Archive for European Football
Last night, I hadn’t even finished pouring a glass of wine and settling down before I heard the excitement of Sky’s commentator Martin Tyler’s voice barely 2 milliseconds after the kick-off.
“Oh shit!”, was the first thought on my mind when I rushed into the living room to consider the inevitable. I wasn’t so much worried that Manchester United had scored, I was more worried that Rooney had scored.
My reason for this fear has nothing to do with the fear of Rooney. He’s a striker and it’s his job to score so I would suggest that he’s the most likely Man United player to score. My issue is with the sycophancy that follows any goal he scores from the media and the entire football establishment.
I was thinking to myself whether I can deal with the “Rooney is the best player in the world” back slapping that I find really suffocating.
But the thing is this – yesterday’s game showed that he who dares wins. Let’s face it, Man United were very pedestrian yesterday and they paid for it.
Arsenal can quickly learn a lot from last night’s game on two fronts. Firstly, the form of the day rules. Despite the universal predictions of a Manchester United hammering of the Bavarians, the form of the day is what counts.
You see, football pundits and book makers remind me of credit rating agencies who need to be taken out back, made to kneel down facing the wall, and given a good hiding.
These rating agencies provided assessments of financial institutions that were so far off the mark, they brought the world economy to its knees, yet few bothered to question the credibility of the nonsense they spewed.
I mean, how the hell did they not see the world-wide economic crash coming. It’s like NASA missing a comet heading for earth and yet they tell us all is well and they’re focussing on a trip to Mars instead.
I never believed that a Manchester United win was a full gone conclusion for the simple reason that Bayern Munich are not mugs. The English media seem to think they are, but the German team didn’t just walk out of the cotton fields into the quarter finals of the elite European club competition.
Secondly, Arsenal can learn that focussing on our strengths is more important than being fascinated by the spectacle of Barcelona.
In yesterday’s press conference, Stevie Stammers from the Sunday Mirror tried desperately to push Thomas Vermaelen to provide a response as to whether he or Arsenal would be intimidated by Leonel Messi.
Vermaelen’s answer was as cold and as witty as they come: “We have no time to be intimidated, we have a job to do”.
Arsenal can learn from Bayern’s spirit and sense of team work. The collective effort of the team rose head and shoulders above any individual brilliance that any one of the 22 players could have provided.
It’s a difficult game today, and Barcelona are coming to play for that away goal if not a win. The reassuring thing is that they are coming to play football, and who better to play total football with than Arsenal?
I don’t think Arsenal should fear Barcelona in any shape or form. We are good enough to win the two legged tie. I differentiate fear from respect and Barcelona have to be respected.
In the same token, Barcelona totally respect Arsenal and they will fight tooth and nail to stop us, and if all fails, they’ll try and score more goals than us.
I was heartened by Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s comments about the need for Arsenal and Barca to keep winning titles. There is a danger of critics pointing out the fact that beautiful football rarely wins.
The Swede avers that football will do better when Arsenal and Barca win titles and win them by playing beautiful football.
What last night taught us is that there’s no full gone conclusion about what will happen. What we can expect is that both teams will refuse to compromise the principles of total football and the responsibility they have to entertain football fans around the world.
Wenger confirms that Arsenal fans want the Gunners to do something special and the team are determined to deliver that something special.
I suspect that Barcelona fans are quite demanding of their team, and don’t expect them to miss an opportunity to give Arsenal a run for their money, in the same way that the Gunners are looking to do.
Simply put, he who dares wins.
As the Catalans roll into town, the news wires, tabloid columns and air waves are filled with all manner of hyperbole and little to do with football.
It’s all about the romance of Cesc Fabregas playing against his boyhood team before he allegedly joins them; about the return of Thierry Henry to Arsenal; and pretty much about Barcelona steam rolling Arsenal (that’s what they say anyway if you believe them).
I’ve rarely commented on the fiction and tabloid diarrhoea that seems to occupy journalists from both countries who seem obsessed with forcing Fabregas to move to Barcelona. If the Arsenal captain farted, they’d find a story to go with it – like how the young Catalan can’t cope with Arsenal’s diet and therefore will be leaving for Barca in the summer.
