Liege v. Arsenal; Statitstician Wenger

Wenger displays his trademark winsome grin while delivering the punchline of the day.

With just one line delivered, Arsene Wenger has completely deconstructed both Adebayor’s “what me worry?” defense and Mark Hughes’ completely nonsensical double defenses of “Adebayor was celebrating in front of the corner fans” and his plea for leniency in Adebayor’s case because he’s such a good lad.

Earlier in the week, I documented, fairly extensively that Adebayor wasn’t a good lad. He tends toward explosive anger when frustrated and after the fact it’s everyone else’s fault but his. After the League Cup final against Chelsea where Adebayor was given a red card he went on a Drogba-esque tirade against Howard Webb, captured on camera for all the world to see. And then after said

My reaction after the card did not mean I wanted to hit the referee – I just wanted to know why he gave me the red card. I do not think I did anything wrong.

So, it’s no surprise that he’s taking the innocent line again. But what is a surprise is that Mark Hughes is defending Adebayor so adamantly. Maybe it’s becauise he’s a former United player and feel like he’s the gods’ gift to football. I don’t really know.

Anyway, that’s enough of that. With the referee having seen the replays of the incident and saying that he would have given a straight red had he seen it, Adebayor will certainly be suspended for 3 games and could get up to 6 if they give him the maximum penalty for his steward injuring goal celebration. Frankly, I hope they appeal the decision and the FA double it to 12. Or maybe the FA will take a look at Adebayor mocking his goal celebration in training and further charge him with bringing the game into disrepute.

But that’s all in the past, whatever happens will happen, we’ve got a Champions League match today!

Ahead of the match Wenger and Vermaelen talked about team selection and scouting of Liege and so that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

On Thomas Rosicky, it seems everyone in the Arsenal clubhouse are jumping for joy both personally and professionally to have Thomas Rosicky back in training and scoring goals as a sub. There’s been a ton of speculation about whether he will get a start today and I will throw my hat in the ring as a definite start owing to the fact that the boss described his chance of getting a start, with his winsome grin,  as “a good chance, it is a good opportunity for him.” Quite where he will get a game I’m not sure but with everyone speculating that he’ll play in the three with Cesc, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that he’ll start up front on the right with Bendtner in the middle and Eduardo on the left. Wenger does have an option here so don’t be surprised to see Rosicky replaced by Eboue at the start and Thomas coming off the bench if we need goals, or even if we’re way ahead — he needs the games!

The midfield three picks itself with Song on top form at the moment, Cesc as a must have in pretty much every situation, and Diaby is, erm, available. I suppose Wenger could surprise me and pick Rambo over Diaby at the start but I doubt there will be too much shuffling considering the options available in defense.

Speaking of which, there’s another bit of speculation that Clichy’s dip in form will see him relegated to the bench for this match but I really doubt it. Wenger is ultra loyal and might look at this as an opportunity to show Clichy that he believes in him after his string of poor performances. Plus, there’s a bit of a problem at goal keeper and I doubt Wenger will want to shuffle the back four at a time when he’s playing the third string keeper.

As for the keeper situation: whenever a player has a poor game and then gets sick immediately after there’s always going to be rumors that he’s being dropped. This is fueled by the fact that during the press conference as he was rattling off the injury list (van Persie, Denilson) Wenger had to be reminded (off screen by the handler) that Almunia was out injured and when the press asked what was wrong he paused, looked up, and said “uhhh virus” and followed that quickly with “chest infection.” Others have said it already but it bears repeating: Wenger couldn’t possibly be dropping Almunia for Mannone. That’s just plain crazy. Mannone is a fine kid I’m sure, but there’s no way that Wenger would put his team in danger like this. Mooney must not be fit.

So I expect the starting XI to be like this:

liege-v-arsenal

Feel free to lambaste me for my speculative selection.

As for the game on television, unfortunately it’s only LIVE on Setanta and that means that I would normally go to the bar. Today that trip was going to be after the match owing to work appointments but even that might be in jeopardy. See, I have this killer sore throat and one of my friends was just diagnosed with strep throat so, I have to go to the doctor. If I have strep I will need to stay home for at least 24 hours and that means I’ll be watching the match on some crappy video stream tape delayed on Fox Soccer Channel at 2pm PST. If I don’t have strep, I’ll need to go to work and then will be able to watch the match after work on replay. Fingers crossed!

Right, either way check back in here tomorrow for the Good, Bad, and Ugly. See you then…

Eduardo, kids, money and Liege

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

First off, I need to say thanks to everyone for the positive comments on yesterday’s blog, you’re the other reason I do this. It’s so great to see so many Gooners from such far flung places around the world united in a single cause: the Arsenal.

Now, on to the news…

Eduardo

Yesterday at Eduardo’s auto de fé the Grand Inquisitor read aloud what was to be  Eduardo’s punishment for the heresy of diving and it turned out… that the church of UEFA admitted that they were just plain and simply wrong.

They were wrong to use video evidence ex-post facto, they were wrong about whether there was contact, they were wrong to question the referee, and they were wrong to cave in to pressure from Scotland. And so the witch hunt they pursued against Eduardo was wrong and all charges should be dropped.The heretic known as Eduardo is now a clean soul but unfortunately his body has already been burnt at the stake of public opinion.

