Sunday 29 March 2009

Passing the time

So Ade has scored for Togo after some cracking Cameroon defending, RVP also got in on the goalscoring act with an unchallenged header against the mighty Scotland, England managed to defeat the mighty Slovakia, I can hardly contain my excitement, what a fine weekend of international football, who needs the Premiership? If only the Premership was run as nobly as the international game is run by the highly honest and reputable Sepp Blatter:

"He is working to make a lot of money and I'm working to have football as a social, cultural event around the world, being a school of life, bringing hope, bringing emotions"

Enough of the sarcasm, the above statement by Blatter is a huge steaming pile of festering turd, dishonest and stinking to its core. The Premiership does bring in a lot of money because it's bloody excellent to watch, it's the most exciting football around, the same can certainly not be said about the international game these days. The international footballing calendar is full of meaningless games, and even the major tournaments are full of weak sides and more meaningless games, even the best games are nowhere near the best Champions league game quality. The only thing FIFA have helped produce under your command is a never ending stream of tedious mundane football, sort our your own house before you start insulting your neighbour's superior mansion.

The Poos of the Turds have been generating more Cesc headlines out of nothing, simply magical journalism from them again, Arseblogger has it spot on with his analysis. The pathetic spitgate flobs on, with Sky trying to dig up more cat turds every week as they have nothing else interesting to talk about. Cesc was interviewed the other day and the annoying hack interviewing him kept asking him rather stupid leading questions about Hull's accusations, Cesc sidestepped all of them very nicely but this didn't stop Sky trying to spin it out into another lame story. The fat Hull chairman Paul Duffen has been rather too keen to comment on events in the media recently. Given the number of times Phil Brown has changed his story already and Hull's failure to submit their 'evidence/lies' on time, it does appear a bit rich that this fatty seems to think the FA's inquiry is sure to find that 'something took place', whatever that means. I think I'm just a bit too angry today.

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Win an Arsenal shirt competition

Firstly my kind thanks go to for kindly donating the pricely sum of one Arsenal shirt as the prize to this slightly bizarre and random competition of my own creation. The full range of Arsenal merchandise available at can be seen here, if you are lucky enough to win then they may even give you something other than the standard home shirt if you ask them really nicely and promise to tell all your friends of the excellent service that Soccerpro offers, it really is quite a brilliant service, great merchandise at such reasonable prices (Stop the shameless plugging you twat. Ed.)

To enter the competition either send me ( a humorous poem or send me a caption to the above photograph of the esteemed Alastair Campbell and the lovely Sir Alex Ferguson. Whichever I find the most amusing shall win, the leading poem so far is this sterling little effort about the mighty Emmanuel Eboue:

"Here’s a little Eboue themed version of the Sinatra classic – “My Way”. I like to call it “The Eb-Way”;

And now, Arshavin’s here;
Eboue may face the final curtain.
But again, the crowd will cheer,
They’ve only come to see Eboue

Eboue dived, in gay Paris.
He even scored at Highbury;
And more, much more than this,
He did it The Eb-Way.

Regrets, Eboue’s had a few;
But in Le Boss, he found a partner.
So when the Gooners boo,
He’ll always be Arsene’s Pass Master.

Eboue danced some crazy dance;
Fell over on so many touchlines,
But more, much more than this,
He did it The Eb-Way.

Yes, there were times, Im sure you knew
The Emirates crowd were heard to boo.
They never want Eboue to shoot,
So he put on his Tigger-suit;
And did it the Eb-Way.

Eboue laughed, Eboue cried.

When taken off, against Wigan,
And now, the tears have dried,
Eboue’s back – of this we’re certain .

To think, they say he’s cack;
And others would have turned their back,,
But not - not Eboue,
he did it the Eb-Way.

Cos if you take, my Eboue away
And for the Arse he’ll never play
To do the things only Eboues do;
To hear the cheers, when all are boos.
The record shows he took the blows -
And did it the Eb-Way!"

Tuesday 24 March 2009

Flash Diaby and chums

Seeing as I'm off work at the moment I thought I'd use my time productively to produce a colourful image containing some of our favourite football heroes, I can hear 'don't give up the day job' echoing around cyberspace already. It's a good effort for a three year old anyway.

The international break is now upon us, so we can be guaranteed some rather substandard football, the typical chorus of praise for anyone with a criminal conviction in the England football team and maybe Blatter or Platini inventing some new rules to try to scupper the English game. I can't be bothered with international football, so I thought why not take stock and reassess the squad as it stands.

In terms of goalkeepers I think we have a top notch number 1 in Almunia and an excellent understudy in Fabianski. If Gallas stays then with him, Kolo and Djourou we have three solid centre backs, while Clichy and Sagna are both top full backs, and Gibbs has shown some promise as back up. Personally I don't think any major surgery is required at the back, arguably our midfield has been at fault on more occasions than the defence by not helping out and shielding our back four.

The midfield is the area of great interest for me. Offensively we now have the options to dismantle any defence known to man, in Walcott, Nasri, Arshavin, Fabregas we have top attacking talent, while the likes of Eboue, Vela, Wilshere and Merida provide a varied mixture of back up.

Defensively we have a bit of a problem. Song is our only 'defensive' midfielder, while Diaby is possibly the only other midfielder who can defend. Song has performed admirably in recent weeks and if he continues in this vein, he may prove his doubters wrong, however even if he does this can we have a squad which contains just one truly defensive player? Diaby seems to have developed in his recent run of games, if he can become mroe consistent then he can be a great all round driving force in the centre of the park. Denilson has also developed well over the season, a neat and tidy ball player with discipline, but is he really anything more than a poor man's Cesc? Ramsey has potential but is again more in the Cesc mould. Overall I just don't think we have the right balance in this area. The likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong may start pushing for places sooner rather than later, do not forget.

Up top we have an abundance of riches again. RVP has stayed fit, if Adebayor puts the effort in then he is a great asset, Bendtner has come on leaps and bounds, while Eduardo has the Midas touch. Young Carlos Vela is hardly a bad fifth choice forward, while there are other young talents waiting to come through.

If everyone is fit then most of the team picks itself, there are a few areas of contention, for example which of our three centre backs are the best partnership? which two strikers are the best pairing? The hardest area to call though appears to be the centre of midfield, picking two players here to give us enough solidity but also enough attacking craft is not easy. Denilson-Cesc would not work for me, not enough defensively and too similar to each other. Song on current form with Cesc would have to be as good as any, though if Diaby can play like he did against West Ham every week one could certainly see him partnering Cesc effectively in the future.

One thing that is clear is that the current competition for places is a very good thing. Realistically however there is no way in the world that we will be able to hold onto all these fantastic talents, some very hard choices will have to be made in the next couple of years. I find it hard to imagine that barring any major injuries we could keep Cesc, Diaby, Denilson, Song, Ramsey and Coquelin all happy in the same squad. To play devil's advocate, what would you say if 50 million was offered for Cesc in the summer?

