"Don't travel alone"

3,400 Arsenal supporters are descending on Rome in order to sit in the cavernous Stadio Olimpico and watch Roma and Arsenal finish their Champions League tie. It should be a good day out and a lovely trip to a wonderful old city, but for those 3,400 Gooners as they lay their heads to rest tonight, scenes of stabbings and police brutality have to be dancing in their heads.

The club have taken steps to warn Arsenal supporters where they should and shouldn’t travel, to remind them to travel in groups, and that they are ambassadors of the club. Combined with the fact that Arsenal supporters, generally, aren’t known for their hooliganism and I expect (knock on wood) that everything should go smoothly tomorrow.

But it is a bit unsettling to have the club remind the supporters that the Rome police and Roma “Ultras” have a long history of being complete twats. The Roma players aren’t doing anything to help the situation, rather they are inciting their supporters to turn the Stadio Olimpico into a cauldron. I suppose they need all the help they can get with all the injuries to the team. Totti has supposedly found fitness but Daniele De Rossi is still suspended, Perrotta and Cicinho are injured, and Panucci is being benched for a fracas with the boss over playing time — you want more playing time? I got your playing time right here!

If Arsenal do go through I suspect that the story from the Giallorossi will be “boo hoo, look at all our injuries” despite the fact that Arsenal are the ones who have been devastated by injury this season. No matter, you go to war with the army you have not the army you wish you had, according to Donald Rumsfield, and the Army we have is gaining fitness quick.

Toure has been included for the trip and the boss has said he will pick from “two of three” in Gallas, Toure, and Djourou for the central pairing.  Nasri and Denilson are back in the first team after being rested against Burnley and even some dude named Silvestre is gaining fitness, though he hasn’t been included for the trip because, erm, “he only returned to training on Monday.”

No word on whether Diaby picked up an injury which means that he’ll probably be fit for the match, and similarly the press are quiet on van Persie, so fingers crossed that those two are available. Pairing them in attack and providing some width, pace, and goal scoring acumen the boss has indicated that Theo and Eduardo will make the trip. No word yet on Vela, but after his goal on Sunday, the boss would be mad not to take him.

As you all know, Cesc and Rosicky are still out, despite my optimism that Cesc would be back for this match. Oh well, I can’t be right about everything! Also, Arshavin is out because he played in some Champions League qualifying match last year — which makes sense really (sarcasm).

Historically, Wenger plays a 4-5-1 in these matches and I don’t think that’s going to change tomorrow. Expect to see van Persie alone up front, Nasri and Eboue on the wings, and a central midfield of Denilson, Diaby, and Song. At the back Toure will captain the side and partner with Gallas, while Clichy and Sagna will be playing at wing-back. Of course, Future England Number One will be in the net.

Depending on the score line we could see Theo get battered and deep fried around the 60th minute and if we get truly desperate (down 2-0) I suspect Arsene will throw on Eduardo and Bendtner. Or maybe Eduardo, then Theo, then Bendtner, I really don’t know and it all depends on the flow of the game.

Right, all that’s at stake here is a 17 match unbeaten run and some £10m — no pressure! Seriously, though, Arsenal have a 1-0 advantage and any goal they put in at the Stadio Olimpico adds to that advantage. As it stands, a 1-0 Roma win adds extra time, a 2-0 Roma win means they go through outright, and a 2-1 Roma win means Arsenal progress on the away goals rule. I rather like those odds.

The match is live at noon on Setanta and Doyle’s is graciously showing the match. Now, I say “noon,” however, owing to the fact that George W. Bush f*cked up everything about America, including our clocks, we are now out of sync with the rest of the world and instead of PST being -8 GMT, it’s right now -7 GMT. Arsenal.com puts kickoff at 19:45 GMT which is actually 12:45 PST and given Setanta’s penchant for pre-match pontificating puppets I strongly suspect actual kickoff is 12:45 local time. So, unless you like puppets making bad jokes, I’d show up at 12:30.

