Monday 30 May 2011

AKB: the deluded railroading of debate

I wrote briefly on the 'AKB' tag the other day and this was largely inspired by some pretty slack jawed stuff that had been trotted out elsewhere in recent weeks. There were a number of excellent and eloquent responses from readers, certainly others who had been as angered as myself at the way in which some lazily trot out the 'AKB' tag in order to avoid ever listening to the opinions of others or thinking with their grey cells. This response summed it all up well:

"I am afraid that these 'empty vessels' who pamper to the vocal minority in search of greater visibility, will inevitably drown the voices of those among us who care for the club and wish to contribute with constructive argument and debate."

Quite right. Strangely the whole issue was neatly summarised when someone who seems to be unable to say anything without using the AKB tag emerged from the pond to try to explain his 'logic', if one can call it that. According to this intellectual powerhouse all Arsenal fans must divide themselves up into two camps, we must either be AKBs and think Arsene is a supernatural deity or be utterly opposed to these silly AKBs, thus want Arsene sacked and the playing squad completely dismantled.

Apparently it is courageous to 'make a stand' like this and call for the manager's head in the most vitriolic, angry and disrespectful of manners. Anyone who doesn't agree with sacking Arsene is then written off as a 'fence sitter' who is catalysing the process of stagnation at the club, what flawless logic.

The saddest thing about all this is that a small minority of Arsenal 'fans' is trying to divide and conquer, they are creating a rift in order to further their own rather polarised 'beliefs'. The greatest irony of all this is the way in which the AKB tag was coined, it was created by this vocal minority as they simply couldn't be bothered to engage with their fellow supporters, they just lazily and arrogantly wrote off a large section of their fellow support without even bothering to listen to their views. It was not something to be proud of.

The world is not black and white, we are not all either communists or fascists, this polarised view of events is neither helpful, intelligent or productive. In fact forcing people into two camps at opposite ends of the spectrum is immensely counter productive, and those who do the forcing have shown their true colours, their arguments on their own do not cut the mustard, so they have fallen back to bullying others into their way of 'thinking' or not 'thinking' as the case may be.

In conclusion this piece is not intended to divide, its intention is to draw attention to the unacceptable way in which a small angry vocal minority is treating its fellow Arsenal supporters. If you don't agree with someone, why not listen to their point of view, discuss things and then you can always agree to disagree like adults. It is not big or clever to polarise the debate, tag people with an oversimplified label and then just try to force your opinion down their throats while holding your fingers in your ears whenever they dare express their own opinion.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Mediocre Manu humbled and pathetic AKB piffle

It was the better result for football in the end, the better footballing side convincingly dispatched their opponents, a justice of sorts on the football field. It was even strange to see Barca play with some integrity, there wasn't anything like the same level of gamesmanship that we have seen in recent games.

It seemed to me that Ferguson blundered with his team selection. Although United started well for the first ten minutes or so, the absence of Nani baffled, Carrick and Giggs were rather anonymous in the middle of the park. If it wasn't for some excellent last ditch defending and goalkeeping then it could have been far more than the three goals conceded, the goal Manu scored was also a clear yard offside. Valencia should also have been sent off, guilty of four particularly crude or cynical tackles, in the end he escaped with just the one yellow.

Still however United had approached the game they probably would have lost, they simply aren't that great a side, they are deeply average in many areas of their side, particularly in the centre of their midfield. Barca played some great stuff, Messi was electric, Xavi and Iniesta instrumental, but for me it was their phenomenal work rate and fitness that stood out. Their work ethic and pressing game takes some commitment. They also produce in game in game out, it is pretty damn rare that this Barca side fails to turn up.

Some of the current Arsenal squad need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror, they should look at the work rate and effort that Barca players put in week in week out and realise that no matter of one's name, reputation or ego, it is simply not good enough to only turn up to games sporadically and expect to win the easier fixtures without trying hard. Song has openly spoken of this issue and well done to him for having the courage to do this. Everyone in our squad needs to work harder, even certain big names who some seem to think are immune from all criticism.

