Sunday 28 March 2010

Mixed emotions, Webb the new Poll, scapegoats and title hopes decrease

Football is a team game, we win and lose together, so whether or not we win anything this season I think we should keep well away from blaming individual players. The league is won over a season and every team at the top could point to the odd incident that could have gone the other way, generally if we do not win the title this year we will not have deserved to win it, unlike some other years our results against Manu and Chelsea have shown we are just not quite there yet for a few different reasons in my opinion.

Yesterday's game was the epitome of footballing frustration, our performance deserved better and I feel if we had shown the fight of yesterday in every single league match then we would have a few more points more. Birmingham are tough opponents, they will battle and not give you any room to settle, yet we restricted them to very few chances, while as the game wore on we carved out numerous clear cut chances to make the game safe.

The high feeling when Nasri thumped home his cracker was replaced by anger at the rather fortuitous late Phillips ricochet. The second half saw excellent chances missed by Diaby, Nasri and Ashavin, there would have been no way back for Birmingham at two nil down. The introduction of Nasri and Arshavin was instrumental, Walcott had been ineffective and Rosicky not at his best. To come so close to the three points was agony, it really was. The Birmingham goal was also a fluke. Not only was Benitez in the middle of the goal two metres offside and clearly interfering with play but Sagna's clearance rebounded kindly towards the goal, Almunia was agonisingly close to keeping it out, but alas it crept over the line and our hearts were crushed. Like Goodplaya I don't really blame Almunia, it was a freakish deflection and although arguably he should have kept it out, the chances missed before that goal at one nil were just as critical. Overall Almunia has been very good for the last couple of months and despite the perpetual criticism from some quarters I really don't think he is the weak link that some people think he is.

Howard Webb is the new Graham Poll, he struts around the pitch looking like he should know what he is doing, looking like a self important referee and acting like a confident man who knows it all, however when one looks at the actual decision making and end product then there is very little beneath his shiny exterior, the man is an inept and cretinous fool who has no understanding of the game of football. As many of our useless Premiership referees he booked our players first for some very innocuous fouls, while he let Birmingham get away with some much more cynical and dangerous play. Craig Gardner's appalling tackle on Cesc in the first half summed it up, the initial ball playing challenge with his right foot was probably just about ok but the consequent follow through with the left leg was nothing but violent and malicious play, anyone who has played football themselves will know that there was no reason to follow through with the left leg other than to hurt the Arsenal skipper, this made it a clear act of violence in my book, a definite yellow card offence right under the pompous Webb's stuffy nose.

The FA seems to promote referees who look right, they don't like referees who can actually stand up to the likes of Ferguson and Allardyce, they prefer weak primadonnas like Webb who will always crumble under any pressure and make the easy decisions rather than enforcing proper discipline on the field of play. Ferguson has now got away with the blatant intimidation of officials two weeks on the trot, it is just accepted and ignored, if people think this doesn't affect referees' decisions then they are more foolish that I. Webb is an end product of the the weak system we have in place for choosing referees, it is run by the mighty Mike Riley for God's sake, what hope is there. We need referees who are intelligent but who have also played the game at a decent level, the current crop are mainly malcoordinated jobsworths who have no understanding of the game of football. Mind you it's not just the referees that are the problem, the crusty governing bodies running the game such as FIFA and the FA all stand in the way of progress, they have resisted all measures that would actually help referees cut a lot of error out of the game, such as video technology for example.

Anyway I'm ranting, in truth it's because I'm still fuming at the result and realising just how significant it may be come the end of the season. We are now losing touch with the top of the table, next week's match at Old Trafford between the top two will help us out in some way, but it is still hard to see us winning the league unless we win all six of our remaining games. There is no more room now for error, we still have to travel to the shitty Lane, take on City and travel to face Fat Sam's violent cloggers in Blackburn. This was no one off error at Birmingham, we have simply been making too many simple errors throughout the season and they have all combined to cost us a lot of points, that's why winning six games in a row is such a big ask, it's so hard to see us not shooting ourselves in the foot again between now and May.

Friday 26 March 2010

Barca Dreams must come after Birmingham !

It has been a shock to realise this week that Arsenal have not held the top spot in the Premier League in March since 2004 when the Invincibles blasted all before them. The 18 hours or so between the win against West Ham on Saturday and Manure winning on Sunday was therefore very precious indeed.

It also begs the questions of whether last Saturday's results can be repeated, or whether Arsenal can stay the course in the title race this year. And I say why not? Our record this season against everyone apart from Manure and Chelsea is very good, all our remaining fixtures look winable on paper, and our competitors look capable of dropping points.

The immediate task before us is the away game at Birmingham tomorrow. And whilst its not an easy one by any means, its the sort of prospect you would take at this stage of the season. Manure's trip to Bolton is a harder prospect, as is the visit of Aston Villa to Chelsea. The bookies will disagree with me, but I would be surprised if all the top 3 teams win tomorrow. So lets hope its not Arsenal that slip up.

