Alex McLeish: Man Or Muppet?

January 31, 2012

One of the least edifying spectacles in modern football is that of managers attempting to deflect criticism for a defeat by making spurious attacks on the opponents who beat them.

 

I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of this phenomenon, having watched our own otherwise distinguished coach, a certain Mr Arsène Wenger, pull the very same trick on numerous occasions.

But even Arsène’s excuses (which have ranged from the opposition being too tackly to having the wrong sort of leaves on the line) have seldom been as crass as those trotted out by the Ginger Whinger following our last couple of meetings with his team.

Remember when we played Villa at their place back in December? We won 2-1 and the Villans’ thuggish fullback, Alan Hutton, was sent off. According to Alex McLeish he was “conned” by van Persie.

How was he conned? Well, the first of the ex-Spud’s two yellow cards came after he squared up to our captain after fouling him. The booking was totally correct. Being fouled by an opponent does not constitute “conning” him, nor does standing your ground when he shoves his snarling, bestial face into yours.

Then, within two minutes of Benayoun scoring our winner, Hutton (who was clearly fuming and out of control) charged into a violent, dangerous tackle on Thomas Vermaelen. The ref brandished the second yellow and the rabid Glaswegian was sent on the walk of shame.

The second booking could have been a straight red. In fact a better manager than McLeish would have spotted that his pit bull had lost his head and would have pulled him off. But I guess it’s too much to expect one pit bull to find fault with the slavering aggression of another.

Now we move forward in time to last Sunday.

Of course McLeish must have been gutted at throwing away a 2-0 lead in the FA Cup – but why not take the defeat like a man?

It’s not as if Arsenal did not deserve to win. We had been the better team in the first half despite conceding two goals. And in the second half we stepped up a gear and completely dominated.

But instead of praising his own team for making a game of it and complimenting Arsenal on a hard fought win, the Taggart look-alike made not one, not two, but THREE ridiculous claims of injustice.

Claim Number One: Theo’s ingenious goal (Arsenal’s second) was handball.

According to McPitbull, the spectacular score in which Walcott played an out-of-this-world one-two off the hapless Hutton to put us level in the match should have been disallowed. Quite apart from the fact that, from every angle I have seen, the ball appeared to strike Theo on the chest or ribs, Hutton blasted the ball at him from about a yard away. Theo’s reactions would have had to be faster than Concorde to have avoided the ball.

Claim Number Two: Darren Bent’s foul for our second penalty was “harsh”.

Sorry Alex. Bent’s was a typical forward’s challenge. He almost certainly did catch Koscielny before the ball, but even if (as has been claimed) he got a tiny touch on the ball first, he had overcommitted himself and failed to move the ball any significant distance, so Kozzer would have been able to continue with the move if he hadn’t been brought down. Penalty, any day of the week.

Claim Number Three: Robin van Persie should be punished by the FA for an “elbow” on Carlos Cuellar.

The trouble is GrumpyGingerJock, the replays show that Robin was watching the ball all the way and that his arm movement was entirely for balance and body readjustment. Maybe there was a shade of trying to hold off the inevitable clattering challenge that Robin must have known was coming, but he can hardly have expected Cuellar’s head to be lunging in at waist level. Robin was on the ground and Cuellar’s head was at midriff height. It really was a case of head to elbow and not the other way round, as the FA seem to have recognised when confirming yesterday that they would not be taking any action against our Captain. Perhaps they should consider censuring McWhinger instead.

So, three spurious claims.

The last of them was a particularly vindictive one, aimed at trying to harm a great player in a way that can bring no benefit to Aston Villa.

The actions of a man?

Or the actions of a frothing latex puppet with a giant hand shoved up his jacksey?

I think we all know the answer: Alex McLeish, you are, indeed, a Muppet. And you probably use Preparation H.

The serious point in all this is that the sort of garbage that McMuppet comes out with gives fuel to the more sensational elements in the media who prefer nothing more than to focus on a “scandal” rather than on a great game of football.

And where Arsenal is concerned, they will latch onto anything negative if it means they don’t have to write about how well our team did to pull themselves round from a 0-2 deficit to force their way into the Fifth Round of the Cup.

Stirring fight backs don’t fit their preconceived agenda of Arsenal as a team in terminal decline. It’s just one more reason why we owe it to the world to win something this year.

RockyLives


Why crawl when you can walk?

January 30, 2012

Written by fatgingergooner

With 3 defeats in the last 4 games and an unconvincing win against Leeds in the last round of the FA Cup, Arsenal fans were feeling far from optimistic ahead of this 4th round clash against Aston Villa.

Rumour had it that the Gunners injury list was starting to ease, and so it proved with Sagna, Henry and Arteta all named on the bench and also the young Frenchman Coquelin was deputising at right back. It was also good to see the Ox given another start after his fine 65 minutes against Man United last week.

On to the game and Arsenal started the first half reasonably well, stroking the ball around and finding space in the midfield. Within 2 minutes of the kick off, Ramsey had already registered a shot on target, but if truth be told it was more like a pass back as Given collected easily. The same cannot be said of the next shot from distance as Vermaelen received a short free kick from RvP before firing an absolute thunderbolt from all of 35 yards which Given did well to save to his left. Brilliant effort, great save.

