Identity, Maturity, Stability

One of the reasons why Arsene Wenger had a terrible time with The Negatives last season is that most of the players he’s chosen to rebuild the team with are still developing their identities as footballers. The non-believers felt great disappointment that The Invincibles were replaced by a bunch of kids. Many came to the club with ample skills, a good reputation, and the potential to be very good footballers. Some even look like they can become excellent players, but that is not enough.

The Negatives want success now. They see United and Chelsea lifting trophies year after year. Ferguson’s teams have always been identifiable. Chelsea have become a powerful force. We haven’t won anything since Patrick’s last kick in an Arsenal uniform.

Identity comes through a combination of repeated actions and a sameness in character that typifies an individual. Consistency is a major part of building an identity. Believing in yourself also plays an important role in defining who you are. Wenger has unwavering belief in his players – partly because he doesn’t want to undermine their psychological development and partly because confidence is contagious.

The Negatives might argue that the only consistency they’ve seen in recent seasons is the lack of success every year we’ve used kids.

The time has come for this group to develop its identity. Alex Song, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey, Armand Traore, and Samir Nasri were all outstanding today. We’ve seen injury after injury threaten our title hopes but here we are, still right there apace with the leaders. Of course it helps that the teams above us are dropping points, but nobody can deny that this group is handling its business pretty well at the moment.

Another key factor is the young players’ maturation process. It is helped by Wenger’s willingness to play them young. The introduction of Craig Eastmond will add to his confidence while at the same time provide him with a sense of accomplishment.

Accomplishment brings responsibility. Responsibility brings maturity. Wenger is a serious man. He doesn’t have time for the Quincys of the world.

Stability is the hardest of the three. We seem to have a little more of it recently and much more of it than last season. We’ve been winning and showing the firm character that champions must have. Sunderland, West Ham, and Burnley must not be repeated.

Avenging defeats to Man City, United, and Chelsea will be a test that establishes this team’s identity, shows maturity, and helps establish stability. Those fixtures are down the road. Next is West Ham in the Cup. We must punish them.

Having a Laugh

Ian Wright is recognized by most Gooners as an Arsenal legend, but he only played for Arsene Wenger for one season. For that reason, his prolific goal scoring record does deserve recognition coming under the more conservative football of previous regimes. After a dispute over playing time, Wenger promptly sold Ian Wright to West Ham and that pretty much ended his career.

Since his playing days have ended, he has become a peddler of comedy football DVD’s, columnist for The Sun, and occasional media pundit.

Occasionally, he entertains me. For an example, during the 2006 World Cup coverage by the BBC, they sent Ian Wright to a German modern art museum. Watching Ian Wright examine and analyze art pieces was hilarious. Perhaps his best moment was when he looked at a painted Volkswagen and claimed that “he liked it.”

The problem is, Ian Wright has stopped being a Gooner first and foremost and become a pundit instead. Sometimes, giving a voice to somebody who should not have one proves to be a major irritation. Obviously, I just choose to ignore these opinions, even though I read them all. In today’s Sun, he addressed the potential return of Jose Mourinho to the Premier League. He asked, “can you honestly tell me Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and even Manchester City would not be tempted by the chance to get Mourinho this summer?”

Replace Wenger with Mourinho? Are you having a laugh?

If Mourinho is in such demand, why is Arsene Wenger the number one managerial candidate for both Real Madrid and Manchester City? Mourinho is a backup choice for those clubs.

Ian Wright publicly clamored for Arsenal to move for his adopted son Shaun. That transfer may have occurred had Wright-Phillips waited a bit longer, had more sense to reject Chelsea, and was actually an Arsenal level player. Instead, his career was stunted and only after he moved back to Manchester City did he find any semblance of form.

Ian Wright is frequently wrong.

In addition to his baffling Mourinho piece, he states that he “never expected Arsenal to be so close in this year’s title race.” He goes on to say that Arsenal cannot “afford any more slip-ups.” That completely ignores the idea that Chelsea and Manchester United could slip up as well. In this crazy Premier League season, it’s silly to assume anything.

The real difference this year is not solely down to the weakening of other top teams. Yes, Manchester United has suffered injuries and defense and lost the supreme flat track bully Ronaldo. Yes, Carlo Ancelotti may prove to be the second coming of Luiz Felipe Scolari. But those aren’t the only reasons.

Last year, Hull City showed up to the Emirates looking to win instead of park the bus and achieve a draw. This year, more teams are learning that Arsenal aren’t the only ones who are vulnerable to those type of tactics. Novel idea, isn’t it? You know, trying to actually win three points in every game (well except for that coward Mick McCarthy). Ironically, the most defensive team I’ve seen against Arsenal all year has been Chelsea.

So, today, Portsmouth, at Fratton Park, will attempt to win three points. I don’t feel that Portsmouth is a relegation team, but their results will tell you otherwise. They’ve played well enough, but never quite broken through at times. They’ve played better than Wolves, but they’re in a far worse position. Their team is a patchwork squad filled with other team’s rejects, only they’ve proven to be worthwhile players. Kevin-Prince Boateng and Frederic Piquionne can be dangerous players.