Monday 23 March 2009

The lowest common denominator

The way the media selectively report the facts is hardly isolated to football, if any of you have an interest in science then Ben Goldacre at the Guardian is always excellent at pointing out lazy and irresponsible journalism. At least when it relates to football no one dies because of the media's sloppy standards, however when news relating to health is reported innaccurately in can quite easily result in people dying unnecessarily a la MMR scare for example.

However this is an Arsenal related site so I'm not going to bore you with talk about your prostates (pardon me if you're female and feel left out as you don't have one). I just happened to notice an interview with Nic Bendtner that was covered by Arsenal Mania at the end of last week, for some strange reason the English press didn't cover his comments at all:

"That is still hard for me to understand, and perhaps because I am young I am still making mistakes with how I speak to the press in England, because they are looking to trick you and cause a problem with your team mates and fans more often than they are trying to report the facts of the sport.

"It is nothing like I have seen before, but perhaps if I was older I would know to stay away from certain newspapers.

"Sweden is like Denmark, probably too polite to make up rubbish about players but in England it is not the same, anyone can print what they want and the truth is not so important. But I am learning this just as I am learning on the field also.

"At the end of the day, people will believe what they want and I try not to be distracted too much by these things, although it is not encouraging when you hear the fans boo you or complain because of a missed pass or shot."

Honest and spot on Mr Bendtner. The behaviour of such journalists is not just unprofessional, it is a downright embarassment. Obviously on the day that the mighty Jade Goody is honoured with a six page special in the brilliant Sun newspaper, it would not be fair to accuse the English media of residing in the gutter and writing any old dishonest drivel to make money, however I am not a fair person and I would like to accuse them of precisely that on this very day.

Call me hypocritical, I can be too quick to criticise sometimes, however what I will never do is deliberately misrepresent the truth to further my own interests. The media's response to Phil Brown's virtual breakdown last week was another good example of the exploitative vultures that they are, never let the facts get in the way of a good story; Myles Palmer summarises events succinctly here and gets across the rather sad human element to the story that the media are so keen to avoid. Do not believe all you read in the press, let the facts do the talking and make your own minds up, the problem these days is that our sad excuse for journalists are making it harder and harder to see the facts beneath an ever expanding sea of dishonest slurry.

Sunday 22 March 2009

Toon destroyed

Like Arseblogger the poor quality stream made it tricky for me to get a great picture of the first half, I was also rather compromised by something a little closer to home which meant I had to be in close proximity of the toilet, I won't go into too many details on that front though.

The thing that stood out for me though, other than our scintillating attacking football in the second half, was Mark Halsey's truly pathetic refereeing. Some people seem to think that it's good common sense refereeing to never get your cards out, but frankly these people are nothing other than morons. Halsey is completely unable to control a football match. His reluctance to punish serious foul play and numerous cynical fouls allowed Newcastle's cheating to prosper, making this a much trickier game that it should have been with the rules properly enforced.

Halsey's prolific incompetence was perfectly demonstrated by his failure to get any card out for a quite deliberate forearm smash by Steven Taylor on Andrei Arshavin's face, replays show rather conclusively what a premeditated and unpleasantly violent act this was, however the great Halsey saw the offence and kept his cards firmly within his cowardly pocket. In fact almost every single time an Arsenal player got past a Newcastle player they were tripped or yanked back, this was demonstrated perfectly when Ryan Taylor cynically tugged back Clichy twice in quick succession, again a free kick was given but no card, it's simply incompetent to allow this kind of cheating to go unpunished.

The first half was a rather bitty affair on many fronts, the fact that Newcastle were allowed to play the man as a ball routinely made it rather hard to retain possession. Other than a rather soft penalty decision Newcastle didn't create much clear cut, while Bendtner and Van Persie both forced excellent saves from Steve Harper.

The second half came to life after Bendtner scored with an excellent header from the free kick following Clichy's recurrent attempted shirt removals. Newcastle equalised pretty much straight away, Gallas failing to clear and Martins expertly poking the ball into the bottom corner leaving Almunia with no chance. Then our class told, there was a certain poetic justice that the filthy Steven Taylor had limped off to the touchline to leave Newcastle with just ten men on the pitch when Diaby strode clear after a slick one two and finished clinically into the roof of the net. It didn't take long for Nasri to slot a stinger past Harper's near post to make it 3-1.

It could have easily been five of six in the end, Harper made a couple of excellent saves, while some rather annoying selfishness from Van Persie saw him twice ignore Bendtner who was in a much better position to score, Diaby also had time to crack a fierce left footed drive firmly against Harper's left hand post. Overall a convincing win, but being a bit of stubborn git I was left happy bit a bit frustrated at Halsey's rank incompetence and inability to control a game of football. Most of the time the better side will come through games like this, however idiots like Halsey do inevitably mean that cloggers like Newcastle have a much better chance of getting something from games like this than they should do. As has been noted elsewhere Newcastle's 'great supporters' were somewhat absent by the end of the game, it does leave one to wonder what these fickle fans have done to deserve their esteemed reputation?

Friday 20 March 2009

The media manure factory

The utter tripe that has been faithfully swallowed by certain sections of the media in recent days has beggared belief. This nonsense in the Mirror typifies the kind of journalism on offer these days, even a three year old without a brain would be ashamed:

"However, as footage from a Champions League tie with Bayern Munich appears to prove, not only has Fabregas apparently spat at a player on a football field, he also received a yellow card for his troubles."

Arseblogger covers these kind of issues brilliantly in this week's Arsecast, it really is essential listening. The Ballack incident really does sum it all up beautifully, some idiot has simply misinterpreted a youtube video, added 2 and 2 to make seven, then hey presto a massive incident is made retrospectively of something that was nothing at the time. It has even gone as far as the Bayern director of communications Markus Hoerwick having to come to Cecs's defence by stating that nothing at all happened. The clear xenophobic trend in the press is also rather distasteful, but we all know that don't we.

The Newcastle game tomorrow is important, with Villa facing another tricky fixture there is a chance of opening up a bit of a gap. Bendtner must surely start, while it's anyone's guess as to who will be rotated in the midfield and defence. Personally I'd like to see Walcott and Arshavin continue to give us the pace and width, while it will two of Song/Diaby/Denilson in the midfield, and two of Djourou/Toure/Gallas in the centre of defence. One thing that has been troubling me lately is the slightly patchy form of our once outstanding full backs, maybe I'm expecting too much but I do think that Clichy and Sagna have got some real room for improving their recent performances.

Thursday 19 March 2009

A poem for Phil Brown

It's a great shame that the whipping of your dour football team,
has been clouded by the imaginary events that have been vented from your spleen.
Sometimes it is much harder to take defeat like a man,
even if losing was not part of Hull's great world dominating masterplan.

The match itself saw your team fight with all their might,
even if some of the delaying tactics were somewhat less than being polite.
So why not concentrate on what you and your team have achieved,
rather than flying off the handle and subjecting the public to a lunatic on heat.

