Archive for the 'FA Cup Campaign' Category

19
Apr
09

Arsenal 1-2 Cheslea; The Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Poland international Lukasz Fabianski had a birthday to forget as his error gifted Chelsea a 2-1 victory in their FA Cup semi-final defeat of Arsenal at Wembley.

Sunday Express: DROGBA’S LATE GEM RUINS BRAVE ARSENAL’S CHALLENGE

Arseblog: There’s only one way to deal with a result like that and it’s to drink heavily. Well, there’s another way which involves a rampaging orgy of violence against anything in blue but experience has taught me that drinking is the best option.

Match Video

The Arsenalist:  still kicking out fresh jams.

Introduction

Arsenal is a club that relies on R&D for their success: Research and Development.  Chelsea is a club that relies on R&C: Resources and Checkbook. — FA Cup semi-final match commentator for Setanta.

I am disappointed. Most of the team gave 100% yesterday and truly did not deserve to crash out of the cup in that manner: beaten again by Didier Drogba, who, to be fair, is a huge diving cunt.

Moreover, it was so similar to the Carling Cup final two years ago that it’s not even funny: there’s the early goal by Theo, followed by the Chelsea boot boys getting away with things like shoving Arsenal players over, which raised tensions and nearly got Denilson sent off. All wrapped in a cellophane package of a club who have to buy cups the same way they buy and hand out flags for their “supporters” to wave around during the match. Once again it was a case of Chelsea’s superior checkbook making the difference and that’s hard to take.

Even still, I can’t really say that I’m surprised by the outcome, just like the Carling Cup final. No club can go into any match missing 4 of their starting back 5, and even missing several of their backup players and really expect to compete. So, it’s a testament to those players that they have competed over these last few weeks and no shame that Silvestre was beaten by a world class player like Drogba.

With that said, let’s get on with the show.

The Good

Kieran Gibbs was just brilliant. Whether it was going forward to garner the assist or his tireless defending at the back, Gibbs gave everything yesterday and proved himself to be a star for the future. His overlapping runs were a danger to Chelsea all day and they literally had no answer for him. I have to think that if he’d had a more active forward up front in Adebayor he would have been more effective going forward. As it was, he only notched one assist — then again, we only scored one goal!

At the back, for the second time in as many games, Fabianski made a huge error in going out of his box and Gibbs was called upon to perform the rescue. Make no mistake, this clearance was more than just youthful legs getting back, he also needed a pretty well honed defensive awareness to even be in position to make that save. And he’s done it twice now.

It makes Gibbs a bit of an enigma: is he more of an attacking player or more a defender? His current England captain solves that problem by playing him as the box-to-box midfielder. It’s tough to pigeonhole someone who is that talented but I can’t wait to see where Wenger plays him next year.

The Bad

Adebayor was a disgrace. Arsene’s late sub of Bendtner for Ade is all the proof Arsenal supporters need to see that Wenger was fed up with the performance he put in. Why else would you take off your most talented striker and put someone in who is not nearly as talented but is one of the  hardest workers on the team? Basically, Wenger crippled the team offensively when he brought Bendtner on, because he was that pissed at Adebayor. And the way Adebayor walked off the pitch and sat pouting in the stands spoke volumes about what he thought of being subbed.

In fact, Adebayor’s whole game was a huge mystery. Whereas in the last match he was offside at least 6 times, I don’t think he had a single offside yesterday. I have to wonder if Wenger didn’t dress him down after his chronic offsidedness and his reaction was a sort of petulant, lazy, temper tantrum. I’m obviously just speculating about that and Wenger will probably never say what happened, but it was a very strange game from Ade, a strange sub by Arsene, and a hideous reaction by the Togonator. We may yet need his skill before the end of the year so let’s hope Wenger patches this up enough to keep Ade interested until the end of the year.

I’m not going to rip Fabianski. He’s only 24 years old and his mistakes were the stuff that young keepers do. I like his aggressiveness in the area and hopefully he can learn to trust his defense a little bit more and not to come too far out of the box too soon. You know, keep his hands in the game so to say.

And finally, as for individual play, I thought Eboue had a nightmare. He looked kind of fat and slow and didn’t show any defensive awareness.

Maybe he wasn’t match fit? I saw him not tracking back on one play and pull up rubbing his back. Maybe he just never plays with the defensive practice team? I don’t know how else to explain his rather poor defense of what should have been an easy ball to deal with but that rather found Malouda who nutmegged Eboue and beat Fabianski to the near post. Folks are blaming Fab for that goal but I think he left the near post open because he saw Eboue had it covered. Eboue was 80% at fault for the first goal and whether it was because he wasn’t fit or because he was properly prepared, I don’t know.

