Arsenal has come home

February 18, 2011

Did Wednesday night’s game at the Emirates mark a watershed for the Arsenal? All the reports I have read about the Emirates have decried the lack of atmosphere and compared it to a library.

Now, never having been there, I am these days the archetypal armchair fan subscribing to every TV and Computer feed that will bring me the games as they happen and have therefore got used to the sound or lack off it, in many cases, coming through my speakers.

Last night, however, was somehow different, even before the kick off there seemed a buzz, I had not heard before. Was this I wondered ITV playing games or had the sleeping giant wakened?

All week long the blogs had been alive with passionate plea’s for people to sing and shout to give the place and the team a lift. I had seen songs old and new proposed to sing for our individual heroes.

Now as a veteran of countless epic Highbury nights, both European and Domestic, I have long been amazed that the crowd even needed to be lifted. Although I do appreciate just how that vast central corporate swathe running round the stadium, undermines the faithful and their singing, as does of course the lack of a standing area.

Highbury had its own memories I suppose of massive games, nights of triumphs and tragedies, strange how all the great memories seem to be lit by floodlights.

The Emirates is of course, by and large bereft of such memories and triumphs, although one or two games have laid claim to greatness in gooner eyes, nothing in my opinion has got anywhere near last nights game. Here at last rolling round my lounge was the noise and passion I associated with the lovely Highbury of my dreams. Nor did it die down when we went behind the din was continuous.

Just before we scored, reacting to the urgings of Cesc for even more noise, the volume was noticeably turned up and when RVP arrowed home the first goal all hell broke loose, and minutes later when AA slotted home that beautiful sidefooted curler the lid came off.

This at last was it, no library this, not even Highbury reborn, but the Emirates, the Grove whatever you choose to call it. A coming of age. A finding of its voice, its pride, its identity, our new stadium claiming its rightful place in Gooner folklore on a night none of us fans will ever forget. Whether we were there or not.

Written by dandan

 

Be a Gooner, Be a Giver

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium on the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


WE CAME, WE PLAYED, WE WON!

February 17, 2011

Written by Californian Gooner

Very few people gave Arsenal a chance of advancing in the Champions League this season when we drew Barcelona back in December. But after 90 minutes of amazing football and an even more amazing 2-1 victory, the Arsenal will travel to Catalonia in three weeks time with more than a fighting change to send the hosts home. Most of us will approach that game with a great deal of optimism. For now, let’s just savor a fantastic game, a great night and a stunning victory against what may be one of the best club sides ever.

With such a wonderful game, one is tempted to just dispense with a review and tell you, dear reader: go watch the game again (assuming you didn’t miss it). And then watch it another time. It is some of the best football you are likely to see.  While other teams – the Chelsea or Inter— might have come to park the bus, this Arsenal team came to play, and came away victorious.

As the game started, I was filled with hope, but also trepidation. Fresh in many minds were the first 25 minutes of the same tie last year, which saw us virtually played off the park.  The first 10 minutes put those fears to rest. This was a different Arsenal team – one with much more confidence, much more aggression, and importantly, a full first choice line up (minus Sagna).  The rise and rise of Jack Wilshire also added something that was missing last year – another player who could keep the ball in a tight spot and move it on intelligently. Arsenal players were finding space and Van Persie came close after a beautiful dinked ball from Cesc set him free on Valdes’ right. Fear of Walcott may have also played a role as the Catalans played unusually deep, leaving us space in the midfield.

As the match continued, Barca began to tighten things up, stifling our attack and pinning us in our own end. An early run from Messi was ended by a very late Song tackle, and the later received  a fair, if slightly harsh, yellow card that signaled the beginning of a difficult night for our midfield enforcer.  The ref was calling things extremely tight and the Catalans began to play for the whistle a bit. A through ball to Messi saw him scamper through the middle, only to see his chip go wide. Credit to Szczesny, who made the shot difficult, hesitating a split second to go to ground and forcing Messi to adjust. Barcelona began to tighten the screws, but Arsenal’s attack looked dangerous each time we managed to break their midfield pressure. Around 23 minutes, quick work from Wilshire released Walcott who carried the ball up the middle of the pitch, releasing Cesc with an inch perfect pass on the right. As Valdes came out, Cesc opted to pass, rather than shoot, Abidal clearing with a desperate header just before Van Persie could get there.

Minutes later, Barcelona had scored. A seemingly innocuous run by Messi drew the defense in before he released Villa, who sprung the offsides trap and scored through Szczesny’s legs. From that point on, Barcelona dominated possession, smothering the Arsenal attack quickly. Still, while the Catalans no doubt dominated this long stretch of play, Arsenal looked dangerous when they were able to break the pressure, and it was clear that an equalizer was possible.

Everyone on the pitch and off it for that matter knew that Walcott would be our danger man, our main outlet. But it was the increasing confidence of another man – 19 year old Jack Wilshire—that really gave cause for hope, taking the ball in tight positions and time and time again breaking Barcelona’s pressure with a clever pass. As Barcelona’s spell of pressure subsided at the end of the first half, one was left with the feeling that the match could go in any direction; 2-0 or 3-0 for Barca or a comeback for Arsenal all seemed a distinctly possible. A victory for the Arsenal, at that point, felt a bit far-fetched.

