Sunday, 28 October 2012

You don't always get what you want!

"So where were you on Wednesday?"

It seemed like a badge of honour to some of the familiar faces. 'I was there when The Arsenal played as poorly as anyone in living memory can recall' t-shirts all round to the unlucky. The steward in our block deserves more as he "couldn't leave early like everyone!'

We were away by the sea. Yet we still crowded around a small screen to witness the mess. We returned in time to retake our seats for QPR. It had to be better. Two pathetic displays & a tetchy AGM meant we had to turn up and show, at least some heart. In fact, the very least that was needed was a win.

Before the game people spoke of taking a win of any calibre. A scrappy 1-0 would do yet having achieved just that there was dissatisfaction. We won. We got 3 points. We kept a clean sheet. Jack & Bac were back. We were better than them. We deserved all we got yet the Arsenalisation of our mood didn't reflect that.

The problem is we scraped past a very poor side with a much better side waiting for us. (Not Reading - like the club I'm not counting the COC.) Man U stand poised to batter us about the parts with a wet rolled up newspaper & we are all concerned it won't be pretty (especially if you now have that image in you head.)

We are feeling fragile. Poor performances from the team that used to make us gasp with joy, the constant selling of captains & an owner who couldn't find us on a map and hasn't spent one dead president on the team all add up to the problem. We see a team without a win & Shaun Wright Phillips and expect a landslide. We hoped it would inject much needed confidence into a flaccid team. We needed stiffening up before Old Trafford (and that's enough of the cock analogies!)

Before the game we visited Piebury Corner for a quick Ian Wright and roast potatoes & my son had a go at kicking balls through holes for a minute. Apparently Squillaci got 4. My son got 3. We entered the stadium through our lucky turnstile with "Worse than Squillaci" ringing in his ears and sat through a fairly dull first 45 minutes. We were better than the last 180 minutes - damning praise indeed.

The highlight was Jack. I wish we had 11 Jacks. I bet he's even good in goal. Utter class. Wonderful passing with a steely determination. I think we'd nearly forgotten what he brings to the side. Sagna too was a welcome sight. Jenkinson did nothing wrong but Bac is just a better option for now. We will see a lot more of Jenkinson in the future.

The second half was more of the same. We pressed them but worried they might break at any second. Just as the stands were getting restless, looking at the clock to see how long to go before the moanathon could start up poped the perfectly haired Artete to head then stab the ball home after a pinball of a scramble in the 6 yard box. The ground erupted in relief and rumours we'd all forgotten how to celebrate a goal were unfounded.

Two scares followed as QPR waltzed through our defence and they probably should've scored but holding your breath works and we hang on. And that's the problem. A team managed by a bastard who are awful made us hang on. It almost seem perverse to celebrate such a win but celebrate we must. A lot can happen in a week and we must be ready for the mancs & we will be. I said to someone after the game that the 8-2 won't happen again. He agreed, "Yep, can't see this side scoring 2!" Brilliant! Stop it!

Now you must forgive me this week as up to Friday night I'll be concentrating elsewhere. The mighty Cambridge City are playing MK Dons in the FA Cup 1st round and it's live on ESPN. This is the first time they have ever been shown live & the money they've made from this cup run is history changing for them. They need a new home & this could've just made that possible. It's going to be a great night and my son and I will be amongst the lucky 1730 crowd. So if you have ESPN stick it on at 7.30 this Friday and we will give you a wave. We will be standing to the left of the goal waving the obligatory homemade cardboard and silver foil cup (if we get it together) or a small inflatable one left over from all those trips to Cardiff when the cup meant something to The Arsenal. It's not like a trophy. It's an actual trophy. If you get depressed at how the big clubs treat this wonderful old pot take a look at the game on telly and peer into that old cup magic. For Cambridge City it's massive & I'll be relishing every second.

Up The Underdogs (on Friday night & Saturday lunchtime.)

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

A sneaky weekend away with the family on the Isle of Wight while Cambridge City are playing just across the water at Totton (What do we think of Totton? Fear not. I went through the song with the man from Eastlower via text before kick off!) It would almost be rude to not leave the girls and go to the FA Cup 4th round qualifier!

But this is an Arsenal blog? I know but forgive me. I grew up in Cambridge and like so many locals adopted a London side as my team. Less than an hour on the train so it counts! Cambridge City were the team I shared with my dad from as young as I can remember. I stood with him in the same place with his friends Jed, Big Dick, Grumpy and Wizz for years until he died in 1999 and I stopped going. It couldn't be shared without him. It took me about 4 years to go again but now my own son and I go as often as we can. Strangely, watching City is as close as I can get to my dad now. On Saturday he would be smiling.

