If You Spend Too Much Time in Bolton, You Start to Look Like the Locals

Jack Wilshere wants regular first team football next season with a Premiership club.

Bolton are offering him such a wish.

Arsenal are looking for a centre-back – preferably an English one due to UEFA’s homegrown player rule, which only affects clubs playing in the Champions or Europa Leagues.

Bolton have Gary Cahill – an Aston Villa cast-off who failed to make the England World Cup squad. This lowers his price in the transfer market.

But what’s the going rate?

Chris Smalling, who has only played 13 times for Fulham and four times for the England Under-21’s, cost Manchester United 8 million pounds plus a further 2 million depending on appearances for United and England.

Smalling is 20, while Cahill is 24 and only has one England Under 21 cap but over 80 Premiership appearances.

Understandably, Bolton do not want to lose their best defender, just like Arsenal don’t want to sell Cesc Fabregas. Sometimes, you just have accept defeat and try to get the best compensation package from the resulting transfer.

The possible key to the Cahill transfer is if Arsenal loan Jack Wilshere to Bolton for another season.

The Gunners are in danger of losing their creative midfielders with Fran Merida signing for Atletico Madrid, Fabregas wanting to sign for Barcelona, and Aaron Ramsey eight months away from a possible first team action.

If Fabregas leaves then his departure will leave Arsenal with only three attacking central midfielders:

Nasri, Rosicky, and Diaby.

Arshavin could play in that role but his tracking back and marking-up are weak, while Rosicky is too injury prone and lightweight, especially in away games.

The other two players whom I failed to mention are Henri Lansbury – who has just spent a season on loan in the Championship with Watford – and Jay Emmanuel-Thomas (JET). However, even though Arsenal rate both players highly, they’re both inexperienced at the Premiership level and will probably only be used as Carling/FA Cup players or sent out on loan again.

Wilshere is seen as a better fit for the attacking central midfield role. He has an eye for a through ball, he likes to “get stuck in” and has shown with Bolton that he can take the physical demands of the Premiership.

If Fabregas stays at Arsenal, then the Cahill deal looks likely with Wilshire heading off to the Reebok Stadium. If he leaves, then Wilshere will probably stay and fight for his first team place. But Wilshere will demand to be loaned out – Newcastle also want him – unless Wenger can give him first team guarantees.

The centre-back position is now a game of poker. Four senior centre-backs are out of contract in a month. Silvestre and Senderos have not been offered new contracts. Campbell and Gallas have, although the latter will probably reject it. This leaves Vermaelen and Djourou as Arsenal’s two most experienced centre-backs. This helps Gallas and Campbell’s hand with both players wanting better contracts.

Campbell is now considering a move to Celtic who have offered him a two year contract. However, Campbell would rather stay another year at Arsenal but wants guarantees of more playing time and better bonuses. If Campbell and Gallas both leave then Bolton have the upper hand at the negotiating table regarding Cahill. Wenger, therefore, might decide to go abroad in order to obtain his centre-backs and thus retain Wilshere. It’s interesting that Newcastle are offering Steven Taylor as bait for Wilshere.

The signing of Chamakh has helped Wenger’s hand in the strikers department. Wenger tried to sign the Moroccan last summer to replace Adebayor. Both players have a lot of similarities in playing style but Chamakh is a cross between Bendtner and Adebayor. Bendtner showed against Barcelona that he’s not world class – even though he thinks that he is. His ego is big and it’s not just due to the young Dane wearing pink boots or insisting on having the No. 52 shirt.

In Denmark, Bendtner is a huge celebrity due to his romance with multi millionaire Danish Princess, Caroline Fleming who is 13 years his senior. She has two children aged six and three from her previous marriage which netted her 400 million pounds. Bendtner often stays at her Valdemars Castle, which has four museums and 21 art galleries within its walls. The Danish striker is madly in love and will not be happy unless he starts as Arsenal’s central striker. Being a sub and sleeping in Valdemars Castle don’t quite match up.

What doesn’t help Arsenal with regards to Bendtner is that his dad is his agent, plus he’s Denmark’s only goal threat in Group E where they will face Japan, Holland, and Cameroon. If Bendtner has a good World Cup, his ego will grow, thus hiding weaknesses in his game. His first touch is poor – not as good as Chamakh’s – and his chances to goals ratio is average.

