Slump It Up

Oxymorons on a Saturday, lovely. It’s relevant though, because Sir Alex doesn’t want United’s blip to turn into a slump. Well, I have two things to say on that point.

The first is that you can’t really call United’s current run of form a blip or slump, bearing in mind the first team players they currently have and have had missing. Frankly, it’s been incredible what they’ve achieved with a seemingly below par, part ageing, not exactly awe-inspiring squad. They’ve often missed Vidic or Ferdinand, not forgetting Park, with Nani added to that list thanks to Carragher, and Valencia out since September. Calling the current situation a blip or slump is to forget how well they did to go so many games unbeaten, to progress in the FA Cup and to deliver in the Champions League up to this point. Fair play to them.

The second thing I have to say is…well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for me if that form departed them now. With the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford to be played this evening, and with United having a ‘tougher’ run in than Arsenal, a loss of the form they’ve had thus far wouldn’t exactly make me grumpy. Sure, I’d rather Arsenal beat a full strength United squad in this game and in the final Premier League standings, but then I’d also rather match officials show some bloody common sense (*cough*). Because if an imbecile in a mankini gets on to the pitch and decides to act as a prat during a football game, the joke wears thin after a little bit and he deserves to be dumped to the floor. And whoever does it should be the toast of all the non-imbeciles. Although, I am implying that match officials generally aren’t and after this week it’s hard to support that view.

Anyway, my point is this: With the previous seasons of Arsenal falling away due to injury and misfortune, it’s hardly unfair for that to happen to United and for that to benefit us. I’m not saying it should go that way, but you can only play the players you have. And when those players aren’t exactly delivering, then it’s only right your rivals take advantage of that situation. Needless to say, I’m not exactly pessimistic about the Arsenal right now. Beaten and out of two competitions respectively, we’ve a firm footing in two others. And with the international break coming up, we could go into it with our heads held high.

Unlike UEFA, which really wants to take a long hard look at itself in the wake of an atrocious decision that ruined the end of an intriguing contest, and the unbelievable public support of it afterwards.

“It’s Good To Be The King”

That might be what the big-headed alter-ego of Kenny Dalglish would have said upon waking this morning. And who could disagree with him? What a fantastic result a 3-1 win at home to the league leaders is for him and his squad. True, a back line of Rafael, Smalling, Brown and Evra looked more hopelessly at sea than firmly United, but a win is a win, and a win is also a loss that bodes well for Arsenal.

I’ll come to that in a second though because my opinion, like that pouring off of the blogs of any right-minded authors today, is that there should have been two red cards at Anfield and one later on at Molineux. Now I’ll admit that when Nani was teary-eyed I was of the opinion that the boy who cried wolf had pulled out his finest performance yet. But it should be obvious that Carragher’s made a reckless ill-intentioned tackle in a place where he’s no need to go to ground, with the clear goal of – as Ray Wilkins said on Sky – “sorting him out”. It was horrific, and the gash that it left could quite easily have been joined by some broken bone.

Rafael’s tackle shortly after was just as terrible, and though he was kicked out at by Maxi just before he lunged into it (with Lucas?) is no excuse for a tackle which was luckily avoided along with potential injury. You can always defend the ref and say:

“Oh , at full speed it’s hard to judge.”

But the ref is there to make those decisions. And if he can’t give him the means (video technology) to do so at a convenient juncture. And if not, the FA should be overturning this bloody ridiculous ‘it was dealt with’ gubbins that is seriously impacting the game we love.

On a lighter note, full credit to Dirk Kuyt for a solid hat-trick, and Luis Suarez looks a very special player indeed. He’s still an idiot/evil genius in my books for the handball against Ghana at the WC, but what a fantastically skillful player he is. Both Liverpool and the Premiership as a whole are more entertaining with him on our island, and it seems Chelsea got the bum-deal with a Torres who doesn’t yet fit in at Chelsea.

Of course, it means that United have again (like against Wolves) proven that this title race is still wide open. You can call it being let back in or being let off the hook if you like, but in football every team has to get results to progress, and at the end of the season if Arsenal have accumulated more points they’ll be champs. If not they won’t be.

On a tangent, personal highlights for me of this weekend’s footy were the Anfield faithful singing “Happy Birthday to you” to Kenny Dalglish, Wolves having a right go at Spurs and getting a well-deserved point, and West Ham’s continued resurgence (good for them). Birmingham? Well they might be Carling Cup champs, but they’re not even the current champs of the W.Midlands after losing to the Baggies, and should they be relegated then I should think Carling’s Cup will matter a fair bit less. Not completely, and fair play to them once again. But it only feels truly good to be crowned while your subject are happy.

Just ask Kenny.

The Longest Journey

…must begin where you stand.

And according to me and thousands of others at the Emirates, where Arsahvin was standing was onside. But what is is and the result itself isn’t terrible. We bettered United’s result at Stamford Bridge, much as we did their result the weekend when we drew against Newcastle, and you have to agree with Arsene when he comments that the title is won during 38 games. Not always on the last day of the season, but certainly not in early March. The gap is now three points as it stands and that’s not bad at all.

Liverpool could do us a favour later on today, and with United still to play Chelsea and to come to the Emirates we’re still right in the hunt. Yes it’s frustrating we’re not closer, but what can you do? A draw against Sunderland isn’t the best result, and we had the chances to go one better, but we’re edging closer.

