A Children’s Treasury of Football Facts Before Arsenal Play Blackburn

In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king

All the following “facts” have been checked by my editor and are true, to the best of my knowledge.

1. Wenger started his career at Arsenal against Blackburn and now on the 13th anniversary of his joining the club, he plays Blackburn again. This is proof that the universe has a sense of humor.

2. Arsenal won 2-0 on that night in 1996, Ian Wright scored both goals.

3. Cesc Fabregas’ first league goal, making him the youngest ever Arsenal goal scorer in the league, came against Blackburn.

4. He repeated that goal in the same fixture the very next season.

5. I got to see Philippe Senderos score on Blackburn, in person, on a crisp Monday night in February, 2008. Senderos scoring on Blackburn proves that, like Lindsay Lohan, everyone scores on Blackburn.

6. Arsene Wenger’s work ethic is legendary, he is the first person at the training ground every day and the last person to leave.  This is because Arsenal are so skint that Wenger has to do everything, including clean the tea cart every night.

7. He’s never satisfied with anything, and claims that he questions himself every day. “Shall I have chicken for dinner? No, Pasta! No wait, CHICKEN!” When waitresses see him coming into their restaurant they groan.

8. If this team and the team from 1996 were to get in a knife fight, Wenger thinks that neither team would win but that they should beat it because no one wants to be defeated. Also, that Michael Jackson would make a great video of the event.

9. There have been only 4 red cards given out in all 66 matches played so far in the EPL. Predictably, one of those 4 red cards went to Blackburn.

10. Equally as predictably, the league is hailing this lack of cards as the result of their incredibly successful “Respect” campaign.  I agree, that one sending off of Javier Mascherano has clearly reigned in players like Wayne Rooney and Ashley Cole.

11. To be fair, it was either the “Respect” campaign, or referees are just giving fewer cards.

12. Only two teams play the “deeply flawed” zonal marking system during corners and free kicks; Arsenal and Liverpool. Just look at this chartoon,Or maybe, just maybe, whther you use zonal or man marking doesn't really matter?clearly it’s the zonal system that’s causing Pompey, Sunderland, Hull, and Wigan to give up more goals from set plays than Arsenal. If zonal systems are to blame for conceding off set plays what’s to blame for the fact that Hull have conceded 19 goals this season?

13. I am watching bass fishing before the Tottenham v. Bolton game this morning. I knew a guy who had a personalized license plate which said “bassace” I thought he was a great fisherman, but it turns out that he liked to play bass guitar.

Right, that’s it for today, we’re stopping at 13 facts in honor of Arsene Wenger’s 13 years at Arsenal. There won’t be an early blog tomorrow because I am heading to Fadó Seattle to watch the game live. If you live in the Seattle/Tacoma area it’s the only place I know of that is showing the game live. It’s an hour drive each way for me, so there won’t be a blog until around 10am PST. See you then!

Arsenal v. Blackburn; return of the pantomime villains

Pascal Chimbonda counts his IQ. Hey Sam, got any gum? How many roads must a man walk down?

It was once said that Fat Sam had Arsenal’s number. That any Sam Allardyce led team knew exactly where and when to kick every one of Arsenal’s “princesses” and disrupt their game. There was a time when that was true but not any more.

Last season Arsenal dismantled Sam Allardyce’s “defensive” teams 4-0, twice.  The year before that, when Allardyce was manager of relegation bound Newcastle, it was a 2-0 win. In fact, you have to go back to November 2006 to find the last time that any Sam Allardyce led team beat Arsenal, a 3-1 defeat at the hands of an Anelka brace. Look at that match report and you’ll see some strange names like “Lehmann” and “Ljungberg” and some cat named “Gilberto” but there’s one name who has been a constant for any Sam Allardyce led team and his name is there too: El Hadji Douche.

I wrote about this last season, after we beat them 4-0, and given his latest outrages it stands as much today as it ever has, how much longer must the EPL suffer this insufferable prick? If you remember, Diouf tried to break Almunia’s ankle (video link) last year and only gathered a yellow. The year before, Diouf tried to break Arbeloa’s leg, with the same result, a mere yellow card. And of course, Diouf is a convicted spitter and an admitted cheat in pretty much every aspect of the game. What does this guy have to do to get banned from the league?

