Posts Tagged ‘Howard Webb hates Arsenal


Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool; The Good, Bad, and Ugly


Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Ten Men Gunners Hang On.

BBC Sport: Robbie Keane struck a stunning equaliser as Liverpool remained top of the Premier League and maintained an eight-point advantage over Arsenal.

Lee Dixon’s Tactical View: Arsenal have a problem in defence that I have noticed in a few games this season – and it was particularly evident during Sunday’s draw with Liverpool


Today was Be A Gooner, Be A Giver, but you cannot say the referee was a Gooner, he was a giver, giving yellow cards that we didn’t deserve. Every week when we play away from home, we are told people get in our faces and we cant cope. I should show you our players after some games we play away from home; it is a joke. Neither of the bookings were justified. It is just an unbelievable decision; if Adebayor goes off, then Keane has to go off in the first minute. It seems we have different rules. The decision cost us two-points today, and I do not agree with it all. — Arsene Wenger vents some spleen during a post match interview.

The Good

I’m in the vast minority here but I felt like Song had his best game in an Arsenal shirt and put in the kind of performance that could cement him as the first choice holding midfielder. It remains to be seen if he can do that week in and week out, but his workrate was absolutely stunning, his passing was decent, and I felt like more than any other player he lifted the team emotionally in the second half after Adebayor was sent off: pushing forward when they needed and tracking back on every play. I accept that you won’t believe me so please have a look at his heatmap. In addition to his constant hard work, he completed 83% of his passes, won the ball 5 times (on 5 attempts) and made no fouls. You can compare him to any other player either from the ESPN link above or through the Telegraph’s player stats. They both show Song in a favorable light, though he only scored 5 or so on the player rater.

If I had any criticism of Song it’s that he didn’t make any fouls. Lucas Leiva in comparison had a better passing percentage, won more balls and committed more fouls. Part of that position’s craft is to learn how to make hard fouls and get away with it. Song won’t be a complete player until he learns how to be a bit of a cunt, like Lucas was yesterday.

Chocolate Thunder scored a superb goal off a superb assist from Nasri. With both teams playing a 4-5-1 (well, Liverpool was playing a 4-2-3-1 and technically Arsenal played a 4-4-2 though van Persie was dropping deep and defending like a midfielder) the midfield was very crowded so it should be no surprise that both goals came by bypassing the midfield. That said, it was an unusual goal for Arsenal and did a lot to cement my feeling that we played more like the visiting team. Despite it’s unusual nature, it was a good goal and Arsenal would do well to have a try at those types of goals more often.

After a poor first half where Liverpool dominated possession, shots, fouls and injuring Arsenal players, Arsenal found themselves down a man and suddenly decided to play like the home team. Song found another gear, a gear I wish he would just keep switched on, Denilson got forward and I thought for sure van Persie would get a second, but it wasn’t to be.

What I’d like to see is that sometimes, matches like these can galvanize a team. When you feel like everyone is against you (which clearly it was 12 on 10 for the last 35 minutes) it’s easy to look to people who feel the same way you do for comfort. This has its own problems — “group think” can be problematic if they don’t want to face reality — but it can be a very powerful group dynamic. I think we saw some of that budding yesterday. I haven’t seen this Arsenal team play with as much heart as they did after losing Cesc and Ade.

The Bad

Xavi Alonso and Cesc went in on a 50-50 challenge and Cesc came out with some kind of knee ligament damage. I am certain that Alonso didn’t intend to hurt Cesc, but regardless, Cesc will be out for at least a month. Clearly Arsenal will need to “replace” Cesc during that period. Please, don’t everyone say “Arsene needs to buy” at the same time, so doing might cause a rift in the fabric of reality and Arsene might actually buy a player.

Or he might just bring in King Ramsey I because when he was asked after the match if he was looking at buying someone like Arshavin he answered “No. No. No.” For the record, I only mention that because it affords me the chance to mention Arshavin and get some free hits.

I also hated having to watch Robbie Keane score a goal against Arsenal, it made me sad, but worse was how he scored the goal. It was off a very poor display of defense from the back 4 and especially Gallas. Yes, Gallas. Watch the replays… Keane is playing between Gallas and Djourou and actually closer to Djourou so it’s easy to blame Johan because it looks like it’s “his man” but, as Lee Dixon points out, there are several things that led to that goal: poor pressure from the midfielders allowed Liverpool to pick out that pass, the god damned frustratingly stupid ass insane high line (they were at the midfield circle for f*ck’s sake) gave Keane acres of space to run into, poor communication at the back led to confusion, and Gallas didn’t cut Keane off because he was in the wrong position. Watch the video again and you can see what I’m talking about.

