Advantage Manchester United

First leg and advantage to Manchester United.

1-0 is not a bad scoreline if you consider that Man United scored after only 17 minutes. For the first 20 minutes Arsenal were blitzed. I thought immediately after Man United had scored that Arsenal might get drubbed 3 or 4 nil. I told the bloke sitting next to me that if Arsenal could survive not conceding another goal before half-time then they would be okay.

Some Arsenal players seemed overawed by the occasion. They simply froze.

Old Trafford.

76,000 fans, 72,000 of which are the enemy.

Champions League semi-final.

Man United players were like baying dogs going for the kill, but once they scored they calmed down and took their foot off the gas.

Bad move.

The tie should have been won at half-time. Arsenal were there for the taking.

The second half Arsenal played more composed football. There were times when we dominated possession, but when it comes to procreating, what’s the point of being good at foreplay if you can’t penetrate?

At the end Arsenal nearly nicked a goal and Man United players were happy for the whistle to blow. A good sign for the future in my opinion.

Here are some observations:

Arsenal look and play better with two strikers. Arsenal looked threatening with Bendtner and Eduardo playing. United looked concerned;

Rooney did a job on Walcott;

United play better with Tevez;

Almunia is a top quality keeper. You can now forget about his performance at Stoke;

Song was immense. Apart from a couple of bad passes he did a lot of things right: tackled well, won headers, broke up United attacks and started Arsenal attacks.

Wenger is right when he says that you will see a different Arsenal at The Emirates. Arsenal were poor partly because Man United were very good.

With the scoreline at 1-0 many might say that Arsenal are out. They should be out but they are no way near out. True, if United score first at the Emirates then I would say they are through to the final in Rome.

However, there are some previous games that suggest all is not lost.

Back in February, Arsenal blitzed Roma but only won 1-0. The return leg was different. Arsenal played poorly and lost 1-0.

In 1980, Arsenal played Juventus in the Cup Winners Cup semi-final. They drew the first leg at Highbury 1-1. Pundits said that Arsenal were out because the Italians had the away goal. Arsenal won the return leg 1-0.

In the 1995 Cup Winners Cup semi-final against Sampdoria, Arsenal won the first leg 3-2. Again, the pundits said Arsenal were out because the Italians had two away goals. In the second leg, Sampdoria went ahead 3-1 scoring two goals in last eight minutes, only for Stephan Schwarz to score a 30 yard free-kick in injury time and send the game into extra-time. Seaman, with two cracked ribs, saved three penalties in the shoot-out and Arsenal went on to the final.

On both occasions Arsenal played a Spanish team in the final.

I would love to play Barcelona again in a final.

The Manchester United game is far from over even though it should be.

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The Big Red One

I’ve never been more excited for an Arsenal match than tomorrow. Quite simply, this is a tie I’ve waited for the last ten years. Arsenal Football Club versus Manchester United Football Club. It represents England at it’s very best, and the world will watch to see which football side emerges victorious.

To be correct, hopefully, the tie will not be decided tomorrow. Any manager will tell their team that you cannot necessarily win the tie in the first leg, but you definitely can lose it.

But this tie has everything.

It has the grand rivalry between Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson. The truth is, we hate Ferguson with a passion because he is a successful manager. Were he our manager, I’d venture that most Gooners would defend him with great zeal, the same way they defend Arsene. If it were the other way around, it’s hard to say. That’s a comment that says more about United fans than it does about Arsenal fans. Both are class managers in an objective sense, although Wenger remains much more of a purist. He is a man who tries to achieve champagne football built on fantasies, something that simply doesn’t exist anymore in this era of football.

It has the wonderful talents between both squads. I do not want to highlight the fine players that United have in this segment, because it makes me sick. More to the point, I’d like to say that the players have the opportunity to take another step towards supremacy. Last year, we suffered a horrible exit against Liverpool at Anfield. The players learn from episodes like this, and I’m confident that if we were to lose this tie, our players will not crumble up and die. That doesn’t mean the players aren’t up or prepared for tomorrow. They’ll want it badly. It’s often said that players nowadays fancy the Champions League more than the League, that may be due to the cosmopolitan nature of the big clubs now, but it is a fact. The only trophy players covet more is the World Cup. I think the league is very important, but the Champions League is a huge omission in Arsene Wenger’s glorious CV. If this group of players achieve what most people feel is impossible, it may rank as his greatest achievement.

It has the history that was too easily swept under the rug. They may be “friends” now, but as fierce competitors, the two managers still do not like to lose to one another. Let’s not forget that Cesc was there for pizzagate. The hatred wasn’t what it once was, but after this tie, everything will come back. I guarantee it. I can’t begin to describe to you how much I hate United.