Arsenal continued to dominate the ball, but with Fabianski back between the posts, you could feel the tension in the air whenever the ball was near the home sides box. The young Pole did well with his first piece of action though, clearing a free kick away with a commanding punch, but he soon reminded us why he is now second choice. Firstly, he wanted too long to make a simple clearance and was lucky to see his blocked kick go for a throw. Then he rolled a terrible pass into the feet of Song who could only return it to sender, thankfully though, this time, the young keeper managed to clear his lines before the block came in.

At the other end, dogged work from Rosicky saw a pass slid into the feet of Walcott who was away behind the Villa defence. Initially, Theo did well to evade a lunging tackle from Cuellar, but his lack of composure reared it’s ugly head again as he thrashed a shot wide instead of steadying himself and picking out one of his colleagues in the box. A waste.

The first 20 minutes had flown by with Ramsey and Rosicky getting the better of the midfield battle, and it was an excellent Ramsey tackle that created the next opportunity. The young Welshman did brilliantly to rob Clark before showing bravery to nick the ball wide to Theo who had space to run into. This time Walcott did get his head up and fired a great low cross towards RvP but the dutchman just failed to find the telling touch.

Arsenal had let Villa off the hook and nearly paid the ultimate price at the other end as the ball ricocheted in behind the static defence and towards the head of Darren Bent. Fortunately for the home side though, the sight of an onrushing Polish keeper was enough for Bent to pull out of the header.Thank god he wasn’t braver!

The game was definitely starting to open up and the Ox showed a great turn of pace to gallop down the left wing before cutting inside and pulling his shot wide of the near post. Good play by the promising youngster.

Arsenal were knocking on the door but just couldn’t find the killer pass to unlock the away teams defence. Walcott, espescially, was guilty of wasting a couple of good crossing chances as the half wore on. His lack of confidence was showing as he refused to attack the full back and instead fired aimless balls across the box. Not what you expect from an attacking wide player.

Thirty minutes had passed without too much to worry about, but a moments lapse of concentration can be deadly  at this level, and so it proved. Arsenal switched off at a corner and Ramsey was caught 2 against 1 at the edge of the area. Keane had ages to pick out a cross and his dinked effort was perfectly weighted for Dunne to climb highest and nod in at the back stick. 0-1 Arsenal again undone by a set piece.

To the home sides credit they were straight down the other end trying to get an equaliser, but Dunne was on fine form, twice clearing dangerous looking crosses. The home fans were starting to get restless as Arsenal camped in the Villa half in search of an equaliser. First Ramsey showed quick feet before firing straight at Given from a tight angle, and then the Ox hit a rocket from 25 yards which got away from Given but just didn’t bounce for an Arsenal player. Was our luck deserting us again?

On the stroke of half time we got the answer, and it wasn’t a good one! Villa broke from another Arsenal attack and Bent was played in down the right hand channel. His powerful shot was well saved by Fabianski at his near post, but as it is with the Gunners at the moment, the ball fell perfectly back to Bent who slotted in well from a tight angle. 0-2 oh dear.

Half time and the boos rang out around the Emirates. To be fair to the home side, they had made all the running and should not have been 2 behind, but the same old story of poor finishing and defensive mistakes meant that Villa’s 2 shots on goal had resulted in a 2 goal deficit. New manager? New players? New tactics? If you’d have asked at half time I think many would’ve said yes please!

But with football being a game of 2 halves, the Gunners still had 45 minutes to turn their season on its head.

Surprisingly, there were no changes at half time. Even with the boos still ringing in his ears, and with Craig Burley’s bullshit whafting under his nose, Arsene had stayed cool and kept faith in his charges.

Arsenal came out fighting, and it wasn’t long before they carved out an opportunity. This time it was a set piece of their own as Mertersacker rose highest at a corner only to see his header cleared off the line. So close!

Arsenal had started the second half brightly and moments later Walcott was almost on the end of a Ramsey back heel, but a fantastic Petrov tackle thwarted him at the last.

The pressure was really building and a flowing move then saw Ramsey with a shooting opportunity on the edge of the box, but with the ball stuck between his feet, he could only manage a weak right footed strike when he might have been better going with his left.

If fans thought Ramsey was at fault for that finish, then he certainly made up for it 2 minutes later as he burst into the box from a Song pass and just managed to toe the ball away from a lunging Dunne. Stonewall penalty and should’ve been a 2nd yellow for Dunne. How he stayed on I will never know! With the pressure on, RvP stepped up to send Given the wrong way and get Arsenal back in the game. 1-2

The tails were up and Ramsey was starting to control the game. Two minutes after the penalty he slid Walcott in down the line. This time Theo ran straight at the full back before squeezing a shot towards the near post. Given did well to get a hand to it but the ball fell to Hutton who somehow managed to smash the ball straight at Theo and into the back of the net! Barely 10 minutes gone in the second half and 2-2! Could it get any better!?

Unbelievably, Yes!

