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

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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

Cup Final Thoughts

Well I know it’s a bit late in the day, but let me get straight into it.

That was hard to take, but that’s football. Now let me explain yesterday’s post:

Essentially I felt that we lost the game rather than were particularly beaten. I know that Birmingham won the game and fair play to them for that, but the mistake which led to the Martins’ goal was an Arsenal error. Bad communication between defenders and keepers happens, but if a defender has committed he should lump it. I know I’m not alone in that opinion, and I feel for Koscielny that he had to learn that particular lesson yesterday.

I’ve heard people refer to that incident as one that was about as freak as the classic Nayim shot that beat Seaman. Not true: Nayim’s shot was a moment of cheeky genius, that caught out a great keeper. Martins’ goal was a piece of opportunism presented to him by two very good but young pros. I suspect Martins’ was bought and brought on in the game to snap up half-chances and he duly delivered.

It’s also worth remembering that the first goal came about as a result of a passage of play where Song and Wilshere had a rare moment of misunderstanding which led to a Birmingham corner. Two errors punished in the worst way possible then, but again that’s football. Birmingham should have had a penalty, we had a few chances, both teams hit the woodwork and we struggled to find the rhythm that thuds resoundingly when Cesc is on the pitch.

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we struggle without Cesc, but I really didn’t foresee Rosicky starting in the midfield three. Arsene no doubt felt he deserved a shot and was ready, but with the greatest will in the world Cesc’s role in this team is possibly the hardest to fill. I like Tomas as a player though, he had a decent game, and I was tiring fast of other Arsenal ‘fans’ at yelling at him (and Arshavin) when something didn’t come off. Let’s not forget he had a good effort go just wide of Foster’s post in the second half, and that could have made it 2-1 to us.

I guess really that’s all I have to say. I know there were travel problems, but the sheer scale of the Arsenal support that left when Martins scored saddened/surprised/disgusted me. I stayed so long I must have been one of only scores of Gooners left, but trips to Wembley shouldn’t be taken for granted, and the sheer joy and sound of the Blues support was a sight to behold. Don’t get me wrong; I felt like I’d been kicked in the chest when the ball left Martin’s boot and nestled in the net, but I was sure it wouldn’t be an easy day at the office, and it didn’t prove to be.

The good news is that we’re still in three other competitions, and another Wembley trip (or…whisper it, two) could still be on the cards. I know the players will be hurting, and perhaps more than some of us who can go into work the next day and disassociate from the emotional depression football sometimes provides. But we fans as well as the players, and all those who work at the cub are all The Arsenal: There are plenty of games to go this season, and more challenges ahead.

Plus, sometimes, sometimes, disappointment will be followed by joy.

Here’s hoping this season proves that the case.

ATS

It’s Probably Bieber’s Fault

The office job had just about nuked my energy after a week of moving and not sleeping (who knew there were trucks and sirens in London?), so I was considering not sauntering to the Emirates for some cheeky fast-food and the Stoke match last night.

But, knowing that my seat would be empty and that there was a nutritionally questionable burger with my name on, I did. And, although it wasn’t one for the occasional attendee, it proved a solid three point victory for an Arsenal that can (currently) defend against and score from set pieces. Refreshing.

The random guy next to me was wide-eyed and dosed up, and as the game entered a nervy and absorbing final ten minutes he decided to roll a joint. His drug habits are his own, but the only grass that really needed the attention he was giving his silvers was that forming Szczesny’s goal line. So when he attempted to join in on the chants like:

Na-na Na-na Na-na Nammy Sasmiri! SASMIRI NAMMY SASmuriry..!

…or even tell the ref he was “funcking ranker”, that the Arsenal managed to maintain said goal lines’s virginity after an early header from Seb Squillaci made it 1 – 0 was more aromatic than his herbs. However, what was plain as the day was marred by looking at Pulis rant and rave was our lack of creativity once Cesc departed.

We passed and probed, but lacked the cutting edge that sometimes only a ringer can bring to Sunday League, and that only Cesc can truly provide at the hub of the Arsenal midfield.

Nasri can, and did, play there but his game is currently more that of a natural man-beater than pass sprayer and pace-setter, while Denilson sometimes looks like he has a contract with his boot makers demanding 90% of his passes are one touch, regardless of where or who they go to.

Granted it’s superb to see that Aaron Ramsey scored for Cardiff against Leicester this week, and he may well be the long-term replacement for when Cesc eventually departs. But for now, and certainly for last night, we miss him even when leading at home to a tough but rarely threatening Stoke. Hopefully he’ll be fit for Sunday, and it would be heartbreaking for him not to play, but if he doesn’t make it Birmingham will think themselves less under threat and no doubt smell a bit of insecurity.

At this point I’d like to say that in fact I jinxed both Cesc and Theo’s ankle by eagerly wearing my newly bought Cup Final hat, and that I take no responsibility for their injuries as this is just a poorly constructed bit of fantastical whimsy. Whimsy a bit like this tweet, retweeted by Andrei Arshavin.

Hey, it’s Russian humour I’m sure. Like pretending he’s out of form when in reality he’s going to single handedly win the League Cup Final and declare everyone in the ground a bunch of silly billies for ever doubting him. You take my completely insincere word.

Seriously though – who am I to comment on another man’s hate of Justin Bieber. After all Bieber completely lost my love and respect when he changed his hair. I mean, really. How can I sleep at…give me a break.

ATS

In the face!

Well that was an interesting weekend’s footy. There I was, having come on in the last 15 mins of my Sunday League team’s match. I was doing my customary non-winning of headers despite my Crouch-esque height and then -BEHOLD! – a pass through the middle for me to chase. Exactly the kind of pass that I’ll rattle after like an elongated antelope and have a crack at goal with. Shoot? I can do that.

