Arsenal Odds On To Win The Title

April 11, 2010

I picked the winner in the Grand National yesterday. It was, I have to say, an informed bet, not my usual pin in the names, red and white riding gear or ‘Red’ in the horses name. I had been casually listening to talk of the race the previous day and heard that Tony McCoy had not won the National in 15 attempts and was riding a horse called ‘Don’t Push It’.

It was a great race especially if you had money on the winner as he was nowhere until about the 4th fence from the end. Conna Castle went out in front pretty early on and was tagged by Black Apalachi and at that point I considered not watching any more as two of my other horses had already fallen. Then I heard his name and that of ‘State of Play’ which I also had a bet on and so watched the remaining few minutes as ‘Don’t Push It’ came storming through to take the race.

It was in fact a very exciting race but it was over in about 12 minutes. My horse came from nowhere to win even though he was one of the favourites. I began thinking about whether its more exciting to be leading a race from the start or to come through the ranks to be the winner.

So far, Arsenal have won the premiership three times under Arsène Wenger – 1998, 2002 and 2004. In 1998 Arsenal went on an unbeaten run of 13 games to take the title from the manks by one point finishing on 78 points. That was exciting.

The 2001-2002 season  was even more exciting as the race appeared to be wide open at the start but in the end we won it comfortably, taking the title from the mancs, winning at Old Trafford in the penultimate game to be crowned Champions with 7 points spare.

In 2003 we had a pretty cool team and our manager had set down the unlikely marker of going unbeaten for the whole season the year before. This team were magic, they oozed class, they were wonderful to watch – everyone said so and we all basked in their glory. The nouveau riche chavs were our main competition as they now had a sugar-daddy who’d given them £100m to spend on players but we went unbeaten and in May 2004 were champions with 90 points from the chavs 79.

There were seasons in between where we came close but had thrown away large leads early on to end up runners-up. Do we remember those? No, we don’t even want to think about them. How much more exciting is it as a supporter to be in it at the end? This time last year although we were in the semi-finals of the champions league we were out of the title race. Come April I’d much rather be in with a shout for the premiership, how do you feel about it?

So here we stand with 5 games to go, five season defining games. There’s no margin for error now, we just have to crack on and show the kind of determination that Bendtner did when heading home the winner against Wolves last Saturday and power our way through the pack just like my horse did yesterday.


A Question of Sport – if we can’t beat ‘em, should we join ‘em?

April 10, 2010

Our little Russian doll Andrey Arshavin was a guest on A Question of Sport last night. I don’t think he understood half of what was going on, but at least managed to recognise Jack Wilshere and get an answer or two right.

It got me thinking about football (just for a change), is it a sport, a game, a way of life, an obsession?

By definition, it is a game. It involves teams, a set time for play and scoring. But should it be played in a ‘sporting manner’ or should we accept that ‘gamesmanship is part of the tactics? Beyond that, there is the question of whether we should continue to strive to create a spectacle involving elite sportsman or should we join the majority of teams who treat it as a game where tactics and other less virtuous practises can be employed to give an advantage?

I watched Stevie-me win a couple of free kicks for pool on Thursday by pushing the ball ahead and running into the defender in front of him and then diving spectacularly; the referee fell for it every time, but the slo-mo showed it for what it was; gamesmanship/cheating. Eboue has done the same thing for us and been soundly rebuked by fans as ‘letting the side down’. Barcelona outplayed us on Tuesday, but they also out-cheated us too. The quality of their fouls was far superior to ours. How many times have we  persistently been fouled by the opposition with no cards in evidence and yet, the first time one of our players deliberately brings an opponent down, out comes the card. We’re not very good at fouling – could this have a bearing on the number of injuries we suffer?

A few people have commented lately that we need a midfielder or defender who strikes fear into opponents, an enforcer in the mould of Patrick Vieira. We were once criticised for the number of red cards we collected in Wenger’s early years (coincidentally, the years when we were winning trophies). Which is the more effective weapon against the opposition….. team spirit, or aggression?

