Up for the Cup?

February 20, 2016

Who will be the stronger team – our reserves or Hull’s?

Let’s weigh up the evidence: Arsenal have a second team full of players who have been strained through one of the most rigorous examinations of world footballing talent. Targets identified, Arsenal spend many millions bringing players into the squad then working together to become a team. They are pampered, cosseted and trained by the very best coaches money can buy.

Hull are not in this fortunate position. Their scouting for squad players involves going to the local park and seeing if there are a few blokes who can run a bit and have a sense of direction.


Hull are expected to make 9 changes from their last game and Arsenal about the same.  What does this say about the current status of the FA Cup?

Yesterday I had a pleasant chat with a friend on this very subject (following on from a discussion on AA with Herb). Is the FA Cup relevant? Is it important to anyone who was born post-Sky Sports?

The first thing to say is that financially it is far better to finish 4th than to win the FAC. This diminishes its value to the moneymen and accounts (to some extent) in big clubs using squad members prior to the semi-final.

Secondly, winning the FAC gains entrance into the Europa  Cup which is hardly a plus.

Then there is the unfortunate decision on the part of the FA to play semi-finals at Wembley, thus diminishing the grandeur of the Final.

Balanced against this is Glory. Silverware. Tradition. History. A Street Parade. Champagne. Celebration on a massive scale. Placards around the Emirates.

Which is more important to you?


Back to today:    Let’s see how many I get …


Chambers    BFG   Koscielny    Gibbs

El Nino   Flamini   Iwobi

Campbell   Theo    Welbeck

Should be enough to win and allows the main players to rest ahead of the big midweek game.

I expect most of this afternoon’s entertainment to come from  the man who used to wear black but now wears yellow and black – the mercurial Mike Dean. This bloke is a complete plum and probably a Parking Attendant in daily life. Inefficient, egotistical, blind – many an epithet comes to mind.  Earlier this season over 100,000 people signed a petition for him not to referee AFC again, yet the FA selected him which tells all about how the FA view the paying punter’s opinions.

I could, and probably will, write a post about the deeds of Mr Dean.

Don’t forget the early K.O.




Our Destiny Lies In The Hands Of One Man

May 8, 2013

Something very important for Arsenal takes place tonight. Coupled with our remaining two games, this is perhaps what our season comes down to. No trophies again (8 years!!), and fighting for a top 4 finish.

One man will have a huge level of influence in determining the outcome of this fight. Not Cazorla, not Walcott, not Bale. These players will be important, but will be less important than another man who takes the field.


By now, most of you probably know I am talking about Mike Dean, the referee who takes charge of the Chelsea-Spurs clash tonight, and then our game against Wigan next week. Mike Dean, under whom we have a relegation worthy record, who celebrates when we lose Carling cup finals, or go a goal down and effectively 13 points behind Spurs. Mike Dean, who is from Wirral, and under whom Wigan have a win percentage near that of a CL team. Mike Dean, who basically is a clone of Mike Riley, the current chief of the Pgmol, probably as a richly deserved reward for ending our glorious run of unbeaten games.

Click here to read how the Daily Mail assessed Dean’s anti Arsenal bias

Paranoid? Not really. Just cynical about there being a scenario where one man has an inordinate amount of influence towards determining who gets a 30m pound plus payoff next season. What was that thing about money and power?

A few days ago on this site, I ‘outed’ myself as a ‘conspiracy theorist’. I feel the analogy of being outed is fair because of the social pressure put on those that don’t take things at face value and ask questions as to what lies underneath. It is a subject close to my heart mainly because it destroys all that sport is, and not because Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for 8 years (yes..8.. Remember?) But I always feel I have to tread on eggshells when it comes to this. There’s this complete refusal among many, to examine issues that beg for closer inspection. Issues that the media should be bringing out rather than sweeping under the rug. Anyone challenging the might of this PR assault, is accused of being a conspiracy theorist. The term that brings images of people shutting themselves in the basement (or closets), wearing tin foil hats for fear of having their mind read etc etc.. Not reasonable people, with legitimate reasons for having legitimate doubts, about a system which operates so much like an old boys’ network, in such an opaque manner, with so much money swimming around, that actually, the onus should be on them to prove that they are not corrupt.

