Tag Archives: FA Cup


It’s the return of the bully: Joey Barton

Seven years ago Arsenal lost to Burnley 2-0 at their home stadium of Turf Moor. It was December 2008 and the two teams were drawn together for the League Cup. At the time, Wenger always played the kids in the cup and so the lineup for Arsenal that day was Fabianski, Hoyte, Silvestre, Ramsey, Gibbs, Rodgers (Lansbury 46), Randall (Bischoff 72), Merida, Wilshere (Simpson 63), Bendtner, and the ever chippy Carlos Vela.

Wenger was criticized for using young players in those League Cup ties, people claimed that Arsenal were “disrespecting the cup” as if the League Cup was some ancient tradition in football. But Wenger was right to play the kids because it gave them experience, even in, especially in a loss; Wenger was building the character of his young players.

Most of the names on that team sheet are gone. Some for good riddance, others because they were simply not good enough, and still others because they deserved to play football full time at another club. I still get a chuckle when I think of Amaury Bischoff coming on in the 72nd minute, Wenger’s last throw of the dice.

But some of the players are still with Arsenal and will be available for Saturday’s match against Burnley. Ramsey and Gibbs in particular will almost certainly start, and if Wilshere was healthy he would probably start as well.

Since that match in 2008, Aaron Ramsey has gone on to recover from a terrible double-leg break and played a pivotal part in back to back FA Cup trophies for the Gunners. Ramsey will remember that night at Turf Moot, the sting of defeat at the hands of the smaller club, and he will be up for this game.

And marking him in midfield will be Joey Barton. That’s right, wearing the number 13, and playing in the central midfield role for Burnley is the Donald Trump of modern football, Joey Barton.

What makes Barton so Trump-like is the combination of an insanely irritating personality, a weird popularity sparked by a good sense of showmanship, and it’s all wrapped neatly in a megalomaniacal package. The one thing that Trump and Barton like best in this world is Trump and Barton.

Watch any Trump speech and what you’ll notice is a starting lack of any specifics to the hundreds of ideas he has already said that he will make reality as president. He claims he will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. How? Well, you just have to understand, he’s a great negotiator. He will just force Mexico to do it.

Joey Barton has the same kind of attitude. This summer he was released by QPR and no one came calling. Well, he claims there were a few. But when he was picked up by Burnley on a free he gave his first interview and stated unequivocally that Burnley were smart, for hiring Joey Barton.

It reiterates how fickle this industry is and how lazy people are. There’s a lot of lazy people out there. If you did your due diligence and were smart and a forward-thinking organisation – certainly in the Championship – I was a no-brainer really if you wanted to get promotion.

You see people spending money on players in that position, I am thinking: ‘Wow’. But Burnley are obviously smarter than the average bear when it comes to that, you can see that in the recruitment over recent years.

See, it’s simple, really, everyone else is lazy and stupid for not picking Joey Barton. He’s a no-brainer and Burnley are smarter than the average bear, boo boo.

I don’t know how smart it is to take Joey Barton in your team. He does have the ability to rile some players up, he got Arsenal’s Diaby and Gervinho sent off after they retaliated against him for his assaults on them. And if you watch that Gervinho video above, you will see what Joey Barton is all about: hauling Gervinho up by his lapels for a dive and then when Gervinho touches Barton’s face, taking a dive himself. You can also see Berton kicking people in that video and getting stamped on by Alex Song, again in retaliation. He does have a knack for riling up the Arsenal players.

Barton and Trump are both bullies. And when their bullying fails they both have a tendency to explode into ugly scenes.

Trump is currently in a non-stop twitter war with Fox News over them using Megyn Kelly in the latest debate. He doesn’t like  Kelly because she asked him a question he didn’t want to answer so he is boycotting the debate and sending out all kinds of crazy tweets about Fox News. I’ve never seen anything like it from a Presidential candidate. He is literally acting like a spoiled child.

And when his team needed him on the final day of the 2012 season Barton lost his rag in a similar fashion. QPR needed a result against Man City on the final day of the season, or for Stoke to beat Bolton. Not knowing the outcome of the Stoke-Bolton match and seemingly unable to bully the Man City players into submission, Barton lost his mind and elbowed Carlos Tevez. The moment he saw the red card he went even crazier, kicking Aguero from behind, trying to headbut Kompany, and going after Balotelli on the sidelines.