That said, the big mystery of the day was the team selection. The back four selected themselves of course, but the rest of the team selection was just fucking bizarre. I like Denilson, he’s one of my favorite players, but he’s more in the mold of Cesc than of Gilberto. I like Diaby, he’s got so much potential, but he’s more like a Felliani than a Vieira. So, Wenger picked a super offensive side in Diaby and Denilson and Cesc in the middle, and three strikers up front (Theo is a striker). Of course, Wenger doesn’t see it this way and he explains the team selection thus:

Alex Song has played many games and I believe when you do that you need rest. I am not sure he would have stopped the ball in the air on the second goal, but it is difficult. We know they are dangerous on set-pieces and we are a bit short. Plus they have some tall boys who make it physical in midfield and we needed a player like Diaby to be capable of fighting against them.

As well I wanted to rotate it a bit because Nasri was sick last week and he looked a bit tired. We played with three strikers – Theo, Robin and Adebayor – and I couldn’t play with four when they had three in midfield.

The logic is sound but the application is completely wrong. Why not Diaby and Song at the back? Because you are resting Song??? For what? Tuesday’s game against Liverpool? Very strange.

And then, of course the huge question as to why Arshavin was not in the game to start or, at the least, subbed earlier. Denilson was having a poor game and Cesc was ineffective in the hole, so even if you don’t start Arshavin in the hole, at the least I would have brought him on for Denilson at the 60th minute, moved Cesc back and see if the Russian’s class could have sparked some life into Adebayor and company up front. I think Arshavin had pretty much Arsenal’s only shots in the second half, in his brief stint. That’s how much he could have changed the game, given a chance.

In the end, it’s easy to sit here and second guess the manager. The reality is that Arsenal were winning and ended up conceding two goals. Maybe our first choice keeper would have stopped those, maybe not. Maybe Sagna would have headed that over the top ball to Malouda out, maybe not.  Maybe Gallas would have been stronger in the challenge and had better wheels to catch Drogba on the second goal, maybe not.

It doesn’t really matter what I think might have happened, because in the end, Arsenal were simply outplayed.

The Ugly

If Wembley is the crown jewel of English football, then that jewel has a serious flaw in it; the disgraceful pitch. I honestly don’t know what they are going to do for today’s match. That pitch needs to be torn up, replaced, and allowed to settle in for about two years before another match is played on it.

I’d rather have a plastic pitch with gridiron football lines on it than one where the ball bumbles along like it did yesterday.

Conclusion

The game is over, Chelsea won and though we’re out of this cup, we’re not done for the season. Arsenal have Liverpool at Anfield on Tuesday and we need to regroup and focus our attention on keeping 4th place in the league. Then, in two week’s time we have a Champions League match against the Devils which is a series that Arsenal most certainly can win: especially a 100% fit Arsenal.

And yes, while it’s hard to go out to a bunch of classless cunts who celebrate a semi-final win by spraying each other with Champagne, as if they’d just won the cup, Arsenal have targets still to achieve and possibly even exact some revenge against Chelsea in the Champions League.

I honestly believe that this team has the talent and heart to win the Champions League. And if they can just get 100% healthy, they will be very dangerous.  I can’t wait to see it, but let’s start with a famous win at Anfield on Tuesday!

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17
Apr
09

Injury update and Meetups

Now that I’ve gotten my Chelsea hatred off my chest I can focus in on some squad news.

First, a huge blow as Bacary Sanga has been officially ruled out of tomorrow’s match. I held off reporting this until I could have it confirmed as I don’t want to instill panic, but now that the Dot.com is reporting it, it must be true. Feel free to start panicking.

Wenger says the right thing here when he points out that what Arsenal lack in numbers they make up for in quality.

I must say that we are now short in numbers but in quality we are still strong and Gibbs has shown that. But he has as well some fitness problems which we have to assess tomorrow. He did have a little test today but not a very strong one.  We are now short because we many players out at the back. When you consider that Gallas, Djourou and Clichy together, and Almunia, are all out, that’s a lot in the defensive part of our squad.