The truth is that Chamakh is a better more experienced player than Bendtner and also has less of an ego. The fact that he has played six seasons in Le Championnat and is fluent in French will help him fit in faster. He is currently looking to buy a house in the Hampstead area, and with Morocco not involved in the World Cup, he has nothing to distract his move.

Bendtner is useful. He scored vital goals when Van Persie was injured. He’s also getting better but I see danger signs. It wouldn’t surprise me if he demands a move next summer. However, I can only see Aston Villa or Everton coming in for him unless he improves dramatically. If he does improve then a club like Bayern Munich would fit his style and suit his ego.

But dating a Princess doesn’t make you a King, while scoring against Stoke, Wolves, and Hull doesn’t suddenly turn you into Michael Laudrup.

Keep it real, Nicklas.

Keep It Arsenal


Reviewing the Midfield

Cesc Fabregas – Our captain. He apparently wants out of Arsenal, and the last month of the season is probably the reason why. The 4-3-3 formation was installed to get the best out of our Catalan. That’s precisely what it did. Cesc delivered with goals and assists. His injury situation meant that he missed crucial stretches, but nobody can forget his thrilling cameo against Aston Villa and inspirational 2nd half against pompous Barcelona. I can understand why he wants out. In all of his years, he’s only won an FA Cup and a Community Shield. Meanwhile, everybody whispering in his ear are winning trophies. I think he should stay, but if he really wants out and Barcelona are willing to pay more than they’re willing to, then he’ll depart. He’ll be fondly remembered by me when he does, but his Arsenal career will remain slightly lacking (even if that’s not his fault).

Aaron Ramsey – It seemed as though whenever Ramsey was gifted an appearance with the first choice XI, he failed to impress. He was alright in patches, but he failed to impose himself in any way. He started to deliver on his promise in Carling Cup matches and international appearances with Wales. With Denilson regressing, he was given the opportunity to start alongside Cesc and started to come into his own. He remains very young and is one of the most promising prospects in British football. It’s a great tragedy that Shawcross broke his leg and derailed his career for six to eight months. If Cesc leaves, I could see Ramsey becoming an important player for Arsenal in the next two to three years.

Abou Diaby – This guy is an enigma to me. At times, he’s a dominating midfielder who has silky control of the ball. Other times, he’s injured, ineffective, or absent. He’s made the France World Cup squad though, so this season will be seen as a positive one by some. I would strongly suggest that he faded during the close of the season in a way that was extremely disconcerting. I thought that he could make a vital difference against Barcelona. I was dead wrong. We know all about Diaby’s strengths; I’m not sure we know anything about his heart. He should punish the opposition by dribbling forward with power and tackling with precision. I have the distinct feeling that he can only do that against weaker opposition. He has the talent; does he have the willpower?

Samir Nasri – He missed the early part of the season through injury and has just missed out on a spot in the France national team. Does he belong on the squad more than Diaby does? If you start from scratch, yes. If you look at the needs of the France team, maybe not. Regardless, if the decision was made before the Barcelona match, he would have made the squad. Again, another player who came up short in the period that mattered the most. Often shunted to the wing, his play there has often suggested that we may actually need to sign more offensive players, namely strikers and wingers. He plays better centrally (as every gifted player does due to a wider space to play in), but when he was handed the keys after Cesc’s injury, the machine did not run smoothly enough. He may be given that role permanently if Cesc departs, but he’s more of a foil player. To be fair, he hasn’t been played in a central midfield role alongside a player like Cesc, and that is where he might perform best. On the wing, I’m not certain he provides anything more than good link-up play.

Theo Walcott – On the plus side, it looks like he’ll make a nice living as a writer of children’s books. On the negative, he hasn’t improved at all. He’s brittle, doesn’t cross particularly well, and fades during matches. Despite all this, I still feel as though we could fetch 15 million pounds for him if we sold him. I might be delusional, but if he’s effective in the World Cup, somebody may take that chance. That would result in a 6 million pound profit. He still retains electric pace and can make decent enough runs. The problem is, there are large stretches where you don’t see him on the pitch at all. He’s not like Ivica Olic, where he doesn’t have to touch the ball as much to be effective. He needs to learn how to stay in games, be alert, distribute efficiently, and be spontaneous. A good World Cup can only help, but he has a long way to go before doing the number on his back any justice.

