Archive for February, 2009

28
Feb
09

Arsenal v. Fulham, Liveblogging the 0-0 draw

Chavs are known for their homing ability and are often used as couriers.

6:30: Morning all, I’m still sick, I couldn’t sleep, and I haven’t eaten so I’m in a rotten mood, plus Everton are beating WBA handily in the early game, which would leave us just 1 point off 6th place ahead of the match. Scoring goals is absolutely imperative here: another 0-0 draw would really put pressure on the team.

Fortunately, it looks like the boss is aware of that and has included some surprises in the starting lineup:

Almunia, Sagna, Toure, Gallas, Clichy, Arshavin, Denilson, Diaby, Nasri, Van Persie, Vela. Subs: Fabianski, Ramsey, Song Billong, Djourou, Bendtner, Eboue, Gibbs.

Lessee, we got Arshavin, Diaby, Nasri, van Persie, and Vela gets a start… I LIKE IT! That’s an attacking lineup if I ever saw one.

6:40: Allright, this isn’t fair. I want to hate Martin O’Neill but when the man offers to have the team eat dinner with the fans who traveled to Moscow to watch the Villa crap-fest, it’s very hard to dislike him.

6:45 Wenger big ups Future England #1. I hadn’t really thought about it but he is in top form right now. It was only, what, a month ago that people were calling for Wenger to sign a “real keeper” and now he’s at the top of the heap really. Strange season.

7:03 Kickoff, UP THE ARSE!

7:04 Clichy plays AJ onside and the diminutive striker nearly puts a shot on goal.  GET IN THE GAME GAEL — the last thing we need is to go down 1-0 against this team.

7:07 Nasri shows some graft and gets a foul for his trouble. If that’s a foul, I expect Arsenal to get 100 free kicks in this match.

7:11 Very troubling start as in the first 8 minutes Fulham really could have scored three goals. The back four look very shaky. Credit to Fulham, they are attacking.

7:13 Make that 4 goals. Looks like Fulham has found a new wrinkle on the Arsenal high line and intend to make us pay for our ball-holdery, high line, attacking wing-back football. I’m officially worried.

7:22 Ref is letting Fulham get away with all kinds of fouls in the middle.

7:28 Etuhu is dominating the midfield. Combined with Danny Murphy and Fulham are getting the ball forward at nearly every opportunity and taking the ball away when we do get sight of posession. Funny, but this Fulham reminds me a lot of the invicibles.

7:33 Would anyone be surprised to see a 55-45 possession split in favor of Fulham? Arsenal can’t seem to win the ball back.

7:37 Clichy’s nightmare game continues — he seems totally out of the game as he lumbers back on defense allowing the dreadful Zamora to get in a cross that should have been a goal. The only bright spot right now is the play of Arshaviour who has created some really good opportunities that van Persie has squandered.

7:44 Hey, I have those exact boots. They are really nice and I got a great deal on them via Amazon.

7:48 Fulham have settled back down and are playing to their level again. I expect the second half to start and finish a lot like the first: Fulham will come out looking to steal a goal and play solid defense. What’s Wenger going to do on the 60th minute to break this?

8:08 Second half kicks off and the only changes are for Fulham who change their beard for a stool.

8:12 Free kick in a dangerous spot. Come on Robin, if you want to play for a Champions League team, don’t just bitch about it, make it happen.

8:13 WEAR A CONDOM, MATT! Christ, Arsenal are crap from set plays. Maybe Jet Pinoy Gooner is right, since we suck ass at set plays maybe Arsenal should start taking long range shots?

8:17 Brief spell of attack from Arsenal, but our wing-backs service is pathetic, as Sagna and Clichy ping-pong the ball back and forth between them.

8:20 Corner. Wasted.

8:25 Breakfast. Done. Bendtner. On. Vela. Sucked.

8:30 Take off Clichy and bring on Rambo, Arsenal’s season depends on a goal and right now Clichy is a liability offensively and defensively.

8:32 The boss brings on the Pass Master instead. 6th place here we come!

8:37 Ok, I know I’m being overly negative. The team is playing their hearts out but they just lack that last little bit of quality to put teams like this away and that’s insanely frustrating.

8:42 Arshavin is clearly unfit. Wenger needs to pull him off but the team is so bereft of options that we’re forced to play a guy who is walking on the pitch. As I write that, he gets a shot off…

8:48 5 minutes until the season is over.