On the hour mark Koscielny collected the ball in defence and marched past the half way line before exchanging a slick 1-2 with Song. With Bent tugging at his shirt, Kozzer stayed strong and charged into the Villa box before Bent, in typical centre forward style, hacked him down with a badly timed/advised lunge. Another penalty to Arsenal and another goal to Arsenal as RvP sent Given the other way this time to put a resurgent Arsenal into the lead.

It was quite telling the way Robin and his teammates galloped over to Henry to celebrate. Maybe Wenger wasn’t the only person who had given out a bollocking in the changing room!?

The comeback was complete and the stuffing had well and truly been knocked out of Villa. Rosicky was dominating midfield, Ramsey was dominating the match, and Walcott was dominating his demons.

It was a joy to watch the young winger suddenly burst into life as he collected a long ball before driving at his full back and fizzing a shot at Given. Could this be the lift Theo needed?

After a brief penalty scare on 70 minutes, Arsene brought Arteta on for Rosicky to sure up the midfield, and it worked perfectly. The last 20 minutes saw very few chances at either end with a right footed RvP effort and a Clarke header straight at Fabianski the most the teams could muster between them. The highlight of the last 20 came on 88 minutes when Sagna returned to first team action for the first time since breaking his leg 4 months ago. Fantastic news.

It was also good to see the Ox and Theo both given standing ovations as they were replaced by Henry and Sagna respectively.

It was a tough 90 minutes to be an Arsenal fan that ultimately ended in elation as the boys turned into men in the space of 45 minutes. Ramsey showed just how to grab a match by the scruff of the neck, controlling the midfield for large chunks of the game, and especially in the key 15 minutes after half time. He was aided brilliantly by the energetic Rosicky who put in a sparkling performance to show that there’s life in some of the ‘deadwood’ yet!

It was a fantastic result for Arsenal, not because of the scoreline, but because of the way the team came back from 2-0 down. The second half performance was a joy to behold from every single player. People have questioned the manager’s and the player’s desire in the last few weeks, but no-one can say they don’t care, and they proved that in the second half.

At the end of the game I saw a banner about DB that read :
‘why fly, when you can walk on water’

We are nowhere near his high standards yet, but one small step at a time. If the first half was a crawl, then by the end of the second we were definitely up on our feet.

‘why crawl, when you can walk’

Ratings:

Fabianski-couple of shakey moments early on and may get blamed, unfairly, for parrying Bents shot back to him. Was solid in the air though and did little wrong 7

Coquelin-offered little going forward first half and was undone a couple of times by Agbonlahor. Kept everyone onside on build up to 1st goal. This shouldnt detract from his overall game though which was very good 7

Vermaelen-Much better in supporting Ox going forward and unlucky with a great strike early on. Caught out of position for second goal. 7

Koscielny-quiet first half but mainly because he makes defending look so easy. Came to life with run for 3rd goal and solid as a rock. 2nd best PL defender behind Kompany. 8

Mertersacker-great in the air at both ends and nearly scored. Maybe should have been talking to Coquelin in build up for first goal but very solid nonetheless. 7.5

Song-quiet game again but much better than recent games. Good second half and had a hand in winning both penalties. 7

Rosicky-drove forward whenever he could and worked hard. Gave Ramsey the platform to dictate the play. Looking back to something like his best 8

Ramsey-outstanding performance. If you think this kid is on par with Denilson then you are having a laugh! Controlled the game 9 MOTM

Ox-a solid display and showed maturity beyond his years. A natural footballer who looks dangerous whenever he has the ball and so composed for one so young 7.5

Walcott-Jekyl and Hyde. Had a poor first half as he failed on numerous occasions to get at Warnock when one on one. A different player second half and looked like he had his confidence back. Just wish he would attack the byeline more as he is so much more dangerous when he does it. 7.5

RvP-2 good penalties and linked up play with his usual mixture of strength and guile. Difficult day against a tough competitor in Dunne but eventually came out on top. Got ESPN Motm. 8

Arteta-6
Sagna-6
Henry-6

Arsène Wenger-maybe a slight risk starting with Coquelin but the young Frenchman was excellent. Brought Arteta on after 70 minutes to shore up the side and it worked well. Good substitutions, but earned his money in the half time interval. Many managers would’ve panicked and made changes, but Wenger’s faith was repaid by his players and he has to take a lot of credit for the half time turnaround as the players came out pumped up for the second half. 8


Park Life: AV prematch

January 29, 2012

Remember our last FA Cup game? One of the great moments in the history of the Emirates. An average performance completely dismissed by 5 seconds of theatre. Today I would love to see a 90 minute performance which will raise the despair around the ground following 3 defeats.

We have to accept that we are not going to be Champions this year – yes, even you Peaches. With the loss to MC in the Carling, just the FA Cup and the Champions League remain to make this a winning season and although I am convinced we will get to Munich the FAC is the easier target.

The first 35 mins of the  second half of the MU game was our best since Xmas, the aggression, application and potency was back. We can and have discussed why we lost momentum and without opening the subject again we must hope lessons have been learned.

However, Mr Wenger can be a curmudgeonly chap when his decisions are questioned and it would be no surprise to see Oxlade Chamberlain start from the bench despite his fine performance a week ago.

