Author Archives: Tim

About Tim

I'm the gaffer, I gaff things. I also make a lot of gaffs. Follow me on twitter @7amkickoff.

Ramsicky

NYRB 1-0 Arsenal: vacation

Ok, we lost. We lost because we played against a professional football team in mid-season form and Arsenal were in pre-preseason form. We also lost because we started and finished the game without a recognizable starting center half nor a starting center forward. And not only that but our collection of false nines looked rusty. Like a rusty old knife named Russ who had been left out by the seashore and was now covered in a second layer of rust. But despite the disappointment of losing, and losing in an ignominious fashion, it was still a top day with some great friends.

You already know that I don’t read the press. Well, with all these great people around me for the last two days I have read even less of the press and none of the twitter. So, when I read Arseblog this morning and heard that some people freaked out over the game on twitter the first thought I had was…. HA!

The second thought I had was.. Maybe I should stop reading twitter too. I don’t know what’s going on in any of your lives but I do know that no one in that stadium, no one I know, had a bad day yesterday. There were a few little moans about the starting lineup. A few people wondered why we had no strikers available. Some laughs about Monreal as the starting center back. But not a single melt-down or even really a long conversation about the makeup of the team and whether we were ready for the start of the season.

That’s not to say that we weren’t slightly depressed at the starting lineup or at the way the game played out. Rather, the folks I was with approached this game as a preseason friendly: you want to win, but you’re really here for the party.

And it was a party atmosphere throughout the day despite every possible roadblock. For example, we got to the game almost too late to get a beer, but not too late enough! Then the skies opened up and dumped buckets of rain. Supposedly there was a 30% chance of rain yesterday. What I think they meant was that for part of the day, the sky would be 30% rain. One minute I had a sweaty back, the next minute I was worried about trench foot.

And, of course, it didn’t stop raining until we got inside the stadium.

stadium2

 

Inside the stadium, the first thing I noticed was that there were a lot of empty seats. We were told later that it was a sell out but why, then, were there so many empty seats? In short? StubHub. Take a small arena, take a big team, take lax scalping laws, and add in some opportunistic local fans and you get – people selling seats on StubHub for 20X face value. The good news is that few people bought the $500 tickets and as the event drew nearer there was a fire sale and I even had some touts trying to get me to retweet their “bargain” deals at $200 each.

My ticket was $25 and I think if the clubs had priced that ticket at $75, we would have seen fewer scalpers. At $25 each, a guy can buy 8 tickets, sell one on stubhub for $200 and break even with minimal exposure on his part. The simple math of that encourages otherwise normal people to get into the scalping game. I think something similar already happens with Arsenal matches (I know plenty of season ticket holders who don’t ever attend matches) and the grousing about lowering ticket prices “to fill the stands” would actually only exacerbate the problem at Arsenal.

But the stands were largely filled and the fans at the game were in good voice. I could give you a play by play but there is already a video up on Arsenal.com. So instead, here are some impressions.

I love watching Henry play, he is like a lion: languidly patrolling his territory, seemingly disinterested in the game, king of the pitch. Until the moment presents itself and then he pounces, shreds a defender, eats his guts, and then has a nap in the mid day sun.

Henry set up a couple of great chances and him an Bradley Wright-Phillps made a neat little team together. BWP slotted Henry in and the old Cat produced a trademark shot, left channel, open your body, curl it around the keeper. Szczesny was equal to the shot and got down quickly to parry away. It was a world class save.

For Arsenal, Cazorla was on the end of everything good and we sang his name after each of his brilliant moments.He responded to Henry’s shot with one of his own trademark shots from distance which whistled just past the post.

The goal happened in my end of the stadium and it was a disappointing goal. Barely believable except that on the first corner no one seemed to know who to mark. That’s exactly what happens when a team plays without their first, second, or third choice center backs. I think Ramsey was telling people who to mark at one point. With little organization from the defenders, it’s not really a surprise that Arsenal were beaten by an unmarked player at the far post.

Monreal

Chris Toronyi and I sat together and he asked if I thought this was a test of Monreal as backup center back and I have to say that I hope not. Maybe if Mertesacker is there to organize, he would work in a pinch. I don’t know, I’ve never seen them play together.

Playing without a recognizable center forward Arsenal’s offensive frailties were exposed. Rosicky is a great player but he’s not a forward and you could tell he simply didn’t know where to run or even where to stand to give the defenders anything to think about. Without a forward I was hoping that Cazorla would step up and make some runs in behind like he did for his hat-trick against Reading. But for whatever reason, Cazorla just won’t make moves behind the defenders. Instead, he drops to receive the pass, like, every single time.

But like I said, that’s crying over spilled milk. Obviously, Arsenal are going to be better when we have Giroud, Sanchez, Walcott, Podolski, and the hopefuls (Sanogo and Campbell) back from their post match World Cup vacation.

There were a couple of bright moments from our murder of false nines. Wilshere and Zelalem tried to team up for a repeat of last year’s goal of the season but Red Bulls keeper Robles snuffed it out. I went back and watched the highlights on Arsenal.com and it looks like Jack simply fluffed the shot. Signs that the midfielder needs to shake off the rust.

