Saturday 30 October 2010

Song gives niggling West Ham their just deserts

The starting line up was one that many of us would have predicted, but quite a few of us would have liked to see Walcott in the front three, his pace is so vital in breaking down sides like West Ham who are guaranteed to come and park the team bus in front of the goal. The team was Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, Chamakh.

The first half was a tad lacklustre, the tempo and pressing wasn't quite enough to really rattle West Ham, still we created by far the better of the chances, Green having to make smart saves from Cesc, Song and Squillaci. Arshavin didn't have a great half, Nasri wasn't in the game enough, we didn't seem to throw the kitchen sink at them early doors.

The second half saw a much improved performance, the pressing was better, the tempo faster, West Ham were panicking and making errors. The ref Jones had a special spell in which he showed his abundant lack of skill, he failed to book Parker for an appalling scissoring lunge on Denilson, he allowed numerous tackles from behind from West Ham, he allowed Behrami to shove Song with two hands in the box and he missed a blatant tug back from Costa on Arshavin in the penatly box.

Still we had plently of chances. Arshavin got in a few times, the final ball was too often something inbetween a cross and a shot. Nasri was looking more dangerous, he tested Green on more than one occasion and beat him with a fantastic thirty yarder that bounced back off the bar at some speed with the keeper floundering. Walcott came on and instantly had an impact, he again beat the lucky Green, only to see his shot bounce back into Green's arms off the inside of the post.

Time was running out. Cesc forced Green into another decent save with a low fizzer, it was very lucky for West Ham that Green's block narrowly avoided the marauding Bendtner who looked ready to tap home the rebound. Then when hope was fading, Clichy brilliantly cut inside from the left wing, dinked a great chipped cross in with his right foot, Song met it five yards out and Green was finally beaten. The desperate West Ham players were appealing for an offside, replays proved conclusively that it was miles onside and the linesman's decision was vindicated.

We played the game out without worry and West Ham had their just deserts. There was something particularly annoying about West Ham, the never ending moaning at the referee from the fouling Parker, the niggling deliberate fouls, it was very satisfying to see them walk away with nothing. Although the first half was a bit dull, we gave a very good account of ourselves in the second half, it could easily have been a far greater margin of victory with a bit more luck. It was good to see Gael Clichy put in a great assist and have a much stronger game today, Cesc was again instrumental in the win. Another vital three points won, well done lads.

Mark Lawrenson the bitter and today's team

I couldn't help but notice a few snide digs that have been made by the 'expert pundit' Mark Lawrenson on the BBC in the last week or so. I have no problem with an opinion or two, but he has made certain comments which show that he has a rather large chip on his shoulder, I believe Mark Lawrenson has given the game away, he is about as objective as a fundamentalist.

Firstly he made a completely unnecessary comment after Manchester United had gained a slightly fortunate win away to Stoke City. He stated that Manchester United don't whinge after they have played away to Stoke, a clear dig at Arsene Wenger after what happened to Aaron Ramsey last season under the studs of Ryan Shawcross's reckless lunge. There was simply no need for this comment from Lawrenson, it was also completely meaningless given that Manu had just won and game and been fortunate not to have Gary Neville sent off for a reckless lunge. Arsene Wenger had every right to 'whinge' as Lawrenson so kindly put it, if one of your player's has his leg snapped by a poor tackle, a manager has a very justifiable right to point out that this is unacceptable. Maybe Mark Lawrenson thought that what Shawcross did was acceptable, I don't know, he should come out and say what he actually thinks rather than making these kind of petty digs, it really was a cowardly comment.

Then today on Football Focus Lawrenson made another inappropriate comment about tackling. The Old Firm game last weekend was littered with poorly timed reckless tackles and Lawrenson effectively condoned these tackles by writing it off as a cracking game with just a bit of 'tackling' in it. I have no problem with him enjoying a feisty game but he went too far in condoning all the bad tackles in this game by lumping them all together as one acceptable entity. There is just something a bit unpleasant about Mark Lawrenson and I'm not just talking about his tash, he clearly enjoys a kind of football that belongs back in the Dark ages, he continues to try to condone violence with these niggling veiled comments. Anyway moving on, here's today's team:

Fabianski, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Fabregas, Denilson Arshavin, Nasri, Chamakh Subs: Rosicky, Vela, Walcott, Djourou, Eboue, Bendtner, Szczesny

It's slightly disappointing not to see Theo start but one can understand Arsene being a tad cautious. I am also slightly frustrated that Carlos Vela gets a place on the bench ahead of JET, I know who I would fear more coming on as a substitute. Come on you Gunners!

Friday 29 October 2010

Arsene's pre Hammers thoughts

Arsene saw the first goal as the turning point against Newcastle, from that point Newcastle had to come out, it then left us with the space and the opportunity to kill the game which we did in style. Maybe I'm alone in this but I think it is very important that we rediscover our ability to kill teams on the counter attack, we have lost it a bit in recent years, in fact we have frequently become the victims of counter attacking football in recent seasons.

Szczesny was oustanding and Arsene obviously agreed that he put in a very solid shift. It is crucial that we tie down the young goalkeeper to a long term deal, the lad is a monster. RVP is close to full training, as is Ramsey, so returns to competitive action are likely in mid to late November. The squad for Saturday is going to be largely the same one that travelled to Man City.

West Ham will be boosted by the win against Stoke in midweek, and they will up their game for us, of that there is no doubt. It is not a bad time to be playing them though, their league form is poor. Arsene also acknowledged that you cannot be complacent at home, 'you need to fight for our points' sums up the fact that if you drop off the pace briefly then any team in this league can punish you for it.

Arsene's comments on the Ballon D'Or were interesting. He basically said that the nominations come down to the World Cup performances, and it's hard to argue with that. For me it shows what a farce the whole awards process is, the World Cup was low quality stuff really, the fact that it dominates the awards is grossly unfair on the players who have dominated the European scene over almost a year, as opposed to the flash in the pan that is the World Cup.