I've seen 4 winning FA Cup ties already this season & it means Cambridge City are into the first round proper. Two wins away from the mythical trip to The Arsenal! On their way they have won over £27,000 - a history changing amount for a non-league team about to be made homeless or a drop in the ocean for the overpaid Premier boys. City hung on to win 3-2 and pulled out a plum home tie with MK Dons in two weeks. I can't wait.

Happily we drove south to the ferry we shared with a winning Isle of Wight rugby team (lots of singing and beer) and a losing football team (just beer) and sat waiting to sail with TalkShite supplying us with the gory details. It sounded bad from the off. Norwich, without a win, seemed right up for it. As we drove onto the ferry Mannone went all seasick on us, fell over, pushed the ball politely to the onrushing canary who, unchallenged, couldn't miss. The radio made it sound awful but having seen it they underplayed it. Mannone looked like an elderly person having a fall. He looked like the crap kid at school who goes in goal, makes an out of character stop but lets in the soft rebound. The teacher congratulates on the initial burst of action but commiserates with the unlucky rebound. That's if the goalkeeper is cold, would rather be doing science and is about 9 years old. That is not what it should look like at The Arsenal. We had Jennings, Lukic, Seaman and Lehmann. Szczesny is decent. Not in that list yet but has a chance. Behind him the cupboard is bare. In fact it's not just bare. It's on fire in a skip. I have no answers of course! It just seems odd that Mad Jens left in 2008 and 4 years later we haven't sorted this.

The rest of the team were just crap. To a man - Crap. These things happen. Many felt we showed more when we went down 8-2 (two shots on target at least!) This was so bad it was probably a one off (honest!) The team is not quite right yet. I don't think you can lose captain after captain and expect to improve too much. Every season we seem to be starting again a bit. We never get a chance to build on 3rd or 4th. We replace rather than add too often.

Yet maybe that's where the club want to be. We finished 19 points behind last year. That's a massive gap but we were sold a success because we squeaked into the oddly named Champions league. I hate that 3rd is like a trophy but can we hope for any higher?

So onto one of these golden matchdays on Wednesday and the boys need to be right on it to prove Norwich was just a bad day. These group stages the club hankers for so dearly are a sterile affairs but a win will see us full in command to face some bigger boys. No doubt Szczesny will still be out for 2-3 weeks so Vito will provide the heart in mouth moments we could do without. Sorry to keep on about him but even my wife thinks he's shit and she's very protective about anyone with the cannon on their chest.

So yesterday was City's day. A first win over us at their place since Duran Duran were number 1 with The Reflex, Lionel Richie was saying Hello and Melle Mel felt for Chaka Khan. The other City saved my day with their FA Cup hopes and dreams. They played with passion and celebrated like fans at the end. Arsenal showed nothing of the sort.

Up The Gunners (and CCFC!)

Monday, 8 October 2012

Grandmaster Caz

At 1-0 down I must admit I was concerned. It was a build up after the lacklustre nonsense against the Chavs and a less than energetic display (despite the great result) in midweek. Yet after a tiny slump we went into the interlull with another injection of confidence.

On Wednesday we strolled to New Highbury to see another unenthralling match day in the wrongly named Champions League. I'm not a great fan of the group stage. Olympiakos might be proper Champions but were poor. We huffed and puffed and got the win despite kicking off to a half empty stadium. People came and went all evening. Some watched the game. Lots more chatted. Odd atmosphere but we need to go through these games before we get a big boy to play with. However, having seen the graveyard that is the UEFA Cup I should probably be more grateful!

Saturday was never going to be easy. Things seem to be harder after a midweek European cup jaunt. I spent the build up watching Cambridge City play Billericay in the 3rd qualifying round of the FA Cup. A cracking game of poor refereeing (he seemed a nice fella as I chatted to him before the game. Had I known he didn't know the rules I'd have ignored him!) own goals, missed penalties and end to end long balls. All for £10. Replay Tuesday night.

I drove back to London with only TalkSport for company. I've never had to resort to their services before and I now know why they are lovingly called Talkshite. They do don't they? Anyway they delivered the news that we were murdering West Ham & the hammers goal ( just past Stanstead - radio cut out due to all the magic around there they use to keep planes up.) As I slowed up for the speed camera at the end of the motorway it happened. WOW! Did you see that? Well no I didn't Giroud. I missed your goal but Stan Collymore nearly exploded. Zip past the Olympic stadium and home for half time.