Even so, we’re going to steer clear of the suffocating shit stirring that will occupy us until kick-off tomorrow night at 7.45 pm.
There’s a reason why the matches between Arsenal and Barcelona are generating interest all over the world. It’s undoubtedly the long overdue meeting between two of the best free flowing and exciting teams in world football.
They are teams that thrive on an attacking and scintillating brand of football. While some might point that this attacking mentality tends to throw defensive discipline away in the case of both teams, football purists would argue ”so what! It’s bloody exciting”
I think that regardless of the results of the two-legged tie, if you can’t enjoy the spectacle of two exhilarating teams coming at each other without inhibition, then you shouldn’t be watching football at all.
But why is it that Arsenal and Barcelona can command so much respect around the world for their brand of scintillating football?
Granted, Barcelona may have been at it for a bit longer as Arsenal pretty much went back to the drawing board following the dismantling of the ’Invincibles’. However, the ethos and philosophy of both clubs is admirable.
In a lot of ways, one of the most intriguing things about the last generation of Arsenal players is that they were never as successful in Europe as this current crop of players. Even the ’Invincibles’ really struggled to reach the heights that this current Arsenal team has reached in Europe, despite the accolades they collected domestically; and despite the superstars they had in the team.
I think in there, lies the answer to the evolution of the current Arsenal side. I suspect it’s a factor many people still obsessed with a certain brand of football that combines power with technique fail to see time and time again.
This current Arsenal team is normally and unfairly compared to the ’Invincibles’ and this is wrong in a lot of respects. For one, the ’Invincibles’ were at the peak of their careers and this is not the case with the core of the current Arsenal side.
Secondly, Wenger has slowly moved away from the archetypal team of the last decade, and slowly focussed on a core of mobile, pacy and technically gifted players.
The football establishment , stuck in their time warp of Neolithic ideas of what football should be like, have been quick at beating this Arsenal side with a very big stick. The team has been accused of being light-weight, not being strong enough and not showing the brute force seen elsewhere in the football league, etc.
Not enough credit is given to this Arsenal side for the distance they have travelled and the evolution they have shown in the game. Even more annoying, are the misguided truths and inconvenient lies that suggest that this brand of Wengerball is ineffective and doesn’t work.
I read a fascinating article yesterday on Untold Arsenal that blows one of the myths about Arsenal not being ’clinical’ in front of goal. This is a myth peddled day in, day out until it has become fact among the pundits and hacks – yet the plain truth is that Arsenal are the most lethal and clinical team in the EPL and in Europe.
Don’t believe me? Read Jerome Harwood’s article about this on Untold Arsenal.
By evolving the team, Wenger has made it more effective in Europe, while still keeping it very competitive domestically. In a lot of ways, the only other team that compares to this is Barcelona.
Structurally and in terms of the technical capability of the team, Barcelona and Arsenal are very similar. The two clubs operate with players of the same mould physically and technically, and aspire to the same virtues of total football.
Arsenal’s misfortune is that they play in a league that is peppered with teams that prefer to use an unsavoury brand of brute force disguised as commitment and grit. They play more with teams that thrive on physicality with a ’kick and chase’ mentality.
Over the last few years, the Gunners have learnt how to take care of themselves on the pitch and they continue to balance the physicality needed with the vision of playing scintillating football.
In truth, the media, pundits and hacks still harp on about Arsenal being ‘weak and lightweight’ – yet there is no evidence of this. Mind you, I differentiate physicality from the cowardice of kicking Arsenal players off the park, carrying out cynical rotational fouling, and literally breaking legs of Arsenal players in late challenges. There’s a difference between being physical in a contact sport and being violent.
Despite these similarities that put Arsenal and Barca head and shoulders over many teams in the world when it comes to playing total football, the two clubs couldn’t be so far apart.
