Arsenal 2-1 Liverpool; The Rain From Spain Falls Mainly on the Carling Cup Campaign

Does Swan Lake need a male lead?

Prologue

Half a dozen or so mixed Arsenal and Liverpool fans stood beers in hand, food cooking in the kitchen of Doyle’s Public House as publican Russ fiddled with the computer in order to get ESPN 360 to cough up a feed for us to watch. It reminded me of the days when I was a kid and I would watch television on an old black and white set, where you’d dial in the channel, tune it by moving the rabbit ears around a bit (maybe they had tin-foil on them) and then adjust the fine-tuning knob to get the best possible grainy picture and broken, static filled sound.

The picture was in color but the broadcast wasn’t much better than if we had dialed it in with rabbit ears. I’m not complaining, because I remember when I was a kid and living in Germany, we watched Superbowl XII on tape delayed broadcasts on AFN on a black and white television. I’m just saying that there were time jumps, breaks in continuity, and a general, erm, ‘blobbiness’ to the whole endeavor. So much so that while I’d love to write an actual match report I honestly had a hard time telling a lot of players apart. For example, I couldn’t tell if that white-dude-ish looking blob going forward was Aaron Ramsey or Nicklas Bendtner! Meanwhile, the midfield was just a jumble of folks for me as it was hard to pick out when it was Gibbs or Eastmond or Silvestre making a tackle or putting in a pass.

Like I said, I’m not complaining. Despite the picture quality and general choppiness, it was the best match I’ve seen all season. I’m just saying that I can’t give a proper match report because I didn’t really see enough of the game, so I’ll leave that to the pros:

Match Reports

Telegraph: It is part of the lexicon in north London that ‘Arsène knows’ and Wednesday night will have done little to dissuade disciples of Arsenal. With all eyes on the arrival in English football of Alberto Aquilani for Liverpool, it was another, rather cheaper, midfielder – Fran Mérida – whose presence lit up the Emirates and tipped the scales in favour of Arsenal.

Goodplaya (actually at the match): IN A nutshell, this was great fun for a tenner.

Match Video

The Arsenalist found some Chinese stream to tape and it’s pretty funny. I love when both Merida and Insua hits their wonder strikes and the Chinese announcers go, “WHOA.” Good stuff.

Man of the Match

Merida got his first ever goal for Arsenal and capped the performance by setting Bendtner up for the game winning goal, so for that alone I have to give him the MotM. But to hit the goal the way he hit it was even more spectacular and so despite the hard work of Bendtner and the eye-popping performance of Eastmond in the holding role, I really have to give it to the Spaniard.

I realize that a lot of folks will have a different opinion here so feel free to disagree with me in the comments.

The Good

What a night: end-to-end football, played at a torrid pace, by two teams who are playing football “the right way,” replete with incisive passing, wondrous goals, and the Arsenal comes out on top. It doesn’t get much better that.

In goal, I thought Fabby had a good night and showed why he should be considered for number 1 on Saturday. His high claims were spot on all night, his saves were good though he wasn’t really tested, and his mobility off the goal line in order to help out as a sweeperkeeper was excellent. The only blight on his game is that his distribution was a bit spotty and he should have been one or two inches further back when Insua hit that shot.

I’m kidding about the positioning thing, though with David Bentley trying to get a crack in the Tottenham first team for Saturday he will need to pay special attention to positioning.

Bendtner worked hard and the goal he nabbed was very Torres-esque. It took a good deal of strength to get past his marker and keep enough balance to drive the goal into the top of the net. Kudos to Bendtner.

Nasri looked lively to start and showed Thomas Rosicky why he will be pushing him for a spot this season. He flagged a bit at the end, but give the guy a break he’s just now coming back from injury!

Eduardo also played the full 90 and was unlucky not to have a goal or two last night as he prowled around the Liverpool goal. There was one mad scramble in particular where he challenged very hard for the ball and just missed by inches — I think, I couldn’t really tell! — and it was really good to see him diving in for a goal challenge fearlessly. Arsenal will need Eduardo at 100% if they’re going to win something this year.

The Bad

I did notice that Insua was Bendtner’s marker and that after Babel nodded the ball down, Bendy basically gave up on the play. Teams will be looking to exploit that exact type of thing in Arsenal’s new look 4-3-3. Everyone, to a man, must track back and defend. Now, obviously, you can’t expect that every player will hit an Insua-like goal but I still don’t like the sight of an open opponent getting any shot. In fact, Arsenal seem to have a lot of these types of wonder goals from midfield scored on them. I can think of 4 off the top of my head: Essien, Bentley, Giovanni, and Insua.

Clearly, closing down on players in the attacking 3rd is vital.

Similarly, just before Insua got the ball I was going to say to Russ that it looked like Liverpool’s tactic was counter attack and long ball, mostly played through Babel up front. Which, I was going to say, means that Arsenal need to put pressure on the defenders who were delivering those long passes and make Liverpool play through the middle. Just as my mouth was opening to spit out this gem of wisdom, a long ball was played to Babel, who nodded to Insua, who left Bendtner standing in his Wellingtons, and dipped a ball past the outstretched arm of Fabby. Damnit boys, pressure!

