Saturday 30 April 2011
There have been some loud echoes recently, the way in which we lost the Birmingham cup final from a strong second half position, the way in which we have thrown away a chance at winning the league title (again) and the way in which we lost away at Bolton last weekend. The recurrent manner of our league capitulation is extremely depressing and frustrating. Despite these frustrations there is no excuse for some of the abuse and vitriol that has been aimed in the manager's direction of late.
It pains me to say it but time is running out for the manager. He faces a massive decision, does he do nothing, carry on ignoring the obvious and risk losing his job? Or does he admit failure and then address certain glaring failings in our squad in order to turn things around?
I sincerely hope he does the latter and the signs are that he will, my fingers are firmly crossed. Lee Dixon's interesting opinion in the Independent is well worth a read. I just wonder if certain Arsenal players have become too comfortable at the club, there seems to have been too much complacency in our performances time and time again, is Arsene's 'vegetarian parenting' resulting in an unacceptable slackness which is consequently undermining our performances? I wonder.
The vast majority of us can see where things have gone wrong, we have lost our physical power, we do not quite have the raw pace we used to, we lack experience in the squad, we have an excessive amount of small technically proficient midgets, the balance in our elevens and squad has been lost. The problems we have are interwoven and inseparable, the lack of experience goes together with our lack of defensive organisation at times, our inability to grind out results stems from inability to defend leads, our lack of tactical variation stems from our many of the above.
This season has gone, maybe we can salvage a bit of pride over the remaining games, I sincerely hope so. It is now undeniable that significant change is needed to transform us into a side that is capable of lasting the distance. Even with significant change there will be no guarantees of success, but it has to be shown that our failings have been acknowledge and acted upon. Let's get behind the team and give the manager a chance of turning things around.
Friday 22 April 2011
That point is that the English media are not consistent in their applause and criticism, to put it mildly. At the moment if you were an alien reading the English papers you would think that Arsene has been deliberately trying to run Arsenal FC aground, while 'Arry Redknapp is some kind of footballing (not tax accountancy) magician. This was translated into the other night's away draw at the Lane being seen as a victory for Tottenham and a disaster for Arsenal. It's strange that the media concentrates so much on this six years without a trophy, I haven't seen Tottenham's 50 years without the league title mentioned half as much and it's a far more damning statistic.
Take this article from John Cross, allegedly an Arsenal friendly journalist at the Mirror. It typifies the way in which our own media so often struggle to see anything with any perspective, on one hand the article puts the media at the centre of the Universe, but on the other it refuses to acknowledge the role in the media in the breakdown of its relationship with Arsene Wenger. Arsene has quite rightly and justifiably run out patience with the gutter press, he has consistently given a lot more than most managers and what he has given has been repeatedly distorted and used against him, strangely there is no mention of this from John Cross.
A lot of garbage has been spewed forth in recent weeks on all matters Arsenal related in the mainstream media, luckily these days there are plenty of amateurs producing a lot of more insightful and interesting reading material. A lot of aggression and arrogance displayed by professional journalists towards bloggers is because they are scared for their livelihoods, it is a defensive reaction, they are afraid.
Everyone has their vested interests. Professional journalists need to sell papers and generate hits, this means they are driven towards producing sensationalist drivel, and after a while they start to believe their own dross. The beauty of amateur blogging is that there are very few vested interests at work, especially if there is no advertising carrot coming into play, and hopefully this can help reverse the trend towards reactionary nonsense.
Every Gooner will have an opinion on where they want the club to go in the summer and every one's slant will be slightly different. One man I respect and trust a great deal is Lee Dixon, this excellent and thought provoking interview points towards a few areas that must be worked on.
Having been chatting to many family, friends and fellow Gooners in recent days I think that many of us are thinking similar things. As Le Grove pointed out today, there will be money to spend and if we can cull some of the dead wood then there will be a lot of money available. I don't agree with all the names they have listed, certainly I would like to see Denilson, Almunia, Vela, Rosicky and Squillaci shipped out, but this is part of the solution.
Another part will be bringing in a small handful of the right experienced players. The other key parts are sorting out the defensive coaching, we need to be better set up and better organised as a team defensively, we need to work harder and be more organised when we do not have the ball. Apparently we do not even have a defensive coach, why not get the legendary Martin Keown into this role? We also need to adjust our tactics for different opposition, our away record is excellent, but modifying our tactics at home when we play against sides that like to park the team bus in front of the goal is also key. I would simply love to see Arsene prove his critics wrong. Come on you Gunners.
Thursday 21 April 2011
So many an 'expert' seems to think that it is absolutely inevitable that all the big decisions will always even themselves out over a season, I have always thought this theory to be absolutely nonsensical, it relies upon a stupid man's lack of statistical understanding and an assumption that he have a set of excellent unbiased referees who are not swayed by any exterior forces.
