pieces about him.........."

It's a welcome hint that it's worth putting recent events into perspective, something I wholeheartedly agree with. Many of the over the top criticisms of our manager and team do not merit comment. It is also ironic that some rather keen criticisers reckon that they are beyond criticism themselves, I don't think it shows much integrity to shut oneself off from polite reasoned criticism or debate, rather the opposite in fact.

Even Sir Alex Ferguson has backed Arsene Wenger and reiterated what many of us have said about the difficulties associated with trying to bring in quality during the January transfer window, while Arsene has explained his decisions; some people would do well to listen to his considered explanation, is it often very easy to slag off decisions in the eye of retrospect.

In fact football management is very easy with the eye of retrospect, but time travel is not yet possible and those who are happy to attack our manager and players in vitriolic fashion with both barrels would do well to take a more pragmatic approach by joining the real world and leaving their Championship Manager frenzy behind. Sunday's trip to Old Trafford is going to be extremely tough, facing a very strong Untited side with injuries and suspensions keeping key players out, even a point must surely be seen as an oustanding result.

Friday 11 April 2008

Old Faces (2) - Paddy Vieira

I think everyone needs a bit of old fashioned R&R this week, especially with 1979Gooner on the warpath. So who better to drag out the archives than the mightiest warhorse that I have ever seen in Red & White - the one and only Paddy Vieira.

One of Wenger's first signings (with Remi Garde), Paddy joined in September 1996 for £3.5m from AC Milan. I think the Milanese are still bitter about it.
Its hard to do Paddy's career at Arsenal justice in a short blog. But this is why I loved him.

Patrick Vieira was an awesome player in the proper sense - he inspired wonder. At 6ft 3" he was something of a lanky giant in midfield and the immediate impression was that he might be some form of clone of Carlton Palmer.

However, his technical ability was simply awesome with quick feet, a deft first touch, a good passer, a good header and the finest two footed lunge the world has ever seen.

The late 1990's was the end of the hard-man era in the Premiership. Roy Keane at Manure, Vinny Jones winding down at Wimbledon, Neil Ruddock eating pies at West Ham etc etc. Vieira was not cut of the same Anglo Saxon cloth as his contemporaries, but he recognised a cunt when he saw one and was more than happy to kick it in the head. The head-to-heads with Roy Keane were simply awesome and I don't think the Premiership has been as good since then.

Arsenal's leader and Captain after Tony Adams (the legend) retired in 2002 to shag Caprice, Paddy scored 34 times for Arsenal in 407 appearances. However, the statistic that you won't find is the number of times during those 407 games that the entire Arsenal team, the following supporters at the ground, watching on the TV or listening on the radio, looked to the mighty Vieira for inspiration and leadership.

He was a sensational athlete who was as good in the 90th minute as he was the 1st. Tons of stamina and good acceleration meant that when Paddy picked the ball up with space in front of him, even on the edge of his own box, the entire Arsenal faithful would raise the roof in anticipation of the cavalry charge that was about to be unleashed.

Always happy to court controversy, Paddy never accepted losing and picked up 9 red cards whilst at Arsenal. The press loved and hated him in equal measures. ManUre, Chelsea and Real Madrid all made huge public efforts to sign him but failed. Opposing fans were unanimous in their public hatred and private admiration. Even whilst Adams was still at the club, Patrick Vieira became The Arsenal, woven into the very fabric of the club.

Wenger felt that Paddy's abilities were perhaps fading by 2005, when aged 29, and sold Paddy to Juventus for £13.7m in the summer of 2005. No doubt the emergence of Fabregas as a young player was also pivotal in Arsene's decision.

Fittingly, perhaps, Paddy's final act in an Arsenal shirt was to score the winning penalty against ManUre in 2005. A true Arsenal hero.

Thursday 10 April 2008

Nail on head Mr Palmer

I am admittedly an opinionated git, but I do try to be as fair and admit when people have got things right, and in this case Myles Palmer has hit the nail on the head, speaking of the Babel penalty:

"Babel cut across Toure, looking for contact.When there was no contact, other than Fabregas grabbing his hand just outside the box, Babel swung his right arm round to hit Toure on the neck, then twisted his body through 180 degrees so that his left arm went round Toure's body on the other side, then went down - and 40,000 scousers shouted "Penalty!" It was a Kop penalty, just likes scores of other Kop penalties over the years."