It was amusing that Arsene was completely unaware that he had been nominated for coach of the year! In typically modest fashion he pointed out that there were others in a far better position that himself to claim this award, not something the media would highlight I'm sure. The fact that Arsene backs retrospective bans for bad tackles and diving is hardly surprising, I just wonder how long the authorities can resist this for?

Thursday 28 October 2010

A few things learnt, how brave should Arsene be?

The season is still young but I think Arsene has learnt a lot already about his squad, to me it is already clear that some players are developing extremely well while others have stagnated. I just thought that after last night's win against Newcastle, it would be worth asking, who has impressed and who has not, who needs to be ditched and who needs to be given more games?

In goal we have seen Fabianski have a run of five solid games, plus we have seen an extremely commanding performance from the young Pole Szczesny. Almunia's poor form and injury must see him drop right down the pecking order. For me Szczesny is the future, he is huge, he commands the box, he has such confidence and his positioning is fantastic for one so young. It is a great concern that his contract is rumoured to be up come the end of the season, if I were Arsene I would stick him in the side for a few more games and make him an offer he cannot refuse. If Szczesny walks on a free then big big questions will have to be asked.

Full back wise I have been impressed with Eboue and Sagna, they have both been excellent offensively and defensively, in particular Bacary Sagna's crossing has come on leaps and bounds from a couple of years ago. The big concern I have is Gael Clichy's form, he has been poor in most games I have seen. He has been positionally poor, weak in the tackle, and weak aerially. If Kieran Gibbs had not been plagued with injuries then I am sure he would be no1 by now. Hopefully Gibbs' knee injury will only keep him out for 2-4 weeks ish.

The purchase of Koscielny and Squillaci was badly needed. Both have done very well thus far. As one would have expected the younger has made the odd error but the signs are generally very positive. Johan Djourou has defended well given how long he was absent, obviously he is a tad rusty but he has been aggressive, dominant in the air and he has stayed fit thus far. The niggling injury that keeps TV out is a big concern, but as long as the other three stay fit we can cope.

The midfield has seen the dramatic emergence of Jack Wilshere and it is quite remarkable that he has made himself an automatic selection in a relatively short space of time. His all round ability, his passing, his movement, his understanding of the game and his fighting nature make him such a key player for us. Cesc has been at his creative best when fit, Song has been dominant, although a tad lacking discipline on occasions. The fight for places beneath this three is where it gets interesting. Denilson has been tidy and far better than last season so far. Diaby has been as enigmatic as ever, sometimes a delight to watch, sometimes a drain, I am finally losing patience with him, I do wonder if there is enough end product to justify his selection in our first team? Rosicky has been a real utility player and a very effective one at that, he does a bit of everything and does it all rather well. Ramsey is close to a return, Lansbury is pushing hard but may benefit from another loan, while I am not convinced that Eastmond will quite cut it at the highest level.

With Bendtner and Walcott returning to full fitness, we are beginning to look extremely strong up top. Nasri has worked his nuts of over the summer and he has reaped the rewards, probably our most improved player of the season, we are starting to see a regular end product and this is vital as we saw on Sunday against City. Chamakh has had an excellent start, he will never bang in 30 goals a season, but his team play and work rate makes him such a key member of the squad, his aerial ability is also a real bonus. RVP, injured again. Andrei Arshavin splits opinion, his statistics tell one story and his critics another, like all things the truth is somewhere in between. Generally I think he has done enough, he has worked harder off the ball, he does have that rare ability to destroy a team in a split second and he is a very useful player to have in the squad. The biggest disappointment for me of the last year or so has been Carlos Vela, he has so much ability but his heart just doesn't seem in it, his motivation seems lacking, he lacks end product and continues to frustrate me whenever he plays, time is running out for him I feel. I would like to see the talented JET start to get some match minutes, the lad is dynamite.

In summary I've probably not told you much that you didn't already know, or maybe not, perhaps you disagree with me rather strongly, if so then please comment and tell me why. When one looks at all the good and the bad, it gives one a bit more perspective and Arsene does appear to be more than a bit handy. I think he has a few big decisions to make in the next few months. Firstly if he think Szczesny is good enough then he should make him our no1 now and get him to sign up. Secondly he needs to sort out Gael Clichy's form or replace him, ideally with a fit Kieran Gibbs. Thirdly there are some players who are running out of time, maybe it is harsh to single out Diaby and Vela, but for me these two need to do a bit more than they currently are. It would be interesting to see what you all thought?

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Doom for the Toon

Well, practically a completely different team to the weekend's game versus City but not far off the same result, a rather solid 4-0 win in the end. The scoreline probably flattered us somewhat but I don't think many people would argue that we deserved the win.

The negatives included another really unfortunate injury to Kieran Gibbs, he had started brightly but then limped off shortly after a rather innocuous collision, I do hope this bad luck runs out soon. Carlos Vela didn't really do enough, again, one wonders just how many chances he will get before being shown the door. The midfield were pretty decent but the ball was given away a tad too frequently for my liking, still one shouldn't dwell on the negative when we've just won 4-0.

Szczesny was outstanding, he has a real presence, he made some top saves, the one thing that stood out was his final touch of the game, a punch from a corner and the ball travelled about thirty five yards in the air! The lad is a beast and a future Arsenal no1, make no mistake about it, the save from Carroll near the end showed just how hard to beat this young Pole is, top goal keeping indeed.

Koscielny had an extremely tidy game, nipping in with some good interceptions, positionally solid and he used the ball well. Djourou won a lot in the air, the odd error on the ground, but he generally looked decent. Eboue was very capable at left back, having switched there to accommodate the injured Gibbs.

The midfield did ok, we dominated in patches, the start and finish of the first half in particular, but our distribution was not all that it could have been. There were spells when Newcastle did seem to rattle us. Eastmond and Denilson worked hard, as did Rosicky, to be fair they put in a solid if unspectacular shift.

