Not Vintage

– Nobody can dispute the fact that Spain were worthy winners of this World Cup. Additionally, nobody can really say that this was a vintage World Cup champion. If they don’t continue this run (and they very well could) and expand upon it, they could be remembered primarily in history books only.

– 8 goals in 7 games speaks for itself. One may say that it’s because teams came to frustrate Spain, and that is also true. But observe the Spanish starting lineup and see that they had two holding players, although Xabi Alonso is a fine passer of the ball as well. Additionally, with Xavi in front of them, they were hard to break down as well. Spain set out to win the tournament, and that was their primary objective above and beyond any obligation to play aesthetically appealing football. There is actually nothing wrong with that, but the style that they’re being praised for simply didn’t come off in this tournament.

– Perhaps if Torres was fit, they could have been more explosive. Perhaps if Cesc Fabregas had played more, they would have banged in more goals. Subsequently, does Cesc actually earn the plaudits he deserves this time around? He is virtually a forgotten man when it comes to Spain’s Euro 08 triumph, and this time around he started exactly zero matches. That didn’t prevent him from instantly changing matches and providing the assist for Iniesta’s World Cup clinching goal.

– I think the Spanish players realize how good Cesc Fabregas is. Just ask Puyol and Pique, who today draped a Barcelona jersey around him, taking their campaign to bring Cesc back to Barcelona to an embarrassing level. They’re being counterproductive to Barcelona’s scheme to buy back Cesc for as cheap as possible. To me, it’s clear that Cesc wants to be back amongst his amigos in Catalunya. And if that’s what he wants, the Barcelona brass should pay what he’s worth. The market dictates how much a player like Cesc Fabregas is worth. If Yaya Toure (a fine player by the way) is worth 25 million pounds, then Cesc is certainly worth double that.

– Certainly, there were teams that I was pulling for in the World Cup. The World Cup is a spectacle that should be enjoyed. Living in the States, you wish that everything would shut down for a month (as most countries seem to do during the World Cup), just so you could enjoy it all. Let’s be clear though, Arsenal losing to Stoke affects me far more than anything the World Cup can offer. And with that, let’s shift our minds back to the club we hold dear to our hearts.

– Arsene, we’re ready for more. Let’s go win trophies.

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Dream Come True

A Post Match View was scheduled but after 120 minutes of less than memorable football, I’ve opted not to detail the highs and lows. You’ll forgive me, please. I felt the football was underwhelming in general and at times embarrassingly subpar, especially for a FIFA World Cup Final.

There are always levels of apprehension and tension – if not in the mind then surely in the tactics – when you play a final. This match was no exception. To make matters worse, neither side featured a real star that could change the game. Sure, Villa, Xavi, Iniesta, Sneijder, Robben, and our own Robin van Persie can add spark to a game as well as any player around but they are not on that true world class level that it takes to save the spectacle from the dour.

What we saw today was not attractive. Do players compete in too many matches with their clubs during the season? Does football just not have the personnel to create and excite on the level of the truly great players of the past? The tournament was a success but what will it be remembered best for? Certainly not the play on the pitch, in my opinion.

Each side had chances. Although Spain did dominate in terms of possession and did take more initiative, Holland could have won the title if Arjen Robben and Joris Mathijsen hadn’t wasted their opportunities. Full credit to Casillas for stopping Robben one-on-one not once but twice. Even Johnny Heitinga had a good chance to open the scoring. And a word for Stekelenberg, a keeper I don’t rate. He was outstanding today.

A mate asked me at Half-Time what rating I’d give Howard Webb. I said 7.75 from 10. I felt he did a good enough job of controlling the game. The tackles were almost non-stop for long periods. Tempers, frustration, and incessant cheeky fouls could have upset the proceedings. Naturally, I feel van Bommel should have been sent off. I would feel that way regardless though.

Although I approve of Webb’s performance, Nigel De Jong’s boot to the heart (literally) of Xavi Alonso should give him reason enough to accept that he could have done a better job with his cards. The final tally for yellows was 13 and of course Heitinga got himself sent off when he held back match winner Andres Iniesta in the second period of extra time. It really should have been two reds, in my view. De Jong’s was a gutless act.

An ex-girlfriend sent me a text saying that the Dutch were playing “savagely”. This from a woman who knows as much about football as I do about baking. Almost nothing at all!

I gathered that many people were troubled by Spain defeating Germany. Spain is a team of excellent technicians in midfield, dangerous and usually clinical strikers up front, and an adequate back line with an excellent keeper. Against a team like Holland, a team that came to stifle play rather than to create it, Spain can look less than impressive. Let’s be clear though, this Dutch side got to the final because they were either tactically superior when they had to be or individually better than the teams they’d faced en route. Today they only came to nullify Spain, not to take the game to them.

I’m not sure what van Marwijk’s thinking was and nor am I second guessing him. What I will say is that he will more than likely never get to another FIFA World Cup Final. Deploying both Nigel De Jong and Mark van Bommel seemed ultra defensive to me.