Finally onto a lot of rather lazy and unconstructive stuff that has been put out there in the last few days. It is not often that I single out a site for criticism but in this case I make an exception, the OnlineGooner has covered itself in turd of late. It started with this 'Dear AKB' post, it summed up so much that is wrong in the way that some idiots reason and rationalise the 'debate'. The AKB tag is a useless and stupid term that serves no productive purpose, it is used lazily by morons to polarise the debate so that they don't have to listen to the opinion of others and therefore have a proper debate. The 'with us or against us' argument is nonsensical and dumb, seeing Arsene Wenger has a God or an idiot is just plain foolish, the truth is somewhere in the middle, so labelling people as one extreme or the other is unconstructive, stupid and patronising in the extreme.

The OnlineGooner has followed up its weak AKB piece with another limp effort, this time it's apparently a tongue in cheek effort to mock those silly AKBs (note sarcasm here). The fact that a lot of people didn't realise it was meant to be 'funny' says it all really, it isn't funny, it's just a sad attempt to polarise the debate and insult anyone who dares disagree with your opinion, rather than bothering to listen and engage in a reasonable debate. The author 'Raskolnikov Enahoro' seems to think he knows it all, he wants Arsene sacked, he has openly stated how useless he thinks Arsene is and he has made it clear that he is unwilling to listen to anyone who would dare disagree with his mighty opinion.

Anyways I'm rambling, the point I'm trying to make in a rather laboured fashion is that the 'AKB' tag is completely useless and invariably used by rather aggressive reactionaries who have nothing constructive or productive to say. It is amusing that these reactionaries are so often incapable of suggesting any realistic managerial replacements for Arsene, they are all too happy to list players we should sign, however when they sign for someone else and turn out to be utter turnips then this is completely forgotten. Arsene deserves criticism, I'm not saying otherwise, but it should be reasonable, proportional and fair, and certainly a lot of dross written slagging him off in a rather disrespectful and vitriolic manner deserves nothing more than a wastepaper bin. Generally if you have to use the 'AKB' tag to make a point then your argument is probably about as solid as Ryan Giggs' superinjunction.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Night of the gruesome twosome and other news

Well the hype surrounding tonight's Champions League final has been going full blast for hours now and I have a certain feeling nagging inside me concerning the injustice dished out to us by Barcelona and their referee in that tightly contested tie earlier on this season. We were robbed, although I feel Arsene got his tactics wrong in the second leg, Rosicky was poor and Arshavin should have started, some of the refereeing decisions were completely incomprehensible, especially the RVP sending off. In fact since that red card I have noticed even more that players shoot as RVP did, after the whistle had gone, rather routinely and never get punished for it.

Still, although Barca are a bunch of cheating, diving, arrogant tosspots, it is hard to even come close to backing the side that comes from the grim hole in the north, Manchester. They have so many unpleasant malignant sorts in their team and their manager is the most deplorable of the lot. They are also a distinctly average side, the fact that we so comprehensively outplayed them as we beat them 1-0 at the Emirates showed this. Their fans are also such obnoxious arrogant numpties in the most part. The fact is that Manchester United have got a great record of winning things when they haven't been that great a side, beating Munich in that final a few years back was the best example of this, distinctly second best for the whole game, one of the most undeserved triumphs in footballing history in most objective people's book.

The role that Ferguson's bullying and intimidation of officials plays cannot be underestimated in my opinion. His comments earlier this season relating to Martin Atkinson's impartiality summed this up. The strangest thing was then that Atkinson didn't get given any more Manchester United games for the rest of the season. The Italian refereeing scandal of a few years back got a lot of attentions and resulted in huge punishments for the clubs concerned, yet in England the way in which officials are given certain games is still conducted in the most hidden and subjective of manners. To me it looks like there is far too much room for manipulation here, in the context of Manchester United's narrow title success, small changes from this kind of systemic manipulation may be rather key in their success. Anyway tonight it's a hard choice for me, and frankly I won't lose any sleep over it either way. If I had to lean either way it would be towards Barca simply because they are far better in footballing terms than this distinctly average United side.