I know you see yourself as the headset wearing big daddy of the world,
but criticising the opposition's fashion sense does seem more than bit absurd.
While it also appears that your memory may be playing tricks on you,
next you'll be saying that Fat Sam is a slim altruist who comes from Timbuktu.

All that has passed your lips in recent days smells distinctly of sour grapes,
in contrast our 'whinging' Arsene has behaved with a great dignity and grace.
Whatever the motives are behind your transformation into a deranged freak,
I hope you learn the valuable lesson that it pays to think before you speak.

Wednesday 18 March 2009

Let Phil Brown do the talking

It's never a bad tactic to let the dust settle before commenting, certainly those who shoot from the hip without thinking are rather prone to making themselves appear first class tits. Obviously this statement is in no way related to Phil Brown's comments following Hull's comprehensive defeat at the Emirates yesterday. Here are some of Phil gems from the last 24 hours:

"Arsène Wenger's got my goalkeeper [Boaz Myhill] booked"

"Our gameplan wasn't time-wasting."

"Arsene never shakes my hand."

At the post match press conference Brown also specifically stated that Arsene didn't shake his hand after the 2-1 victory by Hull at the Emirates earlier this season. This is very strange given that there is rather clear photographic evidence to prove Brown completely wrong. Brown's untruths have also been excellently exposed by Arsespeak here. Goodplaya's summary hits the nail firmly on the head.

The evidence can be seen and heard directly here from Brown in the post match interview, here from Brown on the BBC today and here from Arsene following the match. Brown's comments on Fabregas today on the BBC deserve a special mention as they give his game away, here are Brown's issues as regards Cesc, directly quoted from the horse's mouth:

"One, being on the pitch after the game, errr, whether there's a ruling against that I've no idea but he had no right to be on there......"

"Two, dressed in the manner in which he was dressed"

"Three, ummm, pictures in the national press verify the aggression he was showing towards players and staff after the game"

"I could go on but I'm not one for crying over spilt milk."

I don't have time to point out every single error in Brown's words, but it is clear that the man has lost the plot completely, God, he's even commenting on Cecs's dress sense. At the post match interview he didn't look up, he was looking at the floor and away from the camera, then today he came across as being rather agitated and manic, he has lost any degree of composure. He also didn't know who else saw the alleged spitting incident, surely something he would have known if he had genuinely witnessed it?

Brown also became very very aggressive on several occasions when being interviewed, listen to his deranged rambling for yourself here. He was unpleasantly over aggressive at times and asked the interviewer how dare he question his integrity? This kind of aggression is often defensive when someone knows they are close to being caught out. In the interview today Brown had also forgotten details of what he had said in the heat of the moment, the man has lost the plot.

This story is fast becoming a mountain when it should be just a mole hill. Even if one assumes that Cesc is guilty of spitting on the floor, what a massive over reaction this all has been. The headlines should be about Arsenal deservedly beating a Hull side that employed some rather dubious unsportsmanlike tactics. Phil Brown has not taken defeat well, one can't help but think that if Arsene Wenger had spectacularly lost the plot after a game in such fashion he would get nailed in the media as a 'whinger' and as a 'sore loser'. Phil Brown has covered himself in the opposite of glory, he is behaving like a man that should be caged in an asylum, as a Hull fan I would be deeply embarrassed. Congratulations to Arsene for rising above Brown's level and showing his genuine class as a human being.

Magic Midgets

I am not going to mention Phil Browm's post-match sideshow that is covering the back pages this morning. Crap. I already did. Well, I won't again.

Instead, I want to spend a moment or two basking in the warm sunshine of our first FA Cup semi-final for four years. There is something magical about the cup competitions, and the FA Cup in particular, and although the FA Cup is the least important of the major trophies we compete for (I'm ignoring the Carling Cup completely), it would be great to win it this year, particularly as we will have to beat Chelsea and in all likelihood ManUre to achieve that aim. That really would be an excellent result.

And I don't see any reason why we can't do it. I'll mention a couple of key players in a minute, but the reasons why Arsenal seem to be closing in on the good times again has a great deal to do with determination, teamwork and a positive frame of mind. That and a nice big dose of luck. Lovely, lovely, luck. Thank you linesman. You are a legend.

The crowd also played an important part last night. Noise levels dropped towards the end of the first half, Arsenal had not played great, and Hull had scored a ridiculous fluke of a goal (you won't see Phil Brown saying that in the papers either. Crap. Mentioned Phil Brown again). But the Emirates was on fine form for the second half and that, I think, really helped the players put in a terrific shift in the second half. Apart from one Geovanni fizzer that just missed the top right corner, Hull did virtually nothing in the second half. So well done to the 50,000 or so Gooners who made it to the stadium last night.

I have absolutely no doubts that we thoroughly deserved the win. But lets also give credit where its due. Hull are a well organised side that, despite being very good at persistent fouling, play relatively decent football and have several good players. Yes, their goal was hugely fortunately, but they defended like gladiators for a full hour after scoring and with 18 minutes left on the clock, I turned to 1979Gooner to say that this was now getting very sticky indeed. I would have been mighty pissed off to have gone out of the FA Cup had the roles been reversed over that last 18 minutes.

Thankfully though, by that stage, Bendtner was on the pitch and was putting in one of his super-sub routines. And sure enough, about 45 seconds later, Bendtner played a bit of pin-ball with about 3 Hull defenders on the right hand side of the box, somehow appeared through the melee with the ball at his feet, squared it beautifully to Arshavin, who laid it back on a plate for RVP to roof it. A top drawer goal and a great piece of unselfish play from Arshavin.

Indeed, the little Russian midget was magnificent throughout the game. One highlight, again in the second half, saw him trot at the Hull right back (Dawson I think), threatened to jink left/right a couple of times, and managed to cause Dawson to simply collapse in a heap on the ground. Quite amazing. Arshavin's passing is also absolutely top notch. Some of the slide-rule balls he played were so perfectly weighted that I think even Dennis Bergkamp would have been proud. Arshavin brings a dose of magic to the Arsenal team and he was central to a lot of what we did well last night.

I have no real idea how a lightweight midfield of Arshavin, Cesc, Nasri and Walcott could be blended, but it would be amazing if they could all play. Of course, we would never win a tackle or a header, and thats part of the problem.

The answer, I suspect, may lie in the developing power of Alex Song, who put in another excellent performance last night. Denilson has potential as well, but even with a water carrier behind Cesc in the middle, that still leaves Arshavin, Nasri and Walcott fighting for places on the wings. Whilst we can all have sleepless nights worrying about what Wenger's first XI might be, lets also remember that our injury record in recent years has been appalling, so that none of our top players have spent much time on the bench. And I suspect that Arsene's midget army of oompa-loompas is going to continue that good record for years to come.

And, just like Roma last Wednesday, the record books will not record the luck that got us through. Arsenal played well and thats the thing to focus on. We came back from a goal down and beat a team that were desperate to reach their day out at Wembley.