No team on this planet can out pass or out possess Spain when they are firing on all cylinders. That makes it all the more important to create and finish as many chances as possible. With two destroyers in midfield, they did limit Spain’s attacks but created very few of their own. Why not play a more offensive side? Why leave Robin on his own when it became clear that Sneijder was going to play a minor role, thanks to a packed midfield with little space and Xavi Alonso and Sergio Busquets shielding the vulnerable Puyol.

If I hear someone call that guy a great player again I’ll kick him. How slow do you have to be to be outrun by Arjen Robben?!?!? Yeah, Robben is quick but fast he is not.

It can also be said that the game was headed to penalties and that Spain did not manage to score. That’s half the battle. Mr. van Marwijk has every right to tell me to go home, that I don’t know what I’m talking about. Besides, how often does Arjen Robben miss two breakaways?

I’m happy for Vicente del Bosque. His accomplishments make being dismissed by Real Madrid even more absurd. He seems a decent man. Of course I congratulate Cesc Fabregas. Does this mean he’s more likely to want to go back to Catalunya? I’m happy for Andres Iniesta. He is an underrated player.

I wouldn’t have been upset by the Dutch winning but that sentiment has more to do with Robin van Persie and the great Dutch players of the past. This collection is severely tainted with the likes of De Jong, van Bommel, and Heitinga (a player I used to have time for). Plus, the sight of Arjen Robben diving stays with me. Perhaps justice was served.

One thing for sure, Iniesta’s dream came true. Quite a nice gesture as well to commemorate the departed Dani Jarque. Brazil 2014 next. It should be special.

We play Barnet Saturday. Big season ahead. I said that last season, and the one before. Where’s our new keeper?

Chat later!

What Dreams Are Made Of

– Don’t let anybody fool you. No matter what people say about the Champions League, the one trophy everybody covets the most is the World Cup. For that reason, enjoy the match.

– The previews have come fast and thick from everywhere, so there’s no need to cover it that much.

– The Spanish style has Dutch origins. Barcelona would not be Barcelona without Rinus Michels, one of the three best managers of all time. And Spain would not be the same without him.

– I would dispatch van Bommel to give Xavi a rough time. You can hate him, but van Bommel could care less. He’s there to harass and give players a hard time. Dirk Kuyt is not a player I particularly rate, but he brings balance to this Dutch side. On closer inspection, the Dutch have a better balance than the Spanish side.

– The Spanish defense has been solid because they have two holding players in Xabi Alonso and Busquets. Their actual central defenders don’t actually impress me. I feel as though they’re due a mistake; I hope that happens.

– From an Arsenal perspective, does this World Cup make Cesc want to leave more or less? I can’t be sure to be honest. All I know is that I’m sick and tired of hearing all the Barcelona players talk about Cesc wanting to leave. It almost makes me wish we sold him sooner rather than later. I leave it in the hands of Wenger, but I don’t doubt that Cesc wants to leave now. He just doesn’t want to leave without class (unlike LeBronze James).

– Robin van Persie hasn’t clicked in this World Cup. He didn’t click during the first games of the last season for Arsenal either. Then, all of a sudden, he started banging them in. This match may come down to whether Villa or van Persie takes their chance.

– Either way, a new addition to history will be made. Spain or Holland. Check back tomorrow to read how it all unfolded.

They Said…

In anticipation of tomorrow’s final, I went searching for some quotes I might have missed during the tournament. I’ve found a several worthy of reprinting. Some are somber and reflective. Some are cutting and direct. Others are seemingly uneventful but did catch my eye regardless.

“But it was a shame for Africa when Ghana did not make the Semi-Finals. It would have been a firework for Africa.” Arsene Wenger

“With all respect to the players in Argentina, there is no comparison between the two. At Barcelona, he [Messi] has players of his level.” Dani Alves

“If you don’t understand the line-up then maybe you should change trade and give up being journalists.” Marcello Lippi

“Rooney insulted me. He said, ‘fuck you’. He must learn to control his temper.” Referee Jeff Selogilwe

“I am Dutch but I support the football that Spain is playing.” Johann Cruyff

“I prefer a calm coach on the bench like van Marwijk, rather than an idiot like Maradona or Dunga.” Wesley Sneijder

“Rafik Saifi slapped the face of journalist Asma Hamili. She hit him back as a reflex. He then threw a bottle of sports drink which missed and had to be restrained from attacking her again.” BBC’s Richard Connelly on what happened in the mixed zone after Algeria’s last minute defeat to the U.S.

“I cannot imagine an international player [Yakubu] missing a goal that was almost two to three meters to a goal post and he was laughing or smiling. There was no sign of regret.” Nigerian Minister of Sport Ibrahim Bio

It will be an honour to do the first 1886 Post Match View of a FIFA World Cup Final tomorrow. Cesc is dying to play. I get that but COME ON ROBIN, even if it means that van Bommel gets to raise the trophy.

Chat later!

On van Bommel

I have no problem with the Dutch getting to the final. I won’t have a problem with them winning the final. They are overdue. All past failures are now out the window.

