Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Promised Land

Due to an illustrious schoolboy athletics career which led to a couple of medals, some silver pots and a damaged spine I'm stuck in the Charlie George position while the family are clapping Tony's return and the boys against QPR. I made the mistake of performing that difficult move of 'getting out of a car' and my back said "NO" quite loudly.

So I'm relying on Twitter, Arsenal player and Soccer Saturday to furnish me with information. It's a very odd feeling being so close to the ground while joining the thousands across the globe online. I feel a bit lost. I've no idea how we are doing. I've no idea who's playing well and who isn't. Jay Bothroyd has just nearly scored. We sound a bit lethargic. Shaun Wright Phillips sounds like he should've scored. Come on Arsenal. 12 minutes gone and this is aural torture.

I got to half time relieved I was stuck in bed. I left the Wolves game furious and frustrated so another draw with a team in the bottom third at home would relight those emotions. Too familiar too. The second half has brought me news of TV limping off and Walcott failing with a 1-on-1 with the keeper. Arsenal player sound frustrated. Twitter is a land of gloom. We really need to wake up or get used to UEFA cup football next season. QPR are now improving and I can hear the crowd groans.

But wait! RVP TO THE RESCUE! That's improved the back ache and sweetened the tea. Yet we are still worried. 1-0 to The Arsenal is never enough nowadays. Arsenal player commentator is getting over excited about being back in the top 4. Premature qualification and counting unborn chicks. Shut up mate.

6 minutes to go and I'm sitting with thousands of Gooners on the knife edge again. Spuds are 1-1. Chavs are 3-1 down. Man u lost. We need to take advantage. Gervinho misses a chance. QPR attack. This is hard work.

The iPhone peeps. Full time and we've won with a Tony Adams tribute 1-0. The Arsenal player is still going. Finally they catch up. We've won 1-0 on there too and worldwide Gooners are happy. Twitter informs me Arsenal have won their first game of 2012 (in Australia!) A good start to the new year despite us having to wait for the Fulham struggle in the UK.

I look back on 2011 as a poor year for The Arsenal & I say that as most of our memories are bad ones. We've lost Cesc and (whatever you think of him) Nasri. Cesc was a massive loss. Nasri going not so much but it sent out a message that we can't hold off Man c. The Milk Cup final was the pinnacle of shitness. The performance, the cock-ups, the in fighting among Gooners over the management and certain players. Football is a passionate game but I witnessed Arsenal fans fighting over Arsene's suitability and a punch up after someone abused Bentner. All during a cup final when we needed to be together. It was a horrible result, day and experience. This carried on right up to losing to Villa on the last home game. The atmosphere that day was poison. The misery of the summer and the rushing and panic on transfer deadline day wasn't very Arsenal and led to the worst start for decades. All was not well. Yet, tonight we finally sit in the promised land. Results went our way today and you have to doff your caps to how we have hauled ourselves back to the top 4. After the start we had it looked gloomy but the goals of our clever clogs captain and the back 4 losing their comedic timing means we seem to be turning a very large corner. There is still a lot of work to do and that means spending in January. Let's be honest, we have one striker worthy of the name. The others are either average or useless. And Henry is not the answer. I'm as excited as the next man and woman but if he's our only 'new' striker we are in trouble. We are scraping past QPR while dropping points at home to the likes of Fulham & Wolves. Arsene needs to pull something out of his magic hat. He's done it before. He'll do it again. He has to.

So trophyless 2011 please sod off. We'll keep the 2-1 vs Barcelona and the 5-3 vs the Chavs but to be honest you can take the rest with you. My new year wish would be to see signs of that beautiful team we once knew. The team that everyone wanted to watch. Add to that some help up front, cut out the bloody injuries and sprinkle some ruthlessness about the side and it could be a very happy new year indeed.

Happy new year Gooners wherever you may be. Up the Gunners.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


As we left the living room looking like a tornado had ripped through Hamleys and strolled towards New Highbury a day late due to the tube workers extra day off we were full of great expectation. Results around us had been festive and we could make 4th our own. The recovery from a disastrous start would be nearing completion. Get top 4 and push on. The bare minimum for a club like The Arsenal.

Things started well. We were busy. Full of possession which soon led to a swift move and Gervinho one on one with the Wolves keeper. He spun, looked like he may have fluffed it before facing the right way and finding the net. He needed that goal. His bottle seemed to have left him of late but he took that well and proved a lot to himself. The first half continued with lots of the ball at our boots without any real chances. We were missing the pace of Theo who'd overdone it on the Quality Street. Wolves were being opened up out wide. Theo would've ripped them. The Ox was on the bench. Only a matter of time? As the half went on we started to pass the ball backwards more and more. "Szczesny's unmarked" came one call. "Get it fucking forward" was another!