I can't wait to stuff Chelsea on 18 April. Its going to be great.

Sunday 15 March 2009

Win an Arsenal shirt: send me some poetic abuse

Once I have confirmation from the company involved I shall confirm the details of the small Arsenal related prize on offer, however I though I should first give you a heads up on what kind of competition I was going to plan.

One great pleasure of being a football supporter is learning to mock one's rivals and enemies, so I though a good competition would involve the penning of poetry to mock any enemies of Arsenal football club that one would care to choose.

The best poem of abuse will win the prize, it shall be judged by myself and Ted, so complete subjectivity can be guaranteed. It can be about anyone and it can be as short or long as you like. Just write your poetic abuse and send it to Just to get you started I have penned by own little poem which is intended to inspire you, as frankly how could you do worse than me?

Fat Sam is a walrus who's eaten all the pies,
and despite his open gob full of chewing gum he likes to think he's wise.
He has an evil penchant for creating anti-footballing teams,
while if a bung or two comes his way then he'll add it to his pile of beans.

Many a villain has prospered under his foul and rotten tutelage,
Nolan, Davies and El Hadj Diouf are just three of these useless sacks of shit.
He tells them to go out on the football field to dive, break legs and cheat,
and if the opposition should complain then Fat Sam's primitive brain will overheat.

But yesterday this unpleasant flabby Walrus well and truly met his match,
a young dymanic Arsenal side rammed his filth firmly back up his oversized pie hatch.
Big Fat Sam got taught a lesson from which he ought to have learnt,
don't mess with Arsene and his lads or else your hands will get burnt.

Saturday 14 March 2009

Sublime, bring out the superlatives

I'd be surprised if anyone could be negative after such a fine performance, other than fat Sam our course. Blackburn came to foul, cheat and niggle as all fat Sam teams do, so what a great pleasure it was to see them served up a good portion of roast fatty northern walrus with a side of humiliated onion bag dwelling ex-spud.

The early goal made a difference, Arshavin striking after an incisive bit of work from Walcott down the right flank, Theo certainly looks like he's been hard at work in the gym over the last few weeks, his pace and dynamism on the right side was truly electrifying today. Blackburn were then extremely fortunate to keep eleven men on the field and not concede a penalty, Warnock rugby tackled a clean through Walcott, stone wall pen, and the ref gave the free kick to Blackburn, truly moronic. Diouf, the vacuous cretin that he is, then tried to break Almunia's standing leg with a shocking late tackle which really should have seen him see red.

Song was imperious, Denilson effective, Arshavin awesome and Walcott like dynamite. Blackburn simply could not live with our tempo and pace all day long. The defence played very well, in particular I though Djourou and Toure looked very physical and strong against some big strong Blackburn forwards. The second goal came midway through the second half, a wonderful solo goal from our little Russian, some great footwork saw him cut inside his man and then cheekily roof the ball past fatty Robinson.

Eboue strode on to slot in two of his own, the first saw him rewarded with a tap in for following up Arshavin's initial effort that was parried by fatty Arbuckle, sorry Robinson. The second saw him slot home a slick spot kick after Vela had been crudely hacked down as he was about to shoot.

This was a demolition. If Bendtner had brought his shooting boots along then he could have easily grabbed himself another four goals, never mind, I don't want to dwell on negatives after such a great display. I'm just very pleased that everything is clicking at just the right time. We have an abundance of attacking options with Theo returning, alongside the new arrival the devastating Arshavin. Song has had his critics but today he was truly excellent, passing with a confident zip and winning tackle after tackle. I would also argue that the Djourou-Toure partnership has a great potential for bearing some ripe juicy fruit. We may just catch the red faced Scot yet!

Friday 13 March 2009

We came, we saw, we almost lost

Apologies that this match report is so late, but the world needed some justice today, and thankfully I was there to dispense it. All for a very reasonable fee. But here we go. Its the Roma match report, Ted stylee.

I believe it was Tigger who first sang the song "the wonderful thing about winning, is winning's a wonderful thing'. It was also Tigger who pointed out to everyone else in 100 acre wood that Eeyore (or whatever the fuck the donkey was called) was a miserable gobshite who should be boiled down and made into glue.

Obsinho and I thououghly enjoyed the trip to Rome. Its a quality place, truly one of the world's most beautiful cities, and with a great footballing history. Its an eclectic bunch who make these away European trips, a good deal of foreign Gooners (big shout out to the nutters from Denmark), a bunch of resting builders, and all of them legends to the core.

The overreaction to the Ultras was evident from the start. In my opinion, Italians are a generally predictable lot, and most of the threat is noise, posing, and pinching your missus arse when you are not looking. Or even when your are looking. Cos they like to demonstrate their machismo when they get the chance. We didn't see any trouble, there wasn't a bad atmosphere in Rome. In fact, quite the opposite. The Ultras are mostly fun, a bit provocative maybe, but unless you go looking for trouble, or are very unlucky, they you won't find it.

But the Ultras are great football fans. We were in the stadium a good hour before kick off, and it was over half full. The Ultras were in good voice, but so were we. They chucked a couple of things, we chucked them back. It was good family fun.

Almost everything that could be said about the match has already been said. It was tense, painful viewing. Roma played in fits and starts, we let in a shite goal, Alumunia made a great save, and then another. Almunia - you really are the most underrated keeper in Europe.

4-5-1 isn't working. God we look shite. Has Eboue touched the ball? Shite, I can't believe it, Clichy and Sagna are both being given the run around. Thank god for Gallas. Time after time, right place at the right time. You know, he's not all bad Billy G. Clearly a bolt loose upstairs, but I'll forgive him. He was great.

Clichy concedes a penalty, its not given. I would have given it from a 100 yards away. Lord, this is painful. Hang on a minute, Roma are not exactly thrashing us here. We are in this game. Score a goal and they are fucked. Score a goal. Score a goal. Score a goal. Shite, its not going to happen tonight.

Bendnter off. Eboue off. Walcott on. Eduardo on. 4-4-2. Excellent. I think I'm with Rhino on this one - this is it. This is the formation we should have had, they won't be able to deal with this. Good night Roma. Its been a pleasure.

Its not happening. Don't understand it. Has Theo touched it? Where is Eduardo? Hang on a minute, we aren't getting anything in the air now Bendnter has gone. Actually, Nikky B got a load of the ball. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all. Oi Arsene - get Nikky back on the pitch. Where is that lanky bastard Diaby? Fucks sake.

Kkkkeeerrriiisssttt. Its penalties. I don't believe it. How have we not beaten these bastards? Eduardo is first up. Shite penalty. Saved. That's it. Can I go home now? I'm never doing one of these trips again. The pain's just not worth it. God, i can see the shite on Le Grove already. Bet none of those cunts are here.

Wait a minute. Some Roma loon's just hit a shit penalty. Almunia saves. Vucinic? He was awesome all night - stuck Sagna on his arse at least twice, then did the Clich. Don't believe it. We are in this. Come on Almunia. We can do this.