Gibbs is having a late fitness test tomorrow and his fitness will basically decide the back 4. Will it be Big Head, Toure, Eboue and Gibbs? Or will it be Song, Toure, Eboue and Big Head? I guess we’ll know tomorrow. Either way, it’s funny to be a Gunner hoping that a former Man U player has the game of his life in our shirt. He’s a Gooner now, I suppose, so COME ON YOU SILVESTRE!

As for Clichy, again, don’t panic, because there’s only one news source on this, but it’s being reported by Arseblog and one other place that Clichy suffered a stress fracture in his back and won’t be back for at least 3 weeks. This news, if true, is tremendously sad and I am hoping for a speedy recovery for our first choice left-wing-back.

The rest of the squad you already know about. Arshavin is excited to meet his national team coach and Fabianski turns 24 tomorrow. Happy birthday Lucas, I hope you have a cracker!

Finally, if you’re in town, you can come on down to Doyle’s and catch the match. Kickoff is 9am (PST) and we could use all the Gooners in Tacoma to drown out that one annoying Chelsea supporter. You all know who I’m talking about because she screams “COME ON YOU BLUES!!” and “I LOVE YOU JT!!” all fucking match.

Alex and I are trying to come up with a song to sing to her if Arsenal win. Post suggestions below.

That’s it, see you tomorrow!

12
Apr
09

Wigan 1-4 Arsenal; Resurrection

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way. — Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

Yesterday’s match was not a Tale of Two Halves; if you were going to make that analogy it was more like a Tale of Three Thirds with Wigan dominating the first 60 minutes, Arsenal getting a glimmer of hope through some brilliant play at the 60th minute, cutting Wigan apart for 20 minutes and then pouring salt on the wound at the death.

So, I didn’t see it as a Tale of Two Halves, rather, to borrow one of the other major themes from Dickens’ novel, it was Arsenal resurrected. There is no question, Arsenal were dead for 60 minutes. The only question left to be answered was how far down Wigan was going to bury them.

In that first 60 minutes, Wigan dominated play by denying Arsenal space to work their intricate passes. It is a strategy that has worked so well for clubs earlier in the season and Wigan was so good at it that even Arsenal’s saviour, Arshavin, was essentially marked out of the game for 60 minutes. Credit to Steve Bruce and his Wigan team, they put in the kind of hard work and industry that usually guarantees a point against Arsenal; and they did it relatively cleanly.

In fact, in the first half it was Arsenal who were more guilty of dirty play. With Gael Clichy out, a very young, very inexperienced Kieran Gibbs was thrust in to battle and had the exact type of game one would expect; inconsistent. At the end of the day, though, it wasn’t the sloppy headers and brilliant clearances (he nearly cost us on several occassions; he certainly saved us on several occassions) that people will be talking about, it will be the yellow card.

I don’t know what Alan Wiley saw that caused him to produce just a yellow but it was a straight red in my book. Gibbs was the last man, had Valencia on his back and rightly headed the ball back to the keeper. The problem was that he didn’t put enough power into the header. Valencia recognized the error and essentially swam over Gibbs, got in front, and then when he felt Gibbs’ inevitable contact, went straight to ground.  I’m not saying Gibbs didn’t foul Valencia, rather, just searching for a reason why he didn’t get a red card. Maybe it was the contact by Valencia or the ease with which he went to ground but something caused Wiley to just produce a yellow.

Had he sent Gibbs off, the game, and Arsenal’s season, would have been very different. Imagine the next few games with Silvestre at left back and Song in the center, that’s what would have happened had Gibbs gotten the straight red that most people felt he deserved.

As it was, the ensuing free kick hit the woodwork and rather than burying Arsenal completely, and if you count the let off of getting just a yellow it very well could have been the moment of the season. Rather than going into the half down 2 (or 3) goals and down a man, Arsenal were just down one goal.

After 10 minutes of the second half, Arsenal still looked like a dead team. Wenger had abandoned the 4-2-3-1 in favor of a more defensive formation with Cesc providing the cover for the Arsenal cover. Moving Cesc back actually opened things up a bit for Arshavin and Walcott but I honestly didn’t think they were going to slice open Wigan at any point in those 10 minutes. Any chances that Arsenal made inevitably went to Bendtner who’s profligacy of late ensured that headers were more likely to go out of touch than to find the back of the net.

Of course, it’s always at our lowest moments, when the patient seems most beyond repair that this Arsenal team seems to be “recalled to life.” And so it was that Fabianski’s free kick was flicked on by Bendtner, fell to Theo, who expertly dribbled past his man and passed to Arshavin. Arshavin was hauled down, but rather than roll around looking for a penalty, he kept playing, and flicked a lovely little pass to Theo who plumb put the ball in the side netting.