Transfer wise I refuse to get too excited about all the gossip, we have been linked with dozens of players already and most of it will turn out to be utter horseshite, let's just wait until deals are done and then make comment. The most important thing for me is getting rid of those who have not performed and who are not 100% committed, whoever they may be, big name or otherwise. Almunia, Squillaci, Denilson, Vela are just a few of the names we could do without, while they are certain young players who are clearly not going to cut it at the highest level. Good to see Aaron Ramsey confirm his recovery with a cracker for Wales last night. The goings on at FIFA are also rather welcome, let's just hope this can be the beginning of some real change for the better.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Alex Ferguson: a disgrace of a human being

I challenge even the biggest Manchester United supporter to defend the above. One has to give credit where credit is due and no one can doubt Fergsuson's incredibly achievements and record as United manager.

However as a human he is not someone I have much respect for and his behaviour above is a perfect example of what a deeply unpleasant character the man is. He is a cowardly bully, a man who has consistently and routinely used his position and power to force his own way on others. He is not a man who listens to others, he is not a man who can be reasoned with, he is a man who no other way than to aggressively force his way on everyone else.

The journalist was merely asking a question and Ferguson couldn't handle that. He had to react by vindictively trying to ban the journalist from future press conferences, truly the cowards way out. This is the latest in a long line of incidents in which Ferguson has been caught trying to bully the media. Shame on him. He will always be remembered as a great manager, but also as a malignant bullying thug.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Disastrous end complete and a tribute to Blackpool

So I think I can say that our end to the season has been an unmitigated disaster, there have been so few good performances, so many average ones, so many defensive errors and so many poor shows, it is not a surprise that we have picked up only two wins from twelve, a truly terrible record by anyone's standards. Our points total of 68 points puts us on a par with 2005-6 (67) and 2006-7 (68) and it does show that no progress has been made. I won't bore with you my deranged ramblings about where these changes should come, I will save that for a later day, but what has been abundantly obvious in recent weeks is that significant changes in terms of both personnel and thinking are required.

The big talking points from today will not be the football. The absence of our club captain will be hyped up by some and played down by others, but I cannot help but feel that despite being injured, he would have shown more commitment by travelling with the squad to the game at Fulham. Maybe I am on my own with this one, but I feel we would be better off without Cesc if he is not completely committed to the club. The absence of Song was also slightly baffling, Bendtner's failure to make the bench may also be a hint of what is to come.

I would say congratulations to Manu if they were an outstanding side and their squad wasn't riddled with such filthy human specimens, but as things stand they are one of the most mediocre league champions I have seen in my lifetime. Chelsea have gone backwards too, the only team that has made progress is City and it's not hard when you have millions to blow, this is no reference to Imogen Thomas and Ryan Giggs, I would like to make that 100% clear.

Blackpool have been a breath of fresh air in the Premiership all season long. Their work ethic, commitment and team play is quite something, the fact that they have played such lovely football in the process makes things even more remarkable, their manager is also a legend, his unique brand of humour and dignity in defeat have been a credit to both him and his club. I was truly sad to see them relegated today, they put up a typically brave fight at Old Trafford, in the end they just didn't quite have enough in their locker but they played some scintillating football in the process, their second goal was a great example of their lovely passing game. Bravo Blackpool and Ian Holloway, my manager and team of the season.

If you haven't got anything good to say then don't say anything, so when I move on to Birmingham City FC and their relegation, I will leave it there, the championship awaits.

Friday 20 May 2011

Denilson off, more dead wood must follow

So the deeply average Denilson, frankly I can't be arsed with his full Brazilian name, is to leave us and shock horror, he is not going to be joining Chelsea or Manchester United. He has spoken to the Sun and said a few rather silly things, he has also shown us that he is verging on the delusional.

Apparently Denilson is a 'winner' in his own words, how he has worked this out is not mentioned, several years distinctly average displays do not a winner make in my opinion. He is not useless, I do not intend to insult the lad, the problem is that he is simply not that good at anything. He is not very quick, he is poor in the air, he is very weak defensively, lethargic even, his passing is ok, his long range shot is decent, he is no dribbler. He just hasn't developed as many of us would have hoped, putting in bluntly Denilson just isn't good enough for Arsenal Football Club.

Chelsea and Manchester United, and even Spurs, would not want to touch Denilson with a proverbial barge pole, he is just not up to it and this has been clear for some time. The final straw appeared to be his half time withdrawal away at West Brom, but the signs had been there long before that, many of us wanted him shipped out well before that. There is no doubt that after 153 appearances for us he should be doing a lot more in games, he is consistently a weak link, opposition players walk past him as if he wasn't there, defending and attacking are not his strengths.