There were some good chances: Bendtner shot from a tight angle in the first half to see Mignolet encourage it over the bar. Nasri’s decent free kick was saved one-handed in the second, and then we hit the bar from a Wilshere cross that found Chamakh’s head. How this wasn’t a penalty on reflection is beyond me, but then perhaps the officials probably didn’t see Bramble’s shove…and don’t have the benefit of hindsight. But there we are. The stats showed we had 14 efforts on goal, half of which were on target, and both of which were double Sunderland’s respective numbers.

A little about the personnel as although we had chances, you’d be hard pushed to have been at yesterdays game and not see that the cut and thrust our captain provides was more parry and block. We should have won without him, but Denilson cut a frustrating figure for much of the game, the ball often bouncing off and squirming away from those Brazilian ankles, while Diaby often held on to the ball for far too long. Perhaps we’re spoilt by Cesc’s effortless space finding and pinged cross field passes, or Song’s solid positioning, cool head and link with our captain, but Denilson and Diaby just didn’t really look confident.

There were chants of “one Aron Ramsey”, and I think some felt he might make an appearance an push us on – fairytale style – to a winner. It just wasn’t going to happen: As I’ve said before, he might be the natural replacement for Cesc in the long run, but with Tomas Rosicky on the bench who, despite what the naysayers might say is perhaps finding his best form for quite some time (finding, not found), it’s not the done thing. Tomas isn’t there yet, but to shunt him behind Ramsey in the pecking order would be slap in the face to a great professional trying his best to have an impact on the season.

Jack Wilshere continues to amaze me just because however the ball comes to him he either gets it under or smartly one-touches it off to a teammate. He’s got a good head for a small guy as well, and is really quite happy nodding on and challenging in the air, with that pace over five yards making all the difference in the middle. Koscielny had as good game, as did Djourou, although the latter seems to have developed a Sol Campbell charging trait, which is fine…when he releases the ball sensibly. Szczsesny…continues to impress, and bring tears to my eyes with those leg-split stretches.

In fact I don’ really have a lot to complain about, apart from the fact that a small step forward yesterday might have been a little bit bigger. We are moving forward though, and there’s legs in the season yet. Let’s just hope that ours are longer than United’s.

ATS

Job Done

Well, I apologise first off for the erroneous linkage in yesterday’s post. I know the first link was the same as the last, and that was down to my inability to find videos that were happy being enbedded and the fact that I was tweaking with the site’s look and doing several things at once. Lesson learnt.

Such are the dangers when there are various things on your mind, and to that theme it was nice that Arsenal focused on beating The Os last night and delivered a professional and composed display ahead of the weekend. Alas I wasn’t at the Emirates last night, and the…err, stream channel I was watching it on was a little temperamental. But I did get to see a Gael Clichy goal(!), as well as a smart hat-trick from Bendtner.

A quick word on the hat-trick as well, because for me it highlights the calibre of player Nik is when he’s on song. A header, an edge of the box effort and a penalty…well that’s almost a perfect collection in my eyes; all the things you want a striker to have – positioning, a good head, an eye for goal and the ability to slot home from the spot. For me Nik’s always been a centre-forward, and hopefully he scores many more goals should he be picked there.

Obviously a lot is being said about the onus being on Nik and/or Chamakh now that RVP is out for the Barca match, and it was good for the Moroccan to get on the scoresheet as well – well done sir. Not forgetting Miquel and Henderson, who put in solid performances as well.

If you haven’t seen the goals or highlights, Arsenalist has those, and now it’s on to Sunderland at the Emirates, and aiming for another professional display to bring us within a point of United. Carling Cup Final? Stop living in the past 🙂

ATS

Legends Are Made

(*Now with updated first link…)

As a Gooner, the hardest goal to take being scored against my beloved Arsenal will probably always be this one.

It’s not so much that my United supporting friends would bring it up for years to come, or even that it came moments after Dennis Bergkamp missed a penalty – although my love of Bergkamp did make it particularly hard to swallow. No, the reason it will always hurt is because as a young wannabe pro-footballer Giggs was my idol.

It’s not even particularly hard for me to say that as a Gooner. He was a left-footed winger in the classic style of wingers, and that goal was the sort of goal I dreamed about scoring. The importance of it, the style of it, and the way it looked so effortless; all things that a kid of sixteen years would want to do in a sport he adored.

“Keep an eye of Ryan Giggs, Kev”

My dad told me that as a boy of eight or nine, roughly two years after the welshman’s 1991 debut.

“He’s the player you want to keep an eye on. See how he finds space, always moves, intelligently uses the ball…”

And I did watch him. Despite my love of Arsenal, I watched him right up to the point that I decided I could no longer realistically want to be a professional footballer. I watched him when I decided I wanted to write for a living instead, and I watched him right throughout my late teens, and early twenties at university.

I still watch him now of course, and that I can is a testament to a man who has never accidentally shot a colleague with an air rifle, or obviously gone out to elbow someone in the head, and somehow get away with it (yes, I mean Wayne Rooney). What has he done? Well, he’s stayed in great physical condition, and continues to pose a threat and ‘do a job’. He’s never really courted celebrity (apart from some odd Fujifilm and Quorn adverts…but anyway…).

Not only that, but in appearing during the defeat against Chelsea – which I hugely enjoyed, for obvious reasons – he equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of appearances for United. That doesn’t alone make him a footballing legend. But, that he’s achieved such a long and rewarding career in all those appearances might. And that I still rate him as one of my favourite ever non-Arsenal players in spite of scoring ‘that goal’, probably does.

In my book, anyway.

ATS

p.S: For more Giggs check this: