Posts Tagged ‘Man U v. Arsenal


Man U 0-0 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Title in the bag

Telegraph: Carlos Tevez seemingly waved goodbye to Old Trafford as Manchester United claimed their 18th league title with an uneventful 0-0 draw at home to Arsenal.

Man of the Match

This is a tough one because all the players played so well. I was so proud of the way the team played and it was a a bit of a consolation to see the looks on the Man U fans faces as they prayed for a 0-0 draw.

That said, some of the guys were just exceptional. Song as a center back was a particularly bright spot and it speaks volumes of how far the player has come that he looks more assured in defence than some of the more geriatric players. Cesc too looked far better in his more traditional reserved role, paired with Denilson. Denilson too sort of reprised his role from the start of the season — where his bright play had people saying that maybe Arsenal didn’t need a partner for Cesc.

Only one guy can win MotM, and for me (and Setanta!), it was Andrei Arshavin. His crosses, passing, vision, touch, and dribbling were all top class. Arsenal had 4 shots on goal and most of those came from Arshavin threatening Man U’s defense and picking out an Arsenal player or taking on Man U for a shot himself.

I can’t wait to see him fully fit, with a pre-season of practice, playing with a full compliment of world class strikers like Eduardo and van Persie. If these 6 months have shown us anything it’s that the Arsenal attack will be crazy potent with the diminutive Russian pulling the strings up front.

The Good

I loved that one at a time the Arsenal players took turns kicking Evra. I didn’t write about it at the time, but after the loss to United in the Champions League Evra was quoted calling Arsenal “babies.” Like I’ve said before, people who are hyper competitive don’t stand for that kind of stuff and it was good to see some of Arsenal’s players kick him a little. Nothing too dirty, this wasn’t a Joey Barton assault, just little nips here and there.

As I’ve said already, though it can’t be said enough, I was dead proud of the way that team played today. They bossed the champions around, moving the ball nearly at will, defending strong, and taking the game to United… on their home ground… with nothing to play for but pride.

After, the boss put it like this

I believe we played with a lot of heart and desire. When we played in the Champions League I think we were inhibited a bit by the occasion – it was too big perhaps – and in the second leg we had no chance to play the game. Today we showed we have the quality. We played a lot of authority on the pitch.

I would agree, and just add that with a touch more quality Arsenal would have won that match. But think about it… Arsenal took 4 points off Man U this season. Who else can say that?


The Bad

Referee Mike Dean was a disgrace, handing Arsenal 5 yellows for ticky-tack fouls and giving none to United when they committed the same. It was a typical performance from a referee who is scared to make calls against United.

The only thing that prevented his performance from dropping into The Ugly was that he never had the opportunity to award United the penalty he so clearly wanted to give them.

The Ugly

Well, it’s never nice to have to watch your opponent celebrate winning silverware. I hope the image of that burns into each and every Arsenal player’s mind and they come out next year hungrier than ever.


T-minus 1 match before the flurry of reports linking us to so-and-so start flying around. I can’t wait. [eye roll]

See you tomorrow.


Man U 1-0 Arsenal; Wenger Still Has Faith

Match Reports

The John O’Shea gives Manchester United the advantage

ESPNSoccernet: blah blah blah O’Shea.

Man of the Match

I will be the first to admit that I’m a horrible judge of goal keepers, but even a Dumb American like me could tell that England’s Future #1 had a monster game last night. I mean, even the guys at the Telegraph saw him step up into the rarefied air of a “top four” keeper last night.

So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’m giving Man of the Match to England’s Future #1, Manuel Almunia.

The Good

Don’t listen to them, they don’t know what they are talking about: Arsenal were not just lucky to escape that match 1-0 down, they played their asses off and several key players stepped up huge to keep that scoreline down to 1-0. Moreover, 1-0 is a good result for United but it’s not a devastating result for Arsenal. 2-0? 3-0? The game could have easily gone that way and those results would have been devastating.

United played one of the best games I’ve ever seen them play and they only managed a 1-0 score line. This is a completely surmountable obstacle: 1-0 and penalties or a 2-0 win and we go through. Now that I’ve seen what a fully actualized Man U looks like, I can say that we were always going to have to win a game. So, I like our odds of winning at home in the return leg. Wenger too has confidence

It will be a good opportunity to show our character and our mental strength. I am confident you will see it so I invite you to a press conference next Tuesday after the game, and then you would have seen it.