I am also a big believer that as confidence grows in a team, the results tend to get better and better. And at the moment, despite the injuries to key first team players like RVP and Gallas, this team is purring like an Aston Martin at the moment. And whilst Fabregas gets the attention from the papers, this team is not the Cesc Fabregas show in the way that we used to rely quite a lot on Thierry Henry to produce the goods.

The goals are being scored from all over the pitch and terrific performances are being put in by the more fringe players such as Eboue. Even Denilson played quite well against West Ham last Saturday.

But the big one will come next Wednesday when Barca arrive in town. Its a tough draw in terms of whether Arsenal can progress to the semis, but what an occassion its going to be. Its also impossible to expect that the players will not also have it somewhere in their minds when taking to the field on Saturday, but that distraction must be put to one side.

I would also expect that many of them who play on Saturday are still vying for a place in the team on Wednesday. The easy names in the 'first xi' for the Barca game are Almunia, Vermaelen, Clichy, Song, Cesc, Bendnter and Arshavin, but there is a healthy fight between Theo, Eboue and Sagna for positions down the right, plus between Nasri / Diaby / Rosicky / Denilson for the remaining positions in midfield.

Wenger is also showing a tendency for making sentimental selections, so I am tipping Eduardo to start the game against Birmingham tomorrow, probably with a view to keeping Arshavin or Bendtner fresher for the Barca game.

However, quite how Sol Campbell can play on Saturday and still be able to play at his peak on Wednesday is a tough one. That said, I don't think Big Sol is going to struggle with the physical side of the game. His second half performance against West Ham last weekend was immense and with a run of games now under his belt, it would be great to see him have a tilt again against Barca. I think he will eat the vastly over rated Ibrahimovic for dinner. And if Clichy can keep Messi under some form of control, then I think we will beat them.

Sunday 21 March 2010

Defiant excellence overcomes rank incompetence

In the end justice was done but the officials made this one hell of a lot harder than it should have been. We were cruising a goal up and a second appeared almost an inevitability. Then the key moment came, a hopeful punt through saw Vermaelen ahead in a chase with Franco, the two players were shoulder to shoulder. Of note the linesman was in no position to call it as he was perpendicular to the line of their runs, the referee Atkinson was in an even poorer position about forty yards from the incident, so even if Vermaelen had fouled Franco there was no way that they could have been sure of their decision, there was no way they could justify a red card, yet this is precisely what happened, utter utter incompetence demonstrating a complete lack of insight and understanding from the officials.

had his eyes on the ball throughout, Franco was never actually playing the ball or in control of it, Vermaelen also won the ball fairly, Franco knew he was never going to get onto it and played the situation by throwing himself down in theatrical fashion, never a penalty and certainly not a foul. When one sees this in context of West Ham salvaging a completely undeserved point at Upton Park thanks to a blatant Carlton Cole dive, it shows just how ridiculously keen referees are to give things against Arsenal these days, the way this happens week in week out suggests that this is more than mere coincidence.

Anyway thanks to the character and skill of the players we didn't let this refereeing howler put us off. Manuel's outstanding penalty save was key, it kept our momentum up, still a lot of credit must go t the outfield players who played the second half with only ten men but looked by far the better side despite this numerical disadvantage. Song slotted in well at centre back, Campbell was aggressive and robust as always, while teh full backs were excellent both defensively and offensively, Eboue seemed turbo charged throughout. Denilson had an excellent game, very useful with the ball and efficient, Diaby came on to great effect, Cesc worked hard for the team and provided some good attacking moments. Arshavin worked really hard but was a tad erratic, Nasri put a lot of work in and was dangerous at times, Bendtner did ok but had to be sacrificed as a result of Vermaelen's premature departure. Our general play was crisp and sharp, the ball was fizzed around beautifully at times and West Ham just couldn't cope with it for the most part.

Overall coming away with three points showed how we have developed in the last few months. Apart from the one bit of Cole skill, West Ham never looked like scoring, even when they had more possession we defended solidly as a unit and didn't afford them the time and space with which to do damage. There was a new found fight and resilience on show, we were not to be moved, the three points were wanted by all of our players and they would not be relinquished, no matter what the incompetent officials did. The spirit is growing, as is the belief in the squad, and if we can keep fighting as hard for every three points anything might happen. We must for every three points as if they are to be our last.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Phil Brown: eat my shorts you cretinous halfwit

This game demonstrated what a lot of us have been talking about in recent weeks, Arsenal were routinely intimidated by an inferior side and given only minimal protection by an incompetent referee, this led to the end result being far closer that it should have been. If we had dropped points yesterday then only one man would have been to blame, and that would have been the hapless Andre Marriner who was completely lost at sea throughout.