There is a question mark over how seriously Mr Wenger will take the FA Cup but my hope is that he takes it very seriously; whether Van Persie starts will indicate just how he prioritizes the Cup. With Bolton on Wednesday – only a 3 day break – will he play our star man twice? My guess is No. I think he will play Park and bring on RvP only if needed,

My Team

I would like to see Park, he looked better in his brief cameo on Sunday and at some point he has to sink or swim. Having already scored a beauty in the CC, let’s see him get another or ship him out a.s.a.p. along with Chamakh.

More of the same, please

Hopefully, Arteta is back to fitness which will allow Rosicky to continue and Ramsey to have a break – he needs one. The back 5 pick themselves though I worry for Djourou who if un-injured must be reeling after his humiliation on Sunday; to be subbed at half-time (a rarity for AW) for a lad barely out of Youth football must be a humbling experience for a full International, even if he is playing out of position

A little about Villa. Nice team, no-one I know dislikes them, offensive manager who is struggling in the wake of O’Neill’s (relative) success. They are getting back into form and have a potent, pacy attack.

We will concede so it is imperative our strikers are efficient. As senior attacker (in my team) it is important Theo steps up and takes responsibility. Versus MU he was poor and gave little offensively or defensively – we need more from him and at a time when his contract comes up for negotiation Theo has to give reason for a wage hike. Right now, most fans would recommend a long rest in the sun (preferably a few seasons!).

Today’s Gooner:  This week’s topic of hilarity has rightly been the High Court trial of  Harry “Del Boy” Redknapp. The rabble down the road are very proud of their man and it is a source of pride that one of their own has made it to the High Court rather than the youth offenders prison. But once again our neighbours have been trumped – we have a celebrity Gooner with a far more impressive history of blagging: Mr Ronnie Biggs.  Biggs is a huge Arsenal fan as can be seen from the pic. I cannot say I have any liking for him and certainly no respect for a man with a history of violent crime but he is a Gooner and our tribe encompasses all types.

“‘Arry – ‘ee’s 2 Bob……”

Arsenal need to win today. The schisms which were so damaging prior to the good run have re-opened and the malcontents are getting vocal. I trust the players understand those booing are a tiny minority of the Arsenal fan base, but I doubt they do. We need to get behind the team, to give vocal support when things go wrong, criticism has it’s place but not within the Emirates. This is Our House.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Let’s Boo ‘aving ya

January 28, 2012

I have spent the last season and a half bemoaning the boo boys, this week I was not alone as Arsenal fans rallied round our beleaguered manager and club in an attempt to rid us of the discontented.

But today as we prepare ourselves for our pilgrimage to the red half of North London it is time to consolidate, stand side by side and live alongside each other in harmony. So i have an olive branch for our disenchanted.

We need your boos, things need to change at the Emirates and you are the boys who can make it happen.

As well as spending the last six months bemoaning the negativity I have also been trying to encourage people to tear off the shackles of the new stadium and start creating some noise.

On Sunday I realised I’ve been guilty of cloudy thinking, the answer has been staring me in the face for months and I’ve ignored it.

Boos resonate within the ground, there is a theory that songs get carried out of time with the distance they travel round the ground, this is not true of the simple boo. You can pick it up at any point and you can even add some variation throwing in a whistle or two and some hissing, or some added variation of a few swear words. There is no requirement to know words, no embarrassment from singing on your own, or out of tune, and you can do it sitting down.

There is the added bonus of always being picked up by TV and Radio mics (some would suspect that they actually turn up the volume on the B of boo).

So far so simple, however here is the tricky bit, the animosity needs to be directed at the opposition…….I’ll just let that sink in…….I realise this is a revolutionary thought for you boo boys, but please bear with me.

Every time the opposition touch the ball we boo, if it helps just imagine that the opposition is ten Fat Bench Warmers, Almunia in goal, and Eboue set to come on as sub, that should help you reach your goal. The other tricky bit is to stop booing when we have the ball, you may even decide to cheer, but as your noise making potential appears to peak at the monodrone maybe you should leave the cheering to others in the crowd and save your voice for the next spell of opposition possession.

No more will we hear about the Library. We will create an atmosphere in which the opposition won’t think straight when in possession, it will also drown out any positive cheers and songs of encouragement from the away end.

So come on boo boys this is your opportunity to put your skills to work for the good of the team, and to change my perception of you.

Written by Gooner in Exile


Arsenal Supporters – disillusioned or pathetic?

January 27, 2012

Witch hunts, apathy, delusion and greed, all pathetically wrapped up in an unshakable belief in a divine right to win. Recognise it? Of course you do. Unfortunately it describes many so-called Arsenal supporters, who today stand supreme amongst football folk in their ability irrespective of the injury situation and short of any real knowledge of the internal politics or financial situation facing the club, to defame our great clubs name just by confessing their poisonous support.

They twitter and blog in expletive enhanced anonymity, hiding behind a nom de plume often itself of a sarcastic nature, whilst venting their vile ranting’s. Should you bother to look behind the façade of these ne’er-do-well’s then you will often find the courage of their conviction is underwritten by an email address as ‘Mickey Mouse’ as the support and comments they dispense.