But how do I feel about this as an Arsenal fan, rather than just a sports fan? I feel we were cheated from winning the title in 2008. I didn’t feel this at the time. It was the ManU-Wigan game at the end of that season, when wanting ManU to win (so that Chelsea wouldn’t) I saw Steve Bennett help Manchester United win the title. Rafa Benitez, in his ‘rant’ also made mention of this game the following year. I am not sure whether Liverpool were cheated out of their title as well, but I don’t believe the narrative that his ‘rant’ was the reason for their capitulation. I feel over the years we’ve had so many inexplicably poor decisions go against us, we’ve been allowed (by referees, and the media)to be systematically assaulted on the field (as evidenced by the number of broken legs in a short space of time), and off the field, through the narrative of Arsenal. And that in the years 2009-10, and 2010-11, this too played a part in us falling short (Note the word ‘too’)

Now, I am told that all football fans feel their team is discriminated against. Both by refs and the media. Perhaps this is true, although a lot of Arsenal fans seem to be quite perverse in that sense. And I am always, even now, open to the possibility of me being wrong about this. In fact, I positively hope I am. I’d rather my team was completely to blame for their loss/failings rather than only partially.

But a system more geared for corruption, I don’t think I can think of. No one that I know ever disputes FIFA being corrupt. Nor Uefa. Nor the Italian League after Calciopoli. Nor the Germans since they uncovered their own refereeing scandal. England though, is special. It doesn’t matter how many stats pop up, such as ManU going 560 days without a red card or a penalty, or Rio Ferdinand only getting one yellow card in a season where he kungfu kicks Sagna. No matter that Rooney (and now even RVP) can elbow an opponent in the head without it getting called a red card (a yellow protects them from being banned) , doesn’t matter that referee appointments are made arbitrarily (but unfortunately, not without design it seems) This current example of Dean is hardly an isolated occurrence. Atkinson didn’t referee ManU again for 11 months after Chelsea beat them in a contentious game. Clattenburg didn’t referee ManU again for a similar period after refereeing excellently in their humiliating 6-1 home loss to City. All these facts are from memory. I don’t have time to do the research, but there are people out there who do this. They do it in the belief of something being wrong with the game they love, not the team they love (most of them aren’t Arsenal fans)

Why Arsenal? Why ManU? Why??? I don’t have the answers. Only theories and more questions, which, if I have time, I’d be happy to share. Giving voice to them might make me a conspiracy theorist in the eyes of some. I don’t care. At this point, all that matters to me is that wherever we end up, it is to do with the players on the field and not the referees. Or should I say referee??!

Written by Shard

Hansen Should Hang His Head

January 15, 2013

Late on in Arsenal’s dispiriting defeat by Manchester City on Sunday, referee Mike Dean sent off Vincent Kompany for a dangerous tackle.

It was a straight red and evened up the on-pitch personnel to10 a side, although far too late in proceedings to offer any real hope to the men in red and white.

Kompany had dived in with both feet off the ground and his studs showing as he went for a fifty-fifty ball. Coming rapidly – but fairly – in the opposite direction was the ever-committed Jack Wilshere.

It was an easy decision for Dean to make – a strait red card any day of the week.

And bear in mind this was Dean, under whom Arsenal have an appalling record and who couldn’t stop himself from doing a little jump for joy when the Spuds scored against us last season.

You suspect that if Dean had felt there was even a sliver of opportunity to avoid sending off the City man he would have grabbed it with both hands. But it was so blatant an offence that he had no option.

(Incidentally, I have no quibble with Dean’s earlier red carding of the hapless “Stan” Laurel Koscielny for clinging onto Edin Dzeko’s waist like a drunk tart in a pub trying to hang on to a want-away lover).

Kompany is a defender for whom I have the greatest respect. He is a world class player and, for a centre back, generally conducts himself fairly.

But on this occasion he lunged in in a dangerous manner. The replays clearly showed both feet off the ground and studs showing. We can consider ourselves fortunate that Wilshere was not badly hurt.

I’m not saying Kompany jumped into the tackle intending to injure. But it was reckless and, as we Arsenal fans know only too well, recklessness in the tackle can leave young men’s shins bent mightily out of shape.

You might wish to protest that the City man got the ball, but that’s not the point, either morally or as far as the laws of the game are concerned. The inherent dangers posed by the two-footed dagger jump have rightly led to its being considered a sending-off offence.

So it was disappointing, if not exactly surprising, to hear talk of an appeal against the red card emanating from Middle Eastlands.

But far more shameful, to my mind, were the comments from Alan Hansen. He said that if Kompany’s red card was upheld, the decision would be tantamount to banning tackles from football.

This is such a specious argument I hardly know where to begin. Quite aside from the clear evidence of the replays and the fact that referees are instructed to send off players for diving in with their studs up, Kompany’s actions were not a “tackle” within the laws of the game. They were an example of serious foul play.

I doubt Hansen will be aware of the connection, but when Arsene Wenger spoke with passion after the Eduardo and Ramsey leg breaks about ridding the game of such dangerous challenges, the response of the ignorant was to say “he wants to ban all tackling.”

Wenger very specifically made clear that he believed tackling was a vital part of football. Jumping into players shins and shattering their bones was not.

Hansen should know better than most that a fair, hard tackle can be made without showing the studs or making a two-footed jump.