Arshavin. How wrong I have been about him. As he was engineering his escape from dreadful racists Zenit I admit that I made the mistake of underestimating this guy’s character. I kinda felt like he was just another example of spoiled footballers, when in reality he just wanted to get a chance to play at the top level.  And while I don’t want to rush out and buy him a Valentine’s card just yet, I really do love his work rate, his desire to win, and all the positive things he says about the club. And though I complained about the tranfer fee, I’m admitting now that £15m is looking like another Arsene Wenger bargain because this guy has the ability to lift a team from the ashes, like he did yesterday. No matter how much I want to give Man of the Match to Song, I have to give it to Arshavin. That first goal was just so crucial to pulling Arsenal out of the muck.

After that first goal, the conclusion was always inevitable: Arsenal weren’t the same, dead, team that Wigan was eating for lunch. They were alive with sparkle and flair.

Just as the equalizer lifted the team, Arsene went for the jugular and threw Adebayor and van Persie on.Those two immediately opened Wigan up and provided a huge lift.  Though it was Silvestre who was the beneficiary of a set play between Arshavin and Cesc, it was the threat of Ade and van Persie who made Wigan tremble. And though most people will point to horrible defending, in the end, Ade provided link play that led to the final two goals.

4-1 to the Arsenal and most pundits are claiming that the score-line flattered Arsenal, but I’m not so sure. I think that this Arsenal team will always fight back and though they might not link up perfectly, and passes might go astray, they will never take their foot off the pedal like they did against Man City back in November.

I just read a wonderfully frank interview with Arsene Wenger in which he talks about the character of this team and speaks about the mistakes he made this year and last. It’s hard to pull just one or two quotes about but I do want to leave you with just a few thoughts. First, Wenger points at Rome as the turning point of this season, saying

When I look at that match, we are away from home and missed the first penalty. We had kids taking the penalties, yet still managed to win. There is a key moment in all stories and Rome was ours.

We were not losing before, but we weren’t convincing. Since Rome, we are scoring again and we are better linking up as a team.

In a way, that quote exemplifies Saturday’s match as well: they were down a goal, Djourou was taken off injured, they had a mere child playing at left back, and yet, they still managed to win. 4-1 flattering? not for this Arsenal team.

And finally, in case anyone questions what Arsene is doing (I’m guilty of this) , whether he has “lost the plot” and for all those people who publicly called for Arsene Wenger to be fired I just want you to know that Wenger’s response is

I am not running after personal glory. Everything I do is for the club, the players and the supporters.

It’s not that he’s inflexible, it’s that he just deeply believes in these players. It’s not that he’s unaware of what’s going on, it’s that he wants players like Song and Djourou to grow and make a name for themselves. It’s not that this Arsenal team sucked in those first 60 minutes, it’s just that they hadn’t quite clicked yet.

But when they did click, it was a sight to behold.

4-1 to the Arsenal, and next up is Villareal on Wendnesday who are potentially going to be without midfield dynamo Marcos Senna.  Right now? Even if they do get Senna back, I’m not worried. After all, this is an Arsenal team that has been to the edge and just blindly lept into that void. What’s come out is remarkable, and deserves crediteven if they don’t win anything.

Which they will.

19
Mar
09

An open letter to Phil Brown

Dear Phil,

Good morning, how are you feeling today? Better than yesterday? Still hungover? I ask because I can only imagine that it was drink that fueled yesterday’s incredible BBC 5 Live interview in which you quite clearly accused Cesc Fabregas of poor dress and Mike Riley of intentionally throwing the Arsenal match.

I just want to take a few minutes and respond to each of the accusations that you leveled against Arsenal in that 7 minute interview. Do you have time for that, my Darling?

Good.

First, let’s talk about your most factually based accusation: Cesc Fabregas was in fact “dressing in the manner he was dressed.” Here’s a picture to prove it:

fab-u-lous dress senseWhat a gross outfit! It totally is unflattering to his body type. What is up with the cuffs on that jacket? They make the puffy jacket look more puffy and the cuff on the bottom of the jacket makes it look like he’s smuggling a ham in the mid section there. If I weighed 11 stones I’d wear things that showed off my body a little more, rather than something that makes me look like I have a keg under my shirt. Good eye, Mr. Brown.