I thought it would be interesting to look back over the last couple of months or so to see just how many big crucial decisions have gone for us and how many have gone against us. In order to try to be as fair as possible I have tried to bite my lip and be as objective as possible, hard I know. I have categorised the big decisions as being RED CARDS (correct, soft, incorrect), DISALLOWED GOALS (correct, soft, incorrect), and PENALTIES (correct, soft, incorrect). I feel these are the big game changing decisions, if I have missed any in the following games then please feel free to let me know.
Newcastle (A) 4-4 Draw
FOR - nil
AGAINST - RED CARD diaby (soft), RED CARD barton (incorrect), PENALTY (incorrect), PENALTY (soft), DISALLOWED GOAL for offside RVP (soft)
Wolves (H) 2-0 - nil contentious
Stoke (H) 1-0 - nil contentious
Sunderland (H) 0-0
FOR - nil
AGAINST - DISALLOWED GOAL for offside Arshavin (incorrect), PENALTY and RED CARD for same incident Bramble on Arshavin (incorrect)
West Brom (A) 2-2
FOR - nil
AGAINST - RED CARD Jerome Thomas on Sagna (soft)
Blackburn (H) 0-0
For - RED CARD (correct)
Against - nil
Blackpool (A) 3-1
For - PENALTY foul by Koscielny (incorrect)
Against - PENALTY RVP shoved over 2nd half (incorrect)
Liverpool (H) 1-1
For - PENALTY (correct)
Against - PENALTY Lucas (soft), PENALTY Kuyt handball (incorrect), PENALTY Kiyriakos on RVP (soft)
Tottenham (A) 3-3
For - nil
Against - DISALLOWED RVP goal (incorrect), PENALTY (correct)
Obviously this is always going to be subjective to a degree, however I have tried to be as objective as possible and relied more upon the general opinion of people I respect and trust to be more objective than myself. Overall the results are absolutely startling.
Overall of a total of eighteen big decisions in the last couple of months, 3 decisions have been for us and 15 against us. Of the 15 decisions against us, 9 have been incorrect, 5 soft and 1 correct. Of the decisions given for us which only amount to 3, 2 have been correct and one incorrect. The 3 disallowed goals have consisted of two clear errors and one borderline soft decision where RVP was level. Here is the breakdown
Despite our failings in terms of squad depth and experience, combined with some clear tactical errors, it is abundantly clear that we have most definitely not had the rub of the green this year in terms of the big game altering decisions. In a similar time frame we have seen Manu escape defeat at West Ham thanks to a dodgy free kick and penalty, Rooney avoid a red card for a reckless elbow at Wigan and Blackpool denied a clear penalty against the Mancs at a key time in the game.
Wednesday 20 April 2011
Walcott scored before some had taken their seats, a slick finish having been slipped through neatly by Cesc. Tottenham then struck back through Van der Vaart, Diaby let him run free and his touch and finish were pretty damn clinical. Nasri then struck a cracker, Gomes didn't even see his stunning twenty five yarder. RVP then gave us a cushion, his initial header from Walcott's delightful chipped cross was acrobatically saved by Gomes, the rebound was dispatched with interest.
The pivotal moment for me was Tottenham's rather fortunate second goal just before half time. The ball broke outside the box and Huddlestone hit it first time, it could have gone to row Z or the corner flag, it flew towards the bottom corner, possibly taking a small deflection on the way through. There was technique I know, but Huddlestone could hit another ten of those and not score a single one. The loss of the two goal cushion before half time was pivotal.
Having said that we could and probably should have made the game safe after that, with the score at 3-2 we looked dangerous on the break and there was plenty of space to exploit. Theo came close and was always a threat, but we never quite had the conviction to bury the game. So when Lennon was played through in the inside left position and Szczesny charged out, I feared the worst, Lennon was barely touched and went down like a sack of spuds, Atkinson duly awarded another soft penalty against us. Van der Vaart made no mistake.
The game could have gone either way after this, both keepers made some fantastic saves, RVP had a goal wrongly disallowed for offside, it was particularly annoying that Van der Vaart was offside several times but the linesman let him get away with it. I have to mention Martin Atkinson, he is just not a very good referee, it was the little decisions that he got wrong time and time and time again. Tottenham players were consistently not playing the ball and obstructing Arsenal players, Atkinson just couldn't see this all night long. At least Atkinson didn't get sucked in by the pathetic Modric's blatant diving. Arsene's substitutions were poor, Bendtner and Arshavin did little, I would have left Theo on.