Vermaelen is the best ‘fouler’ we have, Song is not very good, he holds his hands in the air in a plea of innocence before he’s even committed the offence – bit of a giveaway! Sagna’s too nice to foul deliberately, although Clichy does like to mix it. Since the Invincible’s, we’ve recruited/developed players many of whom are just too ‘nice’. Look at the way Fabianski handed the ref the ball when told to do so in the CL game against Porto – Lehman would never have done that.

Reading this you could be forgiven for thinking that I’m in favour of our players being dirtier and I could ask, what would you rather win – the Fair Play League or the Premier League?

The problem is that it is not Arsène’s style, therefore it is not Arsenal’s style. In general we play by the rules – that includes the rules of business that stipulate that you have to balance the books, it’s a shame that nobody else follows suit. I think Chamakh will add some much needed muscle to our forward line albeit with the ball skills to compliment his tempered aggression and it looks increasingly likely that we will have to buy a CB. Most of us are praying for a new keeper who doesn’t look terrified, but terrifying. Perhaps we are about to enter a new era in Arsène’s thinking that combines the steel of the Invincibles with the mobile ball skills of the current squad and has ALL the elements necessary to bring to an end our famine of trophies.


Alex Ferguson–Lord of the Sith or Rab. C Nesbitt? Part II

April 9, 2010

It’s common knowledge that the surly, German-loving Glaswegian refuses to talk to certain media outlets (especially after a defeat when, like a snivelling coward he’ll send out the assistant manger to face the press) but even then the rest of the media are perpetually currying favour with him, laughing at feeble quips like “If the Italians say it’s pasta, I’ll look under the sauce” (said before a Champions League game in Italy.) Pardon me; the new Oscar Wilde has split my sides permanently.

Naturally when someone is smart back to him Fergie is less than happy; remember Ken Bates attempting to present him with a medallion inscribed “Lord Fergie – the best thing since sliced bread” at a Wembley cup final?

It’s not just the referees that are held in thrall by Fergie but the raft of managers in the Premier League who have Old Toilet connections, mainly as ex-players, although to our good fortune we have thankfully lost a number of ex-mank managers, such as Paul “The Governor (!)” Ince, Mark “I’m at City for the long haul” Hughes and Roy “Prawn sandwich” Keane with only Steve Bruce remaining.

Aside from the ex-players we have Fergie acolytes who attach themselves to him and vicariously bask in his reflected glory, such as Fat Sam “Walrus-face” Allardyce (seen sucking up to Lord Fergie at the Aintree races the day after Bayern dumped them put of Europe) and Alex “Ginger nuts” McLeish. Managers like them are those who have taken as the only way to play us from the infamous game where the Neville sisters took it in terms to rotationally kick J A Reyes out of the game and, ultimately, back to Iberia.

”Get in their faces, kick them off the park and Arsenal will have no answer” was probably first said by the Highland Malt man and all round euro-diplomat.

Legend has it that Ferguson and McLeish spoke before the Birmingham away fixture in the 2007-08 season and you can just imagine those words ringing out in the home dressing room at St Andrews on that fateful day just over two years ago. Those instructions having a special resonance for one Martin Taylor, and similarly so for Shawcross whose manager is another one who thinks ridiculing Wenger will ingratiate himself to Fergie.

Having therefore placed himself in an unassailable place in which the media and FA give him undue deference and having plenty of Fergie “mini me”s within the ranks of other premier league managers he can do no wrong.

For example Fergie brings in the serial crock (and horse racing trainer who plays a little football between spells on the physios couch) Owen who then manages three league goals in nineteen appearances and it’s a master stroke, yet Wenger signing big Sol on a pay as you play is a sure fire sign of the “Nutty professor” in charge at our club having “lost the plot” – you can always bank on the gutter press to load every article about us with an EU quota of clichés and, to be fair to them, utter bollocks.