As the second half kicked off Arsene put on a semi-recognizable forward type player in Chuba Akpom and almost immediately it paid benefits. Along with energy in midfield with Coquelin and Flamini running about, Arsenal effectively snuffed out the Red Bulls attack.

Akpom set up Diaby for what looked to me like the tying goal but it was hauled back for offside. It was such a well taken goal that I barely recognized it was Diaby who took it.

Diaby had the kind of game which you would expect from a player who has had his career stolen from him through injury. One moment you could see the flashes of brilliance, the next moment he looked like someone who couldn’t make a simple pass. I don’t know what the future holds for Diaby but watching him play yesterday was painful.

As the game wore down we all knew that there was no way back for the Arsenal. The players did a lap of appreciation after the final whistle and just like every moment in the game, the largest cheers were for Henry who made a point of walking over and clapping every fan in the stadium. I’ve heard nothing but good reports about Henry during this trip. He stayed extra to sign things for the fans at the fan event on Thursday and he did the same here again. It’s obvious that he loves Arsenal and the Arsenal fans.

henryAfter the game, we walked to a Portuguese restaurant and had a massive meal. There was paella, endless sangria, meats, and every possible side dish with shrimp and garlic. I think we even ate some salad. But the best part was that the dinner took all night. We were there exchanging stories about the Arsenal, planning trips to see them in Europe, and asking each other for advice about how to get to games in the future. We laughed at each other, drank wine, and ate until we couldn’t eat any more.

I have not felt more welcomed by any group than I have by my friends here in New York. Last night, just every moment, I felt like I was actually on vacation for the first time in a long time. I never even once got down about the final score. There will be plenty of time for that when the season really starts.

Qq

 

14th

To 14th street and beyond

Last night Arsenal fans didn’t just paint 14th street red, we exploded onto the scene with the exuberance of a teenager with his first paintball gun. Splotches of red, gold, blue, and yellow, bursting out of every pub, skipping along the streets of Manhattan, drinking joyfully, and singing every song from the Arsenal hymnal. It was all almost too much but at the same time not enough.

I nearly missed my flight Friday morning and only the insistence of my sister, who was giving me a ride to the airport at 5:30 in the morning (bless her), calling me multiple times to wake me up made sure I caught the plane on time. Despite hurrying to get to the plane, I slept fitfully on the flight. The sleep of someone doped to the gills on Valium and yet anxious both about the flight and the event ahead.

skyline

A dizzying cab ride, with the iconic skyline featuring prominently against the backdrop of what must be the world’s biggest cemetery, landed me at the house of my gracious hosts Brian and his fiance Regina. I had almost no time to drop my bags and change shirts before we were off to help set up for the silent auction at the Winslow on 14th Street. It was early, I thought. But in reality it wasn’t early enough. Officially, the celebrations were to start at 7 but by 5pm the streets were already full of Arsenal fans.

The show at the Winslow was a silent auction of 40 pieces of work with proceeds going to Street Soccer USA. The walls were plastered with beautiful prints in various styles from the anime style of 11Cannons to the wonderfully succinct multi-tonal work of Art of Sport. The full list of artists who donated pieces is available on their Facebook page. 

As that event built steam I wandered off down the street to O’Hanlans where Arseblog was signing copies of his book Together. I had hoped to get a chance to meet the boss in person for the first time but as soon as I looked into O’Hanlans I saw an impenetrable wall of people with the same idea. Now wasn’t the right time so I turned away and went back up toward the Winslow which is actually right next to the famous Arsenal pub The Blind Pig. I thought about checking out the Blind Pig but again the same story. It was a madhouse, there was a huge line of fans waiting to do some kind of Arsenal sponsored official event. Maybe a photo booth?

I settled at the Winslow which, compared to The Blind Pig and O’Hanlans, was only slightly insanely overrun with Arsenal fans. In and around the Winslow I met a number of other Arsenal fans and asked each what they had done since they got into town. Time and again I got the same story: they had gone to an event and the crowds were unbelievable.

Many of the fans I talked to had tried to get to the event at Grand Central Station (I think the FA Cup was there along with some of the Arsenal players) only to be turned away as the demand outstripped the capacity. I’m not getting down on the club here or the organizers of any of these events, rather, I’m celebrating the fact Arsenal is so well supported here in the States that the events had crowds over capacity. Hundreds of thousands of people have come from all over the world and converged on Manhattan for the Arsenal. As the song goes, we truly do all follow the Arsenal, over land and sea.

As the auction wound up I got a text from Chris Toronyi telling me to get down to O’Hanlans, the crowds had thinned out enough that I could finally meet Andrew from Arseblog. We pushed our way through the drunks gathered at the door and all the way to the back. Being the gracious guy that he is, as soon as Andrew saw me he came out from behind his table and shook my hand. That’s right folks, I have touched the hand that fingers Arseblog. Wait, I mean, I have fingered the hand of blogs… you know what I mean.