4th penalty, Walcott. Respect to you Theo. Scored somehow. Almunia would have saved that.

5th penalty. Denilson. Not Denilson. Anyone but Denilson. The blogs will kill you if you miss. You've not been great tonight my young Brazilian friend. You started well, but faded trying to stay with Totti. I don't blame you. Missing this is going to finish you.

Denilson scores. What balls that bloke has. He must have told Wenger he was up for it. Wenger put him in 5th, the anchor man. You're 20 years old and Wenger has picked you as the anchor man in a Champions League penalty shoot out. And you delivered. You absolutely delivered. Thank you.

Sudden death? This is the longest death possible. Sagna's next. Diaby. Easy. Some bloke's missed. Don't know who. The danish gooners have gone mental. Christ, that fat bloke is almost naked. Well done sunshine.

And that was it. We were through. No one will remember this next season. You win on penalties, you're a winner. Just ask the Germans, ask Liverpool. We have been haunted for years about being the best team in Europe, but we lost our final against Barca. The next year, the heavily fancied Arsenal crashed out against PSV. Just fucking win. Nothing else matters.

Give me anyone next round. Maunre? Barca? Bayern? No problem. Anyone. We'll take em. Want to know why? Because Arsenal have got their luck back.

Thursday 12 March 2009

The bias and the spin

I wish I could have been in Rome last night, unfortunately my lack of a commitment to the cause and the fact that my job has the flexibility of an ironing board meant I couldn't be there. I shall leave the match report to the boys who made the trip but I do feel the need to pass a little comment on the coverage of the game by various bits of the media.

The Arsenal-Roma game was shown so little respect by the media in the first place, it was almost as if it wasn't being played and that Manu are the only team that matter, the way in which the media doesn't strive for any kind of objectivity in these matters is quite disgraceful and highlights their rank bias in favour the nauseating merchandising machine that is Manc-chester United. If Jose Mourinho did assault a Manu fan then may I be the first to congratulate him, it's one of the only sensible things he's ever done in his career, for some reason I suspect that the Manc complaining is probably a dishonest liar who was not assaulted and just wants to get Mourinho in trouble by this 'mummy, he hit me' act.

Then the game itself. Firstly Roma away is a very tricky fixture, in fact the Chavs got comprehensively beaten there recently, so expecting us to go there and roll them over would be unrealistic. Secondly calls for Walcott and Eduardo to start were stupid, neither are match fit, so with Arshavin cup tied and Adebayor out, this was the only eleven Arsene could have picked. It was not vintage Arsenal by any means, but Roma didn't create nearly as many chances as we did in the first leg and the way in which we battled hard in the face of adversity was definitely something to be commended. It is this heart that was missing in the early season, we may be slightly lacking in one or two areas but at least the effort and desire is there now. There was no doubt that Almunia and Diaby put in outstanding performances last night as well.

The negative media reaction was something that I expected. Despite the fact that over the two legs we shaded it, the media chose to highlight our luck in the second leg and not our bad luck in the first leg. The media seemed almost disappointed that we had made it through. Compare and contrast this to there Manc loving as they ignored Manu's great fortune and lethargy in the first half against Inter, if Inter had taken one of several great first half chances for the away goal Manu really could have been in great trouble, there was no mention of 'luck' for the Mancs though, strange that.

I expected better from our own so called fans. Mr Leopold Mendacious seemed on the verge of suicide as we got through, why can't this annoying individual just put a sock in his whinging gob? Our great friends at 'Le Grove' who seem to so admire Arsene that they gave their blog a french twist with the name accused Arsene of 'crowing' as he dared to be proud of his side, how dare you Arsene, you must be damned either way as some people just have to be negative all the time. Just look at the Arsenal side versus the Manu side in terms of costs:

Van der Sar, O'Shea, Evra, Ferdinand, Vidic, Carrick, Scholes, Giggs, Ronaldo, Rooney, Berbatov.

Almunia, Sagna, Clichy, Toure, Gallas, Nasri, Denilson, Eboue, Diaby, Bendtner, Van Persie.

By my calculations its about 140 million versus 35 million. Anyway I preferred the Addict's take on events, he noticed our character and grit despite what some are saying, if we can't enjoy moments like this then how very spoilt have we become? Arseblogger summed it up nicely too, sometimes 'get the f*ck in' is all it comes down to. We're into the bloody quarters, it isn't that bad is it? And frankly I'd accept playing badly every game between now and the end of the season if it means we win the Champions League, we've seen brilliant football some years with no trophies, I'd happily taken a biggest prize of them all with some awful football along the way! Come on you Gunners!

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Thank the lord

It wasn't the best we've played by any means. It wasn't the prettiest of games. But we are through and it's these kind of moments upon which seasons can be turned. Let's use our luck and ride it onto the final in Rome. Come on you Gunners. Anyone for a nice cold Tonetto?

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Roma nerves

Morning all. I've Wednesday and Thursday off work to go to the Roma game with Obsinho. We don't fly until tomorrow but I am already nervous with excitement.

The Champions League is not a perfect format, by any means, and the purists out there deride it compared to the straight knock-out format of the European Cup, but I am a massive fan of the Champions League. In the last ten years, we have watched Arsenal play the likes of Milan, Inter, Juve, Real, Barca, Ajax, Valencia, Bayern - all at a time when those teams were near the top of their games. Once you add the trips to far flung corners of Romania, Russia and Ukraine in to the picture, then you appreciate just what a spectacle we are now witnessing on a regular occassion.

In contrast, the 'glory' years under George Graham, are a short memory. The second round exit against Benfica in 1991 was our only impact in Europe's premier cup competition. Now that is not to be too harsh, on the good runs we had in the Cup Winners Cup, which had some massive highlights, not least the 1994 final against Parma, but I think we need to remember the CWC was Europe's third tier competition and was viewed about as badly as we now see the Uefa Cup. I certainly told my Chelsea supporting friends so when they beat Stuttgart to win the CWC in 1998.

And that, also, perhaps goes to show where Arsenal are now after 10 years with Wenger in charge. In 1997 we scraped into the UEFA cup, and then lost first road to the (un) mighty POAK Solonika. We then took a bit of time to adjust to the Champions League, but we now have one of the best records in Europe at qualifying for the competition, and doing quite well in it.

There is also a good record in the competition for teams who are struggling a little bit in their domestic leagues to do well in the Champions League. Arsenal and Liverpool are prime examples from England. We just finished 4th when we got to the final, Liverpool finished 5th and 4th respectively (I think) the years they recently got to the final.

And so our recent improvement in form gives me some confidence that we will be too strong for Roma tomorrow. That said, this Roma side topped their group and convincingly beat Chelsea in Roma earlier in the season. European teams are notorious for playing a tight game away from home and then trying to force a result in the return leg.