Arsenal opened the second half with much the same intensity they had opened the game with. Wilshire in particular began to take possession of the midfield and Koscielny was growing in confidence, taking on Messi and Alves and Pedro and time and again, coming away with the ball.  At 69 minutes Wenger removed Alex Song, who had played much of the game on a yellow card, for Arsivin, and shifted Nasri back to midfield. A few minutes later, Bendtner would come on for Theo. This line-up was either going to score or lose 3-0, effectively eliminating us from the tie.

The goals, when they came, were stunning. RVP, who had previously shot errantly and tamely when he might have done better, was put to the corner of Barca’s  six yard box by a promising through ball off Gael Clichy’s right foot. While the obvious play was a cross to Bendtner, RVP found his balance and rocketed a shot through the narrow gap between Victor Valdes and his right post. 1-1. Game tied and The Emirates was rocking. My local pub in the suburbs of San Jose, California– equally divided between Barca and arsenal fans – was rocking as well. Cue baby crying… she is an Arsenal fan in training, so I can only assume those were happy tears. The response was a bit frightening!

The second came minutes later, as a Cesc pass set Nasri free down the right side. Unable to beat the defenders, Nasri slowed the play down and bought time, before shuffling a lovely low cross for the onrushing Arshavin to curl a sumptuously controlled shot into the lower right corner from 12 yards out. 2-1!

Seven minutes left, but in no way did this match seem to slow down. Brimming with adrenaline and confidence and cheered on by a raucous crowd, arsenal began pressing higher up the pitch. Clearly they could smell the fear in their opponents, and either they were going to take the ball and head in for more or Barca would some how come back and nick one. Despite some late jitters, arsenal was able to hold on for the victory.

I will leave the player ratings to others, but just mention a few standouts. Jack Wilshire (my MOTM) and Laurent Koscielny were excellent. Wilshire grew as the match progressed and actually outplayed Xavi and a somewhat anonymous Iniesta later in the match. Koscielny basically won every dual he entered – against Alves, against Pedro, and most impressively, against Messi. Eboue – a major worry for many fans—was good and got even better as the game progressed –confidently carrying the ball out of defense. Clichy was his normal, battling self – his pass to RVP was better than normal. Theo was ‘kept quiet’, but his influence should not be underestimated. Much of Barca’s defense was geared at stopping him, and that opened up space elsewhere. And Szczesny was immense.

Now that you have read this review, go back and watch that match again.

This is the second of two great match reports we received, to save confusion please return to the first post to leave comments click here



Arsenal beat Barcelona over two legs? Of course we can

February 17, 2011


Written by Wonderman

Barcelona started the game with their one and two touch passing and movement when in possession and double and treble  teaming when not, but unlike like last year we were putting pressure on the man on the ball and holding our shape well. Which is one hell of a task when you see how Barca position themselves with their full backs playing as additional midfielders. In the 3rd minute we got a free kick on our left which Nasri floated in , but Valdes was in control as no one made any contact.

In the 4th minute Wallcott swapped passes with Fabregas and put on the gas in the direction of the goal. In my opinion he took the wrong choice in trying to slide Robin in with the outside of his foot when Nasri was in more space, but the ball ran out harmlessly as Theo hit it a little too hard. In the 6th minute Walcott danced his way into the 6yrd box, layed off to Cesc who then provided a sumptuous chip into Robins path but Valdes was equal to the shot.

Almost immediately Barca were on the counter with Messi running at our back line, Song intervened and got a yellow card for his trouble ( but very necessary) the next few minutes saw both teams showcasing their passing but we were losing the ball needlessly with Djourou and Cesc being the main culprits. In the 14th minute a slide rule pass saw Messi through on goal but Chesny won the game of bluff and Messi screwed his shot wide of the post. Barcelona then went onto enjoy 60% possession for the next 10 minutes and the scene was set.

We seemed comfortable playing on the break including a rapid break in the 24th minute started by Wilshere who found Walcott just outside our 18 yard box. Again Walcott ran at their defence attracting four players with the aid of Van Persie’s intelligent movement. This allowed Fabregas space to receive Walcotts pass, unfortunately his cross was intercepted by Pique stopping an almost certain goal from van P.

A minute later we were behind . A foul in Barca’s defensive 3rd led to a temporary loss of concentration and after a short spell of inter passing Messi fed  Villa who slotted under the onrushing Chesney. In the stadium I thought he was offside, bt replay’s showed that Clichy was playing him on 0-1. But my worry was Alex Song . Having been booked in the 6th min Song committed foul after foul and was in danger of being sent off. Strangely I still felt that we would score.

Chesney pulled off another save at his feet in the near post and another attack on the break saw van P shoot wide.  Barca were beginning to enjoy themselves , they are the masters of finding space offensively with 1 touch passing and movement but more impressively they press in 2’s and 3’s to win the ball back. However we seemed to be helping them by not using what little possession we had in a more penetrating way. Half time 0-1 but a much more even game than we had last year.