We had a few words but there was always someone there wanting a moment with him. So we decided to catch up later when things weren’t so crazy. I said my goodbyes and headed back to the Winslow. At this point, the auction was closed and the pub was a flurry of activity. Getting pieces to the winners and cashing them out.

frenzy

As the happy winners filtered out of the Winslow, the hardcore fans stayed behind and started singing. All of the old tunes were belted out about players like Vieira and Ray Parlor. This is a rarity for me. Even at Arsenal games in London I never hear the Ray Parlor song. And then the coup de grace, my absolute favorite Arsenal song, We All Live In A Perry Groves World. I switched the camera on and recorded the crowd singing.

As our night wore down Brian and Regina took me to a Ukrainian diner where I finished the night off with some Pinot, a bowl of the best borscht I have ever savored, and some lovely conversation. It was the perfect way to cap off an Arsenal event: with friends, decompressing and laughing about the day.

Going in to this I knew that there would be more supporters than the Red Bulls Arena could support. I thought of it as a sort of Arsenal-Woodstock; with people coming out from all over the place just to be here for the event. There were Chicago Gooners, The Squid Boy Like flew in from England, people sporting their Austin Gooners tees and so many other people from all over the world gathered just for a chance to maybe get an autograph off a player or for a brief conversation with any of the thousands of other Arsenal fans here. Just to be here.

Thinking back on the day, the one thing that struck me is that the thirst for Arsenal in the States is nearly unquenchable. I’m thinking that maybe one game in the USA isn’t enough. That Arsenal should do this tour bigger next time, paint more than just one street red, let’s paint the whole continet red! Come to Seattle, go to the midwest, go to Canada, and maybe even Mexico, then finish off in NYC. It was so beautiful to see the outpouring of support but instead of slaking my thirst, I want more.

That Arsenal painted 14th street red is no doubt. Arsenal, I think, could paint America red if it wanted.

Qq

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Arsenal in NYC: we are gathering

The FA Cup has been packed neatly in bubble wrap.The players have been corralled using the charms of various Apple devices and herded on to waiting jet liners. Arseblog has packed a suitcase full of books and boarded a jet. The artists from We All Follow The Arsenal are on the last leg of their journey. And countless others are boarding planes, trains, and automobiles in order to arrive in New York City in time for the festivities. If 14th Street is set to be red tomorrow, it has already begun to turn pink.

“Soccer is still far enough below the radar in the United States for Robbie Keane to lead a relatively normal life in his adopted city of Los Angeles” read the hilarious lede from a BBC article about how football has taken off in the USA. It’s a quote meant as a counter point to the argument in their article. As if to say “maybe football has grown significantly more popular in recent years but Robbie Keane still isn’t swarmed for signatures when he goes out.” As if Robbie Keane would even be recognized as a professional footballer anywhere in the world.

But the facts belie their argument. The World Cup broke records for television viewership. And we don’t just watch on TV, this isn’t Italy. The Sounders sold 67,000+ tickets for their first game after the World Cup. And while Seattle may be a bit unusual, in that we have higher attendance here than all but the most popular professional soccer clubs in Europe, it still shows the power of football in the USA. We may be one soccer mad corner of the USA but you can believe me when I tell you that I have been to many places in this country and seen many crowded faces watching games.

There may be new faces in the crowds but for many American Arsenal fans we have been waiting for this moment for too long. We have had to sit back and watch the happy faces of our rival fans as Chelsea and Man U make a seeming annual pilgrimage to the USA. I even went to one of the very first exhibition games here, Celtic v. Man U in 2003. There was signing, cheering, and even some sectarian violence among the 67,000 fans who were in the stands that day.

I kind of felt dirty watching that Man U game that summer. I felt like I was giving the arch enemy my money. I have since eschewed attending any other team’s games in the USA. For example, Tottenham are coming to Seattle and I can’t imagine a reason why I would attend that, except as a Sounders fan, rooting for the green.

Despite the occasional 60,000 seat sell out, the truth is that football has been slow to take off in the USA. In 2003 we still watched most games on one of two channels, grubby little backwater channels like Setanta which you could only get with an expensive satellite package. And Setanta was a god-send. Prior to that we watched match of the day style clips, occasional live matches, and sometimes even had to pay-per-view big games. Moreover, in 2003 there was no YouTube and there were no pirate streams. We got what the lords of television gave us and were thankful for it.

And fast forward to today. I can watch every game in the Premier League, most of the FA Cup matches, almost all of the League Cup matches, and any Champions League match on my television, on my computer, or on my tablet. Not only that but ESPN has a site dedicated to our sport and data outlets like WhoScored, Squawka, and the 442 app, feed us information about every aspect of the game at near instant speed. And as the coverage has grown, we have grown.

But over the last few years, Arsenal fans have also grown restless. Begging for Arsenal to come here, to our country, to let us show Arsenal how much we love her.

And this weekend we finally have the chance. For many fans, this will be the one and only time in our life that we will be able to see Arsenal play live. To see Arsenal play against the living statue,Theirry Henry.

And so we are gathering.