The league was not lost tonight. Tonight we saw an excellent performance from a side that worked terrifically hard and played for each other. There were also some much better individual performances. One has to give a lot of credit to Tottenham as well, they never gave up, although their approach was rather direct, they showed a lot of character to come back from two goals down. It was a great game of football all round and we should concentrate on this. There's no doubt if we had played this well against the likes of Sunderland, Liverpool and Blackburn, we would have quite a few more points than we do now.
Tuesday 19 April 2011
If you cannot criticise without spitting venom then you would do better to grow up, count to ten and then come out with something reasoned and polite. Behaving like petulant aggressive adolescents doesn't do one's arguments or reputations any favours in my opinion. I am used to this kind of behaviour from spoilt and unappreciative Manchester supporters, but I expect better from Arsenal fans. As adults we should try to put football into perspective, we should try to behave maturely and not fly off the handle in a knee jerk manner without engaging our brains.
The manager seems to damned whatever he does these days. If he accepts defeat gracefully then he is just too wet and doesn't care, if he gets a bit angry and shows some passion then he should be more graceful. If he criticises his players in public then he's a bad manager and if he doesn't then he's backing incompetents. A lot of the abuse he gets in the media is so unfair it's not true, so inconsistent and riddled with double standards it stinks.
The manager has made mistakes but there's a way of pointing this out that's acceptable and a way that's just plain unacceptable. Certain players need moving on, some just aren't good enough, some just aren't one hundred percent committed to the club. The tactics have also been completely lacking on too frequent a basis, playing a lone striker against a team that sticks ten behind the ball just doesn't work well.
However if it's a 'with us or against us' bipolar situation then I'd rather stick with Arsene Wenger than supporters who will attack each other for chanting a certain player's name, than supporters who will attack each other when things aren't going quite to plan, than supporters who will regularly put more energy into jeering their own players rather than getting behind the team, than supporters who cannot express themselves both reasonably and politely in their criticism of the manager and players, than supporters who always point our what they haven't but ignore what they have. I hope the lads can put a committed performance in tomorrow night and make a real point. Come on you Gunners.
Sunday 17 April 2011
Overall Liverpool defended very solidly and restricted us to only a handful of clear cut chances but over the entire match it was hard to argue that we deserved the three points. Reina looked to have killed our hopes with a terrific late save from RVP, we rallied well with ten minutes to go and pushed hard for the winner, this was after playing poorly for a long time in the second half. Arshavin and Bendtner made a difference, and in the end it told with RVP converting from the spot after a clear foul on Cesc in the box.
The game looked won, there were only a couple of minutes on the clock, the ball was hanging around on the edge of our box, we missed a few chances to clear, Lucas then dived for the umpteenth time in the half and the referee generously awarded a free kick on the edge of the box. By the time it was taken we were well over the extra eight minutes, the ball broke harmlessly towards the wing, Lucas went for it, Eboue followed, somewhat stupidly, Lucas slowed down and exaggerated the minimal contact that he looked for, again the referee generously awarded Liverpool the spot kick, Kuyt converted, our title dreams were crushed.
Eboue had a terrible game defensively and this was summed up with his naive play that allowed Lucas to cheat his way towards another decision from the referee, the hapless Mariner. The diving from Lucas and Suarez was particularly poor throughout the game, time and time again they hurled themselves down after minimal contact. For this reason I have sympathy with Eboue, he was silly and stupid, but Lucas conned him, it was never a penalty, he stopped running for the ball and made the most of the very little contact that he had himself deliberately engineered. The handbags between Dalglish and Wenger were nothing to even bother writing about, that won't stop the gutter press though.
Overall it's just terribly disappointing all round but if we're honest we just have to admit that we have not been good enough when it has counted, we have dropped too many points in the last few weeks, point that you cannot afford to drop if you hope to be champions. The fact that we were done by a bit of gamesmanship makes it that little bit harder to take, but we still should not have given Lucas the opportunity, we had several chances to clear that ball before Lucas dived for the first time. Still, let's not scapegoat Eboue, we would be more sensible to learn from the fact that we have not been good enough in many ways over many weeks. This title was not lost with one moment of idiocy, there have been many moments that have contributed.
These are Ken Friar's words and he is a man I have a lot of respect for. Although my insider knowledge is limited, on the few moments when I have written to the club, they have always responded with politeness and though, Ken Friar is clearly a key part of the class act that is Arsenal Football Club.
Some people keep criticising the club for a certain lack of communication and they have a point to a degree. Still one must always understand that part of the club's tradition is the stiff upper lip and a dignified silence on occasions when it would be much easier to come out with a poorly thought out and reactionary response.
