A Baptism of Fire?

February 2, 2013

Last time we played Stoke was early in the season, a 0-0 draw at the Britannia. I remember being disappointed by the draw but  more so by our inability to score. How different it is today …

Note the Nil for Stoke. A Nil. This shows that our defence was not breached; that a team of giants could not score from a cross into our goal area. It is now 6 PL games since our last defensive Nil. In those 6 games we have conceded 11 goals – almost 2 a game.

Yet, our Back 5 looks so solid on paper. Rasp has been saying since season’s start that our defence is the root cause of our inconsistency, a point of view hard to disagree with. My early thoughts were that with Steve Bould to educate and train them our back 5 could become the best for many season. BR  had faith in the skills of Santos and was happy with our LB situation.

How wrong was I?

But no fear …. Nacho to the rescue. Rarely will a player start a game under so much scrutiny. Is he the saviour? We shall see, but let us not judge Monreal on this afternoon’s performance; he will need time to bed in and The Orcs are a baptism of fire.

Unknown

Nacho Man

Stats: Stoke have only won one away game this season. They have scored 8 goals in 12 away games. They have not won for 5 games. Stoke have never won at THOF. They are Orcs.

Pulis (how I hate typing that word) has created the Volvo 760 of the football world. Big, ugly, efficient and does what other cars do but with far less panache. His brand of football takes the entertainment out of the game. And the supporters …… if they weren’t such a shower of  **** one would feel sorry for them. Not only having to live in a town which under any caring government would be demolished, but having to pay to watch a Volvo 760.

Unknown-1Stoke’s First Team Photo

An Arsenal stat: If the PL was based on halves, Arsenal would be 12th on first halves and 2nd to Man City on second halves. The solution is simple – give the lads some smelling salts prior to kick-off.

Todays team:  Arteta is close to a return but I wouldn’t risk him against The Orcs. Diaby or Ramsey? Ramsey for me – Chief Orc Shawcross is sure to receive his usual warm Emirates welcome.

Thinking about it, the pairing of Shawcross and Huth reminds me of this …

images-1

We have been missing Ox for a few games now. It hurt to see him as an unused sub  on Weds night. We had 20 minutes to finish off an on-the-ropes Liverpool but AW chose not to attack; mistakenly in my view. Ox needs game time and I hope he gets at least 20 minutes today.

Runners & Riders:

arse v orcs

Todays Explorer: George Mallory (1886-1924). Another great Englishmen who deserves further investigation. Huge doubts arise about who was the first man to ascend Everest but recent theory suggest it was Mallory and not some New Zealander. One of the world’s foremost mountaineers he made a number of explorations of the Himalayas before attempting to climb it’s highest peak. When asked why he wanted to climb Everest he responded with 3 classic words, “Because it’s There”.

Mallory died on the ascent, but perhaps it was during the descent and herein lies the mystery – we will never know. Mallory’s body was found 75 years later.

Such was Mallory’s esteem that King George V,  the Prime Minister Ramsey Macdonald and all his cabinet  attended his memorial at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

images-2

May have been one of Britain’s finest but … No Facial Hair, no Knighthood

February is traditionally a good month for The Arsenal. A win today would set up us nicely.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


From Messi to Shawcross.

February 23, 2011

Funny old game football. A week ago we were facing sublime skill, at the weekend passion and unlikely hope, and tonight aggression and anti-football. It is a testament to the Beautiful game that all types of football can be encompassed inside 7 days.

We know what to expect from this Stoke team under the tutelage of Mr Pulis, it will be park the bus, long throw ins and long, long balls to test the aerial expertise of our defence.  The midfield will be tigerish putting our skill players under intense physical pressure and yet trying to remain within the rules. Pulis will not be distraught if another Stoke player gets a red card because his defence for any loss will be that Arsenal are a team of foreign pouffs and divers…… “Same old Arsenal, Always cheating.”  Mr Wenger doesn’t speak to Pulis which tells me all I need to know about the Stoke manager.

Lest we forget, Ryan Shawcross is a stalwart in the Stoke defence, an innocent according to his manager, a nice guy who doesn’t deserve the criticisms from fans according to the pandering British press, and an out and out thug according to Aaron Ramsey. I expect to hear a strong vocal “welcome” for young Ryan which will hopefully temper his tackling and remind him that he caused a brilliant young talent to lose a year of his career; though I doubt he has the sensitivity to understand our dislike.