There is a Final at stake. Don’t worry, when you play at home knowing you could reach a Final, we will be up for it. I am confident because I believe we will be on top next Tuesday and you will see a different Arsenal team.

The one thing I can say for sure about Arsene Wenger is that he is full of faith. Hell, this man has more faith than a priest.

I also want to give a shout out to both Gibbs and Song who both had monster games last night. Gibbs in particular was simply spectacular against what seemed like 18 attacking United players. But in particular, aside from that one shot that rattled the cross-bar, Ronaldo basically was handed a nightmare by the 19 year old.

Unlike Gibbs, who has basically been thrust into the fire and has performed magnificently, Song has grown slowly in his position and is now a nearly complete holding midfielder. Last night he had a great game defending and shielding the midfield, though he looked kind of jaded at the end of the match and I have to wonder if the long haul of the season plus the massive workrate he put in against a hard working Man U hasn’t taken it’s toll. I know that sounds strange because he’s had a good break but I’m struggling to explain why he was so good in the first 70 minutes and so listless in the last 20.

The Bad

OK, so we’re down 1-0 and that’s bad. Draws won’t put us through, even one goal wins don’t put us through. We need a 2 goal win to go into the finals and if United play as hard as they did last night, Arsenal will need to be the Arsenal that beat AC Milan 2-0 to get that win. Which is a tall order because while I think Arsenal played their hearts out yesterday (with some exceptions) they are going to need to both play their hearts out and have the game of their lives.


Now, about those guys who didn’t play hard…. Diaby, I’m looking at you. If you don’t want to play in a Champions League semi-final why don’t you F*CK OFF? More than once Song had to come in and clean up and shield Gibbs after Diaby was seen strolling back up the pitch behind Ronaldo. Ronaldo for f*ck’s sake. Diaby and Walcott both just looked lost in their defensive responsibilities and more than once were dispossessed by Man U while they tried to dribble out of the back 3rd. That shiat needs to be squashed right now: if those two want to play on Tuesday they need to defend from the front for 90 minutes.

And as for Silvestre, well, he had a good game last night and made a few really key defensive plays. So, it’s unfortunate that it was his poorly cleared ball that fell to O’Shea who stuck it home. Frankly, I give the blame for that goal to Toure who both ran toward the ball, rather than marking the back post, and failed to organize his defense properly, because even if he’d have stayed back, it still would have been 3 on 1. Blown defensive plays like that are not going to cut the mustard on Tuesday.

The Ugly

Ok, Wenger, we get it, you have faith. You believe in using Cesc in the support roll in the 4-2-3-1 despite the fact that this plays to all of Cesc’s weaknesses. You believe in using Nasri as a holding midfielder, despite the fact that this plays to all of Nasri’s weaknesses. You believe in playing Bendtner, despite the fact that this plays to all of his weaknesses. We get it, you have faith.

I’m afraid if you don’t switch up some of these roles and play to these player’s strengths rather than playing them out of position, faith is all we’re going to have left at the end of the season. 4th place and a whole lotta faith. We’ll all fill our cups with your faith and sup deep from the well.

Basically, like Spurs fans do every year.

Me?  I’d rather have a bit more rational approach to the game on Tuesday and see Cesc paired with Song in the middle — where Cesc’s vision and defensive awareness can control the game more, Nasri on the left and Theo on the right — where their speed and ball control can cause havoc in United’s wings, Adebayor and van Persie (or Eduardo if van Persie is still out, or Vela if Eduardo is out, or the Tea Lady if Vela is out) up front — where, erm, they can score goals and stuff, and the rest of the team picks itself.

That said, I don’t feel confident that Wenger can switch things up because he’s got more faith than the Pope.


We’ve got Pompey on Saturday and I’m looking at that match as a bit of a break, honestly. 4th place is all but secure (a win secures it outright) and third place is looking a little less likely each week, though a win on Saturday and a loss for Chelsea at Fulham would put us 3 points off of 3rd ahead of the Arsenal v. Chelsea clash in 2 weeks. Still, while 3rd place matters, it just doesn’t seem to matter as much. I’d rather win the Champions League or at least get a hell of a game in the return leg than take 3rd place.

