Nobody told me there'd be days like these

That's SIR Ted to you, son. Now, where'd I put that alcohol related joke?

That's SIR Ted to you, son. Now, where'd I put that alcohol related joke?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… Sir Edward Kennedy! That’s right, the Queen and Gordon Brown have conspired to give Teddy an honorary knighthood for all his work in Northern Ireland, in bringing health care to America, and.. um… bringing educations to the childrens. Huzzah!

But then in a cruel twist of fate, it turns out we’re not allowed to call him “Sir” because only British people can be called “Sir.”

WTF?

So you make him a knight and then you’re all “oh but no calling him Sir” even though your own Prime Minister called him Sir Edward Kennedy? What was it, Sir for the day?

I’m sorry, but you gave him the title and I’m calling him Sir. If I have to call some horrible c*nt like Alex Ferguson “Sir” then I’m sure as hell calling lovable lush Ted Kennedy “Sir.” Besides, I earned that right when someone else’s forefathers kicked someone else’s forefathers British asses! I remember it from High School History, ‘Merica broke away from King George because we wanted lots of taxation, guns, free speech, no-knock searches, the price of tea in China, we were tired of being forced to house British troops, and we wanted the right to call each other Sir if we so choose. It’s in the constitution, it’s the 14th amendment, I think.

While all this Sir-a-baloo was going on Arsenal got handed a leg up in the race for our fourth place birthright when Man City conspired to beat Aston Villa 2-0. Am I the only one who thinks “Man City” is funny? Like maybe San Francisco should change its name to “Man City?”Anyway, erm, yes, Citeh beat Villa 2-0 and it sure looks like Villa is collapsing. Huzzah!

Yesterday’s collapse signaled all the “told you so” folks to prepare their long winded speeches about how us doom and gloomers were wrong and how they are always right and how we need to stand by our man (Wenger). Start prepping boys, I want some real fire and brimstone from you lot.

I’ll admit that it is a spectacular collapse and as I said nearly three weeks ago Einstürzende Aston Villa has a bit of a rough patch coming up schedule wise — facing all the other top teams in the next few weeks — while Arsenal has a bit of an easy patch coming up. In their next four matches Einstürzende Aston Villa face a resurgent and hungry Tottenham, Liverpool at fortress Anfield, Man U at Old Trafford, and an angry Everton. Arsenal on the other hand face Blackburn, Newcastle, Citeh, and Wigan.  Arsenal are on  a 14 match unbeaten run, Villa have taken just 5 points from their last 5 matches. Anything could happen but I have to think that Arsenal’s luck is about to change and that 3 point difference is about to be erased. Huzzah!

It doesn’t hurt that Sir Theo Walcott and Sir Eduardo might be fit enough to play against Burnley on Sunday and thereafter provide Arsene with some much needed depth and pace in attack. Just having the option to put Theo on rather than Eb*ue is enough to get me all excited about the run in to the end of the season.

In other injury news, Toure is being ruled out for Sunday but Gallas is being ruled in. Adebayor is out for another two matches. Cesc isn’t being touted as coming back any time soon (how much you wanna bet he’s a surprise inclusion for the Roma match?) and Rosicky has dropped off the radar completely (April was last word on him). Can’t wait for them all to be healthy and kicking butt in time for our sticky patch in the Premier League. Huzzah!

And finally, I’m not going to rub in the story about Cesc saying if Wenger leaves he leaves, what’s the point? Rather, I’d like to point out that Ashley Cole is the only person in the history of mankind to get arrested for being drunk and disorderly at a charity event.

cashley

Huzzah!

A  knighthood for Sir Teddy Kennedy, Villa close the gap between Arsenal and their 4th place birthright to 3 points, good news on the injury list with Sirs Theo and Eduardo returning, and Ashley Cole getting arrested at a charity event.

Now, if the youngsters can top off the day with a FA Youth Cup win against old rivals Tottenham we can all exclaim Huzzah!

Arsenal Lite 1-3 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Bendtner Bags Brace.

