Arsenal lite v. Arsenal, preview.

Just like my doctor, I prefer Camels. For the "T" zone.

Whenever I write these pieces I start by opening pretty much every article from most of the major news outlets that is in any way linked to Arsenal. From there, I weed out the dupes, poke around in the stats bin looking for some fact to dig up* and then settle in to read the articles that interest me.

Usually, I’ll admit, I like to read a little about how Tottenham didn’t practice penalties and I always feel a warm glow inside when I see a story about how David Bentley has hit “rock bottom” but those are icing on the cake. The real meat and potatoes  and glazed carrots with honey, lemon, and butter usually comes from one, maybe two stories.

Before we dig in to all that, I do want to mention that you might see a lot of stories with quotes from Arsene Wenger saying that Arsenal are more dominating than Man U. It’s true, he did say that, but those quotes are being taken out of context — the press are generating a story here because they really have nothing else to report. Wenger gave them very little in the pre-match presser and so they have all latched on to this little piece of the interview in order to bash our Alsatian. The gist of what he’s explaining is that there is just a slight difference between a team that grinds out 1-0 wins and one that gets 0-0 draws. Both teams have solid defense, which he and I and SAF all agree wins championships, but the team that gets the 1-0 win just has a little bit more quality in their finishing, maybe some luck, etc.  I totally agree with him; you look at Man U and Arsenal and you see that Man U just has the quality edge when it comes to finishing. Which is easier to do when you can put £200m worth of strikers on the pitch at any one time.

Which brings me to the meat of today. One of the main criticisms of Wenger is exactly that: certainly he should have seen that Arsenal would need a bit more quality up front, in the middle, and at the back, he didn’t bring that on, isn’t that a sign that we should sack the manager?

Without getting too deep into it, the answer for me and others like Alan Smith is yes and no (it’s a wonderful article and I found Alan Smith to be thoughtful and fair in his assessment of this team). Yes, Wenger is responsible for this mess. Yes, he is infuriating with the talk of Arsenal being “real quality” and all the other equivocations but no he shouldn’t be sacked.

In fact, talk of sacking him is crazy. Just look down the Seven Sister’s Road if you want to see the fruit that that action bears. Sacking Wenger would assuredly clear out the Songs and Eb*ues on the team. But it would simultaneously rid us of the Cescs and van Persies and Wilsheres and Walcotts and all the other players of real quality who have an emotional investment with this man. Right or wrong, that’s a fact: Arsenal have a lot of young men who are dedicated to Wenger. So, canning the manager means a complete rebuilding of this team. Which means a lot more than just one season of us being relegated to 6th place: it means potentially several seasons of mediocrity and a ton of money spent to re-tool.

Let’s stop talking about Wenger being fired. It’s not going to happen this season anyway and as Alan Smith points out, we need to go deep into next season, have some real fan uprising, and lots of match day turnover lost before the board will even consider it.

You may have noticed that I slipped the potatoes in on you there when I said “relegated to 6th place.” That’s because as I was reading the Dot Com interview of the Birmingham Mail’s Chris Lepowski it struck me that there are some crazy similarities between Albion and Arsenal.   Just like Arsenal, Albion were widely hailed last season for their “beautiful football” as they took the Championship by storm. And just like Arsenal they have found themselves exposed this season with “a brittle backbone and a soft centre.”  But it was the next bit that got me thinking, the Arsenal writer of the story said that the “brittle backbone and a soft centre” are “two main ingredients for Premier League relegation” and I suddenly thought, well, aren’t there two Premier Leagues in a sense? The top four and the rest? And haven’t Arsenal also been exposed as having a soft center and, recent run of form aside, a brittle backbone?

Suddenly it all made sense, the supporter’s anger and frustration boiling over; it’s because Arsenal are under threat of being relegated from their division. It’s got all the same implications as relegation out of the top flight (money, players, television, etc) but it’s just on a different scale.

It just went on from there, Albion and Arsenal share so many other similarities such as “Once Albion lose the ball they struggle to win it back,” we saw that against Fulham — which is the main reason I criticized Denilson. Whereas against Roma Denilson won 6 challenges, he could only muster 1 against Murphy and Etuhu (who combined for 9).  Or how about how the fans are turning on each of the managers? Down the line, there are so many things in common it’s not even funny.

That said, I do agree with Chris, that Arsenal have a lot more quality than Albion and I would say that that’s our major difference. Players like van Persie, Nasri, Arshavin, Cesc, etc. are why we’re struggling not to be relegated out of the Champions League and they are struggling not to be relegated out of the Premier League.

The fact remains that these two teams are a bit of a mirror image of one another.