And while we’re on the topic of fashion do you mind if I point out that your spray tan is just a little too orange? What you want is a a healthy glow but not to make it look like you obviously tan. That’s difficult to do in a climate like England but it can be done, just cut back to like once every two weeks, rather than the daily treatments you seem to be taking. If you don’t slow down you’re going to start to glow in the dark, my Darling.

Now, another thing you mentioned in your interview there was how Arsene Wenger “never” shakes your hand

He wouldn’t shake my hand when we beat them fairly 2-1 at the Emirates. He wouldn’t shake my hand when they beat us, fairly, 3-1 at the KC Stadium.

The problem I’m having here, Philly, is that we have photographs proving that Wenger did, in fact, shake your hand after both of those matches. Is there an alternate definition of “shake” or “hand” that I’m missing?

Now, to the “spitting” incident, the meat of the matter at hand. Cesc has denied the allegations, categorically, and you have no witnesses as you admitted to Victoria Derbyshire in the interview above. I mean, I know that you tried to redirect that conversation with the whole “are you calling me a liar” tactic but everyone listening knows that just means you actually don’t have any evidence. Do you have any evidence that Cesc spat on anyone, near anyone, or toward anyone or do we all have to take your word for it?  Because, I’m just saying that your word isn’t too good right now.

As for Gallas’ “offside” goal, remember that Hull City might not have even been playing Arsenal had it not been for a controversial decision that went against Sheffield United back in February. I didn’t hear you complaining about the officiating when you got the benefit of what Sheffield supporters think was a poor decision to rule Naughton’s header an own goal. That’s how this stuff works, Phillie, sometimes a decision goes your way, sometimes it goes our way and when the final whistle goes we all have to be man enough to say “well, crap” and get on with our lives. Not go whingeing to the press about how poorly dressed Cesc was (which is true) or how he slathered Horton Hears a Who with a gallon of Catalan Saliva (not true).

And finally, no, you didn’t “get up our noses” — your team scored a lucky, deflected goal and then attempted to play anti-football for 77 minutes. Arsenal bettered your goal for the better part of those 77 minutes, resulting in some 70% of possession and the best chances of score by leaps and bounds. Arsenal deserved that win and everyone knows it.

I know you claim to have your coaching medals and if that’s true you would know that time wasting is a bookable offense because it’s cheating. Now, if you’re going to cheat and break the rules you have to be crafty about it. See, the problem is that your team doesn’t have the required craft of a team like Blackburn in order to pull off the whole anti-football thing and not pick up a host of bookings. So, Mike Riley was 100% correct to book 5 of your players, your team showed an indiscipline in it’s cheating that I haven’t seen since Arsenal last played Chelsea. Don’t blame Riley for the things he did right when there’s so much he did wrong in that game!

Anyway, Phil, I really hope you feel better today. You’re going to need all your strength to answer the charges that the FA are likely to bring against you for calling Mike Riley a cheat, for lying about Cesc spitting, and now it’s being reported that your assistant, Horton Hears a Who, called Cesc an “arrogant Spanish ____” and by ____ I don’t think he said “International.”

So, instead of getting Arsenal charged with stuff, it looks like you might get a charge or three yourself. That would add insult to injury wouldn’t it? My Darling?

Cheers,

Tim

18
Mar
09

Arsenal 2-1 Hull; there must have been a second spitter

Holy Christ what shit storm have I awoken to? Cesc is accused of spitting, Phil Brown is spitting dummies, Arsene is spitting mad and not shaking hands… have you people all lost your minds?

Because instead of focusing on a well deserved 2-1 win over a pack of notloB bred, time-wasting, lucky-goal having, lying, cheats we’re now dredging up video of Cesc supposedly spitting on Ballack back when Cesc was 12 years old, or spending time reading about how Brown claims Wenger “never does” shake hands even though there is photographic evidence to the contrary, and most incredibly, an accusation that will literally make your mind boggle, is Phil Brown calling it a disgrace for Wenger to complain about time wasting when his pack of talentless hacks had started wasting time from the moment they scored the goal!

To recap: Phil Brown is a proven liar, a moaner of such epic proportions that he puts Fergie and Wenger to shame, and Arsenal still won the match 2-1. End of story.

Man of the Match

Unlike other matches, this is a bit tougher. I really liked Song’s poise in the game and feel like he has made tremendous strides in the last two weeks. He has added forward passing (he picked out a beautiful pass to a streaking Gibbs that made me remark to the local Arsenal supporters) to a reprotiore of good tackles and tracking back. He also seems to have gained pace and defensive awareness. I don’t know who’s handling this kid but whoever it is is doing a heck of a job.