Then it happened. An unnecessary corner was softly dealt with. The shot wasn't closed down and an opportunist header was just out of Szczesny's reach. Unlucky? Maybe. Shambolic? Probably.

The second half was all one way. In that respect we did nothing wrong. We dominated. We had chances. Hennessy joined the enormous list of keepers who have their best game ever. They went down to 10. We did the same by bringing on Chamakh. The Ox was saved for another day. I maybe putting my faith in a untested child but I just felt he could worry Wolves. Chamakh wouldn't worry sheep. Yet we may not be having this conversation if a professional footballer could kick a ball straight. Following a kurfuffle on the right the ball fell to Rosicky. He was in the D on the edge of the box. The goal gaped. Hennessy was out of position. Rosicky made contact and cleverly bent the ball a good few yards wide of the left hand post. Maybe he thought the ref, Attwell, who has awarded goals for balls going yards wide before, would allow it. Sadly not. Little Mozart finished that like a great big Jedward.

And the ref! I've refereed games before and I appreciate how hard it can be (and 9 year olds cry if you send them off) but surely a man who has been fast tracked has to have some control of the game. He made odd decisions left, right and centre. Give him his due he is consistently shite week in week out. Check out his wiki page for his growing list of cock ups. My favourite yesterday was a little one. We had a free kick just outside their box. Arteta and RVP lined up to take it. Attwell, in his wisdom, stood in front of our captain and gestured to Arteta to get on with it. RVP had to manhandle the ref out of the way before he could run at it himself. The ref, in a premiership game, was in the way at a free kick. Magnificent!

Let the boos ring out this Christmas! Not for the first time this season the team left to the bass tones of frustrated punters. I didn't boo but I left furious. The awful opening to our season means that every point we drop is magnified (and the spuds doing so well makes it even worse.) We had an opportunity yesterday and we blew it. You can blame it on the referee, you can blame it on Hennessy, you can blame it on Rosicky, you can blame it on the boogie if you like but the bottom line is we got the ball in the net once. That's as many times as 16th placed relegation threatened Wolves and if we have ambition it's just not good enough. We've obviously done incredibly well to haul ourselves up to 5th which makes these results so frustrating. We have no room for "Just one of those days" anymore. That luxury went months ago.

Friday, 23 December 2011

That Will Do Nicely

That will do nicely. Following the defeat at the money pit nothing short of a win at Villa would do and the boys delivered. It's difficult to express any defined opinions as this game was followed entirely on Twitter. Apparently we were crap, Frimpong was crap as was Coq-au-vin. The defence was crap, the midfield were very crap as was the ref who was not only crap but fat. Then Yossi bent down to head home a last minute winner and the C word turned into celebration. A frustrating evening with the potential of chucking 2 points away suddenly transformed into a delightful nights work and a hard fought 3. Splendid.

Yet it seems more than that. The perfect response to a defeat. The type of game we would have lost only a few months ago. The teams around us dropping points. We may well look back on Villa away as a massive night. However, Arsene, results like this don't mean we can avoid a trip to the transfer market for the January sales. We desperately need a striker to keep RVP happy or to just keep RVP. No more cut price bargains. A proper full on world class top of the range shiny exciting quality player is needed. Not much to ask!

Earlier in the week my son and I went to the Home of Football to do the self guided stadium tour. If you get a chance I highly recommend it. They give you a little red gadget with Bob Wilson inside it telling you everything you need to know. The beauty of the self guided tour is you can take as much time as you like. We sat for ages in the director's lounge, the chairman's seats, Arsene' seat on the bench. We ran down the tunnel (twice). We interviewed each other in the interview cupboards. I spent ages in the home dressing room dreaming of what could've been had I possessed any footballing ability whatsoever! We spent too much (again) in the club shop (but who doesn't want a Jack Wilshere action figure?) If you live too far away to do the tour there are a load of pictures of the stadium and museum on my twitter thing.

So we head towards the big day some way off the Christmas number 1 as that's been bought elsewhere. We are sitting nicely ready to strike. I still fancy us to get top 4. I still think we will finish above the Spuds and with the right business next month we will get 3rd. After our start that would be magnificent.