We started the 2nd half brightly and Wilshere continued where he left off  ( someone needs to check his passport). We were pressing Barca well and seemed to be  adopting the counter attack approach. Nasri was getting fitter as the game went on and we started to force corners and free kicks as Barca’s work rate  began to diminish. Koscielny was making a mockery of all those who doubted the validity of his purchase  and Jack continued to play as if he was in the park. We had eradicated our sloppy passing and were beginning to ask questions further up th field. For all their possession in the second half it was Valdes who was doing all the work. Messi was  going deeper and deeper and attempting to run at our defence . In the 67th minute he got through on their left but hit the side netting.

That could be seen as the turning point. Villa was subbed for Keita and Song removed for his own good for Arshavin. All of a sudden we were beginning to find space, it appeared the superior pace of the prem had primed our players to perform at a higher intensity for longer. Cesc was finding his range and Eboue had taken his scaredy cat glasses off. In the 77th minute Clichy and Arshavin combined on our left which resulted in a right footed chip from Clichy which put van P in at a ridiculous angle. With Bendtner’s run seducing Valdes into expecting the cross Robin lashed it in at the near post 1-1 and the stadium went mad .

 

Barca seemed to be trying to hold out for the result but we were having none of it . Five minutes later Koscielny again intercepted, fed Bendtner, who found Wilshere, one touch to Fabregas who with a sublime pass found Nasri on the right , Robin raced forward to cause confusion as Nasri delayed, cut inside and fed an on coming Arshavin to curl the ball into the net 2-1 and cue absolute madness !!! No less than we deserved and a finish not to be underestimated. Barca’s problem now was they had 6 minutes to change their mindset. They had a couple of chances but Chesney was more than up for it

Cheers of ‘we’ve got Cesc Fabregas ‘ rang around the stadium…maybe I wasn’t mad in predicting we would triumph over 2 legs after all…..

Ratings

Wojciech Szczesny– Did less work in the whole game than Almunia did in the first 20 minutes last year. This boy’s decision making was spot on last night and the defence seem to trust him implicitly. I cant see the shirt being taken from him  8

Emmanuel Eboue – A whiff of a dive here and there, and a touch of fear in the first half, not as marauding as we know he can be, but to be fair to him he was not exposed once in the game and I can think of worse back up right backs 7

Johan Djourou – Was alarmingly wasteful with his distribution in the first half , but his partnership with Koscielny is flourishing. A much better second half performance  and proved he is just as good on the deck as he is in the air 8

Laurent Koscielny – It is easier to say what he did’nt do well….misplace maybe two passes…. This guy is still not the finished article, but anyone who dares to argue that there is not potentially a world class defender in this guy must be mad my joint MOM 9

Clichy – A lot of their attacks came down his side but other than playing Villa onside for their goal, the usual aggressive quick and committed performance 8

Alex Song – Was harshly booked early on and lucky not to be sent off in my opinion. Not his best , but not his worst performance and his substitution probably saved us going down to 10 men , but battled for the cause 7

Jack Wilshere –I am lost for words for this young man. He  respects no opponent and plays with the same intensity every game. I feel the grit and determination of Jack and Kosser were instrumental joint MOM 9

Cesc Fabregas – Was guilty of many a misplaced pass in the first half but didn’t give up. Was instrumental in the winning goal with his early defence splitting pass 8

Samir Nasri – I was surprised to see him start and he looked off the pace in the first 25 mins but seemed to grow as the game went on. Excellent awareness for the winner 8

Theo Walcott – Obviously scared the living daylights out of them periodically and was double and treble teamed for his trouble . I suspect he will cause more havoc on the Nou Camp pitch 7

Robin van Persie – World Class sums Robin up . ran his legs off for the majority of the game without seeing too much of the ball but never gave up. Scored from a ridiculous angle and realy should have had another goal in the first half 8.5

Subs

Nick Bendtner– Didn’t do a lot , but I think his run was instrumental in concerning Valdes for Robin’s equaliser 6.5

Arshavin – Came on and ran at the opposition, almost gifted them an equaliser, but is back on form. I would have started him, but what do I know ? crucially scored the winner which was no easy finish 8


Once More unto the Breach, Dear Friends ….

February 16, 2011

Should the unthinkable happen and United go on to win the PL, what will we say? I will tell you, we will say that the best team in England are not the Champions, because without any question this Arsenal team are the best in the country. 4 points behind but 5 years ahead in terms of footballing ability. If any team in Europe can beat an in-form Barcelona it is an in-form Arsenal.

And you doubters, think on this – last season we went to the Nou Camp level after 90 minutes. True, we got steam-rollered in the first half at THOF but more than held our own in the second.  Then we went to Barca without …  Cesc, Gallas, RvP, Arshavin and Song. Take the 5 most influential players out of the Barca team and see how well they do against a full strength Arsenal. And let us not forget, we scored first.  That night we had Silvestre playing at CB,  Eastmond, Merida, Campbell and Traore on the bench!!.