Phil Brown is a talentless tosser and his Hull side have been sculpted very much in this image, an exception is Jimmy Bullard who is a rather handy player who can play football the way God intended. Hull fouled from the first minute as if their lives depended on it and the referee let them do it time, time and time again without proper punishment. Marriner must have blown for about ten Hull fouls in the first half hour and they committed about triple this number, overall the sheer number of fouls was quite astonishing. We played some fantastic stuff in the first half, we were by far the better side, the goal came when Arshavin jinked through and finished neatly into the bottom right corner.

Marrinner gave Hull a route back into the game when he handed them a penalty when Campbell brushed Vennegoor of Hesselink in the box. It was a soft soft decision even if one ignores the fact that Vennegoor of Hesselink was well offside, personally I think the ball had been lost and he slowed down deliberately waiting for the contact. Bullard hit a very good penatly home, one one it was and completely undeserved. The stupid moron that is Phil Brown seems to think that this was the pivotal moment in that Campbell 'should' have been sent off. Well Phil, as even you admit it was well offside, whatever one thinks of the foul to then say he 'should' have been sent off shows you are a truly braindead numptie.

Hull were lucky to finish the first half with ten men on the field. Dawson was lucky not to see red for a horrendously late and dangerous lunge, Boateng was lucky not to see red for his slap in Bendtner's face and his high late tackle on Sagna should have been a straight red, Mendy committed numerous cynical late tackles for which he was not even carded once, Fagan did the same and even got Sagna in a headlock off the ball. Marrinner was woeful, he allowed the nasty and the cynical to go unpunished for far too long, this gave Hull a license to continually break up our superior game with deliberate fouls, what a useless performance from the official.

Marrinner also kept giving Hull free kicks for the softest of challenges, I remember once in the second half when Fagan clutched his face after minimal contact and then Hesselink dived when no contact had been made, free kick to Hull, what a joke this refereeing was. A completely fair tackle by Campbell on Zayatte led to an unfortunate injury to the Hull man, it was firm but fair challenge that won the ball clearly with the laces of his boot, Sky have since dishonestly tried to make this into an issue that it simply was not. Marrinner also waved away two stonewall Arsenal penalties, one was a two armed shove on Bendtner as he went in for a header, the other a late clip of the knee as Clichy got past his man.

Anyway Bendtner's late goal was exactly what Hull and Phil Brown deserved, frankly there's nothing more satisfying that winning a game at the death in this manner. Denilson, who didn't have a great game, hit a good fizzer which the Hull keeper palmed straight out to Nic Bendtner, Bendtner hit the target and the keeper didn't have time to react, the net bulged and the game was won, I haven't gone quite so mental at a goal for a long while, what an awesome finish against such a dire and dirty Hull side. Despite the poor refereeing we probably should have killed off Hull earlier in this game, quite a few good chances came and went, but sod it, we won and that's all that counts at this stage. We're in the mix and there are only a handful of games to go, if we can keep picking up three points then anything could happen. Come on you Gunners.

Player ratings. Almunia 7 Sagna 7 Campbell 7 Vermaelen 8 Clichy 7 Diaby 8 Nasri 7 Denilson 6 Bendtner 7 Arshavin 8 Eboue 8 Subs Walcott 8 Eduardo 6

Thursday 11 March 2010

Let's keep our feet on the ground

What an exhilarating performance against Porto, from the off we started with the zip and tempo that we needed, Porto couldn't live with us, it was as simple as that. It was a decent Porto side but no more, they have lost key players since last season and are not the force they once were. I was thinking to myself during the game, if we could put out something resembling that eleven every week then we could beat anyone on our day.

The quarter finals will be mouth watering, a tie against a fellow Premier League opponent looks likely according to my gut. If we can keep the right players fit then anything is possible, it really is. The problem with our squad is that if certain players get injured then we don't have adequate cover. Song and Diaby are essential to the midfield, there is not the quality defensive cover to replace them. Strangely Cesc is not the greatest of losses, Nasri and Cesc can play that role to a high standard. Having someone big, strong and physical up front makes the world of a difference to our balance, keeping Bendtner fit is also key. At centre back I am liking the look of the Campbell-Vermaelen partnership, it has a good balance to it, if Gallas can get fit to provide cover then great, if Silvestre has to play then we are in big trouble.

The midfield trio of Song-Diaby-Nasri found a perfect balance between defense and attack, Song was snapping at heels and breaking up attacks, Diaby did a bit of everything, while the outstanding Nasri provided that creative spark which inspired so many great chances. It was our midfield that stood out against Porto. Bendtner gives us a fulcrum that we have so lacked with RVP's prolonged absence, Arshavin is free and unleashed again. Nasri's goal was one of those that leaves your jaw hanging open even if you've seen it a hundred times already, the drop of the shoulder and the balance he showed were on another superhuman level. A special mention must go the reformed figure that is Emmanuel Eboue, brilliant goal, lovely run for the penalty, it just goes to show how people can change their ways if given a chance.

