Wednesday 30 November 2011

The perverse nature of pride in defeat

I have to say I was not expecting such a good performance from our second string last night, looking at the two sides on paper it really should have been a whitewash, but Arsene has been overachieving with these kind of elevens for years now, I really should not have doubted his skills.

In the end the side that cost about the same as Edin Dzeko was the better of the two in a battle against a side that contained Edin Dzeko. In the end our lack of quality up front was the deciding factor, for all our control of the game and composed passing, we just couldn't finish off the moves. It is sad that Chamakh has become such a shadow of the player that we saw at the start of last season, it is hard to see him recovering now after so many months of poor form.

Park came terribly close in the first half, forcing a terrific save from the City keeper with his deflected close range effort, while the Ox's stinging thirty yarder looked destined for the top corner, but he was again denied by the City keeper Pantilimon. City's millions told in the end but it could have been so very different.

I agree with Arseblogger in the fact that a lot more positive must be taken from this game than any negative. There were some great performances from some inexperienced youth products, all the young midfielders stood out for me. Le Grove's assessment is pretty much spot on.

One thing I find amusing is just how poor so many of City's multimillion pound players looked against our youth products and cheaper signings, particularly Samir Nasri, who faded away into nothing as the game wore on, just as he had previously done in an Arsenal shirt. It was cracking to see Frimpong confront his cowardly frame at the final whistle, we do not need players like Nasri, we want players that will fight for the shirt whatever the weather, like Emmanuel Frimpong.

The fact that we can take heart from losing a game says a lot about the grotesque corpulent beast that Manchester City have become. The money that they have been throwing around in such a destructive and disrespectful manner is a force for bad in the game of football. They have numerous 20-30 million pound players sitting around on the bench and on loan at other clubs, and on leave with depression!

I sense that a rather large number of City fans would rather look away that confront the ugly monster that they end up staring at in the mirror. It is more comfortable to live in denial than own up to the existence of the ghastly creature that has now taken over the club's soul. If City go on to win a few trophies this season then it is comparable to a father taking on his five year old son at tennis, winning 6-0 6-0 6-0. In the context of reality if they don't win the whole lot they should be ashamed of their underachievement.

Most normal individuals wouldn't get much satisfaction from such hollow victories, winning is all about the context of the victory, if one has infinite resources in comparison to one's competitors, where is the competitive edge and where is the pride in victory? It is a strange phenomenon and one hard to describe, but I would rather Arsenal never won a trophy ever again than become like the grotesque monster that City have become.

The great irony in all this is that City have become far worse than Manchester United ever were and their hypocritical fickle fans just can't see it. The title of this post is just trying to get across that it's more the way you do things that's important and the context of it all, perversely one can take far more pride from certain defeats than one can from certain types of hollow victory.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Rest In Peace Gary Speed

It has been confirmed that Gary Speed was found dead this morning. He was found hung in his own home. He was only 42 years old.

Gary Speed was a model professional and one of those rare characters that seemed to be respected by everyone because he conducted himself with such decorum throughout his long and distinguished career.

I saw him play a few times live against us and what stood out for me was his total commitment, his never say die attitude and his refusal to give up. He will be remembered as a great footballing professional.

Rest in Peace Gary Speed. It is times like this that we should all realise that there are many things much more important than football and now is a time where we should all rise above any tribal rivalries. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Gary's family and close friends.

Saturday 26 November 2011

One point is better than none

I had mixed emotions after today's trip to the Emirates but if I am honest I was generally pleased with the overall performance and the character shown to come back from a goal down against a well organised and disciplined Fulham side who fought hard throughout.

The surprise in the team selection was that Arshavin came in for Gervinho and I have to say that the big negative of the game was the Russian's truly pathetic performance, he days with us are surely numbered. He was ineffective going forward, his movement lazy, his defensive work poor, he was just generally poor in everything he did, his only decent moment was the correctly rules offside goal in the first half.

We weren't great in the first half but we were the better side, and created some decent openings, the best of which saw Ramsey force a sublime save from Schwarzer that tipped the ball agonisingly over the bar. Theo tore them apart down the right hand side, the opposite of the ineffectual Arshavin on the right.

Earlyish in the first half RVP was denied by a rather inadvertent goal line clearance but the game didn't really get going in the second half until Fulham opened the scoring thanks to a slightly unfortunate own goal by Thomas Vermaelen, but after this goal the volume increased and we bombarded Fulham until the final whistle. Diaby, Chamakh and Gervinho all came on for the siege.

The equaliser was fantastic, a great Walcott cross met by a thumping Vermaelen header, unstoppable. We showed great fight and guts as we threw the kitchen sink at the Cottagers. Schwarzer had to be on top form as he made several decent saves, while some other good chances came and went. Overall we created enough to have won it but it just wasn't to be, sometimes this is life.

A special mention must go to the referee Mike Dean who was generally clueless throughout. He missed numerous clear fouls which were committed right in front of him, he ignored several very decent penalty shouts in the second half, he somehow allowed big Phil Senderos to stay on the pitch after the most blatant of second yellow card tackles on Gervinho. He was just generally crap and can't control a football game.