But the reality is this. They will be relegated. And we cannot afford to drop a single point against a team that will be relegated. Not if we want to be champions.

Lauren

Gooners ask each other what striker should Wenger sign in January. Huntelaar, Carlton Cole, or Dzeko.

I say none of them.

We need another Lauren. A man who stands up and fights till the end. This Arsenal team needs grit. We don’t need Stephen Cunt of Hull City calling us pussies by saying that Arsenal players cannot cope with the physical side of the game.

I have two words for Stephen Cunt – FUCK OFF!

Here’s what the diver Wayne Rooney had to say about Lauren who played for both Arsenal and Wednesday’s opponents Portsmouth:

“About 15 minutes from the end of the Manchester United-Arsenal game (that ended Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten run) we were given a penalty which was lucky for us. Ruud (van Nistelrooy) scored, which made them (Arsenal) even more furious. As we came off the pitch there was a lot of jostling. The Arsenal lads seemed to be most worked up about Ruud, accusing him of cheating. There had been a bust-up between him and Patrick Vieira in a previous game which had lingered on.

I was in the dressing-room, taking off my shirt, when I heard shouting outside in the corridor. I went out and a scuffle was taking place between some of our players and the Arsenal team. Everyone was shouting and pushing and yelling. Perhaps a few haymakers were thrown as well, although nothing serious. An Arsenal player threw a piece of pizza at Sir Alex. It must have been lying around, left over from a buffet, and it hit Sir Alex and made a right a mess of his suit jacket.

I then piled in, looking for a piece of action, preferably with Lauren. He was right in the thick of it and seemed to be causing all the trouble, after making sarcastic remarks throughout the game. I tried to get at him but was pulled off. Eventually, though, the security men broke it all up and we filed back into our dressing rooms.”

Lauren is a hero. He had balls. The current Arsenal team is crying out for a Lauren. Song is the exception – a man also from Cameroon.

Keep it Arsenal

Post Match View – Aston Villa F.C.

‘From now on until March in this championship the consistent team will get it.’ – Arsene Wenger

Cesc played less than 30 minutes. Nevertheless his quality was clear to see. Two chances, two chances taken. Thank you very much!

Earlier in the year, I called for him to regain proper form, to show consistency. He has done that and more. Unless my count is wrong, he’s on 12 goals and seven assists in 22 appearances so far. His cameo today showed what he means to this team. We might have beaten Villa anyway but Cesc’s contribution ruined Martin O’Neill’s day. For me, that was special.

Beating Villa has sent them a message of intent and perhaps also to those above us. Considering our injury situation, Almunia’s mistakes, Eduardo and Theo being off form, we’ve made a point about our quality. Real consistency however is shown over time so let’s watch and see how things develop.

Abou Diaby has played another good game. The way he shut the door with that excellent run through Villa’s midfield exposed their soft center. I’d be very concerned about how easily that happened if I were a Villa fan. I’d be looking for answers if I were Martin O’Neill, but considering he didn’t mind conceding the last two goals because they “were chasing the game,” maybe he won’t be.

No matter what the score, when a player runs through you like Cesc did against Tottenham earlier this season and how Diaby has done versus Villa, questions must be asked. O’Neill also stated that “even at 1-0 the game could have gone either way.” Maybe! But what he failed to admit is that if Eduardo had taken his chance in the opening minutes, his side would have had a mountain to climb right from the start.

We’ll pay a price for Cesc’s heroics. How long he’s out for is up in the air – a week, ten days, 3 weeks. Given the result, the risk might turn out to be a chance that was well worth taking.

Aston Villa – I Can Hardly Wait

Yesterday, today, tomorrow, forever, it doesn’t matter when. The anticipation leading up to kick off is almost indescribable. I won’t waste time trying to find words. Chances are that if you’re reading this, you know just what I’m feeling. The difference today is that this particular fixture has taken on an entirely new meaning since 15 November, 2008.

When I took my seat at the Emirates that night – wicked seat by the way, thanks to fellow Gooner Rich – I felt no different to any other time I’d been to an Arsenal match. I was excited, pumped up and ready to go. I was equally confident, even if quietly so. My view of the opponent is always the same. I never think of losing.

I’d never seen Arsenal lose a match before, not reserves, not first team, never. We’d drawn here and there but never lost. It was a record in which I took as much pride as a non-playing participant could do.

Aston Villa were never a club that gave me much angst. I even pulled for them to win it all back in ’93 when they finished second to United. We were not even close that season, finishing 16 and 18 points behind third placed Norwich and second placed Villa, respectively. The Champions finished 28 points ahead of us. I desperately wanted someone to catch them. As long as it wasn’t Spurs, I didn’t care who did.

