Quickie

I have to take the ladies to the airport this morning so this is going to be a quick blog. I suppose you could just read my google reader links (see the toolbar on the side) but this is so much more fun!

First up, Marcos Senna — who is supposedly NOT playing tomorrow, has decided to take a swipe at Arsenal and Adebayor.

Adebayor didn’t impress me. I have scored more beautiful goals that that one. At my age and with everything I have seen in football, it is difficult to find a player who impresses me. Adebayor is a good player but you cannot say he is a superstar yet – he still has a long way to go before he reaches what Henry did for Arsenal.

No argument about comparing Ade to Henry from me. They aren’t the same player at all. The only thing I would say is that if Marcos Senna is underwhelmed by Ade, he should check out a match with Bendtner leading the line.

Also, I love the idea of Senna saying he’s scored a goal of Adebayor’s equal.

Not wanting to leave the rest of the Arsenal team without scrutiny Senna went on to say:

Arsenal have a very good, strong team, but they have not peaked yet, they are going to be better next year and better still the year after next, and will have a very strong team who could dominate in England or in Europe. It is not that they are easy to play now. You can see the potential, the talent and the quality they possess, but they are still growing. They lack a bit of experience, which is why they are behind Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea.

F5ck You, SENNA!!!>?!&&! How dare you talk about Arsenal in such an even handed and intelligent way???!?!?!

Wenger, meanwhile, is still a true believer having never lost his faith in this team. More details from Wenger’s were released on the dot com and I especially like the quote where he supposedly spoke to a fan.

I remember winning at Chelsea this year. When I left the stadium, this bloke came to me at the end and said ‘I am an Arsenal fan, good game, but I don’t think we are going to win the league with such a team!’ I told him: ‘You are not an Arsenal fan. You have just seen some 20-21-year-old kids in midfield beating the likes of Ballack, Lampard, Drogba and Anelka! Haven’t you got anything less negative to say?’ It is unbelievable that, nowadays, you can’t cheat people on the quality of football but you can manipulate their opinion.

Hey, I’ve heard that comeback “you’re not a real Arsenal fan” before. I wonder what it feels like to be a “true” Arsenal supporter? I guess I’ll never know.

Anyway, that’s your lot, time to take the girls to the airport. See you tomorrow for the surprise news that Senna is fully fit.

Bring 'em on

My whole family has been sick now for, what, two months? UGH… Now we have some sore throat thing which I have caught and the whole house is either on antibiotics or just suffering. Coincidentally, Arsenal’s luck of late has been exactly the opposite.

Anyway, there’s an article about Andrei Arshavin that’s being touted as “ARSHAVIN HATES ENGLAND” but it’s really not.  He complains a bit about life in England but who wouldn’t complain if they were taken from their family and living in a strange country with strange customs? My favorite bit is where he admits that all the laws in England get him down, because in Russia he’d just bribe someone and get stuff done. It’s a pretty remarkable bit of honesty and just makes me like the guy even more.

Meanwhile, Wenger is practicing honesty too and basically has gone about spilling his guts over this season. You can read several articles on the dot com (why they didn’t just make one big article, I don’t know) or read the News of the World article I linked to yesterday, which my friend Alex says is actually an interview with L’Equipe. I couldn’t find a link to the original but some web site called Bleacher Report had a link to a page image.

Ok, well, Arsenal face Villareal on Wednesday and the match is only on ESPN Deportes or Setanta. I have a meeting at noon on Wednesday, so I will only be able to watch the second half, if any at all. Villareal are still claiming that Senna is injured but I’m skeptical about it. Basically, I’m not believing any injury news until I see the lineup on Wednesday. I know, I know, it’s a bit paranoid of me, so?

That’s it for today, I’m going to get some sleep and write some code, then some sleep, and then some code. See you tomorrow.

Wigan 1-4 Arsenal; Resurrection

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way. – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Yesterday’s match was not a Tale of Two Halves; if you were going to make that analogy it was more like a Tale of Three Thirds with Wigan dominating the first 60 minutes, Arsenal getting a glimmer of hope through some brilliant play at the 60th minute, cutting Wigan apart for 20 minutes and then pouring salt on the wound at the death.

So, I didn’t see it as a Tale of Two Halves, rather, to borrow one of the other major themes from Dickens’ novel, it was Arsenal resurrected. There is no question, Arsenal were dead for 60 minutes. The only question left to be answered was how far down Wigan was going to bury them.

In that first 60 minutes, Wigan dominated play by denying Arsenal space to work their intricate passes. It is a strategy that has worked so well for clubs earlier in the season and Wigan was so good at it that even Arsenal’s saviour, Arshavin, was essentially marked out of the game for 60 minutes. Credit to Steve Bruce and his Wigan team, they put in the kind of hard work and industry that usually guarantees a point against Arsenal; and they did it relatively cleanly.

In fact, in the first half it was Arsenal who were more guilty of dirty play. With Gael Clichy out, a very young, very inexperienced Kieran Gibbs was thrust in to battle and had the exact type of game one would expect; inconsistent. At the end of the day, though, it wasn’t the sloppy headers and brilliant clearances (he nearly cost us on several occassions; he certainly saved us on several occassions) that people will be talking about, it will be the yellow card.

