Saturday, 26 November 2011

The 'C' Word

Complacency? Maybe. Tiredness? Possible. I don't know why the confidence of an amazing Champions League group win can't be carried over to the following league game. This is our bread and butter. This is where it matters. This is how a team is judged and today we threw 2 points away.

I care little for the Champions League. It's a horrible money making exercise that wants to take over but I enjoy us doing well in it especially when the other English teams are puffing. And there is the rub. We compare ourselves to the other teams in our league. We laughed at Man City losing in midweek yet we are miles behind them in the proper league. The domestic league is the measure and today we fell short. With plenty of disrespect to Fulham, if we are to be successful, snatching a 1-1 draw with them isn't good enough.

The disaster of the summer and subsequent mess that followed means we no longer have the luxury of 1-1 draws with teams on 11 points just outside the relegation zone at home. Every point is sacred if we are to make the promised land of the top 4. The worry is the clump of teams flirting around those places. A simple slip can be costly. I expected us to continue our great run today. I was positive. I think Wednesday's result had won me back. I felt we had found our feet and had turned that corner. Today was too reminiscent of last season when we were routinely beaten by complacency (the worst of all the 'C' the words) and the start of this season where we just looked a bit shit.

It was very slightly against the run of play when Fulham scored. Our most consistent signing Utter Shambles blundered in to the defence forcing TV to clear the ball into a handy net waiting to stop the ball rolling too far away. The crowd groaned. We had hoped this kind of thing had moved on. Down with this kind of thing. Yet it was this that woke the team. The half time Red Bull and Wagon Wheel hadn't worked. A piss poor bit of defending had.

We attacked! The crowd finally responded disturbing many who'd dropped off. Still a goal looked unlikely, less so with the introduction of Chamakh. Finally TV thought he'd better make amends and shot forward to equalise. We cheered with relief. Yes! Relief at drawing level with 8 minutes left with a team on 11 points just outside the relegation zone. . . . . . . . . AT HOME!

As we left people sighed and shrugged their shoulders. We all thought we'd turned the corner. Maybe we have. We all thought this kind of performance and result was in the past. Maybe it is and this was a blip. Maybe we needed to freshen up the team after Wednesday but the options to do that are limited. Maybe the subs needed to come on sooner. Maybe if we want to be back where we belong we need to be beating a team on 11 points......... at home. Today just wasn't good enough.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Group F You

Only English team to win this week. Only English team to qualify so far. Group winners. I thank you. For a team whose manager has lost it and all the players are shit it's all going quite nicely.

Last night's 2-1 win over Dortmund was huge. Not the best game but it proved to many of us that this team has found some backbone. They can win when not playing brilliantly. They can win when they need to. The stress of needing a result in the final game (like the other 3 English teams) has gone. This was a very tough group. The weakest team were the German champions! To win it with a game to spare is magnificent and just what the doctor ordered.

Dortmund started brightly without really flustering us. We did very little to worry them. The only real action to note was Theo shooting many seconds after the whistle for offside and not getting booked. RVP must've wondered why. (still annoyed about that!) The tactic of removing their better players by breaking their jaws or letting them injure themselves is a new and improved version of our players being carried off and it helped no end.

A hot sugary tea and a Kit Kat finger was needed at half time and we were more lively. Song, wearing medium shorts when he is clearly an extra large, went all wingery on us, beat a lot of defenders and planted the perfect cross on RVP's head for 1-0. Song really did roll his sleeves up (and oddly one short leg) and put in a superb shift. He was my man of the match and I've been wearing too tight boxer shorts all day in tribute. He seemed to be everywhere. Defending, attacking, setting up goals and getting my man of the match award.

The second was a corner by Marwood flicked on by Bould...... 2-0 and we were there. The other game was going our way and as soon as it became clear we could win the group we collapsed at the back and let in the customary goal. We have less clean sheets than John Terry and a mate's wife* but that's not a concern today.

Things may not be perfect but we are getting there. We are level with Liverpool and Chelsea. We've closed in on World Cup Winners Tottenham and before you know it we will be above them. It's the natural order of things. It will happen. It's just a shame the summer was an utter cock up. Imagine where we'd be now if we'd hit the ground running instead of tripping and falling into a load of shite. It took too long to wash that shite out of our lovely new tops but slowly the smell is going.

A good night to be an Arsenal fan. Up The Gunners

*Similar image used before in the days of Almunia. Sorry

Monday, 21 November 2011

Cutting The Mustard

Saturday morning used to be such a simple affair. Up late, stroll to town, bacon roll, record shopping (vinyl of course.) Meet dad, claim I hadn't eaten and accept his kind offer of a bacon sandwich. Lunch. Off to the game. No more. Children now need to be in a variety of places at various times. No more record shopping. No more record shops. Sky now dictate our lives rather than the latest Cold Chillin' or Def Jam 12". 3pm on a Saturday is a rare treat. A proper slice of wax more so.

12.45 isn't a real kick off time. It's a financial fiction dreamed up to complicate matters. I'll be at the Arsenal soccer(!) school waiting for my son to finish the latest coaching session. Sky+ it? Watch it delayed? Catch up at half time? It never works. Hold on I've watched football on a ferry on my phone. A park in north London should be able to deliver such a service. First bit on sky go. Next bit on radio 5 on drive home. Final bit on big telly. A plan.

My son gets to the car at 0-0, grabs the phone & rightly points out I can't watch it while I'm driving but he can. I'd already seen the 2mm high Gunners miss chance after chance including an extraordinary,off the line, lucky clearance from an unlucky Theo shot. There will be a goal soon I assured the hot & thirsty son.

