Friday 1 January 2010

Whatever the new year brings, team and moment of the decade?

An FA cup run would be nice, but for some reason this year I feel the league is a big priority, that's just my gut feeling and given what's gone on there recently it may well not be the most reliable of twinges. Transfer wise Wellington has been snapped up in what appears to be a rather cunningly timed move given the Brazilian club's precarious financial position. I feel Arsene will buy in January, but only IF the right players are available at the right prices, that's pretty much standard for Arsene though isn't it. It's encouraging that Henri Lansbury has signed a new long term deal, he's a big strong lad and has the ponential to come knocking on the first team door in the next year or so.

It's been a pretty eventful year all in all. Last season promised so much, the league was clearly beyond us given our lack of defensive solidity but the way in which the two cup runs ended was incredibly demoralising and depressing, it seemed to show that Arsene just didn't have the belief in the team's ability to compete with the best on a level footing. The surrender at Old Trafford was particularly sad given the deployment of Nasri in a bizarre holding role and the lack of attacking desire. The defeat to Chelsea at Wembley was very poor as we simply didn't set out to attack the opposition and win the game.

The new season has seen a big improvement in terms of performances. Ignoring points tallies, games won and lost and the other statistics, we've just looked like a team again, we have not surrendered limply and the fight has returned. Despite a few shortcomings in the side, we have had problems in the goalkeeping position and at the back, while injuries to strikers have left us short of the top notch players to lead the line with vigour, overall flavour of the 2009-10 season thus far has been so very much more positive than the first half of the 2008-9 season.

Winning the league is a dream still, I will just be satisfied to see us make some significant progress on last year. There have been some fine performers thus far. Vermaelan has been a revelation at the back, having a defender who leads and attacks is so important for any defensive unit. Gallas has been very solid and is clearly enjoying life without the error prone Toure. Kieran Gibbs was making terrific strides towards a first team slot until his foot was cracked by a Belgian thug. In the midfield the progress of Alex Song has been the key, a player much criticised early on so unfairly by so many pundits, he has become the rock at the heart of our midfield, an automatic selection, strangely some people have had to change opinion on young Alex. Cesc has been outstanding at times, anonymous at others, Diaby erratic but currently he may be turning a corner, Ramsey looks at outstanding talent.

The injury to RVP was a colossal blow. Robin had been playing like a man possessed before this injury, he was not only scoring lots of goals but he was also playing brilliantly for the team. The fact that we now have the little Russian maestro Andrei Arshavin has helped to paper over the RVP crack, but Bendtner still out of action one cannot help but notice the vacuum that RVP has left in the centre forward slot. Theo has continued to excite and frustrate, only time will tell whether his remarkable attributes can be converted into someone that can deliver consistently on the big stage.

The array of talent available for selection in the current squad is simply breathtaking. Even with a whole team injured we can still select a very respectable and competitive eleven, that has been evident with the strength of our Carling Cup side that put up a very good fight away to a full strength Man City side.

Some of our rivals seem to think they are strong in depth, but then again Ledley King has never been particularly well endowed in the cartilage or brain department. Given how much money the likes of Tottenham have spent on mediocre overpriced dross, they should not get overexcited that they have a lot of players, they would do better to realise just how much they have underachieved given the money they have spent.

If football was all about money then Tottenham's first and second string would wipe the floor with our respective equivalent sides, in reality the fact that they both would quite clearly not is a great testament to the fact that Tottenham are inferior to us in pretty much every single department as a football club. Tottenham's spanking at the Emirates was a high point of the season for me, our arrogant over-confident obnoxious neighbours had to stare reality in the face for a brief period of time.

The media continues to report the news with a rather clear hidden agenda. The matches are reported in partisan fashion and the scorelines decide the performance rather than the other way around. Certain peoples' xenophobic and racist tendencies are indulged by the familiar denial of various British crimes, while the milder offences committed by foreigners are hyped up out of all proportion in a Salem witch trial manner. I wonder why the English team is as strong as it has been for many a year, but so many people are so concerned with the number of non-English players in the league, will the same long discredited argument ever cease to be used? FIFA. UEFA and the FA's obstinacy when it comes to reform and technology is nothing but a complete and utter disgrace.

It's been a great decade for the club as we come to the end of the 'noughties' and for me there's no doubt as to the moment and team of this decade. Step back to the Invincibles side of 2003-4, step back to our visit to Old Trafford that year, Vieira was sent off after some disgraceful gamesmanship from the cowardly and despicable Van Nistelrooy, Manu then won a penalty when Forlan happened to collapse after a non existent challenge from Martin Keown, RVN stepped up and missed the dodgy penalty, shortly after this miss he was pushed and barracked by a few our our lads, quite deservedly in my opinion. Arsecast 144 is worth a listen, who was your team of the decade, I'd go for Lehmann; Sagna, Campbell, Keown, Cole; Ljungberg, Vieira, Cesc, Pires; Bergkamp, Henry but it's all meaningless when trying to combine different eras of players.

That moment was truly magical, it still gets my juices going watching it for the umpteenth time today, but then I think to the number of times this decade has been ruined by dodgy refereeing decisions in crucial league games, the appalling Gallas penalty at Old Trafford last season, the woeful Clichy penalty at Birmingham, this kind of rage is not good for the old blood pressure. I think people underestimate just how much these big decisions can affect the outcome of football seasons, these dodgy decisions do not even themselves out, they often end up having a rather significant impact.

