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RVP return likely? Fergie loses it & Uncle Sam a closet Gooner?

April 12, 2010

No. No. No. Not this Uncle Sam. But Uncle Sam, the uncle of Blackburn Rovers. The one who never gets much affection from Arsenal fans. But after this weekend he might just get a little. About 0.000001 % of it.

Forget that Spurs lost to Portsmouth. Had the regular happened at Wembley i.e. Spurs won – what would be the result that made our sunday? It would have been Utd firing blanks at Ewood Park. Given the friendship between Allardyce and Fergie (word is and this never slips away from my mind, they shared a few drinks after Bolton kicked us off the park back in 2003), I expected Utd to win comfortably.

Yes Utd were without Rooney and they do depend on him quite a fair bit but this is Blackburn, Sam’s Rovers who’d bark and bite when Arsenal are in town but surrender when Utd gave them a biscuit. So not only have Blackburn held Utd to a draw, but claimed a point against Chelsea. Co-incidentally both Utd and Chelsea played Rovers after their Champions League exits. We won’t have such issues thanks especially to one Lionel Messi…

Rovers’ draw vs Utd wasn’t that suprising considering Fergie ‘s ‘Rafa’ moment on Friday. In 5 minutes he:

  • demanded praise for Utd’s 3-0 lead.  Yeah just like the hare demanding praise for take an early lead against the tortoise.
  • accused the press of cheering for Barcelona last year in the final – based on the word of one journalist who had no proof to back his claim.
  • Took a dig at UEFA’s rules that managers speak straight after the game even though this has happened for years.
  • Accused the press of sensationalising the now infamous “typical germans’ phrase (as if it needed any sensationalising)
  • Agreed with Van Gaal that the English league the most honest in Europe – forgetting that his team have been probably the least honest in the EPL.

Well that’s a lot of bullshit to go through in 5 minutes. And Arsene is meant to be the whinger eh? To top it off, Fergie used the phrase “and that’s a fact” to support hearsay. Oh we laughed.

So, that was a fun weekend for us Gooners and hopefully the fun won’t stop there. Wednesday is the ideal game for us to show we’re better than the result at the Nou Camp. The NLD has the feel of a straightforward win but it never is. Since 2001 we’ve triumphed at the Lane 3 times which makes our overall record against them even more remarkable when you think about it. Harry’s Spurs are never to be taken lightly especially after they capitulated against Portsmouth. I have a feeling that our players will be grateful that Palacios isn’t playing. When we played them last year in February, the man was “fully committed”. Given our luck with regards to injuries, it is a blessing that Palacios is unavailable.

Word around is that RVP might return, possibly a place on the bench at worst. This is good news in a way. For far too long our season has had a feeling of “If only RVP wasn’t injured”. Well, the Dutchman is back, training hard no doubt, to help end our season on a high. In a way this news is bad for the fringe players – i.e. Eduardo, Vela and dare I say it Bendtner. It is better we have a squad that is fit and raring to go then to rely on a player who might not be fully match fit. Besides we saw what happened to Utd when they risked a Rooney with one fit ankle. Then again, considering our injury list we don’t have that much of a choice do we? There is also the incentive for Robin to show some form right in time for the World Cup and that is reason enough to include him as soon as he declares himself available.

Against all odds

April 1, 2010

Two nil up and they cocked it up. Not very good this Barcelona side are they? Well apart from having 12 shots at our goal in the first 29 minutes, dominating possession for the whole game and chasing every one of our players down for the first 70 minutes.

Still, the word “character” was thrown around after Theo, the lone Englishman as the commentators like to point out came on to rejuvenate what seemed to be a wholly lost cause for us.

Had we come in at half time being 2-0 down I would have accepted it. Barcelona played some phenomenal stuff, that too at our ground. No other team has ever done that and we’ve watched quite a few games. “It was men against boys” a phrase the media here like to use when we lose to Utd and Chelsea. Outfought, Outplayed, Outhought. I know Barcelona are the best club in the world but it was all too easy. The first tackle made in anger resulted in a yellow card and an injury. Arshavin often criticized for not doing his bit defensively, tried and didn’t succeed. He would be later replaced by Eboue.

The effort was there but it came at different times.