It's time to keep our feet on the ground, bigger tests are just around the corner. It is to Hull that we travel this weekend. Hull will be desperate for the points, they play a very bustling high tempo game that is very much in their opponents' faces, but they do lack that real quality in the final third to turn pressure into goals. The key will be to fight as we did against Stoke, it will be a great game in which to deploy super Sol, it is also not a good game to be missing Alex Song through suspension, Diaby will have to step up and cover for the defensively weak Denilson. In my opinion it is no coincidence that the side that dismantled Porto was a relatively big and physically strong eleven, if we can keep this momentum going you never know what may happen come May.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

Porto Smashed

Before I get too carried away on Arsenal's thumping of Porto last night, I will begin with my usual caveat, namely that I don't think I have seen Arsenal play a team as bad as Porto in the last 16 of the Champions League for some time. Possibly ever. Its well known that Porto struggle away from home, but if it was not for some comical goalkeeping in the first leg by Fabianski, this tie could have been wrapped up in Portugal. Right then, thats done. So lets get excited.

The game simply could not have gone better for Arsenal. Before the kick-off I was slightly nervous about the absence of Walcott and Eboue from the starting-line up, having watched that combination thrash up the right side against Sunderland and Burnley in recent weeks, but early nerves on the pitch (particularly from Campbell) were quickly settled when Nikki B scored with his first chance of the game, after Nasri had played a lovely ball through for Arshavin to run on to. The Porto keeper and right back then made a balls-up of clearing up and the ball fell nicely to Nikki, who did the necessary in calm fashion. Lovely start.

The midfield of Song, Diaby and Nasri was ticking along quite nicely and were making Porto look very average indeed. Rosicky was slightly quiet on the right side and Arshavin played in fits and starts on the left. But my goodness, when Arshavin gets the bit between his teeth and dribbles at a defender, he is simply awesome. Arsenal's second goal came from some more woeful defending from Porto, when they cleared their lines badly and the ball came to Arshavin in midfield.

The little Russian has a wonderful habit of running with his back almost half bent forwards with the ball at his feet in perfect balance, and with two good feet you have almost no idea which way he will go. Some quick feet and a dash for the line drew both centre backs out of position, leaving a cut-back to the six yard line for Bendtner to tap-in. That was 2-0 and Arsenal in pole position.

Chances came and went in the first half, and to be fair to Porto, they gave it a shot. The game was finely poised at that stage and had it gone to 2-1, then Porto were right back in it. Arsenal kept plugging away but there was a sense at half time that there was more to come in this. The ref was also demonstrating a love for his cards and this had dodgy penalty written all over it.

Thankfully, the fates were with us. Porto gave it their best shot at the start of the second half and Almunia made a smart save from a Porto cut-back, I think to Falcao. A corner a few minutes later was then well headed towards our post only for Nasri to block it on the line. For all the headlines this morning, lets not forget those tense periods.

Nasri was playing well in midfield and there was little sense that we were really missing Fabregas. And that is a massive, massive complement to what Nasri was doing. The ball then fell to him wide right after about 60 mins, a position where he has often played this season but done little to tear into defenders, but instead of passing back to Sagna, little Samir took the Porto defence on and slalomed through them before burying it beautifully past the hapless Helton in goal.

It was a real beauty and at 3-0 down, Porto basically gave up the ghost. However, there was plenty of time for a superb cameo show from Eboue and Walcott, who both came on as subs. Eboue scored a blinder break-away goal from a Porto corner after more excellent work from Arshavin. And the fifth came in extra time as Eboue again looked to take the Porto defence on and was dragged down (just) inside the box, giving Nikki the hat-trick from the spot.

Wow, so there it is, a 5-0 drubbing and Arsenal cruise through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League. For me, the best part of the performance was the large number of good performances from the team. Nikky B scored a hat-trick and amazingly was nowhere near being the man of the match. Arshavin made two goals and had a hand in two more. Eboue came on and simply blistered Porto for the last 25 mins. The defence was very solid - Tommy V was superb and after a nervous start, Sol Campbell was a rock in the second half. A fucking enormous rock that made Hulk look like a midget. Song and Diaby did well in midfield, as did Sagna and Clichy.

But as we filed out of the stadium my main thought was how well Nasri did in that central role, and just how many good players Arsenal have who could play there. Cesc is having a sensational season and its his position, but it was amazing to see Nasri step into those boots so easily. Personally, I don't see any point in risking Cesc against Hull unless necessary, and with Nasri stepping up to the plate, we frankly can feel quite relaxed about that.

If Arsenal can keep this run going, and get a good draw in the quarter-finals, then we knows what might happen.....

Monday 8 March 2010

FIFA: standing in the way of progress

Some of you may have heard that the International FA board has voted against using goal line technology to help referees out with these tricky decisions. FIFA make out that this is some kind of democratic system but the reality couldn't be any further from their spin, in fact FIFA's majority of votes means that they can block any progress that our domestic FA's want to back, such as goal line or video technology.