8:53 This Arsenal team have given up, they can’t win the ball back. Hell, Arshavin can’t even run anymore.  Which is irrelevant because even off set plays we suck.

8:56 Fulltime — Take a good look at those empty seats. That’s what’s waiting for us the rest of this season and into next. This team is not good enough and that’s all there is to it. I better not see any articles quoting van Persie as demanding Champions League football because he had multiple chances to put us on our way to securing that spot and failed miserably.

27
Feb
09

Arsenal v. Fulham match preview, plus I get all wonkish on Arsenal’s financials.

Blatter does his Carnack the Magnificent routine.

Good morning lads and ladies… wait… do any women read this blog? I mean, beside my partner who religiously reads the blog because she loves me. Anyone?

Anyway, big match weekend here on the blog. First, the match is being played on Fox Soccer Channel which means that I get to watch the match live here at home, in my skivvy’s. That, in turn, means that you all get to enjoy me liveblogging the match, in my skivvy’s. Then we’ll end the weekend on Sunday with an orgiastic Good, Bad, and Ugly. It will be the Full American this weekend, folks, indulge yourselves!

Ahead of the match our boy Diaby is injured again. I hate to say it, but Arsenal need him healthy, the contrast between Diaby and Song as far as attacking is concerned is very stark indeed and with Fulham pulling in to Emirates and backing the bus in front of goal this evening we need all the attack we can muster.

The good news on the attack front is that Walcott will start full training on Monday, Eduardo is expected to be back for the Burnley match next weekend and perhaps Adebayor the next week for Roma. None of which helps against Fulham.

I do expect Arsaviour to start tomorrow which should give the team a lot more creativity and flair going forward. Quite where he will start is still up in the air, but if I had to guess I’d say on the right, Nasri on the left, and the Song and Denilson pairing in the middle. Personally, I’d rather Arsenal play with the 4-2-3-1 that they worked to great effect against Roma which would mean van Persie up top, Bendtner out right, Arsaviour in the middle, and Nasri on the left. Then at 60 minutes, take off Arsaviour, bring on Vela out left, move Nasri to the middle, and if we’re up a goal, put The Pass Master in on the right.

Now that I’ve said it, Wenger will do none of the above and probably put The Pass Master in from the start and bring Bishcoff off the bench or something. Who knows…

All I know is that I don’t want to sit here and liveblog the same kind of stultifying event I saw last weekend at the Emirates.

Speaking of stultifying, for Fulham’s part, a 0-0 draw is exactly what they are looking for, after all, they have only scored three (3, tres, troi, 三) away goals this season.

THREE AWAY GOALS ALL SEASON.

That little nugget makes Fulham the absolute most defensive away team I can ever remember — even Derby scored 8 away goals last year and that wasn’t because they were playing defensively it’s because they sucked eggs.

So, if you all thought we had a hard time breaking down Sunderland, you’re in for a real “treat” as you get to watch the most anti-football of all anti-football squads.

Maybe it’s the cold medicine but my head hurts just thinking about how 4th place rests on overcoming this mountain of a team, with their mountain of a center half (Brede Hangelaand), and here we are relying on our little tiny corpulent Ruskie. Ohhh…. 1-0 to the Arsenal would be a great result.

While I’m on the topic of fourth place and really the importance of this match, yesterday my Antipodean reader asked how I think the team might not be profitable when Gazidis is assuring fans that Arsenal don’t need Champions League football.

There are several things that lead me to this conclusion. First, if you look at the 2008 full season financials, the amount of profits that Arsenal socked away for that year is just a little over £6m more than their earnings from the Champions League campaign.  Granted, that number is after tax, of which they will no doubt pay less since they earned less and whatnot, but the point remains: Champions League qualification is worth a lot of money, roughly £15m

Now, take a look at this table. Each team’s earnings from live broadcasts, Europe, and their cup runs is detailed. If you remember, last year Everton finished 5th and Villa finished 6th. Notice that difference between Arsenal’s earnings and those two teams: £19m between 4th and 5th place and £22m between 4th and 6th place. The higher you finish in the Premier League, the more exciting your team, the more money you make from television, Europe, and cup runs.

Then there’s gate receipts. With turnover for home games at over £3m per match and Arsenal playing 6 home matches in last year’s CL run, plus some match revenue sharing for some away matches, we could conservatively put that number at £18m for the Champions League run.