I hope this is the start of a proper spring clean at the club. There are several other players at the club who need to be sent packing. The whole squad need a kick up the arse, the complacency that we have seen at times this season needs to be stamped out ruthlessly and clearing the dead wood is a great way to start this process off. Farewell Denilson, I wish you well wherever you end up but fear that you will drift down the food chain from here, because frankly you aren't really that good.

Thursday 19 May 2011

A depressingly early close season: my predictions

With the season reaching the whimpering stage at a premature point, we are set to endure an extended period of media speculation and rumour concerning the ins and outs at Arsenal Football Club. It's hard to avoid clicking on those annoying made up transfer links, I know, but do yourselves a favour and ignore the rubbish, let's remain patient and see what happens.

I am sure the club's tentacles have been spread far and wide, there are certainly many unpredictables and we must plan as best as possible for these. Will Nasri and Clichy extend their contracts? For if they do not then we must be prepared to let them go and replace them with quality. Is Cesc fully committed? If he is not as I suspect then he must be sold, there is no room for those who will not work their socks off for the club in every game, there is no passenger space.

I think getting rid of some of the dead wood in the squad will be at least as important as who we bring in. There are some marginal cases but there are some clear cut cases of players who have repeatedly failed to impress. The five who I would definitely ship out are Almunia (consistently poor), Squillaci (lethargic defending time and time again), Denilson (mediocre and no progression), Vela (never delivered) and Rosicky (never enough from him). There are others whose form has been erratic and lacklustre such as Diaby and Arshavin who may well also be on borrowed time. While if Cesc is not fully committed he must be sold.

Scanning through our squad it is obvious where the problem lies. We have an abundance of relatively attacking central midfielders, very few defensively solid midfielders and very few genuine wingers. The formation that has failed is so consistently at home (4-3-3) is more a result of our squad imbalance than anything else, this simply must be addressed in the summer.

An experienced keeper would be needed to replace Almunia, a centre back to replace Squillaci, the future of Bartley seems a bit of an unknown at the moment, if Clichy goes then Enrique of Newcastle would fit the bill, this would then leave us pretty well off in terms of defensive players assuming Vermaelen stays fit. Blackburn's Samba would be a useful defensive addition.

The midfield is a far bigger conundrum and it is essential that we correct the balance that has left us without that shield in front of the back four that used to be such a defensive key. Theo is the only player who can play on the right, and it may well be that his future lies more centrally, meaning a purchase here would be essential. Ashley Young would be a fantastic acquisition from Villa, he only has a year to run on his contract and would be a fantastic left sided player for us. Add to this one solid all round physical midfielder who can defend and I then think our squad would be looking far more balanced, especially when one considers that Frimpong, Lansbury and Coquelin may well return to add some depth too.

Up front I think we are close, if we return to playing two up top then this would suit Bendtner and Chamakh far more than the current system, either would fit well up front with RVP just off them. There is perhaps a slight lack of pace in our side these days, so maybe Theo will more into more of striking role in the next few years, if he doesn't then a young hungry striker with pace who likes to drop off the shoulder of centre halves would be useful.

We're not miles off but certainly some decent changes are required to properly debride the squad. One of the most important things is that we get rid of any player who is anything less than 100% committed to the club, we have seen in certain smaller games that any complacent lack of effort will be punished. No matter how big a player's name or reputation, they must go if they are not dedicated to Arsenal Football Club, we need eleven players on the field every game who will fight and die for the club's name.

Sunday 15 May 2011

Clinical Bent punishes usual Arsenal failings

It pains me to see us lose again but I sense that a lot of the reaction is going to lack context, perspective and common sense. In my humble opinion the defeat today against Villa was nothing to with a lack of effort, despite what some will say, the game was lost for a complex blend of reasons.

Credit must go to Villa who started excellently and their clinical approach saw us two down before we had even left the blocks. Opponents frequently play five in the midfield against at the Emirates and our 4-3-3 system has simply not worked against this approach. Squillaci was caught sleeping for the first, bent finished superbly. Sagna and Squillaci were both at fault for the second, Bent finished well despite being just offside.