Merry Red and White Christmas Gooners.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Sheikh Up

So the mercenary millionaires prevailed. We fought hard but how can our brave volunteers on minimum wages compete with the nouveau riche? The nasty historyless oiks dispatched our charity cases good and proper. We stood no chance. The media willed them on. The ref played a 'blind'er. The lovely ones from the north put the cheeky southerners in their place. The title has been bought and paid for. Congratulations on your most hollow of victories. It's been a long time coming.

Bitter? Oh yes! And why not? A half arsed mid table club will win the league this season by ramming wads of banknotes into it's thong in the hope it will be allowed a little touch. This may sound like thin ice from an Arsenal fan but we've never been so vulgar. Granted, much to our frustration sometimes, Arsene refuses to splash the cash. He moulds cheapish players into world beaters for the likes of Barca and Man C to then pay well over or well under the odds for. That's where we are now.

Anyway, putting my disgust of Man C aside for a moment, that was some game. Before the match I fancied us. It says a lot about the side after that start to the season that I gave us I chance. I really did think we could beat them and on another day we would. 1-0 was an extraordinary score for a game with so many chances. If we hadn't decided to cannon the ball as hard as we could at Hart every time we had a chance then we may have got something. They only just beat us with a squillion pounds on the pitch and there was no shame in our performance.

Apart from their spending the most obvious difference was how many options they had every time they attacked. It was quite uncomfortable to watch and I thought our 4 central defenders did well to stop them. We, on the other hand, have 1 option. Every attack heads to RVP. It's easy to stop and, my goodness, do we need to spend and spend well in January. The sorry fact is we only have two quality strikers at the club and one of those is a centre half! Walcott is greatly improved but isn't taking any goal scoring responsibility from the captain. Gervinho was (harshly?) described to me as the bloke in the office that looks busy but actually does nothing. I'm not sure that's true but he certainly has no confidence to shoot. As for Chamakh? We he came on I tweeted that if he scored I would run around The Angel Islington naked but for a Tottenham Santa hat. Unsurprisingly the pants stayed on and a million people sighed with relief. At least I gave a silver lining to our nil.

So Man C are better than us after their Sheikh up. They should be with their collection of overpaid stars many of whom didn't even know Manchester had two clubs a few years ago. Yet we have pushed them to the limit twice recently and we go about our business in the right way. On to Villa and a nice pre-Christmas 3 points if you don't mind.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

It's Who We Are. We Are The Arsenal

The Arsenal. 125 years and it's been my honour and privilege to share 32 of mine with you. I flirted with them during the 1978 cup final but it was the cup run of 1979 that reeled me in. As the ball rolled across the line from Sunderland's boot there was no turning back. That team in yellow and blue were the only one for me.

Imagine my surprise when, on my birthday, I opened a red and white top, shorts & socks. They didn't wear these on the telly. However I was soon Brady floating a ball off the shed (Sunderland) and blasting the ball into a home made goal while screaming "STAPLETON!" We went unbeaten in the back garden that season.

It's something non believers don't understand, can't understand. The Arsenal. It gets right into you. It's special. It becomes part of your very fabric. Monday at school you needed to be ready to gloat or defend. Good training for working life. A poor weekend makes the start of the week a challenge. You know you are going to get it and you need to be ready. Conversely if the rivals fail, as they often do, you rehearse your banter. It needs to be spot on. Your mates expect no less.

It shapes who you are. It represents you. It's the pictures cut from Shoot on a schoolboy's bedroom wall. It's sending off for merchandise from the little club shop under the Clock End. It's queuing up Gillespie Road for hours for cup final tickets. It's peanuts 20 pence a bag. It's having your breath taken away on your first visit to the stadium. It's hiding in a burger bar in Finsbury Park with your girlfriend as Man U fans rampage. It's Wembley. It's driving to Paris with the best of friends. It's being allowed to drive to Paris by an understanding wife left holding a week old baby. It's meeting Thierry Henry in the street. It's a stone with our names on it outside the new ground. It's missing the old Highbury.

It's friendships. It's talking to strangers on the strength of a cannon on my coat. It's Feverpitch. It's crying when it was up for grabs now. It's passion. It's hate. It's support. It's moaning. It's thinking we could do better. It's realising we can't. It's worship. It's frustrating. It's relief. It's wonderful. It's sitting with my wife and son. It's the hug when we score. It's everything. It's what we do. It's wondering what people who don't follow football do. It's stressing about new signings. It's putting the fixtures in your diary. It's avoiding stuff to keep those dates free. It's grief at losing a number 7, one of us, one of our own. It's chatting on Twitter. It's chasing a stream. It's the Arsecast. It's The Tuesday Club. It's Eastlower. It's the blogs, the Gooner. It's just who we are.