"STOP THE CAR DAD. OH YOU NEED TO SEE THIS!" I pulled into a resident's bay. The 3mm Mertesacker looked in control in the replay. What could possibly go wrong? OH NO!! Our brick shit house looked less brick and too much shit as he was brushed aside for a worm's eye view of Norwich's opener as it sped past our glamour model professional in goal. It was poor. Very poor from a man of such experience. Had Squillaci done that the groan would've woken the Norfolk Broads. We drove on in silence.

And yet there didn't seem to be the customary panic within the team. We were playing well, cocked up, gone a goal down. All too familiar but we carried on from where we were rudely disturbed. A couple of chances later and we were level. It didn't even seem too much of a shock. In fact 1-1 at half time made Norwich look good.

The second half continued the fine work. At no point did we feel in trouble. The goals will come. Gervinho went clear, rounded the keeper & yet still allowed Ruddy to save it! Frustrating. Minutes later Song looked up and had a choice between our number 27 or our captain. Song chose correctly as a lovely pass was iced by RVP with a delicious chip.

It was a good performance. It made me confident that they have started to sort themselves out. The error by Per was awful. These things happen but the way we responded was heartening. In the past that mistake would wind us. We would sulk. Struggle. Yesterday they pulled themselves together and got the job done as did the technology. We were out & about yet didn't miss a minute. 2.23am kick off on a Thursday? Bring it on.

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Sunday, 6 November 2011

No Fireworks, Just Sparklers.

Well that's more like it. A routine win against poor opposition with no heart in the mouth moments. It may not have had us on the edge of our seats but it was a great victory because this is just the kind of game we have messed up so easily in the past.

We started brightly especially down our right. Somebody has shouted at Theo as he has really livened up. Maybe he's seen The OC in training and had a panic. His crossing is still 'unlucky' but he looks fired up. This new determined T led to our opener as he softened up the keeper for that goal hanger of ours to tap in. That's 402 goals in 12 games now for RVP. The big show off!

I tweeted that it was so nice to see the old Arsenal back in our ground. Crisp quick passing, solid defending and no stupidly daft errors. Gooners agreed but I was put in my place by one non believer who calmly pointed out we were playing West Brom not Real Madrid. A fair point but West Brom are exactly the type of dreadful team our complacency would hand a victory to. Indeed it did not so long ago. This may not be as sweet as putting a racist in his place but in many ways more important. We've never had a problem with getting up for playing our equals. It's the tired looking, mid table lot we fans fear. We've seen so many horrors at the hands of the hopeless and yesterday felt like a milestone.

We went in 2 up at half time as TV announced his return with a finish unbecoming of a central defender. It was a crowd pleaser from a favourite. He slotted in nicely next to Kos to form many people's dream team pairing. Maybe harsh on Mertesacker as you don't get that many caps for Germany and be no good. He has brought a lot to the team. He maybe slower than an FA investigation but he's played every game since he signed and needed a rest. He's a quality defender and somehow we now have 3 to choose from. A nice defensive problem for a change. Verm & Kos had nothing to do as WBA refused to try but they did nothing efficiently. Last season we would've conceded during this nothingness.

West Brom came out and attacked a bit in the second half but didn't enjoy it so stopped quite quickly. Arteta then made it 3 without messing up a hair on his head after a sweeping move and a beautifully placed shot. 3-0 and nothing can go wrong now? Well, for a change, it didn't but the scars of the past run deep. 4 minutes left and West Brom had their first shot on target. I was pleased for their fans. It was an easy catch for Szeeeezer. We ironically cheered. 3 minutes left. 30,000 Gooners left. West Brom can't get 3 in 3 minutes can they? Of course not but those irrational thoughts can only enter an Arsenal fan's head. Maybe that's why so many leave early. Avoid the late collapse. It didn't happen. West Brom had a weak header on target. That's two now. Book the open top bus Roy. The ref ended it and we stood, clapped, cheered & awkwardly swayed to 'Moving On Up' relieved we had beaten, with ease, one of those teams we should beat with ease.

Was that The Arsenal? The proper Arsenal? Yes! I believe it was. Welcome back lads, welcome back.

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Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Knob in Cement.

Well I suppose all games can't be sharing 8 goals (where you get 5) with a detestable rival as their vile captain falls on his face. So much excitement followed by a more wet than damp squib. It was a game we should've won but never really got going. This will be hard and brief (as all good evenings should be) as nothing really happened. As we walked home my son & I tried to think of incidents. We struggled. Szczesny's buggering about in the box was all we could remember.

If I never see Marseille again it will be too soon. 3 hours of my life has passed watching us huff and puff against them and it's not been fun. If the first game was like watching cement dry this was like drawing a cock & balls in the cement as it dries. Briefly amusing but ultimately forgettable.

Yet we have 4 points from these two festivals of bore. The results are good. 4 points from Marseille is excellent. We top the group. I'm not moaning just saying both games, Ramsey's goal aside, were highlightless. My worry is that from a position of qualifying last night the group has tightened up. We have messed this up in the past, finished second and been beaten by bigger boys in the last 16. Last night was a great chance to kick on and we just sat there.

There were Arsene's famous positives. Vermaelen was back. Thank goodness. He and Kos will give that back four some command and pace. There is debate as to whether Mertesacker should be first choice due to his height. I'd have him on the bench due to his pace. I thought Park looked OK. He certainly looked busier than Chamakh has been of late. He ran out of steam but has 'potential!' Less positive was Santos who is yet another left back playing in a very very free role. Defending is so 2004.

It's often said you are only as good as your last game so I'm ignoring last night. Excuse me while I rewind Terry's trip again.

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