Thus, in the worst case scenario, a 6th place finish (we are closer to 6th place than 4th), just in match day, prize money, and television revenues Arsenal will lose nearly  £40m. Which is exactly what Arsenal’s before tax profitability was last year.

If you subtract an inevitable decline in shirt sales, ticket sales, and other concessions that would follow a 6th place finish and the concomitant decline in supporters I think you can see that losing out on 4th place would be a dire situation. That means that either Gazidis is bat-shit nuts, has some special knowledge that the club hasn’t released, or is bullshitting the supporters. I don’t know which, but if I had to guess it would be the last option.

I’ll admit that my numbers might be a bit off, I’m just going by the data that I’m given. But the importance of 4th place cannot be emphasized enough. The captain is gunning for it, van Persie is supposedly holding out on a new deal because we might not make 4th place, and Martin O’Neil is willing to shit on Villa supporters who paid nearly £1000 each to travel to Moscow to secure it. It’s worth a lot of money, Villa are desperate (to the tune of £90m in debt) to secure it, and this is the week that Arsenal need to dig in and secure it.

In little over a fortnight, we’ll know if Arsenal have the goods. Teams are going to play “anti-football” and no team will do that better than Fulham tomorrow. So, while every match is crucial, this match is crucial-er and they need a positive start, or all of the work that Wenger has done over the last ten years might be undone in this one.

With that said, I’ll see you all here tomorrow at 7am for the liveblog. Personally, I’m hoping for a miracle from Arsaviour.

UPDATE

Diaby is fit for the match. See how all my negativity paid off?

26
Feb
09

The Full English costs £133m

East Stand 2006

Ugh… remember that lady behind me on the flight back from London? The one who was coughing her lungs up mere inches away from my face? Well, I think I got her cold. I feel miserable today, worse than yesterday by far and yet I absolutely must go in to work today. It’s not fair to my coworkers to come in while so obviously sick but I have a Calc test today and I can’t miss that so I might as well bring my diseased ass in to work. The worst part is that this cold comes from overseas so they won’t have any immunities to it. I’m calling it the London Flu and me bringing it to work makes me “London Flu Timmy.”

Speaking of sickness, the press are making a big hoo-doo of some report that was released today claiming that FIFA’s 6+5 rule would not be illegal. It’s even prompting some reporters to make outrageous claims like

With the proposed 6+5 Fifa rule being ruled legal by the EU courts, we might have to see a return to more homegrown talent being fielded.

Let me make this absolutely clear: this is a report compiled by a FIFA hand-picked organization (INEA) which basically skimmed through the law looking for arguments that FIFA might make to the EU Court and found that while the rule is very clearly discrimination, it’s only “indirect discrimination.”

The EU ministers and the EU courts are firmly against this rule, and given that FIFA’s hand-picked report proves that this would be a form of discrimination I can’t see how they will get any ruling past the courts. No, the Bosman ruling still stands and will continue to stand. Which I think is good for football.

The INEA also repeats FIFA’s preposterous claim that having foreign players in the EPL stunts the growth of the Full English players. This argument is so prima facie ridiculous that I hardly feel the need to attack it, but let’s take a look at how it goes. Basically, they argue that foreign players “take the place of” local players in academies and thus there are supremely talented Englishmen out there who just never got a chance.

Bullshit.

Look at the youth academies of Arsenal and Man U. Both clubs have reached the finals of the Carling Cup with basically their academy sides. And though Arsenal get all the press for their academy I think this Man U class is actually better than the Arsenal class. But the important thing to look at is the fact that both of those teams have tons of English players on them.

Thus, this is far from the case that English talent isn’t being nurtured, rather that English talent is being fostered in a competitive atmosphere with the world’s most deserving players. These clubs are making English players better.

Make no mistake, the 6+5 plan will never be implemented and if it is, the Arsenal’s and Man U’s will still have the best academies, they will still produce the best talent, and the big clubs will continue to dominate the markets for these players. What would happen is that the overall level of play would be reduced significantly. All you have to do is look at Liverpool and ask yourself who should start at right wing: Pennant or Kuyt?

The second big story that fell out like the lung of a disease ridden airline passenger is that Arsenal released their mid-season financials. This year’s numbers look incredibly good: profits up £4.5m over last year, match day turnover up, television profits up, and even some profit made off the Highbury square development. The total before tax profit reported is £24.5m. That is truly an incredible number for a half season.