Tomorrow, I want to see only one thing by the end. Obviously, I would love to head to the Emirates with a 3-0 lead in hand. However, this is probably unlikely.

What I would like to see is us in a position to win the tie at the Emirates by winning at the Emirates. I want the tie to remain alive. I want the team to experience the sensation of playing United at the Emirates knowing that if they win, they’ll progress to the Champions League Final. I want the fans at the Emirates to realize that they’re watching something special, something that will forever be remembered in history.

Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger have never played each other in this format before. This is a tie that will be decided over 180 minutes, not 90.

The thing I’d like to tell our fans is to enjoy the occasion and support the squad. They never gave up on each other, so we have no reason to give up on them. It’s rare that you get to see genius on this level collide like two freight trains.

This tie will have majesty and ferocity. It will be one for the ages.

My Rover Your Rolls

I looked up Rolls Royce on the respected edmunds.com site. As expected, the praise was gushing; “stately, opulent and luxurious”, “set a standard that other luxury car makers have aspired to reach”, “the best car in the world”, “at the front of the ultra-luxury pack”. If I were to make comparisons to automobiles, it is clear that Manchester United would be the Rolls Royce of football clubs. They are standard bearers sitting at the top of the football mountain.

I then looked up Range Rover – the Range Rover Sport model to be exact; “a premium SUV that represents a shift in focus for this SUV-oriented luxury brand.”

I stress shift in focus for that is exactly what Arsenal have done with regard to the Wenger model for player acquisition and squad building. While we’ve spent a record fee on AA23 as the lone (established) star to join Wenger’s young squad, United have spent more than double the Arshavin fee on each of their main strikers. This, much to the ire of many a Gooner, has symbolized the image of a club in alleged regression mode. The common accusation is that we are a club that has not been able to keep up with its rivals. It is said that we haven’t adequately replaced The Invincibles.

Like the Rover Sport to the Rolls Royce (any model), Arsenal are very high quality but on a different if not less opulent scale. I heard someone describe the ride and performance of the Range Rover Sport model recently and couldn’t help but think of Arsenal. He described the vehicle with four words; high performance, luxurious, sporty. Perhaps car enthusiasts with greater breadth of knowledge than I have might be able to think of better comparisons.

When Arsenal are in full flow, we are undoubtedly the most entertaining side in all of football – Barcelona and Utd are right up there but you will forgive my obvious bias. In time, we will develop into the most dynamic side as well.

The semi final has come upon us like a Range Rover Sport overtaking a Rolls Royce. I have no fear of Manchester United. We’ve already beaten them. We can beat them again. We have an extremely frustrating recent past when it comes to defining moments in the quest for European club football’s greatest prize. I feel strongly that the drive and focus required to reach the final will be immense. Sure Utd are driven and will not lack focus with Taggart in charge but as a great man once said, “Wenger’s no mug.”

Our season depends on this tie. We must do what a large faction of Arsenal fans and neutrals alike would have laughed at me even three months ago for suggesting was possible. In many circles, victories over United and Chelsea this season were seen as ‘one offs’. Many feel that “we’re not good enough”.

That matters little at this point. We haven’t cruised by any means this season but nobody can say that our high performing young team is far from ascending the mountaintop.

Be Thankful for Being an Arsenal Fan

Newcastle are desperate.

Everyone involved with that club is desperate.

Let’s start with the players. If you are Michael Owen, why would you leave Real Madrid and join Newcastle? Why did Obafemi Martins leave Inter Milan for Newcastle? Why did Damien Duff leave a Premiership winning Chelsea team for Newcastle? Why would you join a team that has Nicky Butt as it’s play-maker?

Nicky Butt is an MLS player. He doesn’t belong in the Premiership.

The problem with Newcastle is that they sign players at the wrong end of their careers. They sign has-been players who have made Newcastle a has been club.

Alan Smith
Joey Barton
Nicky Butt
Geremi
Mark Viduka
Kevin Nolan

But the fans believe otherwise. They point to the millions of pounds spent each year on players, the 52,000 St James Park stadium, the Toon Army, the massive support and the Newcastle nightlife.

I look at Newcastle differently.

Number 1: it’s right up there in the north-east of England. It’s so far north it’s practically in Scotland. The geographic equivalent in the United States is Bangor, Maine. You get the drift.

Living in London, you have the choice of catching a flight to Amsterdam, Paris or Newcastle. The cost and distance are the same but the culture isn’t. You only have to look at Newcastle’s icons to realize that.

Brown Ale, a football club, and a bridge.

You can see why I choose Amsterdam or Paris every time.

Number 2: the weather. It’s always cold in Newcastle. In tonight’s game at St James Park the temperature was 41 F or 5 C. Yet on TV, hundreds of home supporters wore just a Newcastle top. I also noticed that there were some flurries of snow.

