Eduardo, kids, money and Liege

Haters will hate on you and make negative comments such as That cat looks scared and the cat should not be eating spaghetti but you just keep on eating that spaghetti because you'll always be...spaghetti cat

First off, I need to say thanks to everyone for the positive comments on yesterday’s blog, you’re the other reason I do this. It’s so great to see so many Gooners from such far flung places around the world united in a single cause: the Arsenal.

Now, on to the news…

Eduardo

Yesterday at Eduardo’s auto de fé the Grand Inquisitor read aloud what was to be  Eduardo’s punishment for the heresy of diving and it turned out… that the church of UEFA admitted that they were just plain and simply wrong.

They were wrong to use video evidence ex-post facto, they were wrong about whether there was contact, they were wrong to question the referee, and they were wrong to cave in to pressure from Scotland. And so the witch hunt they pursued against Eduardo was wrong and all charges should be dropped.The heretic known as Eduardo is now a clean soul but unfortunately his body has already been burnt at the stake of public opinion.

Make no mistake here, though. This was not a legalistic decision about whether there was contact or not, as I first thought. This wasn’t some slimy lawyer getting a guilty client off on a technicality as the press want to make out. No, Eduardo’s innocence came about because the referee of the match saw the game live, saw the video, and saw the video slowed down, and stood by his decision. The diving evangelists can’t take it, they have been whipped into a baying, foamy, frenzy by folks in the press, like Sportsmail’s stupid anti-diving campaign, and they simply don’t know what to do. They are currently lashing out at everything around them searching for a foothold, some firm ground to stand on so that their world will make sense and for them I’d like to offer a suggestion: you’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t know what a dive is, and the next time you’re watching a game and you think to yourself, or worse scream out loud like some apoplectic Joe Wilson, “THAT’S A DIVE WHARRRRGARRRBLE111!!1!!” remember that I told you, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Chances are I’m right because after this ruling I have to admit, I don’t know what a dive is either. It seems to be that if there’s any contact, and the referee doesn’t feel like the player is trying to deceive him, then it’s not a dive. I can accept that I don’t know what a dive is, or at the very least that I might not be the most objective judge of diving on the planet. Can you?

As for the animals in the press, I fully expect retractions and apologies will be issued any moment now. Any… moment… now…

I Can Has Affirmative Action Quotas for Englishmen?

Nope.

In a stunning moment of clarity and sense-making, the English Football Association has decided that clubs should be forced to have academies and can no longer simply buy a team full of senior players. Personally, I’d rather they stayed out of this whole mess and let things run their course, but if they had to get involved, then this was the only sensible way to go about it. Starting next year every team in the Premier League will be required to name a squad of 25 players, 8 of which must be both under 21 and have been trained for 3 or more years at an English or Welsh club. That sound you just heard was every Chelsea supporter’s butthole puckering simultaneously. Because combined with their transfer ban, this new rule leaves them with exactly 8 eligible trainees and unable to bring anyone else in.

Moreover, this plan, which doesn’t discriminate against a player based on nationality, is a huge slap to the face of Platini and Blatter who desperately wanted a passport based Affirmative Action quota system foisted upon teams. Which they quaintly referred to as “the 6+5 rule.”

One knock on effect of this new rule could be the development of a more serious reserves league. Arsenal’s reserves coach, Neil Banfield talked about his vision for a national reserves league, with relegation and all that, a few weeks ago. If clubs are now going to be forced to have at least 8 trainees per season named to their first team, I can easily see something like what Neil talks about developing.

What’s not clear in all this is how this rule change will mesh with Platiniblatter’s plan to enslave young children in footballing death camps until they are 18. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, they actually want to re-create the 18th century system of indentured servitude, and how that might mesh with this FA rule is unclear. If you can’t transfer players under 18 and you have to have 8 players, on the books, between the ages of 18 and 21 who have trained for 3 years in an English or Welsh system, well, then suddenly 18 year olds become super valuable and especially 18 year olds who have trained in England.

It could quickly become a mess. We’ll have to see if Platiniblatter win approval for their indentured servitude system or if they suffer further ignominy.

Show me your money

The FA also passed some meaningless rule about looking into the books of clubs and promptly ignoring some debts while looking sternly at others. I have it under great authority that this rule will be ignored.

The Group of Dearth

Right, so we have some football tomorrow against Standard Liege. The match is being shown on Setanta here in the States and that means a trip over to Doyle’s for us locals. Doyle’s now has High Definition televisions and an HD cable feed, so if any matches are in HD, you will get to watch them in HD there.