But there are some worrying signs; the £133m that “The Group” owe the banks for the Highbury Square development looks as if it’s come due as “The Group” are busily trying to re-finance that loan.

Moreover, whereas last year Peter Hill-Wood categorically assured supporters that the Highbury development was accounted for apart from the operations of Arsenal FC, this year he is equivocating, saying:

The financial arrangements for the group’s property activities are separate and largely operate independently from the financing of the football business.

The truth of the matter seems obscured, but I suspect that one reason Arsenal have maintained such large cash reserves (£90m before this half-season’s £24.5m profit report) is that they need the money to flood into the Highbury development should the loan come due and banks are unwilling to refinance this apparent lode stone on the club’s profits.

The other worrying aspect of the profit report is just how important being a top club is for our financial health. Television revenue, match day revenue, Champions League revenue, all are dependent upon the club competing at the top, top level.

Arsenal are certainly making money right now, but losing 4th place combined with the financial downturn and the collapse of the high end housing market could prove devastating to this club and has me a bit worried about the future for the first time as an Arsenal supporter.

We have to trust that the board will get this all ironed out. After all, they’ve not let us down so far.

All right, got to get into work and get some things started before my exam today so that’s your lot for the day.

See you tomorrow.

25
Feb
09

Arsenal 1-0 Roma; The Could-a, Would-a, Should-a

la-persieata

Match Reports

Telegraph.co.uk:  Arsenal were the only victors in Europe last night but while they won the battle, the war of this Champions League tie is far from over after their profligate attack squandered what may prove to be crucial chances.

ESPNSoccernet: The misfiring Gunners should have put the tie beyond the hosts – with Nicklas Bendtner and Emmanuel Eb*ue both spurning golden chances as Arsenal’s recent trend of poor finishing continued.

Match Video

The Arsenalist has both the hits and the misses.

Man of the Match

Rather than do player ratings, I’m just doing a man of the match: these blogs are already too damn long and don’t need me pontificating on every single player. With that said, with at least 6 takeaways and a breathtaking 73 passes (with an 85% completion rate) yesterday’s man of the match was Denilson. You could point to the formation that Wenger employed, you could point to the obvious paucity of match fitness on the part of Roma, you could point to a lot of things, but whatever the cause Denilson easily had his most effective match since I’ve been watching him.

Playing the purely defensive midfielder in Arsene’s brilliant 4-2-3-1, Denilson moved the ball from defense into attack, slowed the Roma attack very effectively, and patrolled the midfield cleaning up and distributing as needed. His effect in this role allowed the more creative Diaby to get forward and get the ball to Nasri who occupied the purely attacking midfield role.

It wasn’t all roses and lace, I did find myself yelling at him to track back once, but that could be forgiven since Roma didn’t punish Arsenal for that particular bit of play.

Plus, he had been fucking brilliant up till that point.

The Coulda

I’ll admit it: I was wrong, dead wrong. Wenger’s tactics have been transparent and predictable this season and I sincerely thought Wenger would play this match the way he’s played pretty much every other. So, huge kudos to Arsene Wenger for being brave enough to change the lineup and play Liverpool’s favored 4-2-3-1 formation. Can you imagine what Arsenal would look like if he played that formation and Cesc was in Diaby’s slot, Arshavin in Nasri’s slot, Nasri on the left, and Walcott on the right?

Indefensible!

Kudos too to van Persie who’s craft up front, tireless work rate tracking back, and incisive runs nearly shredded the Roma defense and Coulda resulted in more goals. His goal off the penalty kick was no less that he deserved.

The Woulda

As good as Arsenal was in the first half, they nearly threw away the match with a bit of insanity to start the second. As it turns out, Gallas was late getting back to the pitch because he was getting some treatment to his shin for the knock he took in the 10th minute.  Fair enough, we need our best defender patched up.

But what isn’t acceptable is that Arsenal’s captain let superstition garner him a yellow card. Toure has a match ritual where he is always the last one out on to the pitch and since the referee had decided (wrongly) to restart the match when Arsenal had only 9 men on the pitch Toure felt like he could just run out onto the pitch without checking in with the 4th official. Between the ref, the late treatment, and the Arsenal captain’s superstitions it was like amateur hour out there and Arsenal nearly let Roma equalize during the confusion.

How, the fuck, does Arsenal start the second half with no central defenders?

Comical, but thankfully it didn’t cost us.

