Preview: Manchest Untied v. Arsenal

Today is one day that I really wish I could get to a crowded bar and watch the match. Both for the spectacle that is an Arsenal v. Manure match and for the fact that I’m sitting here with my Eduardo strip on and I want to proudly show off my shirt. I guess I’ll just have to show it off here:

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

Suck it, haters.

Wenger’s amazing pre-match presser (available to ATVO subscribers) tells all the story we need on the Eduardo situation and I’ll just let the crucial quotes speak for themselves:

I find it a complete disgrace and unacceptable,we won’t accept the way we have been treated in this case for two reasons. One, I believe that you can debate whether it was a penalty or not. This charge implies there was intent and a desire to cheat the referee. Having watched the pictures again there was nothing conclusive.  Two, it singles out a player in Europe to be a cheat and that is not acceptable.

I believe that, first of all, there are two cases in this case and that Uefa has taken action that is not defendable.

I’ve fought my whole life against cheating and I’ve seen some obvious cases where Uefa didn’t intervene. On and off the pitch things have happened where no action was taken. This is the first time since I’ve been in football that the judgement has been made by the referee is not accepted by the football bodies.

Usually a situation that has been assessed and judged by the referee can’t be touched again. Now every single decision made by a referee can be challenged. So for me they’ve opened a very dangerous door here.

I think we have to fight against diving, the best way to do that is to have video evidence when you make decisions.The referee could say straight away ‘penalty or not’. If he is told no, we continue, or yes, we take the penalty.

The referees need help. How many times have I come out and said I am for video technology? Uefa refused the video technology but now they have used it to judge our player. Where is the logic? It is something that is quite surprising.

For me it’s a witch-hunt that we see and not an objective judgement of a case. Eduardo has been touched by the goalkeeper and we can prove that. I’m the first to say that, at first, it doesn’t look like a penalty but it’s another thing to say that he went down with intent. I wish you good luck to prove that having seen the pictures again.

To single out a player who is coming back from injury like he had, when he was hit in the way he was, for going down… well I don’t blame him. When you saw his leg after that tackle I don’t blame him for getting out of the way of the goalkeeper.

That’s all we need to know about this situation; Wenger’s going to fight this decision, he has evidence and feels like he can make a good case that the intent was not to deceive but rather to avoid contact. Not only that, it’s exactly as I said in yesterday’s comments: Arsenal are being singled out here. It’s been fully 2 years since UEFA used video replay to ban Mikoliunas and in the intervening time there have been ZERO cases brought by UEFA despite countless examples of cheating.

There’s something to be said for the fact that the folks who are most vocal in comments across the web about wanting to “stamp out diving” by making an example of Eduardo are Manchester United supporters and their ilk. Supporters of the team who have most benefited over the last two years from one of the dirtiest cheats to ever put on cleats have the amazing audacity to suddenly find morals and bray for the head of Eduardo.

Well fuck you.

Just as important in all of this is the fact that irregardless of whether UEFA find him guilty, Eduardo will be labeled a “diver” for one, just one, “dive.” More than Taylor’s leg breaking tackle, this has the potential for unfairly putting a pall over the rest of his career. From now on every single tackle will be scrutinized and any glimmer of simulation will be called a “dive” by opponents.

Well, fuck that. Eduardo’s an Arsenal player and what Platini and his goons are doing here is unfair. Dudu is a class player and racist clap-trap about this being “in his genes” should be denounced. I will proudly wear my Eduardo shirt, and I will defend him from his detractors, after all, he is an Arsenal player and we are the Arsenal. Who are you?

You know that the world has gone crazy when Man U fans are calling for a ban for diving and Andy Gray is calling this action “A Staggering Decision.” Incredible really.

Enough about that, we’ve got some cunts to beat

Down the years there have been some famously fiery matches between the two clubs, pizzagate springs instantly to mind. But over the last 4 years, the key matches have not come in the League but rather in the cup competitions. In fact, Arsenal have a good record in the League over the last four years with 3 wins, 3 draws, and 2 losses: taking 12 points to Manure’s 9.

Where we have struggled against them has been in the FA Cup and the Champions League over the last two years. Last year, they came to the Emirates and gave us a 3-1 drubbing, and it was after that Evra talked about how it was Men v. Boys. The season before it was the FA Cup and a 4-0 beating which featured Nani’s “Seal Dribble” and subsequent attempted kneecapitation by Flamini.