The same goes for Fergie’s gamble on Shreks fitness in the Manks final Champions League fixture – he’ll say “No chance to play” but then miraculously the Dreamworks character is showing the recovery powers of a biblical one, Lazarus.

Do I know why Fergie acts in the way he does? As an amateur shrink I can only guess his inferiority complex (as evidenced by his need to undermine all his competitors on a personal level) comes from an upbringing where every verbal exchange was a quarrel and such a tough environment would probably give little chance for personal growth and quiet contemplation.

He has only ever worked in the UK and while travel broadens the mind being an “Island monkey”, as continentals would label Fergie, has created his insular, narrow-minded outlook. A manager who Fergie would do well to look at for an example of how a British manager can act with exemplary good grace is Roy Hodgson, who by no coincidence has worked in many countries. While I disagree with (and am frustrated by) a number of things that our managers does, I can see a well-travelled and rounded individual that represents our club with honour and dignity.

So if you hear that Fergie has the touch of one of James Earl Jones’ roles about him, you know it is more likely to be a whiskey-soaked dose of Rab C.

Let’s hope he doesn’t mention the war.

By our guest writer charybdis1966


Thanks chary for your post, another excellent rant at the scot and his followers.

Alfa put the following post up this morning – an invitation to be part of Bob Wilsons Charity Quiz – have a look.

Bob Wilson World Cup Charity Quiz Night

Our featured charity, the Willow Foundation ( www.willowfoundation.org.uk ) are holding a charity quiz night and if you are in the Herts/London area we thought you might want to go along.
Bob Wilson World Cup Charity Quiz Night

Join quiz master, former Arsenal & Scotland goalkeeper, Bob Wilson, as you pit your wits against friends, family and colleagues. Teams of 6 to 8 people are invited to take part. Supper will be provided on the night.

The event takes place between on Monday 26 April 2010 from 6.45pm – 11.00pm at Sopwell House, Cotton Mill Lane, St Albans.

Tickets: £20 each (entrants must be 18 years or over)

To purchase tickets, please contact the Community Fundraising Team:
E: fundraising@willowfoundation.org.uk
T: 01707 259777

Click here to view the event flyer.


Bob Wilson World Cup Charity Quiz Night

April 9, 2010
Our featured charity, the Willow Foundation ( www.willowfoundation.org.uk ) are holding a charity quiz night and if you are in the Herts/London area we thought you might want to go along.
Bob Wilson World Cup Charity Quiz Night

Join quiz master, former Arsenal & Scotland goalkeeper, Bob Wilson, as you pit your wits against friends, family and colleagues. Teams of 6 to 8 people are invited to take part. Supper will be provided on the night.

The event takes place between on Monday 26 April 2010 from 6.45pm – 11.00pm at Sopwell House, Cotton Mill Lane, St Albans.

Tickets: £20 each (entrants must be 18 years or over)

To purchase tickets, please contact the Community Fundraising Team:
E: fundraising@willowfoundation.org.uk
T: 01707 259777

Click here to view the event flyer.

The main post will be along shortly – a treat in store on Rant Friday…


The Dream Lives On

April 8, 2010

Many Arsenal supporters are in mourning at the perceived death of a dream following our Champions League football lesson at the hands of Barcelona.

But is the dream dead? Even if we lose to spuds on Wednesday and don’t get any higher in the league than third, is the dream dead?

Does the devastation of our squad caused by top players suffering injury mean the dream has become a nightmare? Or is it as I believe, just a quick brutal glimpse of reality, a moment of wakefulness in a long night of dreaming.

The dream is still intact; those key players apart from poor Aaron Ramsey are approaching fitness. We will have a fully fit squad for the new season. But it may be a significantly different squad come pre-season if Wengers hints and countless media reports are to be believed. Some existing players will have left and been replaced by new top-level signings

This squad has shown such fortitude. It will be further hardened mentally by the rigours of this astonishing season, having been written off before it even started as not worthy of even a top four finish and with no chance of a Champions League place. This view has been reiterated, further enhanced and spewed out as a fact – an almost certainty by the delighted media each time we lost, as lose we did in the four games against our championship rivals.