It’s frustrating because these are some simple changes that would make a huge difference to Arsenal’s defense. Why can’t Wenger make them?

The Ugly

Obviously, Howard Webb is the focus of our collective ire. It was good to hear so many pundits after the match say “I believe Howard Webb is a good referee but he’s had a very poor game today.” That’s a good because this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Webb have a poor game against Arsenal and had to sit through those same pundits blather on about how we’re just a bunch of whiners and that Webb shits gold-plated whistles  — at least now some doubt is starting to creep in.

Webb needs to be investigated for bias against Arsenal. There are a lot of very unusual things that happen when Webb refs an Arsenal match: the Rumble at Wembley,  3 of Arsenal’s 5 losses last year, awarding dubious free kicks in great positions against Arsenal (which he did time and again yesterday), awarding 2 penalties against Arsenal in 5 matches last year, and now this Adebayor incident.

If I break down the whole Ade/Webb face off, I think the first foul was for a “high tackle.” Webb saw Adebayor step over the ball to claim it from Carragher and deemed that an “over the top – studs up” challenge. He did make contact and so fair enough for the first yellow.

On the second yellow, no one is quite sure what the foul was given for. Some people think it was for the same move that earned him his first yellow — the problem with that is that he NEVER MADE CONTACT and there was certainly no intent. Some people think it was for the “elbow” to the face of Arbeloa. That was as clear a dive as I have seen all season, if Webb gave Adebayor a yellow for that then he’s the most easily fooled ref in the EPL. And there is some speculation that Ade earned a yellow for dribbling on and having a shot after the whistle went. If that’s the case then Webb clearly has something against Adebayor, maybe stemming from Ade’s disgraceful display in the Carling Cup final (where he refused to leave the pitch when Webb wrongly sent him off for Eboue’s “foul.”) Moreover, if those two tackles are yellow card tackles then Keane’s over the top lunge that actually left Clichy limping, has to be a red card and Sagna’s over the top, rash challenge should have been a red card as well. There has to be some equivalence in tackling: it’s not fair for Arsenal to get players sent off for slight or even no contact and for opponents to get warnings for heavy contact.

I suppose we’ll hear more from the FA about the incident as Adebayor and  Wenger have both spoken out against it.  I expect that Wenger will receive a touchline ban and Adebayor will get a few extra matches tacked on for asking the ref to apologize. It’s a mess and probably did no good to take Webb to task, but I’m sure it felt better to have a go at him. I know it made me laugh to hear Wenger call Webb a “giver.”

Final Thoughts

Well, Arsenal haven’t moved up nor down in the league and though three points would have been a beautiful way to go to Villa I have to say that I am very proud of this team and getting the draw. Everyone is writing them off, referees are calling matches against them, and 4 of their most talented players are injured, yet they are in 5th place and only 8 points off the title race. More importantly, they showed what kind of team they could be after reduced to 10 men. Should they take that commitment to Villa park on Boxing day they will surely come away with three points.

Right, the weather is seriously insane here and we’ve had work canceled again (thus the late blog — I was waiting for news about Cesc’s injury) so I might head down to Doyle’s to watch Everton beat Chelsea. Drop me a line if you think you might be able to make it.

It’s good to be a Goonah!


Arsenal v. Liverpool; liveblogging the second half

All right kids… second half will kickoff in about 4 minutes. I have to shift some stuff in the garage to make room for the wood. Be right back.

Uhhh…. the FSC graphic just said that Liverpool had 55% of the possession. Really?

Jesus, according to the stats Arsenal are getting destroyed. Liverpool have 7 shots, 4 on goal and Arsenal have managed just 2 shots. And yes, Liverpool have 55% of the possession.

Cesc is out, Diaby in… Second half is underway.

49′ — Liverpool is dominating the game, Arsenal is still playing the high line and, now the word is that Cesc had ligament damage in his knee. How will they respond?

50′ — Adebayor responds… with a disgraceful dive.

57′ — The boys are playing hard but they can’t seem to get anything going. Liverpool with 60% of the possession now.