Another obvious choice is van Persie, he scored the equalizer and I really liked his perseverence in the face of all the missed chances. There was a period there where I swore that Arsenal was going to have another one of those games — 100 shots, 0 goals.

Gibbs too was outstanding and is turning into quite a likeable replacement for Clichy at left back. He put in several crucial tackles and showed the requisite ability to get forward. I also really like his crosses, they seem to come in at better pace and with more accuracy than Clichy at the moment.

Honorable mention goes to Bendtner who still can’t score but at least he really, really tries. His perseverence in front of goal is directly responsible for the equalizer.

As good as those guys played, I have to give the award to Andrei Arshavin. He started slow and at first I thought it was a mistake to include him in the lineup as he looked to be suffering from the cut on his foot but as the game wore on he took over. He was the most creative player on the pitch and more than once threatened to score — the best of which was a volley that only needed a whisker less curve to go in the net. But it was the equalizer which made him MotM for me. Instead of taking the shot, he made the right decision and put the ball on van Persie’s chocolate leg with just the right pace for him to pass the ball into the net. Then he calmly gathered the team from their celebrations and reminded them that the game wasn’t over yet and spurred them on to victory.

Selfless leadership. Fuck it’s been a long time since Arsenal had some of that.

Match Video

If you need to see the ball played off the Hull keeper, go to The Arsenalist, of course

Conclusion

Before the match I read a great interview with Phil Brown where he was humble and talked about how when he was earning his badges they did a review of him and the reviewer mentioned that Brown’s training was down the line exactly the same as Wenger’s at Arsenal. Then the reviewer asked how many shots Hull did during training and Brown said 250 or so and the reviewer said Arsenal does made 60-70 and scores twice as many. In the interview he was being humble and said that that’s how much class Arsenal have and what the difference between the two teams really was all about.

What a shame he couldn’t keep that same humility after the match. Any good will he earned from that interview he burned by falsely accusing Arsenal of all kinds of crap after.

During the match I had some English guy near me complain about how Gallas was offside and how the linesman had bungled the whole match. I disagreed and he wanted to press the point, so I just grabbed the Arsenal crest on my shirt and showed it to him. I don’t care if the world thinks Gallas was offside (he wasn’t) I don’t care if the world thinks what’s his cunt was onside (he wasn’t) I support Arsenal and after all the shiat we’ve been through in the last few years a little good luck was well deserved.

In conclusion, f*ck Hull and f*ck all the detractors, bring on Chelsea.

We’ll have Ade and Spitting Mad Fabregas back, probably Eduardo too, if the Hull match was a cracker, Chelsea will be a test of these boy’s manhood.

After this week?

I’m putting my money on Red.

17
Mar
09

Arsenal v. Hull; the FA Cup semi-final and revenge await

Stupid, yes. Also dumb. But it is something I've gotta do

As usual Wenger’s playing the starting lineup close to his chest; only giving out little bits and bobs of who will be included today. From the article linked above, we can see that Fabianski and Gibbs (who have featured in the FA Cup) are the only two who are certainly being included in the starting XI. From there on out it’s a matter of fitness, rotation, and tactics that will decide the squad.

For fitness, the boss spoke of Arshavin’s desire to get on the pitch despite suffering a gash from a Ooijer tackle (link possibly NSFW) that required 8 stitches on Saturday. The Fonz spoke openly about the events of Saturday saying of the wound

It’s like a knife cut – not very deep but quite painful. Ooijer tore my boot and the skin, too. At half-time, our doctor had to do a lot of work on my foot. So when I scored the second goal, I ran over to thank him for a job well done.

That explains why he was late coming out of the tunnel and his sort of tearful hug of the team doctor after he scored, I was wondering about that. Arsene wants to include him, Arshavin wants to play, but ultimately, he’s going to be a game-time decision.

Rambo, on the other hand, has been ruled out owing to the fact that he is “growing in stature” and needs a rest. I remember some talk from Arsene about Rambo’s lack of fitness when he came in to the squad and so I’m guessing the boss means that and not that Aaron has literally grown and needs rest. 17 year old’s sometimes do have growth spurts and they are very painful. Either way, he’s not even included in the team.