Telegraph.co.uk: Bendtner Ends Arsenal Drought

The Independent: Rampaging Bendtner Leaves Albion Reeling

Match Video

The Arsenalist didn’t put up any match videos today so I hope everything is ok with him. In his absence, you’ll have go to 101 Great Goals, which ought to be renamed 73 Crappy Javascripts 25 Goals and 3 Great Goals.

Man of the Match

I have to swallow my dislike of the player, and put aside my pride, and give MotM to Bendtner. That first trickly, slow-mo, bullshit, lucky-ass goal gifted by Albion’s nightmare defending was so utterly surprising that I sat there with beer in hand, jaw open, and waited for the goal to be called off. There’s no way that the defender could be that poor, the keeper be so out of position, and the ball trickle so slowly across the face of goal and have no one get in front of it. It was simply incredible, a miracle, if you will.

But what sealed man of the match wasn’t the first miraculous goal, but the fact that for the first time in a dog’s year Bendtner received a long pass and struck a good goal on the volley. Normally that’s the kind of shot he’ll put into the upper deck. A second miracle and man of the match.

After the match, the boss released a joint statement with Bendtner and his Father/Agent which read “Nicklas is bigger than Thierry Henry, Jesus, and cigarettes all rolled into one. We expect sainthood following this match because both goals could be considered miracles.”

Seriously, the boss did praise the player after the match and Bendtner did have a good first half, but Wenger hailing him as “improved” is a bit of a stretch. Sure he can score against the Albion’s, Argyle’s, and United’s (Sheffield) of the world but let’s not get carried away; he’s man of the match, but his record this year proves that he’s still crap. In fact, he scored bigger, more important goals against stiffer competition last season, he’s got a long way to go before I’d label him “improved.”

Irregardless, congrats Nicklas, don’t spend all the good will in one place.

The Good

Depending how you look at it, Arsenal have been unbeaten in 16 matches in all competitions in a stretch that goes back to a 2-0 loss to Porto in December or, Arsenal have been unbeaten in 14 league matches in a stretch that goes back to a 3-0 loss to Man City in November. Either way, that streak was kept alive yesterday.

But better than just keeping the streak alive, Arsenal scored! I can’t tell you how stoked I am that Arsenal scored 3 goals.

10 matches left in the league and Arsenal have a really easy schedule coming up. If they continue playing like yesterday against these lower teams and are able to eek out draws (or better) against Liverpool, Chelsea and Man U in April and May we could see the unbeaten run extended to 24 league matches. If that happens, I’m sure we’ll secure 4th. 10 draws won’t do it, mind you, but a good mix of wins and draws will certainly do it.

As for the players, before picking up an undefined “calf” injury Toure had a great match; scoring one and putting in the long ball that Bendtner miracled into the net.

Arshavin was, well, pretty much (aside from Jesus Bendtner) the only player with any class in the Arsenal attack yesterday. His vision, footballing awareness, passing ability, and assuredness with the ball are exactly what this team needs. Further, that ball he put in to Toure from the set play was magnificent and another piece of the Arsenal puzzle that has been missing all season. At least, it feels that way since I haven’t seen a decent ball off a set play for Arsenal all season, much less a ball that was so perfect that even Toure couldn’t screw up the header.  I don’t care who’s on the pitch, Arshavin should be taking every set piece. I say that fully understanding that it’s damn early to be saying something like that and knowing I will incur the wrath of Cesc’s supporters. I don’t care, I’m that excited by the fact that Arsenal scored from a dead ball.

And though no one will agree with me, I have to give honorable mention to Denilson. Denilson had another great match bossing the midfield. He was especially effective after our 4th striker, Song, was moved from the attacking midfield position to cover for Toure. I know none of you like him but he did get an assist, had a 95% completion rate on an astonishing 65 passes, and won 6 challenges. He was Arsenal’s water carrier yesterday, the facts are irrefutable.

The Bad

Song.

Song would have been firmly in The Ugly except that when Toure went out, Song deputized well in defense.

