Liveblogging Pompey v. Arsenal

Top o’ the morning! Coffee is on. Stan Kroenke is the majority shareholder. Nick Webster is talking about how Arsenal were lucky in the Champions League. All I need is a half dozen Beyonce commercials and I can relax and sinck into the mediocrity that is a Fox Soccer Channel broadcast.

Back in a moment, need more coffee.

Ok, got the old Henry strip on, it’s the 2002-03 “third” kit.

Wait, 2003-2004, invincibles.

Just like old times, Matt! Well, not exactly, because I have a 1 year old daughter who is getting into everything and trying to take the computer from me. And now she’s crying!

Sigh.

Let’s see, some lineup news: Cesc and Adebayor are rested, Song and Djourou are playing in central defense, Arshavin and Theo up front, and a huge hole in the striker position. Here’s the actual lineup: Fabianski, Sagna, Song, Djourou, Eboue, Walcott, Denilson, Ramsey, Arshavin, Bendtner, Vela.

I agree Darkhail, I also like that it looks like a 4-4-2. We haven’t seen that in a dogs age.

Fun fact of the day! Budweiser uses HOPS! I have probably had 1000  Budweisers and have never tasted a hop, so that is news to me.

How many will Andrei score today?

Kickoff: Whenever I see Pompey play, I’m reminded of just how many former Arsenal players they have: Pennant, Campbell, who else is on the pitch?

3′ – Pompey looks like they want some points out of this and have a tame shot that’s easily saved by Fabianski. That’s followed by a lovely move from the Капитан, who plays Walcott in who plays a fizzing cross that no one gets on the end of.

6′ – Walcott plays in Mr. Useless who shoots tamely, and then Pompey comes back and Bel Hadj has a shot. Wow, end to end action, I can hardly type fast enough!

9′ — Fabianski sort of comes out, shades of his gaffes against Chelsea, you’d think he’d have learned by noow: keep your hands in the game, lad.

12′ — Vela is hauled down in the box and that almost certainly should have been given a penalty, but Arsenal score off the resulting corner when Bendtner makes great contact with the ball and David James allows the ball to dribble over the line, showing why Almunia should be England Number One.

16′ — The Капитан now has 6 goals and 5 assists. He may be a bit portly, he may be a bit short, but he’s certainly f*cking amazing.

18′ — Vela will never get another chance like that, not in 1000 years. Wasted opportunity from someone who is normally clinical in his finishing. You have to think if he had played once in the last few months he would have finished that.

22′ — It was a strong header Darkhail, no doubt. Full credit to Bendtner for that.

26′ — Crouch should have scored there, it was a classic give and go that played him in and some schoolboy defending by the makeshift back two.

29′ — Not only was it a cheap yellow, Matt, but then Sagna has a foul called on him as Bel Hadj hits him in the face AND he won the ball.

32′ — Arsenal are all over Pompey, this is more like it, it looks like a training ground exercise.

36′ — Uhhh, that was a clear penalty, what’s his name there stuck out his leg and tripped the Капитан as he was going to goal.

39′ — Uhhh, why do I keep seeing our center back in central midfield? Hey, we get a penalty! I guess that makes up for Pamarot’s tackle a few minutes ago.

40′ — Bendter scores the penalty and is now on a hat trick.

43′ — IT’S A FUCKING PENATLY BECAUSE ARSHAVIN COULD HAVE GOT TO THE BALL HAD THAT CUNT NOT HAULED HIM DOWN. Welcome to English football Капитан, the fans are giving him no end of stick.

47′ — Half-time and Theo is having a bit of a struggle getting off the pitch. I bet he doesn’t come back on. Fran Merida for Walcott?

BACON TIME

Fact of the first half: remember when Arsenal played Man U and I said Aveline had her kit on? Well, mommy (BAD MOMMY) didn’t put it on her and Arsenal lost. Fact: Aveline is wearing the kit and Arsenal have never lost while Aveline is in her kit. Coincidence? I think not.

Pompey increase their former Arsenal-ness and bring on Kanu to start the second half.