Of course all is not well with the club and anyone who denies that has his head in the sand, but how is it helped by Boo boys and derision.

A gaggle of players are approaching fitness again too late probably to rescue our season. So for once, perhaps, we will have to live with finishing behind the spuds and out of the top four. Big deal, if it happens we will take some stick, a mere smattering I guess compared to that we have inflicted over other supporters over the years. Let’s at least accept our fall from grace should it happen with equanimity, calm and a touch of class, secure in the knowledge that we will be back to full strength by season end, when in every likelihood there will be a clear-out, with new faces joining the first team squad.

Do I think AW will have walked away? No! I dont for a moment believe he will and nor should he. The man’s record is phenomenal and no-doubt will continue to grow in years to come, much to the chagrin of the Tony Cascarino’s and Brian Woolnough’s of this world, and the anti-brigade who follow  them. He could of course walk to a better paid job of his chosing anywhere in Europe, and given the dogs abuse he is receiving at present who could blame him. The French national team or indeed our own would be his for the asking should he wish it.  No doubt SparkyHughes or  Sam the Hammer would love the chance to take over at the THOF, much to the relief of the respective fans who have to watch their efforts at present.

Season ticket holders, many of them of long-standing are unhappy. A season ticket is a major investment in households where for many, disposable income has substantially diminished in recent years and this season’s price increase has just exacerbated the problem, leaving difficult choices to be made. No doubt for many, guilt at such expenditure creeps into the equation and when faced by lack lustre displays, perceived lack of ambition, underlined by the supposed reluctance of  the club itself, it would seem, to make reciprocal investment it is not surprising that resentment leads to a wider discontentment.

But does that give genuine supporters Carte Blanche to act in a manner that if it were directed at them or their families would undoubtedly escalate into something more serious. Or should we as Arsenal fans uphold the traditions of our great club, display a little class, weather the storm with dignity and await the cyclical turn around that is surely not far away?

Written by dandan


Bloody Arsenal – Do We Even Care Anymore?

January 26, 2012

Do you suffer from any pre-existing conditions?

Ah, that old question on the health insurance form. The one if you answer falsely you’re fooked if they find out and you need to claim, and the one if you answer truthfully are fooked anyway because it’ll make it harder to claim.

Oh, the health form?! It seems I’m now at the age (ripe old age of 26 and 2 weeks) where I should have my own private health insurance. You know, “just in case” as my mother likes to put it. So I’ve been perusing the forms from various insurers to see who will give me the most cover for the least amount of money and that same question comes up every time. Help me out fellow AAers, do I answer the question truthfully and say “Yes” and follow it up with “Arsenal fan of 18 years” ?

And if they need to know the ailments this “pre-existing condition” threatens to bring up at any time, do I list the highs that no drug could possibly ever take you on and the lows that feel like several daggers to your heart? Do I mention the one time love you feel for a young man who is the heartbeat of your midfield and the disdain you now feel as you think he left like a coward?  Or how about the possible physical danger as the nearest object goes flying across the room as the Russian doesn’t seem to want to run anymore? The possible heart attacks? The mood swings? Oh, and the very possible possibility I might not be able to meet my monthly payments, because, well, the Ryanair flights were so cheap and the ticket fairy has come good again?!

So, would just saying “NO” be easier?! A little lie?!

Like that little lie I often try and tell myself. That there is more important things in life than football, than Arsenal. And trust me, I know there are, but it bloody won’t go away. The heartbreak when cheating, diving Shrek is on the winning team again and Robin’s magic left foot isn’t enough. The prancing around for days after we beat mighty “can’t pay people to come to our games” Wigan.

What is it about football that does this to us?! A bunch of men running around after a round, synthetic object trying to put it into a net held up by two posts! It sounds so silly, but say that to my face and risk my wrath. I don’t need to tell you guys that because ye all feel the same way. But it is impossible to explain to those who don’t get it. The constant annoyance when people say it’s silly (the same people that’ll all be on the Ireland bandwagon during the Euros “for the craic*”) or when they don’t get how an Irish person can have such an allegiance to an English team. Although these same people are very nice in giving me a large berth when we lose:

“What’s with Mary? Moody all morning.”

“Arsenal lost, don’t mention it, Manchester United.”

An actual conversation between an English woman and Polish woman who wouldn’t know a football from a handbag, but the Polish woman nodded at the English woman’s explanation as if the realms of supporting a football team came second nature to her. Thinking about it, probably should have put the Arsenal fan syndrome on the job application form as well … ah well, they know now don’t they?!

So over the last few weeks, I have read and listened with anger and a little pity as “Gooners” – some of them allegedly lifelong – said they could no longer bear to watch Arsenal anymore. They’ve gone beyond caring because “Wenger is ruining the club”… HOW CAN YOU NOT CARE? What happened to the “through the good and the bad times.” And are they really bad times? I’ve been an Arsenal fan for 18 years (long time for me, short time for some of ye) and I reckon I’ve been spoiled – Premier League, FA Cups, Doubles, Unbeaten season, Henry, Bergkamp, van Persie, Wengerball, Champions League Final, new stadium – am I missing out on the bad parts? Ok, am, well, the finishing ONLY in the top four every season is pretty rough (apart from my first season when we finished 12th), and the always challenging but never actually winning a trophy for 6 years has been tough but hardly enough to warrant a mention on my health form.

