Sunday, 25 November 2012

Strictly Come Prancing.

There was a minor argument in our house on Saturday afternoon when my daughter found out that The Arsenal would be showing on the big telly during Strictly. A compromise was made. The Saturday night Lycra festival will be postponed until Sunday morning and she could stay up a bit later than usual. Good parenting! She understands that The Arsenal will always beat Brucie (can we play him every week) but she can't fathom why me, my wife & son looked so miserably bored watching something that had bumped her favourite programme into touch.

This is difficult to write. I don't want to go on a massive rant. Much like the latest excuse I just don't have the energy. It's quite clear things aren't right. We now have 1 point from our last 3 away games. 20 points from 39. We are in course to finish on about 57 points which last season would've seen us settle in 7th! Maths doesn't lie. Unless we improve that's where we are.

Let's look at the last 3 games. 2 wins and an away draw. Not bad and it does seem overly grumpy to be critical. However against spuds we started very badly before the joyous red card was flashed. Against Montpellier we were shocking in the first half. Against Villa we were shocking in both halves. The results are OK but it's the long term prospects that worry us pessimists.

In all honesty we just look average and that's not good enough for The Arsenal. We don't challenge for the league anymore and the domestic cup are played with indifference. We have no Devine right to win anything but we do have a right to hope. I look at this squad and they don't look special.

Maybe we need to move our own goalposts. There was a time when a massive win against the spuds would've been not only lovely but a useful 3 points in our challenge for the title. Now it's just lovely. We are like so many clubs now where individual results are important. The bigger picture has faded away.

Yesterday was so lack lustre it was embarrassing. One shot on target all afternoon & lucky not to lose. The manager's odd substitutions said we were happy with a draw at a team that have a good chance of going down. Not good enough.

I'm not sure where to go with this now. We've all said everything that needs to be said time and time again. The one thing I've avoided since blogging is the manager's position as I believe what Arsene has brought to the club deserves our total respect. However, due to the merry-go-round this week it got me thinking about what would happen if Arsene walked away. Who on earth would take over? The board at the club are hopeless and I wouldn't trust them with a catering contract (look at the menus in the ground!) let alone picking the right man to replace a legend. What shocked me yesterday was, for the first time, I was backing the manager not because I think he's still the right man but that I can't see a viable alternative! If there was an alternative the Chavs would've appointed him.

Basically we need to back the manager and the team we have but we can criticise both without being disloyal. Without opinions football is pointless. We also need to accept where we are now. Things will change. They have to. They cannot maintain this mediocrity if they want the stadium full or the tills in the shops to keep ringing. That new sponsorship money will have to be used.

But before I go.....

The tired excuse of being 'tired' was trotted out again yesterday and it just doesn't wash anymore. Why the manager thinks we will sit back and go 'oh they were tired after an uninspiring midweek game against a very weak French team were they? That explains it' is bizarre. It does him no favours. Gibbs, in the Arsenal magazine, says he gets up between 8.30 and 9am every day! He must be exceptionally tired! It's a piss poor excuse that just makes things worse. Stop it.

So onwards to Everton. Let's hope they are bloody exhausted.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Mirror Licker's Sadness

"Right, let's get this over with" was the last thing I said to the visiting Spurs fan and his son as we left the house. He could hardly believe my pessimism but it's been that kind of season. We were ripe for a beating. Little did I know he felt the same.

A few hours later and we were chanting 'Are you Tottenham in disguise' at a sorry bunch in the corner. That has always been my favourite song directed at them. No need to resort to pathetic child molester material. The good old fashioned piss take wins the day.

It could've been so different. We started poorly. Eventually we buckled with what I'm fairly sure is the worst bit of defending in the history of anything. It was so bad I had to watch the bloody goal again to make sure I had not made it up. AdeBuysWhores scored it. Of course he did. He was picked especially to wind us up. Proof, if indeed you need any, that their manager is a detestable mirror licking mug. He smugly sat on the bench pleased with his choice until, like a marvellous early Christmas present for us, it blew up in his face. An appalling studs up saw the ref reach for his card and the dickhead trudged towards the tunnel to a display of season tickets fluttering in the afternoon breeze.

