Wednesday 29 September 2010

Partizan thoughts

Six points is a very decent start. Unfortunately I couldn't watch last night's game due to work commitments and had to make to do with the odd update via the Internet. I've now had time to watch most of the game and read the match reports/opinion.

The midfield appeared much improved on Saturday. Certainly Denilson and Wilshere added some cunning and discipline, while having fully fit players would have made a big difference too. Wilshere and Arshavin were at the heart of much of our good work in the first half, indeed Wilshere's majestic control and back heel set up the little Russian for a very neat first goal. We were unlucky not to add to it, then our nerves jangled when the score became 1-1, Denilson tried to chest it, hand balled it rather inadvertently but it's hard to argue against the penalty decision when he was so far from the ball when it was crossed.

We showed guts to stay strong and come through worthy winners. Although Arshavin missed the penalty after Partizan had been reduced to ten men, he had a good game, Chamakh was at his predatory best when nodding the rebound for 2-1, then Squillaci scored his first for the club to make it 3-1. Although Partizan missed a penalty, saved by the strangely solid Fabianski, the game was ours by then, Gibbs was unlucky to concede the spot kick, the Partizan player ran into him and was not going in the line of the ball, a cunningly won penalty in my eyes. Fabianski has a lot to prove and I will be happy to hold my hands up if he can prove to be a consistently solid performer for us, last night was a good first step on a long road to recovery.

Sunday is the big proper test. The boss also has some big decisions to make. Gibbs should get the nod at left back, the centre back pairing will probably be the two frenchmen, while Denilson and Wilshere should not be left out of the midfield. Chelsea on Sunday are a litmus test for our season.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Arsenal shorts, some small problems need solving

Having had a chance to reflect upon yesterday's poor result, I think there are a few things that need addressing if we are to sort ourselves out and make a proper challenge for the title.

Goalkeeping: There is no doubt this has been woefully managed. Almunia makes an easy scapegoat for yesterday's defeat but this is not only shortsighted but also foolish. Almunia had a solid first half, he was left terribly exposed for the penalty. The second goal was a howler, the third saw him left completely exposed but his decision making that time was poor. Personally I feel sorry for Almunia, he will only play worse if we turn on him and it is not his fault that he has not been replaced by a better goalkeeper, it is the manager's fault.

Full backs: Both full backs were caught out on numerous occasions yesterday. Sagna has been pretty solid in recent weeks, Clichy has not. In my eyes Clichy has not progressed in the last few years as he should have, he makes too many mistakes, is positionally weak and defensively mediocre. Time is running out for Clichy, it is only a matter of time before Gibbs becomes our no1 left back if he can stay clear of injury.

Centre backs: Vermaelen is out, leaving a pair of centre backs to play together for the first time in Squillaci and Koscielny. It has been very hard for them with a goalkeeper dropping clangers, fullbacks not helping out and a midfield giving them very little protection.

Midfield: The balance of our squad is all wrong and has been for ages. Fortunately the graft of Wilshere has papered over the cracks at times. Eboue is no midfielder, Diaby didn't look fit and seems to lack discipline, while Song needs play with more discipline. The midfield was a disaster waiting to happen yesterday. Leaving both Denilson and Wilshere on the bench was a strange decisions.

4-3-3: A brilliant formation when your team is on top and has a lot of ball, however when you lack width and structure in the eleven it can be a totally disorganised shambles. We didn't have enough width yesterday, while the midfield three were all over the place, this left West Brom able to command the game for long periods.

Arshavin the enigma: The Russian is so frustrating at times, he can be sensational when on form but a complete liability when not. He does so little tracking back that we were awfully exposed as a result down our left side. The erratic Russian confuses me, do his positives outweigh his negatives, I am not quite sure.

Chamakh: He has been terrific so far given that he has never played in England, is playing in a new team and has led the line on his own in almost every single game so far this season. He deserves some slack.

The fringe: The young players have largely done very well when coming in this season. Wilshere has been a revelation, Lansbury has shown he has the right attitude, Gibbs has got the talent. Carlos Vela is a player who adds very little to the squad for me, he rarely threatens in a tight game, is too lightweight for the striker role and does not seem dedicated enough. Is it now time to give the likes of Wilshere, Lansbury, Gibbs and Szczesny more and more games ahead of the likes of Clichy, Diaby and Fabianski?

Injuries: There is no doubt that the return of the likes of RVP, Bendtner, Vermaelen, Cesc, Walcott and Gibbs can have a massive effect.

Overall I don't think there's any doubt that we have a very fine squad, the manager also appears to have added to it wisely in terms of centre backs and Chamakh. The problem is that we still have no solid no1 goalkeeper and our squad looks a bit short in terms of midfield bite. I think we are carrying one or two players in their mid twenties who do not have the ability or hunger required to win Arsenal the title, this is a very big season for a few of these players and I hope that if they do not deliver then they will be shown the door.

Saturday 25 September 2010

Where were the leaders? A self induced capitulation

No game is easy, but to concede three at home to West Brom is frankly nothing other than woeful. A late equaliser may have papered over the cracks and salvaged a point, but perhaps in the long run it is better than we have not avoided this hefty kick in the nuts.

