Category Archives: Arsenal

When is a dive a dive?

One of my favorite things about writing this blog is that I learn so much about the game. From my readers, from the football pundits, the football writers, old heads like Arseblog, it seems like every day I get a fresh perspective and I love it. I soak it in, steep in it for a few days and then I change my mind, or maybe I don’t change my mind and stick to my guns. I guess in a sense, I’m like an infant and my footballing mind is like a sponge. Yes, you can chalk that up to the fact that I’ve only been around the game for 10 years or so and yes, I get a lot of stick for that, but who cares? I love learning about the game and about Arsenal.

Today, I got a wholly* different perspective on diving, simulation, and all things cheating from some guys who know a whole lot more about football than me. Plus, I get a whole different way of looking at football chants and free speech.

So, from them, to me, to you…

Did Eduardo dive?

Patrick Barclay describes the furor in the U.K. resulting from Eduardo’s supposed dive as a “hysteria.” From what I can tell, us Americans, not to be outdone by our British cousins, have taken this hysteria and turned it into evangelism. I’ve had many a United fan on this blog, and of course in person, describe how revolted they were by this scourge of cheating and how this needs to be “stamped out” of the marble halls of football.

I understand why us American football fans are like that. We hear it constantly from the throwball contingent that “the one thing they can’t stand is seeing grown men rolling around on the ground” and that’s why they won’t watch “soccer.” They have no problem with grown men obviously using steroids but GOD DAMN DEM SOCCER FAGS!

So, I suppose it makes sense that the most vociferous and evangelical football fans are Americans, who also happen to support Man U (in my experience). I think they are laboring under the delusion that their sport will be more holy and therefore more acceptable to other Americans if only they could expiate the sin of “diving.”

Those damn holy rollers they do love a good witch-hunt.

But what if Eduardo didn’t dive? There are a lot of folks out there, knowledgeable folks, who think that Dudu didn’t dive. Patrick Barclay is one of them and his statements in response to the people who wrote into him about Monday’s column are priceless.

It wasn’t a clear dive at all. While waiting to go on the Sky television programme The Sunday Supplement at the weekend, I was shown different angles of the incident and you could see that there was contact with Boruc.

Not only that. I was in the company of three other journalists and we all agreed that the evidence contrasted with all the hysteria after the match. It’s not often you get four football writers to agree! The producer was of the same opinion.

So, Patrick Barclay joins Arsene Wenger and a small chorus of other old school football fans and says “there was contact, it is a penalty, no yellow, no retroactive ban.” These are people who have lifetimes of footballing experience, while some of us Americans have been watching this sport for just a few years, so who would you rather have preaching the gospel?

I’m sure I’ll disagree with him later on, but for now, I consider him the high priest of diving and that column to be the bible on how to speak to the know-nothings and holy rollers who want to cram their new religion down our throats. Read it, read it again, and then get back to me on whether Eduardo dived and what his punishment should be.

2 matches for diving, 3 matches for going ape shit

I WILL CUT YOUR LAWN

Even if we accept that Eduardo dived, and that we can get into his mind and say that he did it on purpose, one of the things that I have found puzzling is the arbitrary nature of the punishment levied in this case. How is it that a yellow card offense, one that would net a punishment ranging from shame to a 1 match ban (if it was a second yellow) is suddenly worth two matches? That just doesn’t make any sense to me.

It must not make any sense to UEFA either, because they have not yet explained the logic. It’s the same ban that Bosingwa merited for calling Tom Henning Ovrebo a thief! It’s one match less than Drogba got for an internationally broadcast display of what was, in essence, football hooliganism. How does that make sense?

Now, I don’t want to get into the cluttered mind of Michel Platini, but I think that what’s going on here is that they see Eduardo’s “dive” as equivalent to what happened with Dida when AC Milan played against Celtic. Or maybe they see it as worse, somehow, than the £5,000 fine that FIFA levied against Rivaldo for his disgraceful actions. I don’t know but I eagerly await the report from UEFA because this makes no sense.