But what do we hear? We hear that AFC received a football lesson in Spain.  Well, tonight Barca will be playing almost our first XI, and I expect things to be different. Had Nasri been fully-fit, Sagna and Vermælen available we could compare like with like,  as it is we will have to beat them with Eboue.

The loss of Sagna (a dreadful decision from a dreadful referee) may well prove costly. I have made my opinion clear about Eboue, he is not good enough, and I fear for him tonight. Defensive discipline is a must and unfortunately our Ivorian has lapses of concentration. I would love for Eboue to prove me wrong but if I was Guardiola, I would target him. The combination of Messi and Alves cause trouble for the very best – both Eboue and Walcott will need total concentration.

What  a mouth-watering battle we have in midfield tonight. The emergence of Wilshere has propelled Fabregas to a higher level. Who needs Iniesta and Xavi when we have two players who are as good and are a combined 15 years younger?  Song has become the Premiership’s best defensive midfielder with the ability to create as well as tackle. And then there is Nasri, our will o’ the wisp, a man who can bamboozle any defence. Should he not play, Arshavin is returning to his devastating best and will be hungry to show the world that he remains World class. We know that Busquets is a fine player – he forced Yaya out of Barca – but Jack will have him running and tackling air. Will Mascherano or Keita play? We know all about Mascherano, a super player and  well used to playing Arsenal. I hope he is on the bench!

Then there is the form of our attack. Both Van Persie and Walcott are in fine fettle. Robin is in the best form of his life and looks unplayable, whereas Walcott has already shown Barca that his pace can and will cause them problems. An ageing Abidal should be targeted by both Nasri and Walcott, he remains a fine player but has lost a yard of pace, and by playing down the left we will force Pedro to stay and cover.

No defence can realistically stop Messi, Villa, Pedro etc. but the central pairing of Djourou and Koscielny are developing into a fine unit. They have pace and power and neither seems to panic under pressure. Djourou in particular has been a revelation – we all know that the 2 points gifted to Newcastle were as a direct result of JD leaving the field. Barca defend from the front with the strikers working the defence and stopping an easy out-ball, thankfully both JD and Kos are comfortable with the ball at their feet. Clichy will have to be alert and contribute to a secure defensive performance.

What a night for Szczezny! Still using stabilisers on his bicycle and yet playing against what is being heralded as the best football team of all-time. How will he cope? Indications are that he will be calmness personified, but who knows? It is a huge test. Fabianski wilted under pressure in the Champions League and it took him a year to recover.  It’s testament to the Other Pole in Goal that there is no talk about our goalkeeping frailties.

My team:

Bench: Almunia  Bendnter Denilson  Squillaci  Arshavin/Nasri  Rosicky  Gibbs

What makes this game such an exciting prospect is that we are playing a team like ours, a team that has one way of playing –  quick on-the-ground football, fast feet and faster imaginations, elegance and brilliance allied with pace and power …. proper entertaining football. It is easy to wax lyrical about Barca, their demolition of Real Madrid was the stuff of legend and will live long in the memory. They are fantastic in every position and have (possibly) for the first time ever, the top 3 players in the world playing in the same team, in fact Barca have 6 players in the World Team of the Year.

There has been much defeatist talk over the ‘net about the prudence of losing to Barca and concentrating on the League.  Many say that the Champions League may be a step too far, and that the prospect of fighting on four fronts is asking too much of our young team.  Nay, Nay, thrice Nay and absolutely not, this is a hugely important game in the ascent of our team to World Domination. We have to show the world we have the nuts to go on and win a major trophy, and if we can win one, why not four? 🙂

This is one of those nights when I am gutted to live 1000 kms from the Grove. Tonight the team need their 12th man and it is up to each and every one of you lucky people who have tickets to roar the lads onto victory. No lapses, just 90 lung-bursting and throat rasping minutes of vocal encouragement.

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners

Written by Big Raddy


White hankies and lacklustre support- Let’s not turn into Barca fans

February 15, 2011

Written by CarlitoII

On the eve of THE rematch, I wanted to share my experience of living in the beautiful city of Barcelona. I moved  there (permanently in my mind) 3 days after 9/11. I fell in love with the City, Las Ramblas, the fantastic area of Gracia where we lived, and the relaxed and welcoming Spanish/ Catalan lifestyle.

Needless to say, I met a lot of Barcelona fans during my 18 month sojourn in their fair city and the discussions I had with them led me to be very disappointed in their fan culture. Admittedly, this was during the days of Van Gaal at Barcelona, and the era of Zidane, Raul and McManaman at Real Madrid. Nonetheless, it seemed to me that there was a vast discrepancy between how I thought of myself as an Arsenal fan, and how they saw themselves as Barca fans.

I find it hard to recall specific games, but it slowly dawned on me that the supporters I met would rather lose playing great football. In protest at the pragmatic tactics of the dour Dutchman, the masses waved white hankies around the ground, walked out when their team went behind and constantly complained about what the man said in the press and his lack of charisma. Being a young man who had supported Arsenal throughout the Graham years, I could not understand the fans’ complicity in their own downfall.