This summed up what this Invincibles side represented to me, they were an incredibly talented bunch but also as hard as nails, they fought for each other and would not hide from trouble. Who knows what would have happened if that cheating Manu side had managed to win that match in such undeserved fashion, how these moments can end up shaping history. In fact the next year our unbeaten run was ironically brought to an end by yet another despicable bit of cheating by a Manu player, this time it was a dive by Wayne Rooney, who knows what would have happened that season if a decent ref had shown fat Wayne a yellow for cheating instead of rewarding his scouser dishonesty.

That era summed up being a Gooner for me. We had by far the best side around, we played the greatest football, we were tough but very very honest and fair. However the media never covered things in a fair or objective manner, Manu were routinely given the rub of dodgy refereeing decisions to help them on their way, while the routine cheating of their biggest stars of the decade in Ronaldo and Rooney has been consistently ignored. Meanwhile the media has tried to make the dominating bully Ferguson appear a serene old man while trying to turn the polite and friendly Wenger into a raving lunatic, only one of these men refuses to speak to the press and only one intimidates officials in the name of fairplay.

Arsene has brought a hell of a lot to this football club and he has brought us some magnificent years of football, hopefully there are many more to come. But I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm so glad that he has done things the right way. He is an incredibly fair and moral man, he does not train players to cheat or intimidate as other big clubs have, it is not win at any cost for Arsene and this is a big reason why I am so proud to be a Gooner. I hope that we never lose the tradition that the club has of doing things the right way. Maybe some you disagree with me but I would rather win nothing than support a team of full of Rooneys and Van Nistelrooys. When we chant 'Ooh to be a Gooner' it has to mean something, I hope it never becomes a hollow saying. Happy new year Gooners everywhere, a big shout to the 'Holic, Arseblogger and Goodplaya whose ranting and raving always brightens up my day.


Anonymous said...

very nice post mate
great read

Rhinogooner said...

Love the clip. That was a team we had back then, like you said. Nice to reminisce. Keown is my favourite player in the time I've supported the club. Love him.

Regarding the FA Cup this season. I don't condone putting out a weaker squad. We have to go full throttle for everything.

Yes we have injuries and players need a rest. But a poor performance and defeat v. West Ham can derail our confidence and good form.

It's happened to us in previous seasons because we throw a competition. Others may and will disagree with me, but I still hold that we lost our form and went on that bad run two seasons ago because we threw the FA Cup match at OT and got a 4-0 hiding.

That, in combination with not strengthening in Jan., is what cost us the league that season. Not Eduardo's injury, not dubious refereeing. Will we learn our lesson this season?

The league is the priority, no debate. It always is. But good teams can win their league and still compete well for other silverware. We must keep our run going and beat the Hammers. This team is mentally fragile and a good performance and win will keep us ticking over.

1979gooner said...

I agree that we don't want to lose momentum.

However I think some clever squad rotation might be in order for the West Ham game.

Keown is a legend, a great bloke in real life as well, can't help but smiling when watching that clip again, it's a a funny good vs evil thing for a biased Gooner like myself!

Rhinogooner said...

I'm sure Mr. Wenger will rotate a bit and "put out a side that is capable of winning".

I'll trust him with that. But it makes me twitchy. If we win the match somewhat comfortably, I'll be elated. But if we lose because we risked the match with too many inexperienced/dodgy players in the starting XI, I'll be deflated.

I love the FA Cup! I find it exciting and electric. The matches just seem to have a different feel to them. Edgier, grittier, impulsive. I don't want to lose and be out for another season!

By the way, have we signed anyone yet.....I'll get me coat :-)

Happy New Year all

1979gooner said...


the Hammers seem to have some major injury worries and barely a fit striker,

it's never easy going to Upton park but I think if all those players are actually out then it makes it a much less formidable fixture

Rhinogooner said...

Yeah, you're right 1979. I jhad just read about West Ham's injuries. That may be enough to allow us some respite from playing our best XI.

So what do you reckon the starting line up should be?

I was being daft in my previous post, but we have actually signed this Wellington bloke. Not that I consider that a legitimate signing, but for the pedantic, I thought I'd mention it.

Obsinho said...

Watching the clip again I actually seem to do the unthinkable and feel sorry for RVN. He is and always will be scum, but he actually did little wrong. The real villain, as 1979 points out was an issue for so long at Old Trafford, was the ref. Terrible decision.

The sight if Ralph, Romford, Keown and others laying into Van Nistelrooy at the end is a thing of real beauty though.

1979gooner said...

How can you feel sorry for RVN!

The challenge on Vieira was dirty, he jumped into him and deliberately raked his studs into him, a yellow card offence in my book.

Vieira clearly appreciated the malice in the challenge and waved his foot, as if to say 'f*ck off you horse faced c*nt'.

If Paddy had wanted to make contact he would have, the Andy Gray and other media reaction was therefore bull in my eyes, Vieira deserved no booking for this reaction, it was not an offence for me, but then I'm a biased Gooner.

I reckon we'll see two of three bigger names rested, maybe Arshavin and a centre back, possibly Vermaelen, Fabianski will play in goal I reckon too.

Unknown said...

Hi there!
Great post!
I think that having the “right” talent is only half the game.
The deployment of talent is very important to make this happen.