Alex Song – He’s a favorite of ours and a reminder that you should never completely write off a player that Wenger has faith in. Before the season, Wenger suggested he didn’t have the stamina to play in central midfield. Clearly, that was just a motivational jab at Song. Alex Song never backs down, either from Craig Bellamy or Adebayor. He is one of the few players, alongside Nasri, who will stand up for players on our team. He was just as good after the ACN as well. He’s one of the first names on Wenger’s starting XI. He’s two more consistent seasons away from being legitimately world class.

Denilson – Unlike Song, Denilson has regressed. He was one of the most underrated players two seasons ago; he never looked comfortable during this season. For one, he was playing in a 4-3-3 system in which his old self might have been better suited to. He should have had the opportunity to be creative and tidy. What it resulted in was goals from distance and a lot of sideways passing. For Denilson to play alongside Song and Cesc effectively, he needs to be more of an offensive threat. If he’s not doing that, he’ll just be embarrassed when trying to track back against Wayne Rooney. Like the others, he is still young, but his star no longer burns as bright. He can be an intelligent distributor, but with his back being a problem as well, he’s a question mark.

Tomas Rosicky – The fact that he played as much as he did should be considered a victory. That being said, he approached nowhere near his old form. When dribbling forward with the ball, Rosicky is a thing of beauty. His willingness to take shots from outside is a plus. Despite the fact that we don’t shoot from outside of the box too often, we’ve actually scored the most goals from distance. Does that mean we take an appropriate amount or that we should take more? Rosicky was earmarked as a No. 10 type player. Because of his frequent injuries, teams should not be built around him. He can pass, he has a decent shot, and he’s intelligent. But too often, he’s also a non-factor. To be fair, he’s just come off from a lengthy injury, so anything we get out of him is a bonus.

Jack Wilshere – He didn’t get many games for the Arsenal First Team. When playing with us, he still seemed a bit frail, but he has some bite to him. A loan move to Bolton under Owen Coyle was probably the best thing for his development. After a few games, Bolton bloggers wondered whether he was actually any good. Now, Coyle is begging us to let him stay. I’m not certain that he’ll be ready for the first team, so if a loan gives us a discount on Gary Cahill, then I think another year with Bolton might get him very close to earning a spot near the First Team.

Fran Merida – He’s officially off the Atletico Madrid. The new “Cesc” leaves just as the real Cesc looks to leave. He’s had flashes here and there, but we can’t make any definitive judgments about this guy. He has a good left foot and is a good signing for Atletico Madrid. Wenger wanted to tie him down to a five year contract. That means he rated him very highly.

Craig Eastmond – A surprise addition to our midfield this year. It’s interesting that he’s usurped Coquelin in the queue (Francis is being groomed at RB now), and he’s shown promise. For now though, he’s not strong enough and can’t really last a full 90. His hard work has resulted in Premier League and Champions League appearances. He’s being brought up in the right way.

Win It For Ramsey

Before I begin my post, I would like to address something.

There are three writers for this site. We all bring different points of views, but we work as a team. On Saturday, we witnessed yet another one of our players suffer a serious injury. That event caused one of our colleagues to write an inflammatory post about Stoke and their manager yesterday. While it was written out of pure anger, that doesn’t excuse it. We try to present a level-headed view (but undoubtedly pro-Arsenal in the end, after all this is a site primarily about Arsenal Football Club), and the aforementioned post was nothing of the sort. We deeply apologize if we’ve offended anybody. This site is not meant to offend groups of fans; it’s meant to observe the football world with an Arsenal pair of eyes. It won’t happen again.

Now, moving on.

After letting my initial rage about the tackle die down for a couple of days, it’s given me time to reflect on the actual challenge and the game itself. Many Arsenal bloggers have gone on about what they think of the tackle. The English media has had their say as well. Stoke City Football Club have had their say as well. The topic has been well covered, but I’d just like to add my two cents.

Ryan Shawcross clearly did not intend to break Aaron Ramsey’s leg, but the tackle was reckless and dangerous. What I cannot excuse is the speed and location of the tackle. You can argue that Ramsey was too quick for him (and he definitely was on this occasion), but why was Shawcross swinging his leg that fast? As a defender, if you have your foot on the ground, there’s pretty much no chance that you can break another opponent’s leg. Being committed is one thing, but I believe the tackle was deserving of a red card and was dangerous. I’ve read many pundits and people talk about how if Ramsey wasn’t injured, it would have only been a yellow card. But that’s not the objective reality.