Almunia had the game of his Arsenal career. Just after half time Jens said he had never seen a keeper in Europe make so many saves in such a short space of time. He was my hero for the first 30 minutes. If I was an Arsenal outfield player, I would have ran up to him and hugged him. Or done this at half time. His saves kept us in the game.

Then in the early part of the second half, two long passes over the top ala Stoke or Chelsea (against a more creative side) style gave Ibrahimovic the service his ego demanded. Having missed a few chances he made no mistake. The first was a clever chip after Almunia came off his line trying to narrow the angle. The second was more simplistic – That’s all I’m going to say on that.

I sat motionless as the goals went in. We’ve been here before. It was Barcelona but I could later understand Arsene’s anger at the type of goals we conceded. An Arsenal team in 1999 (featuring the old English defence) were outplayed 4-2 at Wembley in the first round. Keep it in perspective I thought.

25 odd minutes to go and Arsene not given enough credit for his substitutions – our subs have a great record of scoring goals in the Premiership by the way – brings on Theo just as Barcelona are seen to be taking it a little too easy. Theo gives problems to Maxwell and anyone on that right flank. His pace, his desire to drive forward something Guardiola’s team wasn’t too familiar with. Then Diaby having a forgetful game starts a move of sorts.

 Diaby intercepts play and passes it to Cesc. Cesc finds Bendtner and the Dane threads it to Theo. Theo cuts in and takes a shot. It isn’t the strongest shot but somehow it beats Valdes. 1-2. Game. On.

Barcelona don’t know what to do. They try to shock us n the counter. Guardiola brings Henry on. A ploy to distract us tactically and mentally. But Soldier Cesc, Captain Cesc battles on and is just about to rifle a shot past Valdez from a Bendtner pass when he is taken out by Puyol. He’s off. He’s off. Well if they can take out Cesc by diving, our skipper can take their skipper out legitimately.

Cesc to take the penalty. He has to score. It’s Barcelona – it is his chance to leave his mark.

Straight down the middle and Valdez is beaten.

Amidst the mini commentary for those two goals, I forgot to say how impressed I was by Nasri’s performance in the first half. He didn’t do much  but caused much confusion in the  Barcelona camp.

Otherwise it was scrappy from us but hey coming back from 2-0 down to draw against the Champions of Spain, Europe and the World. We only had 2 shots on goal and scored from both. Who would have thought we would be more clinical than  Barcelona?

Oh and I haven’t even mentioned Messi. Who is that guy anyway? Just kidding. I bet he is saving himself for the Nou Camp. Then again this Arsenal team won’t be so charitable. A tough assignment made tougher but not impossible.

A dose of realism please

March 28, 2010

Now and then the good ol’ trusty internet fails you. You go back to old habits – switch on the telly for updates, anxiously hoping that Arsenal are 25-0 up. Nothing less will make you content let alone happy. We were a minute or so away from getting a fantastic win.

Only Aston Villa and Bolton have won at Birmingham this season and that was ages ago. Utd had their bargain signing Own Goal to thank after they snatched a draw at St Andrews. Chelsea used their usual tactics of let’s bore the opposition and then sneak a winner. (It was Birmingham so they couldn’t “bully” them you see). They failed and played out a draw. The Brummy Blues also have a mean defence at home, conceding only 8 goals at home prior to the match today.

This game was always going to be difficult. Before today’s match, our last three results with Birmingham – relevance because its McLeish’s Birmingham and not Bruce’s Birmingham that always surrendered even before a ball was kicked – read thus

  • Arsenal 1 Birmingham 1
  •  Birmingham 2 Arsenal 2
  •  Arsenal 3 Birmingham 1

Now if you look at those results you’ll notice that Birmingham have scored in all of those three meetings. In the first two meetings, they scored the equalizers after we struggled to find that decisive goal which would have ended their resistance. Even at the Emirates earlier this season, we outplayed them for the first 30 minutes. Then Bowyer ‘s goal was somehow allowed and we delivered the most cagey performance for the next 70 odd minutes before Arshavin curled in the 3rd in the game.

So clearly there is something about Birmingham which meant none of us should have predicted an easy win out there. Given our penchant for scoring late goals, I was relatively content to see a 0-0 score. Then comes the news we all want to hear. Nasri has scored. Just saw the goal and what a finish. He is starting to show what he’ll be able to do on a more regular basis. Advantage Arsenal.