The great history of the club was explained to me: the amazing resistance to Franco that meant the stadium was the only place in the whole of Spain where you could speak Catalan without fear, the amazing football of the 70s with Cruyff, the Cruyff-led “dream team” that won the European Cup at Wembley and the tradition of swashbuckling football that was always, first and foremost, an expression of anarchist resistance to the Fascist regime of Franco. All themes I could warm to, yet the reality was a spoilt football public that would not sing unless winning with style and constantly sniped at their players and coaching staff.

I was unimpressed. Moreover, Arsenal were playing the best football I had ever seen us play and that Summer we won the double and won the league at Old Trafford which I watched at a great Irish pub near the Sagrada Familia. There was no comparison. At Highbury I knew that if we went 1-0 down we would not throw in the towel and signal our surrender as the white hankies demonstrated, we would sing up and urge our team on. In fact, I characterised the crowd at Camp Nou as Tottenham fans- forever in thrall to past glories, getting on their team’s back and dragging them down.

Now Barcelona were not a bad team in those days. They had Kluivert on top form, Saviola looked like he was going to be top drawer and with Overmars, DeBoer  and Rivaldo there was no doubting they were a force. But they couldn’t match Real Madrid at home (they went out to them in Europe too) and they didn’t play with enough panache for their demanding ‘socios’. I didn’t even want to go to Camp Nou, I was disgusted by the sniping and what I felt was a lack of support for their team. Angry and drunk one night, I asked, “Do you only support when the team plays well?” How they laughed at the young Englishman with his lack of class and his broken Spanish!

10 years later I find that my own team has now acquired a similar attitude from its fanbase. “We’ll sing when you play well enough” seems at times to be the dominant theme on the blogs and from the fans. I thought when I lived in Barcelona that Arsenal fans would forever be superior, would never question the club or the team as long as they played their hearts out and we sang our hearts out.

But it seems that success is a double-edged sword and despite Barcelona coming through their malaise to become the greatest football team I have ever seen play the game, their fans no longer know what it is to support their team through thick and thin, they are merely connoisseurs of great football and I hope with all my heart that even if we one day become as great a team as they are, we never fail to support our team when the going gets tough.


Same Old Arsenal, Always Cheating

February 14, 2011

After a fine win and an excellent performance on Saturday you would have to be of a churlish disposition to find any negatives.

So here I am, Churl-in-chief, primed and ready for a bit of top churling.

It amounts to this: I have one complaint about our lads.

It’s not the wayward finishing (although if some of our forwards were tasked with clubbing baby seals, my money would be on the cuddly little blubber-buckets to emerge injury-free).

Nor is it the tendency to always look like we might give the opposition a chance to get back in the game no matter how much we’re battering them.

No, my beef is with our players’ behaviour when they foul and are fouled.

We’re all familiar with the moronic baying of ‘same old Arsenal, always cheating’ whenever one of our team goes down under an attempted leg-breaker or, conversely, whenever an opponent is left on the floor after an Arsenal tackle.

Make no mistake, the label has stuck.

From the Mensa-dodging nouveaux-riches of West London to the barcoded disappointment-junkies of the far North East; from the Unconvincibles of Old Toilet to the Inconsequentials of N17 there is a veritable chavscape of received opinion that Arsenal players really do cheat.

But it’s clear from recent games that the problem with our team is that THEY DO NOT CHEAT ENOUGH.

That is the great irony: the team reviled the length and breadth of the land as cheats is actually more honest than just about any of its opponents,

There was a classic example in the Wolves game. The Mighty Zubar (I’m sure he used to be a character in Dan Dare when I was a kid) executed a studs-up challenge into Robin van Persie’s knee. I happen to think it wasn’t particularly malicious but was, rather, a cack-handed attempt to get the ball. However, it was rash and dangerous and certainly deserving of a yellow.

On impact, Robin was spun in the air and crumpled to the ground. And here’s where Zubar was clever. Knowing that he had just made a cert yellow card tackle (and possibly even a red card one) he crumpled to the ground too, mysteriously clutching his shoulder. It was enough to confuse the referee, Chris Foy, who did not penalise Zubar.

We saw the same thing the week before at Newcastle. Joey Barton, one of the modern game’s most noted thugs, turned out to have a brilliant line in rolling around on the floor whenever he went in for tackle with one of our players. From macho man to milkshake man in a heartbeat.

In that game the truly awful Phil Dowd bought it every time. Probably the worst example was the free kick given against Rosicky that led (indirectly) to Newcastle’s fourth goal. He and Barton jumped together half-heartedly, neither really touching the other. Rosicky stayed on his feet but Barton went to ground. Cue the man from Dowd Cuckoo Land: free kick, goal, two points lost.

Similar examples were littered throughout that entire game, particularly in the second half.

And during Saturday’s Wolves game there were several occasions where we were penalised for fairly winning tackles, just because the opponent went to ground and feigned injury.