Yet, each time this side picked itself up, ignoring the injuries that would have crushed a lesser team to follow the dream and here we are, certain to finish at least third, with the distinct possibility, whisper it quietly, of winning the thing.

So as the song says ‘you got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you going to have a dream come true?’

My dream certainly hasn’t died, whether we win the league or not, we are a million miles from where we started the season and the progress to me is tangible.

So Gooners what is your dream?  Who should go, who should get promoted to the squad and who, given the obvious restraints on Arsène’s spending should we buy?

What would you do to make the dream come true?

By guest writer dandan


Ritchie, Blair or Messi? You decide………

April 7, 2010

Alright, I know he scored four goals of great individual skill and single-handedly dumped us out of the Champion’s League, I know he’s the new Messi-ah and he’s going to light up the World Cup this summer, but bloody hell, didn’t Messrs Gray, Tyler and Keys have the hots for young Lionel? By the end of the game I was gagging on the great dollops of statistics they’d been shoving down my throat about the wonderboy; four hat tricks since January; Fifa world player of the year by the tender age of 22; already Barcelona’s equal highest goal scorer in the Champion’s League.  At any moment I was expecting Tyler to tell us that he is now officially the most famous person ever to have been called Lionel:

Tyler: “Surely the best Lionel of all time, would you agree Andy?”

Gray: “Don’t get me wrong. I loved Lionel Blair in Give Us A Clue and as for Lionel Richie, well… he could do it All  Night Long… but this little Argentinian – he’s something else.”

And he was. But that’s going to be documented just about everywhere else today, so I want to talk about the Arsenal.

There’s no getting away from it, we were well beaten over two legs by a team that is superior to ours. Yes, we were missing Cesc, Robin, Arsh, Gallas, Song and the rest, but even if we had had every member of our squad fully fit we would still have been beaten. Barcelona are a team who play football the way Arsenal play it, but do it better.  Strangely, I don’t find this depressing, I find it encouraging. The fact that the best team in the world plays our type of football is a vindication of what Wenger is trying to do, albeit with fewer resources and in a more hostile environment  (if Barca played in the Premier League I wonder how many broken legs they would have suffered over the last couple of seasons).  I believe it will fire up Arsene to move us up a level in our team play and we will reap the benefits next year. And we may even reap some of them this year if the players show the same positive reaction to this setback that they did to defeats this season by Chelsea and Man Utd.

Despite the 4-1 scoreline we put in a better overall performance than we had a week ago when we drew 2-2 at the Emirates. This time we didn’t stand off the Barca players and admire their pretty passing patterns, we chased and harried them from the off, with Nasri in particular putting in an almighty shift.

Messi gave an early warning of his menace with a snap shot that was going wide but was sensibly turned round anyway by Almunia and followed up a few minutes later with a shot that dipped onto the roof of the net, but those chances aside it was a cagey start.

And then, on Oh My God! We’ve scored – we’re one nil up at the Nou Camp. Great determination by Diaby to win the ball in midfield and release Walcott running in behind the Barca defence. Theo did his best to mess it up with a lame pass to Bendtner but when his shot came back off Valdes, Bendy was first to react and poked it home – a finish of great determination.

I’m sure all Gooners really started to believe at that point, but the euphoria was cut cruelly short.  A quick Barca attack, the ball rebounding perfectly to Messi off  Nasri and Silvestre and it was 1-1.

To their credit, the lads kept battling, although every tackle seemed to bring a foul to Barca (Denilson was hard done by to get a yellow for a great ball-winning tackle on Messi). Then the Argentinian struck again on 36 mins, Abidal sending a low cross in from wide left and the ball again falling kindly for Barca. Pedro helped it on to Messi who took a lovely touch before placing it past Almunia.

At this point you’re thinking – if we can hang on at 2-1 until half time we’re still in it, but it wasn’t to be: Messi charging through a massive gap in our defence after Vermaelen was caught forward and dinking a sublime chip over Big Al.