It could be better, of course it could. But its not that bad. Social networks, the pubs, the Emirates, the radio phone-ins have all become a playground for Arsenal fans to fight in. What has happened to Victory Through Harmony? What happened to the “us against world” spirit we had when everyone despised us because they weren’t us? I know we all care, I bloody well do. Just a pity more places couldn’t be like this little blog – where tempers are kept in check and the direction for our club are discussed and not argued. Then again, we only fight because we care!

Bloody Arsenal – bad for heart and good for it all at once. Might just leave it off the health insurance form for now though, hope they don’t need a medical report … doctor might see that cannon tattoo I’ve plastered on my back, give the game away. Funny thing tattoos, they’re permanent – guess this condition is forever.

*craic = Irish for “fun”

Written by Irishgunner


Wenger: will he win the league ever again?

January 25, 2012

Do you ever expect to win the league again while Wenger is manager at Arsenal?

I was listening to Talk Sport the other evening (I know, I know) when suddenly they posed that question and it struck me like a bolt of lightning. I don’t usually take too much notice of the anti-Arsenal rhetoric that Adrian Durham spews out. I realised recently that they only ever allow phone calls on their show from the kind of Arsenal supporter whose sole aim is to slag off the club and Wenger in particular; some may say what has taken you so long to work that out, to which I would say, fair comment.

The answer to the question came to me after a flash of the deepest soul searching I have been forced to make in the recent past and I realise that, in fact, I don’t expect to win the league again while Wenger is at the helm. And yet, even after questioning how and why I ever became a fully paid up, card carrying Wengerite in the first place I remain just that. Why, are you mad, I hear 99% of those Arsenal supporters who are likely to frequent Le Grove say?

Man City have made this question far easier to answer recently. It is much clearer for Arsenal supporters to see that their spending power restricts our ability to buy the best players who come onto the market, it is now generally understood that Arsenal cannot compete with their financial muscle.

The frustrating thing is that people like me have been trying to point out that we have been handcuffed in the transfer market for years, ever since Abramovich arrived in fact and things are not getting better. We are no longer just being financially dwarfed by Man City and Chelsea,  we are now about to have the free run we have previously enjoyed in the French transfer market squeezed by the arrival of more Middle Eastern financial heavy weights to Paris St Germain. For years we have had first choice of pretty much all the top talent that appeared in the French league — that is about to change.

So if it is finally realised that no matter who is at the helm of Arsenal that they would still be financially restricted by the lack of ability to work in the transfer market then why would you want to change what we already have?

Go through all the managers in the EPL and ask who you would prefer, there is no one, that being the case we would have to take a chance on a young up and coming European, in the same way as Chelsea have been forced to and even with a vast transfer chest available to AVB look how that is working out.

We have a manager who wants to be with us, is proud of the club, is determined to do the best he can and has the kind of experience that most other managers only dream of achieving in their life times.

Coming back to PSG, it was never reported in the papers but is there anyone who really thinks that the new owners didn’t offer that job with twice the wage (yes, twice the wage Herb) to Wenger, of course they did and yet where is he?

As Arsenal supporters we are slowly and painfully coming to terms with where we fit in the new financial football world order, realising that gone are the days when Wenger could attract and pay the best players on the world stage, gone are the days when we shared financial dominance in the EPL and the cold realisation that we have no divine right to win the league stares us in the face and yet even though, as I have said above, I do not expect to win the league again while Wenger is manager, it is financialy impossible for him to do so, I still believe that he is the best man for the job.

In Wenger I still trust

Do you?

Written by LB


Arshavin is Gone

January 24, 2012

This comment about Andrey Arshavin, made to Sky Sports by Nigel Winterburn (apparently), speaks volumes about his future at Arsenal:

“It does look at times that he doesn’t want to be in this country and I think the way that the winning goal was set up for Manchester United – you expect a player in that position to have focus and make it hard for the winger.”

For the manager to (a) effectively blame Arshavin for Manchester United’s winner and (b) speculate that he is not happy in England is a clear statement that the pocket Russki’s time at the Emirates is up.

It is unlikely he will go before the end of January (although I would not be completely surprised if that happened). But there is no way he will be here for the start of next season.

And when you factor in the damaging psychological impact of the booing that accompanied his appearance in Sunday’s game, his departure may be best for all concerned.

It’s bad timing for little Andrey, what with panto season coming to an end and all that, but no doubt we’ll make a few bob on him when he goes (or a few roubles, more likely).

It’s sad, really.

I know that the majority of the booing was directed at the boss and his decision to remove our most dynamic attacking player rather than at Andrey himself, but it still must have felt to Arshavin like a knife in the guts.

Or as if someone had stolen his plate of borscht.

For a man whose confidence was already lower than John Terry’s morals, it just served to push him further into the rut he’s been in for the best part of a year.

In the past I have written posts speculating that Andrey was about to rediscover the form that saw him put four goals past Liverpool at Anfield; that he would fire into life and be the secret weapon to catapult us to silverware; that the departure of Fabregas and the Fat French Benchwarmer would provide the perfect opportunity for him to step up and fill the “class” gap.