Foy’s criterion for giving a free kick seemed to be no more sophisticated than “he fell over, must have been a foul.”

At the same time there were other moments where our players took whacks to the head or boots to the calf but did not collapse in agony. Our lot seldom do that – if anything they simply tend to stay on their feet and look a bit affronted.

Many people observed that against Newcastle, if Diaby had rolled around in agony after the Barton challenge he would probably have got the little toe-rag a yellow. But Abou didn’t do that because, although he knew the tackle had been a potential leg breaker, he wasn’t actually that badly hurt. He was too honest to pretend he was in severe pain. Instead he got up, tickled Barton’s neck and the rest is history.

Earlier in the same game, Arshavin also hopped straight up after another appalling Barton challenge from behind. (Mind you, Arshavin never shows he’s hurt: that tiny frame carries all the suffering of Mother Russia in its soul, so the odd smack in the mouth or boot up the arse is neither here nor there).

On one level I applaud our players for their honesty. One demented Ivorian aside, I can’t think of any Arsenal player who regularly feigns injury, whereas our opponents are doing it in every game and are winning free kicks for it, as well as getting our players carded.

Maybe it’s time we dished out a bit of their own medicine to them. I don’t mean we should pretend to be fouled when there’s been no contact, but when there is a bad challenge we should stay down and make it clear to the ref that it was dangerous. It won’t always work (Robin was clearly hurt by Zubar but Foy missed it) but if it works half the time that’s more free kicks for us and fewer for whomever we’re playing.

And when our players mistime their challenges and catch the opponent instead, let’s take a leaf out of Zubar’s book and go down as well.

The sad truth is that, with the standard of officiating in the EPL today, playing fair just gets you shafted.

That’s it. Churling over.

Now let’s go and win the League (and if, to do so, we have to sometimes be less than angels, that’s OK with me).

RockyLives

Be a Gooner, Be a Giver

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium on the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


Arsenal stay focused – bring on Barcelona

February 13, 2011

Sometimes the results of the teams around us go for us, sometimes they go against us and sometimes we just win our game playing fabulous football and I end up feeling that it doesn’t matter what everyone else does because watching us win is the most important part.

Yesterday we needed Man City to take points off of the other Manchester team which didn’t happen so we’re still 4 points behind them in second place and although it doesn’t matter a jot what happens to spuds, its always a better weekend when they lose, that didn’t happen either.

.

Here are some of the things you wouldn’t have known from the 5 minutes granted to us on MOTD.

Some, actually all, of the interplay between Cesc and Jack was magical, they were able to find each other and weave their amazing skills into this game in a way that Arsene could only have dreamt was possible. We saw Cesc’s ability to do this with Flamini and also when Arshavin arrived but his connection with Jack seems to be on another level. How stupid is Capello to want to sit Jack in front of an England back four? He has magic feet and plays so intelligently, shielding the ball, finding the pass. Shearer said that Jack is a proper footballer, well bloody right too, amazing to think he’s only 19.

Our golden-topped Alex Song was everywhere and showed how much we missed him last weekend against Newcastle. There was double-tagging going on to win the ball back and Alex was in the middle of everything. I’m really looking forward to watching him break up play aginst Barca.

Theo got himself into some terrific goal-scoring positions and had three shots all saved by Hennessy who had a great game against us. Arshavin was running his little legs off and I felt that he had definitely turned the corner and was able to have more influence on the game. Theo, Arshavin and Robin did a fair amount of switching positions in the first half which caused confusion for the opposition and I’m hoping to see more of that on Wednesday night.

Djourou slotted straight back where he left off after hobbling off against Everton and his strong head cleared everything that came his way. A great performance again from him and Kosser.

This was a largely stress free afternoon of football, which was surprising considering it followed last weeks disaster at St. James’ Park. The team was the strongest that AW could put out with only Nasri missing. The return of Song and Djourou put smiles on many gooners faces and although everyone needed to be fit for the visit of Barcelona on Wednesday is was very strong team that set up against Wolves.

It was interesting to see Arsene answer questions about the title race. Usually he would say ‘yes, we are still in with a chance’ or ‘it is very open’ but yesterday he was a bit coy, as if his little dream of winning the title might actually come to fruition.

We’re in a great place and on a day when minds might have been wandering to Wednesday nights game what we saw was a team focussed on winning the game they were playing. Mick McCarthy said his team were spanked – Oh happy days, love being Gooner.

Written by peachesgooner

Player ratings by charybdis1966

Chesney – 9, virtually nothing he did was done badly, i especially liked the forceful punch in the first half where he got some distance in a way Almunia never could/would.

Bac – 8, nothing to find fault with,mopped up everything that came his way and got forward with menace and showed he has a terrific engine.

Kozzer – 9, intelligent interceptions and flawless timing of his tackles.

Johan – 8, imperious in the air and composed on the ball although his aversion to hoofing it clear shows and a few times we conceded corners(not always rightly) where he tried to shepherd the ball out.