So the first goal tomorrow is going to be crucial. If we score first, then we are in a very strong position. Conversely, if Roma score first, then its squeeky bum time. Either way, I can't wait for the game....

Sunday 8 March 2009

Progress continues

The wheels go round, the unbeaten run continues and Burnley have been calmly dispatched. A good day all round. I will dare to predict that the media report a la Cardiff and concentrate on Burnley's weaknesses rather than our excellent performance. I won't tire you with a detailed match report, there are many other places you can read to your fill on this front, what I will do is tire you with my own boring and biased opinion.
The team is playing much more like a team, we are working harder and the morale appears better than earlier on this season when we were in so called 'crisis'. Gibbs and Djourou had solid enough games at the back, Gibbs in particular impresses me more and more with each appearance, he really looks to have the quality needed, he also has a great ability to time and win important tackles. Fabianski did all he did well in goal.

The combination of Diaby and Song worked well in the middle, in particular Song had a very decent game, he intercepted well and broke up play effectively while distributing the ball well. Arshavin is adapting fast and looking fitter, even comrade Eboue had a good game, capping it with a very well worked third goal.

As always with football, if you take your chances at the important moments you invariably win games, and we need to continue in this vein if we are to win some silverware this year. Eduardo has that divine ability to put the ball in the net, his majestic finish with a cheeky heel flick demonstrated just what he adds to our attack. Vela looked more at home up front, he made some excellent runs and his impudent finish capped a fine performance.
The bottom line is that we're still in the running for two big cups and with some key players coming back at just the right time, the momentum is starting to gather. Theo is back, Eduardo is back, let's just hope we can keep everyone else fit. So next up it's Chelsea at Wembley, a tough game, but we're not afraid of Chelsea, they'll be much more afraid of our attacking players than we will be of theirs. Come on you Gunners.

Saturday 7 March 2009

6 plus 5 - plain stupid

"Definition of 6+5
- At the beginning of each match, each club must field at least 6 who are players eligible to play for the national team of the country of the club.
- However, there is:
- no restriction on the number of non-eligible players under contract with the club,
- nor on substitutes to avoid non-sportive constraints on the coaches (potentially 3+8 at the end of a match)."

FIFA defines the 6 plus 5 rule as above. It is designed to protect the 'identity' of clubs and encourage the development of homegrown talent. For a number of reasons it will do nothing of the sort, it will simply result in mass mediocrity, more domination by the big clubs and less quality football at the top end. Strangely Sir Alex Ferguson has supported Blatter's moronic idea:

"You always feel you get more loyalty from players you produce yourself. But it is also about the fans. Every supporter in the country, from every team, loves to see their own kids coming through the system.”

So let's look at how Manu's current team would fare with the 6 plus 5 rule, when they played a strong side against Chelsea only three of their players would have been eligible to play for England: Carrick, Neville and Rooney. The same is true for all the other big Premiership sides, we often have no English players playing, Chelsea have three (Terry, Lampard and Cole) and Liverpool have only two (Carragher and Gerrard). Interestingly if we look at all these English players playing for the top English clubs then only four of them are homegrown and none of these were homegrown recently (Gerrard, Carragher, Neville and Terry).

It's not as if the other big European clubs would fare much better, for example Inter had only two Italians for their most recent league game (Balotelli and Santon), while Real had only one (Raul) for their most recent league match. There are the odd exception but the big European clubs generally have only a handful of domestic players in their starting elevens, of which a majority are big money signings from elsewhere.

Blatter is a corrupt and incompetent twat. He clearly doesn't like the Premiership and English football in general, strangely the likes of FIFA and UEFA never spoke of stupid new rules when Spanish and Italian clubs dominated Europe for years, funny that. His argument stinks, it has no logical basis. Enforcing a fixed number of domestic players will simply inflate the price of domestic talent, meaning that only a few big clubs can afford the top domestic talent, it will polarise things even further. It will also result in a drop in standards in all the top European leagues, the big leagues will no longer have such strong multinational teams and the Champions League will drop in terms of quality.

Perversely the drop in standards at the top will not result in standards rising at the bottom, or even in the middle. Smaller countries leagues will be decimated, as they will simply not be able to fill their league with domestic players. Traditionally some large footballing countries have been net exporters of talent in recent years, this has served to increase standards in many smaller leagues throughout the world, the 6 plus 5 rule will massively reduce this and consequently drop footballing standards across the board. Not forgetting the fact that lots of clubs that produce a lot of homegrown talent sustain their youth systems by selling on their product abroad, the 6 plus 5 rule will reduce the demand for foreign talent and therefore disincentivise this kind of youth development system.

Football is an international game and there is no place for backwards xenophobic rules like Blatter's poorly thought out 6 plus 5. 6 plus 5 has the potential to do a lot more harm than good, although some of the motivations behind it can appear reasonable at first glance, this does not excuse it's capacity for great damage. If we want a more communist style of world football system, where all leagues become poorer and football as a whole suffers, then 6 plus 5 makes sense. However if we want a system that encourages excellence and which results in some of the most sparkling sport ever seen, 6 plus 5 needs to be planted firmly in the dustbin. Blatter's motivations are obvious, he wants to make international football look better by making club football crap, this is no way to work. The fat waster should concentrate on ways to improve international football, rather than beating club football with a stick to sink it down to his degenerate level.

Sensible writing by a journalist - surely not......

Not actually a post just a pointer for an excellent article that actually sums up 99% of the opinions of the writers of this blog;

We should bow before Arsène Wenger, not deride him

Good to see respected journalists willing to stand for some proper footballing principles, rather than bowing down at the altar of Sky Sports and its instant gratification football porn.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Burnley, Bischoff and buckets of b.s.

Given 1979's prior commitments this week to carry on Dr Shipman's good work on the frail and needy, you get another instalment today of Uncle Ted's rambling nonsense. So shut up in the back row and get your note books out.

My self-serving campaign for positive mental thinking has paid off big time. We beat West Brom on Tuesday and Citeh beat Aston Villa on Wednesday. It has nothing to do with what actually happened in those games, and everything to do with enough Gooners believing in the greatness of Kolo Toure. Did I tell you before how much I love Kolo? Oh yes, I did.

Its like Will Farrell in Elf. If we stop believing in Christmas then it will end. And I would not like to be responsible for killing Santa, or Arsenal for that matter. So stop being so bloody depressed and start looking forward to the Burnley game on Sunday.

News leaking out of the ever-so-reliable Arsenal.con is that Walcott and Eduardo will "certainly be in the squad for Sunday", but apparently its also dependant on "how Eduardo reacts and responds to his injury". So, presumably if Eduardo doesn't respond well, then he might not be in the squad at all. Thanks Arsenal.con. Really useful.

Anyway, so Theo and Eduardo may or may not be back against Burnley. Well that's pretty good news in my book. RVP could do with a rest, so maybe Bendtner will start up top, possibly with some Vela and Arshavin (who is cup-tied against Roma) on the wings, with three in the middle from Ramsey/Song/Denilson/Diaby/Bischoff. Theo and Eduardo to come off the bench in the second half and give the northerners the stuffing they deserve? Sounds like destiny to me.

