I’m back, baby

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday but, not to be too emo, I just didn’t feel like writing about Arsenal.

I spent Sunday walking around the southern part of Hyde Park, went to Harrods, went to the Natural History Museum, and generally spent Sunday just relaxing. No drink, no smoke, just chill.

Outside the museum I saw a metric tonne (metric tonnes are spelled differently) of high end sports cars: Lotus, Ferarri, Maserati. It looked like a “best of”  episode of Top Gear. Must be the posh end of town.

Harrods is, well, ostentatious. It’s the place to go if you absolutely need to get a $100 pizza, or if you find yourself out of caviar and just need to get a single dollop, well bust out the check book and head down to Harrods! I settled for the $5 “Scotch Egg” and wandered down the street to the museum.

I honestly didn’t know what a Scotch Egg was before I bit into it, so imagine my surprise when I bit into an actual egg!  I had looked at the ingredients and saw sausage, but somehow missed the fact that it contains an egg. It was a pretty tasty, if not a fatty, hand held lunch. And it had the added bonus of sticking around all day: every time I’d burp I’d get a little Scotch Egg!

The Natural History museum was neat, of course, but I couldn’t get into either of the special exhibits (Darwin) because they were sold out. Ummm, that sucked. I really wanted to see the Darwin exhibit. Oh well, I settled for dinosaurs and sloths and ickthyosaurs, which were pretty damn cool.

I’ll spare you the boring description of Monday because I mostly hung out at the airport doing Calculus homework and no one really cares about that. I will say though that I’m pretty pissed off about the chick who sat behind me on the plane coughing the entire flight because my throat hurts today. Also, if you ever find yourself stuck somewhere for several hours and there’s a copy of Gordon Ramsay’s “Humble Pie” available in audiobook you absolutely MUST listen to it. If that man had a human sized ego he would look back on that book and feel a deep humiliation and shame. Let me just put it this way: this man’s hubris eclipses King Lear. He spends the entire first half of the book describing how hard life was for him and the entire second half how hard he’s making life for his kids while bragging constantly about what a great businessman he is. What a donkey.

Anyway, I made it home and back to my girls, and I didn’t even mind that Aveline cried almost the entire car trip home. Poor little thing has the sniffles after all.

In football news, Arsenal play Roma today and the Boss has filled his pre-match interview with all kinds of goodies. Just wander over to the dot com and click on a link, gems will drop out like candy from a pinata.

For the match, the big story is away goals. Arsenal absolutely need to keep a clean sheet here today, failing to do so will pile pressure on them in the return leg and make Roma’s job so much easier in a fortnight. So, more important than just extending their 13 match unbeaten run (they last lost to Porto on Dec. 10th, in this very competition) Arsenal need to increase their 4 match clean sheet run; just one more game.

With that in mind and given the dearth of real strike options I suspect Arsene will play a 4-5-1 with Bendtner playing the Center Forward, van Persie playing the #10 slot and Diaby (he’s “healthy”) in the #8 spot. Nasri will play wide left, Denilson will mark Totti, Eboue will play wide right, and the back 4 will pick itself.

Did I mention that Denilson will mark Totti? This will be one of the most important games Denilson plays in his entire career and we shall see how he responds to the pressure of marking a Roma legend, with the added pressure of needing to keep a clean sheet, and the added pressure of marking a Roma legend, and needing to keep a clean sheet.

I remember when Cesc played his first champions league match against Juventus and went head to head with Patrick Vieira. It was his job on Vieira in that match that really solidified Cesc’s reputation with Arsenal supporters and I’m willing to go on a limb and say that Denilson could do the same today against Totti. No pressure young fella!

Right, that’s about it. The match is being shown live locally at Doyle’s and several of my readers are heading down to watch so, if you get a chance, join Travis and Alex for a pint. I cannot make it to the live showing as I have a metric tonne of work to catch up on and a class to attend. However, I have asked Russ to replay the match when I get off work and will be down there to watch the replay some time after 4pm local time. Leave a note in the comments if you want to make it a communal event or just want to come out and see my new away strip.

That’s it for today, got to get to work, see you all tomorrow for The Good, Bad, and Ugly.

UP THE ARSE!

Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland; Sunderland Wins The Cup

ole-one-arm-small

Owing to the huge blisters on both feet, I started yesterday by taking the tube from the Hotel to the nearest Starbucks. I had walked down to this Starbucks previously and made a mental note that it was just outside Notting Hill Gate station, so, the logic went, I’ll take the tube there, hop off and get a cup of coffee. Like all good plans there was a major flaw; Notting Hill Gate tube stop sucks ass. I swear it would have been faster to just walk from my hotel to the Starbucks. It all worked out in the end because there was a pharmacy where I could get some moleskin for my blisters and I happened upon this cool little fish shop where they had the above one-clawed lobster. Poor little fellow, with just the one claw he’s practically defenseless and certainly incapable of rampaging smaller fishes.