I can’t lame the blame solely on Shawcross and Stoke on this. Challenges like Shawcross’s are born out of bad parenting. And in this case, the bad parents are the English media and the Premier League’s referees.

The agenda of the English media is clear. They want to promote the English game as one of passion where full bloodied challenges are welcome. When injuries like Ramsey’s occur, instead of examining the state of tackling in games, there are built in excuses. Phrases like “he was too quick for him” and “he’s not that type of player” are instantly brought up. Well, when Eduardo won a penalty against Celtic, perhaps Wenger should merely have said “he’s not that type of player.” The furore over Eduardo’s “dive” was longer than this furore over Shawcross’s challenge will be.

I do not want to lynch Shawcross, but to the majority of Arsenal fans, he will primarily be known as the man who shattered Aaron Ramsey’s leg. To that end, perhaps Shawcross will have difficulties coming back and performing as he did (look at Martin Taylor’s career). For all the rough challenges Arsenal encountered against Stoke, will it ever be to that level ever again? My guess is probably not. That’s the fallout.

The English media will have you believe that these types of tackles and the flow of the game is what makes the English league special. I think the speed is a big part of it’s charm nowadays, but it’s only since the infusion of foreign talent (and managers) that the league has really thrived. It’s no surprise that England’s national team is better than ever, playing against such opposition can only help. Where once there was only an emphasis on passion, now technique is just as important. While holding on to the past, the English media was actually damaging it’s future. When the rest of the world views Shawcross’s challenge on Ramsey, they’ll be horrified. Simply put, it doesn’t belong in the game. When a man accidentally murders somebody, that’s not a first degree murder, but it is manslaughter.

Shawcross should feel terrible about the incident. And for those who think that Wenger should apologize for his comments on Saturday, perhaps Shawcross should also apologize to Aaron Ramsey. From what I’ve read, all he’s said is that there was no malice in the challenge and that he wishes a speedy recovery. An apology would be welcome, but I suppose it’s not necessary.

Premier League referees don’t seem to have a control on a lot of these games. It is the lack of cautioning and fouls that allow a team like Stoke to believe they have a right to play in the manner that they do. If they’re allowed to do that, why wouldn’t they? They have an obligation to fight for every point, and that is what they generally do. It’s been pointed out that Arsenal are the second most fouled team in the league behind Hull City. That indicates that we don’t get as many foul calls as we should, because most will agree that Arsenal are roughed up more than others.

The protection is sorely lacking.

We’ve seen three players in four and a half years suffer major injuries. That kind of trauma is enough to make any supporter enraged. And if a supporter is enraged, how do you think the players on Arsenal and Arsene Wenger feel about it? That’s the bottom line.

This incident has revealed how one-sided football fans can be. That goes for both Stoke and Arsenal in this case. I read an ESPN correspondent
talk about how he was sickened that Arsenal players were asking for a red card instead of tending to Ramsey. That’s just a load of horseshit. Clearly, Cesc and Vermaelen were extremely upset at what happened. Arsenal fans, out of rage, have said some unpleasant things as well.

The real tragedy is that Aaron Ramsey is going to be out for over five months because of this challenge. Even Tony Pulis, who is Welsh himself, would never wish that on a player. But the aggression against Arsenal is not a surprise when we’re going away up north. That is what we’ve come to expect, and that is what we have to learn to deal with.

And on to the football side of things, people say that the result pales in light of Ramsey’s injury. That is undoubtedly true, but it’s still very important. If I were Aaron Ramsey, I would not want my teammates to just roll over and die. I would want my teammates to fight. To stand up and represent as athletes. That was done on Saturday.

Two years ago, we lost Eduardo to a horrific injury. What’s often noted about that game is our meltdown, what’s not noted is that we came back from one goal down to take a one goal lead. Had we held on, we would have won the Premier League, I’m certain of it. But such a psychological blow of giving away a dubious penalty destroyed our title ambitions. This time around, it was different.

After about five minutes of no football at all from both sides, we struck back. We won a penalty when Stoke handled it. I don’t know how people can claim that this wasn’t a penalty. When William Gallas gave away a penalty against Manchester United two years ago, he was accosted for making a massive error. Had that decision not been given, we may have even won the Premier League. But when you leave your arms like that in the penalty box, you run that risk.