48′ — Arsenal are getting the booty end of the stick here from the ref. Maybeline? Again with the schoolboy defending by the Arsenal makeshift back two and John Utaka should have scored there. Arsenal haven’t seen much of the ball in the first 5 minutes of the half here.

53′ — Ye Gods! Pompey are eating our lunch right now! Gary Taphouse and Paul Walsh, for you Matt.

55′ — Oh gods… Pompey have another shot that should have been converted. But then Vela comes back and with a snap shot finishes in the only place that David James couldn’t get to… because he was out of position.

58′ — I’ve discovered the weak link in the second half here: Ramsey. He needs to put in more work, or come off. He’s playing in the central midfield role, for gods’ sake.

62′ — I think back to the blog I wrote that day, Matt, and how I pointed out that we were closer to 6th place than 4th… One day… one minute. It’s been that crazy of a  season.

69′ — Come on, this is game over, Bischoff is on, and Arsenal are in complete control.

77′ — I would totally be outside right now, but for the crappy weather up here. Noe Pamarot is sent off for a foolish challenge on Arshavin. The only story line I’m still looking for is whether the Captain will score, he deserves one for this performance.

83′ — #47 comes on for a listless Ramsey and our player numbers now total 417.

94′ — All done, shame that Eboue didn’t pass the ball back to Arshavin at the death there but oh well, I have seen the future and the future is very bright indeed.

See you all tomorrow!

Friday Pre(i)sser

Bit of a different format today, owing to the deluge of news that always happens on a Friday so let’s get stuck in, shall we?

Injury Update

Eduardo and Silvestre are both out for Saturday. Dudu is being rumored to be out for the rest of the season with his  groin strain while Silvestre will be a late test for Tuesday. I had wondered why Eduardo was such a late sub on Wednesday and I think now it’s clear: he’s never really been fully fit since ‘recovering’ from Martin Taylor’s horrific tackle. And that makes sense. He needs time to get the tendons and muscles back into shape. More rehab, more light practice, rest, recovery, etc. I don’t know a single Gunner who isn’t proud of the courage that Dudu has shown this year and would gladly wait to see him fully fit at the start of next year. Get better Eduardo, we’ll wait.

Robin van Persie is another who’s going to have a late fitness test to see if he can play on Tuesday.  Either way, I doubt he’ll start and instead will need to reprise the super-sub role he played against Cardiff. I know, Man U are not Cardiff, but I mean get a goal, like he did against Cardiff.

Gallas and Rosicky remain out for the season, and the boss is now saying Clichy will be out for three weeks as well. That basically means that Arsenal are without Eduardo, Clichy, Gallas, and Rosicky for the rest of the season.

Fabregate

Cesc has spoken out about the FA charges against him saying that if he should be suspended then 8 others who came on the pitch should be similarly suspended. The FA responded by basically saying, it’s not that you came on the pitch it’s how you acted.

With that said, I am now confident that Fabregas will get a 3 match ban here, the same amount that Martin Taylor got for intentionally breaking Eduardo’s leg.

Because those two things are equivalent.

Maybe next time he should come out and break a player’s leg. At least then he’d deserve the ban.

Transfer News? In April?

The papers are all reporting that Wenger will sell Adebayor and buy Roque Santa Cruz.  The selling point in this story?

Wenger has been an admirer of the 27-year-old for some time. He had Santa Cruz scouted and is particularly impressed by the player’s work-rate after studying his ProZone statistics.

Well, Wenger is a lover of hard work, how do you think Bendtner keeps getting a shot?

Speak of the Devil

Bendtner is featured in this week’s free video on the dot com. A word of warning: clicking that link caused my browser (Firefox) to crash. Actually, that’s about what I’d expect, even Bendtner’s videos suck.

Almunia for England

And finally, the big story of the day is that Fabio Capello would not rule out Almunia should he get an English passport when he becomes eligible in July.  Legally and morally, I don’t see how he could exclude him.