Walcott was awesome, his pace electric, his finishing immaculate, brilliant goals. Bendtner had a very good game given he's been out for so long, he looked sharp, ran well with the ball and capped it with a lovely right footed curler into the top corner for the third goal. Vela did ok, but no more, he never attacked his full back with enough vigour, the end product was lacking on too many occasions.

Overall a solid win, we were never going to dominate the game for the whole ninety minutes but a little bit of luck with the second 'offside' goal definitely helped. The offside rule is stupid, Bendtner was clearly interfering with play in my book, by hey ho, the rule seems to be completely daft and open to any interpretation, either way Newcastle can count themselves unlucky that it stood. Still, we defended pretty solidly, played some good stuff on the counter and came out worthy winners. The three stand out men for me were Szczesny, Koscielny and Walcott.

Jez Moxey: a bigot with only a couple of grey cells

It didn't take long for some more abuse to come Arsene's way, the most pathetic thing about the latest comments from the Wolves chief executive Jez Moxey are the way in which the media have covered them. Here are the stupid comments from Moxey:

“It is an absolute nonsense. Well, I hope he hears this: keep your mouth shut. Play the game, play aggressive, let everybody play. Wilshere and your other players are going to make similar challenges. I had a big, wry smile listening to Arsene Wenger trying to defend Jack Wilshere for the challenge. All he said was exactly the same as every other manager has and yet he is one of the managers who goes on the front foot, moaning and complaining and bitching about it because it is unfair on his team.”

Oh dear Jez, it looks like you can join the long line of sad bitter individuals who have felt the need to launch into a bitter personal attack on Arsene Wenger for no decent reason. Arsene has never made this personal, he has just made some sensible and fair comments on dangerous tackling. Quite why the media has not questioned the rather unpleasant and vindictive nature of the comments from the likes of Moxey, Pulis and Allardyce is beyond a disgrace. Arsene never launches this kind of pathetic personal attack, why the media allows others to do this without question is beyond me.

It is also quite clear that old Jez is way off with his comments. Arsene did not 'defend' Wilshere, he admitted it was a bad tackle and a clear red card. Quite how the media allow this to go unquestioned is beyond me. It is not just one media source, the original comments were aired on BBC Radio5, and they have been repeated everywhere without being coherently analysed. If they were analysed it wouldn't take long to show that Moxey is just plain wrong and ignorant with a lot he says, he also comes across as an unpleasant and aggressive bigot in my opinion. The media is showing itself up to be completely partisan and biased in the way in which it has covered this bitter man's personal attack, it is just not good enough that so much of this just gets published without being rationally analysed.

Finally speaking of gutter journalism, here's another piece of garbage from the publicity seeking ex-referee Graham Poll. This uneducated fool seems to think that the number of red cards and penalties handed to our opponents is indicative of the fact that 'Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is winning his mind games with referees'. What utter nonsense for several reasons. Firstly statistically speaking such a small sample of games is meaningless. Secondly we have never had the number of penalties that our possession/attacking dominance should merit, it is strange that the media have never pointed this out. Thirdly we have always had a disproportionate number of red/yellow cards for the number of fouls that we commit, another fact hinting that Poll is completely off the mark. Fourthly all the penalties we have been given have been deserved and Poll even admits this. So another piece of journalism based on foundations of sand, thank God for blogs, hopefully we can force some of these professional idiots out of business!

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Guessing game: Newcastle preview

Trying to read Arsene's mind is a bit like picking lottery numbers at times, even so I thought I'd have a go at predicting an eleven for Wednesday's game against Newcastle. Newcastle will play a full strength side I would imagine, we will not, but it will still be a fairly experienced and robust eleven. I hope that Szczesny gets a chance in goal and it would be a good opportunity for him to stake a claim to the no2 slot. Eboue and Gibbs are likely to be the full backs, I would guess that the experience of Squillaci will be retained and the fit again Koscielny will play on the left of the two centre backs. Maybe Arsene will stick with Djourou and Koscielny as he did against the spuds in the previous round

The midfield will be interesting. Wilshere is suspended, I can't see Cesc being risked, Song will probably also be rested. This would leave a likely midfield three of Denilson, Rosicky and Lansbury. I'm not sure where Diaby was at the weekend and whether it was injury that kept him out of action, maybe he will feature, I don't know. Up front Bendtner looks likely to start, Theo will surely play up there too, and I would absolutely love to see the outstanding talent that is JET get a start, he deserves it now. This would make my eleven roughly:

Eboue Squillaci/Djourou Koscielny Gibbs
Lansbury Denilson Rosicky
Theo Bendtner JET/Diaby

It would not surprise me if the midfield were to be slightly beefier, with Diaby in for Rosicky, Rosicky moved to the front three and JET benched. Newcastle have some powerful physical specimens in the form of Carroll and Nolan, so there's no doubt that we'll be tested in the air on more than one occasion. Hopefully Aneke, Afobe and JET will all get some kind of run out too. I'm looking forward to the game, it is potentially a fascinating tie and another great opportunity for some of the less proven talents to show just what they can do.

Monday 25 October 2010

Cesc misquoted, Martinez spot on and Platini

Earlier today I wrote about the way in which Roberto Mancini has been given a rather generous free ride from the media, this has been further emphasised by some Cesc Fabregas comments being completely distorted in a rather disingenuous manner, this is what Cesc actually said:

"I never said we would beat city with 15 men, i said that even if they were 15 players, we´d have still try to go for the victory as usual."

Various news sources have tried to make this appear an arrogant remark, the Telegraph say he is 'boasting' while other sources claimed that this meant Cesc thought that Man City were 'vastly inferior'. It is just another case of the media trying to paint their own picture, as Cesc tweets: "Once again you see that people read things and understand things the way that will work better for them...."

The above picture shows just why tackling from behind is dangerous and so it proved, Wigan's James McCarthy is out for at least two months after this poor tackle by Fabrice Muamba. Wigan manager Roberto Martinez was not happy with the tackle: "It was an unnecessary challenge, it was not malicious but it was reckless".