Clichy – 8, I heard he gave away a few balls in our area later on in the second half but as it was at the opposite end of the ground I, in the manner of Le Boss “didn’t see it so I can’t comment” however a solid performance.

Jack – 9, what a player, patrols the midfield with the grace and power of £30m player but is only 19.

Cesc – 8, the type of world class performance we’ve come to expect from our skipper. Pulled the strings and seemed to have more time on the ball than anyone else.

Song – 8, provided strength and backbone to our midfield. He’ll be vital to our season run in.

Theo – 7, got frustrated with his attempts on goal and perhaps went into his shell later, but his pace frightened the chubby left full back all afternoon.

The Arsh – 7.5, like Theo not everything he tried came off but still showed why is so highly rated by rational commentators, the crowd was buzzing with expectation whenever he got the ball.

The Boy Wonder – 8, took his two goals with clinical precision, gave us an injury scare and gave us a free kick that went close and one that was miles off – a typical Robin performance in other words !


The title race …. will Arsenal wait on amber or go on green?

February 12, 2011

Nothing repeat nothing in football would make me happier than for Arsenal to win the title this season, if one could add the relegation of a Mick McCarthy team life would be even more rosy. Add in  the relegation of a Pulis team and my cup would runneth over (is that a naughty expression?)

Like millions of Gooners I was down-hearted at 5 p.m. last Saturday, despairing of my flimsy team and the imbecility of 3 men in black whom I wouldn’t trust to referee a park 5 -a-side. Who would have thought Wolves would cheer us up? Bottom of the table, managed by a Cro-Magnon man (just check his forehead) and playing a team who were unbeaten – no-one could have envisioned the result (though those with hindsight would point out Wolves fine record against the top sides).

Wolves last 3 victories were against MU, Chelsea and Liverpool – this is going to be no comfortable stroll, but if we are to confirm our pretensions to be Champions this game is a must win. No silly mistakes, no retaliation to what will surely be a very physical battle, and above all no drops in application or vitality. Hopefully last week’s lapse is a thing of the past and not a harbinger of a sad end to our season.

McCarthy is “bigging up” Jamie O ‘Hara saying he will have a major influence upon the game. Get a Grip man! This is a player who couldn’t get into the first team of Harry’s Muppets. That said, I expect us to go into the game with a weakened midfield, so perhaps MM will be right.

Diaby’s reaction last week undid the fine work he put in during the first half (despite the lengthy discussion on AA I still believe he cost us the 2 points). It is a shame as he played well for France midweek and today would certainly have started, instead I expect to see Denilson start. Song is just returning from a muscle injury and with Barca midweek he will surely be rested. Same with Nasri and JD.  Had Sagna not been banned for the midweek game I would have rested him but knowing that Messi will be fearful of playing against a rejuvenated Eboue, Sagna starts.

My Team:

This team will hopefully have enough to get the 3 points on offer. Depending on the fitness of Nasri I would play Arshavin, if there is any chance that Samir will not be fit for Wednesday, I would play Rosicky and rest AA who played a full game midweek.

I guess we willl all be tuned into the midday match. I hope for a draw which should Arseanl win would put us 2 points behind MU and 3 ahead of MC with a game in hand. A loss for MC will surely put them out of the title race. Actually, what I really hope for is an abandoned game due to an 18 man brawl with 5 red cards and a 3 points reduction, but if it is not to be I will take the draw.

England’s first ever automatic traffic lights were erected in Prince’s Square Wolverhampton. This is also the home of the mighty Noddy Holder and Slade. One of my early heroes was the Wolves legend, England Captain and Arsenal manager Billy Wright CBE, whom I once had the privilege of meeting. Another of my football faves was the Tipton Terrier – Steve Bull MBE, they don’t make them like him any more (for which Koscielny will be delighted!).

Let this be the continuation of our 8 match unbeaten PL run.

COYRRG


Hair-Raising Issues.

February 11, 2011

Written by MickyDidIt

Unbelievably, I think I have unearthed a quite brilliant observation. Now bear with me, and if someone is reading this to you, I don’t mean “let’s get naked”.

Anyone else noticed improvements in the performances of JD and Alex Song this season. Well, I have, and do you know what, there is a common denominator. Yip, you’ve guessed it.  Dramatic change up top in the head fur department. Let’s look at the evidence. Is JD a better player with some colour up top? Yes he is. Has Song’s game improved since he yellowed up? Yes it has. You may think I am being silly, however I have tested this theory out on a person and it is bulletproof. Let’s continue. Freddie Lljungberg: did his development step up a notch with the addition of the red Mohawk. I believe the answer is: yes, it did. Stevie Bould and hair loss. Would we have celebrated his recession with “Stevie, Stevie Bould, Got no hair, We don’t care” with such relish had the lowering of the hair line not been matched by heightened performances on the green stuff.  I think not. Seaman:  poneytail and tash?  Worked for him.  Marouane arrived with a German styley short top, long back, and bingo in they flew. He has since “normalized” his hair by doing away with the back bit, and guess what? The goals dry up. Cesc: George Michaeling his trimmed beardy look, world beater. Bacary Sagna: arrived at The Arsenal with something on his head. It has remained, and he continues to be the league’s best right back. Change should not be considered.

