We have seen proof tonight that football is not about predictable outcomes. It is about the unexpected. The excitement comes from a flash of brilliance, a goal made out of nothing, a result that nobody expected. It is about amazing feats. Football is about memories.

There is no doubting the heart of Cesc Fabregas. By extension, that big throbbing muscle that pumps life throughout his body does the same for millions of Arsenal fans. We will all remember this match, but nobody will remember it better than our captain.

“Until the penalty, I was feeling quite good. It has been an amazing experience and I will remember it for the rest of my life.” -Cesc Fabregas

Whether he plays for us again or not this season (or in his career, for that matter), Cesc has become an Arsenal legend tonight. I don’t use that word loosely. The man is a legend. End of!

Let’s be clear, Barcelona can be beaten. And I say that knowing full well that our last line of defence (I refuse to call that man by his given name) is dodgier than dodgy. The belief in this team will take them far. I’m convinced of that.

Football has a way of defying the odds. Its unpredictable nature is second to none. I’ve seen some very dramatic and emotional matches over the years – France vs. West Germany (1982), and England vs. Cameroon (1990) for example. This Arsenal vs. Barcelona game now ranks amongst those matches.

No matter what happens going forward, I thank Arsene and the boys for providing the entertainment and the diversion from my daily routine that they’ve done this season. Beaten soundly by Chelsea and United. Embarrassed in the F.A. Cup by Stoke. Injury after injury, let down after let down, yet they’ve kept the faith and battled on.

Some prefer less drama with their football, but I wouldn’t deny myself the joy I’ve felt watching us come back from down 2-0 against a Barcelona side that sometimes looked like they had 12 players. Our dogged persistence may ultimately not be enough to win us a trophy, but that is the last thing on my mind tonight I’m so proud. If you are an Arsenal fan, you must be proud.

From the heights of relief and joy after seeing Cesc bury that penalty, I’ve read that he might be out for the season. Am I upset? Have I thrown glasses against the wall? Have I cursed at my neighbor’s dog? No! No! No!

I have even more belief.

From William Gallas finally reuniting with Thomas Vermaelen just to see him stretchered off – season over. From exploding with joy at seeing us claw back into the tie to reading that Andrey Arshavin has done his calf and could miss up to three weeks. Am I upset? Have I thrown glasses against the wall? Have I cursed at my neighbor’s dog? No! No! No!

I am overflowing with belief.

We weren’t supposed to be left with a chance to further embarrass the La Liga, European, and World Champions, but by this time next week, we could be just 180 minutes away from a trip to Madrid. What a funny game football is! But first let’s remember to batter Wolves and Coward McCarthy Saturday and then off to Camp Nou.

Keep the Faith.


Glamour Tie

– The pre-match talk has focused on how both teams play an attractive style of football. What is annoying is when journalists call us Barcelona “lite”. Despite adopting the 4-3-3 permanently this year, we’re not merely a replica of Barcelona nor do we attempt to mimic their style of play. If they’re talking about success, any team would have been Barcelona “lite” after what they accomplished in the past twelve months.

– Guus Hiddink’s tactical master plan caused Guardiola to change his positioning of Messi for the Champions League final and the next season in La Liga. Hiddink deployed a right footed Bosingwa on the left flank. That cut out Messi’s tendencies to drift inside, as opposite foot wingers are in vogue nowadays. If Messi got by Bosingwa, Essien was there to snuff him out. Chelsea did a good job on him last year, but an Iniesta thunderbolt prevented Chelsea from advancing to the final for the second straight year. The bottom line is, if you decide to take out Messi, it will leave others with more space and opportunities to bust you open. For that reason, Wenger has already announced that he will not man-mark Messi. I personally would have, but that means that Alex Song must be deployed in midfield to help zonally mark Messi. He is a supreme threat.

– Messi’s elevation this year is due to the fact that he’s playing more centrally this year. While operating on the right flank, your job as a defender should be to push him closer to the edge, so as not to let him pass the ball with his left foot or square up his body to take a shot. Now that he’s operating in the middle, he has an extra option which makes it that much harder to defend. With Daniel Alves patrolling the right side, he has enough energy and threat to defend and attack with vigor. For that reason, Arshavin needs to be at his best tomorrow. He needs to provide real menace to Alves to prevent him from becoming an offensive force. Frankly, it’s time for Arshavin to step it up. He plays better in the big matches, and his miss at Birmingham was the first time his error has led to dropped points. He’ll be aware of that, and on his best day, when he’s dribbling at a defender, Arshavin can scare people as much as Messi can.