I think Arsene got the starting midfield wrong. The middle trio of the unfit Diaby, Song and Eboue just doesn't have the right balance for me, there is no real creative play maker, Diaby has only just recovered fitness and Eboue never looks as good in midfield as he does at right back.

Firstly credit to West Brom and ex-Gunner Jerome Thomas, they deserved the win, they missed a penalty in the first half and we struggled to create much for long long periods in the game. There isn't too much problem with struggling to create much if you can keep things tight at the back, but tight at the back we were not, one could have navigated a ferry through some of the gaps there at times. We simply cannot expect to win a thing defending like such complete and utter numpties.

Almunia was awful, arguably to blame for two of the goals. The full backs defended poorly, Clichy has been defensively poor for too long now, while Sagna made several uncharacteristic errors. Song didn't play with enough discipline, Diaby didn't look fit and Eboue is not midfielder. It all combined to rather devastating effect. On the positive Nasri was outstanding, best player on the pitch by a country mile.

Sometimes one can concede three thanks to freakish bad luck, sometimes it is down to the brilliance of the opposition, today it was down to neither of these reasons, we simply weren't at the races and we defended appallingly. This is deeply concerning. There is something badly wrong at the club when our most promising keeper is at no4 in the pecking order with a contract that only has months to run, I would be tempted to stick Wojciech Szczesny in the mix now, but I suspect our hapless Pole will get yet another opportunity to perform bloopers. If Kieran Gibbs can get fit and stay fit then the left back slot is his, Gael Clichy has run out of chances. Hopefully the likes of Lansbury, JET, Szczesny will get some chances if the likes of Eboue, Vela and Diaby continue to underperform.

The manager must take a good chunk of the blame for this defeat in my opinion, he freely admitted how flat and lacking sharpness we were after the match. Arsene selected that dysfunctional midfield and he has completely mismanaged the goalkeeping situation at the club. It is not Almunia's fault that he is not good enough, he does his best, Arsene has undermined his already fragile confidence and failed to bring in an experienced no1 keeper; it does not help anyone other than the opposition to boo our own goalkeeper, those Gooners who did today are idiots. Chelsea will dismantle us next weekend if we defend like this again, the players need to take a long hard look at themselves after such a lacklustre display, it was simply no way near good enough.

Nutters and our dishonest media

Harry Redknapp, love him or hate him, has said some very fair things about Arsene Wenger. In some media outlets it has been reported very reasonably and factually. For example in the Guardian the headline is 'Arsène Wenger is one of the nutters now' and one can read the quotes in context:

"It was strange, it just shows you what happens in football. We can all remember when Arsène first came to England [in 1996 to manage Arsenal] – I remember reading articles saying he was like a professor watching the game and all the other nutters were jumping up and down, shouting and screaming. And that he wasn't like these idiots, that he's studying every move that's going on on the pitch like chess...[In 2003-04] they never lost a game all season so it was OK. I could've sat there with a cigar. But suddenly when you start losing a few games it all changes, doesn't it? Now he's joined the nutters. In fact he's one of the key nutters."

He then went on to describe Arsene as a gentleman and made it very clear that he had no problem whatsoever with Arsene as a person. It appears to be that Harry Redknapp has made a pretty valid point rather politely and that nothing offensive has been said at all, he is just getting across just how involved in things Arsene now is.

Sky have spun this into a headline of "Redknapp: 'Wenger's now a nutter' ", Teamtalk have just called Wenger 'nutty', while the Daily Star say 'Wenger is F***ing nuts!"; so numerous journalists have tried to spin this into a sensational headline that completely misrepresents what Redknapp actually said. So many of these kind of stories are whipped out of context, this then leads to more irrational hatred when there simply is no need for it. The newspapers are making money by pretending reality is far more exciting than it really is, most managers actually get on pretty well with each other.

Seeing as I've been led onto the topic of 'nutters'. Of all the managers in the Premiership there is one who is clearly far more stupid and deluded than all the others and he is Sam 'fat Sam' Allardyce. These quotes show what an absolute fool the man is, it is truly rare to find such delusion displayed so overtly:

"I would be more suited to Inter Milan or Real Madrid....It wouldn't be a problem for me to manage those clubs because I would win the double or the league every time......Give me Manchester United or Chelsea and I would do the same, it wouldn't be a problem.....It's not a problem to take me into the higher reaches of the Champions League or Premier League and would make my job a lot easier in winning it."

Just remember this is the man who couldn't hack it at Newcastle United, yet now he thinks he could easily cope with the biggest jobs in football and win the league every time. If you fancy a little chortle about fat Sam then have a listen to this piece by Alan Davies, rather amusing.

Friday 24 September 2010

West Brom, Money and Poles

So West Brom arrive at the Emirates tomorrow and three points will be expected, but they should not be underestimated, they have pulled off a few decent results already this season. Team wise Gibbs is out, the good news is that he may be back soonish, Diaby may return and faces a fitness test, Song returns from suspension, Squillaci will return to partner Koscielny at the back. Vermaelen and Cesc are both out of the next two games. The team largely picks itself given the absentees, I'd go fo Almunia; Sagna, Kos, Squillaci, Clichy; Song, Wilshere, Denilson; Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin. Some of you may be surprised to see me putting Denilson's name down, I think he has been pretty good in our last two games and deserves the slot.