After Vermaelen tapped in the third goal, I saw a passion in this squad that I haven’t seen for quite sometime.

Wenger likes to go on about how we play football the way it’s supposed to be. He decries physical attacks on players, but our players have recently learned to show the opposition that they’re here to play. Nasri shoved a Stoke player after they were haranguing Cesc. Near the end of the match, Cesc tackled Pugh simply to send a message. Then Cesc motioned to Pulis to shush his mouth. An act of impetuousness? Perhaps, but that’s what I’d like to see. And for the record, it wasn’t a reckless challenge; Cesc was never going to hurt anybody with that, he was just letting Stoke know that we will not be pushed around. That tackle is in marked contrast to what Robin van Persie did last year, when out of frustration he needlessly shoulder charged Thomas Sorensen and was sent off.

Ironically, the team most capable of absorbing a mental blow like Ramsey’s is Arsenal. We’ve seen it twice already, and what doomed us the last time cannot destroy us this time around. I believe the war at the Britannia has prepared our team to chase the title like never before. Believe me when I tell you that this is the make or break moment for Arsene’s latest experiment.

I actually relish playing against teams like Stoke. They work hard to frustrate us, and I view it as a test of how far a team has come. To win the Premier League, you must beat sides like Stoke both home and away. While we lost to them in the cup, we have gotten the six points we wanted.

Are our players ready? Saturday shows that we are.

While he is in street clothes, we must win it for Aaron Ramsey.

Post Match View – Stoke City F.C.

Abou Diaby was first, Eduardo next, and now the rising talent Aaron Ramsey will have to lose a large chunk of playing time through devastating injury. In all honesty, this tackle was reckless but it also looked more clumsy than premeditated. I could be wrong since I’ve only seen the replay in full speed and couldn’t tell if there was intent to injure.

That does not mean that we haven’t been the victims of hate from a large section of English football fans and players alike who don’t mind Arsenal players being on the end of such challenges. That doesn’t mean that match announcers, other clubs’ managers, and even the FA haven’t been complicit in a sometimes not so subtle anti Arsenal campaign. That doesn’t mean that an atmosphere hasn’t been created and fueled to lead up to this and the two injuries mentioned above.

I received a text just after the foul saying that the excuses from the English media were already in effect. Arsene has been quite clear on what he feels about this challenge. “Spare me the articles about how nice Shawcross is, please,” said the manager.

Can you blame him?

As the scum called Stoke fans chanted ‘One Ryan Shawcross’ after the player’s dismissal, I remembered that Birmingham City fans and fans of other clubs like West Ham for example have been known to echo the same chorus using Martin Taylor’s name. Shawcross has taken a large chunk from a fellow professional’s career. He is probably just as anti-Arsenal as the many who who’ll applaud the injury. Let’s be absolutely fucking clear – the majority of English football fans hate Arsene Wenger and hate Arsenal Football Club. There are millions of people who would love for Cesc or William Gallas or Alex Song or Nicklas Bendtner to lose their leg in a “full-blooded, good old fashioned tackle”.

The EPL trumpets itself as the best league in the world. Shouldn’t that tag ensure protection for the safety of the league’s most attractive team? Shouldn’t the league’s integrity be preserved beyond yellow cards for dissent to shite refs? Shouldn’t thuggery be called what it really is instead of code words like ‘getting amongst them’?

Shouldn’t the league promote flair and fair play instead of standing by and watching Arsenal’s best players have their legs broken? Ok, flair and “pretty” football is not a favorite fare for the robust challenge hungry. I accept that. What I’ll never accept is hiding behind the fact that getting sent off with a three match ban is the only punishment for dangerous acts of thuggery.

More attention is paid to diving then to addressing what most sensible people call assault.

Serious injuries happen but they will happen more frequently and will be nearly, if not completely, career ending when an atmosphere that allows them exists. Nobody can convince me that there aren’t anti-Arsenal sentiments in effect when these types of injuries occur. And when was the last time someone other than Arsene Wenger has stood up to call out the brand of anti-football that we face regularly? You are free to choose your tactics but spare me the hypocrisy. Thuggery is thuggery!