When it comes to club management and administration, Arsenal are light years ahead of the Catalans. In recent times, football finance and football debts have been a key area of concern, and for the foreseeable future, there’s no getting away from the fact that you need to balance football with proper financial stability to survive for the future.
Just as an example, last year, Barcelona’s debt stood at €350m and they made a profit of €8.8m, despite winning 6 trophies. Arsenal on the other hand made half year profits this financial year of over £35m, and managed to reduce the mortgage on Emirates stadium by a staggering £100m.
Arsenal’s strategy is clearly to drive down the mortgage repayments over the next 2 or 3 years, while still remaining very competitive. This despite all manner of doubters including a handful of Arsenal fans who’d rather see Arsenal spend that money on so called ’big name’ players.
The fact of the matter is that Arsenal at the moment are at the cusp of something great, and will in 2 or 3 years, be debt free of the stadium mortgage. Not only will we have a squad capable of challenging domestically and in Europe, the club will also have an obscene amount of ’organic’ money to use to develop the squad and move the club into total domination of the game in years to come.
Not even Barcelona will be able to match that, and it’s hard to see any club in the world that will be generating tens of millions of pounds every year.
While we wait for the rest of the football world to catch up with Arsenal’s vision and financial stability and superiority off the pitch, we can marvel at Arsenal’s technical superiority on the pitch against a team that is also technically superior.
Like I said, regardless of the results against Barcelona, if you can’t enjoy the game, then you need to stop following football.
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We at Stone Cold Arsenal had opined earlier that Arsenal’s fortunes over this home stretch would quite simply be determined more by our ability to outscore opponents rather than by our ability to contain them.
We failed to do so at Birmingham City and the chase for the title therefore has just become the more arduous. It was an insipid game. With most of our strike force and creative heart still not in prime form, and a makeshift defence rendered necessary by circumstances, such an outcome was always on the cards.
While Birmingham, to put things in perspective, have taken points off virtually all the top teams at St. Andrews this season, three points were certainly not an impossibility and debates about the late introduction of Arshavin and Nasri will rage for some time to come.
Waste of time I say. We’re better off looking ahead and trying to win every game that lies ahead. So too criticisms of Almunia and the sloppy defending that cost us two points. Futile to fret about these things so late in the season.
We’ll do well to reconcile ourselves to the fact that this season is going to be a test of this team’s character, eventual outcomes be what they may. They’ve acquitted themselves honourably so far; their response to Birmingham will be a fresh marker.
Next on the agenda is Barcelona. I’m quite happy we drew them as opposed to one of the lesser teams as the pressure of expectations are non-existent. We have nothing to lose, and I can’t think of a more liberating feeling than that.
Can we, and will we go out there and give the games our all is the question. To me the outcome is far from decided, formidable as the task is. How we acquit ourselves here is going to speak volumes about our potential and character.
Reputations and teams can be made or undone in games like these, and I regard this tie against Barcelona as a great opportunity for this side to make a decisive breakthrough in their development. Win it, or make it a darned close affair, and they’ll go a long way towards fulfilling their rich potential.
Fabregas is not certain to start, and strong influence as he is, I’m not particularly worried. Between Nasri and Arshavin we should be able to hold our own in the creative department. Should it be Vermaelen-Sol at the back, or Vermaelen-Song?
I confess to favouring the latter option. Campbell’s talent and experience I’m afraid don’t compensate for his physical limitations in games such as these, and between Diaby and Denilson, Song shouldn’t be much missed in midfield. Needs must is my view.
I’d like to indulge a memory prompted by this draw: The quarter finals of the Champions’ League in 2004.
Deportivo La Coruna were drawn to play defending Champions AC Milan, and lost the first leg 1-4 at the San Siro. Against the formidable odds, they then thrashed them 4-0, in a display of relentlessly attacking football at the Riazor , eliminating Milan in the process.
Not that I want Arsenal to take such a tortuous route, but I certainly expect them to emulate Deportivo’s spirit and endeavour.
Here are the highlights of those two games:
An instance, I hope you dear readers will agree, of what makes football the “Beautiful Game”.