Fiszman seemed to personify the understated dignity of the club and he did so much excellent work in a similarly understated manner. He sold on his shares to Stan Kroenke and I see this as his final sensible act, although some doubt the American's intentions, I reckon Danny was a pretty fine judge of character and I hope this will be proven by Kroenke over time. The fact that Usmanov cannot take control of our club is also a massive massive bonus, the malignant vulture will have to get used to this fact.
Anyway attention today turns to the visit of the scousers, Liverpool FC, and this is yet another last chance saloon for the players to keep the fire burning this season. We will be boosted by the return of Szczesny and Djourou, important given the physical power of Andy Carroll, while it looks likely that Sagna will miss out, whether Song will return to the eleven is another matter.
Three points today are vital, with Manchester United showing their complete lack of class in losing their FA Cup semifinal yesterday, it is key that we capitalise on any potential loss of confidence by keeping tight at their heels. Either way, whether we win anything or not, I would hope in the future that we can lose with more dignity than Manchester United and Rio Ferdinand did yesterday. I hope Danny's legacy can be one that sees our club continue it's classy and respectful traditions, rather than morph into a money grabbing whore of a club like Manchester United.
Monday 11 April 2011
Saturday 9 April 2011
Monday 4 April 2011
I think a few people need to pause for a minute and think before venting their spleens. Arseblogger has magnificently captured many of our feelings at the moment with his blog this morning, the deeply ignorant bile and vitriol does not help. The outpourings of hostility have been there for all to see, especially as regards certain idiots fighting each other at the ground on Saturday, how very sad.
Firstly some perspective, we are still second in the league table, we need to get behind the team to push them on to staying as high as we can come the end of the season. Very few people gave us a chance of being where we are now, this season has not been a complete disaster by any means, although some of the same problems have emerged. Let's stop fighting each other, remember there is still a season to fight for and get behind the lads.
Arsene deserves some credit, some managers have been labelled geniuses for finishing lower down the table with far greater resources, the naive assumption that sacking him and bringing in any old numpty would automatically bring in the trophies is utterly foolish, likewise the assumption that clearing out tens of players in the summer is the answer, utter hogwash. This is not championship manager, this is reality, so many of those names trumpeted by those armchair experts have turned out to be rather mediocre. Also one cannot be second in the table with a squad full of dross, this also makes no sense at all.
I don't like to see certain players scapegoated. It seems that there are some rather easy targets that people like to pick, while certain household names are virtually immune from criticism, mentioning no names of course. While it is undoubted that certain players have run out of time, some players who are taking a lot of stick at the moment have had rather decent seasons. Let's take stock come the end of the season and try to judge players fairly without conveniently scapegoating certain individuals.
Maybe I'll turn out to be completely wrong but I suspect that Arsene is thinking about making some significant changes this summer, there have been certain hints at this with certain team selections and substitutions in recent weeks. As has been said elsewhere Arsene must be judged on his actions and not his banter. Obviously I am not happy that our season is disintegrating into dust before my very eyes, but I am even less happy with some of the idiotic bile that is spewing forth in certain quarters. The grass is not always greener I am afraid to say, we need to try to keep some sense of perspective through these tricky times, knee jerk reactionary decisions are invariably bad ones. We should behave like adults and not spoilt children. Come on you Gunners.
Sunday 3 April 2011
Saturday 2 April 2011
On the day of the Cricket World Cup final, there could not be more of a stark contrast between the excellent use of video technology in this sport and football's pathetic refusal to do anything to wipe out the routinely useless decisions that change both games and seasons.
India and Sri Lanka are taking part in a great game of cricket and it is being supported by technology, in the same way that many other sports around the world have embraced technology for the better. Errors are reduced, although nothing is perfect, using technology sensibly is a massive improvement on what went on before, no one could deny this.
On this same day Manchester United are helped on the road to coming back from 2-0 down against West Ham by some appalling refereeing decisions that surely would not have happened if football's corrupt authorities had bothered to introduced technology to assist the officials. Vidic somehow stayed on the field when he should not, Rooney scored from a free kick that never was after Noble had won the ball fairly, Rooney's and United's third came from an appalling penalty decision after a clearly accidental handball by Upson.
Football is the richest game in the world, yet it still has not introduced technology in order to minimise error and make the game fairer for all, this is an absolute disgrace and frankly I am losing faith in the game that I love the most because of this stinking mess. FIFA are the chief culprits, a corrupt organisation that is completely unaccountable, one that persistently refuses to do anything that may make the game fairer. For this reason football currently stinks.For anyone hoping for some decent objective refereeing today at the Arsenal-Blackburn game, think again, it is Phil Dowd in charge, the man who stole two points from us at Newcastle earlier this year. Dowd has a ridiculously dodgy record when taking charge of our games this year. Here's the eleven fighting against Blackburn's twelve men: Almunia, Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy, Song, Wilshere, Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott, Van Persie.