All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go

  • Passport
  • Vouchers
  • English money
  • American money
  • England cell phone
  • American cell phone
  • Camera
  • Charger
  • 220 -> 110 adapter
  • 7 pairs of underwear

I could go on but I’ll spare you the gory details. The point is that by 3pm (GMT) Friday I’ll be in London England and that’s the next time you’ll hear from me. In fact, my Friday blog might even be a little late for most Americans because I land at noon (4am PST), go through customs (English customs are much nicer than American) take the train in, get settled, do my research (basically just watch Wenger’s press conference!), and write the blog. In fact, it’ll probably be more like 10am kickoff for my American readers.

From there on out things will go by pretty quickly; Saturday’s blog will be a recap of Friday night in London, Sunday a recap of the Burnley game, Monday a free blog, Tuesday the Porto match preview, and Wednesday will be a quick recap of the Porto match before I fly back to the States.

As for Saturday, several of us are meeting up before the Burnley match and if you want to get in on that action drop me a line using the Contact Me form. Hell, if you’re living in London and you go see Arsenal matches you’ll probably just bump into me in one of the usual places, but you know, some people like to make sure.

I did include a couple of tips for the traveler in my list above; you kinda need two cell phones and you need some foreign currency before you leave. When I was there two years ago I bought a cheap phone and I just get a new chip or “top up” when I get there. It’s cheaper and easier than unlocking your USA phone (or comparable) IF your phone and company will let you.

As for currency exchange, I get some money through Bank of America before I leave. They have the best rates and it’s really simple, I just order some cash online and they deliver it to my local branch. You can use your credit cards over there, though you need to tell the company that you’re going to be in England or they will put a lock on your card after the first transaction, but you have to be careful because each transaction will have a fee from your bank, from their bank, and pretty much everyone else will try to get a hand in on the transaction.  So, while it’s true that you can get a really favorable exchange rate by just using your card over there, the fees can offset that rate pretty quickly. Basically, I use the card just for any big purchases I make or to get more cash.

Anyway, that stuff is boring!

In just a little over two days, I’ll be in the Emirates stadium where supporters are going to unveil a huge banner in honor of Aaron Ramsey. There won’t be a dry eye in the house, I suspect.

Right, signing off now. See you on the other side of the pond.

Burnley Target Arsenal Ankles

Sometimes a story comes along that’s so incredible, so mind numbingly insane that it demands instant comment and today’s quote from Burnley’s boss Brian Laws about how they are going to kick Arsenal off the pitch on Saturday is one of those stories.

Saturday was already going to be a very emotionally charged event. Arsenal’s players have recently come out saying that they are going try to win the league for Aaron after his season was cut short by Ryan Shawcross’ vicious assault. Eboue was the most recent player to publicly state that Arsenal are going to try to beat Burnley for Aaron.

Couple that locker room emotion with the fan tribute to Aaron that is set to be unveiled and Saturday at the Emirates and that stadium could be a real powder keg. It would take a someone absolutely disconnected from reality to be so oblivious to how emotional Arsenal and her supporters are at this moment that they would make a public pronouncement that they are not only going to kick Arsenal in their next match, but that they are going to mistime tackles. That is exactly what Brian “Thicker Than Pig Shit” Laws and his defender Leon Cort did today.

Cort gets stuck in first by saying that Burnley are not going to pull any punches and we should expect plenty of mistimed tackles.

We are going to go there and still throw tackles in because it is a physical game and we are fighting for our lives. I don’t believe anyone goes there to kick them. People know that when they play against Arsenal they have to get in their faces and stop them from playing. Maybe Arsene’s done it for a psychological advantage. Quite a lot of his players are small and move the ball a lot quicker so there are going to be a lot of mis-timed tackles.

What’s fascinating (and what Laws repeats later) is that Cort is admitting that not only are Burnley going to throw a bunch of nasty challenges around, they are going to go in late. Moreover, since Burnley is incapable of playing football this is the only tactic they are capable of employing. And then… he says that it’s not deliberate?

Brian TTPS Laws repeats this odd line of reasoning

We can’t play their system so we have to level it up somehow and that is by working harder than them… People talk about ‘getting in their faces’ and if that is what it takes then that is what we will have to do… I don’t believe any team targets Arsenal. I think he (Wenger) has been hard done-by in losing three players to broken legs in a relatively short space of time. I think he is more angry about that than anything else but I don’t think he can accuse anyone of doing it deliberately.

So, just to re-cap: Burnley have admitted that they are going to kick Arsenal, that they are going to be going in late to challenges, that this is the only way they can play, and that somehow this is not a deliberate targeting of Arsenal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, irony just assploded.

I’m really looking forward to Wenger’s reaction to this crap in his presser. Last week I wrote an article describing which teams I thought would deploy the kick Arsenal tactic and I deliberately left Burnley off the list because in my experience they play open, attacking football, and while they have been strong they have been fair. It seems since Owen Coyle left that they have decided to abandon that tactic are are publicly admitting that they are going to employ agrarian tactics on Saturday in order to “get something from the match.”

The thing is, much like the Stoke match, they will find that kicking Arsenal will not get them anything from the match. Arsenal are just all around too damn good now to be intimidated by a pack of dirty cheats. So, Burnley might as well play open, attacking football, because if they come to kick Arsenal off the pitch they won’t get any more points on the table and another young Arsenal player could be left with a limb hanging.

Hopefully the FA has seen this latest comment and is instructing the referee to make sure that any harsh tackles are dealt with harshly. Otherwise, an already emotional day could turn from hope to tragedy very quickly.

Hong Kong 0-0 Yemen, plus Nigel de Jong breaks Stuart Holden’s leg

Well, the International break is over and so far it looks like Arsenal’s major components have escaped unscathed. Finger’s crossed on that, eh?

Cesc came off at half time in Spain’s 2-0 win over France with Spain in charge and no need to risk their starters further. Bendtner scored a nice little header against Austria and Vela scored a goal against New Zealand but that’s about as exciting as the weekend got for Arsenal’s boys, which is a good thing!

Anyway, check out Bendtner’s goal here:

And Vela, (warning, “goooooooooooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaooooooooooooooaaaaaoooooooool”)

Personally, I was eagerly awaiting the match report for the 0-0 draw between Hong Kong and Yemen. Goal.com has the post match interview with the Yemen manager but I’m still waiting for the match report. Who subbed in, who got called for a foul, who had a shot on goal? I need to know!

While we wait for that match report, there was one bit of controversy last night when Nigel de Jong broke Stuart Holden’s leg in what some are seeing as a similar tackle to Ryan Shawcross’ assault on Aaron Ramsey. There are interesting similarities between the two: de Jong comes in late, high, and hard and it’s one of those tackles where the defender is going in to win the ball but barring that is going to take out the man.

But notice that the ref doesn’t even give a yellow card (edit: he doesn’t seem to give a yellow but de Jong was in fact booked for the challenge and got a yellow) and that for me highlights some interesting problems with refereeing the world over. There seems to be this misconception that intent is the important deciding factor; if the referee was somehow magically able to get into de Jong’s mind and discern that the player intended to injure Holden, well, then everyone (officials and non-officials alike) seem to be of the mind that that’s the only time we need to be up in arms. The problem is that the rule-book doesn’t say anything about intent, it simply says “excessive force” and that excessive force is a red card. How much more force would someone like de Jong have to apply before it’s a red? Breaking Holden’s leg in two?

What’s your take?