It's winning 1-0 with a magnificent goal. What a way to win a game in front of so many legends. We weren't at our best but the enormous build up probably didn't help. Having said that we were by far the best team and on another day would have won by half time. Each attack ended with frustration and we needed a bit of brilliance to unlock Everton. Song turned the key with a sublime ball to RVP who opened the door by volleying it across the goal and in at the far post. 125 years of fans and players haven't seen many better!

It's the debates, the arguments. It's picking your favourite player ever. It's picking your favourite goal, your most important goal. Your favourite celebration. Your best win. It's why we support, encourage, applaud, moan, criticise and boo. It's something non believers won't understand. Long after we are gone memories will fade. Memories will alter but one thing they will never forget. We will always be The Arsenal.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

And now on Sky Comedy....

Last night was extraordinary. A comical performance at the back that had me laughing on top of laughs and feeling quite ill. Mannone's error was the funniest bit of keeping I've ever seen. It sparked a debate on Twitter with people sending me other candidates for the crap keeping award but I won't have it. Vito's big chance to use his new gloves and he went all Hong Kong Phooey on us. No matter as we've qualified. It just confirms what we already know. We have one goalkeeper at the club and 3 other blokes who own gloves. God bless Szczesny. No really God, bless him and bless him good.

Just seen the scores tonight and it looks as if Channel 5 are the winners. A flood of so called giants are coming their way to play out the EuroMilk Cup leaving us clubs in crisis to run about in the Champions League with the truly big fish.

We lost but were served up with some top draw slapstick while the whole of Manchester slipped into the underworld. I'll take that.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Warning! Bit too kind about Spuds!

A narrow loss and an easy win since the last blog. I'm glad it was that way round too. The Milk Cup is a useful run out for the extras and the young but I still feel bitter how it wrecked our season last year and cost me far too much in final tickets.

For a change I felt quite positive after that defeat. Chavscum (north) cheated by fielding a stronger team than us but nothing surprises me from that bunch. History less new money tarts. Anyway, their team cost exactly 46.3 times more than ours (haven't checked that maths) and they squeezed past us. Hope they make it to Wembley & all their fans get ripped off! Our individual players performances have been discussed elsewhere so I won't waste your time apart from saying we have some exciting, young, inexpensive, homegrown talent. Even Squillaci looked like a footballer. A proud defeat if ever there was one.

Saturday was more old school in its coverage. We weren't on the telly or the radio so for the first time in ages it was Soccer Saturday nervously awaiting Phil Thompson's grunts. We started slowly but surely we can't drop points at Wigan again. Yet before we knew it Thompson nearly exploded as we nabbed 2 in 2 minutes. 2-0 up at Wigan. Nothing can go wrong now can it? Flashbacks to the previous 2 years where we led 2-0 but didn't win either drenched my mind. But that was Arsenal of the past. This team look delighted to play, delighted to win, delighted to score. They look together. The joy Theo showed at setting up RVP was a moment to treasure as was Robin's appreciation at Walcott's unselfish cut back.

This all followed our 3rd scored by Gervinho. Superb work by Captain Clever Clogs led to a man in a Wigan goalkeepers top pushing the ball to Ricky who knocked it home. He needed that. I was convinced he couldn't finish a biscuit but that should give him his appetite back. We need him to finish his chances. Hopefully he will from now on.

We are on an amazing run of form but seem to only be making a gentle dent in the top teams. That's what made the Fulham draw so frustrating. We need the teams above us to start dropping silly points. I've given up on Man C. They've clearly bought the title but we can chase the others. Man U don't look uncatchable and the Spuds run can't last can it? They do (whisper it) look as good as I've ever known them but I've only ever known them as shite. They do seem to be getting a lot of luck too. Yesterday's sending off of Cahill was a brown envelope red! No ref can be that hopeless can they? As useful as a Greek tax accountant in Europe they really are concentrating on the league but we will finish above them. Honest.

So onwards to a stress free trip abroad for the boys not in the red. All the excitement will be elsewhere but we will be watching the reserves behind the red button in midweek. Hopefully no tired excuses will be necessary against Everton. Today brought us a kind FA Cup draw with Leeds at home so an order for the replacement urinals has already been made online.

We've broken the November curse. Here's to a cracking December. Come on you Reds.