It wasn't horrendous from Muamba by any means, but Howard Webb didn't even give a free kick. This is a frequent problem, clearly dangerous yellow card tackles are just let go so so routinely. There were several just like Muamba's from Man City players on Sunday, notably from De Jong and Kompany, slides from behind that did not even get free kicks from Clattenberg. Overall referees just do not seem to understand what is dangerous and what is not, most of them have probably never played the game at any level and this is no coincidence.

Michel Platini has again neatly demonstrated what a fool he is with some rather stupid remarks. He thinks that goal line technology will lead to 'Playstation football', well what's wrong with Playstation football? If it means that less obvious errors are made then it can only be a good thing. The moronic Platini calls for greater respect for referees, but why do FIFA and UEFA ignore the call for the use of video technology from referees themselves? Where is their respect for referees with this persistent refusal to bring the game into the 21st century and use technology to reduce error?

Mancini the 'whinger'?

It's funny how the media react, sometimes one manager is labelled a 'whinger' for nothing, at other times certain managers appear unable to take defeat in a particularly sporting fashion but the media stay rather silent.

Roberto Mancini has hardly been gracious in defeat, his interview can be viewed here in context. Firstly he disagreed with the red card which was as undisputed a red card as you can see these days:
"I don't agree with the referee's decision"

He then also claimed that City would have won if it had stayed eleven versus eleven, hardly sporting really:
"My opinion is that 11 versus 11 we would have won."

He should have kept this to himself. Just imagine if Arsene had dared to say something similar, he would be absolutely slaughtered in the press. Cesc's comments in response are rather amusing to say the least. I won't label Mancini a whinger, I just wanted to point out the hypocrisy that is present in our media. Mancini clearly could have taken this defeat in a more sporting manner, but the media have just let him do this with virtually no criticism. There are certain managers who would not get this red carpet treatment.

Sunday 24 October 2010

That's how you beat Manchester City!

Having given it the big build up, it was actually very simple, just play well and score more goals than the opposition, if only that happened every week! A clean sheet thrown in too, what more could one have asked for? I actually predicted the starting eleven correctly for the first time in a while, Arshavin did start, while Denilson came in for the suspended Wilshere. City were defensive as expected, the midfield trio of De Jong/Barry/Toure in the middle, Milner and Silva on the flanks with Tevez up top.

A key moment came very early, Fabianski produced his best save of the game to deny Silva's clever flicked effort after Clichy had been caught way out of position, Djourou also guilty of losing concentration. In fact if there was one criticism of our defence today, it would be this soft left side, Clichy was erratic and often poorly positioned, Djourou was therefore exposed and he also made a few needless errors.

Then the red card which changed the game. Clattenberg had no choice at all, Boyate took down Chamakh when clean through and he was quite clearly the last man. I admit it's a stupid rule, it would be better to give a penalty goal and no red card, but that's the stupid rule and City have to live with it.

Clattenberg then proceeded to referee with absolutely sod all consistency. Several Arsenal players were yellow carded for pretty soft fouls, while De Jong got away with two very bad late lunges. He seemed to be trying to even things up, fortunately we showed a lot of discipline and never gave him that opportunity.

Nasri scored the important first goal, a lovely one two with Arshavin, the little Russian played him in delightfully, the touch and finish were faultless. Cesc then had the opportunity to give us breathing space just before half time, Kompany's idiotic lunge gave away a penatly, only Hart's exceptional save kept things competitive at the break.

The second half was strange. We had a fantastic five/ten minute spell to start it off and should have gone further ahead. City then came back into the game somewhat and started to threaten, the c*nty Adebayor guilty of missing a rather clear headed opportunity. Song's outstanding top corner finish then killed the game, Bendtner's third goal was the icing on the cake, the job was already done.

There were so many positives from today's game, it was our first really big win in the Premiership against a top side for some time and it should give us some real confidence upon which to build. Fabianski looks a new man, another very solid game. Sagna and Squillaci were solid, the former very dangerous in attack, the latter grinding out a very solid defensive display. The midfield were awesome, Cesc was at his best, finding space where there was none, Song was everywhere, Denilson played with real discipline and a great work ethic. Nasri was probably my man of the match, he was involved in everything good, so incisive in the final third and he worked back as hard as anyone.

The little Russian Andrei Arshavin has taken an unfairly disproportionate amount of criticism of late and consequently I think he deserves a slightly disproportionate amount of praise today. He worked hard, he found space, he created the first goal which was so key and he gave his all. Chamakh was a tireless as ever up front, he looked absolutely dead on his feet by the end, another terrific performance for the team.

I am sure the media will be full of the Mancunian moans but if City fans want someone to blame then they should look no further than Boyate, a stupid tackle that gave the referee no choice. We must remember that the game was nil nil after than incident, we still had to win the game and we did that with style. City worked hard to their credit, but we came out deserving winners in the end and make no mistake, that was a big three points.

Saturday 23 October 2010

How can we beat Manchester City?

They have made a very solid start to the season and they have a massively strong squad, we are away from home and are not on the best form, yet I still think we have a very decent chance of getting something from the game. I do not expect Mancini to change much tactically, I suspect City will play their normal three central midfielders (Toure/De Jong/Barry), have Milner/Johnson and Silva on the flanks, with Tevez the lone striker.

I have been thinking about what kind of Arsenal eleven would best combat this City system. It is a great shame that Jack Wilshere is suspended. The battle I worry about is David Silva versus Gael Clichy, on current form there is only one winner, it is time for Clichy to pull a big performance out of the bag, otherwise Kieran Gibbs looks like getting a game sooner rather than later. It is vital that when the left footed player winger cuts in from the right wing that our defenders only show them one way, and that is not inside towards the goal, it is outside towards the wing.

The city back four and their whole eleven is physically strong and rather large on the whole, the way we will win the game is by out passing City, keeping the ball on the ground and playing incisively on the counter attack. If Walcott were fit he would start, so without Theo I suspect the fresh Arshavin will be handed a chance to impress on the left of the front three. Despite dividing opinion the nippy Russian has been pretty effective in the final third this season and he does tend to rise to the big occasion, it is time for him to start pulling some big performances out of the bag.