Irregardless (you KNEW I was going to say that!) of all that, I think Arsenal fans and players need a bit of an emotional break and Pompey can provide that. The game is being televised live on Fox Soccer Channel at 7am and I’ll be providing the liveblogging for the first time in what seems like a year. I think I might just get some dry smoked bacon from Costco and have a nice little breakfast and watch the game.

Right, that’s it for today, I’m going to leave you dreaming of bacon. See you tomorrow for a match preview.


Man U v. Arsenal; Champions League semi-final first leg

This is the moment we have all been waiting for. I’ve got the yellow Eduardo strip on. Aveline has her yellow strip on. The fans have all traveled to Manchester, the field has been plumped, the team talk has been laid and the prawn sandwiches are being prepped.

The pundits have had their fill of the history between these two teams; the famous fights, the iconic images, and the records. But all that history could be blown away in just 90 minutes. It’s not likely, because these matches are often tense, controlled affairs with the home side desperate not to concede the all important away goal.  But this has been a crazy a season, and if today’s match didn’t reflect that insanity I would be shocked. Is a 4-4 draw in the cards? I think it’s totally possible, Man U have been conceding goals lately(Liverpool hung 4 on them, Porto got 2, Villa got 2, and even Spurs got 2), meanwhile Arsenal are on a tear (14 goals in the last 5 matches) and once the away team score, it becomes more important to get a few goals. So, I’m expecting an early goal from Arsenal to open this game up and then I think we’ll see a classic.

I tried to wait as long as possible in order to give you a lineup but none are forthcoming as of this posting. You can check ESPN, BBC, and the Telegraph for the latest lineup news on your own if you like, I won’t have time before the match to do any updating (I have to get some work done before the match.)

My predicted lineup for Arsenal is


Sagna     Toure     Djourou     Silvestre

Song     Nasri

Walgod     Cesc     Diaby


My predicted outcome is 2-2 with goals by Ronaldo, Silvestre, Adebayor, and Giggs. A 2-2- draw would be a good outcome for the Gunners (though it didn’t help Porto!) in fact, any draw would be good for Arsenal, the thing we want to avoid is a humiliating defeat or a mental collapse, like Spurs on the weekend. But like I said yesterday, it doesn’t matter to me what happens, of course I want Arsenal to win, but whatever happens I’m proud to be a Gooner today. This team has slogged their way through the muck of this season and have taken the pen from everyone who wrote them off and jabbed it squarely in their eye. Nothing they could do today would surprise me and I’m expecting them to put in their best performance of the season… so far.

Anyway, if you’re lucky enough to be here in town, come on down to Doyle’s and raise a pint with me.



Everyone Agrees – Defense Wins Championships

This week Vidic has said it, Cesc said it, Adebayor is saying it 24/7 on ESPN’s annoying automatic video load crapola, I’ve said it countless times, and it’s probably the  most over used and least understood phrase in all of sports: “defense wins championships.” But it’s true.

There have been quite a few comments in the blog and elsewhere about the state of Arsenal’s defense of late and much has been made of Silvestre and Gibbs at the back and the prospect of Arsenal facing United with such a “depleted” squad, but I just want to point out a few things.

Gibbs is not better than Clichy, I’m not even going to try to make that argument. Gibbs is slightly faster than Clichy and Gibb’s attacking ability is far superior (he already has 2 assists this season) but where he lacks is in experience defending. So, yes, I am a bit nervous about Gibbs facing Ronaldo, Tevez, Rooney, and Bobblekopf.

Silvestre is… well… batshit crazy. His defensive style is best described as desperate: he doesn’t just get a foot stuck in and clear the ball, it’s always, and I mean ALWAYS, some kind of acrobatic, falling down, desperation clearance. I like a player who plays “110%” like that and normally I would forgive him and let him play his own style. Except there’s the batshit crazy part. The part where, for some ungodly reason, he feels it’s ok to backpass the ball and give up a free kick to United. For a defender with his vast experience, at the level he’s played at, to make such mental errors is unthinkable. I would think his body would break down, not his mind, but it just seems like he’s not in the game, or maybe he doesn’t remember how to play football having had his mind erased by Sir Alex Ferguson’s technicians in the Old Trafford dollhouse.