As for the match, Arsenal Station has a great little piece which details all of our opponents in the group of dearth, you should check it out.

Player news ahead of the match has Arshavin certainly ruled out for Arsenal, along with long-term injuries to Nasri, Fabianski, and Djourou keeping them sidelined as well. For Liege, they will be missing their captain and supposed Arsenal transfer target, Steven Defour who broke his foot on the weekend.

The one player I am very surprised to see mentioned as a possible team selection for Liege is Alex Witsel. This is a player who just a little over two weeks ago broke the leg of Marcin Wasilewski and was subsequently banned until November by the Belgian FA. Now, when I say “broke the leg” I mean, put in possibly the worst tackle I have ever seen, a tackle so bad that it makes Tiny Taylor’s knee-high, studs up, leg breaking lunge on Eduardo look like an accident. The video of the tackle is so disturbing that I almost don’t want to put it here, but I’m going to anyway because I think we all need to know what Arsenal are up against tomorrow.

WARNING THIS VIDEO IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC

After watching that video, and knowing that he’s been banned in his home league, you have to wonder how this guy is allowed to play in the Champions League. But supposedly, he’s available and ready to make a “cold start.”

That’s all the news I have for you today (except the “news” that Adebayor has been charged and is facing a three to six match suspension)  so, see you tomorrow with a fuller preview of the Liege game, if I can muster one.

Blame America

Adebayor kicks off in the game which would see him score his first ever home goal. I was there.

What is good at City is that the fans are truly fans. They love you. Arsenal have a lot of fans who are not fans. Arsenal have fans from America and Jamaica. Today they are Arsenal fans, tomorrow they will be Liverpool fans and after tomorrow they will be Manchester United fans. — Emanuel Adebayor.

I hate flying. Hate actually isn’t a strong enough word, I’m terrified of flying and I dread getting on a plane. Even when I drop my friends off at the airport I get a pit in my stomach. I actually think that perhaps I’ll never see them again.

Yes, it’s irrational, but then no one has ever accused me of rational thought. How could they, I get up every morning at 4am and write for two to three hours about some “soccer” team in England? That’s completely irrational, right?

Back to the flying thing; it was Arsenal’s last year at Highbury, I was going through a nasty divorce, I caught pneumonia, and I had just had my motorcycle stolen, one of the worst years of my life. At that point I had nothing to lose, literally. So, I called the doctor and he gave me some pharmacueticals to get me on the plane and I flew to London for a week. No tickets to the game, no clue even where to get tickets, just blind faith that somehow, some way, I would get in to see Arsenal; a club I had supported for nearly 10 years.

I ended up staying in this utter shithole of a hotel, right in Picadilly Circus, which had a brilliant concierge who promised me match tickets to see Arsenal play Charlton… for $150. Yes, I knew I was getting ripped off, but so what? I just flew 4800 miles in a rickety deathtrap and was staying in a hotel which was populated mainly by chain smoking Germans who complained incessantly about the breakfast buffet, what was a little rodgering by the concierge if it meant I could get to Highbury before they tore it down to make room for rich people’s 1 bedroom apartments?

And it was totally worth it, pfff $150 was cheap. The moment I mounted those steps (an hour before the 7am, erm, I mean, 3pm kickoff) and rose above the crest to see the Highbury pitch I knew that I was home.

Poor photo but you get the idea! It's a transformative moment.

I had never felt anything like that before. It was this mixture of awe and satisfaction. At every turn there was something old that was new to me: the clock end, I had never seen the clock before. The guns in the seats on the other stand, how could I have known those were there since every match I’d ever seen up to that point had been on television and Highbury was always sold out? The crush of bodies as I foolishly tried to take a piss at half-time, the songs that the drunken fans were singing on the concourse, and throughout the game, unintelligible to me, again, since I’d only ever seen them on television and yet brilliant in their communal joy.

One of the players who would become special for me on that day would be Emmanuel Adebayor. Here was this lanky African working his balls off all over the pitch and truly reveling in his game. On that beautifully crisp, cold day, Adebayor missed plenty of chances (which would become a major criticism later on) some of which were wide open, but there was one moment where he used his strength to get over the Charlton defender and then rounded on the keeper and simply scored a brilliant goal.

