Let's get stuck in!

Beckham has a question for the teacher

Oh man, I love the Friday pre-match presser. Arsene Wenger, naked, in front of dozens of sports reporters who ask pointed questions… about other teams players… like Ronaldo

Fine, this is really two related issues: hard play and diving.  As for hard play I’ve talked about this before, every Arsenal blogger talked about this issue at one point or another, owing to the fact that Arsenal have probably suffered more than any at the hands of this English cultural phenomena. My argument, in essence, is that we need some hard play, but that some teams, like Bolton, when outclassed by their opponent are told by their managers and the fans to go out and “get stuck in:” intentionally tackle hard in order to disrupt play and make their opponent think twice about dribbling in to their area. Further, it’s a fact that when two teams of disparate quality come together the English referees manage the game differently. The clod-hoppers are allowed to challenge a little harder than the butterflies. After all, it’s expected that Sheffield United will come and kick Arsenal off the pitch but when we do it, it’s clearly intentional and retributive.

From grade school to the Premier League, English players are taught to play like this, English coaches coach like this, and English referees ref like this. Wenger has been on a 5 year mission to change this fact about English football and by all accounts has failed miserably. Yes, the game is a bit less rough than when he came in 12 years ago. But I could argue that that’s down to the fact that the Arsenal herself got less rough! Old heads know what I’m talking about: Patrick Vieira was no butterfly. Actually, what it’s down to is a bit of clamping down on the more cynical tactics that most defenders used to employ in order to try to align the Premier League more with the continent.

But this is Wenger’s thing right now, he wants every team to play beautiful technical football, and if asked about it will launch into a huge tirade. I think he needs to abandon this principle and bring in a Vieira type because after 5 years of trying this new, more technical football, Arsenal haven’t won shite. The reality is that you need some gritty players, guys who are going to go out and employ the dark arts. Not all the time, but when the time comes, you’ll know it. Like whenever Kevin Davies is on the pitch: one good tackle and that fucking clod-hopper will be put in his place.

The other thing, the comment about Ronaldo and how he invites hard play because he’s such a ponce, well, yeah. DUH. It’s true. I wrote about this  issue after the Hleb/Murty incident. And again, the essence of the argument goes like this: I hate to see players “make a meal” of contact. When 140 lb Hleb “struck” Murty he fell to the ground like he had been hit by Mike Tyson. When Cesc was brushed by Arteta’s elbow he went to ground as if he’d had his eye socket collapsed. etc. etc. You all know what I’m talking about and it’s one of the most infuriating aspects of modern football. Can you imagine Tony Adams pulling a Murty? Hell no, he’d be more likely to bide his time, wait for the perfect moment and take Hleb out with a well timed slide tackle. Then stand over him and say “keep your hands to yourself, son.”

Given his history of histrionics and admission that “when I feel contact I go down” Ronaldo is the poster child for this type of feigning injury douche baggery and Wenger points that out. Yes, Taylor’s arm struck Ronaldo on the shoulder, and that should have been a yellow, or maybe a retroactive red. But watching Ronaldo slumped over by the hoardings, grasping his face as if he’d been kicked in the face is a disgrace on the modern game.

He’s play acting, he’s faking, HE’S CHEATING.

I don’t know how you stamp this sort of thing out, maybe have after match reviews and fine players who are clearly feigning injury for bringing the game into disrepute (Eb*ue).

Or… maybe we just let the hard tacklers have at them and call it a wash?

Anyway, Burnley on Sunday and it’s a 6:30am kickoff, live on Fox Soccer Channel, which means sausages and skivvy’s and liveblogging for me, you have to tune in for that.

Match preview tomorrow, if you’re in to that sort of thing. See you then!

Nobody told me there'd be days like these

That's SIR Ted to you, son. Now, where'd I put that alcohol related joke?

That's SIR Ted to you, son. Now, where'd I put that alcohol related joke?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one… Sir Edward Kennedy! That’s right, the Queen and Gordon Brown have conspired to give Teddy an honorary knighthood for all his work in Northern Ireland, in bringing health care to America, and.. um… bringing educations to the childrens. Huzzah!

But then in a cruel twist of fate, it turns out we’re not allowed to call him “Sir” because only British people can be called “Sir.”

WTF?

So you make him a knight and then you’re all “oh but no calling him Sir” even though your own Prime Minister called him Sir Edward Kennedy? What was it, Sir for the day?

I’m sorry, but you gave him the title and I’m calling him Sir. If I have to call some horrible c*nt like Alex Ferguson “Sir” then I’m sure as hell calling lovable lush Ted Kennedy “Sir.” Besides, I earned that right when someone else’s forefathers kicked someone else’s forefathers British asses! I remember it from High School History, ‘Merica broke away from King George because we wanted lots of taxation, guns, free speech, no-knock searches, the price of tea in China, we were tired of being forced to house British troops, and we wanted the right to call each other Sir if we so choose. It’s in the constitution, it’s the 14th amendment, I think.