As an aside, I’d like to know if readers would like a column featuring two Spanish clubs, espousing starkly different philosophies, that for awhile around the start of the millennium punched well above their weight both in Spain and in Europe.
The afore mentioned Deportivo coached by Javier “Jabo” Irureta, and Hector Cuper’s Valencia who reached two successive Champions’ League finals. At the time, I found them a fascinating study in contrasts, and I’d like to know if you, our readers, will be interested in knowing more about them.
To conclude, I’d like to draw your attention to two articles highlighting the appalling indebtedness at the heart of club football in England and in Spain:
Seventy per cent of Barclays Premier League clubs have had their credit ratings “suspended”, an investigation by The Times can reveal.
Reports seen by this newspaper and generated by Riskdisk, a credit checking agency, reveal that 14 of the top-flight sides have been blacklisted, essentially meaning that companies trading with them are advised to withdraw credit terms.
According to José María Gay, Spain’s leading expert on football finance and an adviser to Uefa: “La Liga is dying”.
In all, Gay calculates Spanish football’s debt to be €3.5bn. The Spanish federation still owe the players’ union €6.8m and, according to the former president of the union, Gerardo Movilla, an estimated €100m is still owed to footballers in unpaid wages.
The state loses out, too: Atlético owe the tax man €15m; 50% of their transfer income is embargoed.
Look back over the clubs who have competed in the Champions League recently and the situation is alarming: Valencia’s debt is more than €600m.
Like Real Madrid (who sold their training ground for €447m to the council in 2001, wiping out their €278m debt), a property deal was supposed to be their salvation. However, the market crashed at just the wrong time. Now Valencia have two stadiums – one they cannot sell and another they cannot afford to finish building.
According to the third largest shareholder at Atlético Madrid, their debt is above €300m. Villarreal have just failed to pay their players for the first time because the ceramics industry from which their owner, Fernando Roig, makes his money has been hit hard by the crisis. Deportivo La Coruña are more than €120m in debt. Mallorca are desperately seeking a buyer and preparing for administration.
Celta Vigo and Real Sociedad have been relegated and, with no parachute payment to break the fall, went into administration. Real Sociedad’s president at the time was a certain Astiazarán, now the league’s president.
I urge you, our readers, to take the time to read through both those articles in full as these are issues that should concern all serious football fans.
I must say that I, as an Arsenal fan, ‘am delighted to only have to deal with on-field worries and frustrations.
Well then, here’s to acquitting ourselves as champions, the outcome be what it may, against Barcelona.
Speaking of the state of football finance, ownership and the sheer madness of the precarious positions football clubs find themselves in, don’t forget to join in our intriguing debate of why Arsenal is an oasis of fiscal sanity in an orgy of excess.
Also, if there’s any specific topic or aspect of football that you’d like to read in-depth, just contact us and we’ll educate ourselves on it before presenting our two pennies worth in another popular mini series, like the ones you’ll find in our ’Article Series’.
When Martin Atkinson started his 50 yard sprint towards the Arsenal penalty area just before half time in the game against West Ham, you could just smell disaster. His hand was in his pocket faster than he could blow the whistle and long before he even got to the incident.
It was like he had an itch and it needed to be scratched. To hell with what actually happened, a West Ham player going down in the box is good enough.
I suppose one way of looking at it is that we can thank Atkinson for the opportunity of creating another unforgiving test by reducing Arsenal to 10 men. Of course the boys passed with flying colours, so for what it’s worth, it was a good thing to face and overcome that adversity.
The flip side is that we get to miss the services of Vermaelen at St. Andrews this weekend. Someone in the legal team at Highbury House clearly feels it’s worth an appeal seeing as the referee was trigger happy.
You’d think that if Gazidis and his team can squeeze the UEFA chuffers and arm twist the European body to back down on Dudugate after the Crozilian’s 3 match ban, then the crisis laden FA is a walk in the park.
I’m one of those who think that perhaps Wenger should work on the basis that Vermaelen will be listening to Saturday’s game on Talk Sport radio from his gated mansion in Hertfordshire. Optimism about the appeal is good, but pragmatism is more useful.