What I have a problem with is cheering for a man like Mark van Bommel. He is truly a cunt. His type are the reason FIFA instituted a series of laws that help protect positive, offensive football. No fouls from behind. No “professional fouls”. No repeated, systematic, tactical obstruction of free flowing play, etc.

Poor refeering has undermined the ruling body’s efforts in many ways but more than anything else, I can point to cynical, gutless cunts like van Bommel as petty criminals on the pitch. Cynical because he will foul first and then attempt to play football. Gutless because he doesn’t trust his abilities as a footballer and chooses to play outside or on the edge of the rules.

OK! Everybody cheats. Most people (forget athletes competing for large sums) push the rules as far as they can go. What this Dutch holding midfielder does is absolutely disgraceful. That he has gotten away with it all tournament long is pathetic.

Laurent Blanc was a classy center back – a cool, skillful, tactically and technically sound player. He was forced to watch France defeat Brazil in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final from the stands because a cunt named Slaven Bilic conned the ref into believing that Blanc had assaulted him. Blanc was red-carded and missed the final. Gutted is an extreme understatement. To think that van Bommel has not been red-carded for what he’s gotten away with is appalling.

Actual Outrage/British Outrage

– The yellow card rule in the World Cup is a joke. We will be deprived of watching Thomas Muller take on the Spanish after he received a yellow card for an innocuous handball. With the lack of consistency between refs, to be banned after two yellow cards in five matches is absolutely ridiculous. FIFA have decided to cancel out all yellows after the quarterfinal in order to protect star players from missing the final. They’re not doing enough.

– The outrage over Luis Suarez’s goal is outrageous. Yes, he handled. Yes, he celebrated with his teammates. No, he is not the devil. No, he did not cheat Ghana out of the World Cup. Ghana was awarded a soft free kick, two Ghana players were offside when the cross came into the box, and Gyan missed a penalty kick. So had Uruguay lost to the headed ball, they could have justifiably claimed that they were knocked out due to a refereeing error. It’s the same complaint you’ll hear from Arsenal about the Champions League Final against Barcelona. All Arsenal players will tell you that Eto’o was offside. So what? It doesn’t change anything. As for this case, Suarez did what he had to do for his country and his teammates. It would be nice if the World Cup was purely an exhibition of stylish football, great sportsmanship, and unity. But above all, it is a competition. Kids shouldn’t be concerned with being ruthless warriors fighting for results. Professional athletes should be. Gyan missed a penalty, so the lack of an offside call didn’t hurt Uruguay. I have a phrase I like to use, “Ball Don’t Lie.” If only that was true 100% of the time.

– It seems awfully condescending that the British media would jump all over the handball incident. They did the same thing with Ireland and Thierry Henry. Why the fuck should they care? Aww… poor Ireland. Aww… poor Ghana. It’s football. Being sanctimonious about such meaningless stuff puts you in a position where you’ll end up having a shit pie thrown in your face, and you just might not like the taste of it.

Holland

If Holland win the World Cup, they will have played the following teams:

Iceland
Scotland
FYR Macedonia
Norway
Denmark
Japan
Cameroon
Slovakia
Brazil

and Uruguay

Apart from Brazil and Uruguay, the other countries are hardly world beaters. This is not Holland’s fault, after all they’ve beaten every team that Fifa has put in front of them. The quality of teams that Holland has played is a reflection, however, on the weakness of Fifa.

The qualification process for the World Cup Finals is flawed. Teams such as San Marino, Luxembourg, Barbados, Grenada, New Caledonia, and American Samoa should play in a tournament to qualify for the World Cup qualifiers.

Fifa need to tell Scotland, Wales, and England that they have to join forces and play as Great Britain just like they do in the Olympics. That way the xenophobia and jingoism that comes with the English national team will disappear. The nasty English tribalism that runs through the veins of Stoke fans will be condensed and so will the songs about World War Two.

Key to a British football team is a British Premier League involving 18 teams. Gone will be teams such as Stoke, Blackburn Rovers, and Wolves or teams that have an average home attendance of just over 10,000 like Wigan and Blackpool.

Holland have been now won 15 straight World Cup matches, including qualifiers. Their coach Bert van Marwijk won the 2002 UEFA Cup with Feynoord. His son-in-law is the Dutch midfield hard man Mark van Bommel.

In Euro 2008, Holland crushed France 4-1 and Italy 3-0 before they lost to Russia in the quarter-finals. So far in this World Cup they haven’t crushed anyone, but they got past the quarterfinals and Brazil.

Holland have very good attacking options: Van Persie, Robben, Sneijder, Kuyt, Babel, Huntelaar, and Van der Vaart. But in defence they’re weak in depth. Arsenal reject Giovanni van Bronkhorst and Blackburn Rovers reject Andre Ooijer are both 35, while their goalkeeper at times plays like Manuel Almunia.

The Dutch have made two finals in the World Cup – 1974 and 1978 – where on both occasions they played the host nation.

This time, 2010, will be different. The host nation are out and if Holland meet Spain, we will have new winners of the famous gold trophy.

At least then you can say that international football is less predictable than club.

Keep It Arsenal