Another Woulda goes to Bendtner and uhhh, whatshisname, who both contrived to miss chances that my 10 month old daughter would have put in the auld uniun bhag. Bendtner had a horrible match all around and I have to wonder if he isn’t on his way out in the off season. To be fair, the first ball Nasri played in to him (hard and behind him a bit) was difficult to control and I forgave him that bit of profligacy, but there’s just no forgiving him when his touch constantly lets him down. That performance yesterday solidified him as “Adebayor Lite” in my mind.

The other dude, ole whatshisname, he who cannot be named, The Pass Master, whatever you want to call him, actually had a tremendous match and had he scored that open goal would easily have been MotM for me. More than once his dribbles and vigor going forward gave Roma fits but in his typical style he missed an easy chance to put Arsenal safely through to the next round. Proof positive that he will never be an effective midfielder.

And a final Woulda to Alex Song, who came on for Diaby and immediately put the Arsenal attack in neutral. I think I see what the boss likes about him; he’s a bit of a “hard man” and did put himself about effectively. He also wins balls in the air which is almost a novelty on this particular team but that said, going forward he is crap.

More than any other player Song is the one guilty of passing sideways rather than picking out an attacker. Is it any wonder that he has never gotten an assist for the Arsenal? Past Arsenal hard men (Copping, Storey, Young, Adams, Petit and Vieira) all had some craft to them and more than once spurred Arsenal’s attack but Song seems incapable of looking forward.

Unfortunately I think this is what the boss likes about him.

The Shoulda

Claus Bo Larsen (the ref) Shoulda been substituted at half time. Hell, he shoulda been subbed after the first 10 minutes when he inexplicably played an “advantage” to Arsenal after Mexes upended The Pass Master 2 yards outside the box and the ball found its way to Sagna — at midfield. It was an atrocious decision, but it wasn’t his worst. How the hell does Mexes (on a yellow already) stay in the match after cynically hauling down van Persie in the box? And how in the name of Collina does he start the match when Arsenal have only 9 players on the pitch? Give a yellow to Wenger for delaying the match or something but you don’t kick off with less than 22 players on the pitch. It was a shocking display of refereeing and Arsenal were lucky he didn’t cost us the match.

Conclusions

A fifth consecutive clean sheet, the 14th match in the unbeaten run, and the manager flexing his mind a bit and shuffling the formation to what Shoulda been great effect all means that in a fortnight Arsenal travel to Roma and need another performance like yesterday to see them through to the next round. Regardless my negativity earlier, it was a magnificent performance and the kind of stuff that Arsenal supporters dream of.

Similar creativity will be needed on Saturday when Arsenal host a Fulham squad who have allowed fewer league goals than Arsenal and have beaten us already once this season using the tried and true “park the bus in front of the goal and hit them on the break” technique.

Until then, let’s just bask in the glory of our one-nil to the Arsenal.

24
Feb
09

I’m back, baby

Sorry about the lack of a post yesterday but, not to be too emo, I just didn’t feel like writing about Arsenal.

I spent Sunday walking around the southern part of Hyde Park, went to Harrods, went to the Natural History Museum, and generally spent Sunday just relaxing. No drink, no smoke, just chill.

Outside the museum I saw a metric tonne (metric tonnes are spelled differently) of high end sports cars: Lotus, Ferarri, Maserati. It looked like a “best of”  episode of Top Gear. Must be the posh end of town.

Harrods is, well, ostentatious. It’s the place to go if you absolutely need to get a $100 pizza, or if you find yourself out of caviar and just need to get a single dollop, well bust out the check book and head down to Harrods! I settled for the $5 “Scotch Egg” and wandered down the street to the museum.

I honestly didn’t know what a Scotch Egg was before I bit into it, so imagine my surprise when I bit into an actual egg!  I had looked at the ingredients and saw sausage, but somehow missed the fact that it contains an egg. It was a pretty tasty, if not a fatty, hand held lunch. And it had the added bonus of sticking around all day: every time I’d burp I’d get a little Scotch Egg!

The Natural History museum was neat, of course, but I couldn’t get into either of the special exhibits (Darwin) because they were sold out. Ummm, that sucked. I really wanted to see the Darwin exhibit. Oh well, I settled for dinosaurs and sloths and ickthyosaurs, which were pretty damn cool.