This was only just skimming the surface of FIFA's malignant control of the FA board. They have approved more experiments on extra referees while they have blocked the excellent idea from the Scottish FA of punishing simulation retrospectively. Arsene cannot believe it, Alex McLeish cannot believe it, generally anyone with a functional brain cannot believe just how narrow minded, short sighted and completely stupid FIFA's standing in the way of progress is.

Virtually every other sport has adopted the sensible use of video technology to make things fairer. The arguments against it do not cut the mustard, video technology and goal line technology can be introduced in a sensible way so that they are not overused and do not disrupt the flow of the game. In tennis the challenge system actually makes things more exciting for the crowd, I envisage that something similar in football would do the same. Listening to the cretinous dinosaur John Motson on the radio tonight made me fume, his argument that human error is part of the game and should not be reduced is nothing but moronic, he should keep his views within the foul stench of his paedophile jacket.

FIFA are a bunch of utter fools, they are so out of touch with the modern game it beggars belief.
Video technology is so desperately needed in the modern game, it would make everyone's life easier. Referees want it because it makes their job less pressurised, the players want it because it will cut out a lot of errors, the managers want it for the same reason. It seems that about the only people that don't want it are John Motson and FIFA. It makes me fume, why stand in the way of progress? Why not reduce error if you can do it so easily? I'm not saying it will make everything perfect, but it will certainly cut out a lot of the barn door errors that we are forced to endure at the moment. The debate and the subjective nature of a lot of footballing decisions will not be lost, video technology doesn't change this despite what morons like Motson may say, it will simply help referees make less mistakes, and what on earth is wrong with that?

Sunday 7 March 2010

Fate and fortune

This weekend I was just briefly pondering just what the best outcome in the Champions League and FA Cup was for us as Arsenal fans. On balance with the title being so wide open, the best thing is that Chelsea and Manu have as many games as possible to play between now and the end of the season. We have nine league games left in nine weeks, Manu the same, and Chelsea ten. Potentially the most games we could have left until and including the final league match would be 14, Manu the same, Chelsea could have a whopping 17. The fixture congestion and who gets knocked out of the CL could have a big big effect on the title race.

Chelsea now have a game in hand, but their fixtures look like they may well pile up somewhat, they now have an FA Cup semi final against Villa to ponder, ideally Chelsea can beat Inter in the second leg of the CL to set up at least another two games in this competition, with a few injuries already mounting up, a regular two/three games a week could really have a big impact on their league chances. The same goes for Manu, it would be good if they can knock Milan out to set up another two CL games in the next round. Every little helps, and every little thing that can tilt the title our way should be encouraged.

ACLF spotted a good bit of pompous drivel in the Observer this weekend, it is precisely this kind of toilet paper that needs to be rammed up the media's derriere come the 9th May. It is strange that the media have never complained when Manu have won the league despite a dismal record against the top sides, they always seem to trot out the 'best side wins it over a season' line. This line of argument is then completely ignored for Arsenal, it would be so sweet to win it this year and ram it down their throats, given that we have been written off time and time again by so many people. It would also be payback for the times which we have been narrowly missed out on the league title when we were arguably the best side around, 2002-3 and 2007-8 spring to mind for me. Come on you Gunners.

Important points and Ramsey rubbish

I don't think many of us who attended yesterday's match would have felt particularly safe until Andrei Arshavin banged in the third with barely seconds remaining, we never looked particularly solid at the back but always threatened at the over end, with some better more clinical finishing it would have been all over much earlier, still this all contrived to make it an exciting seat of one's pants kind of game.