With both Nani and Evra disrespecting Arsenal at pretty much every turn Arsenal feel like they have something to prove today. For example, when asked how they feel about Evra’s comments Alex Song put it thus:

We will never forget that, it was very difficult to lose the game but, when you wake up in the morning, you see the newspaper and you see someone saying they played against 11 kids. That, for me, is not respect. You cannot say that. Barcelona won everything last year and they didn’t say things like that. When we go there, everyone wants to show him we are not kids. We will see, but we are confident. We are different to the team that played in May.

Indeed Arsenal are a different team than May. Over the first four games of the season, Song and Denilson look vastly improved over last year and have been absolutely dominant in the middle of the park. At the back, Thomas Vermaelen is a confident figure, where Toure was at times a bit less assured and thus the team less confident. Nothing shows this more that the fact that Arsenal seem vastly improved aerially where TV5′s dominance seems to have infected the whole team.

Tactically Arsenal are different as well. Last year we often played a 4-5-1 with a clearly disgruntled Adebayor as the lone strike threat. This year, Arsenal play a 4-3-3 and along with the high line and beautiful passing, Arsenal have added a high pressure aspect to the game which is causing teams a lot of trouble.

Man U won’t have Ronalda to take the heat off  and are relying on Anderson, Nani, Carrick and new boy Valencia to carry the load in the middle. Up front, losing Ronalda and Tevez left a huge hole in their attack, one which they are hoping Rooney and Bobblekoph can fill.

But honestly, what won Man U the title last year was their stalwart defense and at the back, they are missing Ferdinand and van der Saar for today’s match. I think this leaves them highly vulnerable and hopefully Arsenal’s 4 goals per game tally so far in this season continues.

Obviously, missing Chesk (who is inexplicably still in the Spain squad), Rosicky, and Nasri is a big loss in the creative department for Arsenal, but as we saw at Anfield last season and with his brief introduction against Celtic, Andrei Arshavin is more than good enough to fill Cesc’s shoes.

It’s going to take one hell of a team effort today: the Prawn Sandwich crowd will be up for the game and Funguscunt will have his players fully yelled at and ready for this match.

We’ve talked a lot about how each of the matches so far this season have been big tests and at each turn Arsenal have breezed through those tests. Today is the biggest test so far this season. It’s a test of Eduardo’s character should the boss play him, it’s a test of how Arsenal can cope without Cesc, and it’s a test of how much Arsenal have grown since Evra disgraced himself last May. But I’m confident they can pass this test with flying colors, after all, Arsenal begins with an ‘A.’

UEFA Open a Can of Dudu

Eduardo has been retroactively charged by UEFA for “deceiving the referee” and I, for one, would like to embrace this charge but only under the following conditions.

First, you’ll need to have some context. The relevant rule is Article 10, Paragraph 1c of UEFA’s disciplinary handbook. It states:

Players may be suspended for two competition matches, or for a specified period, for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision or supporting his error of judgment and thereby causing him to make an incorrect decision.

That’s pretty clear, if you dive to win a penalty, UEFA can go back and look at the video tape and give you a two-match ban, or more. Interestingly, this has actually been tested by UEFA: Saulius Mikoliunas missed two Euro 2008 matches for home country Lithuania after video evidence was used to prove he dived against, of all countries, Scotland in their 3-1 win. Evidently, Scotland suffers from the indignity of divers more than any other country.

The Mikoliunas dive is a bit different than Eduardo’s dive in that the match against Scotland was 1-0 at the time of the dive and the contact between Mikoliunas and the Scottish defender even less than the contact between Eduardo and Boruc. Mikoliunas dived at a crucial moment, in a crucial match and earned his team a penalty. Eduardo’s dive was no where near as crucial. But, again, I’m embracing this action and in fact I don’t think it goes far enough.

Now that we’re headed down the road of video replay I think that all sorts of simulation should be examined and I think retroactive bans for all acts of simulation in UEFA sanctioned matches should be imposed: whether they resulted in a penalty or just a free kick. As long as the player’s actions resulted in the referee making a wrong decision, UEFA should examine the tapes, and ban the offending player for two or more games.

Ryan Babel’s dive in the Champions League? Clear simulation, the referee was duped, Liverpool didn’t do anything to deny the penalty, therefore he gets a 2 match retroactive ban. To do anything less would be harsh on Arsenal since up to now the penalty for diving has ranged from the ref ignoring the infraction to a yellow card.