I don’t know what Alan Wiley saw that caused him to produce just a yellow but it was a straight red in my book. Gibbs was the last man, had Valencia on his back and rightly headed the ball back to the keeper. The problem was that he didn’t put enough power into the header. Valencia recognized the error and essentially swam over Gibbs, got in front, and then when he felt Gibbs’ inevitable contact, went straight to ground.  I’m not saying Gibbs didn’t foul Valencia, rather, just searching for a reason why he didn’t get a red card. Maybe it was the contact by Valencia or the ease with which he went to ground but something caused Wiley to just produce a yellow.

Had he sent Gibbs off, the game, and Arsenal’s season, would have been very different. Imagine the next few games with Silvestre at left back and Song in the center, that’s what would have happened had Gibbs gotten the straight red that most people felt he deserved.

As it was, the ensuing free kick hit the woodwork and rather than burying Arsenal completely, and if you count the let off of getting just a yellow it very well could have been the moment of the season. Rather than going into the half down 2 (or 3) goals and down a man, Arsenal were just down one goal.

After 10 minutes of the second half, Arsenal still looked like a dead team. Wenger had abandoned the 4-2-3-1 in favor of a more defensive formation with Cesc providing the cover for the Arsenal cover. Moving Cesc back actually opened things up a bit for Arshavin and Walcott but I honestly didn’t think they were going to slice open Wigan at any point in those 10 minutes. Any chances that Arsenal made inevitably went to Bendtner who’s profligacy of late ensured that headers were more likely to go out of touch than to find the back of the net.

Of course, it’s always at our lowest moments, when the patient seems most beyond repair that this Arsenal team seems to be “recalled to life.” And so it was that Fabianski’s free kick was flicked on by Bendtner, fell to Theo, who expertly dribbled past his man and passed to Arshavin. Arshavin was hauled down, but rather than roll around looking for a penalty, he kept playing, and flicked a lovely little pass to Theo who plumb put the ball in the side netting.

Arshavin. How wrong I have been about him. As he was engineering his escape from dreadful racists Zenit I admit that I made the mistake of underestimating this guy’s character. I kinda felt like he was just another example of spoiled footballers, when in reality he just wanted to get a chance to play at the top level.  And while I don’t want to rush out and buy him a Valentine’s card just yet, I really do love his work rate, his desire to win, and all the positive things he says about the club. And though I complained about the tranfer fee, I’m admitting now that £15m is looking like another Arsene Wenger bargain because this guy has the ability to lift a team from the ashes, like he did yesterday. No matter how much I want to give Man of the Match to Song, I have to give it to Arshavin. That first goal was just so crucial to pulling Arsenal out of the muck.

After that first goal, the conclusion was always inevitable: Arsenal weren’t the same, dead, team that Wigan was eating for lunch. They were alive with sparkle and flair.

Just as the equalizer lifted the team, Arsene went for the jugular and threw Adebayor and van Persie on.Those two immediately opened Wigan up and provided a huge lift.  Though it was Silvestre who was the beneficiary of a set play between Arshavin and Cesc, it was the threat of Ade and van Persie who made Wigan tremble. And though most people will point to horrible defending, in the end, Ade provided link play that led to the final two goals.

4-1 to the Arsenal and most pundits are claiming that the score-line flattered Arsenal, but I’m not so sure. I think that this Arsenal team will always fight back and though they might not link up perfectly, and passes might go astray, they will never take their foot off the pedal like they did against Man City back in November.

I just read a wonderfully frank interview with Arsene Wenger in which he talks about the character of this team and speaks about the mistakes he made this year and last. It’s hard to pull just one or two quotes about but I do want to leave you with just a few thoughts. First, Wenger points at Rome as the turning point of this season, saying

When I look at that match, we are away from home and missed the first penalty. We had kids taking the penalties, yet still managed to win. There is a key moment in all stories and Rome was ours.

We were not losing before, but we weren’t convincing. Since Rome, we are scoring again and we are better linking up as a team.

In a way, that quote exemplifies Saturday’s match as well: they were down a goal, Djourou was taken off injured, they had a mere child playing at left back, and yet, they still managed to win. 4-1 flattering? not for this Arsenal team.

And finally, in case anyone questions what Arsene is doing (I’m guilty of this) , whether he has “lost the plot” and for all those people who publicly called for Arsene Wenger to be fired I just want you to know that Wenger’s response is

I am not running after personal glory. Everything I do is for the club, the players and the supporters.

It’s not that he’s inflexible, it’s that he just deeply believes in these players. It’s not that he’s unaware of what’s going on, it’s that he wants players like Song and Djourou to grow and make a name for themselves. It’s not that this Arsenal team sucked in those first 60 minutes, it’s just that they hadn’t quite clicked yet.

But when they did click, it was a sight to behold.

4-1 to the Arsenal, and next up is Villareal on Wendnesday who are potentially going to be without midfield dynamo Marcos Senna.  Right now? Even if they do get Senna back, I’m not worried. After all, this is an Arsenal team that has been to the edge and just blindly lept into that void. What’s come out is remarkable, and deserves crediteven if they don’t win anything.

Which they will.