Kudos.

This is a player who is completely incapable of making a forward pass, has no positional awareness, cannot make himself available to his teammates, has no touch, can’t dribble, and is the slowest player I’ve ever seen play the game. I bet I could beat him in a foot race and I’m short and fat.

And yet? There he was in the opposition box playing the attacking midfield role. Why in the fuck is that man on the pitch much less past the midfield line?

This player is a black hole on the pitch, sucking the talent off all the other players around him. I can’t wait for anyone else to get healthy and come on for him. Anyone but Song. Well, almost anyone…

The Ugly

UTTER CRAP

This is a guy (pictured above) who is actually worse than Song — and I’m increasingly convinced that he might be actually mentally handicapped. How many times a year do we say “what the hell is he doing???” Fuck year, how many times a match are we saying that?

Yesterday, he was dancing around in the wall when the ref blew the whistle and Brunt saw an opening and put the ball in the back of the net. Does this guy not know how to form a wall? SERIOUSLY???

And if that’s not enough, I have to watch this absurd man, this joke of a player do some kind of choreographed celebration with his teammates after every goal.  Every goal. Just to what, remind us that he’s the clown on the team? Dude, your every touch of the ball is clown-ish I don’t need some “rock-a-bye-baby” celebration to remind me.

Conclusion

*Deep breath*

I apologize for the above rant and I realize I should be more positive; Arsenal won. It’s just that those two guys drove me insane yesterday and more than any other players will weigh heavy on Wenger’s neck if Arsenal are unable to secure 4th place at the end of the year.

That’s a big “if” though at this point: Arsenal have finally put a little pressure on 4th place rivals Villa and we’ll have to see how they respond today against a depleted Man City. A loss here, a bad loss, could be the kind of shock to the system that Arsenal need to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. A good win, a commanding win, could have the opposite effect. So, it could be an important game and it’s live today on Fox Soccer Channel (in the U.S.) which means that I can watch it when I get home tonight. WHEEE!

The next Arsenal match is on Sunday at 6:30am (FA Cup match against Burnley) and that too is live on Fox Soccer Channel so I’ll be staying home and doing the liveblogging thing. Arsenal should have Walcott back healthy by then and he’s supposed to be the first shot over the Premier League bow of Arsenal players regaining fitness in the run up (followed by Eduardo and Adebayor and then Cesc). So, things are looking up, Kickers, a big win by Citeh today could put us on track to get our 4th place birthright back.

UP THE CITEH, UP THE ARSE!

Arsenal lite v. Arsenal, preview.

Just like my doctor, I prefer Camels. For the "T" zone.

Whenever I write these pieces I start by opening pretty much every article from most of the major news outlets that is in any way linked to Arsenal. From there, I weed out the dupes, poke around in the stats bin looking for some fact to dig up* and then settle in to read the articles that interest me.

Usually, I’ll admit, I like to read a little about how Tottenham didn’t practice penalties and I always feel a warm glow inside when I see a story about how David Bentley has hit “rock bottom” but those are icing on the cake. The real meat and potatoes  and glazed carrots with honey, lemon, and butter usually comes from one, maybe two stories.

Before we dig in to all that, I do want to mention that you might see a lot of stories with quotes from Arsene Wenger saying that Arsenal are more dominating than Man U. It’s true, he did say that, but those quotes are being taken out of context — the press are generating a story here because they really have nothing else to report. Wenger gave them very little in the pre-match presser and so they have all latched on to this little piece of the interview in order to bash our Alsatian. The gist of what he’s explaining is that there is just a slight difference between a team that grinds out 1-0 wins and one that gets 0-0 draws. Both teams have solid defense, which he and I and SAF all agree wins championships, but the team that gets the 1-0 win just has a little bit more quality in their finishing, maybe some luck, etc.  I totally agree with him; you look at Man U and Arsenal and you see that Man U just has the quality edge when it comes to finishing. Which is easier to do when you can put £200m worth of strikers on the pitch at any one time.