But I want you all to take heart: Arsenal beat United 2-1 back in November. Granted, Arsenal we’re up for that game and United were in a bit of a slump at that point — having let Hull City get up their noses a bit when United eked out a 4-3 win which they followed by a 1-1 draw to Celtic. In fact, United might look at that period and see that as on of their low points of the season. So, you could blame that.

But, while United might look at that as a low period, for Arsenal there is no doubt that the month of November was nearly catastrophic — this was a team coming off a devastating 4-4 draw to Spuds, not to mention the 2-1 loss to Stoke, followed by the 0-0 draw at home to Fener. The dressing room was a disaster, any belief that team had in their own ability was being trampled by infighting between Gallas and half the team.

But worse than the state of Arsenal’s dressing room was the state of the injury room. Arsenal went into that match missing Adebayor through injury, van Persie through insanity, and Toure through “injury.” The state of the squad was so bad that Arsenal fielded Bendtner up front with Diaby, Cesc with Denilson in the middle, and paired William Gallas with Silvestre at the back. If I told you that Wenger was going to field that lineup tomorrow, you’d shit yourself. And the funny thing is that that team damn near did shit themselves: Denilson could have been called for a penalty, Silvestre had the back pass, and Clichy had a hand ball, any of which could have spelled disaster.

So, under those circumstances, for them to come out and get a 2-1 win, even if at home and even if United were a bit down, is pretty amazing. Arsenal fans the world over should look at that day and remember that on our day, no matter who we field and no matter how we line up it just takes a moment or two of brilliance to get a win. Brilliance which Samir Nasri provided on that day and which I expect will be provided by at least one player tomorrow.

As for the defense, this is not just a league game at home in November. This is a game against the defending champions and our last chance for any silverware this season. Man U are going to be up for this game and there are going to be multiple serious challenges of our defense tomorrow. So, as much as I’d like to bring them along slowly, there’s no chance of that and it’s time for Djourou and Gibbs to show the world what they got. What sent Eboue from mediocre defender to “great” defender were his performances against Ronaldo and there is no doubt that SAF will be sending the entire Man U attack in to batter and deep fry Arsenal’s two young defenders. This is their chance to shine.

I think they have the talent to do it and I think Wenger will get the tactics right to help support them the best he can. But if they cannot do it, we all need to have realistic expectations and not get too down on them: Gibbs is only 19, Djourou is only 22, and both have a lot to learn before we can jump on them or abandon them and start calling for their heads. If we lose badly, then so be it, they have done an amazing job and defied all expectations to get us this far. If we win, or get a famous pulsating draw like everyone expects, well… then…

Well, there’s only an upside then, isn’t there?


sometimes, guts ain’t enough

Despite a gutsy performance Arsenal end their season by giving up their title hopes in a two goal squeaker at Old Trafford.

Injury struck Arsenal for the umpteenth time this season as Almunia (wrist injury) was replaced in goal by Lehmann and Song replaced Senderos as partner for Gallas at center back. This pairing looked quite shaky at times with Song clearly not accustomed to the role but as the game wore on, Song looked more and more solid. Fortunately, the makeshift back two were only challenged in open play a few times as both Man U goals came from dead ball situations.

The first half was vintage 2007/08 Arsenal: mesmerizing movement and several very clear chances that required great saves by van der Saar but no goals. Shoulda, coulda, woulda, but they didn’t… and the first half ended with both teams ruing the wasted opportunities.

The second half started as more of the same, with Arsenal getting right in Man U’s faces. When the United defense botched a clearance and the ball came to Hleb, he played in RvP who crossed perfectly and Adebayor simply needed to nod the ball home. A tap-in for the lead, 1-0 to the Arsenal and Adebayor’s 26th goal of the season (TWENTY SIX). There was some controversy about the goal with the United supporters claiming a hand ball but after what Arsenal have been through with the officials these last few weeks their claims fell on deaf ears with me.