The second half was a less spectacular affair.  We continued to chase but our final ball usually let us down and Barca were fanatical in their attempts to win the ball back when we had possession. On a couple of occasions where we were stringing passes together we ended up going backwards towards our own goal, such was Barcelona’s pressure.

Pep Guardiola, keen not to repeat the mistakes made at the Emirates, brought on Yaya Toure to keep things tight and for most of the second half Barca played at a slower tempo, keeping the ball.

We had a couple of half chances – Bendtner’s touch letting him down in the box, Rosicky firing high from the edge of the area and Bendtner hitting the post with a header (which wouldn’t have counted as he was flagged for offside), but it never seemed likely that a goal would come.

Eboue came on for Silvestre, with Sagna moving to central defence; Eduardo replaced the tired-looking Rosicky, but nothing really changed and Barcelona’s and Messi’s fourth goal was not a big surprise. He did well to hold off Vermaelen in the box, but when Almunia saved his shot the ball again fell kindly for the Argentine and he slotted between Al’s legs.

Full time 4-1, aggregate 6-3 and you couldn’t disagree when Arsene said Barelona were better than us.

But this team can push on and get better. We clearly need a world class finisher – let’s hope Chamakh is that man (if the rumours are true) and some of our young players need more experience, but if we take one lesson away from these two games it’s that pretty football is not enough on its own. Barcelona play like thoroughbreds but they work like shire horses – and we need to start doing the same.

Next stop, the terrible Totts. A win there will soon put this honourable defeat into perspective.

Player Ratings:

Almunia: Can’t fault him for any of the goals (he was particularly unlucky for the fourth) and he made a couple of decent stops.   He kicked long too many times when he could have played it to one of the defenders, thereby ceding possession to best ball-holding side in the world. 6

Sagna: Worked hard, made a couple of good forward breaks with little end product. 6

Clicy: Good game, constantly trying to get forward and coped moderately well with the waves of Barca attacks. 7

Vermaelen:  Was stranded up field for Messi’s third. He and Silvestre struggled with Barca’s movement (but so would most defenders). 6

Silvestre: Did OK. Unfairly blamed by some for Messi’s first (check out the replays: it bounced off Nasri an instant before MS played it). 6

Denilson: Worked hard, but was occasionally caught in possession and final ball not great. 6

Diaby: Much improved performance compared with his showing in the first leg. Battled hard and set up Bendtner’s goal. 7

Nasri: It didn’t always come off for him and his final ball was sometimes wayward, but he worked his socks off, closed down the Barca players all night and was involved in some of our better forward moves. MotM (for us – there might just be a different candidate for overall MotM). 7.5

Rosicky: I thought he was our best player on Saturday, but looked leggy in this game and was responsible for a lot of lost possession. 5

Walcott: Started brightly but faded. 6

Bendtner: Never stops trying and took his goal well, but just lacks that bit of class in games like this one.  6.5

Subs:

Eboue: Did his best but the game was already lost when he came on. 6

Eduardo: No real chance to get in the game. N/A

By our guest writer RockyLives


Something About Henry

April 6, 2010

As The Arsenal’s pending trip to Camp Nou draws closer, let us spare a thought for the largely unsung heroes, The Away Fans, always outnumbered, but never out gunned. Week in, week out, they follow their beloved team around Blighty & Europe, always providing that little piece of home for the players and management when away on their various crusades.

On Tuesday April 6th 2010, a few thousand Gooners will set up their battle standards in a small pocket of enemy territory, somewhere in Catalonia, and with this, I cannot help but draw upon another famous date in English history, Friday 25 October 1415 The Battle of Agincourt.

For those who are not familiar with the Battle of Agincourt, it was a major English victory against a larger French army during the Hundred Years’ War. The battle occurred in northern France. The victory brought France to its knees.