Burnley came to play football and as a result looked exceedingly open at the back. From early on Theo was finding the time and space with which to cause havoc, my only criticism would be that some of his crosses were a little pedestrian, lacking the pace to really force errors from the Burnley defenders. A few good chances came and went, we had to wait until Nasri's delightful little pitching wedge found Cesc's run from deep and his first time side footed effort did the rest, one nil it was at half time.
Bendtner was having one of the those days, he missed two absolute sitters with the score at one nil, Burnley then capitalised on some rather vacant defending, the midfield somehow let a looping header bounce through to the centre backs, the centre backs were too far apart and Nugent was then given the time and space to dink a neat finish over the helpless Almunia, the tension around the ground was immediately more palpable.
A lot of credit must go the Samir Nasri and Theo Walcott who worked tirelessly and provided our dyamic attacking edge. Theo was direct and lively all game long, his brilliant controlled side footed finish with his weaker left peg was reward for a fine day's work. Cesc's hamstring tweak led to Nasri being switched to an attacking central midfield role, this is where the young Frenchman really looks at home, he gets stuck in and does a bit of everything here, if Cesc's hamstring is too dodgy for Porto then I would strongly favour Nasri to remain in this role.
Some of our recurrent failings were rather obvious at times, Clichy was caught ball watching and out of position on too many occassions for my liking, Denilson's positioning and defending was not good enough for long periods. However we got the three points and that's what counts, Bendtner may have missed a few sitters but he gives us so much leading the line, Theo is getting sharper with each game, it was also good to see Abou back and looking strong, Arshavin's goal capped a strange appearance for the Russian, he looked rather off the pace until he powered the third goal home. The slight concern is that a better team than Burnley would probably have punished us more ruthlessly for our defensive failings, this is something we must sort out for the remaining few games.
Elsewhere there has been some utter hogwash written on Aaron Ramsey's surgery and injury. Arseblogger spotted a piece in the NOTW on this precise topic and it is a classic example of just how dumbed down and inaccurate this kind of gutter journalism is. The NOTW make out that the treatment Aaron had, something called a tibial nail - basically a metal rod down the shin bone, is 'remarkable' and according the the NOTW's 'expert' (my arse, this man is a GP):
"I must say the operation carried out on Aaron is a pretty unusual, and reasonably recent, procedure."
Hilary Jones is speaking bullshit. This operation is not unusual, it is the routine treatment for unstable tibial shaft fractures, hundreds and hundreds are done every year in the UK, in fact tibial nails have been around for decades and primitive ones were even around before the 19th century. The rest of this NOTW article is littered with errors, they are trying to make a very standard treatment appear to be rocket science when it clearly is not.
The great advantage of the tibial nail is that if your fracture is stable enough with the nail in situ, then one can fully weight bear immediately, and the beauty of this is that the early weight bearing stimulates the bone to heal much quicker. The tibia is one of the slowest bones to heal in the human body and is extremely prone to not healing (non-union), the tibial nail has revolutionised the management of fractures like Aaron's, the relative stability provided by the nail for healing combined with the weight bearing has dramatically reduced the chances of these fractures not healing, the fact that one can get the ankle and knee moving freely straight away also dramatically reduces the chances of getting troublesome stiffness. The message is don't believe a word you read in papers like the NOTW, a five year old could do better.

Friday 5 March 2010

Burnley Conundrums

Right then. With Chelsea playing Stoke in the FA Cup on Sunday, its a fascinating weekend ahead for Arsenal with bags of potential for a tub-thumbing show of support for Rambo at the Emirates on Saturday afternoon. I expect Block 6 to be rocking.

Beating Burnley would put us level on points with Chelsea and depending on what Manure do at Wolves late on Saturday afternoon, we should be in the thick of it come Monday morning. And isn't that a simply unbelievable state of affairs? Little old Arsenal. Back in the title race with a bunch of 5p midgets. Wowser.

Arsenal's team news is mixed, with Song suspended and Ramsey in pieces, its rumoured that Abou- Mr Invincible- Diaby himself is thinking about a brief trip out of the sick bay to try his boots on and feel the grass beneath his feet again before settling down for another 3 or 4 weeks off with a non-identified non-serious injury. Diaby is a something of a cult hero for me. He seems terrific when he really wants to play, but can drift in and out of games. And has one of the worst injury records you could imagine. Which in many ways is the hardest trophy to win at Arsenal. Player of the Year is a piece of piss compared to the Florence Nightingale Sicknote Award with the RVPs, Rosickys and Walcotts of this world around.

But we could really, really, do with Diaby staying fit between now and the end of May. And given that Denilson's form is enough to make a small blind boy feel confident enough to play in Burnley's midfield, if Diaby is fit to start, then I would give him the Alex Song role on Saturday and tell him to keep it tight. None of your dribbly, dribbly, loosey bally bollocks please.

Its going to be an interesting team selection for AW, who will have a big Gallic eye on the utterly crucial game against Porto on Tuesday evening. Thomas Rosicky is a man who is destined to deliver for Arsenal at some stage. Or get injured again Michael Owen style - just how predictable was that? In fact its a miracle he lasted till March. But I like Rosicky. He is like Nasri, but just slightly better at everything. And I would pick him every game.

Its also not clear what to do up front. Eduardo is apparently available again (another victim of the injury plight), Arshavin is back and Nikki B is approaching a run of form (at least in terms of scoring, which is really what counts for a striker). Plus Eboue looks good to me in that right wing slot. That said, AW likes Nasri wide left (and I would like to see a performance from him to match the faith shown in him). And there is always the Theo question to consider.

I guess the fact that we have choices is something of a blessing, but its choices like this that separate the managers from the pundits. If AW gets the blend right on Saturday and Tuesday, then we win both games and he is a genius again. Alternatively, he gets the blends wrong, or we don't win both games, then serious questions are going to be asked. And I am happy to nail my colours to the mast right now - we HAVE to beat Porto.

March and April is also traditionally the time when the Premiership title gets all but decided. I was amazed to read that Martin O' Neil's Aston Villa have NEVER won a game in March, whereas I would be willing to bet that Fergie's record in March is about the best there has ever been.

