Our density has brought us to this point. I mean, destiny.

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

Despite plane troubles that nixed the pre-match press conference, Wenger found a way to get out to press a good ole fashioned pep-talk, saying that the destiny of the team is in their hands and that he wants the boys to be rewarded for all their hard work and that he’s personally going to buy them all a pony when they get back to London, if they beat Roma.

Sounding a familiar refrain, he said:

You judge a season at the end of the season and it’s down to us in the coming months to show that we have the necessary quality and that people were too quick to write us off.

Sorry, but I don’t recall any “writing off” of this team. I do recall “slagging off” after shiatty performances but that is perfectly natural and something I think the boss and his creche of players would do well to take on board rather than dismiss out of hand with broad statements like “we have been written off” and “judge us at the end of the season.” Fans, ‘fanatics’ who love the club, are going to judge and be pissed off when they spend $1000 to fly to London to watch Arsenal take on a team of Tottenham rejects and put in a performance that was literally a somniferant to at least one other spectator.

I can’t possibly speak for everyone but I’m fairly certain that what we all want to see is a team that is progressing from year to year. Getting better, challenging for awards, give the fans something to celebrate, and for 3/4 of this season, this was a club that looked more like it was digressing rather than progressing. Yes, Wenger and The Young Ones have turned that around a bit with this current run of form and Arsenal are finally closer to 4th place than 6th. They are also a hound’s tooth away from the Champions League 1/4 finals and still playing catch-up with the rest of the league in the FA Cup.

Huzzah, keep up the good work, but could you all please do us a favor and stop pointing the finger outward for once? Take some responsibility for this mess?

If we have been critical it’s because the team has put in a lot of gormless performances and the manager has refused to bolster key positions that he even admitted that the team needed. Frankly, it’s patently disingenuous to say “oh well, you shouldn’t have written us off” before you win anything. It’s almost as if he’s gloating, like he’s saying “I told you not to write us off” — dude, beating Burnley and West Brom is hardly setting the world on fire. It was only two weeks ago that Arsenal let Fulham, FULHAM, overrun our midfield. So, maybe save the gloating for when you win the Champions League, you know, at the end of the season, when we’re all supposed to judge you?

For me, the worst part of what he’s doing is that by blaming those of us who have been critical, it absolves the team of their responsibility. And in this match today this team will be held accountable by Roma. Roma have watched the Fulham and Sunderland match tapes and they are saying that they are going to be “cautious” and “patient” which translates into “defensive” and “stealing goals on the counter.” Arsenal will need to be at the top of their game and not let off for one second — this is a Champions League game, there’s no do overs.

Fortunately, one characteristic of this team is that they do show up for big matches and if they play the way they did two weeks ago, if Denilson and Song can scratch out a huge performance in the middle again, and if Arsenal can take the chances we are given, I have no doubt that they will beat Roma.

This team has the quality to beat Roma but it’s not about the quality, it’s about the desire. We’ll find out if they have the desire tonight.

"Don't travel alone"

3,400 Arsenal supporters are descending on Rome in order to sit in the cavernous Stadio Olimpico and watch Roma and Arsenal finish their Champions League tie. It should be a good day out and a lovely trip to a wonderful old city, but for those 3,400 Gooners as they lay their heads to rest tonight, scenes of stabbings and police brutality have to be dancing in their heads.

The club have taken steps to warn Arsenal supporters where they should and shouldn’t travel, to remind them to travel in groups, and that they are ambassadors of the club. Combined with the fact that Arsenal supporters, generally, aren’t known for their hooliganism and I expect (knock on wood) that everything should go smoothly tomorrow.

But it is a bit unsettling to have the club remind the supporters that the Rome police and Roma “Ultras” have a long history of being complete twats. The Roma players aren’t doing anything to help the situation, rather they are inciting their supporters to turn the Stadio Olimpico into a cauldron. I suppose they need all the help they can get with all the injuries to the team. Totti has supposedly found fitness but Daniele De Rossi is still suspended, Perrotta and Cicinho are injured, and Panucci is being benched for a fracas with the boss over playing time — you want more playing time? I got your playing time right here!

If Arsenal do go through I suspect that the story from the Giallorossi will be “boo hoo, look at all our injuries” despite the fact that Arsenal are the ones who have been devastated by injury this season. No matter, you go to war with the army you have not the army you wish you had, according to Donald Rumsfield, and the Army we have is gaining fitness quick.