There has been a fair bit of banter about our Poles between the sticks. I know it's harsh to criticise Arsene after a 4-1 win away at the lane, but his faith in Fabianski does appear to be rather misplaced. Fabianski is a great keeper if one ignores his regular costly errors but that's the point really, how long must we watch him palm the ball into the net before he is sent packing? Arsene should have played Wojciech Szczesny in my opinion, he is the best of our backup crop and deserved the chance to impress. I can feel his frustration and he has a right to speak out in my eyes. Szczesny should be our no2 and if we lose him because of all this I will be extremely angry.

Finally the club's finances are looking rather peachy indeed, the money is pouring in, the debt is falling away nicely and the profits are flowing, all this when the financial climate is not at its warmest. One certainly cannot grumble at this figures:

· The completion of sale of 362 (2009 – 208) private apartments at Highbury Square and the social housing site at Queensland Road generated £156.9 million of revenue from property (2009 - £88.3 million) and allowed the Group to repay £129.6 million of bank loans.
· The Group’s property business is now debt free and generating surplus cash for the Group. The overall level of Group net debt had been reduced to £135.6 million (2009 - £297.7 million) at the balance sheet date.
· Group turnover increased to £379.9 million (2009 - £313.3 million) boosted by the income generated from property sales.
· Operating profit (before depreciation and player trading) in the football business was £56.8 million (2009 - £62.7 million) after increased wage costs.
· Operating profit in the property business was £15.2 million (2009 - £7.8 million) reflecting the sales activity at Highbury Square.
· Profit from player trading of £13.6 million (2009 - £2.9 million).
· Group profit before tax was £56.0 million (2009 - £45.5 million) and profit after tax was £61.0 million (2009 - £35.2 million).

Thursday 23 September 2010

The FA lies/Dembele/Arsene

Having entered into a dialogue with the FA it does appear that they are squirming and not answering some rather straightforward questions. They claim that FIFA's laws of the game prevents them from reviewing incidents that have been seen by referees. This FIFA guidance is not easy to find, in fact I suspect there is no such guidance as the FA are currently refusing to say exactly where it has come from. Both the FA and UEFA have ignored 'this guidance' in the past when they saw fit, while large retrospective bans have been used for bad tackles in several other European countries with this being a very recent salient case. In fact even the FA have admitted they can use video evidence to change decisions when the error is 'obvious or serious'.

Take the shocking potentially leg breaking tackle on Dembele this week by Andy Wilkinson, this was a great example, very similar to the appalling Paul Robinson tackle on Diaby. Wilkinson flew into this tackle with his studs up and a straight leg, he also put a lot of force into it. For some reason the referee only gave Wilkinson a yellow card, both an obvious and serious error, much like the Robinson tackle. Both Robinson and Wilkinson should be facing at least three match bans, if not six. The typical defences come out, such as there was no 'malice', this is irrelevant, any player making a tackle that reckless needs the book throwing at them. Arsene has spoken out very recently again on this:

"Robinson's was a bad tackle but the rule is that if the foul has been seen by the referee, they can do nothing about it [afterwards]. That's why I have pleaded for a long time for the use of video [technology] - if you want the referee to get bad tackles out of the game, you have to accept that at some stage a review of the video so the FA can punish the players that do it."

Arsene is right in some ways but he is wrong in that the FA can do something about it. The rules do not prevent them from reviewing serious or obvious errors and then changing the referee's decision. The FA have changed a decision in the past (Ben Thatcher 2006), while UEFA have charged a player for an incident that was definitely seen by the referee (Eduardo). The FA's reason for Thatcher being an exception to the rule is extremely weak:

"The FA stated that the challenge was sufficiently serious that had Thatcher been sent off, an additional sanction would have been merited."

I interpret all of this as meaning that the FA could easily act to stamp out violence if the will was there, but the will simply isn't there, they are dishonestly pretending their hands are tied when they simply are not. The FA could easily highlight Robinson and Wilkinson's violent tackles as extreme cases of serious foul play, deserving of longer than average bans, even by their own logic they could then change the referee's decisions. They simply don't want to. The FA for whatever reason are allowing players to get away with the most reckless violence and in so doing, they are allowing violence to flourish.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Fingers crossed for Kieran Gibbs/FA and cheats

So poor old Kieran Gibbs mat have done something nasty to his foot again, I really hope this isn't the case given just brilliant he has been in his few appearances thus far this season.

Obviously he fractured his first metatarsal last season, which then didn't heal, this meant he had to have it fixed and bone grafted. The concern would be that he has re fractured the same metatarsal that he broke last season and that would be an absolute disaster, he would be out for many months. The lad really has had terrible luck. My fingers are firmly crossed.

I see old cheeky turnip faced 'Arry has accused Samir Nasri of diving to win the first penatly last night "Really, I think he dived for it " Bassong clear put an arm across Nasri, the contact was deliberate and definitely enough to slow him up so that he couldn't get to the ball. This makes it a penalty in my book. Bassong had no need to put the arm across him, it was cynical and stupid.