Was it worth it?

Absofuckinglutely.

IF, as Celtic fans would like to have you believe, it was a dive AND it was a game changing dive despite the fact that Celtic has managed only one shot on goal in the previous 120 minutes and needed 3 — THREE — goals to go on to the next stage THEN yes it was absolutely worth it. Because what was at stake here was millions of pounds in revenue from the Champions League group stages.

Which is why if you’re serious about getting rid of cheating then it’s important to get the call right during the match and not after. Which can only be accomplished by using video replay.

Sorry, but if we all get to sit around and watch endless replays of the action, and armchair referee every match, why can’t the officials actually officiate matches in real time? After all, a lot of money is at stake, accuracy is at stake, and the reputation of football is at stake.

And don’t give me this crap about replays slowing down the action. I bet if I took a stopwatch to the average match there would be something like 60 minutes of action total. And if I took a stopwatch to the average Bolton match that total would be something like 15 minutes.

What’s the sound of one dipshit singing?

I love football chants. I love that a whole crowd of 60,000 people can sing in unison “We love you Arsenal, we do.” Chants inspire the players, chants make for a great crowd atmosphere, chants show that you belong to the in-group, in short, I love chants.

I also love being an Arsenal supporter because by and large we stay out of the ugly side of chants. Racist chants and chants that celebrate the dead of our opponents are not really a mainstay of Arsenal fandom. Maybe they were at one time, but my understanding is that Arsenal are now one of the most proactive clubs when it comes to wiping out ugly chants from our stands.

So when I see an American Man U supporter singing or writing one of their filthy chants about Wenger or one of their disgraceful chants about Liverpool, I don’t think it’s cute, or cheeky, or that it makes them part of the in crowd. I just think you are a dipshit.

That’s about as far as I normally go in this matter, basically, there are dipshits all over the world and clubs and the police should do a better job of keeping the number of dipshits to a minimum.

That said, there’s a particular chant about Arsene Wenger which calls him a pedophile and that chant was in full throat last weekend when Arsenal played Man U. After the match, intrepid bloggers discovered that a disk containing the chant was being sold on Play.com and Amazon.com.  Play.com took the disk down but Amazon so far has steadfastly refused, hiding behind “free speech.” I’m not a lawyer, but I’m fairly certain that if I penned an article that called Wenger a pedophile I would be in real trouble so how a recording of several folks chanting that charge is acceptable, I don’t know.

Like I said, I am not a lawyer.

What I do know is that there at the bottom of that link I provided is a contact form. I have submitted a complaint using that form which voices my displeasure at the fact that they are carrying this product. That, plus writing this little bit, is about as far as I can go with this. It’s now up to Amazon, Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United, the Press, the Greater Manchester Police, and the fans to do something about it.

The ball’s in their half.

*yes, that’s a pun, it’s like a pre-pun.

F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5 F5… meh

That’s it folks, deadline day has passed and Arsene Wenger has stayed true to his word and is standing pat with the team he has. I already know that this is a minority opinion among Arsenal fans but I am ok with this squad the way it currently stacks up and in fact, I’d go a step further and say that Wenger’s had this planned all along.

First off, the criticism from all quarters is that Arsenal failed to replace two key players this season: Adebayor and Toure. On paper this seems a valid criticism since both players left in the summer but I think that the paper view is distorted. Look at the difference between the Adebayor who was offside 40 times last season and the Adebayor who’s current form has him scoring three goals in three games. If you ask me, apart from that one brilliant Champions League goal, Adebayor was lost to us early last year. That means that Arsenal’s purchase of Arshavin was actually in order to cover for the lack of goals from Adebayor. Moreover, when Adebayor was at his best he worked hard and was a disruptive force with his creativity and runs up front. Arshavin is not as direct a replacement since he’s not a big target man but what he lacks in the center forward department he clearly make up for in his unpredictability and his pure goalscoring ability. So while the two players are vastly different, it seems to me that Wenger brought Arshavin in to make up for Adebayor’s absence and in the 6 months that followed he played Bendtner as much as possible to groom him for Adebayor’s job as target man.