– Zlatan Ibrahimovic was brought in as an attempt to provide a Plan B and variety to the attack. He was on a prolonged slump, but he has scored in the last two matches. He is the definition of a mercurial talent. He has all the skill, but I feel he lacks something that Eto’o provided to the team. That being said, he scored against Real Madrid and he’s capable of hurting us in a real way. But a part of me would fear this Barcelona team more if Eto’o was still on it.

– Messi was rested last weekend. Cesc was banged up last weekend.

– Iniesta is out for the first leg. A lot of Barcelona fans have been complaining about Iniesta’s form, and both Guardiola and Cruyff have launched attacks on him. He hasn’t been at his best, but removing him from Barcelona’s midfield takes away creativity from their team. They will probably field Keita along with Busquets and Xavi. That’s more like a Premier League midfield, but they still possess the ball better than most.

– Abou Diaby must play in this match. He picked up a “knock” (of course he did), but he’s come through training. Diaby is a player that Barcelona will not be prepared for. The way Diaby uses his body to shield players from the ball and retain possession, the way he quickly turns and swiftly dodges defenders, both things bring a smile to my face. He’s direct, but he has a lot of skill people don’t necessarily pick up on until you see him play. He’s made one huge error this year (the OG against United), but he’s been one of our finer players when he’s played. He provides something different, and in a team, you need that.

– Samir Nasri was great against Birmingham until he decided to square the ball for Arshavin instead of chipping Joe Hart. We need to be ruthless. That’s what the Champions League is really about, finishing the one chance you get. Still, I think he’s coming on strong, and he’ll be yet another threat on the right wing.

– We must defend like lions. If Sol is ready, we have no choice but to field him. Everybody needs to concentrate at all times. Maybe if Manuel is busier, he’ll play better. That’s all we can pray for at the moment.

– The tie will come down to who controls the ball better. Both teams rely on heavy possession to wear the opposition down. Naturally, whoever is playing at home will probably enjoy more possession. I expect us to shade them 55-45 in the first leg, and them to outpossess us 60-40 in the second leg. Can we maintain our composure, avoid mistakes, and strike some killer blows at the Emirates? Can we withstand a surge at the Nou Camp, one that will undoubtedly come? We shall see.

– For Cesc, this tie means everything. When we played them in the Champions League final, it was Thierry’s team. Barcelona was also Ronaldinho’s team. Now, with his peers in direct view, he has to show that he is one of the best players in the world too. I don’t think the result has any impact on what he’ll do after the season ends. They’ll come for Cesc, but I have the feeling he’s going to stay. And if we show the world that we can compete with Barcelona, why would he want to leave?

– The final note is about Thierry Henry. I don’t know how much he’ll play, but he can be a useful weapon for Barcelona. Pedro scores in big games, and that’s his main asset; he’s a goal scorer, but Henry would provide creativity that Pedro cannot give. For that reason, I’m glad Thierry is so beat up about playing us. It will affect his form. If I was Pep, I don’t think I could play him, but I’m sure we’ll give him a warm welcome. But after the referee blows the whistle, he’s just another Barcelona player.

Time to Concentrate on Wednesday

The last minute equalizer by Birmingham was like watching the woman of your world being shagged by a dog and realizing that she’s enjoying it. Heartbreaking!

It’s hard to shake off a result like this, especially when Nasri and Arshavin should have killed the game off by the time Birmingham had scored. But then the calamity of errors that resulted in Birmingham’s equalizer was a lot worse.

It’s injury time and the Birmingham keeper punts the ball from inside his penalty area to the edge of Arsenal’s. Diaby – who had another great game – poorly positions himself and fails to head the ball away. The ball then bounces and causes panic resulting in pinball style football. Sagna is left marking three players. The other defenders are ball watching and no one picks up Phillips who is harassing Arsenal like a dog chasing a cat. The end product of this moment of nervousness is Sagna blasting the ball at Phillips face and the ball looping into the goal. It was a fluke goal and route one football at its purest.