The midfield three will be Song/Diaby/Cesc, obviously the latter will be given much more of a license to roam forward, I think it particularly important that Diaby and Song play with a great deal of discipline tomorrow, they will need to effectively hoover things up in front of the back four if we are to have a chance of winning the game. The front three is likely to be Arshavin/Chamakh/Nasri. Arshavin and Nasri have the beating of the city full backs and they will both be key in unlocking the City defence, it is crucial that Chamakh is not left too isolated, the wide forwards must support him from the flanks and Cesc down the middle.

Maybe the most important test tomorrow will be of our defensive ability as an eleven. The opening goal in these big games is often crucial, conceding first can be an absolute disaster as it then allows the other side to sit back and kill you on the counter attack. The full backs have a lot to prove, as does the new centre back pairing of Djourou and Squillaci, it is also crucial that the midfield adequately support the back four so that no one is isolated against the City danger men. We must not throw too many men forward early on, we must be fairly cagey and force City to come out of their shell, then they will be more vulnerable. Come on you Gunners!

Friday 22 October 2010

Rooney/Terry/Adebayor: peas from the same pod

Wayne Rooney has signed a new contract with Manchester United just a few days after he released a statement saying that he was not going to sign up:

“I met with David Gill last week and he did not give me any of the assurances I was seeking about the future squad. I then told him that I would not be signing a new contract.”

This whole sorry saga reminds me somewhat of when John Terry flirted with Manchester City in order to get more money from Chelsea. There are certain obvious parallels, both players claim to love their clubs and are regular badge kissers, both players also toyed with leaving their beloved clubs simply because of money, as a result they showed a rank lack of respect to their supporters with their money wrangling tactics.

The Adebayor saga was slightly different, in that Adebayor openly pimped himself for a move whilst under contract with Arsenal, whether he was just angling for a new contract with Arsenal with these antics remains open to question, still there are some parallels with Rooney and Terry.

The difference between Rooney/Terry and Adebayor is that Arsenal fans showed that they have some morals by never forgiving Adebayor for his betrayal of the club. Chelsea fans pretended that Terry had done nothing wrong when he clearly had, maybe it would short circuit their empty heads to admit that John Terry was a complete and utter c*nt, I don't know. I suspect Manu fans will do the same, they will pretend that Wayne still loves the club and he has done nothing wrong, they will live in denial because it would be too painful for them to admit the truth, that Wayne Rooney is an truly despicable c*nt.

For me these three players represent what is worst about modern football, they have no loyalty or class, they are simply interested in money. All three players have disrespected both their clubs and supporters with some slug like behaviour, all three represent the unpleasant greed and avarice that is present in today's game. Chelsea fans have let themselves down by accepting this behaviour and I suspect Manchester United fans will do the same, these fans are partly responsible for this behaviour by effectively condoning it with their silent state of denial.

Adrian Durham thought that Arsenal fans cheering Eduardo on his return was a sad indictment on us, I think that precisely the opposite is true. Eduardo was a lovely character, he was so modest and always showed such humility, he also showed such courage and determination in times of serious pain and adversity, he was a rare example of cracking chap in a game so ruled by money and greed. I think that the rapturous applause received by Terry and Rooney from their own fans is a sad indictment and indicative of the lack of moral fibre in today's game, the fact that these supporters condone the moral bankruptcy of their own players speaks for itself. If Chelsea and Manchester United fans were to take a long hard look at their heroes and themselves, they may not like what they see, perhaps this is they prefer to live on in denial.

Arsene at the AGM

Arsene was as open and honest as always in the Shareholder's Q&A at the AGM. There were some answers that revealed nothing new, for example the fact that we are taking all the cup competitions more seriously was already obvious. There was also some rather interesting replies which were a tad more revealing.

I found Arsene's reponse on our defensive frailty particularly interesting. Arsene admitted that we were poor defensively last season, too many goals conceded and too 'open in the middle'. He also commented that he felt a key to improving this was the way that the midfield contributed, we have certainly seen this change in practice this season; the whole team presses more effectively, we have also seen both Song and Wilshere patrolling fairly deep just in front of the back four.

Arsene also gave his support to our midfielders who can both attack and defend, it seemed to come down to finding the balance in the end. It was encouraging to hear that Arsene openly acknowledges the defensive problems and that he is working very hard to fix them. Overall I don't think that there's any doubt that we have looked better defensively this season so far, it will take time for the new players to gel and for things to solidify further, the early signs are definitely encouraging though.

Injuries. It was fascinating to hear that a large proportion of these stem from the International games and bad tackles. There is not much that Arsenal Football Club can do about this. Arsene then explained how one serious injury can lead to a long run of niggling injuries, it can take months, even years for players to find a sustained level of fitness following a bad injury.

Inexperience. Over the session this was a recurrent theme and to me it seems that Arsene has realised it has been a bit of a problem. Arsene has addressed this by bringing in experience in moderation, he also knows that the experience gained by our young players in recent seasons should see them gain the attributes that come with experience. Arsene gave his backing to Manuel Almunia as our no1 but one can't help but feel that Lucasz Fabianski's recent form must be having a real impact here.

Ivan Gazidis' speech revealed our excellent financial results, the net debt is down from about 300 million to 135 million, with our only remaining debt being the stadium's mortgage and some other sustainable ventures. Ivan also spoke of the club's proud traditions and our other achievements such as Vik Akers' amazing work with the Arsenal ladies.

In conclusion it was another interesting glimpse into the mind of one of our greatest ever managers. It is refreshing to see that Arsene can see exactly where we have gone wrong in recent years, he can see that our defense has not been good enough and that our lack of experience has been a serious factor. The season so far has not been perfect but how often is it? It has definitely been an improvement and I think most of us are generally encouraged by what we have seen thus far. If we can get certain players fit and become that little bit meaner defensively then we have a very good chance of achieving something significant this year. Come on you Gunners!