I celebrated when I heard the news. But recalling previous meetings with this team I stopped. It couldn’t happen surely. Lightning couldn’t strike twice. 10 minutes later and Kevin Phillips drilled a massive low for us with his goal. 

But you have to laugh really. It hits him rather than the other way around and went in. If Utd or Chelsea or anybody else were on the receiving end we would’ve had a good laugh at that. So maybe we should just see the funny side of this and accept that luck wasn’t on our side today.

Yes Almunia made a mistake and it hasn’t been his best season but he showed his class last week saving that Diamanti’s penalty. And he also saved one against Hull at the Emirates. Besides I’ve looked at the equalizer again and again. We had about 7 players back and still couldn’t prevent a cross from coming into Phillips in the first place.

We had our chances to seal the game and didn’t do it.  We win points as a team, we lose points as team. A good example of why certain players shouldn’t be held accountable for the whole result. No not for this game.

And let’s not forget we had the 3rd choice* (debatable if you bring Djourou in the equation) central defence pairing thanks to the FA’s incompetence. I was furious that Vermaelen’s red card was not over turned. Not only was it fully undeserved but the match officials and the FA also failed to notice the card waving gesture from Franco. I knew today’s game was going to be tight. Of course there is no guarantee that had Vermaelen played then Birmingham would not have equalized. But him playing helps a bit doesn’t it? But thanks to the FA, Vermaelen missed the one game I didn’t want him to miss.

It has been a funny ol’ season. Weren’t we out of contention in February? And weren’t we predicted to finish 5th below Liverpool AND Man City? And weren’t Spurs meant to win the title? Okay the last one was a joke but you get what I mean.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m looking forward to our game against Barcelona.

Porto won’t be as forgiving but do Arsenal owe Gibbs a fightback?

March 9, 2010

The banners were out; the pre match shirts had the messages. Do it for Aaron. Get well Ramsey. Sentiments every Gooner shares. Supporters, Management, Players, everyone connected with Arsenal Football Club made their point before the match against Burnley.

Win the League for Ramsey. Win the Champions League for Kieran Gibbs anyone? Whilst our season has taken the feel of ‘if only we had Van Persie fit and if only we didn’t have as many injuries’, Kieran has ended up merely as a footnote (excuse the pun). Did he not suffer a massive setback in his career too? I missed the last 40 odd minutes of that match and I haven’t been lucky in my attempts to find footage of that tackle. He has been out injured since mid November and is unlikely to play again this season. Moreover, Wenger’s revelations since then speak for itself.

Before the accident with Gibbs [in the Standard Liege game] I stood up to the referee five times in the last 15 minutes and said ‘calm this man [Eliaquim] Mangala down because he will kill one of our players.’

It was so obvious. They’d lost the game and he was just looking to kick people. What happened? He broke the metatarsal of Kieran Gibbs. It could have been avoided.

Where were the get well soon shirts for Gibbs and even Van Persie? Perhaps Ramsey’s misfortune has brought everyone connected with Arsenal FC – supporters, players and management together. It would be great if we showed such support for our other players when they are out injured.

Considering Gibbs’ injury happened in the Champions League, do the players not have an obligation to win this competition for Kieran? I believe the players are obliged to do it for the management – who work with them day after day fine tuning their technical and tactical attributes. I believe they are obliged to show their commitment, desire for the fans who appreciate such effort when they see it. But most of all they are obliged to do it for themselves. Only they would know what sacrifices they made when they were young and the sacrifices they would/should make now. Winning matches or competitions for players is a worthy tribute to the unfortunate player (i.e. Ramsey, Gibbs, Van Persie, Djourou) but the day we have an off game I do not want the players or anyone else to suggest the preposterous idea that they failed to do it for these players.

We will need to be at our very best tomorrow. Porto is the ideal team to show that lessons have been learnt from our high profile defeats to United and Chelsea. Currently the score is 1-0 to Porto and we have to play a measured game against the Portuguese side. Porto are adept at playing on the counter. Last year they scored twice at Old Trafford and even in the first leg at Porto last month they sought to punish us on the counter. Starting too gung-ho and we might be looking at an all too crushing tale.

Without Cesc this task becomes harder, but not impossible by any means. Our skipper has been without doubt our talisman but this game is one where the team have to rise and show it can cope without several key personnel. Theo and Nasri in particular gave glimpses of their mental strength against Burnley but nearly saw their efforts thwarted. However, Porto won’t be as generous.