All of this brings me to the serious point about this post and an area of deep concern that it highlights (highlights! Oh, that is so good). Jack Wilshere, without doubt the most talented Arsenal and Englishman of his era,  is but one small tub of gel away from disaster. There are very many performance enhancing hair creations, however I simply cannot stress the dangers that lie ahead of the gelster. I am not referring to the spikey-up version. There is something way more sinister and I am alluding to the wet look comb forward. This is known as the Cretin Cut. It is the chosen look of the wayward lad. There are great dangers that lurk beneath the mop that dons the gel, and it is evident that the Wilshere hair is, how can I say this, forward looking.

At this point, I want to send out a clear message to Rosicky, Denilson, Eboue and the rest of the untreated, and it is simple: get busy upstairs. I am no stats man but the evidence is overwhelming. “Normalizing the thatch” is a means of compromise, moving into the safe middle ground. Extinguishing the flames and blunting the edge. It is not clever and it is not mature.  We need the extremes for our boys. That’s the extra 5%, or the bit that separates the winners from also-rans.  I appreciate there are many football experts with a far superior knowledge of the technicalities than I, but we all make mistakes, and it is easy with all the tactics nonsense in the modern game to overlook the bleeding obvious.

This post could easily bring in the smallest ever number of comments, and I am happy to take the flak, but do you know what, I am above that kind of thing. Ego must not stand in the way of things that need to be said.  I know this post will give us nothing whatsoever to discuss today, but frankly, I think just for once, some of you should get on with some bloody work!

I hate International week.

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium on the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


To read or not to read – To blog or not to blog?

February 10, 2011

Written by CarlitoII

Fabrication. Bending the truth. Saying that which is not true. Lying. Fantasising. Add to this any number of adjectives that sum up what a football supporter has to put up with in the course of feeding his obsession. It is increasingly difficult to know what to believe. Does anyone really care about the truth?

A good story, as they say, has legs. But the “Fabregas to Barcelona” story of last summer was the most Godzilla-sized millipede ever witnessed. Similarly, the “Cesc disparages ref” story last week was a ridiculously nimble crustacean whereas the astonishing refereeing displayed by the same defamed ref was eel-like in its lack of limbs.

Never let a fact get in the way of a good story, it is said. The yards of column inches in our tabloid press devoted to “definite rumours” of Arsenal signings each transfer window demonstrate this perfectly. I will call out the free gossip rag on the tube for some of the more heinous examples but there are also a number of websites that seem to get a lot of coverage for breaking the ninth commandment as their stock in trade.

And herein lies the rub! We click on these websites or pick up these papers for the promise of the headline, the excitement of the story or the controversy of the author’s standpoint. These actions earn the “news” outlet their money – newspaper circulation and page clicks online attract advertising revenue. A worthy article saying that Mason had written nothing in his match report about any comments from Cesc might get a trickle of Gooners reading it but nothing like the avalanche of eejits who clicked on the “Cesc Ref Rant” headline.

But I can’t stop reading these lies, damned lies and transfer rumours. I want to know everything that’s going on with my club and have had to develop a “nonsense filter”. But now there are blogs (I know they’ve been here for a while but I’m new!) and twitter and facebook groups full of conjecture, speculation and supposition. How good is my filter now?

I have seen it argued recently that blogging is replacing journalism as a true conduit for news rather than rehashed press-statements. I find it hard to disagree that the overall standard of journalism has become sloppier, less investigative and less critical of the powers that be. I also think that in these times when anyone can cast aspersions on a man’s character, the paid journalists have a role to play in protecting the integrity of the information out there and not just picking up every rumour started in cyberspace.

Two articles recently have irked me. One claimed that Wenger was so thrifty because he was financially incentivised to make a profit on transfers. The other claimed that Rosicky was involved in deliberately throwing the Newcastle match. If either of these allegations appeared in a national newspaper they would expect to hear from the club’s lawyers but a website written by an anonymous author with an IP address outside the EU will probably be ignored. Yet some people will believe what they read, wherever they read it.

It obviously doesn’t help when managers deliberately obfuscate the truth, trying to send messages to future opponents, rivals in the transfer market, share holders etc. The number of wailing tweets I see complaining that “Wenger lied” just goes to show how powerful each written word is in fomenting opinion about anyone in the public eye. One of the dangers is the ‘witch-hunting’ tendency of the media to blame everything on foreigners, as has been much discussed on this forum lately.

I was going to end this piece by trying to decide whether it’s better to switch off the antenna that bring me this surplus of distortion and deception? Should I just get my Arsenal fix from arsenal.com, a reputable broadsheet and this fantastic forum of mainly sane people? I was going to ask whether the blogging community serves its purpose unless followed through with scrupulous attention to facts? But in both cases, I think I know the answer! You can fool some Gooners all of the time and all Gooners some of the time. But you can’t fool all Gooners all of the time!