Arsenal Get What’s Deserved

:-/

As a man who writes for a living, that title might be the hardest thing I produce this week. But the truth hurts.

With a poor first half display it was deja vu time, and a second consecutive game seeing us fail to spark early on.

Yet again it was down to a half-time refocusing and – presumably – words from Arsene to get the team back on track. But why we seemingly lacked belief in the first half is bewildering. Is it fear? Fear of silly mistakes and a red card? Poor preparation? Or is it a team needing an injection of fresh faces, ideas and impetus?

This morning George Graham has said to Talksport  “Whatever talk Wenger gave at half time, he should have said before the game started”. And whether that’s on point or not, it’s an insight I suspect many see the sense in.

Yet whatever the answer to our poor starts, a combination of Ramires’ cynicism, refereeing ignorance and Chelsea taking their chances ensured that at half time yesterday we were already up against it. Even if comebacks have become a somewhat necessary part of our repertoire in the last couple of seasons, it’s hard to argue that we didn’t deserve to be trailing.

Giroud misses a great chance and Chelsea score within a minute. Coquelin goes down injured, but Mata is more alert than Sagna to open the scoring. Diaby gives the ball away to allow Ramires the eventual chance of going down easy in the box. And Lampard took that chance with the aplomb you’d expect.

Well, whatever was said at half time seemed to help, and we looked like we were interested again. We took some control and Theo’s finish from a sweet Santi pass had me hoping we might steal a point. But we ran out of steam and, as much as I (dreamland) hoped Arshavin could have made some sort of assist or random multi-deflect goal come about, that we had to bring him on says all we need to know. Even if The Ox and Poldi were fit, what we really needed late on was a second striker. And not Theo.

This morning Arseblog mentions:

When there’s the chance to sign a player like Demba Ba he [AW] says he’s too similar to Giroud, but imagine the second half yesterday with Giroud and Ba side by side.

And it’s a fair point. But even if Wenger’s non-signing of players is bewildering from the outside, let’s not forget that we were willing to let Chamakh, the only other recognised CF at the club, go to West Ham…without any sign of a replacement.

He might not have been first in the pecking 0rder, but you’re not telling me that having no second CF is better than having a backup who may or may not deliver on request? Remember the talk that we might clear some space before bringing players in. We’ve cleared some, and yet where are those players? We need them now, in a January scrap, not in a desperate February hunt.

Let me tell you, if Chamakh plays against us on Wednesday (if he can) and scores, I’m going to sob manfully into my bitter £2 black coffee and hope that the resulting potion conjurs some highly-caffeinated wunder-striker from the ether. Or wonder where my money is going.

Either will do.

It’s obvious by now that we need reinforcements, isn’t it? Yesterday I was yelling at Theo from the comfort of my warm-ish front room to diving header that chance late on before Cahill cleared it away. But he was never going to. Alan Smith might have, Ian Wright too. Henry? Perhaps. Chamakh? *screw face* posssiblyy. But Theo wants to be a centre-forward? It’s not all lightning pace and sweet finishes. At the moment we get goals however we can, and that was a chance.

But then I temper my anger at a player who’s now the club’s top earner not wanting to put his body on the line and think that there are other strikers out there who might. Who we don’t have. Other options who, if they were on the bench, may have precluded Arshavin from the equation, Walcott from the situation, and might have salvaged a point.

Salvage is a hard thing to write this morning as well. Because the most pessimistic me thinks that’s where this season is now heading. But even if we’re not there quite yet, I’d rather some cavalry for a fighting charge than trying to fight mounted attackers on foot.

You know what I mean. Signings, I’d like some.

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Vindication?

I genuinely wonder what those who want/ed Wenger gone thought about yesterday. Because wasn’t the Frenchman vindicated in a fair amount of ways? I watched the game in S.London and it was surely one of the greatest games of football I’ve ever watched. It’s certainly one of the best starring The Arsenal, and it was probably one of the greatest shows of belief I’ve witnessed.

Twice we went behind, and twice we equalised. Gary Neville was having kittens at half time such was the quality of defence on show, but I cared about one thing only: Winning. That we conceded three goals highlights the issues we know are there. We struggled against crosses and corners, and until we can sing “Guess who’s Bac, Bac again”, Djourou will have to sharpen up at RB to keep young Jenks waiting in the wings. Likewise, ‘The Saint’ needs more of yesterday’s second half than the first if he’s to similarly frustrate a fit Kieran Gibbs. We battled, we pushed, we looked dangerous, and we found a team willing to prove we’ve got more than just a flying Dutchman to hold on tight to.

Ramsey, Arteta and Song grew as the game went on and Koscielny had another stormer, essentially nullifying Fernando Torres. In fact, Kos has such confidence at the moment that at one point he was tracking a player to our byline, got to the free ball first, slid, backheeled the ball against the chasing player, and deflected it out for a throw-in to us. Take note John Terry, that’s how you go to ground.

Theo – although needing to be far more alert to possibilities  in the final third – prowled the right and showed his fleet-footedness in the best way, while Szczesny is a keeper who has confidence enough to physically move our defenders to his preferred positions for set piece defence. Whether the Pole was lucky to be on the pitch after taking down Cashley Cole (not a red for me) is debatable.

But we won. We scored five against Chelsea at their place,  and this was not a considerably weak Chelsea side. Thankfully Drogba’s suspension prevented him from taking his usual delight in rippling our net, but with the Chelsea players on show it was still a fearful test. Our boys never shied away from it, and the jubilation that followed the final whistle was surely echoed millions. In S. London we jumped around like goons to the goals, and when the end of the game arrived a contentedness that has been lacking from supporting the Gunners of late was simply overflowing.

It might have been just one game in the season, but it was our eighth win in nine, puts us back in the hunt for the top four, and surely fills this squad with much needed belief that we can move forward with the players we have, and really make an impact on the season.

But most importantly, it gives us all belief that this squad of players, and this manager, after a poor start to the season, are capable of producing those special moments that we live for as fans. It’s a glorious memory. One provided by a new squad under the watchful eye of the old master. And one that I hope proves that it’s far from time for Mr Wenger to say goodbye.

 

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:

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.