And as I have said many times before, I would even go further. It’s easy to wipe out plain old fashioned diving. The kind where video replays show that there was no contact and the player was already on his way down. The hard stuff, and the more important infractions, are the ones where the player “makes a meal” of light contact. So, under my plan, the Mascherano/Aliadiere incident, had it taken place in a UEFA sanctioned event, would see Javier Mascherano suspended for two games for simulation, maybe more since he’s a serial offender. There’s no way that Liverpool’s hard man goes down with the supposed facial injuries he intimated after Aliadiere brushes his face like that. It’s was an obviously exaggerated reaction intended to dupe the referee into thinking the contact was harder than it actually was and since the referee gave the red card to Aliadiere, the simulation must be punished.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about how it doesn’t make any sense that diving on video is a 2+ match ban while diving in real life usually results in the referee waving play on and occasionally, I’m talking maybe 2 times a year, the referee will hand out a yellow card. So, since we’re all in agreement that referees are incapable of making real time decisions, and what we want is the perfectly fair game, and we want to stamp out this pernicious cheating; we need to just go ahead and after every match use video to issue retroactive yellow and red cards for dives that DO NOT result in deception of the referee. After every UEFA sanctioned match there should be a team of Video Referees watching every moment of every game rewinding, and watching over and over, the match action. Issuing yellow or red cards for harsh tackles that went unpunished and yellow or red cards for simulations that went unpunished. After all, what we can’t have are instant replays and decisions made on the spot. We can only use video days or even weeks after the match, to re-referee the matches and dole out the appropriate punishment.

I’m not suggesting that we should go back to time immemorial, just a year, or hell, even 6 months. If we did that, Ryan Babel would be out for 2 matches and I’m sure if we look at all the video, Christiano Rolando won’t be allowed to play in the Champions League at all this season.

Tony Cascarino agrees with me and we all know what a fan I am of him. Tony thinks that the only way to stamp out this cheating is to look at video ex-post-facto. Because only a crazy person would suggest that it would be fairer for the match official, say the fourth official, to go over to a monitor and see that Eduardo dived and then (on the spot) issue a yellow card. No! What we need is for a game altering decision to be made after the match and for the punishment to be far harsher. Simulation, after all, is too important to get right on the spot.

I mean, if we’re going to retroactively ban people using video replay, let’s do it right.  Let’s let one team win the game and THEN go back and start banning people. It’s the only fair thing to do.

Arsenal 5-1 Celtic; the Good, Bad, and the Dive Heard Round the World

Match Reports

The Telegraph: Short of borrowing Roman Abramovich’s yacht, David Niven’s wardrobe and Jenson Button’s girlfriend, Arsenal could not have arrived in Monaco in more style. In reaching this afternoon’s Champions League group stage draw in the land of Rolls-Royces and Rainiers, Arsène Wenger’s side were elegance personified, barring an ugly act of deception by Eduardo.

ESPNSoccernet: Eduardo’s controversial penalty helped Arsenal secure another shot at the £30m jackpot of the Champions League with a comfortable 3-1 win on the night – 5-1 on aggregate – over Celtic at Emirates Stadium.

Match Video

You can watch the whole match, a two minute highlight, or an extended 12 minute highlight package over at the dot com, if you’re an ATVO subscriber.

You can watch the Dive Heard Round the World and subsequent expertly taken penalty here.

Man of the Match

I’m giving man of the match to Eboue. His goal was excellent and his overall level of play was very high. Yes, the midfield worked very hard and looked very good and bossed Celtic off the pitch, but still Eboue’s pulsating counters and well taken goal sealed the match far more than Eduardo’s controversial penalty. Le Boss hailed Eboue’s character and I have to admit, the guy has done pretty much everything that Arsene has ever asked, all while simply keeping his nose clean, working hard, and playing hard.

The Good

Yay, we’re into the group stage where we could face real Scottish powerhouse Rangers, which would be a tricky test for sure. We’ll find out about that around 9am PST.

All around, I think Arsenal played their game for 90 minutes last night. Song and Denilson were magnificent in the middle of the park, Eduardo and Bendtner were scintillating up front, and the back four were assured and solid for 92 of the 93 minutes. Arsenal limited Celtic to just 2 shots and only one shot on goal in 90 minutes last night, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the game. We were just that good.