A few seasons ago, David Moyes brought Everton to The Emirates and played with no less than nine men in his own half for the majority of the game. He’d been embarrassed 7-0 at Highbury in May 2005. The tactics he used at The Emirates were designed to prevent another thrashing, but they were not thuggish. You can stop us playing without kicking us out of the game.

I will be among the first to accept that in recent years, we’ve been less than capable of matching some of the over the top physical play we’ve faced. But as I’ve mentioned here before, the FA dulled our teeth years ago. We were more than capable of being physical within proper limits but a) under Wenger, we’ve always preferred to play football anyway and b) the league prefers that only the extremely harsh challenges against us are properly punished. What a great way to promote good football!

There’s a guy reading this saying, ‘Wait, Man United play good football and never complain about being mistreated by the FA or thuggish teams’. That’s part of the problem and it proves the point. Arsenal are hated for who and what they are – a flair team with a French manager and mostly non-English players. Spare me the fucking hypocrisy.

It would be easy to say that we’ve won because Almunia and Clichy have firmed up their game but that would fail to address too many other factors. We’ve stood up to Toilet Paper’s candy striped thugs. We’ve kept our heads and remained focused. We’ve shown desire and determination.

As early as the third minute, Ricardo “Pimp” Fuller pushed Bacary Sagna while the RB attempted to negotiate avoiding running into his keeper. Cheap, sly, thuggery! The pimp would get away with a similar push against Song on 7, forcing a throw-in deep in Arsenal territory.

The Rory Delap throw-in resulted in a (very poorly defended) Stoke goal. What was Eboue thinking, moving away from the prolific Danny Pugh as he waited to punish us at the far post? Not the kind of start we needed.

1-0 Stoke

Stoke played a very tight and disciplined midfield pressing game. We hardly troubled them in the first 20 minutes. Before a Cesc volley was forced wide for a corner on 26, the notable action from our end was a brave Sol Campbell header at the pimp’s raised foot. When we lost the ball, I wondered why we weren’t pressing higher up the pitch as Stoke seemed more content to battle us in midfield. They were never going to split us open with precise passing or neat football, so it was a matter of remaining calm, playing our passing game, and making them chase and expend energy.

A goal would help too.

It came on 32 after a more composed spell of Arsenal possession. A Cesc cross was headed inside the far post by Nicklas Bendtner. A good striker’s goal! That’s two in two.

1-1 and game on.

On 33, the Arsenal hating commentator Gary O’Reilly said, “Stoke won’t change their game. They’ll just keep grinding away at Arsenal”. As if Arsenal were suddenly going to stop attacking and let the “grinding” stop them playing. The man’s anti-Arsenal edge comes through clearly – he’s more concerned with what Stoke have to do to stop Arsenal than he is in the changed tide of the match. Arsenal had clearly reversed the flow to take control of the game.

Just as I was thinking that Clichy was playing with more focus and purpose, Delap turned him on 39. No harm done however. The man is in the All-Time World XI of throw-in takers but football isn’t his main strength.

The First Half ended with Arsenal in the ascendency as Stoke began to tire.

On 49, Ramsey was fouled inside the Stoke box but no penalty was given. Even O’Reilly found it odd. Not too long after, Clichy forced a save with a good right foot shot from outside Sorensen’s box. On 52, we survived three successive Stoke corners. To their credit, they weren’t being overrun by our football, but nor were they convincing me that we couldn’t match them physically and go on to win the game.

Eboue’s low cross on 55 found nobody at the far post but goalkeepers don’t like to see balls flash across their goals. On 57, Clichy did well to keep a stray Cesc pass from going into touch. Good work by the LB. The obligatory Almunia scare came on 58 as he dropped a cross but Sidibe had made illegal contact with him as he rose. We were spared.

Eboue began to look more effective. On 59, he peppered Sorensen’s hands with a well struck drive from distance. The pimp made space for himself to get off a quick shot that Almunia saved on 65. One minute later, Aaron Ramsey was the recipient of a very bad challenge from Ryan Shawcross after a sloppy exchange of passes in midfield. As Ramsey trapped the stray pass, the Stoke defender put an awkward boot in. The players’ reactions and the dangling right ankle was an all too familiar sight.

Straight red for the England defender. A stretcher plus a very long time out of the game for the young Arsenal midfielder. Will the FA take action beyond a three match ban for Shawcross? I wouldn’t bet on it.