Toure has been included for the trip and the boss has said he will pick from “two of three” in Gallas, Toure, and Djourou for the central pairing.  Nasri and Denilson are back in the first team after being rested against Burnley and even some dude named Silvestre is gaining fitness, though he hasn’t been included for the trip because, erm, “he only returned to training on Monday.”

No word on whether Diaby picked up an injury which means that he’ll probably be fit for the match, and similarly the press are quiet on van Persie, so fingers crossed that those two are available. Pairing them in attack and providing some width, pace, and goal scoring acumen the boss has indicated that Theo and Eduardo will make the trip. No word yet on Vela, but after his goal on Sunday, the boss would be mad not to take him.

As you all know, Cesc and Rosicky are still out, despite my optimism that Cesc would be back for this match. Oh well, I can’t be right about everything! Also, Arshavin is out because he played in some Champions League qualifying match last year — which makes sense really (sarcasm).

Historically, Wenger plays a 4-5-1 in these matches and I don’t think that’s going to change tomorrow. Expect to see van Persie alone up front, Nasri and Eboue on the wings, and a central midfield of Denilson, Diaby, and Song. At the back Toure will captain the side and partner with Gallas, while Clichy and Sagna will be playing at wing-back. Of course, Future England Number One will be in the net.

Depending on the score line we could see Theo get battered and deep fried around the 60th minute and if we get truly desperate (down 2-0) I suspect Arsene will throw on Eduardo and Bendtner. Or maybe Eduardo, then Theo, then Bendtner, I really don’t know and it all depends on the flow of the game.

Right, all that’s at stake here is a 17 match unbeaten run and some £10m — no pressure! Seriously, though, Arsenal have a 1-0 advantage and any goal they put in at the Stadio Olimpico adds to that advantage. As it stands, a 1-0 Roma win adds extra time, a 2-0 Roma win means they go through outright, and a 2-1 Roma win means Arsenal progress on the away goals rule. I rather like those odds.

The match is live at noon on Setanta and Doyle’s is graciously showing the match. Now, I say “noon,” however, owing to the fact that George W. Bush f*cked up everything about America, including our clocks, we are now out of sync with the rest of the world and instead of PST being -8 GMT, it’s right now -7 GMT. Arsenal.com puts kickoff at 19:45 GMT which is actually 12:45 PST and given Setanta’s penchant for pre-match pontificating puppets I strongly suspect actual kickoff is 12:45 local time. So, unless you like puppets making bad jokes, I’d show up at 12:30.


See you tomorrow!

Song 3-0 Burnley; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal cruised into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over Championship side Burnley at Emirates Stadium.

Setanta.com: Arsenal v. Burnley stats and ratings (linked for the fact they gave Eduardo the highest rating and all the comments are pro-Song!)

Telegraph: Try telling Eduardo the FA Cup has lost its romance. Even the swathes of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium could not detract from one of the season’s most emotive plot-lines: the road to Wembley has become a highway of healing for Eduardo.

Match Video

The Arsenalist has all the goals and highlights of Song v. Burnley — please click his sponsors or he will relapse.

Also, the Telegraph somehow put up a YouTube video of just Eduardo’s salsa/beach/stunner/cheeky goal it’s decent quality and I’m sure it will be taken down almost as soon as I link to it.

Falstaff of the Match

Eboue… no wait… Gallas… no wait… Song. Yes, it has to be Song. How well did he do? Pretty damn well actually. He hit 87% of his passes, had two assists, and even tracked back a couple times to make important saves.

It was a job well done and now he gets to take a couple weeks off.

Romeo and Ethel, the pirate’s daughter

Arsenal have now gone 17 in a row without a loss, have only allowed 1 goal in the last 8 matches, and scored 11 goals in those same 8; I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal are on a run.

More importantly, they are doing this without some of their biggest names, scrapping out 0-0 draws and banging in 3-0 wins is no mean feat when a team is missing key people like Cesc and Adebayor. In retrospect, some of us bloggers could have been a bit more circumspect in our criticism of the squad. They are gelling nicely and now that some key players like Eduardo and Theo are making their way back into the squad we are doing more than just holding on; Arsenal are scoring goals and finishing off their opponents with aplomb.

When Arsene signed Arshavin, most of us were clamoring to get a serious defensive midfielder and get rid of this on the job training program for Song and Denilson. But it turns out that creativity up front is exactly what Arsenal needed because that’s exactly what is opening opponents up, getting us out front, and from then on the game comes easy.