 History reveals that we have only turned a deficit in Europe once in 32 years. Tomorrow is the ideal opportunity to add one to that.

The worst and the best of Theo against Burnley this season

March 7, 2010

 

Was I watching the same game as you yesterday? Of course I was. Yesterday Theo showed not only his “footballing brain” that (esteemed Waddle believe he had a “lack of”) but used his non-footballing brain to pretty much turn what could have been a frustrating “we battered them 1-1” score into an easy 3-1 win.

Time after time, Theo used his pace against the Burnley defence pinging accurate crosses and laying them on a plate for Bendtner. The Dane however was in Greek mode (or mood), intent on smashing that plate. At one point I felt that Theo would have been justified in releasing all his frustrations on a ‘Bendtner’punch bag. Just how many chances could a striker miss in one afternoon?  Turns out it was 8. The same amount as Darren Bent against West Ham. A bent day for a striker if ever there was one.

The match at the Emirates bore an eerie resemblance to the one at Turf moor. There we scored first courtesy of Cesc, ripped apart Burnley creating chance after chance. Burnley equalized and we came away with a draw. Our game desperately called for a hero in Cesc’s absence. Someone who could rubbish the idea that without Cesc this team is nothing. Now every team has a talisman and evidently for us this season Cesc is that man. 14 goals and 13 assists including his involvement in all three goals in our win at Stoke. But here he was gone after 30 odd minutes. Who would step up? Quite easy really. Theo.

Few posts ago I mentioned how Theo was slowly starting to show his frustrations more and more. Mid way through the first half, Burnley’s Danny Fox nearly clattered into Walcott. With images of Ramsey’s horror still fresh in the mind, Theo squared up to Fox. It struck a chord with us all and from there on it was clear that he was up for it.

At the Turf moor he got the rare opportunity to start a game this season. He struggled to make a positive impact and was berated was one and all. The most frustrating moment came in the 2nd half when Theo had ample time and space to deliver the perfect ball. Instead his cross ballooned miles almost out of the stadium and the cameras went straight to Wenger who wasn’t pleased to say the least. Few minutes and his misery was cut short. Theo completed just over 60 minutes there. It was arguably one of his worst performances in an Arsenal shirt. After that Burnley had little difficulty dealing with our attacks.

But this time Burnley’s goal was decisive but not for very long. Theo realised the team needed a talisman who would pick up the pieces. It might have been the worst away team in the Premiership this season we were facing but they still had to be beaten and beaten comfortably. We show a man determined to make up for lost time.

Theo’s catharsis came in the 60th minute. What do you do when your striker keeps missing ’em? You cut in from the right, use your left foot and from the edge of the box hammer it low across the goalkeeper’s left. POW. So Theo also has a left foot he can use.

It really was one of those moments ‘beat your chest hard’ celebrations that Henry indulged in a couple of times. Instead he pointed towards an imaginary watch on his wrist. Yes Theo you made it right in time. Post match, he said he felt sharper after getting a few games in the bag. A sustained run in the team will show why he could be the key to unlocking stubborn defences.

Special mention for Nasri. His pass to Cesc, a most delightful chip beat 5 Burnley defenders before the skipper calmly slotted it in. It is the type of skill that only about 10% of professional footballers will attempt and only 5% will get right.  He is really beginning to show why Wenger paid something like £12 million for him in 2008. Don’t forget Nasri missed about two months as well this season. As he gains more confidence he will continue to impose himself ala Hleb style but with more goals.

How MJ’s lyrics can explain Shawcross’ tackle and Aaron Ramsey’s importance

March 1, 2010

Just beat it, beat it, beat it, beat it
No one wants to be defeated

Actually those are the only two lines that can explain it and that for you is taking it out of context. But hey these two lines sprang to mind and are relevant here.

It is January 2008 – Shawcross finally signs for Stoke from Manchester United after impressing on loan spell. Not even 20, Ferguson feels he is surplus to requirements. This from the manager who continues to select Wes Brown ( featured in all of Utd’s defeats this season) and to make matters worse for Shawcross, signed Belgian De Laet ironically, from Stoke last year.