The game slowed a bit as both sets of players looked to regroup and refocus. On 77, Whitehead put in a dangerous low cross. We dealt with it. There was very little notable action from that point. Not by Arsenal and certainly not by Toilet Paper’s side.

On 85, it occurred to me that Stoke are horrible to watch. I know they’ve done well against us recently but they really are not worth the price of admission. And in advance of their cement-headed fans responding to this post, I’ll state now so I won’t have to later – shove your comments up your smelly troglodyte arses.

I can’t imagine that the additional time from the lengthy injury stoppage made Stoke supporters feel very good about their chances of sending us back home empty handed. We refocused and were all over them. On 89, a Nicklas Bendtner pass met with a candy striped thug’s hand. It was ball to hand and maybe the ref could have waved play on but no, he pointed to the spot. Cesc duly obliged.

2-1 AFC

FUCK OFF STOKE!!! I could have jumped through the ceiling. But it wasn’t over yet. Vermaelen was on the end of a Cesc square pass across Sorensen’s goal to tap home the third.

3-1 AFC and three points for sure.

FUCK OFF STOKE!!! Throw in a retribution tackle by Cesc on a candy striped thug on 97 for good measure. At the final whistle, our team huddle before exiting the pitch was met by boos from Stoke’s filthy racist supporters. Nothing is decided but what a fabulous way to capitalize on Chelsea’s debacle at The Bridge.

I’m just saddened that Aaron Ramsey couldn’t celebrate with his teammates.

This group have learned from seeing those horrific challenges against Diaby and Eduardo that they’ve had to grow thicker skin. Witness not just the composure and fight back to claim three vital points in a part of the world that would never welcome someone who looks like I do (and I certainly wouldn’t visit), but also Nasri’s rise to his captain’s defence after Cesc had been pushed off the ball by Shawcross. Also recall Samir’s stance earlier in the season against Hull City.

Let’s not forget to make mention of the steel provided by Campbell and Vermaelen. They were very good. The pimp was useless for most of the match.

All need not be lost from the devastation of losing a teammate in such terrible circumstances. Today’s result was just one of the many that we’ll need in order to do the improbable. I don’t care if the so-called experts choose not to take our title challenge seriously. What matters is that a certain Scot in Manchester and an Italian in London are beginning to sweat a bit. Oh, and that we’ve beaten Stoke City. FUCK OFF STOKE!!!

Keep the Faith.

Ramsey Failed at a Corner

The Everton game exposed certain truths. Number one: Young players do not have the mental concentration that more experienced players like Gallas have. Take the first Everton goal. It came from a corner kick. Whenever Arsenal defend a corner kick, they defend using zonal marking. For me, zonal marking does not work for set pieces such as corner kicks. For corner kicks, you need old fashioned man to man marking. Zonal marking leaves players marking an area not a man. When Everton took their corner, Osman was standing on the edge of the penalty area. He then sprinted into the zonal area that Aaron Ramsey was covering, only Ramsey was staring at the corner kick not having a clue on who he should mark. His awareness was completely off, so he missed Osman’s run.

It was Ramsey’s job to pick up Osman. Gallas and Vermaelen were marking Cahill and Fellaini. Sagna was trying to help protect our pathetic goalkeeper Almunia from Saha. No goalkeeper should have his right back acting as his bouncer. The sooner Almunia gets injured the better.

On the goal line, covering the right and left posts were Nasri and Denilson. Traore was covering the area between the front post and the corner kick while Diaby was acting as back up for Gallas and Vermaelen.

On the edges of the penalty area were Arshavin and Eduardo. The Russian was closer to Osman. He watched Osman make his run but decided not to act. Instead he raised his arm – for what I have no clue. If Arshavin had taken responsibilty and tracked Osman maybe the scores would have stayed at 0-0. He didn’t and instead passed responsibility on to Ramsey who failed miserably.

Almunia once again showed why he should not be in the Arsenal first team. He can’t command his box, he can’t punch the ball, or catch the ball. He is an HIV goalkeeper spreading uncertainty throughout the Arsenal players. OK, he made a great save against Vaughan but that’s what Arsenal goalkeepers are expected to do. Every time Arsenal have to defend a corner or a cross I worry – are we protected? Because with Almunia as our condom, you know we’re not!