It was no surprise to me that Arshavin was the player who provided the ball for the opening goal. While he clearly lacks match fitness (fingers crossed this doesn’t lead to injury) this kid has vision, awareness, creativity, and the talent to put in the right ball. And though I think he’s leaning on his touch and creativity to make up for the fact that he’s running on one lung, it’s working and that’s all that matters. Arshavin, it turns out, was probably the perfect signing for this team.

This isn’t to take anything away from Carlos Vela! What a goal off that Arshavin pass! The youngster had blown a couple of chances in previous games and that goal was exactly what he needed to regain some confidence.

That said, I would expect a player like Vela to score audacious goals when he’s got a guy like Eduardo on the squad who is showing him the way. I mean, how does Eduardo even conceive to score a goal like yesterday’s stunner much less have the body control and touch to pull it off? Lots of people think that the reason Arsenal didn’t win the league last year was because we missed Eduardo. On the basis of yesterday’s goal, I’d have to agree.

And finally, Eboue (who’s name is no longer a curse) what can I say but good job, and keep up the hard work. After the match Arsene said “Usually when he (Eboue) gets in front of goal he loses his composure. I believe he needed that.” I would say that what makes Eboue frustrating is that he loses his composure all over the pitch, not just in front of goal. Maybe a goal is what he needed to gain some composure all over the pitch?

My own private Idaho

In the next round, Arsenal get to face Hull at home on the 17th, which if they win, sends us in to Wembley to face Chelsea for the semi-final.  We don’t want to look too far ahead, one game at a time and all that, but I am excited by the thought of this young team getting Cesc back and exacting some revenge on Chelsea for, I dunno, the Carling Cup final two years ago? Uhhh…. The fact that we beat them already this year? I dunno, but I want some revenge!

Also, if you’re planning a trip over to see Arsenal, check the fixtures list first, there’s a ton of matches coming up and some of the league play matches will be moved to accommodate the FA Cup and Champions League.

10 things I hate about Song

Slow, sideways passing, lazy, lacks vision, doesn’t close down opponents, lacks defensive awareness, one footed, can’t tackle, poor in the air, and not a team player.

Song has played 33 matches in all competitions for Arsenal this season and many of those matches have featured this player performing spectacularly poor. His performance in the North London derby will always be a black mark for me. Introduced in the 87th minute, in order to bolster the midfield, he instead lumbered around the pitch lost for two minutes as his marker (Jenas) dribbles around him and scores the goal that gave them belief. Fucking Jenas… outplayed by a polished turd like Jenas.

So, pardon me while I don’t jump on the bandwagon here quite yet. I’ve watched him very closely for 33 matches and while he’s had some decent performances, by and large he’s stunk the joint up and one good match against a Championship team that seemed to have given up after the first goal can’t erase the memory of 20 some odd real stinkers.

And yes, for the record, I am aware of the fact that he’s 1 inch taller than Denilson.

The Tempest

I’m only sorta kidding about the whole “now you get to take a couple weeks off thing.” It seems like every time I speak well of one of either Denilson or Song they come back in the next few matches and put in the kind of gormless performance that drives us all crazy. I’m really hoping this doesn’t happen because up next is Roma, in Rome, for the right to move on in the Champions League. Even if Totti, de Rossi, Perrotta, Cicinho, and Pizzaro are all out, Arsenal need a strong midfield pair to control the match.

I’m picking Diaby and Denilson as the strongest midfield pairing right now. In fact, I’m picking anyone plus Diaby as the strongest midfield pairing. Just look at the last 4 matches. Each time Diaby is either included from the start or introduced Arsenal look brighter on offense and stronger in defense. Against W.B.A. when he was introduced at half-time (and the Song/Denilson pair broken up) though they didn’t score, Arsenal looked real quality in attack and defense and went on to win 3-1.

That match happens on Wednesday and is currently not scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN here in the states, which means Setanta and Doyle’s.

Kickoff for that match is 12:45 PST and I’ll have a fuller match preview on Tuesday.

For now, we get to bask in the glory of a 3-0 win, Arsenal showing some real class, and several key Arsenal players coming back in to the squad providing fresh legs for what Wenger calls “the sprint” here at the end of the season. Arsenal are still alive in the Champions League, doing very well in the FA Cup, and just 3 points off 4th place Villa. So, despite some negative feelings hanging over about the team and our performances up till this point Arsenal are in a really good position to win a trophy for the first time in 4 years and silence many of us critics.

Hang on to your hats, kickers, it’s going to be a crazy run in.