The battle is notable for the use of the English longbow, which Henry employed in very large numbers, with English and Welsh longbowmen forming the vast majority of his army. The French army numbered some 50,000, whereas the English and Welsh amounted to only 8 to 10,000.

One English account describes the day before the battle as a day of remorse in which the English soldiers cleansed themselves of their sins to avoid Hell if they died. By contrast, the French were confident that they would prevail and were eager to fight. The French believed they would triumph over the English not only because their force was larger, fresher and better equipped, but also because the large number of noble men-at-arms would have considered themselves superior to the assembled commoners (such as the longbowmen) in the English army.

The French suffered heavily.

Fast forward some 595 years. Barcelona, although they won’t admit it publicly yet, believe they will triumph over The Arsenal not only because they are a bigger club and their players are better equipped to play total football, but also because they think La Liga  is superior to the Premier League.

So, I say, bring it on Barcelona. History proves that a Champion Team will beat a team of champions. And for those few thousand Glorious Gooners who stand proud at the final whistle, may we salute your conquest as we would have the long bowmen all those years ago. Give’em the old V sign, complimented by a nice big raspberry.

But may we also give praise to the name Henry, even though this time round  he will be on the losing side.

Regards GG9

Footnote: The French claimed that they would cut off the arrow-shooting fingers of all the English longbowmen after they had won the battle at Agincourt. But of course, the English came out victorious and showed off their two fingers, still intact.

I wrote this piece prior to the Brum draw, & things have changed since, especially with respect to personnel. With respect to this, may I add the line made famous by Winnie the Pooh (Churchill)

“Never was so much owed by so many to so few”


Sol …. Man of Steel….

April 5, 2010

I admit it, when Wenger announced in January that he had signed Sulzeer Jeremiah Cambell, I was less than elated. I would go as far as to say that I thought Mr. Wenger had lost his senses. At that time we had a fine first choice centre back partnership of Gallas and Vermaelen, with Silvestre and Senderos as back up. Wenger clearly mistrusted Swiss Phil to take an active role in the run-in, and Silvestre had shown that despite being a fine player, the years were taking their toll. But a 35 year old has-been?

Wenger had stated that the reason he didn’t sign the much needed Anelka in Jan 2009 was because he did not like to re-sign players, so to sign a 35 year old Sol was a major surprise. When we first heard reports that Sol was training with the team in order to regain fitness, I assumed he would be trying to get a berth at, say Charlton, with a view to becoming player-coach, and then go into management. But I was shocked when Wenger gave him a contract. A contract to a man who had walked of the pitch at half-time claiming emotional problems – an act never repeated before or since, a contract to a man who left to go to….. Portsmouth!

In my eyes Sol was finished, a washed-up a relic of a past and glorious time. Sol had the turning circle of a supertanker, he had an arse the size of France, he was too heavy to jump, was slower over 10 yards than Pat Rice and slower over 30 yards than Peter Hill-Wood. Sol was too old, heavy and unfit to play 45 minutes, let alone 90+.

And yet, and yet ……. the Campbell signing has proved to be one of Wenger’s masterstrokes.

Sol returned in the FA Cup defeat at Stoke and was probably old enough to father most of his Arsenal teammates. Yet, he held the backline and looked good. Next up an excellent performance at Aston Villa –  an away clean sheet. With this appearance Sol became only the third player to play in all 18 PL seasons (alongside Giggs and David James). Sol was settling into the team.

The goal against Porto will be long remembered as the phoenix rising from the ashes. When was the last time he scored like that in Europe (another 2-1 defeat)…… that’s right, the last time he played for us before leaving in 2006.

Then Stoke away. His reaction after the Ramsey injury showed us just why Wenger signed him. He was not just solid but inspirational. Lifting heads, getting fired up, geeing up his team. When the third goal went in, who was pumped up, fists clenched, celebrating with the away fans?  It REALLY matters to him.

Almunia has grown in confidence since the arrival of Sol because he can rely on him to organise the defence at set pieces. The Spaniard actually looks a decent GK again! Whether this is solely down to Campbell’s arrival is a moot point, but is the timing of his improvement only co-incidence?