Since that day I have always supported Adebayor. I think more than once my support of the guy has actually lost me readers but then, I don’t care about that. I only care about the Arsenal. In the season when he scored 30 goals, I had readers who decried Adebayor as “profligate” and said that Henry would have score 50 if he had the chances that Ade had. I showed them statistically how he was nearly as good as Thierry Henry in his conversion rate and how he was actually more of a team player because he demanded the ball less and took fewer shots to get the same number of goals.

When he went apeshit in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea I equivocated. After all, it wasn’t his fault, he was wrongly sent off for something Eboue did, of course he’s going to be emotional. I think I said something like “I just wish he had left the pitch in an orderly fashion, but who could blame him after John Obi-Mikel had been kicking everyone off the pitch?”

When he went full retard last year and gave that fateful interview in which he said he wanted to play for “one of the biggest clubs in the world,” I made excuses and scoured the internet for retractions from the player.

When he went into ludicrous mode and kissed the badge after the summer of his discontent, I still defended him. Albeit, at this point I was starting to feel a little shame.

And when he spent the entire year lolling around on the pitch, seemingly happy in his pay rise, well, I tried. I really really tried to get behind him but even I could no longer support this man who had betrayed Arsenal so deeply. I still would never have booed him but I did understand where the frustration came from.

Because at Arsenal it doesn’t matter so much if you miss goals, what matters is 100% commitment. Look at what Eboue has shown! In the face of much more adversity than Adebayor ever saw, Eboue has simply kept his chin up, worked hard and never complained about the boss or the fans.  Fans literally booed Eboue off the pitch in a torrent of hatred and tears and all he did was get back to work.  He didn’t complain about the treatment he got, he didn’t get caught offside, he didn’t go into a Champions League semi-final and look as if he couldn’t give two fucks what happened on the pitch: he just went straight back to work and did his job.

That’s all we want, a player who is going to give his all for the cause, for the Arsenal.

Even more than last year’s farewell fuck you to the club that Adebayor supposedly loved and the manager that he claims he appreciates, was this weekend’s disgraceful display which was preceded by an outrageous statement. Prior to the match, Adebayor made the comment which I printed at the very start of this article. That the problem at Arsenal and the reason he left and the reason for his pitiful performances last year, is that Arsenal have American and Jamaican (???) fans.

I have a pretty thick skin about this issue, developed over years of having UK supporters come onto my blog and say I can’t really be a fan because I’m an American. When the Sounders joined the MLS, I had loads of people telling me to write a blog about and support my local team, that, again, I couldn’t possibly REALLY support Arsenal. And when I travel to London the looks I get from the locals when I tell them that this is my vacation and that this is what I love to do; fly 9000 miles to see my beloved Arsenal in person, every year, without fail. Those looks and the jibes, well, you just have to get used to them.

But for some reason this year the xenophobia around this issue has reached new heights. There has been a marked increase in the number of people who come in here and call me and my readers fake fans and tell us to fuck off and support United. Then Adebayor makes his statement and again specifically targets American fans. An then today this was followed by an article in EPL Talk which again repeats this smear.

It’s sad and illogical, really. Is Arseblogger any less of an Arsenal supporter because he’s Irish? Was he somehow less of an Arsenal supporter when he was an Irishman blogging from Spain who only got to see an odd handful of matches in person? Are my readers, who get up at 4am to watch Arsenal on television, folks who are members of the club, lesser supporters simply by the providence of their birth?

That’s crazy.

What’s really crazy though is to hear City fans talking about being a “real” supporter. What are they going to do if their club breaks into the top four by displacing Liverpool and suddenly they are faced with the same situation that happened to Chelsea? Are they going to actually decry the bandwagon jumpers who are helping to support their club? No, because it’s mind-bogglingly stupid and obviously xenophobic, though I’m starting to wonder if mind-bogglingly stupid and obviously xenophobic aren’t inherent traits of the City supporter.

Arsenal fans are Arsenal fans the world over and they are all welcome to support this club. The fact that I was privileged to get to see Arsenal play at Highbury doesn’t make me more of a fan than anyone else, it just means that I was lucky. Hell, I know I’m lucky and I’m grateful for the fact that the job I have and my lovely family affords me the luxury to see Arsenal in person every year. I would never lord that over someone else. How could I tell some poor kid from North London who has never seen Arsenal in person but who worships Walcott that he’s less of a fan than me?

To me it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been watching Arsenal for 5 minutes or 50 years, whether you watch them on a shitty internet feed in Australia or are afforded the outrageous luxury to see every home and away match in person, whether you are a full red level member of the club or just a casual supporter, if you say you love the Arsenal then you’re alright in my book.