Make no mistake here, though. This was not a legalistic decision about whether there was contact or not, as I first thought. This wasn’t some slimy lawyer getting a guilty client off on a technicality as the press want to make out. No, Eduardo’s innocence came about because the referee of the match saw the game live, saw the video, and saw the video slowed down, and stood by his decision. The diving evangelists can’t take it, they have been whipped into a baying, foamy, frenzy by folks in the press, like Sportsmail’s stupid anti-diving campaign, and they simply don’t know what to do. They are currently lashing out at everything around them searching for a foothold, some firm ground to stand on so that their world will make sense and for them I’d like to offer a suggestion: you’re wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about, you don’t know what a dive is, and the next time you’re watching a game and you think to yourself, or worse scream out loud like some apoplectic Joe Wilson, “THAT’S A DIVE WHARRRRGARRRBLE111!!1!!” remember that I told you, you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Chances are I’m right because after this ruling I have to admit, I don’t know what a dive is either. It seems to be that if there’s any contact, and the referee doesn’t feel like the player is trying to deceive him, then it’s not a dive. I can accept that I don’t know what a dive is, or at the very least that I might not be the most objective judge of diving on the planet. Can you?

As for the animals in the press, I fully expect retractions and apologies will be issued any moment now. Any… moment… now…

I Can Has Affirmative Action Quotas for Englishmen?

Nope.

In a stunning moment of clarity and sense-making, the English Football Association has decided that clubs should be forced to have academies and can no longer simply buy a team full of senior players. Personally, I’d rather they stayed out of this whole mess and let things run their course, but if they had to get involved, then this was the only sensible way to go about it. Starting next year every team in the Premier League will be required to name a squad of 25 players, 8 of which must be both under 21 and have been trained for 3 or more years at an English or Welsh club. That sound you just heard was every Chelsea supporter’s butthole puckering simultaneously. Because combined with their transfer ban, this new rule leaves them with exactly 8 eligible trainees and unable to bring anyone else in.

Moreover, this plan, which doesn’t discriminate against a player based on nationality, is a huge slap to the face of Platini and Blatter who desperately wanted a passport based Affirmative Action quota system foisted upon teams. Which they quaintly referred to as “the 6+5 rule.”

One knock on effect of this new rule could be the development of a more serious reserves league. Arsenal’s reserves coach, Neil Banfield talked about his vision for a national reserves league, with relegation and all that, a few weeks ago. If clubs are now going to be forced to have at least 8 trainees per season named to their first team, I can easily see something like what Neil talks about developing.

What’s not clear in all this is how this rule change will mesh with Platiniblatter’s plan to enslave young children in footballing death camps until they are 18. Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration, they actually want to re-create the 18th century system of indentured servitude, and how that might mesh with this FA rule is unclear. If you can’t transfer players under 18 and you have to have 8 players, on the books, between the ages of 18 and 21 who have trained for 3 years in an English or Welsh system, well, then suddenly 18 year olds become super valuable and especially 18 year olds who have trained in England.

It could quickly become a mess. We’ll have to see if Platiniblatter win approval for their indentured servitude system or if they suffer further ignominy.

Show me your money

The FA also passed some meaningless rule about looking into the books of clubs and promptly ignoring some debts while looking sternly at others. I have it under great authority that this rule will be ignored.

The Group of Dearth

Right, so we have some football tomorrow against Standard Liege. The match is being shown on Setanta here in the States and that means a trip over to Doyle’s for us locals. Doyle’s now has High Definition televisions and an HD cable feed, so if any matches are in HD, you will get to watch them in HD there.

As for the match, Arsenal Station has a great little piece which details all of our opponents in the group of dearth, you should check it out.

Player news ahead of the match has Arshavin certainly ruled out for Arsenal, along with long-term injuries to Nasri, Fabianski, and Djourou keeping them sidelined as well. For Liege, they will be missing their captain and supposed Arsenal transfer target, Steven Defour who broke his foot on the weekend.

The one player I am very surprised to see mentioned as a possible team selection for Liege is Alex Witsel. This is a player who just a little over two weeks ago broke the leg of Marcin Wasilewski and was subsequently banned until November by the Belgian FA. Now, when I say “broke the leg” I mean, put in possibly the worst tackle I have ever seen, a tackle so bad that it makes Tiny Taylor’s knee-high, studs up, leg breaking lunge on Eduardo look like an accident. The video of the tackle is so disturbing that I almost don’t want to put it here, but I’m going to anyway because I think we all need to know what Arsenal are up against tomorrow.

WARNING THIS VIDEO IS EXTREMELY GRAPHIC

After watching that video, and knowing that he’s been banned in his home league, you have to wonder how this guy is allowed to play in the Champions League. But supposedly, he’s available and ready to make a “cold start.”

That’s all the news I have for you today (except the “news” that Adebayor has been charged and is facing a three to six match suspension)  so, see you tomorrow with a fuller preview of the Liege game, if I can muster one.