There is no doubt that AdeBuysWhores did more for us in that moment of madness than he did in his last two years at the club. They had tickled the post just before and we had yet to attack. Suddenly the pressure was on. We could not lose to them with 11. Now it was unthinkable. Yet, still there was little confidence. I worried that it would take a while to break them down and frustration would restrict us. The BFG had different ideas with a massive unstoppable header. 1-1. Relief!

If the spuds had formed an orderly queue to punch Adebayor full in the face at half time I wouldn't be surprised. Going in 3-1 down after leading and playing well until his assault would be a jagged pill to swallow. To us? Very very funny. That does take a bit away from our own team. We started to play well and Lady Luck, who seems to have lost the new stadiums address, finally turned up. Poldolski's miss kick, last week, would've gone wide. Today it bobbled in. The third goal was just brilliant football. At 1pm I really didn't think I would be celebrating 3 times before the break but I was. We all were and it was lovely.

The spuds had a change around at half time and gave it a go in the second half. Cazorla scored a deserved goal but at 4-1 up we did that thing The Arsenal do and gave up a bit. I wish we'd go for the jugular sometimes. They were there for a seeing to but no. We prefer to let them back in it. Bale strolled through unchallenged to score their second. We are Arsenal so 4-2 up at home against 10 men leaves us uncomfortable!

We weathered the nerves and even stuck in a fifth to rub it in. 5-2 again! As the sign says 'over and over and over again!' The songs were sung. Happy faces everywhere you looked. Strangers talking again. This was by far the best home game of the season. This is how it once was. It's how it should be.

We all know that things aren't fixed by this. There are many problems with this squad. You don't have your worst start for 30 years if all is rosy and we saw some of the problems today but we needed to beat Tottenham today and beat Tottenham we did. For once put your thoughts on the board, manager or players to one side. Have a day off and enjoy this marvellous result. Will it kick start our season? Who knows? Time will tell but today we put 'them' in their place and we should bathe in the glow it gives you.

Their odious manager will be so upset the reflection in the mirror above his bed won't look so appealing to him tonight. He is sad. Alan Sugar will be angry. Chas and Dave will be silent. For all that,The Arsenal, we thank you. We thank you very much.

Up the Gunners.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Sitting Uncomfortably.

As I hobbled towards the ground wearing a new shirt my wife described as 'not your worst' I hoped for better. I nearly didn't go. All week I've been stuck in bed then in the house as I've Diabyied my back. It's agony when I move so it's best not to. Why do we do stupid things in the name of football?

I took the disabled lift to the upper concourse and puffed to my seat. I've put the effort in. The least the boys could do is the same. For a while they fooled me. 2-0 up at home to Fulham. Very nice indeed. I looked at my son and we had that 'this is easier than it looks' look in our expressions but neither of us would admit it.

Fulham went on a rare trip up our end. We were in control of this. I looked down to tweet a tweet and there it was. An utterly pathetic bit of defending of which we are so fond crashed the party. Suddenly that confidence wobbled and there was little surprise when it then went to 2-2. Bloody hell Arsenal.

The team left the field to a non responsive crowd. The 'fans' who chose to boo Santos' name at the start were too shocked to react to the second 2-0 lead to go up in a puff of smoke in 5 days.

The second half started and I wasn't the only one sitting uncomfortably. We were back to square one and Fulham fancied it. They looked as likely to score as we did and of course they did. An awful bit of sodding about in the corner led to Arteta molesting one of them. 100% penalty that the undead buried. Somehow we had gone from 2-0 up to 3-2 down. At home. To Fulham. Yet oddly it didn't seem too surprising.

We briefly woke up. We looked urgent and finally with it. A cracking Giroud header levelled it and we were celebrating an equaliser. At home. To Fulham. After leading 2-0. Needs must. The missed penalty (or fantastically saved penalty I should say) summed it up. Had that gone in we wouldn't have deserved it. This is where we are now. We are level with Fulham. We draw with Fulham. Look at the table. Top 3 look familiar. They were our rivals once. No longer do we check their results. West Ham, Tottenham and Newcastle is who we need to worry about now. We've finally downsized into that group below teams that can actually win it. 16 points from a possible 33 is just not good enough.

