Tag Archives: Champions League

Arsenal 2-3 Olympiacos: a parable

Yesterday was a complete clusterfuck. I got up late. That means that I blogged late. That got me to work late. And when I finally got to work it was like a car crash.

I opened the door to my office and looked down at my 3D printer. The extruder heads were limping along doing something odd. And when I looked down at the build plate I saw why. The build plate was completely cockeyed. One side had popped out of its screw and the other side had remained anchored. The object I tried to print was supposed to be a square but it was a blob. And the extruder heads were covered in gunk. The whole thing had the look of a wounded animal.

This was hard to take as the first set back of the day. I have been working with this device for a while and I can admit that they are a bit fussy. But I have a whole procedure down for each print job and can usually reliably build objects. The problem is that I’d let my ego get the best of me and I was running an experiment: I was trying to build on an unheated bed.

But when I had left the printer the night before I thought I had made sure that the raft, which is a layer of plastic that the object is built on, had stuck to the bed. I guess it hadn’t because the resulting mess was spectacular.

It looked like I had broken the device and I was nearly in tears. My University had spent $1000 on this printer in order to support curriculum. My job is to get this up and running and support the device and any software that might be needed. Class starts today. I thought I had broken it and I was despondent.

I guess it was lucky that at that exact moment I had a second emergency. It turns out that the server we use to push images wasn’t working. “Push images” sounds fancy but it’s not: we take a copy of a computer (an image) and push it down to another computer so that all the computers in the building are the same. It’s simple, an elementary school kid could do it.

I went to look at that and sure enough, a group of computers hadn’t downloaded the image and were basically toasters. At this point I’m in a bit of a panic. I try restarting the systems and they just won’t connect to the image server. I try rebooting again. And again. I try simplifying the job, just push to one computer. Iteration after iteration.

I could have just looked at the log files and figured out the problem but I didn’t. Some people respond better in those situations, and typically I do as well, but on the day, I was having a mare. I needed to calm down and think for a second but instead I called tech support.

One of the other parts of my job is tech support and I deal with a lot of panicked patrons. I never thought I’d be one. But here I was on the phone with this guy, trying my best not to freak out. He was great, calm, just like I try to be with the person who needs my help and normally, if you’re just calm and give them a moment, the user will figure out what  they did wrong.

In my case, it was a change I had made the night before. Of course it was. It’s almost always the last change which messes things up. I had changed some firewall setting on the server and that was blocking the computers from contacting the service.

I felt like such a fool. This is a simple program, basic even, and I had made a rookie mistake. I made a rookie mistake in front of others. My shame was nearly endless.

But the important thing isn’t my shame. The important thing is having all the computers working for the students in the morning. We restarted them and of course, they downloaded the image.

My third failure happened as I walked back to my office to deal with the printer. I had my phone in my hand and I glanced down to see “Arsenal 1-2 Olympiacos HT”. I wanted to throw the phone into the jaws of a lion and kick the lion into the sun. I nearly screamed “WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON TODAY? FUCK YOU AND YOUR FULL MOON HARVEST ECLIPSE BLOOD MOON BULLSHIT!”

I couldn’t watch the game live so, I recorded it. To make the game as live as possible I had turned notifications off inside the Arsenal app and put my phone into “do not disturb”. What I really needed to do was turn off the damn notifications in the settings of the phone. But I guess I’d had a mental lapse and figured that just turning off the push notifications in the app would be good enough.

I went back to my office. Took a sip of water and looked at the 3D printer. What the fuck was I supposed to do with this mess? I walked over to the device and looked at the printer bed. Somehow, the bed had just lost a screw. the nut wasn’t stripped, the springs weren’t broken, just the fly bolt had fallen off. How? I don’t know. I screwed it back on and did a crude leveling of the build plate.

Then I looked at the printer head. It was completely covered in plastic. Actually, to be precise, it was completely covered in polylactic acid (PLA). Which, if you know anything at all is not a plastic. PLA is a thermoplastic aliphatic polyester!