If Barton is looking forward to any match this season it’s this one. He loves to get under Arsenal’s skin and it works. Add to that history the fact that this is an FA Cup tie and that referees tend to let a lot more go in these matches and we could have a real ugly match on our hands.

And considering Joey Barton’s latest line from Burnley’s 4-1 win over Derby — 0 goals, 0 shots, 0 assists, 5 fouls, 0 cards — we can get a sense of exactly what Barton will be up to.


Think of them like collectables

How you couldn’t spot the Ox through the Iwobis

This morning I was at a football match. It was Arsenal v. Charlton.

I have my keepers kit on and I’m ready to start for Arsenal but I’m in the stands greeting the fans and putting on a good face for the club. About 10 minutes before I have to go back to the dressing room, my phone starts playing Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Everyone around me is staring. So, I smile, apologize, and try to stop the song.

It won’t stop. People are starting to get restless, shifting their blankets off their legs and getting up. The game is about to start and I’m now frantically trying to turn down the volume, turn off the alarm, or turn the phone off. Nothing works. One or two of the fans starts yelling at me to shut off my phone. Mortified, and panicked, I realize that I’m dreaming and wake myself up.

There on the nightstand my phone is playing the Nutcracker as an alarm. Apparently, my seven year old daughter set me a new alarm.


Kids are great though. For example, Alex Iwobi in the FA Cup yesterday. He’s being hailed by Arsenal fans as a better #10 than Coutinho and while he had a good game, that comparison is a bit of a stretch.

Still, all fans do this with their young players. Tottenham have a rich history of over-hyping their youngsters only to watch them fall off a cliff, like lemmings, one by one on their march to footballing obscurity. We do it too, watch the Invincibles DVD and you’ll see David Bentley and his shaved eyebrows bleating on about how proud he is to be compared to Dennis Bergkamp.

Ugly scenes like that aside the reason this happens is that we have a lot of patience for young people because we love the promise of youth.

Iwobi was fantastic, I’m not saying he wasn’t. I love how, were, and why he dribbled in yesterday’s match. I love that he created four shots for his teammates while getting four shots for himself. And I love that throughout all of that cracking attacking play, taking risks as I said in my Arseblog article yesterday, he was almost perfect in his passing just misplacing two passes total, both attempts at through balls. Basically, he looked like a younger Mesut Özil.

Here’s his attacking dashboard (from Arsenal.com):

Iwobi-twoCircles are shots, Squares shots created for others, Triangles are dribbles, green is good, red is bad: this is an impressive attacking table. And by means of comparison here is Özil v. Bournemouth:

Ozil-BournemouthWhat I like most about Iwobi’s chart is that he was trying to dribble to break down the defense and cause chaos. In other words, he is dribbling in and around the 18 yard box. His entire chart, in fact, is very “direct”. He plays high up the pitch and assaults the Sunderland box in waves.

Obviously it helps that he got service in those areas. Or maybe it’s not so obvious.

I made a joke on Twitter about how Iwobi was good enough that he could be the next Ox, who was the next Ramsey, who was the next Walcott. The response was funny: hopefully he’ll be better than Ox, Ox is done, Ox is a bust, etc. Just 22 years old and Ox is dead.

It was just three years ago that Ox was 19 years old, like Iwobi, and putting in dazzling displays of talent in tough matches, like Iwobi. Ox has since suffered several injuries and looks like a player struggling to find his place in a star-studded midfield.

But by all accounts Ox is a hard worker off the pitch and a precociously talented player on it. He’s also a willing squad player and will play anywhere Wenger asks him. In fact, I felt he had a solid midfield performance against Sunderland yesterday. It was his movement and metronomic passing against Sunderland which set the table for Iwobi.

Ox was the most frequent pass combination for Iwobi. Ox also played the ball back and forth for Bellerin for his first assist (he had the pre-pre-assist if you will) and Ox made the pass (outside of his right boot lofted, curled!) for Bellerin’s second assist (pre-assist). Ox was the player who kept Arsenal not only ticking over but gave those guys their platform to shine.

