The Taste of Blood

I want to see the SCUM obliterated tomorrow. I want them to be put in their place. I want them murdered on the pitch.

Almost exactly a year ago, we all witnessed one of the most sickening matches in recent history. While we can still rightfully claimed that they had not beaten us in ten years, it sure felt something like it. Certainly a loss would have been even worse, but that was bad enough.

That game singlehandedly stunted Gael Clichy and our Premier League season. We went into a vicious tail spin that made people wonder if Aston Villa was going to finish above us.

And one year on, a lot has changed.

Tottenham were on the verge of crumbling, but that draw saw their fortunes take an upturn and Harry Redknapp be proclaimed a savior. Now, they are seen as candidates to overtake us for one of the top four places in the Premier League.

Things have changed for us as well. We steadied the ship. Players like Alex Song have established themselves. We bought Arshavin and Thomas Vermaelen.

But the last two weeks were subtle reminders of the match from a year ago, and that kind of stuff must be stamped out of our team.

Three days ago, our Reserve/Youth team held onto a 2-1 lead against Liverpool and finished them off. What the youngsters know, the senior side must recognize.

Over the past week, I’ve had the misfortune of reading crap quotes from Redknapp and Robbie Keane. The media has gone into overdrive, because they think a sea change may happen. To which, Wenger merely said that once Tottenham achieved the type of consistency we’ve had over the past twelve years, we’ll talk.

Last year, we went into the North London Derby expecting three points and bury Tottenham six feet deep. We did not.

This year, we go into the derby with vivid memories from last year in our heads. This year, we’re in the thick of a title race that looks incredibly open. Arshavin, who has a tendency to drift out of small games, will be up for it tomorrow, knowing that God placed him in our squad instead of theirs. And Thomas Vermaelen is furious that we’ve thrown away points in the past two weeks.

On Halloween, our fangs are out and we seek Scum blood.

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Facts About Wednesday

Only three of the players that started against Liverpool in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory are home grown players: Gibbs, Gilbert and Eastmond.

Three of Wednesday’s starting 11 were teenagers: Eastmond 18, Ramsey 18 and Merida 19.

Only two players were above the age of twenty-five: Sylvestre 32 and Eduardo 26.

The rest of the team were 24 years old or younger: Senderos 24, Fabianski 24, Gilbert 22, Nasri 22, Bendtner 21, Gibbs 20.

Kerrea Gilbert and Craig Eastmond were the only players not part of the first team squad.

None of the seven substitutes were part of the first team squad.

Only three of them are home grown players: Frimpong, Watt and Randall

Eight of the 18 man squad are born in Britain. Two are Polish, Four are French, one Swiss, one Spanish, one Danish and one Brazilian.

For a painter the brush is his friend. For a footballer, the ball must be his friend.

Keep it Arsenal

Don’t Blame Theo

“Two words will probably haunt Sven Goran Eriksson for the rest of his career: Theo Walcott. Eriksson may have thought that the Arsenal teenager was going to be his Michael Owen in Germany in 2006. But the erratic decision backfired and for most coaches, confirmed the value of experience over youth.” Gavin Hamilton of World Soccer

For one thing, it’s quite speculative if not simply inaccurate to say that Sven “thought that the Arsenal teenager was going to be his Michael Owen in Germany in 2006.” I don’t remember ever reading or hearing Sven state anything close to having such high expectations of our injured (again) winger/striker. Theo was given a place in the World Cup squad but so was Stewart Downing. The over-rated Stewart Downing!

Isn’t that the selection that backfired?

Sven was criticized then for picking Theo but what real harm was there in picking him? At worst, he was given a spot that could have gone to another (non-existent) player who might have been more experienced and better equipped to make a difference to England’s ultimate fate. At best, he provided opposition in training for the England Left Back and competition for other wingers/strikers in the squad.

Who else was available at the time?

Sven picked and played Stewart Downing. Stewart Downing!!! STEWART DOWNING can say that he has played in a FIFA World Cup Finals tournament. WTF?!?!?

The idea that Sven made a mistake picking Theo was overblown in 2006 and it is equally over the top today to suggest that an “erratic decision backfired.” How was it erratic? If just one place in a squad of 23 players makes as big a difference as Mr. Hamilton has suggested, then the player surely must be worthy of greater expectation than was Theo. If Theo had been picked instead of Rooney, Gerrard, Lampard, or even Aaron Lennon, I’d understand. He wasn’t. Those players were there. Theo was never expected to be the type of player who’d make that big a big difference.