So i say there is little point in trying to mix things up with the team at this stage in the season. Try and work out your best XI and pick it as often as you can. That said, if there was a moment to throw caution to the wind, then this is it. We could really do with a bag load of goals against Burnley, who have conceded an amazing 43 goals on their travels so far this season, and its not inconceivable that the goal difference will be called into the reckoning at the end of the season.

But in a week when the press have highlighted that SWP is a better player than Theo Walcott, which I find about as surprising as saying that Saturday follows Friday, I am tipping Wenger to give young Theo a vote of confidence and play him from the start, possibly in the Eboue at right back combination that looked good against Sunderland. The tactical advantage of having Theo on the pitch is that it stretches the game. If Burnley defend high up the pitch then its over the top for Theo. If they play narrow then its down the side for Theo. So they have to open the field up, and that gives our midget army the space they need to work their short passing miracles.

Nikki B obviously starts up top, which leaves the troublesome left side spot to decide. Arshavin is the obvious choice, but its been Nasri's position for some time. Rosicky is also in the frame if he does not play in midfield, and Eduardo can also play there, although he is not at his best on the wing.

Frankly its beyond me. I don't know how Wenger gets any sleep at all.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Roughing it up, just what is Utopia?

Well, it feels as if the dust is settling somewhat after the weekend's controversy, it's a great shame that the devastating injury to Aaron Ramsey has detracted so much from a very decent team performance. While some people have disagreed with my opinion on the Shawcross tackle I tried to be as objective as possible at a time when I just wanted to take a sledgehammer to Ryan Shawcross' shins.

For some reason some people seemed to think that by stating that Shawcross' tackle wasn't that bad in the grand scheme of things, it must also mean that I think the media covered things perfectly and that Shawcross was the victim in all this, nothing could be further from the truth. Irrelevant of whether Ryan Shawcross cuts the lawn for his mother, it was a bad tackle and it deserved a red card, I was just saying that we see much worse tackles every week that don't break bones, Nani's recent shocker at Villa as being just one example.

The media coverage has been mixed. The portrayal of Shawcross as the poor victim, just as Martin Taylor was with his Eduardo assault, has been nothing but completely partisan, while the talk of 'he's not that kind of player' is complete rot, anyone who has his track record has made himself that kind of player by definition. The media deserve a lot of criticism for their completely inconsistent approach to violence on the football field, just remember their mass over reaction to Gallas on Davies, I can't remember anyone portraying Gallas as the victim or saying 'he's not that kind of mother loving laddie'. This excellent Guardian piece shows how good the coverage can be though.

The media, the referees and the FA do not deal with reckless and violent play on the football field in a consistent manner and this goes a long way to explaining why things are such a mess. Undoubtedly we have been on the end of a fair bit of rouging up in recent years, but we have not been the only ones, there's no doubt that the environment in England still allows for an over aggressive approach to flourish.

Things have definitely got better in some ways in recent years, for example the jump tackle is punished much more severely that it ever used to be, dangerous play is being taken more seriously. Some things have been completely forgotten, whatever happened to punishing the tackle from behind and why is so much shirt tugging allowed to go unpunished? One problem is that referees often lack a real understanding of the game, they have never played it, they have great difficulty in telling the honest from the cynical, thus clamping down on things does not always have the predicted positive effect in stamping out the dangerous and cynical. The likes of Shawcross and Cattermole are allowed to tackle dangerously without appropriate punishment, at the same time cards are given out for tame offences.

We need better refereeing, however they need to be supported by a governing body that actually takes violence seriously. We need to see the FA step in and extend bans for really dangerous play, we need to see retrospective bans for things that referees miss handed out consistently and routinely, we need video technology introduced in a way that can help referees to stamp out the violence in our game, we need the FA to clamp down on any managers who attempt to intimidate officials before matches, we need so much more.

Until this is done then we will continue to see inconsistent law enforcement from our officials, haphazard disciplinary processes from the governing bodies and more needless broken bones. All of this would be catalysed by a more objective and less biased media that didn't treat foreign players differently to domestic idols, everyone should have their bones respected equally, the less shins that get smashed like Aaron's the better and who can argue with that?

Monday 1 March 2010

A touch of balance

Its been an emotional 36 hours since poor Aaron Ramsey broke his leg. And in the midst of that furore its been somewhat forgotten that we overall played quite well at Stoke and got a vital 3 points. Out of nowhere we are now suddenly in touching distance of the top of the table. Its a remarkable game.

A lot has been said about Rambo's injury and there has been a lot of heat in the argument. I hope that the following short recap might give everyone pause for thought. As usual (well, sometimes at least!) this blog will try and give both sides of the story.

The starting place is obviously that the injury to Rambo was horrific. And that the fact it happens to a 19 year old creative midfielder is hard to take. From an Arsenal perspective, you then think back to the horrific injury suffered by Eduardo at Birmingham, to Diaby's broken ankle at Bolton, to Shawcross' tackle on Adebayor last season. All of those factors have to make you think that something is not right.