AH HA! PLA has a relatively low glass transition temperature! In short, it bends when you heat it up and you don’t even have to heat it that much to bend it. So, I heated the extruder to 100C and simply pulled most of the glob of PLA off the extruder head. Then I cleaned it up, leveled the bed, and sat down to think for a minute.


I needed to test the device. I printed a calibration cube. It worked.

I was back, baby.

I adjusted a few things, printed a calibration cube in red, then one in white. Perfect.

Well, not perfect. PLA is notoriously fussy. But they were pretty good cubes.

I hadn’t done anything special to save the day. I hadn’t even really “saved” the day. I was still a fool in front of a stranger and I still didn’t have the base for my t-rex skull (which was what the blob was supposed to be), and I knew the final score to the Arsenal match 2-3 to the Greeks. But by going back to basics in each one of those instances I had reversed the foolish mistakes I had made and gotten back on track.




Arsenal v. Olympiakos: not really bothered

Ah the Champions League, the top teams, the best players, in all of European football, facing off in competition for the most prestigious trophy in world football. Promotion to the Champions League is the goal of nearly every club in Europe, even Tottenham (though you wouldn’t really notice it since they haven’t been there in such a long time), and staying in the Champions League for 18 years, as Arsenal have done under Arsene Wenger, is a feat matched only by the very best teams in Europe. So, we should all be jazzed about today’s match against Olympiakos but I’m going to admit that I’m having a hard time getting up for it.

I can tell you exactly why: it’s because Arsenal are in the group with Bayern. As soon as I saw the draw I knew that there was no chance Arsenal could top their group. That’s not to say that I don’t want Arsenal to win but… have you seen Bayern Munich play football? I watch them every weekend and they are a machine. They are eating the Bundesliga alive with their perfect 7 of 7 start; scoring 23 goals and conceding just 3. I’m sure that they will eventually hit a bump in the road on their way to the Bundesliga title, and when they do hit that bump, feel bad for the bump, because they will crush it.

I felt that way before the Champions League season kicked off and once Arsenal lost to Dinamo Zagreb it was pretty clear that Arsenal were going to be fighting for 2nd place. The only way for Arsenal to win their group is to beat Bayern at least once and then hope that the Germans also drop points in a game against either Olympiakos or Dinamo. That could happen, if the entire City of Munich contracts a rare disease, like Rosanne-Barr syndrome.

I’m not one of those boring negativists who say all those cliches about “ambition” and how Wenger doesn’t want to win and Kroenke only wants the money. I don’t think that at all. Objectively, Arsenal have gotten better over the last two seasons*, both in the Premier League and in the Champions League and so I think that Wenger is building. And building a new team takes time.

There’s no shame in building a new team. It’s all part of the cyclic nature of football. Great players retire, your team has to rebuild. Other times your best player just uses your club to build his career and then demands a trade to his childhood club for less than half of what he is worth only to follow that move up with a more lucrative deal with a hated rival where he starts saying crazy things like:

[Diego Costa] is frustrated, obviously, and rightly so. We all know the causes of why he is [frustrated]. Some people understand it, some people don’t. It’s very unfair what happened to him.

But the point is that Arsenal have had to rebuild after losing two players who the club dedicated years of energy and money to. And the Gunners are now in a rebuilding phase and so I’m sanguine about these games.

Today’s match against Olympiakos is a fun distraction and a chance for youngsters like Oxlade-Chamberlain to get a few kicks in against tough European competition. In short, I’m not at all bothered by Wenger’s rotation of Cech — Ospina needs games to stay sharp — or any other personnel. Rotating those players isn’t a sign of anything other than the fact that Wenger believes in the strength in depth of his squad and wants to give players a shot while also resting important players ahead of a crowded English fixtures list. A list which includes a title decider against Manchester United on Sunday.

It’s also a chance for Arsenal to kick on from their goal-scoring exploits on the weekend, but in a different way. Olympiakos will try to dominate space in the 18 yard box rather than play an insanely high line — like Leicester did last weekend. In fact, the way I’m looking at this game is as a preview of the Man U match on the weekend. Man U will probably play the same way that Olympiakos plays today.