It should be noted that Shawcross is not the only hardmen in the Stoke team – they are full of them. From Carew upfront, to Faye, Delap, Whitehead and Diao in midfield, to Collins and Robert Huth in defence, Stoke are packed with aggression. This will be no easy ride for our artists.

But we have developed the ability to fight fire with fire, and it is some time since we were bullied out of a game. Wilshere and Cesc may be delicate players but they can handle themselves in the heat of battle as can Song and our defenders. Plus we be without the finesse of Van Persie who will be replaced by the added bulk of Chamakh or Bendtner (I would pick Nik who is better defensively).

Sadly Koscielny is out for tonight, a big loss considering the style of Stoke’s attack. Szczesny will have to use his height and strength to counter the Delap effect; I imagine this will be a baptism of fire for him and that our young keeper will not have faced tonight’s type of bombardment, but having come through the Barca game, I expect him to take Stoke in his stride. The inclusion of Djourou and probably Nik B will assist the defence at set plays.

I expect Theo to score the first goal.

My team:

We are on a super run of League form. Apart from the 20 minute madness at Newcastle, Arsenal have been in great shape. Mr. Wenger will be looking for another 3 points tonight and hope that our rivals start to drop points.

Iron Maiden on Sunday and today it is the turn of another of Britain’s great Rock acts, Lemmy from Motorhead, who was born in Stoke in 1945 (can he really have made it to pensionable age?!). Though Stoke’s most famous son is of course Robbie Williams.

COYRRG


Give a warm Emirates welcome to Mr. Ryan Shawcross

December 18, 2010

Firstly, I would like to thank all those who wrote such kind words regarding my piece in  the Arsenal in the Community book. Secondly, I would like to thank Peaches and Rasp for establishing such a hotbed of creative activity.

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with Stoke, particularly the “hotbed of creative activity!!” We know what to expect from this Stoke team under the tutelage of Mr Pulis, it will be park the bus, long throw ins and long, long balls to test the aerial expertise of our defence.  The midfield will be tigerish putting our skill players under intense physical pressure and yet trying to remain within the rules. Pulis will not be distraught if another Stoke player gets a red card because his defence for any loss will be that Arsenal are a team of foreign pouffs and divers…… “Same old Arsenal, Always cheating.”  Mr Wenger doesn’t speak to Pulis which tells me all I need to know about the Stoke manager.

Lest we forget, Ryan Shawcross is a stalwart in the Stoke defence, an innocent according to his manager, a nice guy who doesn’t deserve the criticisms from fans according to the pandering British press, and an out and out thug according to Aaron Ramsey. This is what the super-intelligent contributors to Arsenal Arsenal think:

Gunnern 5  “I hope that Shawcross gets the worst, and most sustained, barracking that any player has ever received from an Arsenal crowd.”

Rocky Lives “I hope our home support is loud and sustained and drowns out any noise from those Stoke tw*ts who sang abusive songs at Aaron Ramsey as he lay on the deck with half his leg hanging off”.

As you can see, there is not much love lost between Stoke and the Arsenal fans. Unlike WBA, Stoke will not come and try beat us playing stylish attacking football – Stoke will come to be efficient with the hope they can create an upset and return to the Potteries with a point. We must stop them.

At last we are getting back to a full squad. There are rumours of Diaby’s return to fitness, though he will need some pitch time to regain his sharpness. I know he is not to everyone’s taste but I believe he has all the qualities to be a valuable squad member. Theo, Nik, and RvP are vying for a start. For me the experiment of playing RvP as a deep lying forward in the DB10 mode is not working and needs to be abandoned. I want to see Robin leading the line and as such would give Chamakh a 70 minute rest.

My team:

Bench.  Chesney, Nik, Kos, Cesc, Chamakh, Arshavin, Gibbs

I believe the height of Djourou will be important as will the strength of Squillaci and Song. If Diaby really is fit, I would give him the first hour, but am expecting Wilshere to start. I really hope Fabregas will be given more time to recover, my personal choice would be that he takes a week off in the Maldives and comes back full of vim and vigour, but as Club Captain I guess he will be desperate to start.

CL draw. Barcelona. I would have preferred to meet them in the Semi’s but we are going to have to beat them to win the thing, so let’s get them out the way in 8 weeks. If TV and Cesc are fit, we will win and win comfortably. 3-0 at home and a draw away.

Today we can bounce back from Monday’s disappointment and return to the top. 4 goals would be nice…..

COYRRG


Your girlfriend is right after all……Size Does Matter

October 13, 2010

Today’s post was written by Red Arse over the weekend and continues the discussion about serious injuries.