I too, have watched the Babel incident again, and Myles Palmer is spot on. Babel throws his right arm backwards and then his left arm backwards to hit Toure. When one is sprinting it is most unusual and unnatural to move one's arms backwards in this manner. Babel played for the penalty, instead of steaming ahead and going for the ball, he slowed down and played for the contact, he had seen that Gallas had his run cut off.

The movements of his arms give it away, they are just so unnatural, that's not how one moves when sprinting full steam ahead for the ball. It just goes to show how very skillful players are these days at conning referees, one can't blame the referee, it only becomes obvious upon detailed repeated analysis of the footage. The Argentinians would be proud.

Reason over reactionism

Obviously a lot of people are angry and frustrated after Tuesday's Champion's League exit, however in my mind this does excuse some of the slightly reactionary responses from a minority of Arsenal fans. The margins between success and failure are very small, a refereeing decision or the width of a post can be the difference between success and failure, between tactical genius and ineptitude. It is tempting to lash out and make a few easy scapegoats for our failure, but that it not something that I choose to do.

It seems to be widely acknowledged by fans that we need to strengthen the squad in the summer and that we need more penetration and goals from the wide midfield. However I don't think many would argue that this season hasn't been a significant improvement upon the last couple, with it being the first team that we've sustained a title challenge almost until the very death. The criticism that Emmanuel Adebayor has come in for has been over the top, the man has scored at a rate of over 2 in 3 in the league with many coming away from home. While Emmanuel Eboue has become the convenient scapegoat for all our failings, his performances and end product have been rather poor this season, but a little perspective wouldn't go amiss. Ironically although he brought a tear to some peoples' eyes on Tuesday, he didn't have that bad a game.

It appears that some Arsenal fans see things in ultra black and white, you're either completely happy with this season's results or you must join in with their chorus of discontent, there is no middle ground:

"Can you imagine a real Arsenal fan being happy with this season and no silverware, I have a theory, I don’t think they are real fans, I think they’re spuds pretending to be gooners, or other blogs, I know two of them are, that’s a fact."

I'm not happy that we've won nothing, but on the other hand in the cold light of day I can see than improvements have been made, the team is growing and that with the right additions, next year may have great potential. But one can never guarantee success in football, despite what some may say, even when the jig saw is perfectly assembled it may be wrecked by a run of serious injuries or a few bad pieces of luck.

It appears that some people cannot deal with those who disagree with their opinion and then express this difference politely. Apparently my input was threatening the happiness of this particular blog, strange that, go and have a read yourselves, as I can only see one side dishing out the offensive abuse rather than politely engaging in the Arsenal debate. As the owner of Le Grove says, we don't reside in Stalin's Soviet Union; so why do they then censor comments on their blog when they are neither rude or offensive, but simply expressing an opinion that Le Grove does not agree with? I sense a small amount of inconsistency creeping into their argument, criticism is a one way street for them, they can dish it out but they can't take it themselves:

"Difference of opinion fine, arguing not fine."

Effectively 'arguing' is only defined as arguing by Le Grove when it is something that disagrees with their stance, however it is called a 'difference of opinion' when they argue their line. It's a great shame as I agree with a lot of their stuff, I just cannot see why they feel the need to shut off debate in this way. Apparently it was threatening of me to say that I would reproduce some comments here that I had censored on Le Grove, so here they are, as I have now been banned without any adequate explanation:

"I wouldn't say I've taken the high ground, I just haven't resorted to abusive language as some have, personally I find the abusive language more offensive than remaining polite.

Basically it's fine for those who agree with your opinion to be argumentative as they say what you want to hear, but anyone who disagrees with your opinion cannot even do this politely, I think this is unfair.