I wonder why Redknapp (and Ferguson at the weekend) are allowed to state that they think opposition players cheated quite directly and therefore imply that they are cheats; however when Arsene did the same regarding RVN he was charged and fined by the FA. Interestingly in Wenger's case he did not directly call RVN a cheat, even though he clearly cheated, he just hinted at it. Again the FA's silence and inconsistent approach to discipline shows them to be either a spineless organisation that simply reacts to the media or a corrupt organisation.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Cup run off to straightforward start

While some gloat in victory and others make DVDs at the drop of the hat, here we do not get carried away after beating average footballing sides managed by dishonest wheeler dealers.

One man who didn't leave the stands early was that man Arsene Wenger and how he must have loved what he saw. Both sides had rather similar strength sides, although I am sure that the media will try to brush this defeat under the Spuds' carpet by claiming that the Arsenal side was much more of a first choice side.

The Spuds need to remember their place, this season we've already heard some ridiculous arrogance from Defoe and Redknapp. They would do better to play themselves down, rather than bigging themselves up, only to be knocked down to earth with a rather large bang. In fact the Spuds were quite lucky that both their centre backs remained on the field after clear last man fouls for the penalties.

The great thing for me about this Arsenal side was the fact there was an excellent core of genuine home grown talent within. Wilshere, Gibbs and Lansbury were all key in this win. That was great to see. We should not get carried away though, we've only beaten Tottenham.

Monday 20 September 2010

Spuds preview and sweet FA

Apparently Arsene has named a much stronger squad than expected for tomorrow's game against the Spuds, only three Reserves players are in there: JET, Lansbury and Eastmond. It means that the team won't be drastically different to the side that played at the weekend. Unfortunately Fabianski is set to start in goal, I'd also expect Gibbs to return for Clichy, Djourou and Eboue may well come into the back four, while I'd expect Rosicky to come into the midfield. It would be nice to see JET get a start given his fantastic form of late.

Watching the highlights of all the weekend's Premiership games I was struck at some of the appalling refereeing decisions. The worst of the lot was Marriner's decision to show Fellaini just a yellow card for a vicious swing of the elbow at an opponent's head, obviously the FA's useless disciplinary system mean that Fellaini will get away with this assault as the referee is deemed to have 'dealt' with the incident, even if this has been done completely incompetently. It wouldn't happen in any other walk of life, it really wouldn't. The deliberate foul by Diouf on Schwarzer for Blackburn's goal was also an awful error, a trickier one for the referee, but yet another great example of why video technology must come into the game. As things stand the FA seem more concerned with preventing Arsene Wenger from politely mocking the incompetence of their small minded officials, shame on them.

Come on you Gunners, as it's the spuds, come on you Gunners!

Limp dysfunctional FA charge Wenger

So as expected the FA have charged Arsene Wenger after the media's massive over reaction to some very very mild behaviour on Saturday. In fact the FA charge relates to what happened right at the end of the game:

"Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been charged with using insulting and/or abusive language and behaviour amounting to improper conduct. The charges relate to Wenger’s conduct towards match officials at the conclusion of Arsenal’s match against Sunderland on 18 September."

There is no doubt in my mind that the FA have charged Wenger simply because the media have created a mountain out of a mole hill. Some stupid cretins in the press seem to think that gentle physical touching is 'pushing' and almost tantamount to assaulting someone. Touching someone gently can be polite, it can be simply a means of communication, it can also be aggressive.

The photo above shows the most polite of physical contact after Song was sent off, yet some immense imbeciles in the media wanted to liken this to an aggressive assault, utterly ridiculous. What happened after the whistle was pretty mild mannered stuff, not unlike the incident in the above photo. One senses that some small people like Martin Atkinson have too much power to wage their own little personal wars.

What gets me most about this is the rank hypocrisy and inconsistency shown by the FA on disciplinary matters. They let some managers and players get away with murder routinely, some players aggressively manhandle referees with no punishment, some managers routinely berate officials with no consequences. The FA's system is also impotent at dealing with tackles that can break legs like Paul Robinson's the other week. It is strange how these extra time decisions always go for the Manchester Uniteds of this world.

Arsene has to either take the ban and fine, or he has to appeal, the problem with appealing is that his case will be heard by the Kangeroo court that is the FA's 'Regulatory Commission'. This new system of having bans increased for appealing is ridiculous in my eyes, it gives more power to the haphazard retarded bullies at the FA, arguing one's case should not be a reason for extra punishment. It is yet another lazy piece of regulation from a dysfunctional and useless body that badly needs to be reformed for the good of the game

Dowd reviewed, Denilson and Defense

Here's my summary of Phil Dowd's work on Saturday:

The good
: foul on Clichy 8mins, Wilshere deserved his yellow card 22 mins, Bent penalty decision 27mins, correct free kick foul by Koscielny, a free kick for Arsenal!!!!! 44 mins as Sunderland player climbs all over Song, yellow for Wellbeck 47mins for a nasty lunge on Sagna, got the penalty decision on Nasri right, Malbranque correctly carded 84mins.
The bad: Clear penalty for Ferdinand hand ball 20mins, he moves his hands horizantally to his side to block the cross, clear deliberate hand ball and ref perfectly positioned, poor late lunge on Wilshere missed 50mins, Bramble not booked for a late lunge on Wilshere 58mins, harsh,Sunderland booking for a tug on Chamakh 63mins, clear Sunderland hand ball missed 67mins, no foul given for Malbranque for clear yellow card cynical foul, clear booking for Zenden not given.
The soft: soft free kick for Chamakh 'foul' at 1min, soft free kick for 'foul' on Wellbeck 2mins, soft free kick for Arshavin tackle 10mins, soft free kick for non existent Wilshere foul 16mins, another soft free kick in centre circle 20mins, soft free kick 21mins for Clichy 'foul'.
The Song decisions - Dowd got the first booking incident all wrong, the initial foul was on Song as he was rugby tackled down, but Song was lucky not to have already been booked for a trip on Malbranque. The second booking was fair enough, Malbranque played for it to a degree, but Song should have known better, it was indiscipline on his part.