Have to admit it would not surprise me if Wenger does something completely random like play Bischoff from the start. He does odd stuff like this in the FA Cup. I remember Aliadiere starting in the FA Cup semi-final against ManUre some years ago. He played shite and we got thumped. Hopefully Bischoff's career won't be as blighted as Aliadiere's. But it probably will.

In fact, wasn't Aliadiere hailed as the next Van Basten when he arrived at Arsenal. Tipped as being a better natural finisher at the Clarefontaine academy than Anelka or Trezeguet. What a load of tosh. Sometimes I really think we get a bit overexcited about some of our young players.

And on that bombshell of reality I will leave it. The fact of the matter is that Burnley had a bloody good run in the Carling Cup and play good passing football. They gave our kids something of a lesson. Which is quite impressive given that our kids tend to be the ones who hand out lessons.

But the tide has turned this week. Its not the return of Arsenal's greatness, or even the end of our shiteness. But it might be the start of the end of our shiteness. So lets not go and spoil it all by making a mess of beating Burnley. Please don't start with Bischoff. Please.....

Wednesday 4 March 2009

West Brom - A step forwards

Morning all. I can't really write a match report on last night's game, as I didn't see it, but frankly, the result is far more important than the performance at this stage of the season.

From the limited goal highlights I have seen, its nice to see that some basic football from Arsenal resulted in goals. Toure heads in a free-kick. Toure punts a long ball down the park to Bendtner, takes a touch, second touch in the back of the net. Nice.

Toure and Bendtner are two players who cause a bit of a debate, but its good to see them both do well last night. I don't think Kolo is the best defender in the world, but he is damn fast, damn strong and utterly determined to do his best. Ok, he is not great in the air, he can sometimes make a mistake with his positioning, but for my money, he is leader on the pitch in this Arsenal side. Its Kolo who organises the defence at corners, its Kolo who is shouting encouragement to his team mates. Basically, I fucking love Kolo Toure and wouldn't swap him for anyone.

The same cannot yet be said about Nikki B, but who knows, he started a game last night and scored two goals. That is a big step up from his usual super-sub routine. The fact that Nikki B is our 4th choice striker, and is clearly a better than average Premiership player, is a good sign. So lets keep with that positive thought.
I expect Bendtner will get another game against Burnley on Sunday. If he can score again, then he will be quite hard to drop against Roma. So good luck to him I say.
So, the pressure on Aston Villa tonight and I am suddenly a big fan of Man City. Its a tough one to call, as Villa are in a sticky patch having had to throw their UEFA cup campaign and still getting pinned back by Stoke at the weekend. Citeh, on the other hand, are full of overpaid, lazy players who are just collecting their cheques. But on their day, Citeh have the ability to beat most teams.
If Villa drop points tonight, then we are right back in it for 4th spot. Come on Citeh!

Monday 2 March 2009

Musings of a pensive Gooner

To put this little diatribe in context I would firstly like to say that our recent performances have been considerably better than the results gained, even though I would never claim that we are near to challenging for the title I would claim that five points from the last potential fifteen has been very unfortunate indeed. Having said that, there are some rather clear problems with our squad that I feel the need to remark upon. I don't think there is just one problem, there are several combining here to produce the rather disappointing end product that we have witnessed in recent weeks.

We are too small, too inexperienced and have too few players who can rattle the opposition. It's been said time and time again, but losing Flamini and Gilberto and not replacing them was nothing but plain stupid. Diaby is our only midfielder who has a physical presence and gets his foot in, and one has to remember that he is still a very young player who has not played enough regular games to be heavily relied upon, not forgetting his injury record. After Diaby we have ball players, and small ball players at that, the fact that Cesc is the most experienced of our centre midfielders says it all. Denilson was anonymous against Fulham, but how can one blame this inexperienced lad who gives his all when he looked absolutely knackered after his Roma exertions? Our lack of the right balance in the centre of midfield means we lack drive and tempo on a frequent basis, we also give the opposition far too much time to play the ball around at their pace.

We have improved at the back but we do not look rock solid there by any means. Gallas has been decent this season in my book, but Kolo still looks half the player he once was. He looks ponderous and hasn't been snapping at the heels as he used to, he also seems to get caught napping far too frequently. Sagna hasn't been bad, but Gael Clichy has been distinctly poor at time. Gael seems to have forgotten the basics of his job, he needs to cut our his regular errors, he needs to remember that he is primarily a defender and that he cannot allow his man to escape his attention so many times in a game as he did against Fulham for one example. Johan Djourou's development has been a bonus just to sneak in some positive.

Up front there has been a mixture of good, bad and just plain average. RVP's form has been outstanding in terms of team contribution, however he really could have had 30 goals this season if he was a bit more clinical with his finishing. Adebayor is not the most gifted player in the world and his lack of effort at times has been disappointing, but there's no doubt he's a cut above the young Dane Bendtner. Bendtner is a decent player but he needs to up the ante if he is to prove he has the quality to be a regular starter at the highest level. The return of Eduardo is badly needed. The one position exempt from criticism has to be the goalkeeper Manuel Almunia, he has been simply outstanding this season, consistently maintaining high standards and saving us with some rather fine saves.

Overall it cannot be generalised into one simply soundbite, we have too many problems for that, however a good thought experiment can demonstrate where have gone off course. When one thinks of the Manu side they are not a side one would fancy playing, not only do they have the offensive glitter, but they have their fair share of utter filth in the starting eleven as well as a few highly motivated work horses who would run themselves into the ground for the team. We do not have the filth, we do not have the physical presence and we do not have the right balance in our squad to regularly play a team that can harry and hassle the opposition when we do not have the ball. We go away to West Brom tomorrow and games do not come much easier than that, no disrespect to West Brom of course, but three points really are essential if we are to have any hope of catching the Villa.

Booing the players is completely pointless as they have been trying their very best in recent weeks, also assaulting fellow supporters for supporting certain players that you do not like is just plain pathetic. One man has presided over this weakening of our squad and that is the manager. Arsene has to realise his mistakes otherwise he cannot put them right, if he continues to refuse to accept our obvious collective problems as a squad and as a group of players then our blatant lack of certain attributes in the team will continue to cost us dear. Wake up Arsene before it's too late, the Premier League is not a technical ball player's paradise, you need an appropriate mix of skills to succeed in this rapid and sometimes violent cauldron of passion. Certain Arsenal players may look good in training, when playing on perfect playing surfaces against their fellow Arsenal players in training conditions, however this is not the same as being a good player in the Premiership match situation. We need more nasty players we can love a la Keown, we have become too young, too fresh and too nice. Come on you Gunners.

The luck of the draw(s)...

Its a bit difficult at the moment for us Gooners. Why has it all gone wrong and how does it become better?