Personally it seemed to be a point gained today, although it was frustrating that we couldn't take advantage of some great chances to win the game when the score was 1-1. The team showed character and fight to come back when it would have been easy to go down one nil. The crowd were fantastic in really getting behind the team when Fulham had taken the lead. The big negative was Arshavin's weak performance, while it does look like we could do with some higher quality striking reinforcements in January.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Job efficiently done - media take note

I just wish the media would stand up and be counted at times like these. So many experts thought we would be the only English side struggling to make it through the Champions League group stages. The polar opposite of the mainstream media's predictions has come true and this tells a whole story in itself.

Other than the last minute lapse that gave Dortmund their consolation goal, this was a pretty commanding performance on the whole and we even saw a set piece goal from a corner, Vermaelen flicking on to RVP to smash home emphatically to make it 2-0. Song's skill and trickery to jink past three men to set up RVP for his first was simply sublime and capped a fine performance from the solid midfielder.

Man City, Manu and Chelsea all have various amounts of work to do. We do not. Those in the media who were so very very incorrect with their predictions should own up to this and say sorry. They will not though, there are a lot of biased ignorant fools who think they know a lot more than they do in our football press.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Solid Arsenal see off gravity prone Canaries

An away win, another three points, job done, as simple as that really. Despite the injuries to two of our full backs, Jenkinson and Gibbs, we adapted and the outstanding Koscielny did very well in the right back slot. The rest of the team was the same first choice side that has been purring of late.

We meant business from the off, numerous excellent clear cut chances came and went, and if there was to be any criticism today it would be that we should have scored at least a couple of goals before Norwich took their first half lead. RVP, Gervinho and Theo all missed excellent chances, to be fair to Theo the goal line clearance from Martin which prevented a certain goal was utterly majestic, if not rather lucky as well.

Norwich's goal was also rather generous. Morison kicked Mertesacker from behind and then tugged at him, he also got nowhere near the ball, Mertesacker then went down, Morison then scored. It was very generous refereeing from Dowd, most neutrals would see a kick and tug as a clear foul. Either way, it didn't take long for us to get a deserved equaliser, the ever penetrative and sharp Walcott destroyed his full back for the umpteenth time and set up RVP for a tap in.

The second half continued as the first half had ended, with us dominating and creating good openings. Walcott was close, Gervinho looked to have scored having rounded the keeper but a magnificent save kept him out, there were several other good chances too. Our work rate and pressing was giving Norwich no room to breathe, we controlled the game well and we looked dangerous when we went forward with the cutting pace of Gervinho and Walcott on the flanks.

It was only a matter of time before our domination told, Ramsey nicked the ball in midfield, he was then cynically tripped, Song took over, fed RVP and he did the rest with a brilliant dinked chocolate footed finish. Norwich had one chance in the whole half from a right wing cross, but that was it really, we defended well and Norwich didn't really threaten much.

A word must go to the cheating Holt who kept diving and cheating to win Norwich free kicks, one shameless dive in the penalty box was particularly pathetic, he could have tried to shoot, but instead he threw himself into the defender looking for the spot kick, really really poor stuff. Dowd also failed to control the game adequately, Norwich were rather cynical with a lot of rather deliberate fouls as we broke away, he should have got his cards out a bit earlier for some of their cynical fouls.

Overall we looked like a really decent side today, the whole eleven were working hard for each other and there were no poor performances at all. Vermaelen was particularly outstanding, typically fast and aggressive with his defending, winning possession time after time when it didn't look possible. The midfield were pretty efficient and did their defensive work well, Ramsey is getting stronger and sharper with each game. The front three were great, RVP and Theo in particular, they ran the show and scared Norwich whenever they had the ball at their feet. If we can keep this eleven fit then the only way is up the league table.

Saturday 5 November 2011

The machine starts to purr

It was only just over two months ago that we got spanked 8-2 at Old Trafford, the turnaround since has been rather extraordinary, it has not always been glorious in terms of the ease of victory but over the last month the team has definitely continued to grow in a way that has seen the performances mature and the nature of the wins become more and more convincing.

"The spirit of the squad was right from the first to the last minute. We worked well together. I was always positive with the team because of course we were in a very bad position - but you felt the desire to do well. Now that we are doing better it is still there."

Arsene has emphasised the togetherness of the team and that is what I am most happy about. There have been so many games in the last few seasons in which the eleven have not all pulled their weight, in which we have not worked hard enough as a unit, especially defensively.

There were many excellent individual performances today, certainly the young Jenkinson did fantastically well, the centre back pairing excelled, the midfield was slick, the forwards dynamic. The fantastic thing is that we now have a proper unit, we have a group that are properly motivated and that will fight for each other.

This season is one for rebuilding but there is still much that can be salvaged from the early season wreckage if we can keep this kind of ethic going. If we can continue to grow as a team and secure our big three men to long term contracts then there is certainly hope for the future. We have several very winnable games coming up in the league before we face City on December the 18th.