So, today’s game should be a good one: both teams playing open, flowing football, both teams squandering chances in front of goal (I KEED), and both teams fighting against relegation.

I won’t be able to watch it live but the folks at Doyle’s have kindly agreed to tape it for me and I will be able to see the game later in the afternoon. If you plan on coming out late, drop me a line, and let’s watch the match together.

Someone has to keep the faith and keep these boys above the relegation line.

* The press are widely reporting that 4 consecutive 0-0 draws is the Arsenal’s worst run since George Graham was manager but how they are defining “worst” is beyond me. Just last year Arsenal had two consecutive 1-1 draws against Liverpool before being handed a 4-2 loss and exit from the Champions League only to follow that all with a 2-1 loss to Man U and dashed hopes of Premiership glory. That was much worse. In fact, throughout Wenger’s tenure there have been numerous runs of 4 matches that were worse than the last.

One day at a time

Up next, the boys travel to the Hawthorns to take on relegation bound West Bromwich Albion. Currently the worst team in the EPL, by any measure, Arsenal have to be looking at Tuesday and hoping that WBA will provide the cure for our ills.

West Brom won’t be impossibly easy, like playing Arsenal on your XBox or something, but this match will certainly garner Arsenal 3 points. I’m not being over-confident here, because it’s impossible to be over-confident against a team as poor as West Brom. Arsenal are going to win this game, no doubt. If you can watch the match, go watch it, it will give you confidence in the club and I’ll put money on us coming out with a 3-0 win.

I’m confident not from some irrational place but because the things I’m hearing from Arsenal are all very positive. First, Wenger is clearly pissed about what happened with Fulham, responding to the question he stated flatly

I want to win the games and, when we don’t win the games, it’s disappointing. You know how much I want to get into the Champions League. For me, it is not important – it is vital – but you can only play your games and try to win them. I want to be in the Champions League because it’s the best I can be. If I’m not then I’m not happy – it’s as simple as that. You don’t play football to be average. I don’t manage in the game to be average, and the players want to play at the top.

He even went further, when asked what he thought of the fans booing him off the pitch he said

I don’t know whether supporters are losing faith. That is not my worry. What is important is that we show great attitude and do our job as well as we can. Fans turning on me doesn’t worry me, no. Not at all.

Those are both very positive signs. In the first statement you see that the hunger is still there and manifesting itself as an anger. If he unleashes that on the team then I expect them to come out and simply pound West Brom tomorrow. In the second statement, you see his confidence and professionalism. Again, if he turns this on the team they might have their pride pricked and again, that’s exactly what they need.

Did I say 3-0? I meant 6-0!

Ok, all kidding aside, I do think the next match holds something spectacular for us as Arsenal supporters. This squad is going to be up for this game and I expect they will play with Roma-esque fervor. If you remember, Arsenal could have easily won that Roma match 4 or 5 nil, so while 6-0 is me joking around, I really do believe we’ll see at least 2 Arsenal goals, if not more.

The signs that the team are already soaking in this new message are starting to show as well. Arshaviour gave an interview yesterday in which he spoke about the players ambition and the direction the team are headed. I’m not going to include the quotes here because they are in broken English, but the point is that the team feels the pain of this slip in form, acutely.

Good. They should. Something needs to kick them in the ass, I don’t care what it is at this point. Just get it done, take back our Champions League spot. Show us all that we’re wrong. I love being proved wrong.

Some other stories this morning made me laugh. “United to win the quint!” was the first. I was sitting here wonder what the 5th trophy was? FA Cup… Carling Cup… Champions League… Premiership… uhhh… Emirates Cup? Uhhh… Charity Shield? Wait… Club World Championship? LOL. If you’re going to count that, why not throw in the Charity Shield and say United are on target for the sextuple?

Sextuple… I don’t know, that word makes me giggle.

It is an incredible run by United right now, they have basically won every trophy they put foot in since they got knocked out of the FA Cup by Pompey.  They have won 5 on the trot right now and look nigh unstoppable to win several more. It must be seen as vindication for the club standing by Fergie when his squad was so low just a few years ago and people were calling for Fergie’s head.

I wonder if there’s a lesson there for us and Wenger?

There was a bit of schadenfreude in that cup final when Bentley took a gamble on his penalty kick and came up craps. If asked before the match who I want to win between Man U and Tottenham I would have said “I’d like it if David Bentley did something spectacularly dreadful, like miss a penalty, the shit talking little weasel.”

I got my wish!

Now, if I could just get my wish tomorrow against Albion we’ll see a 6-0 to the Arsenal!

See you then.