I’ll spare you the boring description of Monday because I mostly hung out at the airport doing Calculus homework and no one really cares about that. I will say though that I’m pretty pissed off about the chick who sat behind me on the plane coughing the entire flight because my throat hurts today. Also, if you ever find yourself stuck somewhere for several hours and there’s a copy of Gordon Ramsay’s “Humble Pie” available in audiobook you absolutely MUST listen to it. If that man had a human sized ego he would look back on that book and feel a deep humiliation and shame. Let me just put it this way: this man’s hubris eclipses King Lear. He spends the entire first half of the book describing how hard life was for him and the entire second half how hard he’s making life for his kids while bragging constantly about what a great businessman he is. What a donkey.

Anyway, I made it home and back to my girls, and I didn’t even mind that Aveline cried almost the entire car trip home. Poor little thing has the sniffles after all.

In football news, Arsenal play Roma today and the Boss has filled his pre-match interview with all kinds of goodies. Just wander over to the dot com and click on a link, gems will drop out like candy from a pinata.

For the match, the big story is away goals. Arsenal absolutely need to keep a clean sheet here today, failing to do so will pile pressure on them in the return leg and make Roma’s job so much easier in a fortnight. So, more important than just extending their 13 match unbeaten run (they last lost to Porto on Dec. 10th, in this very competition) Arsenal need to increase their 4 match clean sheet run; just one more game.

With that in mind and given the dearth of real strike options I suspect Arsene will play a 4-5-1 with Bendtner playing the Center Forward, van Persie playing the #10 slot and Diaby (he’s “healthy”) in the #8 spot. Nasri will play wide left, Denilson will mark Totti, Eboue will play wide right, and the back 4 will pick itself.

Did I mention that Denilson will mark Totti? This will be one of the most important games Denilson plays in his entire career and we shall see how he responds to the pressure of marking a Roma legend, with the added pressure of needing to keep a clean sheet, and the added pressure of marking a Roma legend, and needing to keep a clean sheet.

I remember when Cesc played his first champions league match against Juventus and went head to head with Patrick Vieira. It was his job on Vieira in that match that really solidified Cesc’s reputation with Arsenal supporters and I’m willing to go on a limb and say that Denilson could do the same today against Totti. No pressure young fella!

Right, that’s about it. The match is being shown live locally at Doyle’s and several of my readers are heading down to watch so, if you get a chance, join Travis and Alex for a pint. I cannot make it to the live showing as I have a metric tonne of work to catch up on and a class to attend. However, I have asked Russ to replay the match when I get off work and will be down there to watch the replay some time after 4pm local time. Leave a note in the comments if you want to make it a communal event or just want to come out and see my new away strip.

That’s it for today, got to get to work, see you all tomorrow for The Good, Bad, and Ugly.

UP THE ARSE!

22
Feb
09

Arsenal 0-0 Sunderland; Sunderland Wins The Cup

ole-one-arm-small

Owing to the huge blisters on both feet, I started yesterday by taking the tube from the Hotel to the nearest Starbucks. I had walked down to this Starbucks previously and made a mental note that it was just outside Notting Hill Gate station, so, the logic went, I’ll take the tube there, hop off and get a cup of coffee. Like all good plans there was a major flaw; Notting Hill Gate tube stop sucks ass. I swear it would have been faster to just walk from my hotel to the Starbucks. It all worked out in the end because there was a pharmacy where I could get some moleskin for my blisters and I happened upon this cool little fish shop where they had the above one-clawed lobster. Poor little fellow, with just the one claw he’s practically defenseless and certainly incapable of rampaging smaller fishes.

Fed and caffeinated I made my way to the stadium to pick up a shirt and some gifts. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and I had this really great feeling that everything was going to go very well. Everyone at the Arsenal store was in a similar mood, milling about and festooning each other with Arsenal swag. I got my kit and as I was having the name pressed into the shirt I asked the kid behind the counter when was the last time he pressed an Eboue shirt. He laughed and told me it was probably the time Eboue himself came in and bought a bunch of Eboue shirts which the kid thought were to be gifts for friends and family.

From there I took the tube across to Highbury and Islington and the Famous Cock to have a beer and wait for blog commenter fourstar. The Famous Cock was famously crowded but I managed a pint and watched a bit of the Chelsea match, which featured a bit of “skill” from Lampard to setup Anelka to score the only goal. It was exactly the result I was looking for, 3 points to Chelsea and maybe taking the wind out of Villa’s sails a bit.