We improved as the half wore on but the sad fact was that our tactical approach had been found sadly wanting again at home. The system gave no defensive support to our full backs, Rvp was also far too isolated up front, the effectiveness of the 4-4-2 in the second half showed this perfectly. Arshavin looks a sad shadow of his former self, a player who no longer looks a threat and who I no longer think is good enough for an Arsenal shirt, just like the hapless and day dreaming Squillaci.

The referee bottled a key decision when Ramsey was hacked down while clean through on goal, Dunne should have walked, instead the young official completely choked it, no red card and no penalty, Dunne was nowhere near the ball despite his stupid and ignorant post match comments.

The second half saw us hammer Villa, reverting to the 4-4-2 eith rvp/chamakh up top helped, as did the later replacement of our ineffective Russian with our young Dane. We had countless chances which came and went, there was some poor finishing and some bad luck, also some top Friedel keeping. There was also time for the useless ref to disallow a perfectly good chamakh goal, while petrov should have walked for a clear second yellow offence.

The chamakh goal may well have seen us get something out if the game, maybe even a win, but it was not to be, sadly. Overall it was another cruel blow, a very harsh defeat. We were punished for some bad defending and a tactical setup that has simply not consistently delivered at home this season.

The manager needs to sit down and go back to drawing board, back to the basics, we're not miles off, but changes are need both in terms of the playing staff and our variation of tactics to deal with different scenarios.

Do not listen do the doom sayers who will rage in in vitriolic terms about mentality and effort. Our failure is far more marginal and complex than this, the baby should not be thrown out with the bath water, a sense if perspective and a pragmatism is required to build again, not demolish everything naively.

Looking ahead and beyond

As Arseblogger pointed out yesterday, Arsene is not going to reveal his cards and it would be foolish to do so. The point that I have been rambling on about to various people in recent days is related to the complacency that seems to have developed in the squad. There is no doubt that certain players do not put 100% of effort into every game.

In my humble opinion any player, no matter how good, who is not completely committed to the club should be sold this summer. We simply cannot have passengers in the squad if we are to try to win the league. Arsene needs to cast aside some of the dead wood, bring in some motivated new blood and create a new squad that has the necessary desire, determination and focus in win things. As things stand we do not have this.

I spent some time yesterday looking through the squad in detail and working out how I would tweak it if I were manager. Just listing the players and their positions shows how deeply unbalanced the squad has become for me, basically we are overwhelmed with small technical attacking central midfielders and we have adopted a formation to fit that in balance, 4-3-3. Fitting a formation to an unbalanced squad is a bad idea and this seems to be a root cause of our failings again this season.

The defence does not need that much work on it for me, the defensive problems we have are systemic and more a result of the whole team's inability to defend, frequently relating to set pieces. Our old sides had several beasts in the midfield who could help out the back four, especially aerially, we need to get more balance back into the midfield part of our squad.

We have umpteen central midfielders, very few of whom actually work hard enough or defend with any discipline, there is no doubt that bringing in a good all round midfield beast a la Petit/Gilberto/Vieira is badly needed. We also need more pace and width in the midfield, we have very few players who can actually play wide, we could also do with a bit more raw pace up front.

Villa await today and the today's opponents have a player that I would definitely not say no to in the summer, Ashley Young, he is quick, skilful and can add width to any side, also a player that we know Arsene admires and he only has a year left on his contract. Anyways let's hope we can do a job against them today.

Finally just to add a final comment on the manner in which this deeply average and unpleasant Manu side have won the league. Firstly Dowd was the referee, secondly Manu's equaliser came after blatant and disgraceful intimidation of the linesman by Vidic, Ferdinand et al, and thirdly it was never a penalty, it was a clear dive. It sums up the way Manu win overall, they have no class and no decorum. What a shame to see Stoke go down in the cup final, seeing Ryan Shawcross weeping as he collected his loser's medal was a truly poetic moment. Well done City.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Suicide monkeys induce widespread groans

Another characteristic performance and yet more frustration, fortunately with City dropping points yesterday our hopes of holding onto third spot remain, but that is all. You know what you are going to get at Stoke and we got it, we simply didn't do the basics well enough defensively and got punished for it by a workmanlike Stoke side

Johan Djourou has had a brilliant season but he has made some sloppy errors in his last couple of away games, today Stoke's scrappy opener was down to his failure to adequately mark Kenwyne Jones and we paid the price. The second was a fortunate deflection. 2-0 down at half time and a mountain to climb. The problem was that goals change games and by conceding such a sloppy opener it played right into Stoke's hands, they could then keep men behind the ball and play exactly as they wanted. If we could have defender better then given our domination of the game, this was just the kind of game we could turn from a defeat into a comfortable win.

