Sunday, 26 February 2012

Five Star

I must admit that like most of us I was dreading this game a bit. For the first time in ever we were going into a North London Derby as underdogs .... at home! The last two performances were abject and left us with little to grasp on to. I was concerned. Form goes out of the window in these games and thank Dennis for that as we have no form.

Those fearing the worst soon got it as our defence went all Hackney Marshes on us again. We slapped our collective legs, looked to the sky and let out a communal swear word. We attacked. They occasionally attacked back. Their defence creaked while ours cracked under the weight of a missing midfield. Bale dived. Greedypaymore scored on his birthday. The 'Wenger Out' brigade found its voice and we all just wanted to go home.

That first 35 minutes was everything that's wrong but you know what? I'm ignoring it. What could be written now has been said time and time again. What followed was a lovely surprise. Let's enjoy that. Before the game my only expectation was for the team to give it their all. 100% effort, desire and passion needed to be seen after giving nothing the previous week. Any man not giving that would never be forgiven. Show passion or piss off. Forgiveness was unnecessary as, after a shaky start, they gave us everything and more. Indeed we may have even witnessed, for the first time ever, the mythical 110%.

Who didn't think it was a hopeless case as the post was struck? Yet before the groans had died Sagna had planted a bullet header past Bradley. Belief on the pitch spread to the stands as it was clear that the spuds defence was worse than ours. They looked softer than a caramel left out in the sun. Moments later this defence expertly allowed RVP to turn onto his 'wand' and he soared a cracker into the top corner. Family and strangers were hugged. We were as one again. This is how it should be. Had we gone in 2 down I would've feared for the season. Suddenly we didn't want it to end. Spurs were twitching.

The second half was a joy. 'arry saw things weren't working so he weaken his team by bringing on Lidl Dutchman and a lump. The result? Rosicky's cuppa kicked in and he stormed through to score for the first time in 100 years. We had actually turned this around. We looked rampant. The media darlings were wilting. They were there for the taking but with our defence were probably only two attacks from being 4-3 up!

Now we get to Theo! His first half was awful and I would've taken him off and sold him for scrap. What do I know! Not only did he score two very good goals but he worked so hard. He was the player we all hoped he can be. He was nothing short of magnificent & was a whisker away from a hatrick. He tore them to bits and finished off the lifeless twitching mugs.

Other than the score and the huge change in the attitude of the team the main highlights were the individual performances of players we'd slightly given up on. Rosicky was immense and, like Theo, showed us what he can really do. Yossi too showed his class. He might be slow but he ran his bits off today. The Chavs may have made a small mistake in letting us borrow him on today's evidence.

5-2 and we wanted more. Extraordinary and why football continues to enthral billions. The psychology of the game cannot be explained. How a team can give so little one week then play like that? How can they start so badly, look down and out and end up thrashing the rivals? How can a player like Walcott look like he'd won his appearance in a raffle, have a 15 minute sit down & return a world beater? It was, in fact, utterly perfect. We lulled them into complacency! We gave them a two goal start then hit them so hard their last league winning team would've felt it. We need to use this now though. It's been spelt out quite how financially important top 4 is and it's all we have left. However that's the bigger picture and that's for tomorrow. Today is all about stuffing the scum. It's about going to work or school with your head held high as you find a (slightly less) cocky spud and put them in their place. It's about forever in our shadow. It's about mind the gap. It's about 2-0 and you fu*ked it up!

Enjoy your Monday! Up the Gunners.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Board Of All This!

This time last week we were 4th, in the Champions League and the FA Cup. Today we are 4th. Both cups have gone down the pan after two of the most abject and pathetic performances I've seen for some time. You'd think that professional footballers would perform better than that by mistake.

I've tried so hard to stay positive. The incessant moaning amongst fans has made watching The Arsenal unpleasant. I'll remember last season's Carling Cup Final for the abuse that was flung about between Gooners rather than the result. I've seen Arsenal fans fist fighting over the manager. I've witnessed 'You don't know what you're doing' sung at the man who has transformed the club. The abuse some of our own players receive is unacceptable. Yet as the weeks go by I'm more understanding to the reactions. Quite simply, we are not getting any better and this squad is not good enough. The systematic erosion of the world class to the good or mediocre takes its toll. Yes we have had awful luck with injuries but this just exposes the limitations of the playing staff more. It's a difficult balance to have quality squad players who might not play however at Arsenal you will play. The last few years showed that, for whatever reason, we will be drenched in injuries and the back ups will have to perform. How then have we ended up with Squillaci......? (Silvestre, Cygan, Stepanovs) Ah it's not a new thing, it's a policy and it's meant we've 'won nothing for 7 years*'

The most interesting thing about this week is that criticism seems to be aimed at the board rather than the manager. Of course Arsene is still getting it as that's part of the job but the absent owner is now getting the heat too. Who upstairs cares about these results & cup exits. Absent owner won't be storming anywhere or kicking down any doors as he's not here. What's his motivation? Arsenal are financially well run. Miles from administration. Putting money in his pocket. FA Cup? Sure Stan doesn't give a shit.

