Big Sam Hoodoo Has Actually Been Dead for Years

either that or he's checking his tonsils.

Good morning kickers, quick blog today because, well, because I feel like it.

Straight in with a two footed tackle to the shins, our opponents on Saturday (Blackburn, a pack of no talent hacks plus the greatest diver of all time) are talking shiat because they had a huge win over, erm, Fulham on Wednesday.

Half man-half shrew Stephen Warnock has sounded the alarm bells and said that they plan to run Arsenal off the pitch because both teams played on Wednesday but Arsenal played 30 minutes more than Blackburn and that means Blackburn have an advantage.

Yeah.

I just want to point out two things:

  1. No Sam Allardyce team has run Arsenal off the pitch in nearly 2.5 years (Nov. 2006).
  2. “You should have been in the dressing room after the game – it was like we’d just won the World Cup final. The atmosphere was brilliant.” — Theo Walcott talking about the team atmosphere after the Roma match.
  3. While Arsenal did play a bit more than Bolton, I mean Blackburn, they have better squad depth and Wenger’s rotation will see fresh, quality legs like Andrei Arsaviour coming in to the match.

Now, I know that that’s technically 3 things, but I think we can sort of conflate them into two things: Arsenal are on a three game win streak (Roma is a loss but you can’t tell me that’s not a win) and Blackburn can go f*ck themselves.

On the injury front, it turns out that Eduardo pulled his groin in the Roma match (which might account for his soft penalty) and is back out for a couple of weeks. Sad, but that’s how that works: it takes time to get your body used to playing at the top level after having your leg broken by Steven Taylor.

Who Wenger will play is up for debate, feel free to hash it out in the comments.

Finally, Diaby has said he doesn’t mind being dubbed the “new Vieira” despite looking nothing like him and playing no where near the same style of game. Yeah, sure, he’s the new Vieira. Kind of like “New Coke” was the new Coke and everyone hated it.

Actually, I like Diaby and he’s grown a bit in my estimation the last few matches. I kind of touched on this when spoke about how both Song and Denilson both seemed to play better with Diaby in there rather than each other. But look, it’s a string of three games, I’m not getting ahead of myself and hailing him as the new anything until I see some more consistency. That he says “What I must do is work as twice hard in order to improve” goes a long way toward raising my hopes that he will one day be the new Vieira. But for now, I’d settle for him just being the New Diaby.

Irregardless, the match is on Setanta tomorrow and the 3pm GMT kickoff is actually at 8am PST — remember, we should be GMT -8 but owing to the ridiculous fact that we start daylight savings early over here we are temporarily GMT -7, also, this is where I usually make a joke about how Bush ruined time for America.

I can’t make it down for the live match because I’m being a responsible father but I’ve asked Doyle’s if they can record the game for me. We’ll see, maybe I can get down there around noon and have a pint and watch the game. Drop me a note in the comments if you’re in the same boat for some reason.

Ashita Mañana.

Roma 1-0 Arsenal; kids go through on penalties

this-image-is-everywhere, at least I'm trying to do something original with it

Match Video

As always, the Arsenalist has the video.  I had to actually download the file from the link he provides since either my script blocker is preventing the inline video from playing or the inline video is just broken. Either way, it’s totally worth it.

Man of the Match

I wanted to give Man of the Match to Almunia because, I reasoned, keepers get to shine during penalty shootouts and since we won on penalties you have to give the nod to Almunia. If you add in that he made a game saving finger-tip save, it seemed a lock for the big fella to get the champagne.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the whole team shined in that shootout last night. Eduardo had missed the first penalty and, like a foil for the game itself, the team had to overcome that let down and just put in a solid bit of work. Which they did, one after the other, 7 in a row.

7 in a row!

These are kids! I mean, Theo has never taken a penalty before and yet he stuck it like a pro. But even singling Theo out is unfair because each one of these players, down the line, stood up for each other, and just did what they were asked.

In the end, it took 7 teammates to win that match, so I’m giving the whole team Man of the Match.

Match Reports

All the match reports I’ve read tell it like it was, which is to say, a rather shitty game. After Roma scored both teams seemed to have let off the gas a bit and the match became 120 minutes of not allowing the opponent to score.

That said, as I sat there watching Roma play defense and Arsenal try to play offense the one thing that stood out was Roma was wasting time — at the 60th minute. I can’t remember their names but there were several times that an Arsenal player would put in a good tackle and the Roma player would go to ground, and start rolling around feigning injury. Then the f*cking stretcher would come out and take this guy off the pitch only to have him pop right back up and be ready to come on right away.