Again, I ask which player was available who fits that profile?

That Theo was selected was more a reflection of the lack of choices for the England manager than a mistake. Some went as far as suggesting that it was Arsene Wenger who twisted Sven’s arm to pick Theo. Wenger, like any manager looking for an advantage that would benefit his player and club, promoted the idea but every other manager with a promising young player at his cllub was free to do the same.

The idea that it “backfired” leaves me scratching my head. Was Theo’s inclusion what kept England from reaching the final? I fully accept that experience is a must at any FIFA World Cup Final. The squad had experienced players in Beckham, Campbell, Neville, Ferdinand, Gerrard, Carragher, Terry, and Ashley Cole. Moreover, England’s best player (since Matt LeTissier and Paul Gascoigne) for the period before the emergence of Wayne Rooney, Paul Scholes, was not available for selection anyway.

Sven’s choice to bring Theo was not why England stumbled and were eventually knocked out. Look at the names listed below and among them you will see an aggregate of (non-)contributors more responsible for England’s demise than Theo.

The England 2006 World Cup squad:

1 GK ROBINSON Paul – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
2 DF NEVILLE Gary – (Manchester Utd., ENG)
3 DF COLE Ashley – (Arsenal, ENG)
4 MF GERRARD Steven – (Liverpool, ENG)
5 DF FERDINAND Rio – (Manchester Utd., ENG)
6 DF TERRY John – (Chelsea, ENG)
7 MF BECKHAM David – (Real Madrid, ESP)
8 MF LAMPARD Frank – (Chelsea, ENG)
9 FW ROONEY Wayne – (Manchester Utd., ENG)
10 FW OWEN Michael – (Newcastle, ENG)
11 MF COLE Joe – (Chelsea, ENG)
12 DF CAMPBELL Sol – (Arsenal, ENG)
13 GK JAMES David – (Manchester City, ENG)
14 DF BRIDGE Wayne – (Chelsea, ENG)
15 DF CARRAGHER Jamie – (Liverpool, ENG)
16 MF HARGREAVES Owen – (Bayern Munich, GER)
17 MF JENAS Jermaine – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
18 MF CARRICK Michael – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
19 MF LENNON Aaron – (Tottenham Hotspur, ENG)
20 MF DOWNING Stewart – (Middlesbrough, ENG)
21 FW CROUCH Peter – (Liverpool, ENG)
22 GK GREEN Robert – (Norwich, ENG)
23 FW WALCOTT Theo – (Arsenal, ENG

The core of that last England team is still around and in their peak years. I would argue that this is England’s best chance to win a World Cup in a very long time. Potential though (as we Arsenal fans know) is a door that stays open for but so long.

If Theo is fit in time to make make a difference to Arsenal winning something this year, he might have another chance to be part of a group that fails and no doubt he’ll get to shoulder the blame. But who knows what they’ll do in South Africa! Remember, Capello is no mug.

The No. 1

Currently, Arsenal lack a world class goalkeeper.

We have the demoted Manuel Almunia, a world class backup goalkeeper.

We have Lukasz Fabianski, out injured since the Valencia preseason friendly.

We have Vito Mannone, an inexperienced Italian goalkeeper who doesn’t play like an Italian goalkeeper.

We have Wojciech Szczesny, an even more inexperienced goalkeeper with a great build and tons of potential.

I’ve already said enough about Almunia. I don’t believe he’s capable of being a world class goalkeeper. Even at the height of his Arsenal powers, he wasn’t even close to getting a cap or a call up to the Spanish squad. That he tried to qualify for the England team tells you more about the state of English goalkeepers than it does the quality of Almunia. To me, Manuel performed best when motivated to displace Jens, who was a fantastic goalkeeper. When he got there and he attained some security, his performances haven’t been as steady. Unfortunately for Manuel, I’ll always remember him for giving up two goals to Barcelona in the Champions League Final. You may think I’m being harsh, but you’ll never convince me that he couldn’t have done better. He’s been out with a “chest infection,” and now that he’s back, he must be unhappy to not be playing. Cheeky Wenger is, how many players have had “injuries” in the name of real rotation?