Arsene Wenger has never done that which the tabloid press would like him to do. He has always defied convention and expectation. That is what has made him the most successful manager in modern football, based on the trophies won against money spent. Any idiot pub "know-it-all" can be given £400m and should be able to buy a team that will win the league. Jose Mourinho is dangerously close to being no more than that.

But what makes Wenger so incredible, and at the same time so incredibly frustrating, is that he is determined to show the world that he can win major trophies without significant use of the chequebook. Its an ability that I truly admire in Wenger, but we are now at a low point and are questioning ourselves and whether this is the right way to do things.

By all means say you disagree. But I would never, ever, want Arsenal to become one of the chequebook democracies that litter the premierleague, where as soon as results turn bad, the manager is sacked and another £50m is pumped in on new players. Spurs, Chelsea and Newcastle are perhaps the worst culprits over the last ten years, but Leeds, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Man City, Sunderland and West Ham (to name but a few) are all guilty as well.

Frankly speaking, if we have to finish 5th this year and get this out of our system, then so be it. There is a hell of a lot of bad blood around at the moment. Perhaps we do actually need to hit rock bottom before people will start remembering why they like watching football again?

But lets hope for a better future. The position where we find ourselves on 2 March 2009 in the league table is hard to take. But a win tomorrow against West Brom and things will look a bit better.

I am also sick and tired of people saying that this is a new problem for us. That these are unacceptable lows that should mean heads roll. That Wenger has lost it and doesn't know what he is doing. So its time for yet another trip down memory lane.

On 1 March 2006, Arsenal had just lost ( YES LOST) four games out the last 6, had drawn one and won one. Thats 4 points from 6 games and we were, I think, about 6th in the table. We were also out of the FA Cup (having lost to Bolton), but were still in the Champions League.

That dire situation had arisen after the Invincibles and trounced everyone the year before. And Arsenal fans accros the globe hailed Wenger as the all conquering and faultless messiah.

Now, we all know that the 2005/06 season worked out ok in the end, but only just. We had injury problems (Cole, Campbell, Ljungberg, Pires) we had stroppy foreigner problems (Reyes), and no-one could forgive Wenger for selling Vieira and playing a youngster Fabregas instead. It all sounds a bit familiar. Also, at that time, the consensus on Flamini was that he was not good enough, whereas Senderos / Toure were the new Adams / Keown. Shows what fans know.

From the last 11 league games in 2005/06, Arsenal won 8, drew 2 and lost 1. I don't think we will need 26 points from our last 11 games this time around, as I very generously said on Satyrday that 25 should do it - a total points tally of 70. That said, with Liverpool and Aston Villa dropping points again over the weekend, it may well be that 70 points will get you 2nd or 3rd place.

The recovery starts against West Brom tomorrow. Forget systems, forget players, forget Eboue, forget Adebayor. The biggest missing pieces of our jigsaw at the moment are motivation, confidence, self-belief and a bit of luck. Those are four sides of the same square.

We will beat West Brom. We will beat West Brom. We will beat West Brom...

Sunday 1 March 2009

Goals, goals, my kingdom for a goal....

Roy Hodgson has been on my list of "Good Managers" for many years, and it's no real surprise that he has put together a compact Fulham side who play tight, attractive football. And for a good deal of a frustrating 90 minutes yesterday, Fulham were the better side.

I have struggled overnight to come up with the right balance for this match report. I am quite sure there will be many blogs posting today who a full of expletives aimed in the direction of Wenger and the players. Whilst I can fully understand the frustration that people are feeling, lets be absolutely clear that calling everyone under the sun a talentless shitebag does nothing whatsoever, apart, possibly, from making you feel better once you've got it off your chest.

The other thing we must avoid is using hindsight unfairly. For instance, the starting XI looked a good choice at the time. Denilson sat deep in midfield to allow Nasri, Arshavin, Vela and Diaby some licence to attack. However, whilst Vela kept left, there seemed very little system in Nasri and Arshavin's movement, and so the play was narrow through the middle. That said, RVP hit a header from 5 yards straight at Schwarzer, and had a one-on-one well saved by the big Ozzie keeper.

Also, fair play to Zamora and Johnson, two Premiership journey-men of doubtful ability at the top level, who made Gallas and Toure look muppets for substantial parts of the first half. They also had a good supply chain from Murphy and Davies, which our midfield was truly woeful at getting close to and stopping. It was 0-0 at half time, but could have been 2-2 quite easily.

Wenger had a tinker with the system second half, and Nasri seemed to start wide right with Arshavin in the middle, but matters did not improve greatly in terms of how we played. Denilson had a poor game in midfield. Not that he did a whole lot wrong, but simply that he did not do enough right. It was a comfort zone performance like he had against Spurs recently. Clichy and Sagna in particular, were not able to get forwards much and offer some much needed width. Indeed, both of them had poor games by their high standards, and Paul Konchesky in particular deserves some credit for keeping Sagna quiet.

Vela was replaced by Bendtner with 30 minutes to go, and the young dane did his usual trick of looking ok when coming on as a sub. At last, we switched to a proper 4-4-2 and Bendtner provided the route-one target that we had missed for the first 60 mins. A short word on Vela as well. The kid clearly has potential, but he is also clearly not quite there yet.

Unfortunately, we then seemed to settle in for the draw for the last period. An RVP header hit the post, and Schwarzer saved well from a Diaby header at a corner, but we did not create a great deal in the last 30 minutes of the game. In fact, with a couple of minutes on the clock Fulham had time and space to stroke the ball around in midfield as their fans gave them the "Olé". The inability of any 3 Arsenal players to get tight to any 3 Fulham players was easy to see, and they worked easy triangles of possession. We stood and watched.

And so it finished 0-0. The boos rang out at the Emirates and some fierce exchanges were seen between the "anti-boo" lobby and the "anti-Eboue" faction. One such exchange of views apparently didn't finish by the time we had got to Finsbury Park tube, and had developed into proper fisticuffs. So the Police sat on one of them for a bit and then stuck him in the back of a van. This kind of stuff never (or very rarely) happened at Highbury. And we were shite for years at Highbury. But there is a nasty under-current at the Emirates which is bad to see. Its a sad state of affairs that Arsenal fans are fighting each other. It really is.

We have 5 points from our last 5 games. There are 11 games left in the league this season and I think we need about 25 points off them to finish fourth. To achieve that, we need to improve the number of goals we score. RVP worked very hard yesterday but failed to score. He is a good player, who might well become a great player, but I don't see RVP as a 30 goal a season man.

There are two players in a squad who can score the goals we need. The first is Adebayor, who has had a massively disappointing season so far. He needs to come back from injury pumped up and ready to go. The second is Eduardo, who is the most clinical player in front of goal we have. At a push, you could make a case for Cesc Fabregas as well, who scored a load of goals last season. But lets not get carried away - the two goals a game we need to score must primarily come from the strikers.

And Wenger needs to find a big piece of luck. He has placed his reputation on the line and the knives will be out if we fail to finish 4th.