Post Birmingham Blues/AZ

I wrote before the match that I wanted our Arsenal team to deliver a beatdown to the Blues. That unfortunately did not happen. Abou Diaby said the team switched off after the second goal, and it showed.

That being said, I only want to bring up a couple of points about the actual game.

Liam Ridgewell was let off the hook for his vicious tackle on Theo Walcott. Yes, he got the ball. Yes, the first tackle was a bone-crunching yet legal tackle. But no, it was not without intent. He knew exactly what he was doing. Quite simply, it was a tackle to let Walcott know that he was there, similar to what Martin Taylor clumsily did to Eduardo.

Of course, Alex McLeish came out and defended his defender’s right to make a hard tackle. That’s his job. But how convenient that in two straight games against us, one of his players makes an unnecessarily rough challenge that leaves one of our players injured. In fact, even Graham Poll said that Ridgewell should have been cautioned for his “dangerous” tackle. This is the man who gave out three yellow cards to one player in the last World Cup, and he sees the folly of defending such a tackle. He even went as far to say that journalists and pundits who claim such a tackle is fair makes the situation worse.

Which brings me to Lee Probert. Why a man who was forced to make an apology to Arsene Wenger be allowed to referee one of our matches, I’ll never know. I guess it has something to do with rotation. Well, Probert didn’t call a foul on Ridgewell. He didn’t call a foul against the other Birmingham players, one of whom literally crashed into Arshavin with his entire body. Birmingham had 16 fouls and 2 yellow cards; one of the yellow cards was for petulance, the other for wasting time. Essentially, that amounts to 16 fouls and no yellow cards. Now, take a look at how many fouls we average before we get a yellow card. I can promise you that it’s less than 16.

But of course, we have the pundits and Alex McLeish crowing about how if you take tackles like Ridgewell’s out of the game, it becomes less of a “man’s” sport. I wonder how Alex McLeish would react if Alex Song launched a full-blooded “English” challenge into James McFadden that resulted in him breaking his leg. Probably a tad different, I’d imagine. And I wonder how Alex McLeish and James McFadden would feel if Arsenal fans subsequently chanted “There’s Only One Alex Song” the next time we played them. You can only protect your fans and players so long before they go one step too far; it’s too bad that the Birmingham bastards have already passed that point.

Today, we play AZ Alkmaar. They were led to the Champions League by Louis van Gaal, who left to coach Bayern Munich. They are currently sixth in the Dutch League and struggling. Their danger man is Moussa Dembele, a striker who has been linked to the elite clubs of Europe.

But why am I telling you this? We have won seven matches in a row in all competitions, and we’re playing well. As Wenger likes to think, if you play well, the opponent does not matter. That is the purest form of football thought, and something everybody should admire as a valiant approach.

It is an away fixture in the Champions League though, and they are rarely walkovers. But, if we do get the result we desire, we have two home fixtures in the Champions League left, one foot in the door, and a relaxed attitude towards the Champions League when we go through a juggernaut of a schedule in the Premier League in late January/early February.


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