I was wrong.

As secret weapons go, Andrey has proved to be as deadly as a sawn-off bath bun. And there’s been no firing into life – just more and more damp squibbery (not to be confused with damp squillacery, which is a whole other category of offence).

However, I don’t think that Arshavin’s poor form is solely down to lack of confidence and/or homesickness.

For some reason a lot of Russian players seem to peak early (around the age of 30). Andrei Shevchenko was the best striker in the world when he joined Chelsea, but quickly became an also-ran.

Sergei Rebrov was also a very good player before he went to the Theatre of Screams, but never achieved a high level there or afterwards. Pavlyuchenko remains a bit part player.

And even though Arshavin is captain of Russia, his performances for the national side have attracted a lot of criticism in his homeland over the last two years.

In other words, I think he is over the hill; he will be 31 in May and his powers are waning. Some top players can stay at a high level well into their 30s, but not many Russians do.

Arsène Wenger, with all his statistics and record-keeping, must know this and will surely offload him while we still might get some money for him.

He was a great signing when he arrived and he has given us some fantastic moments (that goal against Barcelona will live for ever in the memory) but it is time to say “do svidaniya”*.

RockyLives

*Russian for “goodbye”.


Robin’s face says it all

January 23, 2012

Understandably, none of our regular authors were inclined to write a match report following yesterday’s game, so you will all have to suffer the thoughts of someone who will I’m sure, not be expressing the mainstream opinion on this site.

I couldn’t go to the game as I had to work. I followed the live commentary on BBC Sport football, listened to the radio phone in on my way home and watched the lowlights on MotD through the lattice of my fingers clamped to my face.

Due to the horrible language and reactions of many fans on the blogs after the game, I expect there to be a positive response on AA in support of the team and the manager – for that reason I am going to just going to list what I see as the negatives so you can all shoot me down in flames. I have written this very hurriedly so don’t expect wonderful prose or clever puns.

Why did we lose the game? I’ll just list a couple of thoughts……. 

  1. The seeds were sown back in the summer when we seemed in denial that the departure of Cesc and Na$ri was inevitable and yet little apparent attempt was made to bring in a midfield playmaker. Without the last minute signing of Arteta, we would probably be 10 points worse off as he has been our best midfielder and has been sorely missed for the last two games.
  2. Unlike our manager, SAF analyses and targets the weaknesses of his opponents. SAF won the game before it started because we played into his hands in playing Djourou at RB. Yennaris is a proper RB and made an immediate impact when he came on. This is not hindsight as several bloggers commented before the game that playing JD would be a huge mistake – and so it proved.
  3. Having made the mistake of taking Coquelin off in the first game against manu (after which we conceded 5 more goals), AW decided to remove The Ox yesterday to the disbelief of his captain and a large portion of the crowd. The resultant booing was not directed at Arshavin but the decision to make the substitution. Contrary to what has been reported, AOC did not ask to be taken off, AW said in his interview that he thought he was looking tired. In that case a dog tired AOC is still a much greater goal threat than a fully fit Theo. The booing was wrong and did nothing to bolster our little Russian’s confidence, but then he probably shouldn’t have been put in that position.
  4.  The decision to send Frimpong out on loan was ridiculous. He has been Wolves’ best midfielder and should have been on our bench yesterday to shore up the midfield as Alex Song has for whatever reason, failed to stamp his authority as a senior player should. The subs were warming up before AOC provided the assist for the goal. Once we scored, we should have reassessed the substitutions and looked to strengthen the midfield, not put a horribly out of form player out wide right.

I’m sure the PR machine at the club will now decide that we should make every attempt to win the FA Cup as Champion’s league qualification is now out of our hands. It is quite possible that the chavs and totnum will trip up, but can we be confident of putting together a long winning run? – not in my opinion. The return of the injured players will restore us to a very strong side, but I fear it will be too late to claw back this season.

Written by Rasp


Here are kelsey’s thoughts about yesterdays game …………

Both GIE and myself said beforehand that regardless of the result we wanted a performance by the lads. Well for the first half except for about ten minutes we were dire against a United team (who also have injuries) and it was inevitable that we would concede,that it happened seconds before half time was unfortunate but at least we showed a much improved performance in the first 25 minutes of the second half.

The Crowd: They were extremely vocal from the kick off.

As in recent games there were so many missed-placed passes and no real understanding between the players when we attacked.  The counter attack was so slow that United could regather in numbers, but the one time we looked like the team of old we scored, with a quick counter attack.

Tiredness is also a factor, we used to finish games much stronger but now our scoring has deserted us with only 5 goals in 6 home games.

This squad is just not good enough andtotally inconsistent. Many will point out that our first eleven is a match for anyone,which I agree with but only if they work as a team.

Rosicky hasn’t scored a league goal in two years, Walcott not at home for over a year. Is that a lack of ability or are they just not composed enough when it really matters. Ramsey can be excused, he is young, gives his all and his time will come. He is being given too much responsibility and being played too much.

Our biggest loss this season is Wilshere, forget about his age, he is a star footballer. Add in the loss of a motivated Fabregas and even Nasri and that leaves a huge whole in our engine. We are playing with the choke out.