First off, my name is Tim. I’m an American, and I’m a Gooner. I’ve been a Gooner now for 10 years. I’ve seen matches at Highbury and the Emirates and I fly every year to see my beloved Arsenal. I also support France in world competitions, rather than the U.S. team, because, well, because I want to. And so I think I have a bit of a unique perspective on this Almunia situation.

Whether Almunia wants to become an English citizen or not is about choices and not about birthplace. That’s just the way the world is today. The old days of nationalism are dying slowly and people now have more freedom than ever before to choose the country they want to naturalize in. Personally, I’d like to see it be even more open. I have never understood why capital could move freely from one country to another but people were restrained by quaint old notions of borders. So, if Almunia wants to become an English citizen and renounce his eligibility to play for Spain, knowing the stick he’s going to get from xenophobes and nationalists, then I say more power to him.

Moreover, the old notions of “identity” that surrounded certain things, like being a Gooner meant that you were probably from North London, have changed radically as well. Now, you have millions of Americans, Indians, Chinese, Africans, and Spanish devoted to following English teams and thus the identity of English clubs are no longer associated with place. When you have millions of Africans wearing Liverpool shirts and identifying with Steven Gerrard it both takes a bit away from that old identity as “scouser” and adds something new to their identity. Again, you can wring your hands about this, you can jump on the Platini xenophobe bandwagon, and you can scream about how your identity is being taken over by Yanks and the Africans. But unless you are willing to stop broadcasting English games around the globe and shrink the English game back into something provincial and small (something that will never win a world championship) then you’re going to have to deal with the fact that football is a global sport with a global following. And that means that clubs now have global identities. And more radically, that national teams now have global identities.

Other countries have already accepted this change and I have no doubt that Croatian fans love their Brazilian born striker.  It’s time for England to let go of the old, small way of looking at football and join the modern world. And time for fans to embrace their future England Number 1; Manuel Almunia.

Tomorrow’s Match

Right, so that’s it for today. Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 7am (PST) is being broadcast on FSC. I’ll try to do a quick update before kickoff and then do a liveblog of the match. If you’re into that sort of thing, join us here at about 6:30.

See you then!

Man U 1-0 Arsenal; Wenger Still Has Faith

Match Reports

The Telegraph.co.uk: John O’Shea gives Manchester United the advantage

ESPNSoccernet: blah blah blah O’Shea.

Man of the Match

I will be the first to admit that I’m a horrible judge of goal keepers, but even a Dumb American like me could tell that England’s Future #1 had a monster game last night. I mean, even the guys at the Telegraph saw him step up into the rarefied air of a “top four” keeper last night.

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m giving Man of the Match to England’s Future #1, Manuel Almunia.

The Good

Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they are talking about: Arsenal were not just lucky to escape that match 1-0 down, they played their asses off and several key players stepped up huge to keep that scoreline down to 1-0. Moreover, 1-0 is a good result for United but it’s not a devastating result for Arsenal. 2-0? 3-0? The game could have easily gone that way and those results would have been devastating.

United played one of the best games I’ve ever seen them play and they only managed a 1-0 score line. This is a completely surmountable obstacle: 1-0 and penalties or a 2-0 win and we go through. Now that I’ve seen what a fully actualized Man U looks like, I can say that we were always going to have to win a game. So, I like our odds of winning at home in the return leg. Wenger too has confidence

It will be a good opportunity to show our character and our mental strength. I am confident you will see it so I invite you to a press conference next Tuesday after the game, and then you would have seen it.

There is a Final at stake. Don’t worry, when you play at home knowing you could reach a Final, we will be up for it. I am confident because I believe we will be on top next Tuesday and you will see a different Arsenal team.

The one thing I can say for sure about Arsene Wenger is that he is full of faith. Hell, this man has more faith than a priest.

I also want to give a shout out to both Gibbs and Song who both had monster games last night. Gibbs in particular was simply spectacular against what seemed like 18 attacking United players. But in particular, aside from that one shot that rattled the cross-bar, Ronaldo basically was handed a nightmare by the 19 year old.