This of course leaves the bemoaning Arsenal community with a sense of injustice as match officials seem to take matters in their own hands.
All season, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who was comfortable with the fact that Silvestre and Senderos were Arsenal’s centre half understudies. I can’t remember the number of times I heard the quote ”we’re only an injury or suspension away from a defensive crisis”.
Well, we now have both an injury and a suspension to our first choice defensive pairing. The only argument I have is that I don’t think it constitutes a crisis.
For one, Wenger executed a masterstroke by bringing in Sol Campbell to plug in a hole until the end of the season. It was unrealistic to expect Arsenal to get any competent centre half willing to warm our bench in a world cup year, just in case something happens.
So do we have a crisis as is made out elsewhere on this wonderful blogosphere of ours?
I guess it depends on your disposition in life. For some people, the easier option is to take the view that anything that doesn’t work according to the script is a crisis.
Sometimes in life, we need to stop our propensity to look for negatives in any situation. The way to look at it is that we’ve been dealt a lousy hand and rather than moan, we need to use it to play a damn good game of cards and get us out from between a rock and a hard place.
I believe Wenger has several options in Arsenal’s defence, that stops this from getting anywhere near a crisis. Appealing Vermaelen’s red card is not a bad start.
My sense is that the options revolve around whether Sol Campbell and Thomas Vermaelen will be a more solid defensive pairing against Barcelona in 8 days time, or whether we will have to do with Alex Song and Vermaelen.
Campbell can’t physically play more than one game a week, but then again, who would have thought it was possible that he’d be still playing for Arsenal at 35.
Last Saturday, Wenger decided to use Song in defence, and I thought it was pleasing that Song took to the role like water off a duck’s back. It was like he’d been playing in Arsenal’s defence even before they built the Piccadilly railway line in 1902.
Song‘s performance against West Ham in defence makes it easier for Wenger to leave out Silvestre at Birmingham, if he chooses to play Sol Campbell. It’ll require another ’energizer’ bunny performance from Denilson, and a midfield of the Brazilian, Fabregas and Diaby are very capable of holding the fort at St. Andrews.
My sense is that since the stakes are very high, Song will be relieved off his midfield duties this weekend and asked to join Silvestre in defence on Saturday against Birmingham.
I suppose one way to think about this is to ask yourself whether you’d be more comfortable with Messi running at Silvestre with the ball or whether Campbell is a better bet. It’s the lesser of two evils and someone, glad it’s not me, has to make a decision about what risk we can live with.
The alternative is to play Song and Vermaelen in defence against Barca, but I think Song will be more useful indulging in the dark arts of the defensive midfielder in the game against Barca.
I get the sense that Barcelona are cursing the Champions league quarter final draw against Arsenal. Contrary to popular belief, Arsenal’s game has a lot of respect across Europe, and the game a week on Wednesday will be one of those where the team that wins is the team that has the balls to score more goals.
Before we get excited about the football spectacle though, there’s a small matter of navigating past the unsavoury characters at St. Andrews on Saturday.
We know what happened last time, and Arsenal’s team talk is already done.
Last night was somewhat surreal as the football on offer left my emotions and thoughts split three ways.
Firstly, there was the reality check being dished out in its coldest and most ruthless form at the Santiago Bernabeu. Secondly there was the shift into the overdrive of media sycophancy about Manchester United’s supposed ’World domination’ and the collective kissing of Alex Ferguson’s and Wayne Rooney’s rectal passages.
The media establishment were so far up the said asses, it was hard to see how the fumes and operating conditions would have allowed them to offer some objectivity.
It was only yesterday that all and sundry tried to portray Arsenal’s annihilation of Porto as not worthy of the Gunners, citing a supposedly tame dragon that was Porto. This third aspect really pissed me off.
Well, I thought I was pissed off until my wife, an ardent Chelsea supporter, came downstairs remonstrating about how she had been let down by AC Milan. I tried to convince her that Milan weren’t the team they used to be and that their contingent of senior citizens has passed their sell by date.