62′ — Yay! Webb sends off Adebayor for a dive by Arbeloa. Good job Howard Webb, someone seriously needs to send these matches to the FA for review. Webb’s bias against Arsenal is so fucking transparent it’s not even funny.

67′ — van Persie yellow now. Webb’s having a great game.

70′ — Sagna yellow probably could have been a red, very high tackle intended to take the man. Webb shows some lieniency. Babel on to add more attacking to Liverpool.

73′ — Carragher goes in the book for a foul on van Persie. Was he last man? No Keith, he’s not a scouse, Webb calls the game against Arsenal whether it’s Chelsea, Man U, Liverpool, or anyone.

75′ — Gerrard dives and then shows up the ref, the “respect” campaign has been a joke since day one. Where’s the yellow for Gerrard, Webb?

80′ — Is Liverpool playing for the draw?

81′ — Lucas commits his 18th foul of the game and finally picks up a yellow. Robbie Keane off. I hope he slips in the shower.

82′ — Arsenal corner. Whatever happens with this match I am very proud of this 10 man team.

88′ — Song has put in a massive performance, his final ball is not quite up to snuff, but he ran his heart out and harassed the Liverpool midfield.

90′ — 3 minutes added. Arsenal looking tired, they have to dig deep to keep this score line.

91′ — Eboue on, Nasri off. Crowd claps. Good job Goonahs.

93′ — Arsenal free kick, wasted by Almunia. That was funny, though, Wenger directing people, Almunia takes the kick at the center circle and flies it straight out of touch.

The boys showed some real heart today, fighting back from a 10 man squad to beat Liverpool plus 12th man Howard Webb. I’d like to see Wenger take Webb to task for that game, he was a complete disgrace and actually caused more tension on the pitch than he solved. I’d also like to see Arsenal challenge the red card, but that won’t happen because the ban will be just one game and they don’t want to risk an extra match added.

Right, look for the Good, Bad, and Ugly tomorrow. I’m off to collect some wood.


Arsenal v. Liverpool Preview

The weather outside is frightful. No, really, we’re supposed to have one of those “once in a decade” ice storms that basically knock out all power and clog the roads. Different than the normal weather “predictions” which tend to be wildly inaccurate in this part of the world, I fear we have some real mess coming up starting tonight and heading into tomorrow.

Obviously, my local readers are the only ones effected by this news, but it’s important enough that I thought I’d mention it straight away because it means that many of us might not be able to watch the match tomorrow. If we lose power tonight, my first priority will be to keep the girls warm and then to head up to Doyle’s for the match.

If we don’t lose power, well, then I’ll see you locals at Doyle’s! So, let’s pray to whatever gods you believe in that the weather gives us a lamb rather than a lion tonight.

Ahead of the match, Arsenal have some good news, some bad news, and some funny news.

As I was scanning the news feeds this morning I had this ominous feeling. That sort of feeling you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night. So, right away I went to the match preview and sure enough:  Howard Webb is refereeing the match. Evidently he’s become the go-to referee for any big match involving Arsenal, having already overseen Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Man U. You know, the match where he gave an incredible 6 minutes of extra time and every Ronaldo dive was greeted with a free kick while Scholes’ fouls were unpunished?

If it was just once, I wouldn’t be worried, but last season Webb oversaw an amazing 3 of Arsenal’s 5 losses, giving away an incredible 2 penalties against Arsenal and carried the ignominy of being the referee who most penalized Arsenal with yellow cards. An Arsenal team that was at the top of the “Fair play” league and by pretty much every standard imaginable are one of the least fouling teams to ever take the pitch.

I know, he’s a police officer, blah, blah. I’m not saying that he’s on the take, but just that for some reason, he oversees some of the most contentious Arsenal matches (the worst was the Carling Cup final against Chelsea) and statistically he tends to call the matches against Arsenal. That said, with the 2-1 win over Man U this year maybe Arsenal have figured out how to play with him on the pitch and we’ll see a turnaround. We can hope.

In team news, Arsenal will have the services of Samir Nasri while Liverpool will be without their talisman Fernando Torres. This should be great news for Arsenal as without Torres, Liverpool have struggled to get goals but I’m ambivalent about the announcement; Liverpool have Robbie Keane available despite his very public fall out with Benitez. Plus, Dirk Kuyt gets a lot of stick from Liverpool supporters but I think he’s their most dangerous player. He’s got pace, a decent footballing mind, and a workrate unmatched by anyone in the EPL.