While all this Sir-a-baloo was going on Arsenal got handed a leg up in the race for our fourth place birthright when Man City conspired to beat Aston Villa 2-0. Am I the only one who thinks “Man City” is funny? Like maybe San Francisco should change its name to “Man City?”Anyway, erm, yes, Citeh beat Villa 2-0 and it sure looks like Villa is collapsing. Huzzah!

Yesterday’s collapse signaled all the “told you so” folks to prepare their long winded speeches about how us doom and gloomers were wrong and how they are always right and how we need to stand by our man (Wenger). Start prepping boys, I want some real fire and brimstone from you lot.

I’ll admit that it is a spectacular collapse and as I said nearly three weeks ago Einstürzende Aston Villa has a bit of a rough patch coming up schedule wise — facing all the other top teams in the next few weeks — while Arsenal has a bit of an easy patch coming up. In their next four matches Einstürzende Aston Villa face a resurgent and hungry Tottenham, Liverpool at fortress Anfield, Man U at Old Trafford, and an angry Everton. Arsenal on the other hand face Blackburn, Newcastle, Citeh, and Wigan.  Arsenal are on  a 14 match unbeaten run, Villa have taken just 5 points from their last 5 matches. Anything could happen but I have to think that Arsenal’s luck is about to change and that 3 point difference is about to be erased. Huzzah!

It doesn’t hurt that Sir Theo Walcott and Sir Eduardo might be fit enough to play against Burnley on Sunday and thereafter provide Arsene with some much needed depth and pace in attack. Just having the option to put Theo on rather than Eb*ue is enough to get me all excited about the run in to the end of the season.

In other injury news, Toure is being ruled out for Sunday but Gallas is being ruled in. Adebayor is out for another two matches. Cesc isn’t being touted as coming back any time soon (how much you wanna bet he’s a surprise inclusion for the Roma match?) and Rosicky has dropped off the radar completely (April was last word on him). Can’t wait for them all to be healthy and kicking butt in time for our sticky patch in the Premier League. Huzzah!

And finally, I’m not going to rub in the story about Cesc saying if Wenger leaves he leaves, what’s the point? Rather, I’d like to point out that Ashley Cole is the only person in the history of mankind to get arrested for being drunk and disorderly at a charity event.

cashley

Huzzah!

A  knighthood for Sir Teddy Kennedy, Villa close the gap between Arsenal and their 4th place birthright to 3 points, good news on the injury list with Sirs Theo and Eduardo returning, and Ashley Cole getting arrested at a charity event.

Now, if the youngsters can top off the day with a FA Youth Cup win against old rivals Tottenham we can all exclaim Huzzah!

Arsenal Lite 1-3 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Bendtner Bags Brace.

Telegraph.co.uk: Bendtner Ends Arsenal Drought

The Independent: Rampaging Bendtner Leaves Albion Reeling

Match Video

The Arsenalist didn’t put up any match videos today so I hope everything is ok with him. In his absence, you’ll have go to 101 Great Goals, which ought to be renamed 73 Crappy Javascripts 25 Goals and 3 Great Goals.

Man of the Match

I have to swallow my dislike of the player, and put aside my pride, and give MotM to Bendtner. That first trickly, slow-mo, bullshit, lucky-ass goal gifted by Albion’s nightmare defending was so utterly surprising that I sat there with beer in hand, jaw open, and waited for the goal to be called off. There’s no way that the defender could be that poor, the keeper be so out of position, and the ball trickle so slowly across the face of goal and have no one get in front of it. It was simply incredible, a miracle, if you will.

But what sealed man of the match wasn’t the first miraculous goal, but the fact that for the first time in a dog’s year Bendtner received a long pass and struck a good goal on the volley. Normally that’s the kind of shot he’ll put into the upper deck. A second miracle and man of the match.

After the match, the boss released a joint statement with Bendtner and his Father/Agent which read “Nicklas is bigger than Thierry Henry, Jesus, and cigarettes all rolled into one. We expect sainthood following this match because both goals could be considered miracles.”

Seriously, the boss did praise the player after the match and Bendtner did have a good first half, but Wenger hailing him as “improved” is a bit of a stretch. Sure he can score against the Albion’s, Argyle’s, and United’s (Sheffield) of the world but let’s not get carried away; he’s man of the match, but his record this year proves that he’s still crap. In fact, he scored bigger, more important goals against stiffer competition last season, he’s got a long way to go before I’d label him “improved.”