She was having none of that as clearly, her issue was that in the next week or so, she’d have to cope with the media barrage of ”Rooney this, Man United that, Ferguson this, Man United that”. The thought of Rooney, Ferguson and Man United being shoved down her throat by the media felt like it was going to make her physically sick.
I’ve got to tell you, that when even Chelsea fans complain about the media sycophancy towards Sir Red Nose and his charges, then something is clearly amiss.
Perhaps it’s just naive to expect that the establishment’s darling won’t get its customary treatment – and what, with just around 12 weeks to go to the World Cup – it’s even more naive to think that Wayne Rooney isn’t about to get the media endorsement to become a Knight of the Realm.
Of course, he’ll have to score the winning goal at the World Cup before Aunt Liz and Uncle Phil take the Royal train from Buckingham Palace to Carrington to personally endow the next Knight in waiting with the right to use Sir Wayne on his personal stationery.
I don’t know which is more scary – having to live with Sir Wayne for the next I don’t know how many years, or having to live with the vanity of Lady Coleen.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I was obviously tuned into Sky Sports 1 last night watching the events at the Santiago Bernabeu. Florentino Perez, the Real Madrid president has to be one of the biggest platinum idiots this side of the Mediterranean. I would have had sympathy for him under different circumstances, but Perez has form for breath-taking recklessness in spending an obscene amount of money to try and buy titles.
There can’t be any more spectacular ways to burn 260 million Euros – and what, for the sake of winning the Champions League in your own backyard? He tried it before and it didn’t work, and he should have heeded the famous Chinese saying that suggests that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The truth is that Real Madrid has just become the perfect case study of the fact that there is no place for reckless and brazen cheque book management of football in this day and age.
Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have been constantly derided and ridiculed for supposedly being tight fisted and anal about not spending money they haven’t got. While this is going on, the recklessness of other comparable clubs like Man United and Liverpool have been hailed as the way forward – only to turn out to be basket cases of debt riddled clubs that are running on the fumes of history and reputation.
Chelsea and Manchester City on the other hand are play toys for sugar daddies who let’s face it, have to be candidates for the lifetime stupidity award for business acumen.
I hear the argument that these folks are billionaires so they must have done something right in business. Actually, they haven’t done anything that spectacular like build a software empire from scratch or something dramatic like that.
Abramovich benefitted from the Russian economic revolution in the 90s by being in the right place at the right time to pounce – and the Abu Dhabi Investment Corporation are pretty much sitting on top of an oil mine that allows them to print the money themselves.
Despite this, the reality that you can’t buy titles, history and tradition by throwing money at middle table mediocrity still doesn’t seem to sink in. Abramovich has already lost £700 million (and counting) – and all he has to show for it is 2 league titles and a few FA cups. If that’s a good return for £700 million,, then clearly we all need to fold our tents and move on.
The new trend seems to be that of shifting the obscene amount of debt from the liability column on the balance sheet to the equity column. Manchester City have followed this pathetic route – but it doesn’t mask the fact that it’s bad business. They’ll of course say they have the money – but if ever there was a definition of doping, then this has to be it.
Heads are rolling this week in the Spanish Capital, and heads will continue to role. One disadvantage for Arsenal of course is that Wenger will now become a target sought after like a nonsense as Madrid try to save face and justify burning the money they’ve burnt in the last year.
Football today couldn’t do any worse than take a leaf from the philosophy and approach of Arsenal’s Professor who holds a Masters degree in Economics. He masquerades day to day as the Arsenal manager, but in Wenger, football has a sage who balances the virtues of football with the discipline of business.
Wenger is the reason why Arsenal leads, and others follow. If the footballing world didn’t learn anything from Real Madrid’s exit out of the Champions league yesterday, then I suspect a bigger tragedy in football must and should happen for our game to be in a better place.
There are few nights that would rival the sense of satisfaction and enjoyment that Arsenal supporters around the world experienced last night. Yet it wasn’t for the fact that the Gunners secured a quarter final spot in the Champions League.