Similarly with Toure, Arsene knew that Toure wanted to leave when the latter turned in his transfer request in January. Somehow, Wenger convinced Toure to stay until the end of the season and then immediately set about finding his replacement. Sure, it’s only 3 games into this season but so far Vermaelen looks to be more of an upgrade than a straight replacement for Toure.

Moreover, Wenger had to have taken a look at the fixures list and seen that the single most crucial part of the season coincided with the Africa Cup of Nations. With Adebayor, Toure and Song as key starters who would be gone in January, when they were most needed, then in that case bringing in Arshavin and Vermaelen looks even more important.

All this is to say that the press’ constant hand-wringing over Arsenal “failing to replace Adebayor and Toure” is disingenuous at best. As far as I’m concerned Arsene Wenger did better than replace those two positions.

That leaves just the one spot that Arsenal fans have been worried over since Patrick Vieira took his big shoes to Juventus 5 years ago; holding midfield.

I’ve had more than a few regular readers disappear from the blog over my position on this, which is strange because I think I’m pretty mainstream. Basically, I would have welcomed a player like Felipe Melo with the same open arms and wild eyed opTIMism that I’ve adopted for the rest of the squad this season. A guy like that would really push Song and Denilson for their starting spot and add real quality to this team. I think Wenger did try to sign him, in the same way that he tried to sign Alonso last year; by putting in what he felt was a solid bid and no more.  The problem is that after Felipe Melo there weren’t a whole lot of options for Wenger. Notice I didn’t say “for us” but rather “for Wenger.” Like it or love it, this is his squad and he has very strict rules about what kinds of players he’ll bring in and what price he’s willing to pay for them. So while you and I can point to Veloso or Cana or hell 50 defensive midfielders, Wenger has no doubt passed the rule over them and for some reason found them wanting. He’s not a stupid man, he obviously has the money, and he admitted that holding mid and center back were places he was looking to fill, so something else stopped him from taking one of the many players that a lot of us would have embraced.

We’re going to have to leave it at that. There’s an avoirdupois assload of things that could happen from here until the end of the season, some of which could be repercussions from his reluctance to fill that spot, but that’s all speculation and second guessing. What we know for a fact is that he did not fill the spot. Alex Song and Denilson are the lone two out-and-out holding mids on this team now. When Song goes to the aforementioned ACN, Wenger’s going to have to shuffle, Denilson and Cesc, or Denilson and Nasri, or Denilson and Diaby, etc. Since we’re only playing three midfield players we have (as I like to say) A LOT of options but one option we don’t have is some new guy coming in. This is a done deal folks, Alex Song is our Lorik Cana.

One last position that causes a lot of consternation is the center back position but again Wenger feels like he has options there already. We’ve kept Senderos and once Djourou gets fit we have another player we can put in there. Song and Silvestre (in that order) are both, erm, centery-backery kind of players and can fill out the team sheet if needed. Again, obviously, I would have been happy to see a signing here but as with the holding midfield spot Wenger had a look and decided that there were no goldilocks signings to be had. Hangeland, for example, looked like shite against Chelsea and at £14m (or whatever Fulham ”didn’t” want to sell the player for) was never going to be a good signing as a back up to Vermaelen. Subotic, the other oft linked player, was quoted at £20m which is a princely sum for a player of his modest abilities.

So what do we have? Well, we have a solid team from front to back, we also have a new look formation that I think exploits our talents better than the stodgy 4-5-1 that we used last season , and we have a team that has subtracted two unhappy elements and added in two guys who are ready to be rebels for the cause.  As my regular reader knows, I’m fucking excited for this season. With our experience, our youthful vigor, our desire to prove ourselves, and Wenger’s preparation I think we are one of the strongest teams in the EPL and will be pushing Chelsea for title honors on many fronts this year.

That is, if we can avoid more retroactive punishments from UEFA.

See you tomorrow, when I report that Wayne Rooney has received a lifetime ban for massive cuntitude.