I don't really know where I'm going with this muddled ramble. I know I feel tired of finding new ways to say the same things. We all know the structure of the club has changed for the worse. Why won't the manager spend on a clearly poor squad? Is he restricted? Is he stubborn? Whatever the reason it's just not good enough and I don't say that as an arrogant Arsenal fan who demands success. I say it as someone who gives the club near on 4 grand for 3 season tickets. I say it as a fan who is charged the highest prices in the country. I say it as someone who believes you get what you pay for. We are being short changed and that's what's not good enough. There will be many fans who went to the Milan and Sunderland cup games and that wasn't good enough. You can't demand victory but you can, at the very least, expect the team to look prepared, to show some desire, to give the paying fans some hope. Those two performances were hopeless. Not one player played well and we are left with fighting for 4th. For my money that's not good enough.

The second leg against Milan is the embodiment of our mediocrity and how we are being short changed. It's a game made pointless by our pathetic show out there yet I'm expected to turn up and cheer on my team who have no chance. I'm sure many fans around the country do this week in week out but aren't charged quite what we are. By using our 3 season ticket's cup vouchers that night out will cost me about £150. If the owners had an ounce of decency that game would be made optional and Carling cup prices would be charged. There may be some UEFA rule stopping this and if there is then the club should subsidise the prices. Stop paying shit players too much and give a bit back to the people who make the club.

I'm a Gooner for life and we must take the rough with the smooth but the fundamental problems are now into the years. We look miles away from winning anything but I'm not sure the club care. The club's definition of success differs so vastly from what the fans think. It feels like they won't move so unless we accept this second rate 'success' we have to lump it. We have a wonderful stadium, excellent financial stability, good community links and even amazing club shops but without a squad to match it means very little.

I was passing the time chatting to my mother-in-law while SonOfFeverpitch was doing football training with the Arsenal Soccer School (Community Links!) and she asked me what was wrong with The Arsenal. She then said something quite telling. "Where have all the great players gone? Henry, Pires, Campbell, Ljumgberg, Parlour..... The list went on and on. She named over 15 players without flinching. "From the team now I can only name Van Persie and Walcott!" She said nobody at work talks about the players anymore apart from complaining and she stops listening. I told her she'd answered her own question.

We are in a muddle and we need changes from the top down. But for now we need this to stop quickly and only the manager and players can do this. Show some heart. Show some desire. Thank Dennis the next game isn't a big one ....oh

*to quote every media source every 30 seconds.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

How Many Fingers?

I've no idea where to start with that. I've no idea how to say something that hasn't been said elsewhere or a thousand times before. In the past I've resorted to posting kittens in hats to avoid joining the festival of moaning. Last night was the embodiment of all the clear problems we've been talking about for ages. We were found out in the most public of arenas. To lose to Fulham can go unnoticed by non Gooners but this exposes you. It had an inevitable feel to it. It felt like a watershed.

I've said before that I've been lucky enough to see special teams like the invincibles. I've also seen awful teams (most of the 80s!) This group are good. No more. No less. A good team will get you to 4th if they are lucky while losing to teams they should beat along the way. A good team might just win an FA Cup. A good team might come up against a much better team in Europe and get hammered.

Not so long ago you'd need both hands and a toe to count the world class players in our first team. Now you need one hand and, depending on your views, may have fingers spare. Put Jack in that side last night and that's the first team. How many fingers are you holding up?

Consecutively replacing top quality with good quality takes its toll. Scraping for 4th has replaced challenging for 1st. There is a lack of confidence within the team and the fans that's eating into the place. I can't remember the last time I went to a match 'knowing' we would win. 'We could win this 3-0 or lose it 1-0' is a common response to the 'what's going to happen' question. We never seem to build on a good result. Each game is insular. We have no form at all.

The blogs will be alight today so l'll end now as we've read it all before. Saturday has now become massive. We could win it 3-0. We could lose it 1-0. Who knows. That's what good (but not great) teams do. We're good, but often, just not good enough.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 12 February 2012

People Stared

Thierry Henry is the only man on the planet I'd leave Mrs Pitch for! She fully accepts this and probably feels the same! He's left us once before. We all locked ourselves in our bedrooms and cried ourselves to sleep. This week we will do the same. The great man returned briefly to make us feel how only he can. He kissed the badge, he scored winning goals, he played with our emotions one last time. Yet before next weekend he will be off to do what he does for us for people who don't need him and certainly can't love him like we do. All we can hope is some of his magic has brushed off onto Park or Chamakh returns a different player as our game changing substitute disappears across the pond.

Having driven 200 miles north for a half term jaunt the majority of the first half passed me by. As I strolled the streets looking for shops to replace the things we'd forgotten to pack I looked at my little DAB radio and actually wondered if they had digital this far north! It turns out they do along with electricity and running water! The half time report told me we were comfortable without any threat which was worrying.