Which brings me to the meat of today. One of the main criticisms of Wenger is exactly that: certainly he should have seen that Arsenal would need a bit more quality up front, in the middle, and at the back, he didn’t bring that on, isn’t that a sign that we should sack the manager?

Without getting too deep into it, the answer for me and others like Alan Smith is yes and no (it’s a wonderful article and I found Alan Smith to be thoughtful and fair in his assessment of this team). Yes, Wenger is responsible for this mess. Yes, he is infuriating with the talk of Arsenal being “real quality” and all the other equivocations but no he shouldn’t be sacked.

In fact, talk of sacking him is crazy. Just look down the Seven Sister’s Road if you want to see the fruit that that action bears. Sacking Wenger would assuredly clear out the Songs and Eb*ues on the team. But it would simultaneously rid us of the Cescs and van Persies and Wilsheres and Walcotts and all the other players of real quality who have an emotional investment with this man. Right or wrong, that’s a fact: Arsenal have a lot of young men who are dedicated to Wenger. So, canning the manager means a complete rebuilding of this team. Which means a lot more than just one season of us being relegated to 6th place: it means potentially several seasons of mediocrity and a ton of money spent to re-tool.

Let’s stop talking about Wenger being fired. It’s not going to happen this season anyway and as Alan Smith points out, we need to go deep into next season, have some real fan uprising, and lots of match day turnover lost before the board will even consider it.

You may have noticed that I slipped the potatoes in on you there when I said “relegated to 6th place.” That’s because as I was reading the Dot Com interview of the Birmingham Mail’s Chris Lepowski it struck me that there are some crazy similarities between Albion and Arsenal.   Just like Arsenal, Albion were widely hailed last season for their “beautiful football” as they took the Championship by storm. And just like Arsenal they have found themselves exposed this season with “a brittle backbone and a soft centre.”  But it was the next bit that got me thinking, the Arsenal writer of the story said that the “brittle backbone and a soft centre” are “two main ingredients for Premier League relegation” and I suddenly thought, well, aren’t there two Premier Leagues in a sense? The top four and the rest? And haven’t Arsenal also been exposed as having a soft center and, recent run of form aside, a brittle backbone?

Suddenly it all made sense, the supporter’s anger and frustration boiling over; it’s because Arsenal are under threat of being relegated from their division. It’s got all the same implications as relegation out of the top flight (money, players, television, etc) but it’s just on a different scale.

It just went on from there, Albion and Arsenal share so many other similarities such as “Once Albion lose the ball they struggle to win it back,” we saw that against Fulham — which is the main reason I criticized Denilson. Whereas against Roma Denilson won 6 challenges, he could only muster 1 against Murphy and Etuhu (who combined for 9).  Or how about how the fans are turning on each of the managers? Down the line, there are so many things in common it’s not even funny.

That said, I do agree with Chris, that Arsenal have a lot more quality than Albion and I would say that that’s our major difference. Players like van Persie, Nasri, Arshavin, Cesc, etc. are why we’re struggling not to be relegated out of the Champions League and they are struggling not to be relegated out of the Premier League.

The fact remains that these two teams are a bit of a mirror image of one another.

So, today’s game should be a good one: both teams playing open, flowing football, both teams squandering chances in front of goal (I KEED), and both teams fighting against relegation.

I won’t be able to watch it live but the folks at Doyle’s have kindly agreed to tape it for me and I will be able to see the game later in the afternoon. If you plan on coming out late, drop me a line, and let’s watch the match together.

Someone has to keep the faith and keep these boys above the relegation line.

* The press are widely reporting that 4 consecutive 0-0 draws is the Arsenal’s worst run since George Graham was manager but how they are defining “worst” is beyond me. Just last year Arsenal had two consecutive 1-1 draws against Liverpool before being handed a 4-2 loss and exit from the Champions League only to follow that all with a 2-1 loss to Man U and dashed hopes of Premiership glory. That was much worse. In fact, throughout Wenger’s tenure there have been numerous runs of 4 matches that were worse than the last.