On Saturday Shawcross left his mark on Ramsey, the mark of a player who failed to make the grade at Manchester United. As he tried to win the ball back he must have seen Ramsey sprinting towards it. The problem is that he saw Ramsey not as a human, but as an object, an object he saw fit justified to flatten. 30 odd seconds after he made that atrocious tackle, he was sent off and then using the card as a cue, he finally realised his error before going to check up on Ramsey.

Three years ago he kicked Jeffers off the park. Frannie was out for 3 months. Late in 2008, he targeted Adebayor. In both instances, Stoke management defended Shawcross with the trademark,

He isn’t that kind of player.

Once maybe is accidental, twice is unfortunate. When it happens three times he is either malicious, technically and tactically naive and/or just plain stupid. Read the quote below and make up  your mind.

It was probably a new experience for Ryan to get frustrated, maybe that’s why he chased down the ball and made the tackle.

This came from the then Stoke Assistant manager Kemp after Shawcross’ tackle on Jeffers.  To an extent said he could have said the same when Adebayor was the victim last year and on saturday when Ramsey was victim number III.

You could question whether they was any need to make the tackles. Against Adebayor it was not needed as

 1) the ball was going out of play and

 2) There were defenders covering.

Against Ramsey you could question the need to tackle again. There was two Stoke players, one to the left and the other to the right of Ramsey and both of them were ahead of the Welshman.

But it was almost as if Shawcross was remembering (give me the writers license here if you will), Pulis’ teamtalk ‘Don’t let the nancy boys settle on the ball. Give ’em hell.’ And Shawcross’ long term and short term frustrations came out all in one on his latest victim, this time, Ramsey who turned down a switch to Utd himself.

And what about Aaron Ramsey? Some liken him to Cesc. Indeed I said this myself after his 20 minute cameo against Blackburn this season. Yet is it fair to say he is Cesc part II? Who is to say he couldn’t better Cesc? This is the guy who at 17 not only cost more than Cesc but also required higher levels of persuasion from Wenger to join us. 

He impressed against Liverpool in the Carling cup, then at Olympiakos. At international level, he led his Wales side to humiliate a Scotland side that boasted of Darren Fletcher. Where many gifted players failed, Ramsey succeeded, humiliating Fletcher time and time again.

He made it on the bench for almost all our games at the start of the season and started 7 times in the league. Arsene targeted 15-20 games this season due to his rapid improvement. Against Stoke he was employed in midfield. Seen as a player who is not bestowed with as much defensive attributes as his attacking ones, Ramsey adopted a defensive role . He rarely ventured forward, kept it simple with his passing and won 9 out of his 11 tackles, the most attempted by an Arsenal player that evening. Few more games of Cesc and Ramsey in the team and it would have destroyed this idea that the two were unable to play together in the same team.

Instead, Ramsey will spend the next 6 months minimum anxiously hoping (like us all) that his recovery has virtually no complications. When he returns,  his development will be pressed back a little. A professional player when out for that long needs time for his body to adjust to playing regular football. You only need to see how often Diaby and Eduardo have picked up minor injuries since they recovered from their leg breaks. It is all so unfortunate that at 19, Ramsey has to go through this when it could and should have been avoided.

And why? Because one frustrated footballer was misguided to use a line of thinking (or the lack of it) and adopt a style that FIFA themselves deem illegal. Shawcross “beat it” and he didn’t want to be defeated – at any cost. His reward? An England call-up. Further proof of the culture to win at any costs even if it means picking a leg breaker.

Champions League is back, Play-off for it, a SOL Acronym etc

February 17, 2010

Few months ago I left a comment on another blog asking fellow Gooners to choose between either

Arsenal get knocked out by Porto and win the Premiership

OR

Arsenal finish 5th and win the Champions League

Votes were casted in equal amounts for both from the few that responded. Winning the Premiership would be sweet considering how we were ridiculed pre season in the prediction stakes. On the other hand, winning the champions league would be just as impressive for obvious reasons.

Saying that, if the proposal to introduce a play-off for the 4th Champions league spot was implemented, 5th could be just as good as 4th. Even though the team in 4th could have been some 15 points ahead of the next team. Yeah but isn’t the play off system working in the lower leagues? It does but I’m sure if there was the choice, most managers would rather see the top 3 get promoted straightaway without any hassles.

