FA Cup Semi-Final; Red's Revenge

I hate Chelsea and I’ve hated Chelsea as long as I can remember.

I know that Gooners are supposed to hate Tottenham and I do get this sort of visceral reaction to Tottenham when we have to play them but with Chelsea it’s a pretty active hatred. I know it’s strange but it’s simply a function of when I came in to the game. When I first started watching, Arsenal were top of the world and Chelsea were in their place: a scrappy little club that never won anything.

One day, some filthy billionaire scumbag decided that he wanted to create a live-action video game team full of the most hideous cunts and superstars. Money was no object, Roman simply parked his T-84 in South London and started firing stacks of £50 notes into the waiting arms of anyone who would take them.

That Chelsea cash unsettled the premiership in a way that will ripple out for decades. But while he was spending freely it was insanely frustrating to be a Gooner. Any time Arsenal were linked to a player (Drogba, Essien, Shawn Wright-Phillips, etc) Chelsea came in with a bid of 10 times what Arsenal bid, then they offered the player a contract that no team living within their means could ever offer and, of course, the player was off to Chelsea.

When that didn’t work, when they couldn’t prise the player away from the team legally, they’d fucking tap them up: illegally unsettling Arsenal players by offering them huge contracts.

I tried to get over it. After all, that won’t last forever, Roman’s money is running out, Chelsea are in debt to their owner to the tune of nearly a billion dollars AND they have won exactly the same number of trophies that Arsenal have won over the last two years: 0.

But I still can’t get over some things. Like the Carling Cup final.

The Carling Cup final was supposed to be the moment that Arsenal’s youth policy trumped Chelsea’s buy everything policy. Theo Walcott scored his first ever Arsenal goal

And Abou Diaby nearly took John Terry’s head clean off

It should have been a perfect game, a perfect day, the perfect end to those youngster’s cup run. But Chelsea knew a trick or two, they knew that if there was any argy-bargy that Arsenal’s youth would play against them, and Chelsea’s English-ness would count in their favor. So, they send Obi wan Mikel in to kick up the midfield and when he kicked Toure one too many times, Toure lost his mind and kicked back. In the ensuing imbroglio Howard Webb sent off two Arsenal players (Adebayor! His favorite Arsenal player to send off) and one Chelsea player.

It shouldn’t have ended like that, but that’s Chelsea and that’s why I hate them. And that’s why tomorrow might not be a revenge mission for Cesc Fabregas but it will feel like revenge if we beat them, for me.

Because of all the teams in the Premier League, I love beating Chelsea. I love beating them and forcing their soulless owner to go out and pay £50m for David Villa so that he can keep his fantasy football team going.

Come on you GUNNERS!

Arsenal 3-0 Villareal (4-1 agg); The Good, Bad, and Offside

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Young Gunner’s progress pleases Wenger

Telegraph.co.uk: Arsenal outplay Villarreal to reach last four date with Manchester United

Match Video

You could go to the Arsenalist.com or you could just go to the Telegraph, where they have embedded an Arsenalist.com video. Hmmm….

The Arsenalist’s videos are, in all likelihood, illegal: I was harassed for taking pictures, with my own camera, at the game and videos are routinely taken down off YouTube for violation of copyright. I mean, there’s a reason his videos are named “aujaoijduiue” and “wownnbdy”. If he put “Walcott goal Champions League, Arsenal v. Villareal” the video would be yanked and his account suspended faster than you can type “wownnbdy.”

I’m not saying anything you all didn’t know. What’s pissing me off is that the Arsenalist was a neat little secret place to see the videos without too many pop ups or advertisements and the Telegraph very well may have ruined that for all of us. The Telegraph had to know that the Arsenalist isn’t paying for the right to show these videos and they also had to know that putting that video up there just essentially exposed him.

We’ll have to see what the fallout is but I’d be surprised if he isn’t hit with a cease and desist. Enjoy his videos while you can.

Dance of the Match

Dance of the match goes to Arsene Wenger (video above) who’s jig was obviously a spontaneous release of emotion. After 7 months of criticism from reporters, fans, and bloggers about how the team isn’t good enough and they should buy SennaDavidVillaAnyoneBecauseTheyWillNeverWinAnythingAndArseneWengerShouldBeFired it’s no surprise to see Wenger’s spontaneous expression of joy. It was almost a f*ck you to all the critics. Like “here’s this team you said wasn’t good enough and they are in the top four and they have made it to the Champions League Semi final, ding diddle ding ding ding ding ding, fuck you!”