I know that the carrot colored c*nt Spalletti said they were going to have a “cautious” approach but I didn’t expect them to be playing for penalties at the 60th minute. Was that really the game plan? Get a goal and then sit back and go to penalties?  Strange.

And the goal… *sigh* Totti plays in a cross, Gallas pokes and misses, Toure pokes and misses and the ball rolls through 7 more pairs of legs and slowly  comes to Juan, who is sitting on the edge of the box, skimming through his copy of Ivanhoe. Juan kind of looks around, saves his place in the book, takes a little touch, and calmly puts the ball in the net. Gross. Infuriating. Sickening.

In the end, that goal didn’t matter though.

Hell, in the end, nothing mattered; not Roma’s “game plan” (whatever that was), not Arsenal’s poor performance, not the one squandered chance that Eboue played in to Bendtner, not Totti’s leg brace, not the dive in the box, and not even Eduardo’s soft penalty kick… nothing mattered.

Because in the end, a collection of kids stood shoulder to shoulder and calmly put in 7 penalties in a row.

That’s all that mattered.

Conclusion

It almost doesn’t matter who we get paired with in the next round (who wants to bet that we get Barcelona?), or that Arsenal host Blackburn on Saturday, and Hull Shitty on Tuesday. Because as I watched the boys celebrate it occurred to me that they may have reached a moment in this most difficult of seasons that the team came together and gutted out a performance, as a team.

So, whatever happens from here on out, I’m hopeful that they can take that moment where they stood shoulder to shoulder and put 7 penalties in as a team, take that forward and build on it. No matter what else happens this season, they will always have Rome and I’d love to see them capitalize on that.

Our density has brought us to this point. I mean, destiny.

In the land of the blind, the one one eyed man is king

Despite plane troubles that nixed the pre-match press conference, Wenger found a way to get out to press a good ole fashioned pep-talk, saying that the destiny of the team is in their hands and that he wants the boys to be rewarded for all their hard work and that he’s personally going to buy them all a pony when they get back to London, if they beat Roma.

Sounding a familiar refrain, he said:

You judge a season at the end of the season and it’s down to us in the coming months to show that we have the necessary quality and that people were too quick to write us off.

Sorry, but I don’t recall any “writing off” of this team. I do recall “slagging off” after shiatty performances but that is perfectly natural and something I think the boss and his creche of players would do well to take on board rather than dismiss out of hand with broad statements like “we have been written off” and “judge us at the end of the season.” Fans, ‘fanatics’ who love the club, are going to judge and be pissed off when they spend $1000 to fly to London to watch Arsenal take on a team of Tottenham rejects and put in a performance that was literally a somniferant to at least one other spectator.

I can’t possibly speak for everyone but I’m fairly certain that what we all want to see is a team that is progressing from year to year. Getting better, challenging for awards, give the fans something to celebrate, and for 3/4 of this season, this was a club that looked more like it was digressing rather than progressing. Yes, Wenger and The Young Ones have turned that around a bit with this current run of form and Arsenal are finally closer to 4th place than 6th. They are also a hound’s tooth away from the Champions League 1/4 finals and still playing catch-up with the rest of the league in the FA Cup.

Huzzah, keep up the good work, but could you all please do us a favor and stop pointing the finger outward for once? Take some responsibility for this mess?

If we have been critical it’s because the team has put in a lot of gormless performances and the manager has refused to bolster key positions that he even admitted that the team needed. Frankly, it’s patently disingenuous to say “oh well, you shouldn’t have written us off” before you win anything. It’s almost as if he’s gloating, like he’s saying “I told you not to write us off” — dude, beating Burnley and West Brom is hardly setting the world on fire. It was only two weeks ago that Arsenal let Fulham, FULHAM, overrun our midfield. So, maybe save the gloating for when you win the Champions League, you know, at the end of the season, when we’re all supposed to judge you?

For me, the worst part of what he’s doing is that by blaming those of us who have been critical, it absolves the team of their responsibility. And in this match today this team will be held accountable by Roma. Roma have watched the Fulham and Sunderland match tapes and they are saying that they are going to be “cautious” and “patient” which translates into “defensive” and “stealing goals on the counter.” Arsenal will need to be at the top of their game and not let off for one second — this is a Champions League game, there’s no do overs.

Fortunately, one characteristic of this team is that they do show up for big matches and if they play the way they did two weeks ago, if Denilson and Song can scratch out a huge performance in the middle again, and if Arsenal can take the chances we are given, I have no doubt that they will beat Roma.

This team has the quality to beat Roma but it’s not about the quality, it’s about the desire. We’ll find out if they have the desire tonight.