This side, I'm loathed to say, are little more than average. They are hard work to watch when you've seen some of the teams of the past. My poor son has never seen us win anything (he's been going since 2006-07) but I've seen The Arsenal at their best and what's going on now breaks my heart. They are streets away from some of the teams we had at Highbury. It wasn't always perfect but we had word class players all over the place who, most importantly, would bust a gut for the club. They would dig deep and achieved the rewards. They were a pleasure to watch. I saw crowds gasp at the beauty and speed of some of the play at Highbury. That's gone.

Being a miserable old bit I guess I miss those times. We went to cup finals. We challenged the top of the league most seasons. We had hope. The whole place has changed and it pains me (today, quite literally.) The board are a massive problem. The Arsenal fans have gone. As long as the money keeps rolling in then they don't give a shit. There is nobody there that is hurt by defeat or a home draw with Fulham. Bloody Kroenke probably doesn't even know today's result. Not one of them will have a word with Arsene to say this is not good enough. Maybe if we don't finish 4th and the ground is half full as we take on Fulskinerkenstein in the wafer cup they might care. I don't know.

All I do know is we have a massive game against 'them' next Saturday and we don't look ready. 11 games in and we don't look ready.

Sorry for the misery but my back hurts and today was not good enough again. Next week has to be better.

Up the Gunners.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Psychic Son

As I walked past The Tollington I peered through the window to see a close up of you know who. I was on my way to the car park of a sports centre no more than a long ball away from The Arsenal. My son was inside playing football. I was poised to race home to watch the game the moment he arrived. Suddenly he opened the door.

"1-0. Van Persie," he said but I couldn't tell if it was fact or a question.
"How do you know?"
"I don't," he replied, "I guessed!"

And that ladies and gentlemen are where we are. It was so inevitable my son just knew. Granted he was surprised by his psychic powers but not by the events. 3 minutes gone and we were finished.

Yet who amongst us really gave us a chance? That's not being disloyal just honest. The Internet is full of reasons why we are where we are and I'm not about to bore you with another rant (I probably am you know!) We all have our opinions about what's wrong. The board? The manager? The players? The move to The Emirates? Some think all. Most think some. Me? I'm starting to think its a bit of all of them and that pains me. But if I had to pick one it would be the club's desire for profits over success on the pitch. Us fans stand so far away from the aspirations of our club it's frightening.

Now none of us want to see the club go all Rangers on us. It needs a good business head steering the ship but as the seasons go by it does seen to be at the expense of any on field success. They seem to have missed the point that everything stems from that. Had we not been so successful on the pitch a new stadium would not have been necessary. We won cups and we did it in style. 60,000 plus people wanted to see that. The style has gone and the cups are unreachable and less than 60,000 want to see that. Much less.

The club is slowly being dismantled before us. Year after year the best players leave. Selling him to them was the last straw. £24 million in the bank. Bollocks. We were so far behind them last season that selling them out best player was a good idea for "footballing reason!" Utter utter bollocks and a clear indication of our stature. He's been 'replaced' by Giroud. I rest my case.

I'm sorry for this but there really doesn't seem to be a silver lining. Too many average players have seen to that. I'm sure most football fans kick off seasons thinking they won't win anything. We are now among them. But as long as we keep qualifying for the money making champions league that's like a trophy and we should celebrate it. Call me old fashioned but I like my trophies to be trophies rather than like trophies. What's next? A DVD of our best throw ins called 'Little Victories?'

I was in the club shop on Saturday and a few things struck me. Who thought 'Keep calm I'm a Gooner' was a good idea? Anyone who's calm about what we are witnessing is clearly not a Gooner. A spud wouldn't even be calm. They would be excited. The same bell-end in some idiotic marketing department probably thought 'we don't buy superstars, we make them' was clever. 'We don't buy superstars, we make them and sell them on for a huge profit making the board happy and the fans angry' probably only fits on a XXL.