The thing that stands out is the complete lack of consistency shown by Dowd in the first half, everything went the home side's way. This virtually never happens at the Emirates, even when we have way more possession that Sunderland had on Saturday. Overall though Dowd wasn't awful, he was actually pretty decent in the second half. It is tempting to blame Dowd, but in reality unfair.

Defensive midfield
- with Song sent off and Diaby injured, it was pretty much left to Wilshere to hoover things up in front the back four, although Rosicky did work very hard to contribute. Denilson had a pretty decent game when he came on, apart from some poor defensive headers, he made some good tackles and was useful. We coped excellently with ten men, Rosicky and Nasri were combining well, Chamakh was well supported too.

Better team with 10 men - We dominated the second half and were by far the better team with only ten men, our failure was converting this domination into goals.

The defense - Free header Onouha 15mins from corner, some excellent work from Almunia in dealing with crosses, Koscielny looked very sharp and solid, he read the game expertly and intercepted excellently throughout. Squillaci struggled at times to deal with Bent's movement and pace, there were several lapses from Gael Clichy. Overall Sunderland created little and we defender well.

The Sunderland goal - I have already commented on this. Our shape was all wrong when Zenden played the ball in, Clichy's clearance was poor, the rest bad luck. The fact that it came after more than four minutes of injury time was controversial to say the least, surely it is time for the referee's clock to be seen by the public so that there is no doubt as to the amount of time that is coming up?

Overall we deserved a win, despite playing the majority of the second half with ten men we were by far the better side, it was just that loss of defensive shape and Clichy's poor clearance that cost us in the end. As part of a greater trend I do not think that Clichy has been good enough defensively for quite a while now, he is weak aerially, he is not strong enough in the tackle, he makes too many errors. Gibbs deserves a chance to unseat him now. The criticism of Denilson now is harsh given that he played so well as a sub.

I don't blame Rosicky for missing the spot kick, those who didn't have the balls to take it deserve more criticism. It was just one of those rather unfortunate days, we need to move onto the Mickey Mouse cup against the Spuds, we will have nothing to lose as I'm sure we'll play a mixture of youth and experience, let's just hope we can put in a good display tomorrow. Come on you Gunners!

Sunday 19 September 2010

Calmer thoughts - frustrating but not a disaster

It is just so so frustrating to lose a game in the final minute. Nothing but time can take away that feeling of wanting to break one's head on a wall. Overall a point at Sunderland is a good point, three points was so close, but one must remember that one point is better than none.

Despite the sloppy late goal Sunderland were restricted to very few decent openings, generally we defended reasonably. The equalising goal was sloppy and this makes things even more annoying. Sagna appeared to be way out of position, the back four were not in the right shape as that high ball came in, our defensive unit was not organised at that point.

Neither Kosielny nor Clichy attacked the first ball, it was won too easily by Sunderland, two Sunderland players were then left to Squillaci where I thought Sagna should have been and It broke and Clichy mishit his clearance, an unfortunate ricochet of Koscielny then presented Bent with the goal. None of the midfielders were in there helping out or challenging at any point.

The goal was a mixture of luck, bad defending and bad defending. Song should have known better than to pick up two such stupid yellow cards, Dowd's rank inconsistency in punishing foul play compounded this decision. Rosicky's penalty miss was salt in the wound, but even the greatest miss penalties.

Irrelevant of this game I think Clichy's defensive form has been too erratic in the last couple of years, now is the time for Gibbs to be give a chance to displace him. Gibbs has the potential to be a better defender, his is tougher, more robust in the tackle and stronger aerially.

We should not get carried away in optimism or pessimism after such a draw. Our defense is bound to be dodgy at times when the back four have hardly played together before. This was evident with the goal, but also the lack of help from the midfield also stood out. If Song and Diaby had been on the field then would the first ball have been left unchallenged. There were positives, Almunia was strong, there were the negatives too. Still, all this talk hasn't made me feel any less like attacking the wall with my forehead!

Saturday 18 September 2010

Blame ourselves, but what planet?

It is only really productive to blame ourselves. Despite the fact that there should never have been enough time added for Sunderland to score, we could have cleared the ball, we could have slotted the penalty home, we could have kept eleven men on the field.

Still Dowd was awful, soft free kicks for Sunderland time in time out without any reciprocation. The added time and the harsh yellows. Still, we shouldn't have given him the chance to wreck our day. Is now the time for Gibbs to force his way into the side I wonder?