In a lot of ways, the display of total football last night, and the panache and arrogance it was delivered with clouds the significance of moving to the next stage of the competition.
It’s because of matches like last night’s that we all stand up and applaud the work of art that is Wengerball. It’s because of last night that we are reminded why we so love this game of football and why we swear by it.
It’s because of last night that we recognize how privileged we are to be able to witness before our very own eyes, the development of a group of players who together, are destined to become the best generation of Arsenal players that this club has ever seen.
Yet all around the Oscar winning performance that was the Samir Nasri show, the wretched voices of hackery and punditry defecated the air waves with pathetic attempts to belittle what was a master class in football.
They spewed their verbal diarrhoea and negativity in the commentary as they shamelessly looked for excuses to find fault with Arsenal’s game. They suffocated the pre and post match commentary with tired clichés and diatribe about Arsenal’s perceived weaknesses.
They jostled and positioned themselves – buttocks firmly planted on the fence hoping to pounce if Arsenal failed, and pretending to laud the Gunners when we went through.
The disappointment in their faces and voices were louder than a thousand words. Through gritted teeth, they tried to garner the courage to set aside their prejudice and contempt of Arsenal and do the right thing of clapping their hands and stamping their feet in recognition of what was without a doubt, one of the best football matches we have ever witnessed.
Yes I’m talking to you Mr. Graham Souness, Mr. Ruud Gullit, most definitely Mr. Tony Adams (legend you are, but you need to get your snout out of the pigs trough and get some fresh air away from the bile that is tabloid punditry; being an Arsenal legend doesn’t give you the licence to unleash your negative diatribe to get a pay cheque from these cretins).
Yes I’m talking to you Mr. Stan Collymore, Mr. Alan Brazil – and you know what – every miserable piece of anti-Arsenal &^&! Who works for Talk Shite radio. Yes I’m talking to you Mr. Alan Green and Mr. Mike Ingam and Mr. Graham Taylor as you try to lace your supposed love for Arsenal football with constant perceived negativity as if as insurance just in case Arsenal fall apart.
Last night was a night to stand up and bow to the privilege of being witnesses to a work of art. It wasn’t a night to pull out the ’Arsenal don’t have it in ‘em, especially without Cesc Fabregas’ nonsense of a script.
And all this without 3 of the best Arsenal players in William Gallas, Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie. Clearly someone didn’t give Samir Nasri the memo that dictated that Arsenal would struggle without our talismanic Captain Fabulous. If you believed everything you read in the papers, you’d think Arsenal were doomed to struggle following Fabregas’s injury over the weekend.
Take nothing away from a collective team performance that oozed class and professionalism. Take nothing away from the individual brilliance and magic from Samir Nasri that suggested Arsene Wenger might have just invested in Bobby Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and Alex Hleb all rolled in one.
The last time I saw a goal like that was when a certain Diego Armando Maradona waltz through the entire England team and scored what in my view is the best individual goal I have ever witnessed – well, maybe until Nasri’s goal last night. Are you watching Maradona? Or was it ’Are you watching Stan Collymore?’
What about our very own B52 bomber. It was only yesterday that I said I was quite content and happy to live with Bendtner’s transgressions for the simple reason that he shamelessly put himself about and got into scoring positions despite his nightmare at the weekend.
For that effort and courage alone, you have to admire the kid. Last night’s hat-trick couldn’t have happened to a nicer bloke. If it’s any compliment, the Sun newspaper rarely issues a full hearted apology to anybody, let alone a 21 year old kid from Denmark.
What a way to stick two fingers up to all the critics of the weekend past and ram their criticism down their throats. This is not the first time Bendtner has produced match winning performances for Arsenal, and you really have to be a hater to think Bendy won’t be up there with the best.
And I haven’t even mentioned Arsenal’s ’Goal machine’ – Stand up and be counted Mr. Emmanuel Eboue. I would argue that Eboue is one of the most valuable players in the Premier league. Not in monetary terms per se – for player prices are just stupidly inflated.