Clear?

See you tomorrow!

Song 3-0 Burnley; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal cruised into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over Championship side Burnley at Emirates Stadium.

Setanta.com: Arsenal v. Burnley stats and ratings (linked for the fact they gave Eduardo the highest rating and all the comments are pro-Song!)

Telegraph: Try telling Eduardo the FA Cup has lost its romance. Even the swathes of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium could not detract from one of the season’s most emotive plot-lines: the road to Wembley has become a highway of healing for Eduardo.

Match Video

The Arsenalist has all the goals and highlights of Song v. Burnley — please click his sponsors or he will relapse.

Also, the Telegraph somehow put up a YouTube video of just Eduardo’s salsa/beach/stunner/cheeky goal it’s decent quality and I’m sure it will be taken down almost as soon as I link to it.

Falstaff of the Match

Eboue… no wait… Gallas… no wait… Song. Yes, it has to be Song. How well did he do? Pretty damn well actually. He hit 87% of his passes, had two assists, and even tracked back a couple times to make important saves.

It was a job well done and now he gets to take a couple weeks off.

Romeo and Ethel, the pirate’s daughter

Arsenal have now gone 17 in a row without a loss, have only allowed 1 goal in the last 8 matches, and scored 11 goals in those same 8; I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal are on a run.

More importantly, they are doing this without some of their biggest names, scrapping out 0-0 draws and banging in 3-0 wins is no mean feat when a team is missing key people like Cesc and Adebayor. In retrospect, some of us bloggers could have been a bit more circumspect in our criticism of the squad. They are gelling nicely and now that some key players like Eduardo and Theo are making their way back into the squad we are doing more than just holding on; Arsenal are scoring goals and finishing off their opponents with aplomb.

When Arsene signed Arshavin, most of us were clamoring to get a serious defensive midfielder and get rid of this on the job training program for Song and Denilson. But it turns out that creativity up front is exactly what Arsenal needed because that’s exactly what is opening opponents up, getting us out front, and from then on the game comes easy.

It was no surprise to me that Arshavin was the player who provided the ball for the opening goal. While he clearly lacks match fitness (fingers crossed this doesn’t lead to injury) this kid has vision, awareness, creativity, and the talent to put in the right ball. And though I think he’s leaning on his touch and creativity to make up for the fact that he’s running on one lung, it’s working and that’s all that matters. Arshavin, it turns out, was probably the perfect signing for this team.

This isn’t to take anything away from Carlos Vela! What a goal off that Arshavin pass! The youngster had blown a couple of chances in previous games and that goal was exactly what he needed to regain some confidence.

That said, I would expect a player like Vela to score audacious goals when he’s got a guy like Eduardo on the squad who is showing him the way. I mean, how does Eduardo even conceive to score a goal like yesterday’s stunner much less have the body control and touch to pull it off? Lots of people think that the reason Arsenal didn’t win the league last year was because we missed Eduardo. On the basis of yesterday’s goal, I’d have to agree.

And finally, Eboue (who’s name is no longer a curse) what can I say but good job, and keep up the hard work. After the match Arsene said “Usually when he (Eboue) gets in front of goal he loses his composure. I believe he needed that.” I would say that what makes Eboue frustrating is that he loses his composure all over the pitch, not just in front of goal. Maybe a goal is what he needed to gain some composure all over the pitch?

My own private Idaho

In the next round, Arsenal get to face Hull at home on the 17th, which if they win, sends us in to Wembley to face Chelsea for the semi-final.  We don’t want to look too far ahead, one game at a time and all that, but I am excited by the thought of this young team getting Cesc back and exacting some revenge on Chelsea for, I dunno, the Carling Cup final two years ago? Uhhh…. The fact that we beat them already this year? I dunno, but I want some revenge!