Thursday 21 October 2010

Wayne Rooney exclusive and more

I can exclusively reveal to Manu fans, who may I add have been a bit slow on the uptake, that Wayne Rooney is a c*nt. It is quite remarkable that is has taken them so long to realise this simple fact, apparently it stems from the fact that he is sculpted from potato and his high starch content results in him having to be stored in extremely expensive surrounds, hence the need for a twenty million pound salary. Frankly I couldn't give a monkeys about the tabbing chav, anyone willing to pay the money should have their hands bitten off. I am bored of the media speculation already, it is especially ridiculous given that fat Wayne hasn't played well for over six months.

Moving onto a contrasting story, about a club with a positive financial position, Arsene has spoken about the fact that money is very much available for the transfer window in January coming. It is a little concerning that a certain Mr Vermaelen hasn't been seen for several weeks and everyone has heard the rumours. It is a tad unusual to pick up an Achilles niggle acutely, it tends to be a chronic problem. Anyway he hasn't played for us since returning with an injury from international duty a while back, hopefully he'll be back in a week or two. Thank God Arsene signed Kos and Squillaci, we would be in real trouble if he had not.

Now onto the Shakhtar game, I have been hectic at work, so haven't had time to write up the game as yet, for this I apologise. Overall it was a very decent showing, although Shakhtar weren't great, this was largely because our energetic pressing made them look rather average. We needed a bit of luck to get going, there was no doubt that the goalkeeping howler catalysed the win. Nasri's excellent finish for no2 before half time seemed to further deflate the Ukranians' balloon.

We looked a real team, the fact that a certain Russian was absent undoubtedly had an effect, every single player worked hard and chased back. The midfield three of Wilshere/Song/Cesc is probably our best possible, while the energy of Nasri and Rosicky was vital, Chamakh led the line well again and gave us an alternative direct option that was used to good effect at times. Defensively I was impressed by Squillaci and Djourou, the latter looking as good as he has done in a while, always trying to aggressively win the ball when possible. Eboue and Fabiasnki played well too.

Adrian 'fannybag' Durham wrote a particularly inflammatory and ignorant piece on Eduardo's excellent reception on Tuesday evening. He claims that the 'Eduardo ovation sums up Arsenal' and then proceeds to insult Eduardo and Arsenal for the rest of the piece. I think the reception Eduardo got does sum Arsenal up but not in the way that the putrid Durham describes. It shows that Arsenal fans have a great respect for a player who always did his best, a player who fought back from a horrific injury under difficult circumstances, Eduardo's reception was both heart warming and healthy in today's climate of mercenaries and wasters, he was a player of rare humility and grace. I would argue that Durham's piece sums up Durham, in that this moronic cretin is such a low quality journalist that he has to deliberately write such rubbish to suck in readers to an extremely crap website.

Finally JET is looking awesome at the moment, he scored a hat trick against a very good West Ham Reserve side the other night and his goals were not average by any means. He has certain attributes which are very rarely all present in the same player. He has pace, skill, trickery, dribbling ability, strength, size, a lovely left peg and a great finishing instinct. JET is very close to getting a shot at the first team, maybe a Premiership loan move will come first, I don't know, what I do know is that he deserves to to put ahead of the likes of Carlos Vela in the pecking order. Henri Lansbury is also looking rather handy. One thing we are not short of is young talent and we should not take it for granted.

ps Arsenal have just appointed a new communications director, interesting

Monday 18 October 2010

Arsene's defiance and Shakhtar preview

Arsene made it clear in his press conference that he is not a fair weather hypocrite who will change his stance depending on the way the winds blows, his attitude to tackling has not changed and remains consistent, unlike certain managers that one could name:

“I don’t say we’re untouchable and that we don’t make mistakes, because we make them as well. But overall I believe we commit very few fouls in the game and we try to play in a fair way. When we make a mistake, we come out and say sorry and we won’t do it again."

I know I have gone on about it but the hypocrisy from the media and certain managers is beyond a joke. Our manager and player have already apologised for a tackle that has done little harm. We are still waiting for Pulis/Shawcross to apologise for snapping Aaron Ramsey's leg and there are certain people who have never apologised for far far worse.

It looks like Cesc and Theo may well be on the bench tomorrow night, with Jack suspended this weekend, it would seem unlikely that Arsene would gamble Cesc in such a game. With various injuries and so on, I would expect a line up of something like:

Eboue Squillaci Djourou Gibbs
Song Denilson Wilshere
Nasri Chamakh Rosicky

I was quietly impressed with the centre backs on Saturday, they handled everything pretty well, Djourou seemed to be nicely physical at times as well. Arshavin's poor performance should see him dropped, while maybe Diaby's due a rest. The big story will be the return of Eduardo who is guaranteed a fantastic reception, one certainly wouldn't put money against him scoring tomorrow knowing his mercurial touch in front of goal. If we can find some form I am confident we can win, but Shakhtar will exploit a bad performance, they are no mugs.

Hypocrites? No, never, not us at Birmingham City.

These are some quotes taken from Alex McLeish before Birmingham visited the Emirates on Saturday:

““We are in danger of taking tackling our of the game completely.......We have to be careful in certain situations. But I do believe that the players are taking heed. But there will still be the odd occasion when players collide. It’s inevitable."

Now here's Goodplaya revealing Mcleish's attempt to make Martin Taylor exempt from any criticism for breaking Eduardo's leg and here's McLiesh after the game:

"The tackle by Nasri is a sending-off for me. He's kneed the guy in the back. Is that not violent conduct? I don't mean to be a whinger but we've had a lot of decisions go against us over the last wee while. One of our players is going to have to get hit with a baseball bat to get a penalty, that's for sure."

Roger Johnson has also done the same as McLeish, I am sure he wouldn't think he's whingeing either but he also took the opportunity to compare Wilshere's tackle to Taylor's leg breaking one, he also conveniently forgot his attempt at decapitating Chamkh with an elbow. Liam Ridgewell also took the opportunity to talk about being hard but fair before the game, he was keen to point out that flying in a bit late was just an 'unfortunate thing':

“Every player knows what he is doing and everyone in football knows what they are doing. I don't think you can be pumped up so you don't know where you are......You are going to get it everywhere, where someone is going to fly in a bit late – that is just an unfortunate thing.”