I was little surprised when I read that Everton’s David Moyes felt the play off proposal was “unfair”. A change in system would greatly benefit his team. Or would it? When Everton finished 4th few seasons ago they still didn’t make the Champions League proper and didn’t even have the consolation of the Europa league as they do now. Should you go back further, Moyes’ Preston lost to Bolton in 2001 in the play-off final. At least if you win these play offs you have a guaranteed set of fixtures whereas if the system was introduced to bring competition in the EPL, it might do the opposite and stagnate the quality. A team that finishes in 7th place could quite easily get knocked by an organised lower ranked team in the Champions League qualifiers and this could happen time after time.

Great thinking by the Premier League.

Back to the current edition of the Champions League and I put myself to watch United somehow sneak another win, this time at Milan. I say “sneak” because although Milan weren’t as clinical and looked sluggish for large parts of the game, Utd weren’t that good themselves. A sign of a good team is when they win despite not being at their best. A sign of a good team is also when they enjoy more than their fair share of luck. From what I saw, Utd were extremely fortunate that Milan didn’t tie their shoelaces properly today.

Porto will be a lot more formidable than Milan. They got their act together and nearly sent Utd out of the CL last year. Only the thunderous shot from Ronaldo saved Utd and this year Chelsea struggled twice to beat them. We’re missing Almunia Gallas, Song, Arshavin, Eduardo as well as Van Persie. That is pretty much half the spine of the first team. We might just need to tweak our strategy a little. When a team is missing a core like that, we can’t expect them to go out trying to blast the opposition from start to finish.

A cagey Arsenal makes for nervous viewing because we’ve rarely shut out the opposition. The most recent result against Liverpool should help however. We beat them twice without being too awesome.  Good defending, good defending and bam score on the break. Back to 2003-ish style of play. It can be done.

SOL acronym

With Gallas not being fit enough to play, Arsene has suggested Campbell could get his first start in the Champions League since his goal for us in Paris. The other day I accidently found that SOL stood for Shout Out Loud, particularly applicable sometimes when communication is needed. Today I looked at a list of acronyms to see if it could be bettered. Top of the list, SOL – Sadly Outta Luck. Which could explain why our players are forever drifting towards the treatment room. Or on a positive note it could stand for Solution, which isn’t really an acronym but fitting as Sol Campbell might be the defensive rock we need in Portugal.

The Champions League is back and guess what? We’re in it to win it.  And while we’re watching our boys battle to go through just spare a though for the Spurs fans who will be watching Eastenders.

Could there be an exchange of dossiers between Wenger and Moyes?

February 11, 2010

The short answer is no. I do not have the Premier League rulebook on me but it is safe to say that any collaboration like that would be illegal.

Just three days ago, Everton had the misfortune of losing to Liverpool for the second time while Chelsea did the double over us. Yesterday, Everton did what we couldn’t do and we did what Everton couldn’t. While it is quite clear the dossier on defeating Chelsea would have explicitly stated playing a recognised striker was key, I’m not sure what the dossier on Liverpool would have recommended.

Hand on heart I’d have to say our performances at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge were better than in the two matches against Liverpool. Yesterday’s game was scruffy. Arsene finally had his 300th win but there haven’t been many games where Arsenal played like that in his reign. You might even be surprised to hear that Liverpool had just as good a share of the possession and created just as much. Note, this is not the same as saying we played on the counter at home like Chelsea did.

In the first half, we lacked any fluency which was understandable. We only start to get going after the first 20 minutes and considering how we shot ourselves in the foot after 35 minutes in the last 2 matches, there was a lot of determination to prevent a repeat of that. Defensively, it didn’t look pretty at times but Clichy and later Gallas in particular had that ‘over-my-dead-body’ mentality I so wanted to see in our defence.

Kick it out, kick it anywhere. As long as it isn’t near our defence.

This isn’t how we normally defend. But it would do. Just. As long as the defence did its job, we only needed one chance. Wait.

This isn’t how Arsenal do it.

Well, not this Arsenal side maybe but I’m guessing the management showed a couple of the old matches where we eked out results by hook or by crook. Yes, I’m aware of our history.

And finally the chance came. It started with a pass from Diaby to Cesc. Cesc then ran with the ball towards the Liverpool box and Diaby continued his run. Cesc than passed it to Bendtner who thought he could cross. His attempt came straight back to him and then he saw Mozart on the right flank who delivered a cross which Diaby converted.