Fourstar showed up just in time as I had been chatting with a group of Sunderland supporters and I suspect, in retrospect, that they were getting tired of my sense of humor. We had our pint and both headed off to the stadium. I walked across Highbury park chatting with some fellow Gooners along the way. The young kid was funny, he didn’t say much until the conversation turned to Arsenal’s strike team:  I believe he called Bendtner and Adebayor “crap.” We parted ways and I made my way in. Funny thing about my seats, it turns out that I was sitting right next to the Sunderland supporter’s section. Sitting close to the opposition support was a first for me and ended up providing some interesting moments.

Again, the Arsenal supporters seemed upbeat and when Arshavin’s name was called as a starter there was a huge roar from the crowd: the man who came to save our season had finally arrived. Kickoff was the happiest part of the match, the crowd was buzzing and Arshavin looked fantastic (if not a bit short… and fat) right off the bat but from there on in it was all down hill.

small-arshavin-shot

I did have the fortune of being on the end of the pitch where Arshavin’s first two shots were taken, the above was his left=footed drive that beat the keeper and nearly nestled in to the lower corner. Nearly.

tiny-beautiful-day

Did I mention that it was a beautiful day? Here’s Clichy putting the ball back into play. Not normally a pic-worthy moment,but it was so nice out that I just had to take it.

That first half was utterly frustrating: Bendtner squandered chances, Arshavin missed a couple, even van Persie missed a shot, I think. The team was firing on all cylinders but somehow just lurching along and fan unrest started creeping into the match. At first it was directed at the ref, then the Sunderland players, Sunderland supporters, and finally, by the end of the match, our own players.

If the first half was bad, the second was immeasurably worse. Remind me never to sit on either of the ends of the pitch. It’s pretty clear that teams are going to come in to the Emirates and defend and hope that they get a break so they can sneak a goal. If teams are going to come in and play Arsenal that way then supporters on either end of the pitch are going to spend entire half’s with no action. The entire second half was played at the other end of the pitch, to the point where the guy in front of me literally passed out at one point. Whether it was the booze or the boredom is irrelevant, the point is that Sunderland had lulled Arsenal to sleep. And by the time that Vela whiffed at the open shot, the Arsenal supporters were out of the match and the Sunderland supporters were cheering every Arsenal pass, and shushing us incessantly (Highbury=Library=Shush, get it?).  I wanted so badly for Arsenal to score so that I could turn to the Sunderland fans and shush them right back.

At the very end of the match, after a couple Arsenal fans and at least one Sunderland fan were ejected for giving each other the finger and yelling obscenities at each other, somehow the ball had gotten into our half and Sunderland were busy dribbling into the corner when I realized that this was the first time in nearly 45 minutes that the Sunderland support had seen their players up close. It must be a wonderful feeling to pay £30 for the train from Newcastle, £40 for the tickets, and £40 for beer and sausages, to watch your team get a 0-0 draw. I wouldn’t know but judging by the fact that they were celebrating at the end as if they had just won the FA Cup, I guess that it’s a feeling somewhere between sex and winning the Champions League. They were literally dancing. For a 0-0 draw. Incredible.

small-wankers

After the game I just felt kind of dazed. I’d never been to match where Arsenal failed to win, much less one where they failed to score.  I went the wrong way back to the tube station and ended up on Avenell road, where the old art deco East Stand still stands. As I walked past the old building, which is being rebuilt as condos for the wealthy, I stopped for a moment and looked up at the old Arsenal club crest designed by Herbert Chapman; the one with the big C and an A and a little football. At that point I thought, Arsenal’s glory days are so far gone that I almost wonder if we aren’t a team that is irreparably broken.

This club doesn’t just need a defensive midfielder, we need an infusion of fresh ideas. When a steaming pile of crap like Sunderland, Tottenham and West Ham can hold us to three consecutive 0-0 draws there’s something seriously wrong. Everton are set to play Newcastle today and could easily take all 3 points, which would leave them a mere 2 points below Arsenal for 5th place. 6th place was once unimaginable, but is now looming and you have to wonder where the fresh ideas are going to come from when the boss watches a match like yesterday’s and says that what Arsenal need more of, is passing. Passing… yes, and whatAmerica needs more of is tax cuts, deregulation, and adjustable intrest loans given out to people who can’t afford to pay them.

I want to be clear, I’m not calling for the manager to be sacked, but I am saying that someone needs to kick him in the ass and maybe get a fresh idea out of him.  Hell, kick the whole squad in the ass, because I’m pretty sure that Arsenal will be playing in a huge, empty stadium if games like yesterday’s are to become de rigeur. After all, no one, except some pathetic Sunderland supporters who think a 0-0 draw is something to cheer for, wants to watch matches like the last three.