Given his history with Arsenal, Diouf will get a lot of stick from the home supporters on Sunday and will almost certainly react in the way that he always has: by cheating. My hope is that Sunday’s referee, Peter Walton, who has doled out 12 yellows and no reds in his 4 matches so far, takes a grim view of Diouf and the rest of Blackburn’s antics and gets the cards out early and often.  Lest we forget, Morten Gamst Pederson isn’t above an absolutely disgraceful dive (video) when playing against Arsenal either.

I am taking pains to highlight Blackburn’s disgraceful, cheating, conduct but only in hopes that the word gets back to Peter Walton and he does something about it. The reality is that Arsenal will need to rise above these antics and simply play their game. We all know that a Sam Allardyce led team means a team that will “park the bus.”

The bad news is that this will be the second time in a week that we get to watch a football match where as soon as the ball is kicked off, you can expect all 11 opponents to drop back into their half and start kicking at Arsenal’s ankles. The good news is that Blackburn tried that last year and lost 4-0 and that Arsenal just overcame Olympiacos 2-0 on Tuesday and they did pretty much the exact same thing.

Oddly, last season’s 4-0 win saw the return to Premier League action of young Theo Walcott after a 4 1/2 month absence and he was a terror on the Blackburn defense. The boss is reporting that Theo will be fit (along with Bendtner) for Sunday’s match though I would be very surprised if Theo starts. No, I suspect that we’ll see our “usual” lineup of Arshavin, van Persie, Bendtner up front — Diaby, Cesc, and Song in the middle — and Clichy, Vermaelen, Gallas, and Sagna at the back — with Mannone in goal because Manny Pickledickle is still infected with a chest or something. Maybe it’s the alien from Alien and they are trying to figure out whether to cut it out or let in incubate and turn into a truly terrifying Arsenal keeper.

Arshavin was the key last season and he will once again be the key this season, I suspect. The boss praised him after Tuesday’s win for his close control and thus ability to unlock defensive teams like Olympiacos and Rovers. Many of you similarly praised him after his “Goal of the Year” candidate last season unlocked Rovers (you’ll need to download the video from his file sharing service to watch it). I agree, Arshavin will be the key tomorrow.

As for the rest of the team Arsenal are on a mini streak of 5 wins with 4 consecutive clean sheets and I don’t think it’s uncalled for to expect that both streaks will continue. Blackburn’s leading scorer is David Dunn (another Pantomime villain) and he will need to be closely watched as he has a penchant for long shots. But with this team playing team football the way that they have been over the last two weeks, I expect them to work hard and give as much as they get.

As for viewing options, if you live in London the tickets actually went on general sale (no membership required) and the match is currently sold out. Elsewhere, the match is being carried by Sky Sports 1. Here on the West Coast of the United States, owing to the unusual 1:30 GMT kickoff, the match is being shown live on Setanta USA, but for us it’s a 5:30am kickoff and since bars don’t open that early, the only viewing we get is a replay. Locally, Doyle’s will be replaying the match at 10am (PST) which means no Sunday kickaround for me. Oh well, the things I sacrifice for my team.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. We’ll see you all tomorrow for, erm, well, I don’t actually know yet, but rest assured, there will be something! See you then.

Arsenal’s Ownership (plus the tee shirt follow-up)

Due to popular demand in another thread, I am putting up an entire heading for you all to discuss what you think of the supposed impending ownership takeover of Arsenal Football Club. My feelings are well known and pretty vanilla. Basically, I think that even if we get to one person having 30% of the shares their attempted forced takeover (irregardless who it is) will fail. Just because they have to make a bid doesn’t mean that others have to sell. As for which of the two main candidates I’d rather have as owner, I’m going to say as clear as possible that I like the current ownership and board just the way it is.

However, there seem to be quite a large number of my regular readers who want to debate the finer points of Usmanov v. Kroenke or whether the takeover will happen and that’s fine, have at it.

As for the new tee shirts, the winner of the slogan contest was Cesc’s Mullett with “We score more before 9am than you will day.”  I have modified it a bit to say “your team” but it’s still the winning concept. Congrats and thanks for the submission!

Henry

Tee shirts will be printed on white, 100% cotton, American Apparel shirts and will retail for $20 shipped to the USA and $25 shipped worldwide. Please send an email to 7amkickoff AT gmail DOT com with your size and quantity if you want to pre-order a shirt.