Make no mistake, Liverpool will be very happy to use Xabi Alonso and Mascherano to funnel Arsenal into the middle of the pitch, allow them to play intricate passes. Then, when Arsenal inevitably cough the ball up, find an outlet and get an open goal.

Former Spud Robbie Keane would be ecstatic to score a goal on the break against Arsenal and he’s got the craft to do it too. So, while it should be great news to see Torres off the team sheet, I’m not getting too giddy.

As for Nasri, this is good news. Struggling with the physical nature of the Premiership he’s missed several games now with niggling injuries but he’s also been there in several crucial games and scored some really great goals. There’s no doubt of this player’s importance because when Nasri is out (and with Theo on long term injury) Arsenal are forced to use 4 central midfielders across the middle of the pitch and this is most directly responsible for Arsenal’s overly central, overly intricate, toothless ball-hold-ery. He he, ball-hold-ery. I swear that Arsenal would be happier if they could play with another couple of balls and an extra set of feet.

Given all that, I’d bet that the story of tomorrow’s match goes like this: Nasri scores and Webb awards a penalty for a Robbie Keane dive which Gerrard converts. A 1-1 draw and no movement in the table for Arsenal.

Speaking of dives, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Arsene Wenger’s “dive” accusation against Babel in the Champions League match last season. Well, it was a dive, true, but I wonder why he mentions it? I highly doubt it will change Webb’s mind to our favor and might make him even more likely to call against us. Moreover, comments like this tend to focus the commentators on “whinging Wenger” and then they get to point out time and again thatArsenal get these kinds of calls too — like the offside that went against Chelsea.

Whatver happens, what remains clear is that Wenger is no Fergie when it comes to pre-game manipulation. I mean come on, if Fergie had a ref with such an obvious bias he’d have a go at the ref, not Ryan Babel.

Ok, that’s about it for today. I’ve got to go get some wood in case all hell breaks loose over here. I’ll see you at Doyle’s if possible — let’s hope for a good match tomorrow and UP THE ARSE!


Arsenal 2-1 Man U; the Good, Bad, and Ugly


This has been and remains a crazy season. Just a few news stories from the last few days illustrates the craziness of this season; first, Sir Alex Ferguson comes out in defense of Wenger and asks the fans to stop singing that disgusting pedophile song. Then, in what’s really an attack on pundits, Roy Keane gets it spot on in his defense of Arsene (you really have to read this whole article, it’s pretty amazing).  Roy Keane’s outburst comes on the back of late night Tee Vee talking heads, bloggers, and writers around the world suggesting that Arsene Wenger has (or is real close) worn out his welcome. The noise from all these so-called experts reaches such critical mass that Arsene Wenger has to finally come out and say that he’s staying. Arsene Wenger… one of the greatest managers in EPL history has to reassure everyone that he’s staying at Arsenal.


And, of course, there are the scores: Man U barely escape Hull (who have now lost three in a row), Arsenal lose to Stoke, Chelsea lose their first home game in eleventy years to Liverpool, who promptly lose to Tottenham, who are sent back to the foot of the table because Bolton, Newcastle, and Stoke all won as well, and last, but far from least, Arsenal win at home 2-1 against their old rivals Man U.

It has been a crazy season, and it’s only November.

That said, I was truly heartened by what I saw yesterday both on and off the pitch. Here in my little part of the world there were half a dozen Arsenal supporters up at 7am, none of which seemed to have peeked at the score, despite the fact that the game was long over. Festooned as we were in our scarves and jerseys we looked like a right group of fans.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the bar there were only a handful of very quiet Man U supporters. I suspect that there would have been more but that they are the type of fans who look at the score first and only come out for the game if their side has won — so they can gloat.

One of the nicest mornings of football I can remember for quite some time.

But enough about that, right? What about the game?

The Good

I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that, right now, I feel like Samir Nasri is the greatest living Arsenal player ever. Ok, so it’s a bit of hyperbole but damnit that kid is good. That first goal was luck, but you don’t get luck like that if you don’t try and it seems like for at least three years Arsenal didn’t even try to get those kinds of goals. Now with Nasri in there, he keeps the defenders honest, draws players to him and creates more space for his teammates because the defense now has to be wary of him not just dribbling in and passing the ball, but also that he will take a shot.

And when he’s open and has a chance, he shoots like this.