It's amusing to see how Birmingham have completely changed their stance in the space of a few hours. I don't even need to accuse them of being hypocrites myself, the quotes above tell their own story. The ridiculous thing is that the media have completely ignored this about turn and instead various tabloid monkeys have had the audacity to turn on the people who have been the most consistent and honest. Hypocrites, never.

Sunday 17 October 2010

Reflections and the need for video technology

So the dust has settled somewhat on yesterday's football, interesting to see that some of the reactions in the media were rather fairer than normal. MOTD was strangely objective in its assessment of events, they acknowledged that the Dann tackle was stupid and that there was enough for Chamakh to go down, they also gave fair coverage to Arsene on the Wilshere red. I have to say that on viewing it again, it wasn't quite as bad as I initially thought, he was not fully out of control and his leg was slightly bent, definitely a red card in today's game but not as far down the scale of depravity as a Shawcross/Robinson/Henry lunge.

Goodplaya has sensibly pointed out just how cynically Alex McLeish has exploited the Wilshere red card to pretend that Martin Taylor was completely innocent regarding Eduardo's broken leg. It does come down to luck to a degree as to whether a reckless tackle breaks a leg, but if Wilshere had been unlucky enough to break Zigic's leg then this would not make a difference, it was a bad reckless tackle and he must take the blame whatever the nature of the injury to the opponent. Interestingly the Mail has some wise words from Eduardo on tackling today:

'No player tries to deliberately break someone's leg, but they go into tackles not caring what happens. Even small clubs in Spain, like Getafe and Hercules, still try to play football. But you can't say the same for Blackburn and Wolves here.'

Exactly. Wilshere was guilty of that yesterday and he must learn, the good thing is that both he and his manager admitted culpability straight away with no arguments. The likes of Allardyce, Robinson, Pulis and Shawcross cannot even acknowledge that they are doing anything wrong, therein lies the problem. Imagine how the media would have reacted to Arsene saying that it was just a committed tackle from Wilshere in a man's game? That's the hypocrisy I'm on about.

It was interesting how Carr's straight legged lunge on Chamakh and Johnson's attempt to decapitate Chamakh with his elbow were both uncarded by the referee. There was some woeful coverage in the media yesterday, particularly biased and vitriolic were Trevor Francis's commentary and the Chapman/Savage BBC 606 show. It's this kind of drivel that I expect the media to spew forth in the coming days, on one hand it criticises Arsenal for being dirty but on the other it then claims that this dirtiness is just part of the English game, you can't have it both ways fool.

There were some rather poor errors from referees yesterday that showed how useful some selective use of video technology would be. Stoke were pushing Bolton players in the box on a systematic basis, Knight did handball in the box but only after a push by Huth, Klasnic was yellow carded twice but on both occasions he was the player being fouled, on the first he was simply wrestling free from a Stoke player's grapple, on the second he was pushed into a Stoke player by another Stoke player.

The Tottenham winning goal was a disgrace. How a player who is standing just three yards from the goalkeeper and right in front of him cannot be deemed 'interfering with play' is an utter farce. Gallas was clearly interfering with play and clearly offside, maybe Schwarzer wouldn't have saved it, but that's not the point, the point is that we can't know if Schwarzer wouldn't have saved it because Gallas was a blatant distraction for the goalkeeper. The referee got this completely wrong, an appeal system with video technology would have hopefully seen this goal correctly disallowed. The West Ham 'winner' from Piquionne being disallowed was another blatant error that could have been easily prevented by video technology, the ball was clearly controlled with his chest and not his hand.

Anyway enough on that, I should probably be concentrating on the corruption exposed by the Sunday Times today surrounding the bidding process for the 2018 World Cup, I think this corruption represents the tip of the iceberg in FIFA, virtually everything they do is likely to be run in a rather similar manner, what hope of progression in the game with video technology when the governing body is as corrupt as an African brothel. Maybe we should be focusing on the fact that Manu and Chelsea both dropped points yesterday, Manu looked rather porous against West Brom, Chelsea missed Drogba's cutting edge. Not a bad day overall to be a Gooner.

Saturday 16 October 2010

Pathetic media's criticism has no coherence

Exactly as I had predicted the media have jumped on today's proceedings to do what they love best, sticking the knife into Arsenal's belly and twisting it our of sheer jealousy and spite. Arsene Wenger has taken the red card on the chin and admitted it was thoroughly deserved:

"He mistimed his tackled and got a red card, which he deserved.....Jack has acknowledged he deserved it, but he did not spend his whole game trying to kick people, he was one of the best players on the pitch. It was more of frustration and did not want to hurt the player, but we do not complain about the red card."

Arsene has been honest and has not looked for excuses. However in the media there has already been the repetition of the same old 'whinger Wenger' and 'didn't see it' coming from the same old biased cretins. On the BBC's show Mark Chapman and Robbie 'vacuum' Savage delighted in misinterpreting Arsene's comments and calling him various insulting names. Unbelievable.

With reckless and dangerous tackles the term 'not that kind of player' is both a useless and meaningless one, hence I am not a fan of Goodplaya's controversial headline. It matters not whether the player cradles orphans of picks the wings off insects in their free time, this is irrelevant, what matters is that they are consistently judged on their actions on the pitch.

Jack's tackle was a very bad reckless lunge that deserved a straight red card. If the FA were not impotent fools then it is this kind of tackle that should get an extra ban, I am no hypocrite and I will not try to defend Wilshere's tackle and say it wasn't that bad. It was an awful tackle and it is exactly the kind that needs to be punished more harsly by the authorities.

The thing that stands out in all this is the media's rank bias and inconsistency in dealing with these issues. The media is now very happy to jump on the bandwagon criticising Arsenal tackles, however many of them are also happy to defend violence when they so choose by saying 'it's a man's game' and 'you can't take tackling out of the game' at various times.