We now know that Sol will be there in the trenches, giving everything to the Arsenal cause.  Should we win the title, Sol will become an even greater figure in Arsenal folklore than he already is. The man who caused the most virulent outpouring of hate and aggression ever seen at White Hart Lane, will be a true Arsenal Great 🙂

It must be said that some on here completely disagreed with my despair at the Campbell signing, and in deference to them I eat a huge slice of humble pie. Opinions are divided as to whether Sol should play against Barcelona. One thing is for sure, whether he’s on the pitch or sitting on the bench, his mere presence will be felt,  instilling a strength of purpose and steely determination through those deep dark eyes that will be urging the team on with every inch of his being.

As to those, like our very own peachesgooner, whose heart goes aflutter and weak at the knees at the sight of the hunk in the  XXXL shorts….   “Sol’s a Gooner … De de de duh”

By BigRaddy


Just How Much Bacon Can One Dane Save?

April 4, 2010

I had the pleasure of two free tickets in Club Level yesterday. Did you know that that lucky lot get free beer and you know how good yummy free beer tastes? And, as if that wasn’t enough there is actually a Chinese noodle bar in there, yes, real people cooking fresh stir fry in woks right there in front of you, amazing, it really is another world.

So why I asked myself did one person swap two tickets in club level for my one ticket in the Upper West? Because, as I found, all is not what it seems in club level: I have long had my suspicions about a group of Arsenal supporters that collectively leave five minutes before the end, this may be a generalisation but you surely must have noticed how embarrassingly empty Club Level looks long before the final whistle? In short they collectively struck me as being a bunch of tossers, my suspicions were confirmed by one incident that made me feel ashamed to be an Arsenal supporter.

After taking my seat and adjusting my focus to being that much closer to the pitch I surveyed the people around me, like you do, and noticed three men in their sixties getting animated at the wrong time, then bizarrely, one of them let out a cry on “Come on Wolves” very strange behaviour, most people around just smiled. On the pitch they were the domesticated variety of Wolves that had made their way down from the Black Country and these three supporters were certainly the domesticated variety off the pitch. They really were no harm and if anything they were creating a bit of atmosphere where otherwise there would have been none.

Do three men in their sixties strike you as being a threat? To my shame there were Arsenal supporters everywhere with their hands up calling the stewards as if they were at school telling teacher, I really expected the stewards to tell these girly Arsenal supporters to get a life but to my shock they took them seriously and actually asked them to stop making a noise…for goodness sake they only said “Come on Wolves” three times in the whole of the first half. I thought that would be the end of it but no, sadly they never returned for the second half; the stewards ejected them from the ground at the break. I was truly ashamed.

Oh yeah, the game. The first half was a frustrating light weight affair with Walcott making good runs down the wing but no end product. Half time came; I now understand why the whole of club level is deserted: free beer.

Second half and we continued in the same frustrating way that looked like we weren’t going to score if the game were played for a month of Sunday’s. This all changed when one of their not quite so domesticated Wolves got himself sent off for a silly lunge at Rosicky. Down to ten men and things were better I now thought, rather than a month it would only take two weeks of Sundays’ for us to score.

Subs were made Nasri brightened things up as did Vela, although, it was clear why Wenger leaves him on the bench so much and last but not least on came Denmark’s finest: Nikki B, gone is the nonchalant smile suggesting that maybe, if I can be arsed, I will put in a bit of effort into the game and on is the more gritted look of determination and determination was exactly what he brought to the game.

But time was running out and along with it were our title hopes; then, deep into injury time, when all the obituaries had been written and many a “Supporter” from Club Level had left, Sagna sent over the best cross of his life, Nick forced his way in front of a Wolves defender to powerfully head it home. Unbridled joy, relief and my son keeps his one hundred per cent record of only ever having seen Arsenal win and his time stretches back to when Seaman was playing. I digress again; three points and we are still in the hunt. Next up Barça

By London


Gunners Must Send Wolves Packing……

April 3, 2010

Now the full extent of our latest glut of injuries is clear (Cesc out for at least six weeks, Gallas at least three and Arshavin possibly back for the Man Shitty game, on April 24) our beleaguered team entertain Wolves at the Grove today.