Arsenal will need to get crafty to break that down and so it’s a perfect game for Ox who has that guile and ability to beat a team off the dribble. Alexis and Özil as well, as their goal showed against Leicester, can open teams up with little 1-2 moves. I also suspect that Wenger will deploy Ramsey in the DM role which won’t hurt Arsenal nearly as much as some might think — he’s deceptively quick, a tireless worker, and he tackles well. Still, since most of the game will be played in the Olympiakos end of the pitch, it will take tremendous restraint for Aaron to stay back. I know the lad can do it but whether he will is a different matter.

Anyway, I’m not watching the match live. I’m going to come home tonight, watch the match on DVR, write a By The Numbers column, bake a tube of bread**, and then probably go to bed. Sorry I won’t be able to participate in the match but hey, I have a real job and stuff.

Hopefully, I’ll write a glowing blog tomorrow about how we beat Oly 3-0. Until then…


*Arsenal’s Champions League nadir was 2013/14 when Arsenal were dead last out of 32 teams in terms of shots per game with 8.2 and Arsenal were not even a very good defensive team, allowing 14 shots per game. That was the lowest point of a spectacular decline for Arsenal which followed the sale of Cesc Fabregas and which was reversed with the purchases of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez.
**My brother and his wife gave me one of those. I think I’m going to bake “pizza bread” which I’m inventing tonight and is like a pizza roly poly.


Arsenal look like an Ox in a china shop as they lose to Dinamo in Zagreb

Everything else was done: dinner finished, dishes washed, chickens in the coop, and clean laundry in a pile on my guest chair*. So, I sent my daughter to take her bath and sat down to watch the Spanish language recording of Dinamo v. Arsenal.

I had already been alerted to the outcome by my smart phone. Specifically, the Arsenal official app decided that I needed to know the score at half time, which was 1-0 to the hosts. Once I know that kind of information it’s impossible to concentrate on anything else. So, I was aware of the score, the red card, and a few other details for most of the day but even with that knowledge the match itself was quite a surprise.

I take notes on matches and my notes from last night start out exactly like the match itself: organized, neat, clipping along like they are going to do well. Arsenal dominated for the first 20 minutes, were very organized, and had two early chances to win the game. But right after that, the notes go sideways: there are all kinds of spelling errors, I don’t even bother changing “ere” back to “are” and I end the notes with “Football oftren turns on a single mome”.

Giroud had Arsenal’s best chances in those first 20 minutes. His first was a powerful header which was saved brilliantly by Carvalho and the second a goal-line scramble created by a drag-back from Ox. Giroud’s miss from close range continues his trend of just not being able to score normal goals — though I thought for sure he was going to score that one because Ox’s back pass was so bad that it ricocheted off Giroud’s shoulder for the first “shot”. Then it rebounded off his shin and out for a goal kick. Perhaps he should try bicycle kicking everything in from now on?

Watching the match knowing that Giroud was sent off I got to spend extra attention on the Frenchman and I think I can understand why the referee sent him off (even though I disagree with the call). Giroud was playing aggressively and complaining a lot.

He fouled a guy and was called for it early on. It was one of those fouls where the forward spreads his arms and the defender pretends like he just got his face smashed in with a vicious elbow. Giroud started the complaining at that point.

Then his first yellow card came when he was actually fouled and the referee called it the other way. Giroud was going up for the ball and he was undercut by the defender. The defender made almost no effort to win the ball, he simply knocks Giroud out of the air and the big man lands on his back. This is called “undercutting” someone in basketball and is the cause of many playground fights because it’s so dangerous to the jumping player; when he has his legs taken away from him while he’s flying in the air, his body will spin uncontrollably and he can land on his head or neck causing severe damage. That’s exactly what happened to Giroud, so I’m not at all surprised by his vociferous reaction but the referee was clearly done with Giroud’s remonstrations.

Oddly, football is the only sport I know of where this kind of blatantly dangerous foul is not only allowed but is usually called against the guy who is in most danger of injury. Undercutting is another foul that I think players need to demand action on from FIFA and UEFA.