Irregardless, congrats Nicklas, don’t spend all the good will in one place.

The Good

Depending how you look at it, Arsenal have been unbeaten in 16 matches in all competitions in a stretch that goes back to a 2-0 loss to Porto in December or, Arsenal have been unbeaten in 14 league matches in a stretch that goes back to a 3-0 loss to Man City in November. Either way, that streak was kept alive yesterday.

But better than just keeping the streak alive, Arsenal scored! I can’t tell you how stoked I am that Arsenal scored 3 goals.

10 matches left in the league and Arsenal have a really easy schedule coming up. If they continue playing like yesterday against these lower teams and are able to eek out draws (or better) against Liverpool, Chelsea and Man U in April and May we could see the unbeaten run extended to 24 league matches. If that happens, I’m sure we’ll secure 4th. 10 draws won’t do it, mind you, but a good mix of wins and draws will certainly do it.

As for the players, before picking up an undefined “calf” injury Toure had a great match; scoring one and putting in the long ball that Bendtner miracled into the net.

Arshavin was, well, pretty much (aside from Jesus Bendtner) the only player with any class in the Arsenal attack yesterday. His vision, footballing awareness, passing ability, and assuredness with the ball are exactly what this team needs. Further, that ball he put in to Toure from the set play was magnificent and another piece of the Arsenal puzzle that has been missing all season. At least, it feels that way since I haven’t seen a decent ball off a set play for Arsenal all season, much less a ball that was so perfect that even Toure couldn’t screw up the header.  I don’t care who’s on the pitch, Arshavin should be taking every set piece. I say that fully understanding that it’s damn early to be saying something like that and knowing I will incur the wrath of Cesc’s supporters. I don’t care, I’m that excited by the fact that Arsenal scored from a dead ball.

And though no one will agree with me, I have to give honorable mention to Denilson. Denilson had another great match bossing the midfield. He was especially effective after our 4th striker, Song, was moved from the attacking midfield position to cover for Toure. I know none of you like him but he did get an assist, had a 95% completion rate on an astonishing 65 passes, and won 6 challenges. He was Arsenal’s water carrier yesterday, the facts are irrefutable.

The Bad

Song.

Song would have been firmly in The Ugly except that when Toure went out, Song deputized well in defense.

Kudos.

This is a player who is completely incapable of making a forward pass, has no positional awareness, cannot make himself available to his teammates, has no touch, can’t dribble, and is the slowest player I’ve ever seen play the game. I bet I could beat him in a foot race and I’m short and fat.

And yet? There he was in the opposition box playing the attacking midfield role. Why in the fuck is that man on the pitch much less past the midfield line?

This player is a black hole on the pitch, sucking the talent off all the other players around him. I can’t wait for anyone else to get healthy and come on for him. Anyone but Song. Well, almost anyone…

The Ugly

UTTER CRAP

This is a guy (pictured above) who is actually worse than Song — and I’m increasingly convinced that he might be actually mentally handicapped. How many times a year do we say “what the hell is he doing???” Fuck year, how many times a match are we saying that?

Yesterday, he was dancing around in the wall when the ref blew the whistle and Brunt saw an opening and put the ball in the back of the net. Does this guy not know how to form a wall? SERIOUSLY???

And if that’s not enough, I have to watch this absurd man, this joke of a player do some kind of choreographed celebration with his teammates after every goal.  Every goal. Just to what, remind us that he’s the clown on the team? Dude, your every touch of the ball is clown-ish I don’t need some “rock-a-bye-baby” celebration to remind me.

Conclusion

*Deep breath*

I apologize for the above rant and I realize I should be more positive; Arsenal won. It’s just that those two guys drove me insane yesterday and more than any other players will weigh heavy on Wenger’s neck if Arsenal are unable to secure 4th place at the end of the year.

That’s a big “if” though at this point: Arsenal have finally put a little pressure on 4th place rivals Villa and we’ll have to see how they respond today against a depleted Man City. A loss here, a bad loss, could be the kind of shock to the system that Arsenal need to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. A good win, a commanding win, could have the opposite effect. So, it could be an important game and it’s live today on Fox Soccer Channel (in the U.S.) which means that I can watch it when I get home tonight. WHEEE!

The next Arsenal match is on Sunday at 6:30am (FA Cup match against Burnley) and that too is live on Fox Soccer Channel so I’ll be staying home and doing the liveblogging thing. Arsenal should have Walcott back healthy by then and he’s supposed to be the first shot over the Premier League bow of Arsenal players regaining fitness in the run up (followed by Eduardo and Adebayor and then Cesc). So, things are looking up, Kickers, a big win by Citeh today could put us on track to get our 4th place birthright back.

UP THE CITEH, UP THE ARSE!