The Ugly

Robbie Keane is a huge cunt, but here, let me remind him of the last time he played for a team in the top four:

A Liverpool to London return faster than Robbie Keane

End of.

Epilogue

Arsenal are now through to the quarter finals and it’s a quarter finals which will feature all Premier League teams and 6 of the 8 are all fighting for the League title. The final 8 teams look like this:

1. Arsenal
2. Aston Villa
3. Blackburn Cloggers
4. Chelsea
5. Man City
6. ManUre
7.Pompey
8.Spuds

The best possible draw is Pompey but even if you get Pompey (which will no doubt go to Chelsea) if you’re going to win the League Cup this year, you’re going to have to play against more than one of the top sides. Frankly, I don’t care which side we draw because I have a bone to pick with them all, I’m just hoping for home field advantage. Oh and for the record, I didn’t put them in that order, the Football League did, and it looks to be alphabetical — though I do like the fact that Arsenal are #1!

This competition has been seen as a bit of a dog these last few years and yet these same top sides have met in the Champions League semi-finals and even finals over that same period. So, in a sense, what we’re seeing is a sort of Champions League lite which is producing terrific football for bargain basement prices. As the boss said about last night’s match:

I felt it was more of a European cup quality tonight, than ‘Carling Cup.’ With what we have seen, combinations on both sides, the speed of the game, was outstanding, it was an outstanding game tonight!

All that and tickets were available for £10! Amazing.

The draw is on Saturday, right as we kickoff against Tottenham and I’d put money on us drawing Spuds again this year. It seems like we always get Spuds. Which could set up a delicious early Christmas present as Arsenal face a Carling Cup quarter final on December 2nd and Stoke on the 5th. I might just look into getting a plane ticket over for that. I mean, if we get home field advantage on Saturday that is.

Anyway, that’s it for today, I’m thinking of doing a player by player analysis of Tottenham v. Arsenal tomorrow, in order to give you all some ammunition to use against any Spuds who want to talk shit about their supposed 4th place aspirations. If I were to do such a thing, I might look at something like this Actim index and maybe a couple other factors. We’ll see tomorrow!

Arsenal v. Liverpool, Kids Love the Milk Cup

Not as prestigious as it once was, the League Cup, now called the Carling Cup and formerly known as the Milk Cup (way back in the 80s) still throws up the occasional  cracking tie. So, when I read that Arsenal would host Liverpool, my mind immediately went back to the last time Arsenal and Liverpool met in the League Cup and Arsenal did a 6-3 over them, at Anfield. That was really a night to remember and to think, if you live in London you could see such a clash for as little as £5. For me, that’s the real benefit of the League Cup, memorable clashes that almost every kid can afford to see in person.

Unfortunately, that 6-3 match is long gone; goal scoring superstar Julio “The Beast” Baptista bagged his quad and then tired of the dreary rain of London, or maybe the food, or whatever excuse he could come up with and bogged off back to Spain and is now in Rome.  In fact, not much is left of either of those two teams that met that day, even Almunia, who was backup keeper for Arsenal then, has been dropped and is now third choice keeper at Arsenal.

Given all the departures and arrivals I don’t think the last time these two teams met in the League Cup will matter much to any of them. Maybe Cesc will have a whimsical twinkle in his eye as he sits in the stands, smartly dressed no doubt, reminiscing about the year that Chelsea beat the cup out of our hands — I mean literally beat Arsenal up and took it, like a bully taking milk money. But for players like Merida, Gibbs, Aquilani, Babel and Ramsey this is a chance not to reminisce, but a chance to prove themselves, against another top four team to boot.

Hungry youth playing in a single elimination match against another top club in front of 60,000 screaming fans, that’s a match to watch.

Wenger’s passed a lot of milestones these last few weeks (Sportsboys has an awesome breakdown of Wenger’s tenure) and so why not throw one more on to the pile: today will be his 750th match in charge. We all know the record, W 436 D 177 L 136, on the way to three Premier League titles and four FA Cups and as glorious as that is there are two things missing; the League Cup and the Champions League.

Don’t think that Arsene doesn’t want to win today or that he doesn’t care about this tournament just because he likes to blood youth. The inclusion of Nasri, Eduardo, Bendtner, Senderos, and Silvestre in the squad is a tip that Wenger is taking this match and this tournament very seriously. I can guarantee you that if Arsenal win the Carling Cup, which I said they have every chance to do in the season preview, they will proudly display the trophy in the trophy case and point to that as a jumping off point for more silverware.

The lineup should be straight forward: Nasri, Eduardo and Bendtner leading the attack; Ramsey, Merida and Coquelin in the middle; Gilbert, Senderos, Silvestre, and Gibbs holding the line; and Fabianski starting in goal. Notably absent from that lineup is Jack Wilshere who failed a fitness test on Sunday due to an ankle knock.