However, the goal should have been ruled out for offside. Christian Benitez was a yard offside when the ball hit Phillips in the face. But the assistant referee must have deemed Benitez not to be interfering with play or that his position was not gaining an advantage. It was officiating at its worst. A joke decision that has caused millions of people around the world serious depression.

Then we have Manuel Almunia.

Let’s start with positives regarding this man.

His penalty save against West Ham last week was a huge factor in Arsenal winning that game. No doubt, Almunia is very good at saving penalties, but he’s also very poor at punching and commanding his penalty box.

Lesbians have more presence in a box than Almunia.

At the end of the first half Almunia came to punch a high ball, but the lightweight didn’t punch, instead he fucking jabbed. The ball landed 10 meters out at the feet of a Birmingham player who skied it. He got away with it this time but on Wednesday if he does another “jab” then Henry or Messi will be waiting to punish him.

There’s nothing we can do about our goalkeeping problem. The back-ups are also prone to errors and the transfer window is closed. Right now Arsenal fans are like the poor citizen who can’t afford a lawyer so has to make do with the overworked and sub-par state provided attorney. Facing life in prison, fighting for the title, or facing the World Champions on Wednesday, Almunia will have to do and we will have to pray.

So let’s get positive.

We like football because its unpredictable. Leeds knocked out Man United in the FA Cup. A French team will be in the Champions League semi-finals and Portsmouth are in the FA Cup semi-finals. It’s a strange season.

Man United face Chelsea on Saturday. Hopefully, Chelsea will win. They will drop points after they play at Old Twatford. Man United look less likely. Chelsea have a week off. Man United face Bayern Munich in Germany. They have been lucky this season. I hope it runs out. The law of averages says it will.

When Arsenal won the title in 1989, they won it with a keeper similar to Almunia – John Lukic. During the run-in that season Arsenal played away to Man United. Tony Adams put Arsenal 1-0 ahead with a diving header. The win was on the cards until late on in the game a Man United cross hit Adams on the head and looped into the Arsenal goal just like it did at St Andrews on Saturday. The own goal by Adams earned him the nickname “Donkey” by The Mirror and was cruelly chanted by opposition fans.

Now opposition fans chant “There’s Only One Ryan Shawcross or Martin Taylor” eulogizing players who’ve broken the legs of Arsenal players.

Winning a trophy this season would cause serious depression to these mindless inbreds in the same way that Obama winning the Presidential election has caused massive despair on cunts like Rush Limbaugh.

Keep it Arsenal

Post Match View – Birmingham City F.C.

We began the game with a one touch clinic. And yes, it was effective, not just pretty but unproductive. Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky were particularly effective throughout. They combined well at the near post but Diaby’s shot from close was deflected wide for an early corner in the 2nd minute.

Diaby was highlighted recently on our site for his improvement this season. Rightly so! His display yesterday showed increased strength, fine technique, and the kind of presence that allows Cesc to play farther up the pitch. Rosicky was involved in this game more than he has been since his injury nightmare. His touches, his vision, and his runs reminded us that he used to be a top, top player.

I was pleased with their contributions overall. Sadly though, neither could find a way passed Joe Hart. Hart kept his team in the game.

We’ve had chances to score more goals. Birmingham did as well but it’s fair to say that Arsenal were the more dominant side over the 90 minutes. Theo Walcott started on the right and could have benefitted from a defensive mistake on 18 but for the intervention of the alert Joe Hart. Hart played a pretty good game.

I can’t help but feel that maybe Arsene rested Eboue for the Barcelona match. Liam Ridgewell clattered into Theo on his first touch the last time we played Birmingham. I need convincing that Theo wasn’t playing with that incident in his mind yesterday. He looked tentative. On 5 and on 7, he could have shown more strength if not more determination to keep the ball. He did have a penalty shout on 10 but the ref didn’t see a need to point to the spot.

Sol headed high from a corner on 24. Clichy received a yellow for being named Gael on 29 – I couldn’t see any other reason for the card. Pat Rice even got involved with a heated few words for the fourth official, such was the absurdity of the warning. Theo got behind the Birmingham back line on 29 but was thwarted again by the impressive Blues keeper. Hart’s focus throughout the game was at times exemplary.

