Mowbray and Palmer

Today, we take on Celtic FC for a spot in the Champions League Group Stage. We have made the Group Stage in nine consecutive years, but this is the first year where finishing fourth resulted in playing stiffer opposition in order to progress. This is all part of Platini’s master plan of having more “Champions” involved in the cash cow part of the Champions League. All it’s really doing is diluting the competition and making the future group stage even more boring. As it stands, the Champions League doesn’t start proper until the Round of 16 (when it genuinely gets exciting).

Conversely, it has made this knockout tie before the Group Stage far more interesting. There were genuinely tough opponents we could have drawn in Fiorentina and Atletico Madrid. In the end, we drew Celtic.

Tony Mowbray has the potential to be a great manager. He studies the right managers (notably Arsene Wenger), and he understands that survival by attrition alone is ultimately a fruitless path. I was wholeheartedly rooting for his West Brom team to survive relegation, something that was wholly thrown into doubt when they lost their best striker (Ishmael Miller) so early in the season. Mowbray refused to conform to relegation fodder teams, and he ordered his players to play football. Arsenal-lite was what they were dubbed, and personally, I enjoyed watching us play against them since it created open games.

During yesterday’s press conference, Mowbray told reporters of a “cunning plan” that would potentially help Celtic stand a chance against us. Most are counting Celtic out, but with a home atmosphere that will be rocking, they have a good chance of getting a positive result in the first leg. What this cunning plan is, who knows? In the second leg of their Champions League qualifier against Dinamo Moscow, Mowbray played Scott Brown in the hole and they pulled off the shock of the tournament thus far.

Mowbray didn’t out and out say he wasn’t going to play football, but he also hinted that he wasn’t about to play as open as he did against us when he managed West Brom. Simply put, the Champions League is more important than trying to pick up three points against a team that you’re unlikely to beat anyway. Starting at home actually helps Celtic, because if it started at the Emirates, we could have ended it in one go.

Regardless, I expect the players to step up even with the raucous atmosphere. Great players are never daunted by negative vibes from opposition fans. If anything, they thrive on it. Kobe Bryant used to talk about how much he loved playing at the old Alamodome, because it was so spacious and there were a huge number of Spurs fans that would boo him mercilessly. If that’s the kind of thing that throws you off, you’re not a great player. Look at how David Beckham responded recently when some of his own fans heckled him.

Today will be an exciting match.

That brings me to the other man named in this post’s title. That man is Myles Palmer.

Another colleague has already written about him before on this site. I pretty much agreed with everything he said, and I really have no desire to pimp ANR in any way.

But today, I felt as though he crossed a line. It may have been a throwaway pun to most, but it offended me deeply. After claiming that a 4-3-3 system would not work (even after we mauled a decent Everton side by 5 goals), he wrote this:

“Eboue came on and dribbled into a crowd of Everton players. You thought: Why is Wilshere not on the bench? Because, Wenger says, I can’t play him because the team is too young. Jack’s not too young but the team is too young, so he can’t be in it. The manager would rather play an ignoramus like Eboue or a cretin like Diaby.”

First off, Diaby didn’t even feature in this game. Second, Jack Wilshere is 17 years old and had just played an Under 21 match for England. Wenger could not have expected us to have scored 6 goals against Everton. He probably expected a tight encounter, and that is not an ideal situation to throw him into.

Palmer has called players like Alex Song a clown in the past. He has called Thierry Henry a ballerina that would never win a European trophy with Arsenal. The fact that he ended up being right about that is nothing brave or praiseworthy, football is an unpredictable game.

But to call Diaby a “cretin” is something else. And frankly, it strikes me as a touch xenophobic. After a week of Wenger and almost all Arsenal blogs tempering expectations, Myles wanted Wilshere to play in a match against the team that finished fifth and FA Cup runners-up? And why bring Diaby into this at all? He didn’t even play.

Call players worthless if you want, but don’t call them cretins. For instance, does Myles Palmer recognize that Diaby was the captain of the Under-19 France squad that won the European U-19 Championship in 2005. That team featured names like Yoann Gourcuff and Younes Kaboul, but it was Diaby that dazzled observers. Diaby has never really played in his proper position for us since he had has ankle broken horrifically by a Sunderland player. Now that we’ve switched to this 4-3-3 system, perhaps he can play alongside Cesc in games. He’s also bulked up significantly, and he understands that he needs to step up.

Take my word for it. Myles Palmer is a failed novelist who uses Arsenal like a leech so he can promote his biography about Arsene Wenger; he does it every chance he gets. And when he writes undignified garbage like today’s article or completely false information like Nigel Reo-Coker coming to Arsenal, he lets himself off the hook by printing a letter from a fan who tells him he’s doing a great job. It’s a cowardly tactic.

This man is not worth anybody’s time.

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