Robin van Persie hasn’t played since the 11th so I expect him to get the start, no sense leaving him to rot on the bench, but after that the Gods only know who Arsene will pick. He could play a 4-5-1 with RvP as the lone striker, Vela and Arshavin on the wings, Nasri in the middle (or switch Nasri and Arshavin) and the two-headed-hydra in central midfield. He could put Diaby in the middle, could start Djourou and rest Gallas, etc. etc. Wenger has a lot of choices today and that’s a good thing. If he rests those folks and starts Vela and Bendtner up front, that leaves him RvP and Theo Walcott coming off the bench.

Wait…

Squad depth?

Whoa.

For their part Hull and their manager have a great deal of belief coming in to this match:

Win this – and don’t forget we’ve already won at Arsenal this season – and we’re at Wembley playing Chelsea, win that we’re in the FA Cup final

…our performances were good, but results were hurting. The Cup run reminded us of how good we can be. It meant players were still bouncing, still coming into training looking forward to the sessions we were putting on. A smile on a player’s face is priceless to me. There’s no question that the FA Cup maintained spirit.

Hull will be up for this game and we should expect a spirited, attacking team who see the FA Cup as a light in the dark tunnel of Premier League survival. Buoyed by their surprise result at Emirates at the start of the season and their run of form to get them this far in the FA Cup this is by no means a walk in the park. Arsenal will need to closely mark danger men like Giovanni in open play, be prepared for Hull to mark them closely in return, and defend well from set pieces: three things we didn’t do well last time.

Hull will want to score early in order to take some pressure off so, look for them to come out hard in the first 5 minutes. This isn’t the same team that Hull shocked earlier in the season and I expect that this Arsenal team can handle that pressure — considering that they just got back from Rome and played a world class team in an unfriendly stadium, Hull, at Emirates, should be considerably easier.

So, for our part, Arsenal will look to soak up their pressure and hit them on the counter early.

What are the odds for van Persie to get a goal in the first 10 minutes?

Right, that’s it, I’ve been sick basically since I got back from London (two different colds I think) and finally got on antibiotics for this crud that settled in my chest. I am feeling a lot better and need to get in and put in a half day at work… which is perfect since kickoff is 12:45 PST.

The match is being shown live at Doyle’s so come on down and join us if you’re in town. It should be a cracker!

Oh yeah, happy St.EveryoneInAmericaIsIrishAndDrunk Day!

09
Mar
09

Song 3-0 Burnley; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal cruised into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup with a comfortable 3-0 win over Championship side Burnley at Emirates Stadium.

Setanta.com: Arsenal v. Burnley stats and ratings (linked for the fact they gave Eduardo the highest rating and all the comments are pro-Song!)

Telegraph: Try telling Eduardo the FA Cup has lost its romance. Even the swathes of empty seats at the Emirates Stadium could not detract from one of the season’s most emotive plot-lines: the road to Wembley has become a highway of healing for Eduardo.

Match Video

The Arsenalist has all the goals and highlights of Song v. Burnley — please click his sponsors or he will relapse.

Also, the Telegraph somehow put up a YouTube video of just Eduardo’s salsa/beach/stunner/cheeky goal it’s decent quality and I’m sure it will be taken down almost as soon as I link to it.

Falstaff of the Match

Eboue… no wait… Gallas… no wait… Song. Yes, it has to be Song. How well did he do? Pretty damn well actually. He hit 87% of his passes, had two assists, and even tracked back a couple times to make important saves.

It was a job well done and now he gets to take a couple weeks off.

Romeo and Ethel, the pirate’s daughter

Arsenal have now gone 17 in a row without a loss, have only allowed 1 goal in the last 8 matches, and scored 11 goals in those same 8; I think it’s safe to say that Arsenal are on a run.

More importantly, they are doing this without some of their biggest names, scrapping out 0-0 draws and banging in 3-0 wins is no mean feat when a team is missing key people like Cesc and Adebayor. In retrospect, some of us bloggers could have been a bit more circumspect in our criticism of the squad. They are gelling nicely and now that some key players like Eduardo and Theo are making their way back into the squad we are doing more than just holding on; Arsenal are scoring goals and finishing off their opponents with aplomb.

When Arsene signed Arshavin, most of us were clamoring to get a serious defensive midfielder and get rid of this on the job training program for Song and Denilson. But it turns out that creativity up front is exactly what Arsenal needed because that’s exactly what is opening opponents up, getting us out front, and from then on the game comes easy.