Man of the Match

Theo Walcott; his pace was electric, his finishing superb, his crosses were magnificent, and he’s English which gets him bonus points. Two goals now in two games and there is no doubt that Theo is back to 100%.

The Good

Arsenal have defied nearly everyone to get to the semi-final of both the FA Cup and the Champions League. You will, no doubt, hear about how they will never beat Man U in the next round, or how Saturday against Chelsea is going to go to the Blues but I’m not having it. Arsenal beat a Champions League quarter final team decisively. Villareal are not chumps. This isn’t a home win against Wigan. This is a 3-0 win against one of the best teams in Europe and anyone who says anything less is talking shite.

The best part is that Arsenal have been undefeated, in every competition, since the 2-0 loss to Porto back in December: that’s 25 matches on the trot and yes, I count the second leg against Roma as a win, we won on penalties. Digging a bit deeper, we can see that since November we’ve beaten teams like Chelsea (at Stamford Bridge), Villareal, and Roma and if you go back to the start of the season, Arsenal have beaten Man U and Everton. And digging deeper still, Arsenal have two of the top scorers in the EPL (Adebayor — 10 and RvP — 9) and three of the best set up men in the league (RvP — 9, Cesc –7 and Denilson — 7) so again, anyone who says we are lucky or don’t deserve to be where we are is talking shite.

Last night was a decisive victory, the kind of complete win that should serve us well when we face Chelsea, who are leaking goals at the moment, on Saturday. Win or lose, we should all know that the days of 0-0 draws to Sunderland are over and can bank on the fact that Arsenal are going to put in a hell of a performance. One last bit about this 25 game run. Arsenal have accomplished this while carrying a team with some of the most devastating injuries I’ve ever seen any team suffer. The work they have put in to cover for that is simply amazing and the whole team deserves kudos; that’s the sign of a really good team when you’re able to overcome adversity by banding together.

I also want to single out two players; Alex Song and Robert Pires. First, I cannot say enough good things about Song at the moment. To illustrate how far he’s come, let me contrast with the Sunderland game again. Against Sunderland, he just looked lost and disinterested. In that game he looked more likely to pass the ball sideways, and less likely to track back and harass the Sunderland midfield. But against Villareal and others recently, he’s vastly improved his forward vision and is picking out forward passes that are finding teammates.And more importantly he’s tracking back, harassing the attackers, and playing his role as holding midfielder pretty much perfectly.  He’s even dribbled in and scored a goal! I don’t know what Wenger did (belief alone is not enough) but Song has gone from a player who I said should be plying his trade at Charlton to first choice defensive midfielder in my mind. Hell, the only reason he didn’t get man of the match was because Theo is English — just kidding, Theo was just slightly more vital, but it was REALLY close.

Robert Pires: thank you. At the end of the match he exchanged shirts with Kieran Gibbs and I just think that shows how classy he is. In an age when older footballers look down at giving their shirts to 19 year olds who are just getting a taste of Champions League football, he gladly exchanged shirts with Gibbs.Not only that but he stuck around, got an earful of praise from the crowd and  has said some really wonderful things about this Arsenal team being nearly at the same level as the invicibles (the press tried to paint it as criticism, the c*nts, but we all know Le Bob loves Arsenal.)

They can go far. This is a big team full of potential, speed, freshness and youth. What I hope is that they reach the final and win it. I’m still a fan of this team, who play the type of football that I love.

And we love you too Bobby!

The Bad

Gibbs has come out of the clash with a “groin problem” and is now a doubt for Saturday’s clash with Chelsea. With Sagna recovering from a virus, Gallas out with the knee, Clichy out with a bad back, and Djourou out with a knee, the boss isn’t really in trouble because his selection is pretty much made for him. If Gibbs goes down and Sagna stays out there’s no choice but to play Song in the middle and Big Head out on the left.

Also, could we stop doing the chicken dance? I know that Eboue started it, and yesterday it was funny, but no more please. Thanks!

The Ugly

Adebayor seriously needs to stop being offside. Seriously. It makes me wonder if he isn’t retarded? ESPN is saying the team only had 6 offsides but I think he had 7 or 8. It was so bad yesterday that I actually said to Alex that the ref will probably flag him for offside during a throw in, just because.