Obviously you are perfectly entitled to keep your blog to the people that you want to keep it to, however if you treat different opinion like this, when politely expressed, then you are just going to become a very reactionary group who have closed themselves off from criticism. You see it as your right to criticise Arsene, how can you justify that you should be exempt from politely expressed reasoned criticism?

Jimbo and myself have just been expressing our opinion in a very calm and sensible way, and we've taken a lot of abuse on the chin without reacting to it.

I don't think myself and Jimbo are the problem. Perhaps the problem is a little closer to home.

I am very happy to minimise my future input, but I would appreciate it if you would post this, otherwise it may be reproduced elsewhere."

If anyone wants to respond of comment on any of the above, then feel free, you won't be censored or barred for choosing to disagree with my opinion. Everyone is entitled to express their opinion, provided that it remains within the limits of decency, and I don't mind being called an argumentative twat occasionally.

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Nails. And Stuff.

Ok. Everyone gets a go today and spleens are rising. K-Man makes some good points below and this started off as a comment, but got a bit out of hand, and since I like to share my art with the masses... blah, blah, blah....

(4-5-1) I tend to agree that 4-5-1 is a bad thing but dropping the second striker wide left is a tricky one. In my mind that is a 4-4-2 formation with two recognised strikers. The complaint, as I understood it, is playing 5 midfielders and only a lone striker. I actually quite like RVP dropping wide as his delivery is awesome. Its often where RVP plays for Holland. I think this would also suit Walcott, but agree Eduardo struggled with it and has to play in the middle. I also quite like the idea of Ade, RVP and Theo up top in some form of 4-3-3, but I can't work out the midfield.

(Defending) This is where it all went wrong...

Re Gallas and Toure, again I find that a hard one. I have posted before that I think the current formation at the back is our best one available during Sagna's absence. However, whilst Big Phil lost Hyppia for the header last night, there are moments when Kolo looks very fragile at the back. The Gerrard goal in the first leg was poor defending from Eboue and Toure. We expect it from Eboue but not from Kolo.

Second leg, two long balls between Gallas and Toure had our defence in ruins. The first was unopposed by Gallas and Toure, bounced over Senderos who was tracking back, and eventually fell for Torres (el divo) who had time and space to compose himself, come inside Senderos and pick his spot between the four - YES FOUR - arsenal players who had dropped off him and lined up along the six yard box. Good finish but shit defending.

The second was straight from the re-start, straight to Babel, missed by Gallas and Toure, bounced over everyone and Babel goes down in a heap for a penalty. Can we please keep a lead for more than a minute?

Any long balls we pumped to Ade were mopped up by Hyppia and Svcrotum (or whatever his name is), one of whom attacked the ball in the air whilst the other stood on Ade. Good dirty defending that is almost always a foul but rarely given. I cannot think of a single ball we hit that was allowed to bounce outside the Liverpool box (or not collected directly by Reina). Carragher and Hyppia knock nails into wood with their heads for the sheer joy of it.

So, do I agree we need some big ugly centre back? No, not really. What I think is that we need to concentrate on defending as a unit, attacking the first ball like we mean it and getting to the second ball as if it was wrapped in gold and covered in pretty ribbons for the winner.

Think what Keown used to be like. Or Adams. Or Bould. (but not Andy Linegan, he was shit). Those guys loved heading it, loved getting in the face of the opposition and they worked as a pack. Lee Dixon and Nutty were not noted for their subtlety either. If you gave those guys a lead at Anfield there would be blood on the pitch before the Scouse scored.

I've got no problem with Senderos getting skinned by Torres. I just want the 3 other defenders to kick Torres in the face when he tried to shoot, instead of backing off like scared girls. John Terry would have kicked Torres in the face because John Terry is a cunt and he loves kicking strikers. Keown would have removed Torres' head clean from his spindly shoulders.

We haven't had enough red cards this season. Not enough "clever defending". We've missed that Tony Adams 'wincer' when you knew he was just going to take man, ball, linesman and the first three rows of the crowd. You could see it coming from miles. Loved it.