We controlled the second half and were again by far the better footballing side, RVP even got us back into it with his goal in the final third. Sadly our hopes of a recovery were short lived, Djourou's poor clearance broke for Walters in the box, he was given far too much space and gave Szczesny no chance at all. All the possession, domination and superior technique counts for nothing if you are going to surrender cheap cheap goals in this suicidal fashion.

This has been the story of our season, cheap goals conceded that have cost us point after point in games which we have frequently been by far the better footballing side. Our casual and negligent defending has cost us big time this season. Whatever happens in United Chelsea later only postpones the inevitable crowning of the most average Premier League title winners for quite some time, it is sad that we haven't even been able to push them to the wire.

Our defense and our defensive play as a team need sorting, this much is obvious. The formation doesn't seem to help us much, the lack of defensive structure of the 4-3-3 is a hindrance. There are problems with some individuals in the squad. There is a lack of depth in terms of defensive midfielders and centre backs, maybe this is why we are seeing the likes of Song and Djourou burnt out at this stage of the year. No matter how good a team is offensively, if you keep going behind to cheap goals then you are going to throw a lot of points away in a season.

Monday 2 May 2011

Cheating and the inaction of authority

This weekend we have again seen countless incidents in games of football that could have been better judged by using video technology in order to reduce error. There was the ball that never crossed the line and the offside goal at the lane, the Vidic handball at the Emirates and some rather dubious penalties elsewhere. In midweek we also saw countless examples of despicable cheating and the feigning of injury in the Madrid-Barca game, in fact a dodgy red card changed the entire complexion of the game.

Enough should be enough but this does not appear to be the case for our useless and incompetent footballing governing bodies, the FA, UEFA and FIFA. If UEFA cared about discipline then they would be charging several Barcelona players with the feigning of injury (Pedro/Busquets) and both sets of players for their shocking intimidation of the officials. The fact that they will do nothing about the cheating and intimidation says it all, they lack the moral fibre or courage to act. The only thing UEFA have done in recent years is introduce extra officials, hardly something that is likely to make much difference to anything at all.

This weekend in the Premiership there were two extremely dodgy penalties given, one for Wolves against Birmingham and one for Liverpool against Newcastle. The former saw Ward go down after virtually no contact from the Brum keeper Ben Foster, after he had lost control of the ball too, the second saw Suarez go down in rather theatrical fashion after the slightest of touches from the Newcastle defender. Strangely the media just don't pick up on these rather blatant acts of gamesmanship, just as they ignored Michael Owen's dive against Arsenal yesterday.

The diving in the box for dodgy penalties is getting worse and worse, it is also being catalysed by incompetent referees who give decisions based on the player's dive rather than the nature of any foul or the contact itself. This was all summed up earlier this season when Howard Webb justified not giving a penalty because the striker had not gone down, this simply shouldn't matter, if it is a decent foul that knocks a player off balance then it should be a penalty, while if there is minimal contact, and the player makes no effort to stay on his feet whilst going down in a Michael Owen parachuting dive manner, then no penalty should be given. The same logic applies to dives outside the box too.

The case for the use of video technology is undeniable, it is such a great shame that our footballing governing bodies have their vacuous heads in the sand on this issue. The fans want it, the media want it, the experts want it and the referees want it. It would be so easy to sort out goal line disputes, it would be so easy to have some kind of citing system after games, it would be so easy to start retrospectively punishing violence and cheating, it would be so easy to help referees by assisting them sensibly with video technology for the big decisions. It is appalling that so many dodgy decisions are routinely deciding games and championships, until something is done cheating will simply continue to proliferate.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Arsenal teach cheating United a lesson

Frankly it is days like today that make supporting a football team worthwhile, these kind of moments are so very precious and enjoyable, in fact strange as it may seem to say, grinding out a thoroughly deserved one nil win against such an odious United side produces that kind of feeling that it is almost impossible to better. It makes winning trophies seem unimportant, it is these kind of highs that must be savoured and that is precisely what I am going to do.