So, Arsenal can cross and score headed goals. Who knew.

Now I can give you a detailed account like that because I got a month’s subscription of Arsenal TV today. Have to say I’m chuffed about that because not only I can see the press conferences as they are (without the spin from your various media joints) but also get to find out things like who Song’s best mate is. It is Eboue, folks.

The stand out performers yesterday..

  • Gallas who made that fantastic tackle to prevent Ngog from scoring. Had he got it slightly wrong he would have been sent off. Inch perfect tackle.
  • Diaby had the energy in midfield, typified by his goal and made plenty of tackles and interceptions. I’m liking this Diaby. He might frighten himself soon when he realises how good can he be. A nice change from the FA Cup semi final when he was getting hustled by Ballack.
  • Bendtner’s return was encouraging. It was quite obvious that he isn’t match fit, which can explain why he didn’t start against Chelsea. But even a slightly unfit NB52 had his chances and also created a couple. Good to see him back.
  • Clichy showed why there he is revered in some places and he made sure there was no issues with communication this time round.  

Our result coupled with the favourable results yesterday means that we are now “back in the title race.” But weren’t we ruled out completely on Sunday? I’m not listening to these guys telling me Arsenal are in it one minute, out the next minute. Me, I just want a committed team that and if we do well on most days we’ll be fine.

Although it is hard to believe we can’t improve on our current league position. On paper we do have a much kinder set of fixtures compared to Utd and Chelsea. But make no mistake, Stoke away and Birmingham away will be just as tough as Man City and Tottenham. Like Almunia said, we need a consistent run of positive results before we start dreaming. Yesterday was just the beginning.

PS: Chelsea lost at Anfield, Old Trafford and White Hart Lane last season. The same venues where they will play their last 3 away fixtures. I’m predicting a Newcastle style collapse ala 1996.

Unimaginative, Classless Ancelotti will be fired by May

February 8, 2010

We played the right way and did a very good defence and counter-attack. That’s the right way to play against Arsenal on Sunday.

That is what he said after they won at the Emirates. No doubt by the time we play them next, their next manager will probably say the same. The second part of that Ancelotti quote shows his arrogance. Chelsea have conceded 75% of their goals from set pieces but you don’t see any manager bringing that up. It is a shame for him that he had to learn how to play against us after watching Utd’s Champions League performance against us.

Of course he can say that because he knows one ball over the top of our defence and combine that with a Drogba run, our defence inexplicably turn to jelly. And he can say that because we were playing with two defensive midfielders, one who was returning from injury (Diaby) and the other who ran the whole of Africa in 3 weeks (Song). He can say that because he relies on Arsenal not communicating well, not showing enough desire to track back and break up the Chelsea attack. Which is exactly what happened for Chelsea’s second.

As for the first goal, that was equally farcical. You can tell that it didn’t please Arsene when he kept on citing that goal for our demise. After all, it was Chelsea’s first corner and you just don’t gift the opposition a goal that easily. How easily Clichy moved off the line to present a simple tap in for Drogba I’ll never know. It was naïve to say the least.

All of that of course cannot hide away from the fact that other than that, we bossed the game. There won’t be many teams who dictate the pace of the game at Stamford Bridge like we did. Even after we went two nil down, we continued to probe Chelsea and I’ll glady admit that I never enjoyed such attacking build up play for a game that we lost. If only Nasri and Arshavin had shown more composure when they had their chances. Fabregas’ neatly struck free kick drew a good save from Cech but if there was even the deftest of touches from Gallas we could have pulled a goal back. And then after that who knows?

Not only did we enjoy more possession, we also had more shots on and off target to Chelsea and we also had more corners. All of this makes Ancelotti’s post match assertion that his Chelsea team “were in control” rather ridiculous. A team in control does not spend most of the game packing its defence. Simply put, they relied on us having an off day in front of goal.

Of course, all things said, the most significant statistic is that Chelsea scored two, we scored none. It is a results business. But trying telling that to Roman who sacked one coach that won him two titles and another that took Chelsea to their first Champions League final. Using negative tactics like that, that too at home, will backfire somewhere along the line. Another champions league cock up by May will hasten his departure.