James McFadden and Cameron Jerome threatened at the other end on 31 and 32. We were equal to their efforts but not as comfortably as I would have wanted. Birmingham were determined to make a fight of it. For all the good Diaby provided, it was his hospital ball that got Cesc a knock on 35. Arsene has complained that the tackle was high, which perhaps it was, but I would remind Abou to leave that kind of pass out of his game.

Jerome turned Sol on 37 but as they entered the Arsenal 18, it was Sol who made the last touch on the goal-bound effort. I was beginning to see too much of Birmingham at our end. On 39, Theo got off a fairly tame shot after good work by Rosicky. It wasn’t the kind of effort that would trouble Joe Hart. The Blues keeper was almost always there when needed in this game.

Howard Webb does not impress me. In fact, no English ref does. I ran into a guy after the game who reminded me that we’ve had our share of bad experiences with that bald fuck. On 42, it looked like Stephen Carr brought down Nik Bendtner but Webb didn’t see it as worthy of pointing to the spot.

Clichy put in a good, deep cross on 43 but it amounted to nothing. Meanwhile, Chelsea were doing useless Villa up the wrong ‘un. By the way, have I mentioned that Aston Villa and their manager are as useful as an automobile with no steering wheel? Martin O’Neill is just a bag of foul air. We can thank him when Scum finish fourth and start chirping about how they’re going to conquer Europe.

0-0 HT

Business as usual to start the 2nd Half. Rosicky shot saved on 46. Vintage Diaby turn and shot saved on 55. We were definitely in a tussle though. Needing all three points, I wondered if Nik or Cesc would provide that much needed moment of inspiration. The latter surprisingly was allowed to return rather than taking the rest of the day off with Barcelona in sight. That knock to his knee concerned me and will do until I’ve heard that he is fine.

Theo wasted a good opportunity on 59 with a weak cross. Even with numbers back, Birmingham would have struggled to deal with the ball if it were better placed. Disaster nearly happened three minutes later. Clichy was beaten by Roger Johnson to a Barry Ferguson free kick. The shot struck against the post. We were spared.

Nasri and Arshavin came on for Rosicky and Walcott on 69. Bendtner headed wide on 70 from a Diaby effort. What was actually a deflected ball for a corner a few minutes later was not spotted by Webb or his assiatant. Instead, Nik was made to look foolish – the guy next to me calling him a donkey – as the ball looked quite playable. It first seemed like he was not anticipating its arrival but a better view showed that a man in a blue shirt did make contact.

Nasri had a chance from close on 73. Hart was equal to it. To be fair, it was straight at him. Nevertheless, Joe Hart was there again for his team when called upon.

A potentially season-shaping whistle was blown on 76. I am convinced that Cesc’s challenge to win the ball that Abou Diaby shot into the Birmingham goal was not a foul. I am convinced that if an English player had won that ball in the same manner, for a team other than Arsenal, the goal would have stood. I am convinced that the challenge is nothing more than what the English manager calls a robust challenge.


I wish the people who judge these tackles as fouls or not would make up their minds. Are they robust, good old English challenges or are they fouls? Just be consistent, PLEASE.

Regardless, we got our goal and really should have been ahead comfortably by the time it came. In fairness, we also had further chances in the latter stages of the match to bury them but wasted every one. It was a brilliant goal. That must be said. It came after the kind of run that we’d like to see from Theo on a regular basis. Samir Nasri cut in from the right. He entered the Blues 18 with determination, purpose, and power before unleashing a low drive that even the excellent Joe Hart could not deal with.

0-1 AFC

The celebration behind Birmingham’s goal showed what that goal meant to the boys. All the hard work and effort was finally rewarded with nine minutes of regular time to go. Surely, we’d done enough to make it seven league wins in a row and stay apace with Chelsea and Manchester United.

You have probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned Eduardo or revenge or anything associated with that infamous day from two seasons ago. As happy as I am that the man has returned from that horrible experience, I feel that the matter at hand – winning the title – is far more relevant at the moment. We’ve come very far. Even Old Red Nose is starting to chirp a bit. He’s definitely concerned that another red-shirted team could place its ribbons on the trophy in May.