Anyone who says anything else is just projecting their own frail support for their club and it’s fitting that something like that would come from the mouth of a man like Emmanuel Adebayor: the poster child for frail support.

City, Adebayor, Clattenburg, and the fans under the magnifying glass

The FA have confirmed today that they will investigate both Adebayor’s stamp on van Persie and his goal celebration which sparked a near riot among Arsenal supporters. Not explicit in that statement, but implicit, is the fact that when they look at the files they will almost certainly have a look at the conduct of the handful of Arsenal fans who threw objects on the pitch and I’m sure the head of referees will want to know how Mark Clattenburg missed a deliberate handball in the box a vicious elbow to the face and two stamping incidents.

As I have maintained since the Eduardo incident against Celtic, the fact is that any punishment meted out now will be a case of too little, too late. The facts are that had television replays been allowed Emanuel Adebayor would not have been on the pitch to score his goal and then would not have been there to perform his shameful goal celebration.

If you have any doubt about what was in Adebayor’s mind, Gunnerblog has compiled a series of animated gifs and a youtube clip which prove, conclusively, that Adebayor intentionally stamped Cesc, van Persie, and that he was not “celebrating in front of home fans” as City boss Mark Hughes has comically stated.

Here’s the first stamp on Cesc:

adecesc

Note that he’s A) over the ball and B) looking at Cesc’s ankle. That this was a deliberate act of violence there can be little doubt. In fact, Clattenburg had words with Adebayor after, telling him to calm down.

The way that referees in the EPL justify behavior like this as “heat of the moment” or as “he’s geed up” has always been a source of tremendous frustration for me. More often than not they allow this first type of attack, but then will punish the retaliation. In Saturday’s match Adebayor stamped Cesc, elbowed Gallas, raked Robin’s face, and then attacked Alex Song from behind with a vicious kick to the back of the knee. When Song retaliated immediately, yellow card to Song.

I’m sorry but that’s the kind of refereeing discrepancies which allow refs to get away with illegal activities such as what happened in the NBA betting scandal. I’m not calling for perfection, but a semblance of balance would be nice and would prevent people from complaining about the refs so much.

Oh, and cue the “Arsenal are whingers about the refs HURRRRR” comments.

Irregardless, I do expect that Clattenburg will come in for some questions about why he chose to call the game the way he did. I doubt that anything will come of it. Heh, maybe he’ll apologize to Wenger as Mike Dean did for wrongly sending Wenger into the stands during the last Manchester match.

The second stamp (hey why not have a second bite at the apple?) was even more vicious as Adebayor felt aggrieved that van Persie had the temerity to take the ball off him and clearly looks down and lashes out at Robin. Make no mistake that was a deliberate attempt to stamp, Robin’s hand. Of course, as most of us are used to with Adebayor, he missed the target and instead hit Robin’s face.

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Robin van Persie has released a statement about the incident and to his credit he didn’t use the words “huge,” “fucking,” “scabby,” or “cunt.” There is no doubt in my mind that he will get a 3 match ban for this… well, unless Clattenburg intervenes and says that he saw the incident and judged it to be “incidental.”

I know a lot of Arsenal fans are expecting further punishment to be meted out for Adebayor’s goal celebration but I’m not so sure we’ll see anything from that, at least not for Adebayor. If you look at the history of these things you’ll see that the FA is reticent to act in these cases. The only person I can remember getting a suspension from the FA for a goal celebration is Robbie Fowler for snorting the end line. Given the fact that Clattenburg gave a yellow, it would take an extraordinary action on the part of the FA to do something here. Normally, the club would fine the player but given the fact that Mark Hughes is talking out his ass about Adebayor wanting to celebrate in front of home fans, I think that is highly unlikely.

What I do think is likely is that there will be a huge stink about the Arsenal fans’ reaction. First of all, though, this wasn’t a “near riot” as some folks would like to make it out to be. There were a few folks who over-reacted and I expect that the club will receive some sort of censure for it. Second, I would not be surprised to see at least a few identifiable supporters banned for throwing chairs. But only if they are clearly identifiable.

And what did they react to?

Disgraceful, but no less that you’d expect from a guy who blames the fans for being caught offside 40+ times last year. Yeah, it was all their fault that you couldn’t be arsed to get onside.

So, the FA are promising to look into all this and have also promised to rule early next week. Good, the sooner we can get this ugly incident behind us the better.