Liverpool’s £20m Summer replacement for Xabi Alonso (and one time Arsenal target) Alberto Aquilani will get his first start for Liverpool today which means that there will be two rusty players on the pitch tonight, Nasri and Aquilani.

Irregardless the rust, I expect that both teams will go for it tonight and fight for all 90 minutes. After all, for 11 young men tonight will be their last chance to prove themselves this year — they will leave everything on the field.

Ten Things I Hate About You

I bet they would sell the naming rights on the back stand too!

10. Too many supporters, even at 50,ooo seats they would be hard pressed to fill the stadium.

9. Why is the jumbotron showing the Spurs celebrating, when the action on the pitch is different? Maybe it’s a continuous loop of their 5-1 Carling Cup win over Arsenal.

8. It looks like at least one Spurs player is moving, that’s one too many.

7. They try to steal the clock end idea from Arsenal but everyone knows Spurs fans can only read digital clocks.

6. Speaking of moving, there should be a blur where their twitchy manager stands.

5. The back of the single-tier stand will never read “Tottenam Hotspur” everyone knows it should read “Naming Rights.”

4. There’s no way Spurs fans could afford real flags

3. It’s unlikely that Spurs would play a night game, unless they’re in the League Championship, don’t they play a lot of their games at night?

2. The Spurs players should be in red and white, since they obviously wish they were Arsenal so badly.

1. There’s no way that the grass would be that green, everyone knows that grass can’t grow in the shadow of the Emirates.

Right, that’s about it for today, despite the regular kickoff time in England, the match is on at 12:45 (PST) because American clocks are special and don’t go back to standard time until next week (thanks George W. Bush!).  Pretty much the only way to watch the mach here in the States is via ESPN 360 and a few of us will be gathering at Doyle’s Public House in Tacoma to watch and support. There will be Liverpool supporters there as well but they are the friendly sort and you should come down so that I’m not vastly outnumbered.

See you tomorrow for the Good, Bad, and Ugly. UP THE ARSE!

Carling Cup Viewings, Swine Plague, and Naming Rights

Morning all, not much happening today, there’s no team news yet and all the press is from Arsenal players who are publicly saying that they feel like they let the boss down or some other such nonsense that sports starts always say after they have a pitiful performance. Irregardless, there are a few good bits of news about tomorrow’s match, Swine Plague among the Chelsea, Bolton, and Blackburn players, and a funny bit about Emirates Lite, aka Spurs’ “Naming Rights” stadium.

First off, I hear that Arshavin and Clichy are in the press publicly talking about the disappointment they feel having let relegation bound West Ham nick a point. Unless I hear something like “I’m buying the away fans who had to endure that performance half of an away ticket to the next away match” it’s just going to sound like platitudes to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with platitudes, all sports stars do it, but it’s not news as much as it’s noise.

Without looking at any of the quotes, let me guess that at least one was something like “Arsenal could send a message that we’re still title contenders by putting in a good performance against Liverpool on Wednesday.” Which is true, sort of… see, the folks who put in the most craven performances won’t likely be playing in the Carling Cup clash (Andrei Arshavin, I’m looking at you) so, I’m not exactly sure what kind of message it sends on behalf of Diaby, Arshavin, and Clichy for Wilshere, Rambo, and Gibbs to play their asses off. Maybe “hey, if you don’t want to play in the next game, we’d LOVE to.”

As far as viewings, 7amkickoff’s Midwestern operative (codenamed “Matt-#1″) tipped us all off to the fact that Stateside viewers don’t need to go to some dodgy JustinTV stream because the match tomorrow will be broadcast live on ESPN 360. You get ESPN 360 free if you’re a Comcast cable internet subscriber so for a lot of folks that’s a good option. If you don’t get it on your home cable, well, you might try a college library — seriously. Most college libraries have public computers and all colleges get ESPN360 for free as well. Or check here tomorrow, I’ll do my best to give an actual match report. UK viewers can go to a pub and watch the game on Sky.

No team news yet, we’ll know more later today, so a full preview will be up in the morning.

Bit of strange news today in that it looks like Blackburn Cloggers are the Swine Flu Mary of the EPL this season having transferred the virus to both Bolton and Chelsea. Normally, I wouldn’t pass on a chance to make fun of Blackburn, Bolton, and Chelsea but this is swine flu and, well, I just hope everyone recovers fully.

Ugh, I need a shower now.

Speaking of needing a shower, Spuds have released photos of their proposed “Naming Rights” stadium, aka Emirates 2: North London Boogaloo.*

I bet they would sell the naming rights on the back stand too!

Here’s your test for today: remember those pictures when you were a kid where you pick out the things that are wrong with the picture? Good, now, name 10 things that are wrong with the above picture.

That’s it for today, match preview and answer key for the picture tomorrow!

*I apologize for the cheap laugh.