We have to take our chances for that to happen. We cannot expect to get away with missed opportunities like Arshavin has done on 90. We cannot make poor decisions like Nasri has done on 91, passing when he could have had a go. All this occurred after Cesc peppered Hart’s hands on 89. I suppose the knee is ok. Let’s hope.

You might have read here that we are all in agreement at 1886 – our goalkeeper situation is a disaster waiting to happen. We have not failed to give credit when it is due. That saved penalty against West Ham was tremendous. However, the overall impression of the neutral is that Arsenal are a flawed team with little chance of winning the title because the last line of defence will ultimately let them down.

I am not sure how much blame to apportion to our goalkeeper for Kevin Phillips’s late equalizer. It was something of a freakish nature but he did get his hands on the ball. It was freakish but he did make it more difficult than it had to be. I was not a goalie so it’s hard for me to think like one. I’m afraid that maybe it’s equally difficult for our No. 1 to do so as well.

All is not lost. Let’s hope United and Chelsea kick lumps out of each other next week. Let’s hope there are multiple red cards on both sides. Let’s hope they draw 0-0.

Most of all, let’s hope we sort out our keeper situation next summer, no matter what we do this season. We are at a point where our manager’s legacy could be damaged severely by the failure to address this undeniably damaging situation. It is dire. Just look at how Joe Hart has done, creating a platform for them to stand on and mount a late rally. He hasn’t let anybody down.

Keep the Faith.

Foreign Managers

– It’s been nearly two years since we’ve been to St. Andrews, the place where Eduardo had his leg destroyed by Martin Taylor. Revenge is not in the cards. Like Cesc says, a victory is more important because it’ll help us win the title. We have to put the past behind us, as nothing has changed outside of the club. Teams still aggressively have a go at us, as they feel it’s their best course to try to stop our football. However, our team has firmed up, as noticed by McLeish himself in his press conference.

– We threw the title away against Birmingham, but not for the reasons that are oft cited. Many Arsenal bloggers love bringing up the William Gallas incident, but I side with Wenger on this one. While you do not want a professional doing that, we didn’t lose the title because of that and it showed that Gallas cared. I’ve said that before, and I’ll say it again. The reason why Birmingham cost us the title is because we dropped four points against them while in a winning position. They were a relegated team, so we dropped points we definitely should not have. We lost the title by four points. Do the math.

– Alex McLeish suggested that foreign managers like to pressure referees into calling the games in their favor. The managers he cited were Arsene Wenger and Rafa Benitez. Doesn’t Alex Ferguson badger referees every week? Essentially, McLeish is saying the same cliched “they don’t like it rough” crap that everybody likes to throw around when teams face us. He said we have nothing to worry about from Birmingham, because he sees them sometimes as “too soft.” Well, if that’s not a sneaky way to fire up his team for today’s match, nothing is. So essentially after one of his players crippled Eduardo, he’s suggested that they should go in hard once again. Good job McLeish.

– McLeish also suggested that Howard Webb was strong enough to ignore the outside influence and call a fair game. It’s too bad Webb is one of the worst English refs.

– Meanwhile, Ferguson had a go at the FA for not adding another game to Vermaelen’s ban after his failed appeal. He was talking about the fact that Rio had a game added on. The difference? Rio’s ban was based on violent conduct with clear video proof. Vermaelen’s was for a professional foul that many have deemed as harsh. Seems fair to me. What I like about Taggart’s complaint is that he’s worried about us again. I like that. I like that a lot. I crave the days where Taggart and Arsene are ripping each other to shreds.

– Martin Taylor is now at Watford. I would not be surprised to hear Martin Taylor chants tomorrow. Meanwhile, for Eduardo, sure he’s walking (and let’s be thankful for that). But is he close to being the same player he was when he got crippled? The answer sadly is no. That’s not to say he can’t get that form back, but there are noticeable differences. He shies away from challenges, and that prevents him from being clinical. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a top class striker again (even if he has scored great goals for us in his return). That damage still lingers. We were robbed of his services when we needed him. That affected our title chances as well that year.

– If this was any other mid-table team we were facing, we may take our eye off the ball and prime ourselves to play Barcelona. With the Eduardo incident, that is almost guaranteed not to happen. The players will want to win this game and put the events of the past completely behind them. They will show up to play.