The goal awoke United and they immediately made a chance to level. In the end, it would only take them 5 minutes to get the equalizer and, of course, it came on a penalty. A shot was taken and Gallas tried to get his hand out of the way but the ball curled neatly in there and hit him inside his elbow. A harsh way to give up a penalty in my opinion. I’ve seen that decision go many different ways with the official usually allowing more leeway for the defender, but alas Howard Webb saw it as a penalty and pointed to the spot. I think Arsenal supporters the world over knew that Man U was going to get at least one penalty decision and sure enough it happened.

Ronaldo did his cheeky little stop and start run to take the penalty and Lehmann came off his line so Webb blew the whistle. I thought for sure that Webb was going to rescind the penalty because Ronaldo stopped his run up, but no, he instead gave him a second chance at the penalty. Which Ronaldo scored again. Odd. Oh yeah, and Lehmann got a yellow for time wasting or coming off his line, or maybe complaining, who knows. It was typical stuff from the German.

Man U still didn’t look threatening and so Fergie sacrificed Scholes and someone else for Anderson and someone. I really don’t care, because only Anderson made a difference. He’s a dirty little cheat who harassed and pulled Arsenal’s midfield nearly into submission Webb, though saw it as “good play.” One glaring example comes to mind: there was an exchange between he and Adebayor where Anderson clearly fouled the big man repeatedly, to the point of dragging Adebayor to the ground (no small feat) and Ade got no call. Adebayor responded like a man though and crab-tackled that little cunt. Ade got a yellow for his trouble, good for him.  It was funny to hear the Man U fans screaming that Ade was “pulling a Taylor” while Anderson rolled around on the ground feigning injury to ensure the yellow.

Hell hath no fury like a Man U fan fouled.

The game started to boil over at that point. Hleb got a yellow. Rooney was defiantly kicking everyone off the pitch and repeatedly “pulling a Cole” on Webb when the ref didn’t hand out yellow cards like a pez dispenser or had the temerity to make a call against United.

And then Gilberto tackled the ball away from Evra and Evra collapsed – like he really should – and Webb was given another golden opportunity to score a goal for United. Unfortunately, he just gave them a free kick.

Hargreaves took the free kick as a one-stepper and put the ball coolly into the bottom of the net. Jens didn’t even move, except to wave his hands in disgust at something. Like I have said, I don’t know much about goalkeeping but that looked to me like Jens really bottled it. Not trying to take anything away from Hargreaves: it was a perfectly placed kick. But what Lehmann was doing all the way over where he was and why he was 100% unready for the kick only he will know.

After that, all Manchester United had to do was close the game out which they did pretty well despite the huge onslaught from Arsenal.  2-1 to Man U.

Afterwards, both bosses praised Arsenal’s performance with Fergie saying

They were very unlucky to lose you’d have to say, they gave it their biggest effort of the season and were magnificent

I have to completely agree, this is a magnificent team who are just a cunt hair away from being the best team in Europe. I hope I don’t need to remind everyone that this same team that ended last season BARELY in 4th place. Then they lost Henry and the writers and fans alike were worried — with some people predicting they would fall as far as 8th place. Well, Wenger believed and Wenger stuck with the core of the team, adding some cover in defense (Sagna, who turned out to be incredibly good) and a goal poacher to help put away some of those multitude of chances that Arsene’s system creates. Both of Wenger’s key signings got injured at the worst possible time and the season has been eerily similar to last year ever since.

They didn’t win today, but this is a team for the future, Arse fans. I say that because they showed me something today that I really didn’t expect: guts. Le Boss saw it too and made it clear his intentions for next season in his post-match comments:

This team is amazing, they keep going and I am so proud of all of them. We are out of the title race of course, we know that. We played with quality and spirit, but what can you do about the result now? We had plenty of chances and I feel we were very unlucky not to win the game, but we have to accept what happened. In the last two months we have had a blip, but we have not had much luck either and you could see that again today. I believe this team is good enough to win things and our biggest target now is to keep the group together.

This team has the people it needs to win a trophy AND this team’s got guts.  Arsenal just need to get everyone healthy because sometimes, unfortunately, guts ain’t enough to win.

’till tomorrow.

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May 2020