Unlike Gibbs, who has basically been thrust into the fire and has performed magnificently, Song has grown slowly in his position and is now a nearly complete holding midfielder. Last night he had a great game defending and shielding the midfield, though he looked kind of jaded at the end of the match and I have to wonder if the long haul of the season plus the massive workrate he put in against a hard working Man U hasn’t taken it’s toll. I know that sounds strange because he’s had a good break but I’m struggling to explain why he was so good in the first 70 minutes and so listless in the last 20.

The Bad

OK, so we’re down 1-0 and that’s bad. Draws won’t put us through, even one goal wins don’t put us through. We need a 2 goal win to go into the finals and if United play as hard as they did last night, Arsenal will need to be the Arsenal that beat AC Milan 2-0 to get that win. Which is a tall order because while I think Arsenal played their hearts out yesterday (with some exceptions) they are going to need to both play their hearts out and have the game of their lives.

Ouch.

Now, about those guys who didn’t play hard…. Diaby, I’m looking at you. If you don’t want to play in a Champions League semi-final why don’t you F*CK OFF? More than once Song had to come in and clean up and shield Gibbs after Diaby was seen strolling back up the pitch behind Ronaldo. Ronaldo for f*ck’s sake. Diaby and Walcott both just looked lost in their defensive responsibilities and more than once were dispossessed by Man U while they tried to dribble out of the back 3rd. That shiat needs to be squashed right now: if those two want to play on Tuesday they need to defend from the front for 90 minutes.

And as for Silvestre, well, he had a good game last night and made a few really key defensive plays. So, it’s unfortunate that it was his poorly cleared ball that fell to O’Shea who stuck it home. Frankly, I give the blame for that goal to Toure who both ran toward the ball, rather than marking the back post, and failed to organize his defense properly, because even if he’d have stayed back, it still would have been 3 on 1. Blown defensive plays like that are not going to cut the mustard on Tuesday.

The Ugly

Ok, Wenger, we get it, you have faith. You believe in using Cesc in the support roll in the 4-2-3-1 despite the fact that this plays to all of Cesc’s weaknesses. You believe in using Nasri as a holding midfielder, despite the fact that this plays to all of Nasri’s weaknesses. You believe in playing Bendtner, despite the fact that this plays to all of his weaknesses. We get it, you have faith.

I’m afraid if you don’t switch up some of these roles and play to these player’s strengths rather than playing them out of position, faith is all we’re going to have left at the end of the season. 4th place and a whole lotta faith. We’ll all fill our cups with your faith and sup deep from the well.

Basically, like Spurs fans do every year.

Me?  I’d rather have a bit more rational approach to the game on Tuesday and see Cesc paired with Song in the middle — where Cesc’s vision and defensive awareness can control the game more, Nasri on the left and Theo on the right — where their speed and ball control can cause havoc in United’s wings, Adebayor and van Persie (or Eduardo if van Persie is still out, or Vela if Eduardo is out, or the Tea Lady if Vela is out) up front — where, erm, they can score goals and stuff, and the rest of the team picks itself.

That said, I don’t feel confident that Wenger can switch things up because he’s got more faith than the Pope.

Conclusion

We’ve got Pompey on Saturday and I’m looking at that match as a bit of a break, honestly. 4th place is all but secure (a win secures it outright) and third place is looking a little less likely each week, though a win on Saturday and a loss for Chelsea at Fulham would put us 3 points off of 3rd ahead of the Arsenal v. Chelsea clash in 2 weeks. Still, while 3rd place matters, it just doesn’t seem to matter as much. I’d rather win the Champions League or at least get a hell of a game in the return leg than take 3rd place.

Irregardless (you KNEW I was going to say that!) of all that, I think Arsenal fans and players need a bit of an emotional break and Pompey can provide that. The game is being televised live on Fox Soccer Channel at 7am and I’ll be providing the liveblogging for the first time in what seems like a year. I think I might just get some dry smoked bacon from Costco and have a nice little breakfast and watch the game.

Right, that’s it for today, I’m going to leave you dreaming of bacon. See you tomorrow for a match preview.