Often we look at a player like Ox and expect him to “kick on”, we expect him to get to some mythical next level. But not every player can get to that next level – we can’t all be gods like me. Some players just have to be really great squad players.

So, I have no problem with the level that Ox is currently playing at and his performance against Sunderland, running the midfield like a “Deputy to Cazorla”, was the perfect example of a technically superior player playing a role his manager asked him to do. Ox has six years before he’s anywhere near the prime of his career. I know some folks are bullish on the Ox but let’s all just relax and watch him develop.


Bonus, Ox’s attacking chart:


Yellow triangles are ball recoveries and blue are interceptions. Note how he collected deep and got the ball forward for his team. Perfect stuff from Cazorla’s understudy.



Unwelcome surprise home defeat to West Ham.

Two smartly taken opportunistic strikes either side of half time condemned a sluggish Arsenal to an opening premier league campaign fixture defeat on a sticky, hot August day in north London.

Having finished the previous season strongly and started pre season well very few Gooners would have predicted a loss to a mid table finishing team like Wham.

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

Company in the trophy room for the 2014 FA Cup

The mood was therefore suitably upbeat before the game as I took my seat in block 7 (one of the “unofficial” standing areas), however little did I realise that I may have been better off looking at the underside of the red Action banner for the next 90 minutes, rather than what I saw on field.

A different view

A different view

After a bright start, with the Ox impressing with his energetic runs, it really did feel like a goal was imminent. It was also apparent that the Bilic approach to play was to continue from their much curtailled/already finished “European campaign of 2015-15″, namely a fouling/tripping based strategy, as seen by a couple of early yellows.

It’s no wonder their glorious Europa Cup run saw three red cards for Wham in their 5 July games. Looking at the crude and vulgar gesticulations and antics of Bilic on the sidelines today they also have a manager who will be regularly sent to the stands this season.

Team wise the only surprise may have been Debuchy in place of Bellerin at right back and the presence of Alexis on the bench, for emergency use only presumably.

After early chances came and were missed frustration did begin to creep into the part of the North Bank lower I was in and although the usual suspects were being targetted, Özil and Olly, for me the key miss was Santi, who had one of those games where his influence was minor. When Santi’s twinkle toes are not playing a big part in our game, you know we are having a bad day.

And so it turned out, however before then two myths have to busted.

Firstly, excessive complaining about the failings of our team and NOT the sole preserve of the so called excessive entitlement younger generations as an octogenarian fan behind me was on the back of the team within 10 minutes of the start. Everyone was rubbish; they were too slow or too fast, they should have done “X” with the ball and not “Y” – at one point i was sure his false teeth were going to fly out, such was the venom of his barracking.

So when Wham scored after Cech made a ricket (aka total balls up) of collecting a cross the mood plunged and the home competitive debut of our sole summer signing (so far) was consigned to the “Day to forget” pile.

After a few minutes the home support gathered themselves and urged the team on again and the expectancy was that the second half would see an equaliser.

Little did we contemplate a defensive mix up leading to gifting possession to Wham soon after the restart would double the visitors lead.

And so onto the second myth to be busted: how good the Wham support is.

Aside from some applause at kick off the away support was barely heard till the second goal, when at last the latest batch of queue jumpers on Newham Coucil’s Housing list decided to rouse themselves from their afternoon slumbers.

While the home support is generally soporific, most of the away fans I have seen showed significantly better support and volume levels. The Eagles supporters, at the first fixture of last season, were far and away better supporters as they sang all the way through even though Crystal Palace lost the game – a far superior demonstration of away support

What followed was a final balf hour of amateur time wasting and frantic attacks by the Arsenal forwards which broke down, and led to much howling and clasping of heads by the dejected home support.

Olly takes one for the team

Olly takes one for the team

A long delay after a clash of heads involving Olly, plus 5 substitutions only 5 minutes of added time, when at least 7 seemed likely, seemed to sum up the Gunners luck.

Even the late introduction of Alexis couldn’t scare up a goal for the Arsenal, expecting him to be match sharp this early is beyond ridiculous

The final whistle was greeted with a mixture of boos and subdued applause for the team showing that two trophies in two seasons gets you some goodwill with the fans, but how long this lasts will be proved by the reaction to this result from the team.


By ChärybdÏß1966 (on Twitter @charybdis1966)