The Bad

There is a little hand-wringing out there about the fact that we conceded another late goal but I just want to point out that Arsenal were up 5-0 on aggregate at that point, it was literally the last seconds, and the goal required a left-footed volley off the far post to beat Arsenal.

Sure, we don’t want to get in the habit of conceding goals at the end of games but we also don’t want to see Sagna come up with a hamstring pull because he’s straining to get to a meaningless cross.

The Dive

Holy Christ, you’d think this was the first time anyone’s ever dived. As if Eduardo came up with this unique way to trick the referee into awarding a penalty. It was a dive, no one will argue that. The ref should have awarded a yellow card to Eduardo. The referee got it dead wrong and if I was a Celtic supporter I’d… well I’d be pissed that 60,000 of my compatriots support a team week in and week out which lacks the ability to get more than 2 shots on goal in 180 minutes of play. That’s what I’d be pissed about.

Maybe UEFA will give a two match ban, fair enough, I suppose. They’ve done it before and though I might argue that UEFA handing out two match bans for diving and three match (suspended) bans for acting like an utter crybaby cunt after you lose strains the boundaries of logic. But if that’s the rule, hey, then that’s the rule. And if that IS the rule and Dudu is banned for what Wenger calls “risk aversion” then I want that same rule applied next time Ryan Babel goes to ground and Arsenal are wrongly kicked out of the Champions League. Or how about a lifetime ban on Ronaldo, or Drogba, or any of the other serial divers out there who have cost Arsenal games?

I’ve written about this before,when Hleb viciously skull-f*cked Murty and then pooped on his head as he lie writhing on the ground with a compound fracture to his whole body, there are two types of dives: obvious and make a meal of contact.

They are divided by a single factor: did the opponent make contact? If so, then most fans seem to not have a problem with fakery. But if not? ZOMG HE IS A DIVORZ!!!1!1!!ONE!!!

It’s pretty strange to me that I never heard a single Scouser talk about banning Mascherano for his dive on Aliadiere. Or how about Manure supporters decrying the 4 match ban awarded because of Aliadiere’s love tap? Which, incidentally, came after JM slapped Ali in the face. Funny how  Javier Mascherano, one of the world’s most prolific divers, on a team captained by one of England’s finest divers, goes down writhing as if he’d been shot by Lee Harvey Oswald’s magic bullet and it’s Aliadiere who’s appeal is considered “frivolous” and earns him a 4th match ban. Was that fair? No, but for some reason, I don’t recall people suggesting that Mascherano receive a European ban for his part in that disgrace.

In a time when the press can’t even be arsed to use an active tense verb when describing Taylor’s horrific tackle on Eduardo. Or at a time when the apoplectic reaction by English managers up and down the coast is to describe what a good boy Taylor is and how he’s been destroyed by the criticism — while Eduardo’s leg has LITERALLY been destroyed. Or at at time when Taylor’s manager receives no opprobrium for his part in telling the lads to go out and get stuck in, which directly leads to Eduardo’s leg being broken by Taylor. Or at a time when a player can break a man’s leg and receive a lesser ban than the man who touches another man’s face and sees his “victim” (a serial diver) go down as if shot. At times like that, you’ll pardon me if I’m not going to get in an uproar because of Eduardo’s dive.

It’s a dive, the ref got it wrong, Dudu should have gotten a yellow and the penalty not given. It was a dive, no more or less than Mascherano, Ronaldo, Drogba, Gerrard, or Klinsmann did before him. I don’t remember the Manure’s calling for Their Boy Ronaldo to be banned from the game for his constant diving. So, you’ll pardon me if I don’t take their criticisms too seriously. As it says in the bible: pull the Drog out of your own eye before you start looking at the Dudu in others’.

Was it the kind of terrible action that deserved Glen Loovens’ racism at the end of the match? Where the Celtic player said “I don’t think he even speaks English so there was no point talking to him?” Is that appropriate behavior at the end of a match?

But more importantly, did the dive win the tie for Arsenal? Tony Mowbray didn’t think so

The referee has given it, but if the TV pictures show it should not have been given, then so be it. All the boys thought there was no contact, but we have to accept it and move on. However, you cannot deny that over the two legs, Arsenal had more quality and deserved to go through.

End of.