Giroud was clearly trying to argue just that with the official, watching the replays in slow motion I think he said “say old chap, would you mind taking this issue up with your superiors? It seems a grave oversight in the rules that a player could be undercut in such a grievous manner and have the foul called against him! Both players should challenge for the ball by jumping or the player who is on the ground should vacate the area allowing his opponent freedom and space to land safely on both feet.” The referee was having none of such dissent and issued a yellow card, to protect the integrity of this insane rule.

As soon as Giroud got the yellow card it was like someone tapped a brittle glass and any semblance of Arsenal structure fell apart. The Gunners couldn’t hold possession, they couldn’t get the ball forward, and they just seemed to switch off on defense. That’s exactly when Dinamo scored their first.


Debuchy follows his marker inside and Ox isn’t aware of the Dinamo fullback on his left. When Ox does finally notice him, it’s not even too late, but Ox hesitates:


Was he trying to play the offside? Did he think Debuchy was going to jump the pass? I don’t know, I’m sure Arsenal Supporter’s Trust will demand a full Torquemada style inquest but in the meantime I’m chalking that up to amateur defending at best.

For those wanting Ox to start up front, I think we have a clear demonstration, between this match and the first match of the season where he also made an error which led to the goal, why Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has a lot of work to do before he deserves to start for Arsenal football club.

Then Giroud gets sent off. And frankly, it’s a very poor decision from the referee. It’s a foul, but in real time it didn’t even look like a foul and even on replay it’s hardly a yellow card. It looked, instead, like the referee was looking for a reason to send Giroud off.

The second goal was a comedy of errors but the most damning of all was Gibbs, the man at the near post, ducking out of the header. In fact, it was Gibbs who gave the ball away to start the Dinamo counter attack which earned them the corner in the first place. Then Gibbs didn’t even bust his hump to get back, and it was Koscielny who made a last ditch tackle before the Dinamo shot.

Dinamo earns a corner and Gibbs is at the near post. He starts to jump and then ducks out of the challenge (5:15). Incredibly weak stuff from Gibbs, who walks away from the goal with his head down.

I hate to pick on individual players, because it is a team sport, but it’s very hard not to say that Ox, and Gibbs had unacceptable matches. Ox for switching off on defense yet again, and Gibbs — well, I’m a little irrationally angry when I think of that whole possession, up to and including ducking out of a header. Even Wenger took Gibbs to task saying that Arsenal are good enough to defend a corner like that.

Walcott provided the only bright moment of the game when he came on to score. The way he ran into open space, collected the pass, opened his body, and passed the ball into the net, I was thinking that his goal reminded me a lot of that guy who all the pundits love and who epitomizes a center forward in English football, that’s right, Theo scored a very Antony Martial-esque goal.

I don’t really know what is going on with the “English core” of players at Arsenal: Walcott, who has scored four goals in his last three matches for club and country, is the only English player who is at all on form for Arsenal right now. Wilshere and Welbeck are permanently crocked. Gibbs looks heartless and defeated. Chambers can’t get off the bench. And Ox should be a starter but he can’t keep his head in the game.

Wenger took a chance on the subs and the subs looked well off the pace. I was one argued this summer that there were two good teams at Arsenal and I think if we look at this more reasonably there still are. If Arsenal’s first team has taken two weeks to start to gel, the second team seems to be about two weeks behind them. It also looks like that second team needs a swift reminder that they play for Arsenal football club.

It’s a sad defeat which was marred by a poor referee decision. Arsenal now have a bit of a mountain to climb if they are going to finish second in this group. The next match is Olympiacos at home and Arsenal should win that. That’s followed by Bayern at home and I can’t see Arsenal taking anything out of that game on our current form. Then Bayern in Munich which Arsenal will lose and back to London to host Dinamo which Arsenal will win handily. But if Dinamo can get a result against Olympiacos in Zagreb it will put Arsenal and Dinamo level on points going in to the final day. On the final day, Bayern will play Dinamo away and Arsenal will play Olympiacos away. Wenger’s record against Olympiacos away is two losses, granted in one of those matches Arsenal played Tom Cruise, but it’s still not an auspicious way to end the group stages.

Just like it was an inauspicious way to start the group stages.


*I don’t fold my clothes, I like to get my shirts extra wrinkly because I’m punker than you.