Chasing a ball on the bounce I lobbed the keep with enough pace and insta-calculation of erratic incalculable wind-power to sneak it over the line and trundle  it just inside the post, beyond the chasing defender. I spun around for a bit of a “cheeky ‘what’d I do?” shrugging celebration, followed by an expletive-fuelled fist-pump and all was rosey.

3 – 2. Ten mins on the clock. We’d gone 1 – 0 down, one man down, to 1 – 1, to 2 – 1 down, 2 – 2  and then…I come on and wow, might have scored the winner. Except:

My own fault. If I’d jump for headers I’d be a good foot an a half away from anyone’s elbow, but that’d be too easy. Thwack in the face, I felt a slight crunch and then there was a hell of a lot of blood. I stayed/dazed on and then we drew 3 – 3.

“Hang on, this reminds me of some metaphorical face smashing  just yesterday”,

I thought to myself as the red scattered upon the grass like Gunner confidence, and my goal was cancelled out by a late shot.

On Saturday in Tyneside, Arsenal collapsed under the weight of a combination of Diaby’s pyschologically understandable reaction and subsequent sending off, Djourou’s knee knock, Barton and Nolan’s cretinous behaviours, and the winner of this week’s Best Hash of Officiating, Phil “BUT HOW?” Dowd.

Actually I blame the guy at the Emirate’s screening who chirped at half time:

“Well, normally at screening’s it’s either a draw or a loss!”

….Cheers mate.

Well the Arse drew, but United inexplicably came up against an Uberinformazoided Wolves and bizarrely Arsenal closed the gap. Huh, didn’t see that coming. And “but it could have been less of a gap” sayers can shh. It isn’t, stop whining. A point closer to the leaders than many would have expected Arsenal to be off the back of odd-on Arsenal and United wins.

Sunday proved that Torres is just a human and not some kind of money-fuelled goal machine, having had the least touches of any outfield player in the Chelsea vs King Kenny’s Liverpool™ game (cheers Opta).

Also the football Gods clearly currently favour the magic of underdogs and the nostalgia of legends, and meanwhile Sky continued to prove that it can devalue any quality franchise or show with a tenuous link to some football goings on. Boardwalk Empire became (Fulham) Broadway Empire and Steve Buscemi morphed into Fernando Torres. Sky, that’s shit. Not not as bad as the time you made Wenger a cyborg though.

Birmingham’s Zigic proved that us tall blokes can play terribly and still score (represent), and some other teams won, drew and loss. I could do more about those but then I’m writing this late on a Sunday evening so there’s not really that much point. But, as I was saying, an interesting weekend’s footy.

Tomorrow I’ve got to face the colleague whom I assured Arsenal would maintain a clean sheet this weekend and that he should put money on it. Thing is you can’t legislate for sendings off. I think I’ll say:

“Well, you can’t legislate for sendings off.”

And you can’t. Nor indeed can you legislate for an elbow to the face. By a twat.

ATS.

Title-winning Tweets?

One of the great things about Twitter are the insights afforded to us football fans. We know about the edgy banter between Rio Ferdinand and Robbie Savage; we know that Glenn Johnson made unsavoury comments about Paul Merson before – too late – deleting them, and we know that Darren Bent is likely to tell his followers about why he wants to leave his current club/find a new one (I kid, sort of).

And this week, after all the ‘churnalism’ surrounding what Cesc Fabregas may or may not have said at half-time against Everton, on the pitch or in the tunnel, to or at Lee Mason (or at the fourth official perhaps) we see some of the spirit in the current Arsenal Squad. Spirit that might help guide them as a group of professionals towards silverware this year.

Yesterday the Gunners captain started secretly snapping members of the squad who had fallen asleep while travelling to the North for today’s Newcastle match. Not only that, but he commented on each of them with jocular comments reflecting just how fondly he and his team-mates regard each other.

Exhibit A:

As I commented at the time, a little harsh but funny. I’m sure Tomas wouldn’t take offence, and that’s exactly the sort of spirit and camaraderie you want in any squad at any level if you’re intending to push for honours. Tongue in cheek with a bit of back and forth pushes team-mates on and, realising this, the canny captain went on with some more of his amateur photography:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

With all this going on, Jack Wilshere got in on the action, tweeting:

Wow dangerous to have a kip these days! Need some coffee to stay awake or im gonna be broadcasted all over here!

And then Robin Van Persie joined in, snapping Bacary Sagna and wishing him “Sweet dreams”. Alas, when RVP attempted to grab some revenge for the squad and catch out Cesc, he only managed the following:

Well, what can we say about this? Firstly there’s plenty to agree with when bloggers like Arseblog comment on journalists’ questioning Cesc’s qualities as a captain: This is exactly the sort of thing a good captain does. Being ‘one of the lads’ (not in a Richard Keys way), and being a leader on and off the pitch in everything from FIFA tournaments to snapping dozing team-mates. It shows how happy he and other players are at the club, and that they have an understanding an relationship that goes beyond training ground drills.

The importance is this: Gary Neville, discussing his retirement from football in an interview with Geoff Shreeves on Sky Sports News this morning, commented that the players he played with were some of his best mates, and hinted that being that close with them enabled him and his team-mates to achieve great success.

I dare say Gary Neville knows a bit about such things, having won everything there is to win domestically. So, who knows, the tweets that us, the fans, see from our heroes can maybe mean a little more. And the tweets of this Arsenal squad might well point toward coming domestic success with us fans having a clear insight into the sort of spirit that was once harder for us to appreciate.