Fed and caffeinated I made my way to the stadium to pick up a shirt and some gifts. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I had this really great feeling that everything was going to go very well. Everyone at the Arsenal store was in a similar mood, milling about and festooning each other with Arsenal swag. I got my kit and as I was having the name pressed into the shirt I asked the kid behind the counter when was the last time he pressed an Eboue shirt. He laughed and told me it was probably the time Eboue himself came in and bought a bunch of Eboue shirts which the kid thought were to be gifts for friends and family.

From there I took the tube across to Highbury and Islington and the Famous Cock to have a beer and wait for blog commenter fourstar. The Famous Cock was famously crowded but I managed a pint and watched a bit of the Chelsea match, which featured a bit of “skill” from Lampard to setup Anelka to score the only goal. It was exactly the result I was looking for, 3 points to Chelsea and maybe taking the wind out of Villa’s sails a bit.

Fourstar showed up just in time as I had been chatting with a group of Sunderland supporters and I suspect, in retrospect, that they were getting tired of my sense of humor. We had our pint and both headed off to the stadium. I walked across Highbury park chatting with some fellow Gooners along the way. The young kid was funny, he didn’t say much until the conversation turned to Arsenal’s strike team:  I believe he called Bendtner and Adebayor “crap.” We parted ways and I made my way in. Funny thing about my seats, it turns out that I was sitting right next to the Sunderland supporter’s section. Sitting close to the opposition support was a first for me and ended up providing some interesting moments.

Again, the Arsenal supporters seemed upbeat and when Arshavin’s name was called as a starter there was a huge roar from the crowd: the man who came to save our season had finally arrived. Kickoff was the happiest part of the match, the crowd was buzzing and Arshavin looked fantastic (if not a bit short… and fat) right off the bat but from there on in it was all down hill.

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I did have the fortune of being on the end of the pitch where Arshavin’s first two shots were taken, the above was his left=footed drive that beat the keeper and nearly nestled in to the lower corner. Nearly.

tiny-beautiful-day

Did I mention that it was a beautiful day? Here’s Clichy putting the ball back into play. Not normally a pic-worthy moment,but it was so nice out that I just had to take it.

That first half was utterly frustrating: Bendtner squandered chances, Arshavin missed a couple, even van Persie missed a shot, I think. The team was firing on all cylinders but somehow just lurching along and fan unrest started creeping into the match. At first it was directed at the ref, then the Sunderland players, Sunderland supporters, and finally, by the end of the match, our own players.

If the first half was bad, the second was immeasurably worse. Remind me never to sit on either of the ends of the pitch. It’s pretty clear that teams are going to come in to the Emirates and defend and hope that they get a break so they can sneak a goal. If teams are going to come in and play Arsenal that way then supporters on either end of the pitch are going to spend entire half’s with no action. The entire second half was played at the other end of the pitch, to the point where the guy in front of me literally passed out at one point. Whether it was the booze or the boredom is irrelevant, the point is that Sunderland had lulled Arsenal to sleep. And by the time that Vela whiffed at the open shot, the Arsenal supporters were out of the match and the Sunderland supporters were cheering every Arsenal pass, and shushing us incessantly (Highbury=Library=Shush, get it?).  I wanted so badly for Arsenal to score so that I could turn to the Sunderland fans and shush them right back.

At the very end of the match, after a couple Arsenal fans and at least one Sunderland fan were ejected for giving each other the finger and yelling obscenities at each other, somehow the ball had gotten into our half and Sunderland were busy dribbling into the corner when I realized that this was the first time in nearly 45 minutes that the Sunderland support had seen their players up close. It must be a wonderful feeling to pay £30 for the train from Newcastle, £40 for the tickets, and £40 for beer and sausages, to watch your team get a 0-0 draw. I wouldn’t know but judging by the fact that they were celebrating at the end as if they had just won the FA Cup, I guess that it’s a feeling somewhere between sex and winning the Champions League. They were literally dancing. For a 0-0 draw. Incredible.

small-wankers

After the game I just felt kind of dazed. I’d never been to match where Arsenal failed to win, much less one where they failed to score.  I went the wrong way back to the tube station and ended up on Avenell road, where the old art deco East Stand still stands. As I walked past the old building, which is being rebuilt as condos for the wealthy, I stopped for a moment and looked up at the old Arsenal club crest designed by Herbert Chapman; the one with the big C and an A and a little football. At that point I thought, Arsenal’s glory days are so far gone that I almost wonder if we aren’t a team that is irreparably broken.