21
Feb
09

Fly me to the moon

That's not Frank

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon in the Imperial War Museum, which like all state run museums in London is free. At first, it was pretty cool, all those guns and planes and stories of heroism kept me busy snapping photos of the various exhibits. But there on the third floor was the Holocaust exhibit. It’s strange, I studied the Holocaust quite extensively in school, from various perspectives (anthropology, psychology, etc) and have read at least a dozen academic books detailing the atrocities committed by Europe. Yet, I had a very hard time not crying at several parts of the exhibit.

So, I don’t know about that museum. Why have a place that on the one hand celebrates war and in the very same hand shows you the very depths of madness that humanity is capable of — which has absolutely nothing to do with war? I really should have known better than to go there. My time would have been better spent in the National Portrait Gallery, or the cast room of the British Museum.

Afterwards, I did manage to find a great little pub called the Prince Alfred, just north of Paddington, where I had a great steak pie, with a “rocket” salad (it’s ARUGULA, God-damnit!) and some of the finest of whipped potatoes. Now I know wht you’re thinking… how good were those potates? Whipped with probably no less than an entire stick of butter and a quart of heavy cream, they were delicious.

There were all these little rooms in the bar, where you had to duck under a child-sized door and you’d get into a room that held maybe ten people. They called these rooms, “snugs” and you could reserve them for parties. Neat idea, I wonder where I’ve seen that in America?

Oh, and they had free wifi.

I left there feeling like I shook off a bit of the Imperial War Museum having had a couple pints and a great dinner and decided to end the night back at the Swan here near the hotel because I have blisters on my feet and cannot walk around much any more. That’s where I snapped the photo of the dude there at the top of the page. I don’t remember his name but he’s the owner of the Swan and he does this karaoke “tribute” thing to the Rat Pack. It was a bit wild, seeing this man and his side kick sing Rat Pack tunes. They weren’t half bad singers and by the end of the night they had a few of the older ladies dancing. After that I just went back to the hotel and crashed.

ZOMG! Google maps is so beyond cool… One of the overlays here in London is the tube routes. Very helpful if you’re ever wandering around London and you really need to know how far the next tube station is.

Anyway, the Arsenal thing. Uhh… Let’s see… have you heard any good jokes lately?  I have a doozy: Arsene Wenger is going to play Eboue today! Words fail me here, it’s just incredible the stuff that this player gets away with. Arsene is convinced that Eboue has learned his lesson after the red card at Tottenham. The only evidence his gives for this conviction is having spoken to the player and that he’s young. Wenger here is flying in the face of all reason and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. How could he forget Eboue’s retroactive red for “hitting” Wayne Bridge during the Carling Cup final 2 years ago? Or how about the straight red he garnered for the studs up karate kick on Evra? He didn’t learn his lesson after those two incidents, what makes Wenger think he’s learnt his lesson now? It’s preposterous, all evidence suggests that in a big match Eboue turns into a fucking retard and yet, Wenger is determined to give this man chance after chance. I’m not on some Eboue hate band wagon, I’ve had my doubts about the player for over a year.  I even had to intentionally stop commenting on the player because he was so maddening that all I could muster was a stream of invective and hatred. I think I’m going to have to go back to that self-imposed ban and not mention him any more because he’s driving me bat-shit crazy again.

How much you want to bet I have to mention him tomorrow? He’ll probably judo chop Alan Wiley on the neck and then do the whole prostrated beggar routine he always does when caught.

Maddening.

Wenger is going to start Eboue and leave Arshavin on the bench, is he trying to ruin my trip?

All right, well, I have to get to the Famous Cock and find a seat for the Chelsea/Villa crapfest. I also need some moleskin for my feet, a cuppa coffee, and a spanking new Arsenal away shirt.  Oh bythe way, I’ve changed my mind, I’m getting Eboue on the back — maybe the curse will see him off, lord knows Wenger sure won’t.




RSS My Google Reader

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Flickr Photos

Half crowns

Beware of dog: this person has the kind of sense of humor I understand!

Wild strawberries

More Photos

Twits

Arsenal Community

Arsenal News

Arsenal News

e-soccer
February 2009
M T W T F S S
« Jan   Mar »
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
232425262728