What’s most frustrating about him being continually offside is that he was faster than all of the Villareal defenders, he doesn’t need to be offside to have an advantage, he IS the advantage!

ARRRGHHHH

Conclusion

If you want to see some madness, check out the fixture list. In the next month, Arsenal play Manchester United three times (twice away), Chelsea twice, and Liverpool away. Throw in a game against ‘Boro and Pompey and Arsenal will play 2 times a week for the next 4 weeks — against the best teams in the world. A win on Saturday will set us up with an FA Cup final against either Everton or United. If it’s United, we’ll have the priviledge of facing them 4 times in a month and potentially re-stoking the old Arsenal-ManU rivalry.

It’s the craziest time of the craziest season I have ever witnessed. Hell, Arsenal actually still have a chance to win the leagu, that’s how crazy this season is!

It’s no surprise that it’s going to be a crazy ass finish.

Hang on to your hats!

Arsenal v. Villareal (1-1 agg)

Before we get started, please take a moment, close your eyes, head down.

Ok, that was for the 96 people who died at Hillsborough in 1989, certainly the most important moment in recent football history. A day that changed the way we all watch the game.

There’s no good way to segue from that so, let’s just get stuck in here with the football news.

First, did you happen to catch the insanity yesterday? 4-4 draw in the Chelsea v. Liverpool match? 7-5 on aggregate? No one could have predicted 12 goals over two legs, no one. I was able to watch some of it at work, where it just so happens that I can get ESPN 360, and honestly that match terrified me because it’s the exact type of game that Wenger is saying Arsenal will play today.

What’s scary about that is that as I was watching, first Liverpool scores 2 in a row and I start thinking “ok, so that makes them 3-3 on aggregate, but Chelsea has the away goals advantage” and then it hit me: a win puts Arsenal through, irregardless of the score line. 11-10? No problem, as long as Arsenal get the 11. But any draw above 1-1 puts them through and, of course, a loss by Arsenal puts them through as well. So, if Villareal score a goal, and especially an early goal, say a Pires goal in the 10th minute, then this match could turn into a goal fest.

I’m not saying this to freak you out, rather, well, rather because I’m already freaked out! and I need to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening.

So, we just have to win. Right? That’s all there is to it. My prediction is a 1-1 draw in regulation and that Arsenal win in the extra period 3-1. Also that Eduardo will nab a goal in there, somewhere.

As for lineups, I was fully prepared to predict that Song would start in defense, Diaby next to Cesc, and Silvestre would play at left wing-back but the boss squished that idea, specifically.

You don’t need a manager to pick the defence, Gibbs has no experience and Alex Song has not played a lot at centre back. But at least we can have someone close to Gibbs who has experience [in Silvestre].

So, Arsenal are playing a 19 year old at left back and a United reject at center back. OK, offensive lineup it is.

In that respect though we are in good shape; Eduardo is fit, Vela and Bendtner are on the bench, Adebayor is starting no matter what formation we use, Cesc is back, Theo has no knocks, Nasri has recovered from the flu, and Diaby is ready to go. The only question mark is Robin van Persie, who the boss (in the same link above) says is still suffering from a groin pull and will require a fitness test today to see if he can play.

The crucial thing about that is that I can’t predict the lineup without knowing if van Persie is fit.  I can give two options, though:

van Persie  Adebayor

Nasri   Song   Cesc   Theo

DEFENSE

or…

Adebayor

Diaby   Nasri   Theo

Song   Cesc

DEFENSE

Either way I can’t see Cesc playing in the hole since he isn’t match fit, we’ll need all the cover we can get for the defense, and when he played more forward this weekend it was nearly a disaster. I also think Wenger will favor Diaby on the left since it gives extra cover to Gibbs.

I’m sure you all disagree, please post alternate lineups to your heart’s content. One thing to consider in doing so is that Denilson has played every minute of the Champions League campaign. I considered it and still chose the lineups I chose.

Also, if Song, Nasri, Robin or Diaby pick up a yellow, they will miss the next game.

So, that’s pretty much it. There’s no word on van Persie and nothing on Senna either so what you have above is what we got. Kickoff’s at 11:45am and I managed to move my meeting so, I can be at Doyle’s. See you there, if you’re in town. If not?

UP THE ARSE!