Vito Mannone has committed two errors in the last two Premier League fixtures. The Birmingham one didn’t affect us in the long run, but the West Ham one sure did. But I’m not going to be too hard on him. He is extremely young, and he didn’t play much football at all when he was nurtured at Atalanta. Blinder against Fulham aside, the mark of a true number one goalkeeper is dealing with all chances at all times. When you play for a big club, you only have to make a few saves per game. But when you have those shots against you, you must deal with them superbly. People can extol the virtues of Shay Given, but were he goalkeeper for Arsenal or Manchester United, things may be different. Look at what’s happened with Ben Foster. Vito is one for the future. He is still not commanding when it comes to communicating with the backline, but he is brave and has a good build. I wish he would show a bit more anger at times, but that’s just a personal preference. He’s just not really ready yet.

The same can apply to Szczesny. I think he’s an extremely intriguing prospect, but he’s had even less playing time than Mannone. Some say that they rate him as highly as Mannone. He is a colossus and played well in the last Carling Cup tie. Keep an eye out for him.

Which brings me to Lukasz Fabianski. Many are unconvinced by him, and they have a decent right to think that way. He has given up near post goals, and his birthday performance against Chelsea in the FA Cup was disastrous. That being said, at the age of 24, he has been capped by Poland 14 times. He was handpicked by Wenger over false hopes like Craig Gordon. He has outstanding reflexes. He plays with the aggression that I like. He was handed a three year contract at the end of the last season. I really believe in this guy. I think he should be given a chance to be the Arsenal No. 1 and see what he’s capable of. Only a stretch of games can illustrate if you have a winner or a dud.

And if none of these options work out, we may need to buy in January. Who is available? Beats me, although names like Manuel Neuer and Akinfeev float around. But to me, we’re a goalkeeper away from being world beaters. Whether or not the solution already plays for Arsenal remains to be seen.

As for Liverpool today in the Carling Cup, it’ll be a mixture of players from the Reserves and the First Team. Liverpool will have been buoyed by the result against United, but our young players are hungry and our team wants the result after the last two disappointing draws. We play at home, and that gives some of our more enthusiastic fans to experience Arsenal football tonight. I look forward to this very much.

West Ham = Two Points Dropped

West Ham have lost five Premiership games this season and only won one – a 2-0 away victory on the opening day of the season against Wolves.

Yesterday, they were there for the taking and Arsenal were dominating them with relative ease. By half-time we were 2-0 up and cruising. With 30 minutes left and the score still at 2-0, it was a case of how many more can we score.

A friend of mine sent me a text stating that Arsenal would win 4-0. This was after we had just gone 1-0 up. I thought that he already knew the outcome of the match and started to relax, chatting to my wife about nonsensical stuff. I didn’t realize that the game was live. It was a big mistake. My wife said that she didn’t recognize any of the Arsenal players. Where was Adebayor? We sold him to Man City. What about Kolo? He’s gone there too. At this point she was starting to irritate me and then Zola put on Hines and that bald Italian cunt Diamanti. They completely changed the game with their pace and trickery.

Diamanti was hungry. He had a point to prove after being dropped for the ineffective Mexican Franco. He got stuck in, ran at the Arsenal defense, hassled Arsenal players for the ball, and awoke the silent home crowd. When Hines came on after 64 minutes, a new pace and energy was inserted to West Ham. His substitution brought the best out of Cunton Cole who now had support, thus making West Ham a threat.

But when you think that the final result is 4-0, you shrug off West Ham’s new goal threat as nothing. The wife’s questions on who was Arsenal’s number 17 and 11 were answered. But when she commented that West Ham’s players were hotter than Arsenal’s I started to get annoyed.

Then West Ham won a free-kick on the edge of the Arsenal box. Diamanti slammed it to the left hand corner, Mannone palmed it into the path of Cunton Cole who made it 2-1. Game on and I cursed my mate for saying that we were going to win 4-0. I was now worried and annoyed.

The wife picked up my vibe and tried to soothe things by offering to make pancakes. “Sure,” I answered, only because I wanted her to go away.

At this point I had a bad feeling. When Hines came on Arsenal fans were shouting “Ole” every time an Arsenal player touched the ball. They also mockingly chanted “You may as well go home,” to the West Ham faithful, fully confident that game was in the bag. It reminded me of the Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Wigan Athletic in 2006. Arsenal were winning 2-0 and were minutes away from the final. Every Arsenal pass was greeted with an “Ole” from the Highbury crowd only for Jason Roberts to score in the last minute and send Arsenal crashing out. How embarrassing! Yet, here we are three years on and the same arrogance by Arsenal fans reappears.