Written by Red Arse

Like most Arsenal fans, I greeted, with relief and joy, the news, that “Rambo” Ramsey was not far from resuming full time training, with a view to returning in the New Year. It is wonderful, not just for us as fans but for the player himself.

But it led me to think back to the horrific injury that we were shown happening to him, in all its gory detail, on Sky TV, in full HD close up. The recollection brought an involuntary, empathetic shudder as, in my minds eye, I saw his leg bending in several completely unnatural directions and how it appeared to be held together only by virtue of his red and white sock. Yeuk and double Yeuk! I felt sick to my stomach reliving it, even in flashback.

But, hold on, that was not Rambo I was envisioning, it was Dudu, smashed by Taylor; but no, oh God, no, it was neither, it was Diaby, with his ankle apparently sheared off at Sunderland. Wasn’t it?

Well, it seems that they have all become one amorphous whole, each as shocking as the other.

This week’s news, that Danny Murphy had lambasted the thuggish gorillas, sent out by even more thuggish managers, to brainlessly assault more skilful players in more skilful EPL teams, in a manner likely to cause appalling career threatening injuries was amazingly refreshing and unexpected. He even named names; Fat Sam, stupid McCarthy, sickening, self justifying Pubis. Wow!

Picked up by other publications, his comments received mainly positive responses, with many a sage nod of the head, and a general agreement that such thuggery was wrong and that something must be done to curtail these wanton acts of aggression.

Contrast this with the xenophobic “Whingeing Wenger” headlines that greeted similar comments by our esteemed manager. The same moronic “it’s a man’s game”, and “I know him, he would not do that deliberately”, yada, yada, were soon churned out by said thuggish managers, of course.

Sometime ago, I wrote a Post highlighting the cretinous cabal of professionally limited managers, who encouraged and condoned this appalling, “in their faces”, tactic, inflicted by their physically imposing but cerebrally challenged minions. To Danny Murphy’s list I had added Mark Hughes, Owen Coyle and others, on the margins, whose teams occasionally dabble too.

Surprise, surprise, several of the usual suspects popped up; Kevin Davies, Shawcross, and de Jong among them, claiming they had always behaved like choirboys and their sainted managers had never issued any such instructions, nor incited them to inflict damage on skilful opposition players.

Now, at this point, I intend to leave that stream of thought and perhaps shock you, by coupling these Neanderthal antics with our lack of success, in recent times.

Following our defeat by Chelsea, I have lost count of the number of times opposition fans have said, “Your team were out muscled and well beaten” or “They never remotely looked capable of winning, because they were up against a better team, who were far stronger, taller, heavier and more powerful”.

I also lost count of the number of times I denied this was so. “We played well, and were unlucky to have lost”, I said, “We could have won, if we had taken our early chances”, and so on, and so forth.

All the time, at the back of my mind, I was thinking the unthinkable. “These guys could be right!”

In my opinion, even though I think Arsène is the best manager I have ever seen, I think he is complicit in our setbacks against the other top 4 teams, or the intimidating tackling and long ball tactics used against us so often. This is as a direct consequence of the type and size of players he has bought for us, over recent years.

We have often argued on this site about the pace or strength of our current players, with the implicit criticism, by some of us, that they were not quick enough or big enough physically.

Underlying this argument is the indisputable fact that when we were kings of the EPL, winning not just one, but two Doubles, we had in our team colossal players like Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Paddy Viera, Sol Campbell and many others like Manu Petit, Titti Henry and the incomparable Denis “Iceman” Bergkamp. I use the term “colossal” advisedly.

They not only had great skill, but they were giants physically. All of them strapping fellows with muscles on their muscles; they were all well over 6 foot tall, with great long ball winning legs, and a hard bitten, “take no prisoners” attitude in the winning of titles.

And then it all changed!

Arsene fell in love with seemingly fast, small, amazingly skilful players. Their brand of football is an entertaining, breathtaking style, with fast flowing, exquisite passing at its core. This appetite for physically small skilful players has now extended to defenders, with our latest recruits having very modest physiques.

Unfortunately, these little guys do not win against the “Big” teams. And they do not win trophies.

That is the crux of my disquiet. For reasons I do not pretend to understand, AW has decided that our best chance of winning trophies is by recruiting players half the size of those wonderful Double winning teams of yore!

This is not working! Please, Arsene, change your mind!


A Message to Henry Winter, Amy Lawrence, Patrick Barclay and Friends

October 12, 2010

Malicious recklessness is the new scourge of the modern game in England.