It was no surprise to me that Arshavin was the player who provided the ball for the opening goal. While he clearly lacks match fitness (fingers crossed this doesn’t lead to injury) this kid has vision, awareness, creativity, and the talent to put in the right ball. And though I think he’s leaning on his touch and creativity to make up for the fact that he’s running on one lung, it’s working and that’s all that matters. Arshavin, it turns out, was probably the perfect signing for this team.

This isn’t to take anything away from Carlos Vela! What a goal off that Arshavin pass! The youngster had blown a couple of chances in previous games and that goal was exactly what he needed to regain some confidence.

That said, I would expect a player like Vela to score audacious goals when he’s got a guy like Eduardo on the squad who is showing him the way. I mean, how does Eduardo even conceive to score a goal like yesterday’s stunner much less have the body control and touch to pull it off? Lots of people think that the reason Arsenal didn’t win the league last year was because we missed Eduardo. On the basis of yesterday’s goal, I’d have to agree.

And finally, Eboue (who’s name is no longer a curse) what can I say but good job, and keep up the hard work. After the match Arsene said “Usually when he (Eboue) gets in front of goal he loses his composure. I believe he needed that.” I would say that what makes Eboue frustrating is that he loses his composure all over the pitch, not just in front of goal. Maybe a goal is what he needed to gain some composure all over the pitch?

My own private Idaho

In the next round, Arsenal get to face Hull at home on the 17th, which if they win, sends us in to Wembley to face Chelsea for the semi-final.  We don’t want to look too far ahead, one game at a time and all that, but I am excited by the thought of this young team getting Cesc back and exacting some revenge on Chelsea for, I dunno, the Carling Cup final two years ago? Uhhh…. The fact that we beat them already this year? I dunno, but I want some revenge!

Also, if you’re planning a trip over to see Arsenal, check the fixtures list first, there’s a ton of matches coming up and some of the league play matches will be moved to accommodate the FA Cup and Champions League.

10 things I hate about Song

Slow, sideways passing, lazy, lacks vision, doesn’t close down opponents, lacks defensive awareness, one footed, can’t tackle, poor in the air, and not a team player.

Song has played 33 matches in all competitions for Arsenal this season and many of those matches have featured this player performing spectacularly poor. His performance in the North London derby will always be a black mark for me. Introduced in the 87th minute, in order to bolster the midfield, he instead lumbered around the pitch lost for two minutes as his marker (Jenas) dribbles around him and scores the goal that gave them belief. Fucking Jenas… outplayed by a polished turd like Jenas.

So, pardon me while I don’t jump on the bandwagon here quite yet. I’ve watched him very closely for 33 matches and while he’s had some decent performances, by and large he’s stunk the joint up and one good match against a Championship team that seemed to have given up after the first goal can’t erase the memory of 20 some odd real stinkers.

And yes, for the record, I am aware of the fact that he’s 1 inch taller than Denilson.

The Tempest

I’m only sorta kidding about the whole “now you get to take a couple weeks off thing.” It seems like every time I speak well of one of either Denilson or Song they come back in the next few matches and put in the kind of gormless performance that drives us all crazy. I’m really hoping this doesn’t happen because up next is Roma, in Rome, for the right to move on in the Champions League. Even if Totti, de Rossi, Perrotta, Cicinho, and Pizzaro are all out, Arsenal need a strong midfield pair to control the match.

I’m picking Diaby and Denilson as the strongest midfield pairing right now. In fact, I’m picking anyone plus Diaby as the strongest midfield pairing. Just look at the last 4 matches. Each time Diaby is either included from the start or introduced Arsenal look brighter on offense and stronger in defense. Against W.B.A. when he was introduced at half-time (and the Song/Denilson pair broken up) though they didn’t score, Arsenal looked real quality in attack and defense and went on to win 3-1.

That match happens on Wednesday and is currently not scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN here in the states, which means Setanta and Doyle’s.

Kickoff for that match is 12:45 PST and I’ll have a fuller match preview on Tuesday.

For now, we get to bask in the glory of a 3-0 win, Arsenal showing some real class, and several key Arsenal players coming back in to the squad providing fresh legs for what Wenger calls “the sprint” here at the end of the season. Arsenal are still alive in the Champions League, doing very well in the FA Cup, and just 3 points off 4th place Villa. So, despite some negative feelings hanging over about the team and our performances up till this point Arsenal are in a really good position to win a trophy for the first time in 4 years and silence many of us critics.

Hang on to your hats, kickers, it’s going to be a crazy run in.




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