As I queued with a hand full of toothbrushes there was still no breakthrough. Liverpool had lost, the Chavs were down 2-0 so we needed to take advantage. News from the laughably named Stadium of Light was not welcome. They told me a horrendous error by Mertersacker led to Sunderland's opener. It was due to Martin O'Neill's magic apparently. Having seen the goal it was more due to the awful pitch than the bouncy Irishman. The only way Magic Martin can be responsible for that goal is if he's the one who looks after the rice they grow on the pitch between games. Per went over like a new born giraffe and had to be carried off by 20 men on two stretchers.*

Doom returned. Derogatory texts and tweets were swapped. Swear words restricted to 'Oh No' and 'Damn it' as I stood in a small quiet bookshop with my daughter. She had no idea that I wasn't really paying her attention. I kept her on my left side and was somehow able to say the right things as the radio pumped news into my right ear.

'Rambo! Yes!' is not the most normal thing to exclaim in the tourist information office. My daughter put on her 'I'm happy because dad's happy' face despite not really caring about why I'd cheered up. 1-1. Good result? Bit disappointed actually. We need wins.

As we began our walk home I suddenly stopped. The dangling earphone was pressed into the free 'daughter listening' ear as the nice lady from Radio 5 started her sentence. "You will not believe this" She said. WHAT WON'T I BELIEVE? I stood slightly crouched ready to either spring in celebration or slump to my knees. "Thierry ....." is all I heard. It's all I needed. The legs straightened. The feet left the floor. The red and white Saville Rogue scarf won from Arseblog was waved. The fist was pumped. The daughter was hugged and thrown playfully in the air. People stared!

He'd done it again.

*might not be totally true.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

A 4-Track Stereo Recording

I was having a bit of a sort out today and found this little gem wedged between Wham Rap and Kid Creole's Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy! It's The Arsenal Sing-a-Long 7" single. A souvenir production! It contained 4 tracks from a much simpler time. Never did it think it would end up as an MP3 or on Soundcloud. It's from a time when the team were truly awful - 1984! Enjoy and remember to Sing-a-Long, join the Junior Gunners, sign up for the travel club to 'Sing Along with the Arsenal away from home and apply for a price list from the Gunners Shop! Up The Gunners!

It also came with a free lyric sheet so you could really Sing-a-Long. I, as a Junior Gunner, helpfully wrote down how long each song lasted!

Monday, 6 February 2012

Sticking To The Script

Now that's a proper afternoon out. Despite the bitter cold and the rushing about due to various children needing to be at swimming lessons and parties 10 miles away that was a thoroughly entertaining show. 

For so long now we have failed to do to teams what we should. We've played countless poor sides over the last few seasons and stumbled into wins, fought out frustrating draws or worse. One such trip up was at Bolton, a game I've ignored. I chose not to spend ages finding a stream and watched the TV while following on Twitter. I've not seen Walcott's one-on-one miss or RVP's affairs with the woodwork. Unlucky? Twitter told me otherwise. We were shit. Top 4 a dream. Wafer cup a thing of the past. Wenger out. RVP will leave. It's over. Bin bag protest. Take to the streets… Twitter is a strange beast. I was not looking forward to Saturday. 

Yet a few days later it's all back on! Blackburn arrived right on time. We shuffled into the ground with our newly washed season tickets. Mrs Pitch had left them in her pocket and given them a quick 30°. The box office helpfully told her they had no idea if they would work. They did! The crap was washed away, the turnstile clicked and the newly laundered team were a goal up before many were there. 

The atmosphere lightened. No sign of any bin bags. A good start all round. We were all over them. Attack after attack opened them up yet we stuck at one. We looked hungrier than we had for ages but the failings up front were showing. Talk of the missed opportunity to strengthen started. Then it happened. 1-1. It was a stunning freekick. Nobody was to blame as our collective shoulders slumped. I tweeted that we were unlucky to be 1-1 as we were all over them. Twitter suggested we were shit. And that's the problem.  We were playing well. The scoreline was shit but to be conditioned to criticise the team just on the score is worrying. Yet, I guess the score is everything. 0-0 at Bolton is no good however you play. We've dropped too many points to be unlucky. That luxury is gone. 

However, as we sighed, the team stayed perky. Less than 5 minutes later the first goal was replicated and we were back on our feet. Where was the famous collapse? I was ready for the huffing and puffing. Yet before I could finish my beef baguette The Ox had skipped round fatty spudboy to give us an unfamiliar half time score. We were shit no more! As half time approached Givet decided he'd had enough and introduced our captain to his studs before apologising to Arsene as he took the shameful walk away. Steve Keene, to his credit, apologised to RVP too. A welcome sight. 

Half time was surprisingly upbeat. More people than usual due to the freeze jumped around to House of Pain as we anticipated goals. It was like the half times of old. 

The second half was more of the same. RVP completed his hatrick, Arteta scored again against Blackburn while The OC did what we wished Theo would do more often. The day was rounded off when T scored after a game of 'after you' with Robin. 7-1 and richly deserved. They were worth 1 and we were worth at least 7. This is what should happen and it, for once, did. 

I know we thrashed a team who will probably go down who were missing their better players and spent nearly an hour a man short but you can only beat what's in front of you and so often we've struggled to do that. Everyone put in a decent performance. We looked good. No more, no less and as we are in a right old battle to keep our top 4 'success' going looking good will do me for now. 

- Posted using BlogPress from an iTelephone.