On the other hand, and this is where it gets more difficult for Arsenal fans to be objective at the moment, you have to ask yourself the question - just how bad was Shawcross' tackle? Its very hard to avoid the temptation to simply point straight at the resulting injury and say "horrific". But to do that is not to address the question. Instead, I think you need to look at a variety of factors, including:

(1) whether the player leaves the ground with one, or both feet? I.e. is it a 'jump-tackle'?
(2) whether the foot is raised to expose the studs?
(3) the amount of force used in the tackle?
(4) whether the tackling leg is straight or bent?

Probably some others could be added to that list. It would need someone with a lot more experience of broken bones than me to tell us - and 1979Gooner is well qualified on that front. But my point is that a lot of factors should be completely excluded, such as:

(a) he is not that sort of player,
(b) he was trying to play the ball,
(c) he loves his mother and only occasionally shags around, or
(d) he broke someone else's leg last week.

The reason why you must exclude the above factors are because they are irrelevant to answering the question of "how dangerous was the tackle"? In particular, the issue of the players' intentions is irrelevant. The issue is how dangerous were your actions, not your state of mind. However, it is obvious from most of the press, media and blogging community reaction that its really only issues (a) to (d) above that people want to talk about.

The "he is not that sort of player" issue is particularly divisive, but it is also very revealing. Its an excuse used by the attacker to appeal to alleged general perception that his past conduct is good and should be used to appease current views of what he has just done. But its a double-edged sword, because any Arsenal fan with enough time on Youtube will be able to point to a large number of incidents that would demonstrate that Ryan Shawcross is exactly "that sort of player". So the issue simply does not take us anywhere.

The more revealing angle is, perhaps, that the idea of a "sort of player" shows that we have presupposed conception of what standards of behaviour are expected on the pitch. Not purely in the sense of the FIFA regulations, or FA's useless directions, but more in the sense of how footballers should behave towards each other, and what we, as fans, want to see from our players.

I have posted long and hard on this blog that Arsenal have too many lightweight players, that the Invincibles were bigger, stronger and tougher than our brand of midgets midfeiders. Now, I am not for one mili-second saying that Vieira would not have been injured if faced by the tackle that Shawcross made. But I am of the school of thought that says football is a contact sport, that requires motivation, strength and commitment from its players in order to be successful.

And its not just Stoke that play a physical brand of football. The hilarious spat between Rafa Benitez and Sam Allardyce (or Clogger v Clogger) is testimony to what Fat Sam has been doing for years, and the scars will remain at Bolton for years. Even teams who historically play 'attractive football' such as Newcastle, are still tainted by the preferred methods of the players signed by Fat Sam - step forward Mr Kevin Nolan or Mr Joey Barton.

But it doesn't stop there. Chelsea stopped playing football when they replaced Gianluca Viali with Jose Mourinho, who spent a Russian fortune on players like Drogba, Ballack, Carvalho, Essien and Mikel. His passing interest in ball-players was always a disaster - Robben and Wright-Phillips soon learned that they would have to look elsewhere.

The same could be said of Liverpool, where Gerrard, Mascherano and Carragher routinely make tackles that make Shawcross' look tame. And in many ways Manure have quietly perfected the assassins creed. Paul Scholes must have made more bad tackles in his career than Shawcross has had hot dinners. Sir Demento routinely played Phil Neville or John O'Shea in midfield against Arsenal for no other reason that to go to war with Vieira.

And thats a difficult one for me. Because I loved watching those games. I loved the way that Vieira, Keown, Lauren played football. And Lauren was a dirty, dirty player when he wanted to be. I remember watching Flamini take Nani out two-footed in a tackle that took man, ball, advertising hoardings and about the first three rows of old trafford with him. It was the moment I realised Flamini was fit to play for Arsenal in central midfield and to wear the boots of Vieira and Petit.

But reading a lot of the comments that have been made over the last 36 hours, it seems that the idea of heavy and committed tackling should be banned from football. And maybe that is the right view - particularly when you see the injury to Aaron Ramsey. Maybe it is a price that is simply not worth paying.

And that is because I do not see how you can play committed physical football and also avoid the risk of injury in the manner that poor Ramsey suffered. If you go back to my list of dangerous factors in the tackle made by Shawcross, the only one I count against him is number (3) the amount of force used in the tackle, which was excessive, but probably only marginally so.

That said, its probably overall a question of balance. There are too many genuinely bad tackles being made, and it would be a good thing if the FA was to actually crack down on them. What is required, however, is for some brave referees to start sending Mascherano and Gerrard off at Anfield. Maybe we should encourage them by applauding (the generally reviled) Mike Dean for giving Ballack his second yellow at Stamford Bridge on Saturday? The campaign starts here.