Also, if you’re planning a trip over to see Arsenal, check the fixtures list first, there’s a ton of matches coming up and some of the league play matches will be moved to accommodate the FA Cup and Champions League.

10 things I hate about Song

Slow, sideways passing, lazy, lacks vision, doesn’t close down opponents, lacks defensive awareness, one footed, can’t tackle, poor in the air, and not a team player.

Song has played 33 matches in all competitions for Arsenal this season and many of those matches have featured this player performing spectacularly poor. His performance in the North London derby will always be a black mark for me. Introduced in the 87th minute, in order to bolster the midfield, he instead lumbered around the pitch lost for two minutes as his marker (Jenas) dribbles around him and scores the goal that gave them belief. Fucking Jenas… outplayed by a polished turd like Jenas.

So, pardon me while I don’t jump on the bandwagon here quite yet. I’ve watched him very closely for 33 matches and while he’s had some decent performances, by and large he’s stunk the joint up and one good match against a Championship team that seemed to have given up after the first goal can’t erase the memory of 20 some odd real stinkers.

And yes, for the record, I am aware of the fact that he’s 1 inch taller than Denilson.

The Tempest

I’m only sorta kidding about the whole “now you get to take a couple weeks off thing.” It seems like every time I speak well of one of either Denilson or Song they come back in the next few matches and put in the kind of gormless performance that drives us all crazy. I’m really hoping this doesn’t happen because up next is Roma, in Rome, for the right to move on in the Champions League. Even if Totti, de Rossi, Perrotta, Cicinho, and Pizzaro are all out, Arsenal need a strong midfield pair to control the match.

I’m picking Diaby and Denilson as the strongest midfield pairing right now. In fact, I’m picking anyone plus Diaby as the strongest midfield pairing. Just look at the last 4 matches. Each time Diaby is either included from the start or introduced Arsenal look brighter on offense and stronger in defense. Against W.B.A. when he was introduced at half-time (and the Song/Denilson pair broken up) though they didn’t score, Arsenal looked real quality in attack and defense and went on to win 3-1.

That match happens on Wednesday and is currently not scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN here in the states, which means Setanta and Doyle’s.

Kickoff for that match is 12:45 PST and I’ll have a fuller match preview on Tuesday.

For now, we get to bask in the glory of a 3-0 win, Arsenal showing some real class, and several key Arsenal players coming back in to the squad providing fresh legs for what Wenger calls “the sprint” here at the end of the season. Arsenal are still alive in the Champions League, doing very well in the FA Cup, and just 3 points off 4th place Villa. So, despite some negative feelings hanging over about the team and our performances up till this point Arsenal are in a really good position to win a trophy for the first time in 4 years and silence many of us critics.

Hang on to your hats, kickers, it’s going to be a crazy run in.

Arsenal v. Burnley; liveblogging the FA Cup 5th round

bertie-bee

Good morning kickers, t-minus 10 minutes until kickoff and nothing to report. Just sitting here watching footballing fraud Gordon Ramsey take the piss out of a bunch of butchers.

More coffee needed!

Uhhhh, strange lineup: Eduardo up front (YAY!) and Diaby and Song partner in the middle.

Oh and Eb*ue on the right.

How much you want to bet Eb*ue gets a straight red?

2′ — Chris Eagles put’s in a nice cross defended sufficiently by Arsenal.

4′ — The camera pans to the Boss and I have to say Wenger looks tired, and old. This season seems to have taken a lot out of the man.

6′ — !!! Song makes a critical tackle as Burnley nearly break into the box. It was a stab at the ball, lazy tackling, and I thought for sure it was going to be a penalty but Song got the tackle 100% right. WHEW

9′ — Sagna has an audacious shot on goal, though to hear the announcers it was a cross. I’m giving benefit of the doubt to Sagna there.

12′ — Eb*ue earns a free kick and Captain Dudu puts in a decent effort from long range, just needed a touch from Vela and that was a goal.