Were I a hopeless romantic, I would interpret the fact that the last time the Wanderers made their only previous foray into the Premier League we were Champions, as a portent of our crowning as Champions this season. However, not only have recent setbacks on the injury front and crucially, two dropped points at Ginger McLeish’s ploughed field, soured my view of our chances, but as an engineer by education, I’m fairly unromantic (as many ex-girlfriends will confirm).

Wolves, as original founders of the football league, were formed nine years before us and therefore their glory days are well behind them; a League Cup win in 1980 being their last silverware. Having been promoted this season as Championship winners, it would seem they are safe from joining Pompey, and hopefully Hull, in the Championship next year, lying as they do in fourteenth place, five points above the drop zone. Their form has been indifferent, three losses, two draws and two wins in the last seven games points to a home win for us however one of those two wins was away at West Ham.

The Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, will no doubt be quietly confident of  catching us on an off day, with an “after the Lord Mayor’s show” kind of lethargy he will hope to exploit.

The press will portray McCarthy as an honest, blunt-speaking type – a typical product of a Barnsley upbringing; his flat, Yorkshire tones would not go amiss on an episode of Emmerdale (farm). I enjoyed him taking down the Mank mad dog Roy Keane a peg or two after he had a pre-pubescent style hissy-fit during Irelands 2002 world Cup campaign.

The danger man will obviously be Kevin Doyle, their top scorer with seven for the season, their next highest scorer being defender Jody “Fanny” Craddock who has chipped in with five strikes– clearly a player to watch out for when the referee awards a free kick against us near the penalty area for the first foul we commit tomorrow.

As for us, we know in all likelihood we won’t see Cesc till the World Cup at the earliest, however I harbour a secret hope he’ll be back for the last league game and the Champions League final – so maybe I am a tiny bit romantic! Wenger has bluntly denied rumours circulated by the mischief-making press that Cesc was played with a leg already broken by one of McLeish’s muggers last Saturday.

Nasri would be the shoe in to take Cesc’s place but the centre back partner for the Verminator is a conundrum I am glad I don’t have to solve. The question is Campbell or Song? Assuming Sol is only good for one game a week, and then if he plays today he is out for Tuesday’s return leg at the Camp Nou.

The problem is, do we risk a less mobile Sol on Tuesday or save him for League games only? If we play Song at centre back on Tuesday, we’ll lose his midfield drive against the Catalans and that could be crucial as only a win (or an unlikely a score draw of 3-3, or above) will suffice. Being radical, one could argue for Song to be at centre back today as Wolves do not have the midfield brilliance of Iniesta, Xavi and Keita, add to that the fact that we don’t play next Saturday then conceivably Sol could play on Tuesday and be able to return for the NLD (where the assembled masses of cro-magnon Spuds will give him a sporting welcome back to the Lane, of that I’m sure), on the fourteenth of April. The caveat there would be that we would then have the away game at Wigan on the Sunday after the NLD and that would surely test Sol’s fitness.

Assuming the minor strains attributed to Clichy and Denilson clear up, I would guess Wenger will select the following 4-3-3:

Almunia
Sagna Sol Verminator Clichy
Nasri Song Denilson
Eboue Bendtner Diaby

My own selection would be with an eye to Tuesday:

Almunia
Eboue Song Verminator Clichy
Denilson Nasri Diaby
Walcott Bendtner Rosicky

One thing’s for sure, if we see a draw at Old Toilet before we kick off, then it’s game on for our title chances and a much jollier pre match Peroni (or four) at the Arsenal Tavern.

So to all of you going today, crank up the volume to 11 for our Wednesday night heroes – “Come on you rip roaring Gunners!”

By our guest writer charybdis1966