This club doesn’t just need a defensive midfielder, we need an infusion of fresh ideas. When a steaming pile of crap like Sunderland, Tottenham and West Ham can hold us to three consecutive 0-0 draws there’s something seriously wrong. Everton are set to play Newcastle today and could easily take all 3 points, which would leave them a mere 2 points below Arsenal for 5th place. 6th place was once unimaginable, but is now looming and you have to wonder where the fresh ideas are going to come from when the boss watches a match like yesterday’s and says that what Arsenal need more of, is passing. Passing… yes, and whatAmerica needs more of is tax cuts, deregulation, and adjustable intrest loans given out to people who can’t afford to pay them.

I want to be clear, I’m not calling for the manager to be sacked, but I am saying that someone needs to kick him in the ass and maybe get a fresh idea out of him.  Hell, kick the whole squad in the ass, because I’m pretty sure that Arsenal will be playing in a huge, empty stadium if games like yesterday’s are to become de rigeur. After all, no one, except some pathetic Sunderland supporters who think a 0-0 draw is something to cheer for, wants to watch matches like the last three.

Fly me to the moon

That's not Frank

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in the Imperial War Museum, which like all state run museums in London is free. At first, it was pretty cool, all those guns and planes and stories of heroism kept me busy snapping photos of the various exhibits. But there on the third floor was the Holocaust exhibit. It’s strange, I studied the Holocaust quite extensively in school, from various perspectives (anthropology, psychology, etc) and have read at least a dozen academic books detailing the atrocities committed by Europe. Yet, I had a very hard time not crying at several parts of the exhibit.

So, I don’t know about that museum. Why have a place that on the one hand celebrates war and in the very same hand shows you the very depths of madness that humanity is capable of — which has absolutely nothing to do with war? I really should have known better than to go there. My time would have been better spent in the National Portrait Gallery, or the cast room of the British Museum.

Afterwards, I did manage to find a great little pub called the Prince Alfred, just north of Paddington, where I had a great steak pie, with a “rocket” salad (it’s ARUGULA, God-damnit!) and some of the finest of whipped potatoes. Now I know wht you’re thinking… how good were those potates? Whipped with probably no less than an entire stick of butter and a quart of heavy cream, they were delicious.

There were all these little rooms in the bar, where you had to duck under a child-sized door and you’d get into a room that held maybe ten people. They called these rooms, “snugs” and you could reserve them for parties. Neat idea, I wonder where I’ve seen that in America?

Oh, and they had free wifi.

I left there feeling like I shook off a bit of the Imperial War Museum having had a couple pints and a great dinner and decided to end the night back at the Swan here near the hotel because I have blisters on my feet and cannot walk around much any more. That’s where I snapped the photo of the dude there at the top of the page. I don’t remember his name but he’s the owner of the Swan and he does this karaoke “tribute” thing to the Rat Pack. It was a bit wild, seeing this man and his side kick sing Rat Pack tunes. They weren’t half bad singers and by the end of the night they had a few of the older ladies dancing. After that I just went back to the hotel and crashed.

ZOMG! Google maps is so beyond cool… One of the overlays here in London is the tube routes. Very helpful if you’re ever wandering around London and you really need to know how far the next tube station is.

Anyway, the Arsenal thing. Uhh… Let’s see… have you heard any good jokes lately?  I have a doozy: Arsene Wenger is going to play Eboue today! Words fail me here, it’s just incredible the stuff that this player gets away with. Arsene is convinced that Eboue has learned his lesson after the red card at Tottenham. The only evidence his gives for this conviction is having spoken to the player and that he’s young. Wenger here is flying in the face of all reason and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. How could he forget Eboue’s retroactive red for “hitting” Wayne Bridge during the Carling Cup final 2 years ago? Or how about the straight red he garnered for the studs up karate kick on Evra? He didn’t learn his lesson after those two incidents, what makes Wenger think he’s learnt his lesson now? It’s preposterous, all evidence suggests that in a big match Eboue turns into a fucking retard and yet, Wenger is determined to give this man chance after chance. I’m not on some Eboue hate band wagon, I’ve had my doubts about the player for over a year.  I even had to intentionally stop commenting on the player because he was so maddening that all I could muster was a stream of invective and hatred. I think I’m going to have to go back to that self-imposed ban and not mention him any more because he’s driving me bat-shit crazy again.

How much you want to bet I have to mention him tomorrow? He’ll probably judo chop Alan Wiley on the neck and then do the whole prostrated beggar routine he always does when caught.

Maddening.

Wenger is going to start Eboue and leave Arshavin on the bench, is he trying to ruin my trip?

All right, well, I have to get to the Famous Cock and find a seat for the Chelsea/Villa crapfest. I also need some moleskin for my feet, a cuppa coffee, and a spanking new Arsenal away shirt.  Oh bythe way, I’ve changed my mind, I’m getting Eboue on the back — maybe the curse will see him off, lord knows Wenger sure won’t.