If there was no ANC, Gervinho would have started before the Ox but he was the one shining light.

I won’t have it that the Ox doesn’t track back because neither do Walcott or Arshavin except for the odd occasion.
I don’t care what Wenger says, taking off the Ox was unbelievable and to add insult to injury the totally out of form and ineffectual Arshavin came on and unfortunately we conceded.

We have to face reality. Kroenke will remain silent, Wenger will not buy but I have never seen the crowd in such numbers, turn on a man who has done wonders for our club.  I forsee that enough is enough and he may walk in the Summer.

I  have supported this team for decades but this just isn’t enjoyable anymore. Maybe not all, but a good part of our current problems could have been rectified over the last few seasons.

When you are carrying more than half a team for various reasons such as players being played out of position, a total loss of confidence/form and having to rely on players like Yennaris, Miquel and Jenkinson who still need time and only RVP as the one real goal threat there is a lot to be accounted for.

Written by kelsey


Simply the Best: Georgie Boy and Watson. Two Authentic Heroes. MU Pre-Match

January 22, 2012

For today’s introduction we are going back into the mists of time, when men were men and not floppy overcooked strings of spaghetti like Busquets, Nani and Pepe.

England were World Champions and Man Utd had recently won the European Cup. For the younger reader who has grown up in the Sky era, there can be no understanding of the excitement and national pride that both events stirred. Unlike today, all English football fans wanted MU to beat a brilliant Benfica team at Wembley, the scene of our only WC triumph just 2 years before. The following year (Sept ’69) when MU came to Highbury the side had already changed following the retirement of Sir Matt Busby, with younger blood joining Bobby Charlton etc.

At that time George Best was 23 years old, he had already played 300 games for MU and was the most famous footballer in the World. Moore, Charlton and Stiles may have been the faces of England’s WC victory but George was The Man. At a time when football was confined to newspaper  back pages, Best was front page headline news, top 10 songs were written about him, kids aped his clothes, copied his hair style, he was a friend of the Beatles, always had a super-model on his arm etc etc. But above all, he was a complete footballer, he was coming to Highbury and so was I.

A 60,000 crowd  in the same Highbury that was limited to under 40k a few years later. The North Bank was packed and swaying. An old man reminiscing is interminably dull so I will cut this short· Mclintock heads out a high ball to the edge of the area, Best leaps off the ground and sends a scissor kick volley flying past Bob Wilson. At first, there was stunned silence around Highbury followed by huge applause, we had witnessed a genius displaying his genius – what can be better on a football pitch? We drew 2-2 and I recall Stroller Graham scoring one for us.

George Best is the best player I have ever seen play live and I have seen Maradona, Cruyff, Van Basten, Gullit, TH, DB  (4 Dutchmen TA :-) ) etc etc  No-one could lift a crowd in the way he did, and he was a brilliant bloke to boot.

A young Best at what looks like Highbury (West Stand?)

Manchester United have always been a glamour club and their arrival at the Emirates guarantees tension and excitement, this fixture remains a highlight of  any season. Sadly, Ferguson’s MU are a pale shadow of the entertaining sides of their past; the cheating, spitting, vituperative Rooney being the emblem of their play. Yes, they thrashed a reserve AFC earlier in the season (a total freak result ), and today we could have problems due to our injury nightmare but the belief remains that a full strength Arsenal would beat this MU team with some ease.

However, we do NOT have a full strength team and are unlikely to see one for some time. Have we enough to win today? Certainly, if the players give their all and work as a team. There are fears about how our “FB’s” will cope with MU’s strength on the flanks;  the midfielders must concentrate and assist them.

My Team:

It would be brave to start with Oxlade-Chamberlain – his last outing at OT was hardly a success!

Famous Gooner: Today is all about courage, the ability to step forward when all you want to do is go home and play with the wife. One Gooner who has lived a life requiring a level of courage few of us can imagine is Michael Watson.

Having beaten Nigel Benn, Watson fought and lost to Chris Eubank for the WBO Middleweight title (1991, what great times for fans of British boxing), receiving a life-threatening injury which resulted in 6 brain operations and 40 days in a coma.  To go from being at the top of his profession with a healthy, immensely strong body to being  totally immobile must have been devastating. There followed a year in hospital during which time he couldn’t move, hear or speak, Watson spent the next 6 years in a wheelchair.  But Michael didn’t give up, he fought is disabilities and in 2003 even managed to complete the London Marathon (over the course of 6 days), being welcomed over the finish line by Eubanks and his neurosurgeon.

Not long out of hospital (1992) Michael was invited onto the hallowed grass at his beloved Highbury and at half-time was pushed in his wheel-chair to all sides of the ground – it was a highly emotional moment both for him and the fans who rose to greet him. I was there that day and am not ashamed to say shed a tear for an incredibly brave man and a true Gooner. In 2004, Watson was awarded an MBE for his charity work for Brain and Spinal Research.

Watson, wearing the Red & White he always wore in the Ring

Watson doesn’t find excuses when the odds are stacked against him. Can today’s Arsenal team win?  Ask Michael.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


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