John Terry, for his numerous faults, is so absolutely committed to his defending. As is Carvalho. With those two to pick from, I'm not that surprised that Mourinho stuck Gallas at left back. If Toure played for Chelsea, he would be like Essien, either told to kick people in midfield or play at full back. No chance that Toure would play centre back for Mourinho.

Mourinho made people watch Colin Hendry training videos for hours. There were two of them. The first was called "Nutting Stuff" the second called "Kicking Stuff". A great watch and well worth it if you see them on ebay. Woodgate only watched Casualty and the Flying Doctors. If Woodgate was at Chelsea, Mourinho would have sent him home to play on Winston Bogarde's Playstation.

So what do we do. Well, its quite simple - we need to buy Kolo and Gallas a plank of wood and some nails. We won't get better at the back until those two can put Ikea furniture together just with their heads.

Or we need to ban the long ball in the modern game. Its just not fair on poor little us.

I'm going for a lie down.

The dust settles

Given the rather fickle reaction to the Anfield loss from some Gooners, I am rather amazed that we are so near the top of the league with so many useless players in the side, something doesn't quite add up, does it? It's almost more painful the day after, as the significance of any big defeat like this takes a bit of time to sink in. Kole has been speaking of that 'penalty':

"It was a really tight game and we were playing well," he said. "We came back into it and then Liverpool got a penalty which was really hard to accept.

"The referee gave the foul against me, but I just moved away from him and I think Cesc caught his hand maybe, which was outside the area anyway. But that is the game and the referee has given the penalty. What can you do?

"We are all really disappointed. We just need to think about the Premier League now and see how far we can go in that."

Kole sums it up nicely, we have to get on with things, Manu certainly won't show us any sympathy on Sunday. The Sun has completed misrepresented Gael Clichy's postmatch comments, Clichy says it was 'ridiculous' that we conceded the third so quickly, the Sun think this means that Clichy has called his team mates 'ridiculous', the Sun is full of shit. Arsene Wenger has also been fairly pragmatic and said this when talking of poor refereeing decisions:

"I believe that we have to live with that and sometimes you have to swallow it. It is like that but it is very difficult to understand it because it was not a penalty tonight. I watched it clearly again. Last week [the challenge on Hleb] was a real penalty but we have to accept it. As well we have to accept in a game like that where we had so much control, but we were too naive. We lacked a little bit of maturity defensively."

We have to swallow this bitter pill. I have to say I'm impressed with Arsene's reaction as he does acknowledge the poor defending and naivety that contributed to our demise, he most definitely does not have his head in the sand. Of note Pieter Vink, the referee from the first leg, has been man enough to apologise to Arsene Wenger for not awarding a deserved penalty for a foul on Alex Hleb.

We need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get up for a battle at Old Trafford. There should be no better motivator than a game against our biggest rivals, and it's a chance for a few of our players to prove that they are worth their first team place for next season. Come on you gunners.

Where from here?

1979gooner has summed up the match last night very well so I won't spend too long on that. My view was that Liverpool had the luck over the two legs and you need some luck to win the Champions League. We played very well and some of the players that regularly take a knocking on this blog actually deserve some praise. Diaby worked very hard, passed well and scored a good goal - if only he could keep up some consistency, he clearly has the talent. Eboue has been much maligned by us Arsenal fans this season but had a solid game, particularly in the first half - he even tracked back to help out Toure on several occasions.

We all hope that we can go to Old Trafford and get a win this weekend but realistically our season is now over. The question I would like to pose is, if Wenger had his time again, would he have done anything different this season?

1. 4-5-1 - Wenger has clearly taken more of a shine to this formation this season. Undoubtedly it worked well for us in the Champions League run of 2006 but that was in a very different team that relied on the pace of Henry and Reyes. I don't think it has suited us that well this season. Granted it can work well when away from home e.g. Milan, but to play this formation at home in the Premiership? I think it is too cautious. At home we should be a 4-4-2 team.

2. Old Trafford - should we have put out such a weak side against Man Poo and the Scum in the FA Cup and Carling Cup.? Those defeats knocked our confidence badly and we have only played well in fits and starts since those defeats. However, Wenger clearly felt that some of our players needed a rest.