13′ — Another important save by Song, man, he’d be great in the League Championship.

20′ — Arshavin dribbles from shoulder to shoulder and plays in a ball to Vela. I was hoping he saw just a glimmer of space and had a shot but as it turns out, Vela was wide open but the ball was played too hard and the attack fizzles out. Grumblings in the stands…. hmmm…

24′ — Just as the announcers were blowing smoke rings up Burnley’s ass, the Burnley defense makes a mistake, Arshavin latches on to it and plays a good ball in for Vela who nutmegs the defender and chips in a beauty over the sprawling keeper. Brilliant “Arsenal” goal.

30′ — The announcers mention the condition of the pitch, did you know that Arsenal lost thier head groundsman to Real Madrid? It’s true.

32′ — Am I the only one who thinks Diaby is putting in one of his typically lazy performances?

36′ — Loads of possession for Arsenal which was starting to lul me to sleep before Eduardo put in a good ball that nearly fell to Vela for his second. I wouldn’t have thought that the Vela/Dudu combo would be particularly effective but they seem to compliment each other nicely.

40′ — the stands clear out as everyone goes for a beer. I hadn’t noticed that about Eb*ue, Darkhail, I’ll have to watch. Arshavin with a third poor corner. Gods, Arsenal suck at corners, even Arsaviour cannot get them right all the sudden.

44′ — Burnley misses a golden chance as Fabianski comes for the ball and makes a hash of it. Every corner is aimed at Eduardo. A little bit more creativity there would probably result in another goal.

End of the first half and I do have to give credit to Burnley, they are attacking a bit more that I expected, clearly Arsenal’s latest results left the Burnley boss thinking they could come in to Emirates and get a result. Frankly, though, Arsenal don’t look likely to conceed unless they make another huge gaffe.

All right, 10 minutes of Hooters commercials and we’ll resume this.

Gorm, it’s not Eb*ue’s heart, it’s his head. He’d certainly be one of the fan favorites if he wasn’t clearly mental.

46′ — Second half kicks off and I choose Adebayor over Drogba. Because Adebayor is crazy but I could never see him giving fans the finger and tossing coins back into the crowd.

48′ — Beer and a “brat” is £7 and I’m pretty sure that it’s a no-drinks-zone in the stands.

49′ — THEO THEO THEO! The supporters are staying on the concourse and I don’t really blame them, it’s snowing.

51′ — I was just sitting here thinking, “Song has at least been trying to get the ball forward for once” when he suddenly plays a ball in to Eduardo who puts in one of the prettiest finishes I’ve ever seen from an Arsenal player, cheeky little volley. Lovely stuff.

Pure class.

Dudu is the shit.

55′ — 5 minutes for Arsaviour to get a goal. He hasn’t really looked threatening but still, comeonandreicomeonandreicomeonandrei

60′ — Burnley makes some subs, yawn. Which team are you going to see Matt?

63′ — Yeah, Matt, I’m not too excited that Wenger is leaving Eduardo, Diaby, and Arshavin on, all of them are struggling at the moment. Diaby in particular looks like he’s about to collapse. Either that or he’s back to just not caring.

67′ — words, eaten, as Diaby makes an important run back to stop the Burley counter after Gibbs gives the ball away. Theo and Rambo set to come on. Matt, Citeh, ‘Boro, and Stoke, those are the choices.

72′ — THEO THEO THEO!

78′ — Uhhh, the commentators are giving Theo shit for not being a good finisher. Come on, this is his first game back after the injury.

83′ — Poor decision from the linesman there… LOL EBOUE!!!

85′ — Aveline is crying, I gotta help out, I’ll remark if something good happens.

All right ladies and gents, good win, fun match to watch and next up in the FA Cup is Revenge of the Hull. More importantly it’s a great way to kick off Wednesday’s match against Roma.

I’ve got to get ready for 5 a side so I’m out of here.  Have fun out there today kids!