Apologies for the short nature of the post, work sees me rather busy this weekend unfortunately.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Fat Sam - comments dismantled

It's always tempting to react to Sam Allardyce's comments with aggression, anger and vitriol. However there's simply no point in getting angry, it's far more amusing to actually analyse the content of this fat walrus' words and systematically show that they are the bitter ravings of a very sad, paranoid and unpleasant individual. Sam seems to have a whole deep fat fryer full of chips on his shoulder:

"Read his interview before the Stoke City v Aston Villa match, what he said and how he said it - he's a very, very clever man in terms of influencing referees, officials and everybody in football. He can't be brought up for it because it's about another match - rather just before he plays us."

Arsene is either extremely clever and cynical with his comments, or he is just stating a few simple observations and the paranoid Sam is reading far too much into things. What is Arsene supposed to do when directly asked about a specific game by journalists? Arsene is perfectly entitled to his opinion and pointing out some clear fouls on another team's goalkeeper is a far throw from trying to influence referees. Sam then goes on to make some comments about tackling that demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the rules of the game:

"He's deflecting attention from the situation which says the game of football is a contact sport. You have to try to win the ball at all costs and if someone doesn't get it quite right people get injured."

If Sam bothered to read Arsene in context, he has repeatedly stated his love for English football, he has never tried to turn football into a non contact sport, however what is clear is that the rules of football state quite clearly that it is serious foul play to put an opponent at risk of injury, even if the ball is won, maybe the fat repugnant one should read the FIFA rules of football again:

"A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality
against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as
serious foul play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the
front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force
and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play."

Sam's 'at all costs' comment is not only wrong, it is both irresponsible and deeply reckless, arguably it could merit an FA charge in itself for bringing the game into disrepute. Sam does then go on to claim that his players would never be told to or go out to deliberately injure the opposition, this shows the meaninglessness of the word 'intent'. If one is told to go out and win the ball 'at all costs' then this is will inevitably result in serious foul play, which then will result in some needless serious injuries. 'At all costs' is almost tantamount to deliberately injuring the opposition on occasion.

Sam is once again showing his true colours. Not only is he showing that he is a thug of a manager, he is also showing that he has a massive chip on his shoulder, he has a clear record of trying to bully and intimidate referees for which he has been charged by the FA in the past and arguably these comments are yet more of the same. If Arsene has most of the media in his pocket, then Sam probably has most of the UK pie industry in his.

has taken Arsene's quotes massively out of context and used them to serve his own agenda, that is his dire overly physical brand of 'football'. Interestingly there is no mention on anything specific from Allardyce, no comment on the Paul Robinson tackle, no comment on the FA's dysfunctional system, nothing of substance at all and nothing that addresses any of Arsene Wenger's specific points. He has just launched into a pathetic paranoid personal tirade, while his argument and logic disintegrates at just a glance. What a man Sam is, I wouldn't waste my sputum if given the chance.

Only six? Arsene should be ashamed

Clichy-Cesc-Kos-Seb-Den-Sagna-Nasri-Seb-Jack-Clichy-Kos-Cesc-lovely one two with Den-Cesc-Jack-Cesc-Arshavin-Vela-Goal!!! That was the story of the wonderful fifth goal last night and wasn't it sumptuous? It's hard to find words to describe just how good we were last night.

Despite what certain negative people in the media may say, you can only beat who is in front of you and Arsenal did that in the most comprehensive of manners last night. Braga were completely annihilated, Cesc had all the time in the world and orchestrated their demolition in the most brilliant of manners. The midfield battle was easily won, Braga were easily dispossessed time and time again and then they found it rather tricky to get the ball back, until it returned to the centre circle after a goal that was!

Cesc's professionalism was shown at the end by his disappointment that we didn't pulverise toe Portugese a bit more brutally and that he hadn't completed his first hat-trick as a professional. He was full of praise for Jack Wilshere who slotted into the side as if he had been there for years.

There wasn't a bad performance from an Arsenal player, although Arshavin was erratic, a lot of what he touched turned to gold. The defence was solid, Squillaci and Koscielny were very good given they have hardly known each other for five minutes. The stand out players for me were Jack and Cesc, instrumental in everything we did, they both share a delightful sixth footballing sense, their anticipation and movement was fantastic, simply too much for Braga to contain.

There will be bigger tests for sure, I do acknowledge that some of what the negative media say does hold water, our season's success will be decided by tougher games than this. Still, why not enjoy the moment and the football? It is amusing that suddenly Braga are useless and Werder Bremen are world beaters, is someone trying to level the playing field somewhat? Certainly we did all we could and the signs are encouraging, still we should keep our feet on the ground and as Cesc said, we need to learn how to concentrate for the full duration as better sides may well take advantage of any slack that they are handed.

As has been remarked upon elsewhere, there were some interesting points made in the match program notes by both Cesc and Arsene. I have heard a lot of weak, illogical and incoherent arguments that have tried to back up the FA's stance in recent days, and none of it has done anything to convince me that there is not a big problem in the way in which these kind of violent tackles can slip through the disciplinary net. John Cross covers Arsene's comments on this in expert fashion and highlights the way in which he is often unfairly pained by certain hacks.