– Birmingham had a good early season spell, but with their dependence on older players, they were naturally going to fade. They do have very energetic strikers though and good crosses from Arsenal reject Sebastian Larsson. Their centre-back duo is amongst the most reliable in the League. This will not be a stroll in the park, but the momentum must be kept.

– Aston Villa play Chelsea and Bolton play Manchester United. The sooner we get in front of these guys, the better. I don’t want to rely on results much longer.

– Tony Pulis moaned about having Mike Dean ref their game. He drafted a letter citing incidents where he felt Dean was too harsh on his team. He told the head of the refs, Mike Riley, about it. What the hell does he expect? To avoid Mike Dean all year? If Arsene Wenger had done this, he’d be murdered by the English press. What a cowardly complaint by Tony Pulis.

– I don’t know if he’ll even get in the game, but if Eduardo scores a goal tomorrow, I’m going crazy.

The Title May Come Down To Goal Difference

Portsmouth 0-5 Chelsea. Not the scoreline I wanted but one I expected. The result has boosted Chelsea’s confidence and goal difference. Now Arsenal are seven goals behind both Manchester United and Chelsea, but at this stage of the season winning the next game is all that is important.

This Saturday Chelsea host Aston Villa – their opponents in the FA Cup semi-final – a team four points from the last Champions League spot. It’s not an easy game for Chelsea and one they have to win. Villa will be content with a draw knowing that the other teams fighting for 4th place are inconsistent and will continue to drop points.

The race for 4th place will affect the race for the title with Manchester City and Spurs in pole position. Arsenal and Manchester United both play Man City next month. While all three title challengers also have to face Spurs.

The Birmingham game and the matches against Manchester City and Spurs are Arsenal’s hardest games out of the seven that they have left.

However, Chelsea have the hardest run-in. They face Aston Villa at home, Manchester United away, Spurs away and Liverpool away.

United face Chelsea at home, City away and Spurs at home with a potential banana skin away to Cuntburn Rovers four days after their second leg Champions League quarter-final.

The Champions League could be a disadvantage to both Arsenal and Manchester United. Teams are always weaker having played a tough midweek encounter against top European opposition.

The advantage that Arsenal have in their title challenge is that no one expects them to win the title or beat Barcelona. It’s a game by game approach. Beat Birmingham City and Arsenal are still in the hunt like a rat surviving the New York sewers.

April 3rd is the key date: Manchester United v Chelsea.

Someone will drop points.

Let’s hope it’s not Arsenal.

Keep It Arsenal

Spare Me the Sappy Stuff, We Have Matches To Win

Much has been written and speculated about the outcome of the Champions League tie against Barcelona. I like Cesc’s approach best. He’s very calm about it. It’s just another game.

But is it, really? Thierry Henry has stated that he “doesn’t want to play Arsenal.” That is a testament to his bond with The World’s Greatest Club and the affection he shares with Gooners all over the world.

But on closer analysis, was that a good thing to say so categorically and so publically? The little man inside my head who always seems to have a theory (or two) on why things are what they are, has got me wondering if Henry hasn’t purposely planted a seed in Pep’s head. He certainly hasn’t been in top form this season. Granted, he did set up Leo Messi brilliantly on a couple occasions recently but Guardiola’s first choice he has not been.

Whatever the reason he hasn’t been in the manager’s good graces, saying that he doesn’t want to play against Arsenal can’t help his chances for selection. Ok, maybe it should be taken in the context of who is saying it and why he has said it. I get that. And maybe he really would be a professional and score a hat-trick if it presented itself. That’s a sick thought but not an impossible feat. What I’ve been swirling around in my head is if he has purposely made the statement in order to cause doubt in Guardiola’s mind about his commitment.

I’m disappointed if he has done that yet I do sympathize, in a way. We all feel a strong sense of kinship with our former striker. When he says things like he’d never play for Scum or that he can’t stomach playing against us, he endears himself even more to our club and supporters.

I salute you Mr. Thierry Henry. Your contributions to Arsenal FC and to football (South Africa notwithstanding) have been many and you’ve deserved what’s been generally a fantastic ride at Barcelona. Let’s be clear however, step on the pitch against us and all is forgotten for at least 180 minutes.

We have ambitions that sentiment will not derail.

Keep the Faith!