The words of 'Sit down' by James keep playing in my head.

"If I hadn't seen such riches I wouldn't feel so poor!"

We were spoilt. We won loads. I'm not taking it for granted that we should win things just because we are The Arsenal but we should at least be competitive. We should have hopes and aspirations and we don't. We are so far from even challenging for the league it's pitiful.

So onwards, sideways and probably downwards to the next game. My goodness we need a good performance on Tuesday. We probably need a striker too. And a keeper. And a left back*


*Santos. Man U's new kit man and massive idiot. Discuss. I just don't have the energy anymore.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Wish my Dad could see all this!

As I boy dad didn't take me to The Arsenal. It was the days of proper hooliganism and pretty damn scary. I did go to a north London derby in 1982 and all I remember was people being carried around the pitch covered in blood. No place for a dad to take a son. Milton Road, a few miles from home, was the place.
Dad would meet his mates as I stood listening and not understanding the banter. As I got older I joined in. When I bought the tea (with money dad had given me in the car park) I was part of the gang!

Cambridge City are a best kept secret. They are continually confused with United even when The Us were in the old second division and they even got a mention in Nick Hornby's Feverpitch! Yet many locals don't seem to know they exist. They nearly went under in 2006 before a fantastic band of fans stepped in and saved them. I lost Highbury that year. Thank goodness City didn't go too. When dad died in 1999 it took me about 4 years to return as it was our place and going without him wasn't right. Now I go whenever I can with my own son and we love it.

I sat excitedly in the horrible north London traffic waiting for my son to come out of school. He jumped in and we sat in another queue as we headed for the A1 and supper in the Baldock services. At just after six we arrived, parked by the River Cam and walked to the ground to get a good spot. Normally, when there are only 300 people there you can stand where you like. Not tonight for tonight is a special night.

It's the FA Cup first round proper. This will be the fifth FA Cup game I've seen this season already and this is the big one. MK Dons are in town. 4 leagues above. 100 league places away. A mountain to climb but whatever the score Cambridge City have already won. For a struggling non-league club the £27,000 won from the previous 4 rounds was most welcome. The £64,000 from ESPN is history changing! Yes, for the first time in their 104 year history they were truly in the spotlight!

We bought the special scarf, programme and raffle tickets and stood behind the goal to the left. Black and white scarf was draped over the advertising board so the family at home could find us on the telly (Yes! The telly!) and the inflatable cup was blown up and tied above the scarf. It got a thumbs up from some of the City players. We were ready.

Now I've shared many a stadium with Ian Wright but I never thought it would be at The City Ground. This was all too much! We watched the build up on my phone. Bizarre! Then watched a game available across the world with the other 1500 people there. The secret I shared with my dad was out.

As expected it was all one way traffic. MK Dons looked fitter and sharper as they should but City were magnificent. They defended with passion and the goalkeeper was a superhero. Zac Barrett really is a secret I hope nobody finds out about. Best keeper in this league by a mile and why he's not playing at a much higher level is a mystery. He made stop after stop as did the post twice and they hung on for an exciting replay at the mini Emirates style Stadium MK.

My son and I returned down the M11 happy and cheering the score as it was read out on FiveLive every half an hour. We arrived at our dark home at 11pm. Son staggered to bed and I sat in a quiet living room catching my breath. Everyone else was asleep. Lets just have a quick look! For the first time ever I could relive a City game on the telly in HD! I watched the build up and then did a X6 fast forward stopping every time the ball went near us. There we are! Scarf dangling. Me and boy on the TV!

After the game players and managers, not used to the limelight, interviewed perfectly. Both managers showed a respect for one another which made a nice change from the Premiership. No underhand comments. No moaning about the ref. No reading between the lines. No egos. A breath of fresh air.

It was a truly historic night at Milton Road and a fitting memory for all the happy times as City pack up and ground share with Newmarket next season. The game has been re-watched and a DVD made. It was a fitting reward for all the fans who worked so hard to keep this brilliant club going.

And we get to do it all again next week in the replay. I just wish my dad could be here to see all this!