Admit it, the second you saw that Howard Webb was going to be in charge at Anfield you felt an inescapable doom creep over you. This is the same Howard Webb who awarded Nigel de Jong a yellow card for a karate kick on Xabi in the World Cup final. The same Howard Webb who saw nothing wrong with Rio Ferdinand’s karate kick on Sagna two years ago. The same Howard Webb who refereed Arsenal’s Carling Cup final and sent off Adebayor for something that Eboue did. The same Howard Webb… you know what I’m saying.
This is also Anfield and last time Arsenal was at Anfield, they kicked and punched Arsenal until Arteta had to be stretchered off with a concussion after a cheap shot by Jordan Henderson. And they got tetchy in this match too. At the end, Gerrard flew into a tackle on Vermaelen so hard that it scared the daylights out of the Scousers in the stands.
This is also Arsenal we are talking about here and the reason that Webb and ‘Pool bother us so much is that Arsenal are supposedly a team of technically gifted footballing aesthetes who don’t like “it up em” whatever “it” is.*
But after 90 minutes against Liverpool yesterday our carefully constructed narrative about Webb and Liverpool was crossed out and quickly scribbled over with the word “MEATY” in all caps, underlined. Arsenal got stuck in on the tackles, from all over the pitch. Mertesacker made a goal-saving toe poke which predictably had Luis Suarez crying foul. Vermaelen flew into aerial challenges with abandon, reminding me of his first year at the club. Even the forwards got in to the swing of things: Podolski tracked back and won his share of challenges whenever Glen Johnson got forward, which he did 30 times — the most of any player on the field. And Giroud was used on every Liverpool set piece as big body to keep them from winning too many headers.
Howard Webb? Hardly even noticed him. I was too busy watching a meaty performance from the Arsenal boys.
Goldy Poldi Pudding Pie
Kissed the ball and made it cry.
You know what I love about Podolski? That he started and finished the attack for Arsenal’s first goal, just like he did in pre-season. He’s a cool character and a smart finisher. If he and Cazorla can get that whole telepathy thing going they will be an efficient little duo.
Three clean sheets against toothless lions
Sunderland don’t ever venture forward at the Grove. Stoke upon Offal were content with a bit of target practice and only managed 4 shots or something. And Liverpool are “the most profligate team in the history of man” so their 19 shots against Arsenal don’t really count. Those are the arguments I have heard for why we shouldn’t be too excited by Arsenal’s record three clean sheets to start the Premier League.
The counter argument is “well you can only play the teams in front of you” and “it’s only three games.” Frankly, I’m tired of all these arguments.
People who are quick to point out that it’s only three games or that the opposition has been poor have no problem presuming to know how poorly Arsenal were going to fare before a single ball had even been kicked. So, me saying that I think this team look confident and organized in defense means “over the three games we have seen them play, against the toothless cowards they have played against… the team looks confident and organized in defense.”
There’s nothing wrong with making that observation. It doesn’t make me wrong if (knock on wood) the wheels come off the bus later. We have seen Arsenal playing a zonal defense on set plays where they line up perfectly across the 6 yard line. We have seen Arsenal playing two banks of four and trying to hit Liverpool on the counter (since you won’t believe me, I’m linking to Michael Cox). They are winning more headers, they are getting stuck into more tackles, and when they were up 1-0 they sat back and soaked up pressure.
It’s been refreshing.
Remember last year when everyone was calling Wenger a dictator and stubborn old fool? I do, because I wrote a piece comparing him to Ozymandias. Remember those other people who defended him and Pat Rice against folks calling for someone like Adams, Keown, or Bould to come in and inject some fresh ideas into Arsenal’s defensive scheme? I do because I was one of them too!
But it’s ok, because I was wrong, as were the people who said Wenger couldn’t work with Bouldy because the former Arsenal defender was too strong-willed. Given the changes in shape defensively, given the work that Bould has put in on set pieces, and given the fact that Wenger did change his mind and brought Steve Bould in, I’d say that the old boy still has a trick or two up his sleeve.
Why did he persevere with Pat Rice? I dunno? Loyalty? Bouldy hadn’t completed his Jedi training yet and didn’t learn the mind trick until last spring?
Does it matter?
Ugh… yes, it’s only three games in. We get it, you will never be happy.
Is it me or does Olivier Giroud remind you of Jack Burton? Jack Burton, the cocksure scamp from Big Trouble in Little China who bravely barges into a situation filled with Chinese mysticism and alchemean magic but never really understands what he’s doing or what’s even going on. The Jack Burton who says this:
When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”
That quote sums up what it takes to make the move to the Premier League: eight-foot-tall maniacs demanding dues. It also sums up Giroud’s attitude so far. He will pay, you’ll see, the check is in the mail.
Cazorla shoots too much
Santi Cazorla is second in the League in total shots taken and has scored just one goal off 14 shots. Profligate!
Santi Cazorla is second in the League in key passes per game and has also provided Arsenal’s only assist. Provident!
Hey but it’s only three games in, let’s not rush to judge either goodly or badly!
Hey also note the opposition he faced!
I blame Pat Rice!
I love Pat Rice!
That made me laugh like a motherfucker.
*I don’t like “it” up me either. In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life actively keeping “it” from being up me.