3. January transfer window - should Wenger have bought one or two players to freshen a squad that is much smaller than our rivals and had injuries to a couple of key players? I know many authors on this blog have disagreed but I do think Woodgate might have been a good signing - he is a better defender than Senderos and would surely have done better at Anfield last night. It is all very well having confidence in your players but an extra signing might have actually given the squad a confidence boost.

4. Walcott - surely after his extraordinary run last night and several other eye catching cameos over recent weeks we must question why Theo hasn't had more of a chance. This is particularly so when we have missed RVP for most of the season and Eboue has produced next to nothing in terms of goals and assists.

I am one of Wenger's biggest fans and I hate those who now question his position. He is the man to take us forward for years to come. What I do think is that he must accept that he may have made a few mistakes this season. Those mistakes probably may not have cost us the title but they may have made a difference. Will he learn from them? I expect so. Incidentally the rumours linking us to Ben Arfa are becoming more and more widespread. Wenger has gone on record as saying he is a player that interests him. I think he would be an excellent signing - he has pace, a good left foot and is a typical Arsenal player - comfortable on the ball with good movement.

I leave you with the excellent new chant: "Adebayor's, Adebayor's, Gerard's baby is Adebayor's" - it's the only thing giving me any consolation this morning.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

A tale of two penalties

I'm proud of the lads, and I'm proud to be an Arsenal fan, they all worked their cotton socks off tonight and gave it all for the team. They displayed immaculate discipline, there was no play acting or diving from our boys, all eleven men tried to stay on their feet at all times, rather than taking the easy option of a dramatic dive to the turf. While the same could certainly not be said about Liverpool.

Arsene started with the much maligned Eboue on the right of a midfield five, Diaby on the left, while Liverpool lined up with a standard 4-4-2 with Crouch and Torres up front. We started on song at a quick tempo, Liverpool look like a pub team, the ball was zipped around at pace, the passing was crisp and precise, this was the Arsenal we all wanted to see. Diaby thumped in a low rocket at the near post to put us one nil up, the dominance continued but Liverpool held firm. Hyppia scored with a bullet header as he was left in far too much space 12 yards out from a corner. As the half went on Liverpool continued to grind and came into the game a little more, although creating nothing clear cut they menaced with some dangerous runs in behind our full backs.

Kuuyt tried to con the referee with an embarrassing dive in the penalty box when Diaby had not touched him, but the referee saw through his tricks. Mascherano had earlier tried a dive himself and had been lucky to to go into the book for a very bad late tackle on the Flamster, who unfortunately had to go off just before half time with an ankle sprain. It has not been our season for injuries at key moments.

The second half was more evenly balanced, as the referee decided to ignore Liverpool's rather over physical pressing tactics, quite how blatant kicks from behind were not seen as fouls is only known by the referee. Liverpool pressured but didn't create much clear cut. Eboue made a neat run to be fed in on the right hand side of the box, he beat his man and was clipped, but stayed on his feet having lost his balance and sliced the cross out.

Another seemingly harmless long ball got through to Torres, who was given far too much time and space to turn when only ten yards out, he then crashed the ball into the top corner, his only meaningful contribution to the game other than several pathetic acts of gamesmanship that bordered on cheating; I really have lost all respect that I ever had for him having seen his play acting in the last few games. Moments later Adebayor missed a great chance when one on one with Reina, electing to shoot first time when he surely had time to take a touch.

Then the moment of the game for me, Walcott broke through at high speed, avoiding two cynical attempts at rubgy tackles from Arbeloa and Mascherano. He broke clear on the right and squared expertly for Adebayor to slot home into the empty net. We were going through at this point, 2-2 things stood, the away goals were going to be vital.

Then the penalty, or the penalty that should not have been. Seconds after our brilliant equaliser, Babel cut inside Toure, Toure clipped Babel as he attempted to get around Babel, only the most minimal of contact was made; Babel stayed on his feet but thought about going down, there was no further contact, he then slowed and fell down. The referee pointed to the spot despite not being in the greatest position to see the nature of any contact made, a 'dodgy' penalty according to Arsene, Gerrard dispatched it, 3-2 Liverpool.