At 2-1 Arsenal were on the ropes. Arshavin went missing. Diamanti was overly physical, slamming an elbow into Cesc’s throat and Scott Parker was being the little cunt that we know he is. I remember when Arsenal lost 1-0 to Newcastle back in December 2005. It was Arsenal’s third Premiership defeat on the trot, a fact the media glorified non-stop. Parker that day was dirty. His challenges were over the top. Shearer was worse, but the commentators claimed that they were showing guts and character, something that Arsenal lacked. That was until Jens Lehmann challenged Parker for a ball and knocked his front tooth out.

There should be a religion named after Jens.

Yesterday, Parker was at it again. Only this time the cunt got sent-off.

In the last 10 minutes Arsenal were the better team and should have won had it not been for a Robert Green save in injury time.

At full-time the wife asked me if I wanted Aunt Jemima’s syrup on my pancakes. I gave her a psycho killer look and stormed out the house. She had no clue that Arsenal had just thrown away two points. When I returned 30 minutes later she had gone. The pancakes were in trash can along with my Arsenal shirt. On the table was the syrup with Aunt Jemima smiling at me. I felt depressed and wanted to drink an entire bottle of Clorex.

Yesterday, I learned two things: 1) Never watch a game with someone who is not as passionate as you are; 2) Never text during a game unless you completely trust the person you are sending texts to.

Keep it Arsenal

Post Match View – West Ham United F.C.

We had an excellent chance to make up ground on teams above us but failed to kill the game. Champions win games in which they have two-goal leads. The only positive I can take from this game is that we scored.

We dropped two points that were there for the taking. There can be no excuse for not putting in a full 90+ minutes of effort. We will win nothing if this continues.

I will limit my post tonight to the following:

Robin is scoring.
The defence played well overall but the keeper made a bad mistake, again.
There were points in the match when Eboue and Cesc were not involved.
Carlton Cole went down very easily for their penalty.

Andrey Arshavin still hasn’t played to his potential. This was a game he needed to take over and kill. I am concerned that he doesn’t put in 100% effort in games against the smaller teams.

That won’t do.

The Bigger Picture

Yes, the result against Alkmaar was a frustrating one. Seemingly, we never got out of first gear. Alkmaar actually possessed the ball more than we did, although they did relatively nothing with it. Compare how Alkmaar did nothing with the ball to how we do when we dominate the play and fail to score a goal, two markedly different types of performances that put to shame simple dissections by English pundits.

Of course, the headlines wrote themselves. The press said it exposed our soft centre once more, ignoring the fact that neither of our centre halves were particularly to blame for the goal. “You just have a feeling about Arsenal, don’t you?” Those words could have come out of any assortment of pundits. While it’s true that we shouldn’t have conceded that goal, I’m seeing a big difference between the defensive performances of last year and this year. That’s not to say that things are perfect, but it’s to say that the boring articles about our team still having the same chinks in our armor are incorrect. They’re just being lazy.

Bacary Sagna claimed that we lost focus near the end of the match. That comment would have only been revealed in these types of circumstances. To that end, such a thing should not happen, but oftentimes does, even with the best of teams.

Consider our position in the Champions League at the moment. We’re top of the group, have two games to play at home, and are not afraid of anybody in our group at all. Dropping points in a Champions League group doesn’t mean very much if you’re still expected to top the group. The only thing you lose is the financial reward for winning a Champions League match.

If the draw against Alkmaar teaches us a lesson about focus and needing to be ruthless with teams like this, then that financial loss will have been well worth it.

And that’s not mentioning the fact that Carlos Vela was clearly fouled in the box late in the game. The draw is not worth getting too upset about, as frustrating as it was.

You cannot afford to lose focus and drop points in the Premier League though, and the team must recognize this.

Playing West Ham at home is never a cakewalk, and this is a classic trap game. As an Arsenal fan, while I fear nobody, I do wish for teams that we play to get a result in the week before our game. That way, they might not necessarily go all out for the crucial result that could turn around our season. That didn’t happen with West Ham and with them being in the relegation zone, they’ll be fighting tooth and nail for a result tomorrow.

Zola is a good man. He was a magician on the pitch, and he wants to be the next Arsene Wenger, something that is much, much, much easier said than done. He said he wants to stick to attacking principles, but luckily for him he has a shrewd tactician in Steve Clarke. Clarke must recognize that they must try to neutralize Arsenal instead of outplaying us, he did operate with Jose Mourinho after all.

Tomorrow may come down to one or two moments, but with Arshavin on the pitch, that may be to our distinct advantage.