The victory was catalysed by our midfield's excellent performance and a big part of that was a very hard working show from Aaron Ramsey that was capped by a fantastic goal. The first half was one way traffic, United were simply outplayed in the midfield. United held on thanks in part to some poor finishing, some excellent defending and some pathetic cheating.

Wilshere had a great chance to open the scoring when the ball fell to him just inside the box, he rushed his shot and hooked it just wide. Evra had to be alert when Walcott was thundering in to tap in a precise Clichy centre. Then the first moment of controversy, Wilshere broke through, Vidic clattered into him and missed the ball by a mile, he was probably the last man, Foy was well placed, nothing done. Then the second moment, a fantastic whipped cross from the right flank by Theo, it seemed destined for RVP's head, Vidic batted the ball away with his arm, a quite deliberate handball to deprive a goalscoring opportunity, arguably a red card and a definite penalty, the linesman was perfectly placed, nothing doing again.

So United survived until half time, Foy had been instrumental in this, not forgetting the three defensive interceptions of the ball he made, largely because he was too slow and cumbersome to do his job and get out of the way of the ball. Rooney was also lucky to still be on the field, he was booked by Foy for a late hauling down, he then told the ref to 'eff off' and kicked the ball away, Wayne got his typical one yellow card for the price of three. This was something we were to see time and time again in the second half, the weak referee Foy let several United players get away with blatant acts of dissent time and time again.

Our midfield trio Wilshere/Ramsey/Song were working like lions. Song was an immovable beast who was simply too strong for United players time and time again. Wilshere and Ramsey scuttled around like beavers, pressing, forcing errors, making vital tackles and then importantly having the ability to drive past players when they broke forward at pace. The goal came when Song intercepted in midfield and fed Ramsey, he then slotted the ball through to RVP, he then jinked this way and that in the box, looked up and saw Ramsey arriving late into the box, he cut it back, Ramsey sorted his legs out and side footed the ball home clinically into the bottom corner past Van der Saar's despairing dive, great goal all round and more importantly a deserved one nil to the Arsenal.

United huffed and puffed, and most of their chances came from soft free kicks on the edge of our box, Nani does frequently give in to gravity, Szczesny producing a top save from one of these Rooney free kicks. Vidic had a good chance with a header from a corner, having shoved Djourou out of the way with a cynical two handed push. Generally we defended well and restricted United to very few clear openings. We could have made the game safe on more than one occasion as we counter attacked at pace, a little more precision would have seen United buried by more than the single goal.

The final critical moment in many United games consists of a theatrical fall in the penalty box and Michael Owen provided us with this. He was touched by Clichy, but the contact was minimal, the consequent dive then made Owen appear as if he were parachuting out of an aeroplane, the knees bent and the ankles cocked back, it is not the first time that this dull little man has been caught trying to cheat a referee and it won't be the last, penalty my arse.

What a cracking win. Not surprising that the bacon faced bully is claiming that United are the victims of terrible refereeing errors yet again, he is just taking out the aggression he feels because he knows this United side isn't really that good and they were well beaten today. He would do well to look closer to home to see some of the terrible cheats he has in his side, the diving Nani and the cynical Vidic being the prime examples, players who get away with cheating week in week out.

The team played their hearts out today and showed a lot of bottle in holding out for all three points when it would have been easy to surrender the lead again. The balance of the side was better, it was proven just how important it is to have everyone competing for every ball, nothing demonstrated this better than Andrei Arshavin's cameo role as the maverick slide tacking defensive midfielder, awesome. We need talent and skill, obviously this is true, but we also need eleven 100% committed and motivated players on the field every week, this is the mentality and steel we need to win the league. Aaron Ramsey showed a lot of people today just how important commitment and fight are, I just hope a certain young man who watched this from the stands will have taken note.