As I explained in yesterday’s post here on Arsenal Arsenal, the sort of leg-breaking challenges produced by the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Martin Taylor, Dan Smith, Karl Henry and Nigel de Jong represent a new and serious threat to the game we all love.

Broken legs have always been an occupational hazard in football, but they used to be an unusual or freak occurrence. Now they are becoming habitual and the players who cause them are routinely defended by their managers. This is leading to a rise in what I like to term ‘malicious recklessness’: recklessness, because the offending players are out of control; malicious, because they make these challenges in an attempt to physically intimidate the recipient.

But one group of people really can do something about this problem. It’s not the players, because the likes of Shawcross (as evidenced by his quotes this week) seem to revel in their role as out-of-control leg-smashers.

It’s not their managers, because they are prepared to accept serious casualties among their opponents if it means an extra point or two in the battle to stay in the Premier League. And, unlike many of my fellow Arsenal supporters, I don’t think Blackburn’s Sam Allardyce and Stoke’s Tony Pulis are bad people. I think they inhabit a world of public and private pressure that few of us can imagine and they will clutch at any straw to achieve their desired end. In doing so I think they genuinely believe their players are nice guys who wouldn’t deliberately break an opponent’s leg. They are too close to the problem to see that they are contributing to a culture that inevitably leads to career-threatening injuries (as Danny Murphy of Fulham eloquently pointed out last week).

It’s also not the football authorities who, as many bloggers have pointed out, are unlikely to take this problem seriously until an England golden boy is crippled by one of the EPL’s foreign legion.

Instead I believe the biggest impetus for change can come from national newspaper football reporters – the likes of Henry Winter, Patrick Barclay, Joe Lovejoy, Amy Lawrence and their colleagues. Some of them have expressed concern at the dangerous challenges that go on in the modern game, but I think there’s a more fundamental step they can take.

They (and we) need to reclaim the language of football from the Neanderthals – both players and managers – who distort it.

When Wenger criticises career-threatening challenges, the likes of Allardyce and Pulis always retort with “tackling is a great part of football and it would be terrible to lose it.” They know full well that Wenger has no problem with tackling, just with dangerous, reckless play, but it allows them to portray Wenger as a wuss who wants football to be non-contact.

The language distortion here centres on the word ‘tackling.’ Shawcross’s assault on Ramsey, Taylor’s on Eduardo do not deserve to be dignified with the name ‘tackle’ and journalists should not use it in these cases. They should refer to “Shawcross’s lunge” or “Taylor’s reckless assault.”

The word “tackle” is written into the rules of the game and should be used only for legitimate acts of football, not deliberate or reckless assaults aimed at intimidating a player.

It’s an example of what George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, referred to as ‘doublethink,’ a definition of which is:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it…

With this in mind, every sports journalist should think twice before using any of the following euphemisms:

Full Blooded:  by all means use this for a strong, fair challenge. But please let’s have no more excusing clumsy attempts to maim a player by saying the offender made a ‘full blooded’ tackle.

Committed: Michael Essien is committed; Wayne Rooney is committed; Ryan Shawcross flying into an opponent’s leg while totally out of control is not ‘committed’, he is reckless. And malicious.

Football is a Contact Sport: this phrase is the last refuge of the scoundrel. As mentioned above, it’s an attempt to deflect attention away from one’s own players’ crazy challenges by suggesting that the complainant is against tackles per se. Wrong. There is a huge difference between a strong, fair tackle and the sort of wild lunge that might break a leg or rupture the knee ligaments.

Not That Kind of Player: full credit to Arseblog for continually ramming home the sheer hypocrisy of this phrase. Yet it’s not just managers who use it – journalists too have used it, particularly over the Shawcross/Ramsey incident when all the evidence suggests that he IS that kind of player.

Late Tackle: buses are late; my granddad is late; John Cleese’s parrot is late; tackles are not late (which implies a misfortune of tardiness) – they are dangerous, uncontrolled, illegal or, if you prefer, plain dirty.

Letting The Opponent Know You’re There: when I call in on my 76-year-old Mum I like to let her know I’m there. I do this by saying ‘hello’, not by executing a two-footed lunge from behind on her lower legs. The ‘letting them know you’re there’ phrase is a euphemism for committing a violent foul.

I’m sure there are many more (all suggestions welcome please), but these are football’s version of ‘doublethink’.