The FA are certainly not helped by the backwards cretins at FIFA who seem to want to keep football firmly rooted in the 18th century. However retrospective punishment has been dished out in the past by both the FA (Ben Thatcher 2006) and UEFA (Eduardo charge) for incidents which were seen by the referee. The precedent has been set and Paul Robinson should be charged, if the structures genuinely prevent the FA doing this then they should be doing something to change the structures. It's that simple. Keeping everything the way it is for the sake of it is simply not healthy, some people may wish that women were still chained to the sink and witches still burnt at the stake, but progress does require that the old and failing be replaced with the new and effective from time to time.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

The FA's inconsistency and lies

One doesn't have to look far on the Internet to find countless examples of problems with the FA's useless disciplinary system. High profile examples include Gerrard's missed elbow (Stuart Attwell again!), Mascherano's missed elbow, the RVP and Adebayor exchanges, the Ashley Cole tackle on Alan Hutton, RVN's punching of Freddie Ljungberg and on and on ad infinitum. It has been clear that their disciplinary system has been failing for years.

The fact that the most violent conduct on the field is being dealt with in such an incoherent, inconsistent and frankly haphazard way is not only unfair but it puts players at a greater risk of sustaining serious injuries, as violent play is slipping through the FA's net time and time and time again. The FA's logic to justify the fact that no retrospective charge has been administered is that the 'referee saw and dealt with the incident at the time'. The FA claim that they cannot ever re-referee matches:

"The referee saw the incident and dealt with it. We cannot re-referee matches....The player was shown a yellow card at the time and the decision is not then looked at retrospectively."

However they have not always done this, for example they set a precedent in 2006 by upgrading a booking and suspending Ben Thatcher following his challenge on Pedro Mendes in a game between Manchester City and Portsmouth in August 2006. The justification of this was particularly woolly:

"The reason why Ben Thatcher was charged in addition was because, even if he had been sent off by the referee Dermot Gallagher, we would still have charged him on top...That was the rationale we used to charge him with violent conduct."

Under Fifa regulations, a decision taken by a referee can only be rectified by a disciplinary committee if the referee sends off the wrong player, or makes an obvious and serious error. Failing to send off someone for a leg breaking tackle or a deliberate elbow to the head would seem like both obvious and serious errors to me, thus surely referees could be rectified in these cases? UEFA have also charged players in the past for incidents that were seen by the referee.

To me it is clear that the FA have the power to charge whoever they want retrospectively, it is quit clear because they have done it in the past, they have set the precedent. This even applies if the referee saw the incident and punished it at the time. However sometimes they claim they cannot do this because they are hamstrung by the rules, this is untrue, if they want to they can, it just comes down to a subjective judgement. Where there's a will there's a way and it's abundantly clear to me that the FA do not have the will to stamp out the most violent and reckless play from the game, and that is not only sad, it is an utter disgrace.

Paul Robinson's tackle and Steven Gerrard's elbow were both serious and obvious refereeing errors from Stuart Attwell. The fact that they have both been let slide speaks volume about the FA's lack of desire to stamp out violent play, they could easily charge these players if they so wished. It is time football got with the times and introduced video technology to assist referees, the idea of a rugby style citing system after games would also have the potential to cut down violence in the game massively. Diaby was maimed by Dan Smith and the FA did nothing, Diaby has now been assaulted by Paul Robinson and the FA are doing nothing again, how many more violent acts must we see go unpunished?

The FA are an utter disgrace

So the FA turned down Gary Cahill's appeal yesterday, they had no choice really, two footed tackles from behind should never be appealed, he should have been given an extra game ban for taking the p*ss. Arsene has had some very interesting things to say since the match, reported by John Cross here in the Mirror and also by Matt Lawson in the Express, I have taken a few bits to highlight for you:

"The tackle was bad. The tackle was very bad. I cannot protect the players, only the FA can do that. I love the English game, but people are more interested in controversy than protecting the players. Why should I create another story? You asked me how the tackle was, and it was bad."

Only an idiot would deny this was a red card tackle, even the vast majority of Bolton fans have conceded this since the game. The FA have done so little in recent years to ensure that all these leg breaking tackles are properly punished, whether seen by the referee or not. Either this one was seen by the ref and he is so bad that he thought it a fair tackle, or he missed it and the FA should be doing something. Either way it shouldn't matter whether the ref saw it or not, violence like this should always be punished retrospectively and should never slip through the net. The FA's useless incoherent disciplinary process cares more for not undermining referees than consistently punishing violent and reckless play, this is the disgrace.

"You can say Cahill's red card was harsh, but he had no intention at all to play the ball. Tackles from behind with two feet off the ground are a red card. If you have technically a good tackle on a sliding pitch where the player takes the ball I say it's fantastic. It's as good to see as a player scoring a goal. But when a guy closes his eyes and jumps with anger it's not right."

Arsene has no doubt that Cahill's tackle was a red card, something I also have agreed with from the moment. Arsene also had a veiled dig at the likes of Mark Hughes and Sam Allardyce:

"I have never encouraged one of my players to kick somebody, if you find a player who tells you I have told them to kick somebody on purpose I would like to see him."

It is a disgrace that some managers in the Premier League tell their teams to go out and kick the other team off the park. Robbie Savage clearly stated that Mark Hughes did this routinely while managing Blackburn Rovers, if that doesn't make him a thug I don't know what does?