Rewind Sky and there it is. A lovely ball wide by Giroud to Poldolski. A cross of beauty volleyed home by the Handsome one. That was indeed a nice goal. Now for the second half. The game ebbed and flowed, one way and another. We looked ok but didn't really look like a goal was coming. Walcott entered. Cazorla found Giroud who slid a delightful ball in the path of the on rushing Theo. In one fluid move he placed the ball in the only hole available. That was a striker's goal. At moments like that you do think he has a point. 2-1 up with 12 to play. They should've equalised before our little man stole the show. Left hand side if the box. Left peg smacked a gorgeous shot across the keeper to the opposite corner. A score to reflect the game. Job done.

Yesterday I took @sonoffeverpitch to the Arsenal shop to complete his kits. All he needed was the away shorts. We queued up to get the number on them to match his shirt. 19 was ironed neatly to one leg. We love Cazorla. He came just at the right time. Too much class has left recently but he's there to put your smile back. He's a joy to watch. A truly great player. The kind of player Arsene deserves to manage. The kind we deserve to watch. Lets hope we can keep him fit or, indeed, just keep him!

Right, lets get through this interlull together. See you on the other side.

Up The Gunners.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Damn, Blast & A Swear Word of your Choice.

That was always going to happen eventually. Every team loses. It's part of the 'fun!' However we all started to do that thing football fans do. We started to believe. The woeful Sunderland result was forgotten. We'd won at Anfield! We'd wolloped Southampton. We'd drawn at tricky Stoke. We should've beaten the newly bought champions. Talk of balance in the team began. 'You know, we look better without him" was uttered. Blimey, I even let things slip and said with a lot of luck, a good run and the other team's frailty coming to the fore we could win this damn thing! (The 3 things that saw us finish 3rd & 19 points adrift last season!) Behave!

All the little signs were glossed over. Clean sheets and 6 goals at home hid the awfulness of the goals conceded. It's ok. That was a Szczesny error. That was zonal marking that was! No, they were errors. Damn Gervinho's heavy touch. Damn Giroud's shooting. Considering the opposition we are doing OK?

Please excuse the opening tone but it really was a Saturday to forget. Basically I watched The Arsenal slump to an uninspiring Chav side, sat in traffic & watched Cambridge City go down 4-1 at Enfield. The icing on the cake was listening to the spuds win on the way home. All in all that was a shit footballing Saturday.

12.45 kick offs are not easy for the family. The previous evening I was taken, as a birthday treat, to see Nik Kershaw by @eastlower. A cracking night out but by the time I was in bed there was only 11 hours to kick off and we had to fit sleep, swimming lessons & ferrying kids around in that time. I was confident though. I really fancied us to win. Wouldn't it be good? indeed it would! However, by the time the ref blew his whistle the team seemed to mirror my levels of energy.

Just before they scored I sighed to myself in recognition that they looked a little better than us. No matter. We are at home. We will liven up. Free kick swung in. Koschely rudely staring at Vito's Roman nose while Torres wrapped his leg lovingly around our defender to volley an opener. Seconds before the ball flew in we looked like teenagers hanging around a shopping centre. Captain Thomas screaming and pointing. Nobody moved. Awful.

We came back strongly. There you are Arsenal. As half time approached Gervinho surprised us all by continuing his scoring with a cracking shot. Looked like poor defending too but that's by them and I don't give a whatnot about them. All square & the game can start again.

Now I hate the Chavs more than any club (yes more than that lot up the road!) I come from a mixed family who were united in their hated of that vile mid-table shower who thought they were better than they were. They made it easier to dislike them with their new owner, collection of horrible players, shit little ground they can't fill with their charming fans......and breath..... Anyway, we just must not lose.

Oh! That looks like it's gone straight in. Take it again. We clearly weren't ready. We were ready? Hmmmm. Staggering. That's two goals gifted to the scum. TWO! Steve Bould looks like he wants to kill something.

Great ball from Ox. Giroud, he's gone round the keeper. Off the seat! GIROUD! Instant hero ..... MISSED! He's MISSED! Arsene on his knees. That was an open goal wasn't it? From where I'm sitting we've just missed an open goal. A good looking Chamakh? I hope not.

So we were slapped about the parts with a rolled up reality check. Maybe dropping the BFG was a mistake but if he'd been left on his arse for a goal we would've been crying for whoever was on the bench to play. The bottom line is we weren't very good. But a couple of days later it doesn't seem so bad. These things happen. We need to make sure they don't happen too often. Worries remain over the keepers. Szczesny is a good keeper backed up by the average & I'm not sure that's good enough. The lack of an out and out striker could catch up with us too. We will see.

But today Jack is back. Things never stay bad for long.

Up the Gunners.