If the distinguished writers who cover football for the national press start being more discerning about how they refer to maliciously reckless play, if they start to use the language appropriate for the acts they’re describing, then it will become harder and harder for those who govern football to let things go on as they are.

As the author Joseph Conrad said: “He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word.

RockyLives


Thug Shawcross Happy to Keep On Breaking Legs

October 11, 2010

I was staggered to read Ryan Shawcross’s contribution to the discussion about dangerous tackling. In the week in which Bobby Zamora and Hatem ben Arfa both suffered very serious injuries caused by so-called ‘full blooded’ tackles, Shawcross had this to say:

“The likes of Henry and de Jong, I’m sure, didn’t go out to injure another player on purpose. It’s part and parcel of football. They are tough-tackling central midfielders whose games are based on making tackles, winning the ball and then giving it to the ball-players. Sometimes injuries are caused.

“You have just got to accept in these times, with the ball moving so fast and the player moving so fast, you are going to mis-time tackles. That is when injuries can happen.”

Essentially this arrogant buffoon, this poltroonish ignoramus is saying that he has no intention of changing the way he plays.

Despite having watched Aaron Ramsey carried off with his leg snapped in four (tibia – two parts, fibula – two parts), despite putting Francis Jeffers out for three months with ligament damage, despite putting Emmanuel Adebayor out for weeks with a malicious foul that wasn’t even on the field of play, Shawcross sees no reason to do things differently. Which will mean more ligaments damaged and more legs broken in the future.

Don’t you love his use of the impersonal voice?:  “Sometimes injuries are caused.” Caused by whom Ryan? Some mysterious third force? An act of God? The Hoof Fairies?

No, you festering noodledick, they are caused by YOU and the rest of your brave fellows from the British Donkey Society (motto: Not Good, Not Fast, But We Kick Like Mules).

Then there’s the admission that he’s going to carry on hurting people because he’s too slow: “…with the player moving so fast, you are going to mis-time tackles. That is when injuries can happen.” Again he uses the impersonal voice to distance himself from the unfortunate outcome of being too slow: “injuries can happen” – when what he should be saying is: “that is when I, and cloggers like me, are likely to injure someone.”

We all know that the likes of Shawcross think that intimidating the opposition by ‘going in hard’ is a legitimate part of the game.  And spare me the comparisons with Arsene Wenger’s ‘red period’ when we were top of the sendings off league: I don’t recall an Arsenal player snapping someone’s leg in two during that time.

In fact, while the hard men of 10-15 years ago (the likes of Vieira, Keane, Batty) would undoubtedly try to impose themselves on the opposition, it was in a controlled way without risking career-threatening injuries (I know, I know, Keane on Haaland was appalling  but it was a crazy personal vendetta). What seems to have changed is the sheer recklessness with which agricultural midfielders and defenders hurl themselves into challenges.

Being ‘taught a lesson’ by Roy Keane meant you’d be bruised for a week, not sidelined for a year.

The reason for the rise in crazy, career-threatening challenges – a trend I call ‘malicious recklessness’ – appears to be a combination of several factors: the financial stakes involved in Premier League survival for unfashionable clubs, which causes some managers to advocate an ‘anything goes’ policy in games against more skilful opposition; a rise in the technical level of the EPL (thanks largely to the foreign influx) resulting in players who are faster and have better control than previously, making it more difficult for cloggers like Shawcross to compete fairly; the physical condition of today’s players – they are stronger and faster than in previous years, so if they tackle in an uncontrolled manner they are more likely to cause serious harm; a laissez-faire attitude among footballing authorities to the consequences of dangerous play.

Today’s Reckless Ryans and Careless Karls can always say afterwards “I didn’t mean to hurt him” but their recklessness makes the hurting inevitable and they should not be allowed to shirk responsibility for it. If you drive your car at 80mph down a suburban street, you may not intend to kill the little kid who runs out in the road, but try telling that to the judge.

In today’s EPL there are plenty of physical teams who stay within the bounds of legality and common human decency: within the last few weeks Chelsea, West Brom and Sunderland have all played a physical game against Arsenal without resorting to malicious recklessness. Arsene Wenger made no complaints about physicality in any of those games. He is just incredibly consistent about highlighting dangerous play when it occurs.

So what to do?

Well, there is one group of people who, I believe, can really make a difference in the battle to take dangerous rash play out of the game. It’s not the players, it’s not the managers and it’s certainly not the ineffectual stuffed shirts at the FA and FIFA. Tomorrow I’ll explain who they are and what they need to do.

RockyLives


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