As for us, a defeat was obviously hard to take. There were many good things to take from it. Diaby’s return was a major plus. Apart from his error for the second goal, he looked the more assured defensive midfielder and won all but one of 9 tackles. His contribution in the attacking half was also impressive – I recall the pass to Nasri (when there were like 9 Chelsea players trying to block the route) that almost paid off.

Cesc had another impressive game. There were quite a few astray passes but he never gave up and there was this desire to keep going no matter what. He attempted over 70 passes, which you have to say is a lot for an away player and that speaks volumes of Chelsea’s tactics for me.

Eboue’s introduction gave a more direct dimension to our play – the ease with which he was going through the Chelsea midfield was unbelievable. Surely he will start a match sooner rather than later. He gives a balance to this Arsenal team if he puts his serious face on.

And I’ll leave it at that for now.

Arsenal vs United (Preview)

January 30, 2010

This is a historic post of sorts for me. It is the first time I’ve ever posted something up in another location, other than mi casa. Currently I’m in a small internet cafe in central london. Well, not everyone has the privilege to own a smartphone. Normally if I’m travelling I would pass up the chance to put up a post but we are playing Utd and I just had to give my two cents.

So here they are. Do excuse me today as I have rushed it quite a bit.

Emirates Factor

United have never beaten Arsenal in the League since we moved to the Emirates. At times, since we left Highbury the atmosphere at the Grove felt even more passive but whenever United are in town, it feels as if there are 100,000 Arsenal fans in the stadium. Yes, they beat us in the Champions League, but it was the semi-final and it came after an unfortunate slip from Gibbs that kicked matters off. The Champions League can create all sorts of freak results and I can remember when Steve McMannamanamamama scored at Barcelona in 2000 for Real Madrid. Other than that Real have pretty much never won there for something like 20 years at least. Anyway, the point is the belief of our fans is crucial. They have to be the 12th, 13th and 14th man.

Sol Campbell

If he plays, he will have acquired an interesting hat-trick. He would have played his first 3 matches back at Arsenal in all three of the Arsenal shirts. He wore the blue at Stoke, the white at Villa and tomorrow he will wear the red against United. Now that’s a colourful return. Many Gooners are afraid that Rooney will tear apart the Sol Campbell that just played at Notts County few months back. However, when he came at Villa he looked assured and I couldn’t think of many instances when he was beaten for pace. People must also realise he is playing alongside Gallas (hopefully!) and the Frenchman has had arguably his best season yet.

Diving/Gamesmanship/Rooney/Thuggery

 Arsene was candid enough to admit that Almunia had fouled Rooney but only just. We could just about take that but as I mentioned in my post, Rooney’s post match interview left a lot to be desired. The 2004 penalty still rankles me and never has a penalty been so decisive for Arsenal. As you might recall United played an overtly physical game and showed no remorse when they injured our players. I’ll never forget the image of Gary Neville trying to smash Reyes up into pieces. Reyes might have left London because of the weather but I very much doubt that was the only reason why he left us.

Darren Fletcher

After United won the game back in August, Alex Ferguson and Wayne Rooney came out and praised Fletcher. I don’t know about you but this assertion was frankly baffling to say the least. If anything Fletcher was the villain for United and with a better referee this would have been proved. Not only did Fletcher handle the ball in the area but he also fouled Arshavin and we were denied the most blatant of penalties. Not forgotten here. I also looked at the stats and guess what. His stats were no better than Diaby’s or even Alex Song who was by far the best defensive player on the pitch that evening. There was also the memorable instance where Fletcher tried to foul Diaby in his trademark style but Diaby shielded the ball so emphatically that Fletcher ended up looking like a backup schoolboy player that he is. Still, Fletcher is revered by United for his workrate yada yada yada. But back in 2004 he was a nobody and those same Utd fans questioned Fergie for selecting him. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Vermaelen News

I have no idea what team Arsene will play tomorrow. I’m following physioroom via twitter and according to them Vermaelen might yet play! The injury was merely a bruise so nothing too serious to prevent him from being unleashed against United.

Arsenal vs Manchester United

I have to say Arsenal vs United remains THE Premiership match. Even if in two years time, Utd are 17th in the table because having sold Vidic, Ferdinand, Rooney and the imminent retirements of Giggs, Scholes, Van der Sar and Chuckle brother senior. But until then, they are not to be underestimated. Neither should we. We’ve scored a last minute goal against United in 2 of the 3 meetings at the Emirates. Come on you Gooners!