More than just shooting though, Nasri opens Arsenal’s attack on the wings as well and he showed that yesterday with some ferociously whipped in crosses which but for the profligacy of Bendtner would have been goals. So, maybe he can’t dribble as well as some others and maybe he’s not as speedy, but he’s a salty old cur with a shot like a cannon, the width of Freddie Ljungberg and a nose for goal.  What’s not to love?

My friend Alex asked me if I was going to slag off Hleb in the blog today… no need. Honestly, Hleb is living his dream on the bench at Barcelona, coming on in the 74th minute of a blow-out to set up his lone assist of the season. And when he’s not doing that, he’s got time to try to tap up Cesc Fabregas and work on his dribbling skillz! Hleb will fade into distant memory more and more every day as Samir Nasri edges him out with his often brilliant play.

The other ‘good’ from yesterday is so obvious that it’s hardly worth saying, but so important that it has to be mentioned; Arsenal didn’t collapse, despite the fact that Howard Webb tried his level best to gift Man U the chance by tacking on 6, incredible, minutes to the end of the game. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for those last 6 minutes: I was as giddy as a school girl on prom night.  And when Rafael painted a masterpiece into the side of the net on the 90th minute I felt like Carrie getting buckets of blood dumped on her at that same prom. “The world was going to unravel” I thought “this will end 3-2 to the evil fucks from Manchester.”

But they didn’t. Arsenal probably should have made it 3-0 or even 4-0 (which added to the tension) but the point is that the team kept its shape, didn’t sit back, and took the wind out of Man U’s sails. When that whistle finally did blow, we all celebrated and smiled as if we’d just won the Carling Cup. It was such a famous win and so important for the rest of this season that Arsenal are going to release a DVD of the match any day now.

After the game, Arsene Wenger summed it up nicely when he said

We gave the answer in the best place to do it – out on the pitch. There was hysteria (my emphasis — tb) last week and, for me, it was difficult to understand why suddenly everybody had become so critical. But I will stick by what I believe is right, and the players showed today we have the quality and spirit to compete at the top level.

It was a great game today against a great Manchester United team and we got the victory we needed. It was a big game for the future of the club because of all that had happened. It was vital to show that our young team can win the big games. I can imagine what would have happened if we had been defeated today. But I’ve never doubted the spirit and attitude of the players, and we won this match even with some players missing.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about yesterday’s match and the rest of the season: it’s us against the world and in the infamous words of George W. Bush: bring ’em on.

The Bad

Wayne Rooney is a cunt. How he gets away with the shit he gets away with is truly amazing. At one point, Theo dispossesses him and every human being on the planet earth knew what was coming next: Rooney Revenge. He tracks Theo down, who pulls a clever little move to dodge the jug eared prick, and as Rooney is passing by he kicks the back of Theo’s leg. That’s a straight red if anyone foreign does it and a yellow if any other English player did it. More than that he constantly jaws at the referee and inexplicably he’s the only person in the entire EPL (besides maybe Frank Lampard) who can get away with this stuff.

Disgusting as that was it wasn’t the worst or only example of how Howard Webb lost control of that match. From giving away free kicks at every Ronaldo dive to his failure to call blatant penalties for Arsenal, Webb had what is quickly becoming his signature with Arsenal: a nightmare game.

The Ugly

Bendtner had an ugly, ugly game. I don’t know if he was just trying too hard or if he just lacks the ability but for all 97 minutes he looked like he was completely lost out there. Missed headers, botched 3 on 2’s, poor touch, horrible passing, you name it Bendtner showed it all yesterday. In fact, the team won in spite of Nicklas yesterday. He’s going to need to really step up his game for Arsenal to keep this mini run up but I have to wonder if he can. Right now, I’d really like to see what he can do when paired with Vela.

Which brings me to Theo: Theo also had a really, really poor match and apart from his dummy run which created the space for Nasri’s great goal, he was snatching at shots, turning the ball over, and being outpaced by Evra. He’s had a pretty good run of games and I have to think he is tired. Again, maybe we’ll see Vela get a start in his place.

Ok, well, that’s pretty much it, I don’t want to rag on the team or get all hysterical and call for the bosses head — they won for Christ’s sake!

Next up is the Carling Cup match at home against Wigan on Tuesday (veteran’s day) and Arsene will surely rest nearly everyone except Bendtner which means that Vela should get a start, right?

With Wenger and this season, you never can tell.

Until tomorrow!

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