I’ve dealt with last season’s defeat to Martin O’Neill but let’s be clear, the bitter taste lingers even if the pain has subsided. The fact that there was a significant amount of turmoil going on inside our club at the time, some of which we’d learn more about after the fact, hasn’t helped me accept that we were soundly beaten that day.

I remember the mass hysteria amongst a large section of Arsenal fans last season as much as I do the humiliating defeats to Chelsea and United. I remember the cries for Arsene to step down. After Agbonlohor scored the second Villa goal, a guy seated near me stood up and shouted, “WHAT NOW WENGER?” The look on his face was representative of how a lot of Gooners felt. I remember having to accept another season without a trophy. It all hurt. Walking back to the tube station that night was awful.

There are a few new faces in both sides this time around. Most notably, Villa have a resurgent Richard Dunne. We have Andrey Arshavin. Alex Song was an unused sub last season. Oh how things have changed where he’s concerned.

Gareth Barry was very good for Villa that night. Agbonlohor was at his Formula 1 best. Gael Clichy and William Gallas were not. Alex Song’s and Andrey Arshavin’s presence will make a significant difference tomorrow. I also feel that Friedel is not the same keeper who kept out Thierry Henry efforts for fun over the years. He pulled off one of the best saves I’ve ever seen in this fixture last season when he palmed away a superb header by Togo. The big keeper has still got loads to offer but we’ve also seen some erosion of that ability.

There’s the pride factor on our side. Villa came into our homes and spanked us good. That needs to be addressed. We were all pretty bad that day.

I’ve called for more urgency, more heart, more commitment from our boys in recent weeks. They’ve responded but the consistency of a champion is still missing. Villa is a must, must win tomorrow. It’s a fantastic opportunity to put some distance between us and a team that can boast victories over Liverpool, Chelsea, and United.

They’ve also lost to Wigan, Blackburn, and West Ham so they aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. And after all, they are managed by Martin O’Neill. Nuff said!

COME ON ARSENAL!!!

Eboué Says

Confidence Returns

“Cunt” is a misunderstood word. When I think of a “cunt” I don’t think of a female vagina. Instead, I think of Phil Brown, Wayne Rooney, Nick Barmby, David Bentley or Gary Neville. The list is endless.

On Sunday, Gabby Agbonlahor – a man who looks like an abortion that survived – will try and replicate his goal at The Emirates last season. Villa beat Arsenal 2-0 that day with Agbonlahor’s pace causing all sorts of problems. Villa also missed a penalty and deserved their victory. This time it’s revenge.

I’ve never liked Villa. In the Christmas game of 1998, I watched Arsenal lose 3-2 away at Villa Park after leading 2-0 at half-time. At half-time, Villa had hired a team of skydiving Santa’s to parachute onto the Villa pitch. One of the Santa’s on his approach hit the roof of one of the stands and dropped to floor like a dead stone. He was hospitalized with half-time being extended by an extra 30 minutes. This worked well for Villa who came out flying with Stan Cuntymore scoring twice in a game Arsenal should have won. In the away section, we Arsenal fans were pelted with coins by Villa fans in the seats above us. They also sang England songs all afternoon as well chants about Arsenal being a bunch dirty foreigners. To add insult to injury, we were kept behind by stewards and police who treated us like concentration camp prisoners.

Villa are a team of divers. If you breathe on Heskey, Agbonlahor, or Ashley Young, they will fall to the floor like that skydiving Santa did back in 1998. Especially the latter two. Petrov also likes to take a tumble but usually outside of the penalty area. From the resulting free-kick by Milner or Young, Villa will try and score from a header by Carew.

Defensively, Villa are good. Brad Freidel is better than Almunia and Richard Dunne seems to be having some sort of revival.

But I feel Arsenal have turned a corner with their victory over Hull City. The ruck seems to have galvanized the lads and confidence seems to have returned to certain players. Almunia played better after his penalty save. He looked more confident on crosses and started to command his area with authority. Eduardo needed a goal. As a striker, doubt creeps in when you have a scoreless streak. His goal will bring back his self-belief which should lead to the Brazilian/Croatian going on a scoring spree.

Diaby last Saturday won the free-kick that led to Arsenal’s first goal. He then assisted in the second goal and scored the third. Not bad for a man coming back from injury. I always feel that Diaby plays better when Cesc is not playing. His best position is the one that Cesc plays in. He seems to be a player that does well in a more attacking role.

Many Gooners are looking at the January transfer like a man on death row looks at a pair of perfect breasts. They are drooling over signings in the striker department.

I’m not. We are covered in that area.

But in the center-back area we are not. If Gallas or Vermaelen get injured, Arsenal are fucked. We only have emergency cover. I hope that Wenger signs a center-back otherwise Arsenal will be like a man who has just been diagnosed with cancer but who has no medical insurance.

It worries me.

Last word: Tomas Rosicky is stalling on signing a new contract. Fucking unbelievable! The man should be begging Arsenal for a new contract not the other way around.

Keep it Arsenal