Posts Tagged ‘Porto v. Arsenal

10
Dec
08

Happy 700, Arsene!

A little known Alsacian Frenchman blew into Highbury on a September breeze in 1996. The club was in disarray having suffered the loss of a popular and powerful coach to scandal and supporters were hoping for a big name to come in and clean things up.

In what would become “typical Arsenal style” the board instead signed a relatively unknown coach who’s last job was as coach of Japanese team Grampus Eight Nagoya. And, much like the unknowns who would become famous on the pitch for us later, what a terrific signing he would be.

You’ve heard all the stuff before, he’s a visionary leader, a man who transformed Arsenal into a 38,000 seat club in North London to a club that has a modern 60,000 seat Golden Goose and supporters clubs the world over who are so in love with the club that they will get up 8 time zones away, sometimes at 4am, to sing and cheer their beloved Arsenal. You already know that Wenger did that. And most of you already know that Arsene Wenger coached the club to three league titles, four FA Cups, and an unbeatable 49 games without a loss. That unknown coach from France, via Japan, did all that.

In these eleven years there have been ups and downs: losing the UEFA Cup Final on penalties was pretty down but most of those players went on to eternal glory as the team that went 49 unbeaten. Some would probably say that this year had been a down year, 5 defeats already, the captain stripped bare by his suitors, many people say a derelict transfer policy and the booing of Eboue all mark some of the lowest moments I can remember as an Arsenal supporter. But if Arsene Wenger has shown us anything, it’s that those lows always precede a high. So, despite the 5 losses, we’re beating the “top four” and are right there in the thick of the Premiership race, about to take a step into the knockout stages of the Champions League, and we have an exciting young team players coming through — with a fair number of English on the team which should make the Triesman’s and Platini’s and Bleater’s of the world happy.

Good times are ahead. Hell, we might even win something this year!

Despite the highs and lows, it’s been a great 700 games and for those of you who like stats, just take a peek at that link above. In 11 years, Arsene has notched up a nearly 60% winning percentage. With all the Sheffield Uniteds and Wigans who want nothing more than to get away from this Arsenal team with a draw Arsenal under Arsene Wenger have managed to win 58.4% of their games.

It’s been a great 700, Arsene, and may Arsenal get you a win for your 700th matchday.

Feel free to share your favorite moments in the comments below. Hmmm…. the Pardew Scuffle? Winning the league at the Lane? Pizzagate? 49 unbeaten? So many to choose from!

Porto v. Arsenal

Arsene is fielding a weakened team today against Porto, well, weakened because they’re not including Adebayor, van Persie, Sagna, or Cesc. For some, it’s clear that Saturday’s match against ‘Boro is more important to Wenger than winning the group stage tonight. To others, maybe he feels that this team has enough quality to get the job done and is just throwing them on the fire to see how they react.

I’m going with the latter.

Including Eboue in the starting lineup is the type of bold move that Wenger is know for. A sort of stick in the eye to us Ebooers. But at the same time, note what position Eboue is playing: right back. It’s an admission that Eboue is a good right back, but is not a winger. Whereas before Wenger would scramble and play anyone else at right back in order to play Eboue in the midfield, now he’s just playing him, from the start, at right back. It’s a good move and I expect Arsenal supporters to support the player tonight no matter where you watch the game. I’ve argued all along that the reaction was a one-off reaction and Wenger argues that as well in the link above, we wouldn’t want to let Arsene down on the eve of his 700th game would we?

And if they do boo him? Well, Nick Hornby, who has been watching football longer than most of my readers have been alive puts the booing into context.

Getting away from all the Eboue stuff, Wenger has targeted Carlos Vela for great things and is hinting at  starting the player tonight. I’m happy for the kid, I just hope Bendtner passes him the ball once or twice.

And finally, Alumia will be captain, even though Gallas is playing. Ow. That has to hurt worse than any boo boo.

I can’t get away to watch the game today, work calls and all that, I will check after work to see if Doyle’s was able to record the game for me but no promises there. And I will try to give a “Good, Bad, and Ugly” tomorrow but as is my policy, if I don’t watch the game, I don’t give you an analysis, it’s just plain dishonest. Either way, I’ll see you tomorrow, though the blog may be about how I solved the mystery of the leaky DNS and not about Arsenal.

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09
Dec
08

Chocolate Thunder unleashed on Porto?

The team travel to Portugal to take on league leaders (don’t know where I read that. ed.) Porto for the game that will decide if Arsenal finish first or second in the group. In years past, winning your group meant an “easier” draw in the Champions League, but lets face it, there aren’t many easy teams in this tournament any more ( wait, could Cluj still go through? No? Oh well.) Even if Arsenal finish first they could easily face runners up like Chelsea, Liverpool, Real Madrid (who are so desperate they are thinking of appointing Juande Ramos), Inter, Bayern, and Man U depending on how all those teams play today and tomorrow.

That said, just a draw sees the club top the group and the boss was simultaneously pragmatic and hopeful (he can do that, he’s that special):

We want to finish first because we want to be the best. But it does not seem that first or second will make a huge difference this year

I love to see a win, but with Cesc unlikely to participate (knee injury) and Porto looking for revenge, a draw would be a good result. How about a boring ole 0-0 draw, it would be like stepping into a time machine!

I’d also like to see Roma go through and get paired with Liverpool. First because they’d probably have to hold the match in an empty stadium — since both clubs supporters are such animals. And second because I want to see if The Beast can lay a quad on Liverpool again.

Oh and hey, Wednesday’s game is Arsene’s 700th game for the club. 700! That deserves it’s own column…

The game is on Setanta here in the states and it’s a lunch time kickoff on my side of the country, but I’m busy that day so no match for me. Head down to Doyle’s and catch the match if you get a chance.

Chocolate Thunder, Robin van Persie’s right leg.

There’s a hilarious quote from Robin van Persie where he says that in Holland they call your off leg your “Chocolate Leg.” Which brought me back to my childhood and a player named Chocolate Thunder, from the planet Lovetron, who could dunk so hard, he ripped the rim off the backboard. After watching RvP shoot with his right foot against Chelsea and damn near rip the back of the net off the goal posts, I’m thinking he should rename his chocolate leg, Chocolate Thunder and start ripping shots with it all the time.

I am curious about the etymology of this term, so if any of you know why the Dutch call the off leg the chocolate leg please let us know. Also if you want to make things up, that would be fine too, as long as you use the word “Lovetron” at least once.

Almost done…

Liverpool are shopping their brand name around but I guess no one’s buying. Maybe they could get some supporters to get their jalopy a new set of hubcaps?

In reality, I’m not worried in the least about a club like Liverpool. They have a fan base that rivals clubs like Arsenal and Man U, they are favorites to break their 10 year curse in the Premier League and perennial challengers in the Champions League. Lessseee, uhhh Citeh or Liverpool? Hmmmm. Tough choice.

And Finally

Theo Walcott won the 2008 BBC London Young Footballer of the Year award. I heard that he was also runner up for the 2008 N5 Right Footed Player of the Year but was just beaten off by Terry Brindlebat who plays for St. Mary’s pub.

See you tomorrow for the match preview.




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