Flurries of snow?

We are 3 days away from May. Yes, May the first month of summer.

You will never get sun burnt in Newcastle. I can guarantee you that. Newcastle has replaced it’s lack of sun with beer, pubs and neanderthal pussy.

Neanderthal pussy you ask? Yes, think scantily clad, pale, doughy skin, flab, short skirts, cheap make-up, yellow teeth, trash talking, peroxide gelled hair, pint downing pussy. It’s desperate!

But looking fat, pasty, and anemic is the look in Newcastle. Combine the look with alcohol and you have have a fat cancer victim who is drunk. They make the characters in the film “Children of the Corn” look normal.

Number 3: I can never understand a Geordie. They speak English but I would probably understand them better if they didn’t. What they speak is Brown Ale. I need subtitles for whenever Gazza speaks, but I just give up whenever a drunk Newcastle fans tries to talk to me. I walk away in the same manner that I do when a crack head asks me for change after I have just withdrawn cash from the ATM.

Number 4: The Blayden Races. You what? The unofficial anthem of Newcastle United. It’s an old 19th century folk song about a man and his friends traveling to a horse race. What it has to do with Geordie identity or a football club I have no idea! But before Newcastle’s game against Portsmouth, a fat, bald, middle-aged, white, male with a red beard, ran around the pitch, trying to rally the crowd by waving a large Newcastle flag and singing in a bombastic opera voice, this crap folk song into a microphone. The Newcastle fans responded accordingly. Singing their hearts out. It was beyond pathetic.

Number 5: The billionaire Mike Ashley who became rich by buying sports brands from distressed sellers: Donnay, Lonsdale, Slazenger, Dunlop, Karrimor and Kangol. Hardly high end brands but then we’re talking about Mike Ashley who is hardly a high end brand of chairman. Ashley typifies a rich Geordie. He wears a Newcastle top to games. He used to sit with fans until Kevin Keegan resigned. He downs pints in public, makes an idiot of himself in cheesy New York clubs by running up $150,000 tabs and dancing on stage with slappers. He’s fat, ugly, pasty and lacks class.

The Arsenal chairman would never behave or act in such a crass manner. You may not like David Dein, Peter Hill-Wood or Danny Fiszman but at least they have class.

Number 6: Messiahs. Keegan the Messiah. He quit so Bobby Robson was the Messiah. He got fired so they eventually brought Keegan back to be the Messiah once again. He once again quit so now Shearer is the Messiah. If he quits who is next? How many more Messiahs can you invent?

Number 7: Managers. Since 2004, Newcastle have had six different managers since Bobby Robson was fired:

Graeme Souness
Glenn Roeder
Sam Allardyce
Kevin Keegan
Joe Kinnear
Alan Shearer

I wouldn’t allow any of the above anywhere near any Arsenal team and that includes the Ladies. They are disturbing appointments at best. Ossie Ardilles is the only foreign manager to have been employed at Newcastle back in 1991-92. He was sacked after leaving Newcastle in serious relegation trouble and the north-east club haven’t appointed a foreign coach since.

Newcastle have 31 points. They signed Shearer to beat the drop. In four games he has won zero games, scored one goal, and gained just 2 points. In contrast, Portsmouth’s coaching staff of Paul Hart and Brain Kidd (Fergie’s number two during the treble season) have done a sterling job in making Pompey avoid relegation. Nine games, two defeats, 13 points.

Arsenal play Portsmouth on Saturday at Fratton Park. If Arsenal win they will guarantee themselves Champions League football next season. If Portsmouth win, they will guarantee Premiership football next season. Each competition is worth over $50 million.

Newcastle on the other hand can only guarantee you another Messiah. Shearer says he is standing down after this season so they will need a new one.

Who is left for them?

Yes, you’ve guessed it:

GAZZA

Double Trouble

Not ‘Just Another Victory’

As a great man made clear in a previous post, Gareth Southgate’s Boro teams have done fairly well against us. Well, up until today that is. A Cesc brace puts Boro in further trouble – I’d much rather see Phil Brown and Hull City go down to be honest – while we are now 20 unbeaten in the league.

The term geometry is apposite when describing the types of movement, angles, and precision it takes to play Wenger’s brand of football. Add the thrust and pace of our attacks and you have a lethal potion. Southgate’s men did themselves no favors playing such a high line, especially on the first goal. The neat back heel from Bendtner should not go unnoticed for it was pivotal to the move that exposed the folly of Boro’s defence playing so close to the midfield stripe. They were always going to be vulnerable with Theo and AA23 lurking.