Liverpool got another on the break to make it an extremely flattering 4-2, but the game was decided by yet another poor refereeing deicsion. At best it was a very soft penalty, at worst it was a dive from Babel, but in the context of the two matches it was a travesty. Only one side tried to play football in both legs, and only one side tried to stay on their feet when the challenges rained in. Mascherano summed up Liverpool for me, he did three appalling tackles tonight and escaped a booking on each occassion, he tried to rugby tackle Theo but was too slow, he tried a shocking dive right in front of the referee but was told to get up, he is Mr Liverpool under Benitez's charge.

There were many causal factors in our defeat, some of our players certainly have their faults, however I cannot fault the effort or ethic of any of our boys tonight. I would like to be more congratulatory towards Liverpool's victory, but I cannot given the manner of it. They were second best on a footballing level, they were simply fortunate that the big decisions went their way, while some of their players did the very opposite of covering themselves in glory. I can tell you if it was Eboue that had gone down as Babel did for the penatly, the scouse chorus would not be that of 'clear penalty', it would something far less complementary. If Adebayor had thrown himself around as Torres did tonight, I am sure the experts would be keen pass their judgement, as it was it was simply ignored. It was a tale of two penalties, and a tale of rank inconsistency and double standards. As Arsene says there is a sense of injustice in the air.

Sunday 6 April 2008

What a terrible season

It's amazing how our season has suddenly gone from being so amazing to so terribly awful in just a few weeks. Some people seem to see events through some rather strange lenses, and as a result some rather ridiculous comments emerge from one's fellow Arsenal fan.

It has been a terrible season, challenging for the title when we had been written off by the media before a ball had even been kicked, a good run with some excellent kids in the Carling cup and a solid run in the Champion's league including an awesome away win in Milan against the reigning champions, the FA cup was indeed best forgotten.

Suddenly after dropping a few points, admittedly points that we should not have dropped, this season is now seen by some as a dismal failure, such a failure that they think Arsene is taking things for granted, such a failure that they feel they should abuse Arsenal players when they play badly, and such a failure that life is no longer worth living. My message to these mighty Arsenal fans?

Get a grip man, use your grey cells to put these recent events in context, support your players and club when you attend games, after all it does no one but the opposition good to jeer Arsenal players, and if you are going to criticise the manager and the players, then do it politely, rationally and sensibly.

Eboue is not the spawn of satan, he is not evil, he does not need to be shot, he is just not a very good right midfielder. He's still not a bad player to have in the squad as backup for Bacary Sagna. I don't think he'll play better if you abuse him, most likely he won't notice as he's not the sharpest tool in the box.

Ade needs to be defended too, he works his socks off game in game out, has banged in 19 goals in 30 games in the league giving him a strike rate of 0.67, but still some people think he's not done enough. I just wonder where we'll find this striker that these fantasisers are after, a man who scores every game, works tirelessly for the team, has the touch of Bergkamp with the speed of Henry, the height of Crouch, the power of Drogba, the quick feet of Ronaldo, you get the picture.

We all have our own opinions as to why this season has gone pear shaped; undoubtedly several key refereeing decisions, unfortunate injuries resulting in the long absences of several key players and a squad that was too thin on the ground to challenge on all fronts have all impacted upon events.

I hate to be positive when so many are all doom and gloom, but next year the young players will all be a year older and wiser, Carlos Vela will be like a new top notch signing and Eduardo looks to be making an excellent recovery. The club is in excellent financial health, partly because Arsene hasn't felt obliged to pander to fans by signing big money players simply for the sake of it, we also have some excellent young talents emerging and we will still have one of the best managers around in charge. Who knows we might even have a slightly less terrible season?

Even if we do have a geuinely terrible season, then it does not give Arsenal fans the excuse to behave like glory hunting spoilt brats who are happy to abuse their own players and managers at the drop of a hat. Some people seem to have forgotten what it means to be a football 'supporter', I just wish they would get behind the boys, it just doesn't help the Arsenal if fans morph into glory supporting manu fans whenever the going gets a little tough.