Emmanuel Eboue is the most dependable versatile player there is in town. He can play left back, right back, left midfield, right midfield, central midfield and even as a relief striker if he needed to. Hell – if you gave Eboue the gloves, he’d stand between the sticks and do a job.
He’s not flashy and is not a ’champagne’ player – but he is dependable when doing the job asked of him and a manager can never ask for more than that from a player.
It’s a trip to Hull on Saturday evening, but for now, we must and we should get drunk in the enjoyment of the pure entertainment and total football that has reminded us all why we love and support the best football club in the world.
On a week that much has been made about Nicklas Bendtner’s inability to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo, the usual suspects are trying their level best to create a crisis. The suggestion is of course that Arsenal’s profligacy over the weekend will surface again.
This coupled with the over-sensational focus of the absence of Captain Fabulous and his predecessor William Gallas through injury surely makes for a ’crisis’ headline.
My sense is that a lot of talk before tonight’s game fails to give respect to the remaining members of the squad – who on any given day, are formidable opponents for anyone who would dare cross the white line.
In truth, it was two moments of madness that cost Arsenal the first tie at the Estadio do Dragão 3 weeks ago. I would suggest that such a freak occurrence is a once in a blue moon freak show and it’s not likely to happen again.
Arsenal need to give one of them ”over my dead body” performances and put this game even beyond the reach of any referee or match official, let alone the Porto team.
Porto don’t travel well, especially to the British Isles where they’ve suffered 12 out of 14 defeats, with the remaining 2 being draws. A brace each from Van Persie and Adebayor ensured that their last visit to the Emirates was very uncomfortable.
Hopefully, our boys will remind them that this level of discomfort is a common occurrence for any footballing side that cares to venture into North London. The task is straight forward – keep a clean sheet and score, and Plan B if our defences are breached is to score more than Porto – at least 2 goals more.
Tactically, Porto will try the much bandied about blueprint for beating Arsenal. They will hope that we slip up in possession high up the pitch and they can then use their pace to counter attack.
Any chance of them getting a goal at the Emirates will increase the ’squeaky-bum-o-meter’, and they would hope to use this to destabilize the Gunners.
With Song and Campbell back in the team, the options Wenger has are kinder than they would have otherwise been. My first instinct was to hope that if Campbell wasn’t available, then Wenger should move Song back into central defence and play Denilson in the defensive midfield role.
My take is that Wenger might go with a starting line-up of:
Sagna, Campbell, Vermaelen, Clichy
Song, Diaby, Nasri
Rosicky, Bendtner, Arshavin
At some point in the game, you would expect to see Eduardo, Walcott, Eboue or Denilson
Despite the loss in the first leg, the Arsenal team showed enough industry and creativity to suggest that they were the better team then and are likely to be the better team tonight.
Interestingly, the much maligned Denilson was statistically the best player in that first game at the Estadio do Dragão. If you take into account factors like pass completion, tackles and interceptions, fouls committed (or not) etc – the young Brazilian had a game of his life, this despite scaring the living daylights out of Sol Campbell in the first few minutes.
With Alex Song now back as the midfield general, and Abou Diaby also available for selection, it is hard to know who Wenger will go for, though Nasri’s man of the match performance on Saturday gives Wenger a very big headache.
I’m quietly confident that Arsenal will see the tie through but if ever there was a case of a need to show zero complacency, then this is one of them. As much as Porto don’t travel well, they’re not mugs and they won’t just turn up to make up the numbers.
Nicklas Bendtner for sure has some redemption to seek at the Emirates for his transgressions over the weekend – but in the same vein, the young Dane has squeezed Arsenal out of some very tight spots and has shown his value.
His goals against CSKA Moscow and Standard Liege in the last two years in the Champions league suggests that Bendtner is a key part of tonight’s equation.
However, Sol Campbell, Andrey Arshavin and Tomas Rosicky will have to stand up and be counted as the senior and most experienced members of this squad. They’re also the three likely to be on the field who are capable of grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck if need be.