So this weekend David Moyes has been charged by the FA for having the audacity to accuse a referee of blowing at a rather suspicious time in the game, just after Manu had failed to score from a corner and just before Everton had a great goalscoring opportunity. However the FA have done absolutely nothing to retrospectively punish the leg breaking tackle that injured Abou Diaby. The FA's lack of action speaks volumes, they are an utter disgrace in my eyes, their inconsistent approach is effectively condoning the violent and reckless play which routinely threatens to end players' careers prematurely.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Cahill dismissed again as Diaby suffers

Firstly poor Abou Diaby is out for a period after Paul Robinson's shocking tackle, it would not surprise me if this turns out to be weeks, the fact that he could barely move his leg after the game does not bode for a quick return. Arsene says he is out til after the weekend at an absolute minimum. For those of you who need reminding as to the reckless and violent nature of the tackle, it can be seen here.

A lot of stupid stuff has been said since the Bolton game. The familiar 'it's a man's game' and 'you can't make a tackle any more' have been repeated ad infinitum by those with the coherence of mad man's fruitcake. There are rules of the game that make it very clear that tackling should not endanger the opponent, both Cahill's and Robinson's tackles clearly overstepped that mark. Quite rightly and contrary to what several Bolton fans expected Gary Cahill has had his ban upheld by the FA, in fact he is quite lucky it hasn't been extended by another game. Still there has been the odd Bolton fan who thinks that Coyle deliberately appealed to get Cahill the extra match ban as he reckons he's sh*te, you've got to respect that kind of insight.

Braga, also known as the Arsenalistas due to their red and white colours, are no mugs, getting past Sevilla is no mean feat, even though they were without the mighty Monsieur Squillaci! Arsene seems to think that they're well organised, very Brazilian influenced which must mean technical proficience and good on the counter attack. They also finished above Porto in the league last year, although they did lose 3-2 to Porto at the weekend. Arsene also reiterated that this is no easy group, as always winning the home games is crucial.

Arsene did also have some interesting things to say on the refereeing in Europe, how English referees act differently in European games and how much he prefers the English game to the European game. He talked of the fine balance between the over-protection of players and the overly physical, something that has been discussed much here and elsewhere in recent days. He must have been thinking of Paul Robinson when he talked the English game sometimes going too far when players go in to injure their opponents. Like Arsene I have no problem with commitment and safe firm tackles, the problem comes when tackling becomes dangerous and reckless, this is often irrelevant of the ball being won.

Noble Coyle speaks up for little clubs

Anotherarsenalblog has had exclusive access to Owen Coyle in order to obtain a special interview about events at the weekend, Paul Robinson and the clear bias against small clubs shown by referees. Coyle started off:

"Maybe when the smaller clubs come to the elite clubs, they don't get the rub of the green."

It's hard to disagree with him here. There are so many many ways in which Bolton didn't get the rub of the green. Firstly Bolton is the not the most scenic of locations and it's very hard to convince anyone to live there. Secondly given the style of football they play it's very frustrating for anyone who wants to touch the ball occasionally with their feet. Thirdly the Emirates pitch was far too manicured and flat, a good going over with the Bolton Wanderers FC tractor would have made for a far more even contest. Fourthly on rare occasions the referee had the cheek to try to preserve the limbs of the Arsenal players. Fifthly it was deeply unfair that the referee didn't allow the Bolton players to take weapons onto the field of play, this would have been a good way of making for a much more even contest. Coyle them commented:

"As mangers what we want is that they get the big decisions right"

I assume by this that Mr Coyle thinks that the referee helped Bolton get off with a relatively narrower margin of defeat that their violent negative play warranted. Obviously the fact that the referee failed to send off Davies and Robinson, while failing to give two stonewall penalties to Arsenal meant that Bolton were helped out by the referee, Coyle was frustrated by this as he wanted his Bolton players to learn that violence and hoofing doesn't pay. He then added:

"Gary Cahill is an honest lad, he would never hurt anyone, he goes to church on Sundays. He was getting tired and felt a sudden cramping in both legs, he had to straighten them immediately, it was just bad luck that Chamakh happened to be in the way at the time. This is the argument we shall be putting forward at the FA and if they don't listen I'll set Paul Robinson on 'em"

Then when questioned about the injury sustained by Abou Diaby after being assaulted by Paul Robinson's jump challenge, an injury that has left him unable to train this week, Coyle said:

"Paul Robinson is a good honest lad and would never intentionally hurt a fly, he goes to church on Sundays and the fact that his wife wears shin pads is merely a coincidence and nothing to do with his tendency to fly in with both sets of studs showing. Paul has been diagnosed with restless legs syndrome and has to straighten them out on a regular basis, it was simply bad luck that Abou got in the way of his stretching routine, he won the ball too."

Seriously this blog has the utmost respect for Owen Coyle and Bolton Wanderers FC, about as much respect as they do for the opposition's tibias, in fact they are all good honest English lads (apart from that ginger keeper, Steinsson, Elmander and a few others) who would never go out to intentionally hurt an opposing player. This blog would also like to congratulate the FA on yet another glorious triumph for their disciplinary system, another blogger's video has been censored and another leg breaking tackle has gone unpunished. Hopefully today's news on Abou Diaby will not be too bad while I hope Cahill's ban is extended, however it would not surprise me if Cahill has his ban scrubbed as the FA don't care for protecting Arsenal players.