The media are a disgrace in my opinion. Arsene has looked for no excuses and taken things squarely on the chin, yet the media are twisting the knife in again and again. Some sad biased individuals delight in this unjustified campaign of persecution, what bitter losers they must be. I pity these fools, they seem to be so eaten up by hate from the inside, what sad lives they must lead.

The hypocritical media have their knives waiting: Brum report

Not the line up I was expecting, Clichy starting again of Gibbs, Djourou coming in for the injured Koscielny, Wilshere-Song-Diaby in midfield with Nasri-Chamakh-Arshavin up top. We started in lively fashion, Wilshere particularly bright and inventive in the midfield.

Early doors Squillaci was unfortunate to have a goal disallowed for offside when he appeared level, a very solid header from a good free kick on the left. Clichy should have done better when the ball broke to him about twelve yards out, the goal was at his mercy, he seemed to rush his shot and screwed it wide. Atkinson then gave a series of three soft free kicks to Birmingham for some non existent fouls.

The game was losing a bit of momentum from our point of view, and then Birmingham scored against the run of play. A fairly hopeful right footed cross from deep on the left flank was directed towards Zigic, he then met it with a very accurate looped header which Fabianski couldn't be expected to save. If there was fault to be found, it was the fact that Zigic was under so little pressure in the box, not good defending at all yet again. Clichy was caught out aerially soon after by Johnson, almost a second for Birmingham and yet more poor defending.

Then the controversial moment, but if it wasn't an Arsenal penalty it wouldn't have been controversial. Dann went to ground in the box, got nothing on the ball and clipped Chamakh, Chamkh went down the penalty was given. Chamakh did make the most of the contact but that's a striker's job, Dann was stupid to make a challenge when he was nowhere near the ball, Birmingham should have blamed their own stupidity and not the referee. Nasri slotted the penatly home and 1-1 it was. Birmingham were now keen to be overly aggressive, a particularly nasty elbow through Chamakh's head by Johnson was ignored by the inept Atkinson, a yellow card at least in anyone's book, if not a red. Things were simmering come half time.

Right at the start of the second half Chamakh made it 2-1, Wilshere slipped him in neatly, Chamakh then rounded Foster in tidy fashion and slotted home. Wilshere was central in everything good we did, his instinctive feel for where to move and pass belied his tender years. We were dominating but overplaying at times, the overcomplicated ponderous play in the final third was frustrating. Arshavin was not connecting, Diaby was looking dangerous, Wilshere fired over after some good build up.

The game now appeared to be petering out. The poor Arshavin was replaced by the bustling Rosicky. Eboue was lucky to get just a yellow for a nasty scissors challenge, funny how all those English pundits will point this out but ignore much worse from certain other players. Bendtner came on with ten to go and almost scored with his first touch. Zigic nailed Wilshere late with an aggressive elbow, another poor miss from Atkinson for what was at least a yellow card. The substitutes added a bit more impetus, but there wasn't quite enough directness or finesse in the final third. Another poor piece of officiating saw Birmingham given a dangerous free kick near the edge of our box, an accidental hand ball from Song harshly punished.

Then to Wilshere's red card, thoroughly deserved for a poor straight legged lunge. This is exactly the type of tackle that I've been talking about, the problem is that the media will go on and on and on about this one because it's from an Arsenal player. How typical would it be for the FA to do something now, what a bunch of morons they are.

Despite Atkinson giving Birmingham almost six minutes to score, Lucasz Fabianski wasn't to be beaten twice in one day, he completed an excellent goalkeeping performance with another good save at the death. It was a strange old day, a deserved win but a margin of victory that should have been greater, the overcomplicated play in the final third was particularly frustrating. The defence did do well though, Djourou and Squillaci were decent with Fabianski commanding. Still at least it's three points, one can't really grumble at that however it comes.

Just finally to pre-empt the media's reaction to Jack Wilshere's tackle. I am one of the most vehement campaigners against dangerous tackles and I would not for one minute condone the reckless Wilshere tackle. However the media are largely a bunch of hypocritical c*nts, they will highlight Wilshere's tackle tomorrow, even though they have previously ignored many other tackles that were even worse, in my book you have no right to criticise Jack's tackle unless you are consistent in your approach to dangerous tackling. Also I doubt Johnson's assault on Chamakh with his right elbow will get any coverage at all after the game. Will fat Sam, Tony Pulis, Alan Hansen and all those lovers of committed football be fighting to defend Jack's tackle tonight, I very much doubt it, he plays for Arsenal.

Arsene hints at the FA's rank incompetence

Arsene has reiterated some excellent points on the hot topic of dangerous tackling. His mention of the spate of serious injuries from dangerous tackles was an expertly aimed dig at those who claim that all these injuries are just accidents caused by committed play:

“What do you think? That all the injuries are coincidence? It's not God who tackles people, it's players."

Players like De Jong and Shawcross need to take some responsibility for their actions, it is no coincidence that certain players are routinely injuring their opponents with such regularity. Arsene's frustration with the FA and the corrupt power structures in England is obvious:

"I cannot influence what happens in England so I shut my mouth."

Finally the fact that other countries such as France deal with dangerous play strictly and properly was made rather clear, and rightly so.

"We have to make sure that the players know when they go into the game that if they do something that the referee has not seen that is dirty they can get punished....That happens in some other countries like France. You can be punished in France. A dirty tackle that the referee has not seen - you're punished. Even if the referee has seen the tackle and it's not punished you can still be punished. You can get six months."

The current situation is a joke. Dangerous tackles are being missed and ignored by referees. This means that there is simply no proper disincentive to breaking legs, it is propagating a culture of violence and needless aggression. This system failure comes down to one body, the FA, and their complete inaction is an absolute disgrace. The FA think leg breaking tackles are just a 'normal' part of the game, they have the power to act retrospectively on dangerous play but they continue to stick their bloated heads in the sand. No wonder they're called the FA when they continue to do absolutely f*ck all of use.