Cesc finished another superbly diagrammed move from an inch perfect Eboue pass that deserved a goal. I have been very vocal about my disappointment in the captain’s poor form for some time. Cesc really hadn’t been himself for us consistently since February, 2008. Putting the disappointment of last week’s FA Cup semi final defeat aside (a big ask really as Chelsea were a big challenge and we handed them victory in unforgivable fashion), Cesc has been spectacular since returning from injury. We’ll need that as we close the season with very serious intentions to take home the European Cup.

Make no mistake about it that winning in such fashion, i.e. a clean sheet plus a brace by our pulsating leader, is a fine way to prepare for the CL semi final 1st leg. Arsene won’t need to make Patton like speeches for this one. The boys want it. The boys know what is at stake. They will savor this eventful moment. I sense that to a man, they feel that they are as good as if not better than United. Let’s be clear, we’ve beaten United. We should not fear them. I feel we’re better equipped for this tie than they are, with injuries to our key players or not.

We have far more to play for than Taggart’s lot. We have tasted the bitterness of disappointment often in recent seasons. A factor that I feel is under-rated. We’ll want to make the best of this opportunity. I feel that for United, the tie rests on how well Ferguson manages to gee up his gang.

United vs. Arsenal needs no hyperbolic treatment. It is THE glamour tie in England. Spores are small potatoes and generally insignificant. Chelsea are chavs with a super rich sugar daddy whose billions helped to end their long run of being our doormats. Anelka’s Real Madrid comparisons are a little off target in my opinion. United is our true rival. To face them in the CL is fantastic. Ferguson will need to remind his players that we will be gunning for glory. We are a true threat to their treble quest.

Arsene won’t have much motivating to do. The troops will be up for this one.

Red is the color. My palms are sweating in anticipation.

Villa and Bolton

Today, I watched Bolton Wanderers versus Aston Villa.

Why did I bother.

It was like attending a Southern Baptist church.

It was stale, boring, full of crosses, with Martin O’Neill acting like a nutty evangelical preacher – jumping up and down gesturing at nothing and remonstrating with his coaching staff over certain refereeing decisions such as throw-ins or offsides. Occasionally the crowd would sing crap songs – about how Bolton were the greatest team the world has ever seen. That world is obviously full of blind people and guide dogs. The Villa chant wasn’t much better. It went like this:

Villa
Villa
Villa

I know what you are thinking. The lyrics are difficult to memorize.

On 43 minutes Villa scored. Ashley Young put in a cross, a Villa player missed the header and the ball went in off the post. The goal was a fluke. But the commentator started talking about Villa taking 4th spot. I laughed inside.

The second half was the same. Crosses, headers, long balls from the back, tough tackles and not much else. Those wankers that say that the English Premiership is the best in the world need to watch this game – it was worse than MLS.

On 60 minutes, Bolton equalized. A cross, a defensive error, a goal. Bolton’s fans celebrated as though a revelation had just happened – no Bolton fans, it was the average Tamir Cohen scoring a shit goal.

The game painfully continued, just like a painfully boring sermon in some crusty Baptist Church. Both sets of supporters sang nothing songs about their loyalty to their clubs, and both teams played long, protracted, football. I was bored just like I would be sitting in a pew in any stale church in the South.

The ref only played 2 minutes of added time, saving me and plenty of others from the threat of being brainwashed by the commentator who kept on telling me that Martin O’Neill had worked miracles. Let’s get this straight, not even Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela worked miracles so how the fuck has Martin O’Neill?

The commentator later said that David Moyes should win Manager of the Year. For what? Getting to an FA cup final, reaching 6th in the Premier league? Or for not even making the group stages of the UEFA cup and then losing to Blackburn in the Carling cup 3rd round.

I then came to a conclusion about Bolton and Aston Villa. Bolton are like a hemorrhoid on your penis, while Villa are the herpes of the Premier League. Every so often they have a good season by threatening to finish in the top six by playing really painful football. They then get knocked out of the UEFA cup by playing their reserve team, complain about their small squads and then try and enter the Intertoto cup in order to qualify for the UEFA cup again. Genius!

That pathetic competition has now been disbanded, so Villa will instead try and break into the top four by buying more average international players like Nicky Shorey and James Milner. Those players can’t even break into the England squad. But the point is they’re English, which is more than Arsenal can say about their squad!

It was 13 games ago when Villa last won a match. Yet Martin O’Neill says:

“Overall I have been delighted with the team and on the whole we have been playing pretty well.”

12 games and zero wins is shocking. On the whole, Villa have played football similar to that of Stoke. Horrible! Overall, I would be disgusted by Villa’s results, but I support Arsenal, so I find them a complete joke.

If Arsenal win their next two Premiership games, they can look forward to more Champions League football next season. Villa on the other hand will disappear, only to reappear some time later like a bad hemorrhoid or a dose of herpes on the Premiership landscape.