As an ex centre half you might expect him to look for ways to defend Kompany – but he could have done so by suggesting the lunge was a split second error of judgement and not an act of malice. He did not need to try to whitewash the whole thing. If the tackle had been against Manchester United – against Wayne Rooney perhaps – I doubt we would have heard these comments from Hansen.

Maybe the Scot is feeling his age in the BBC Sports department and is worried about being nudged out by younger pundits who have played the game more recently. A few column inches and a bit of extra coverage probably wouldn’t go amiss for him right now.

But it’s comments like Hansen’s that continue to foster the myth that reckless play is just committed play; comments that more or less ensure that some other professional will end up lying on the pitch with a shattered limb before too long.

To quote Hansen himself: (insert Scottish accent here) “Shocking Alan. That’s simply shocking.”


The Return of the Dancing Fool

December 29, 2012

Today the Arsenal resume footballing hostilities with our first home game for three weeks against Alan Pardew’s Newcastle United in the 5.30pm kick off.

Mr Pardew is remembered less than fondly by Gooners for his jig of celebration in Wenger’s face during his spell as West Ham manager.

wenger pardew

Our opponent’s were on the rough end of yet another referee inspired victory for the denizens of Old Toilet with our former skipper VanJudas (or should I say “Lazarus” in view of his near death experience in the previous game?) scoring the equaliser that paved the way for the usual Fergie time winner we have witnessed all too often at the home of the Glazer’s loan security vehicle.

It is worth noting that referee on this occasion was Mike Dean, who saw fit to send our manager to the stands, full of rabid, uncouth ManUre fans, for the heinous crime of kicking a water bottle yet failed to mention “Sir” Alex’s repeated hostile verbal abuse of him and the match officials over a disputed off side goal in his match report.

Surprising ?

Not if you assume Dean didn’t want to be demoted to a League Two game for this weekend’s fixtures, as happened to Chris Foy when he allowed the Spuds to win at Old Toilet in October. That was clearly a because Foy hadn’t read the latest edition of the referees handbook which states: “play must continue until Manchester United equalise.”

Anyway, I digress.

Having scored three goals away from home and still losing it could be said that it would have some sort of psychological impact on most teams but I don’t believe we should believe that will necessarily apply to the Toon.

That being said United have only won one of their last four league games, and that was a win against Harry Redknapp’s bottom placed QPR(wouldn’t it be funny if he took another team down out of the Premiership?), so their current form is less than impressive.

Injuries to their midfield, exacerbated by another unpunished, reckless tackle by a home player on an away player at Old Toilet mean that our opponents will be fielding a much depleted midfield.

This is because Perch will have to go into defence as Williamson, one of their regular centre halves, was yellow carded against ManUre and is suspended for today. Other absentees include Ben Arfa, Cabaye and Gutierrez.

Up front the Toon have a choice of two Ameobis (Shola or Sammy) and as well their main danger man Demba Ba, the subject of much continued, and annoying, transfer speculation.

While we tend to lose games in clutches there is the possibility that Newcastle will use the injustice of the loss to ManUre as a motivation to increase their efforts as they are a team that have goals aplenty in them and for that reason our defence has to be on tip-top form; particularly cutting out any lazy cross field passes in our own third.

Therefore I would pick our current first choice centre back pairing of the BFG and Vermaelen, with fullbacks Gibbs and Sagna, although our right back’s form has been a tad patchy and I would not be too surprised to see Jenko get the nod.

For the middle three I would go for our form players, namely Arteta, Wilshire and Santi although I wish we could rest one or two of those as I fear they may hit the “red zone” soon. As Rosicky is available today perhaps he could start or at least be subbed on to give Santi/Mikel a rest.

Up top I would start the Ox with the Pod and Giroud, with Theo coming on later as an impact sub, although this may not help too much in respect of Theo’s long running contract negotiations.

Injury wise we are without Fabianski and Santos as well as the ever absent/present(in the injury room) Diaby which leads to today’s “Fun fact”, namely that it is exactly three MONTHS to the day since our fragile number two last played for us, after it was reported here by Arse.com that Diaby would be out for three WEEKS.

In keeping with this year’s theme as established by Big Randy today’s explorer comes from Gateshead appropriately enough and goes by the suitably genteel name of Harold Crichton-Browne.

His pen and ink caricature, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, is shown below in which he sports a lavish handlebar ‘stache that befits a man who in later life served as a Lieutenant Colonel in Africa.

NPG 6251(12); Harold Crichton-Browne by Harry Furniss

He accompanied the more well known James Thompson on an expedition to the Atlas mountains of Morocco in the late 1880’s – anything other than a win against the Toon today and we’ll face an uphill struggle (to keep in the running for a top four finish) as difficult as that faced by Joseph and Harry in Morocco.


Charybdis1966 (on Twitter and youtube)