Traore is not a left back. He had a shocker. He’s a left winger. He had no help at all. Aged 20, he needs help playing in a position that he’s not comfortable with. Who was in front of him against Everton? Aaron fucking Ramsey – King of the Markers when it comes to defending corners. Traore did not have a good game. Positionally, Traore was poor. Every time there was an Arsenal set play or corner kick, the two center-backs would go up into attack and leave Traore as the last man, which is what happened for Everton’s second goal. If you’re a 20 year old center-back, you need someone more experienced to stay back and help you.

Everton got into Arsenal very quickly. They were fast out of the blocks and disrupted Arsenal’s fluency. Led by the cunt Phillip Neville who had a good game at right-back. But when Everton gained possession, they played the ball very well. All over the pitch, Everton were first to the ball. They snuffed out Arshavin, Arsenal’s best player going forward. To stop Arshavin you have to cut off the service to him. For the first 20 minutes of last Saturday’s game, Arshavin hardly touched the ball. It was only in the last 10 to 15 minutes that he was a threat.

Everton hussled and harried Arsenal’s midfield. Moyes got his tactics spot on.

Bolton will be different.

Man City are now in the title race

I’m not worried

Keep it Arsenal

Round Up

West Ham will not go down. This is mainly because Burnley are about to lose Owen Coyle and also because Hull, Portsmouth, Wigan, and Wolves are crap.

Owen Coyle joining Bolton should have no bearing on Wednesday’s game. Coyle is expected to be officially announced as Bolton’s new manager on Thursday and will watch the game from the stands at The Emirates. Coyle leaving Burnley means relegation for the Lancashire club.

The attendances of some clubs in last weekends FA cup was atrocious. Wigan only managed just over 5,000 fans to watch their tie against Blackburn Rovers. Last season just over 4,000 fans attended Wigan’s home fixture against Notts County in the Carling Cup. Wigan are currently bottom of the Premier League average attendance table with an average of 18,464. But they are not alone. Ex-EPL outfit Middlesbrough only attracted 12,400 fans to their 3rd round fixture against big spending Manchester City.

Both clubs belong in the Championship.

Leeds beating Manchester United was sweet. Leeds deserved their win. Shame that Man United loving and Fox Soccer Channel host Jeremy St. Louis (what a wank name) did not show Leeds hitting the crossbar in the second half. Viewers of his corny show only saw Leeds goal and then Man United chances. It was biased reporting. To lose to a team two divisions below you is disgraceful. Most managers would have lost their jobs over that defeat. Instead, Fergurson blamed the referee as he always does when Man United lose.

Stoke City away in the next round is not going to be easy – for Stoke that is. I think that this is the ideal draw for Arsenal. We know it’s going to be tough so the players are going to be up for it. If Arsenal were drawn against QPR away, the players may have dropped their guard a little.

The win against West Ham was excellent. A great game with great goals. Eduardo looks as though he is back. His goal was class. It came out of nowhere. Totally unexpected. Ramsey is turning into a very good player. He reminds me of a young Paul Scholes. Vela’s cross to Eduardo was also great. His tussle with that hot-head Diamanti was a growing up experience.

Sol Campbell will not be signing for Arsenal. Vieira will join Man City and not Arsenal. So Myles Palmer you can eat horse shit. Dzeko is off to AC Milan in the summer, when Arsenal will sign the Ajax full-back van der Wiel.

Stay tuned.

Keep it Arsenal

No Replay

I started with this picture just to point out that Jimenez did not receive a yellow card for this challenge. I do not care if he didn’t mean to do it, a foul is a foul. Diaby went down in a heap and started clutching his right shoulder. I feared the worst. I assumed that this was another one of those “strange injuries” Diaby tends to pick up.

After being incensed on the ground, Diaby got back up and pressed on as usual. To lose the presence of Diaby right now would be a massive blow. He is majestic at the moment. He’s not Patrick Vieira, and he should not be compared to him. Diaby has provided the thrust that this team sorely needed, and when the substitutions were made, they made a substantial difference.

To recap the first long stretch of action, you need to start with Lukasz Fabianski. He is a very proactive goalkeeper. That means, he’ll come out for balls, catch them when you should, and punch when you can’t catch. He made a stunning save on Stanislas, an effort that could have left us done and dusted. When Diamanti easily beat Silvestre’s attempt at an offside trap, he was 1 v. 1 with Fabianski. Some have blamed the Polish stopper, saying he got a hand to the ball and couldn’t do more. I’d suggest the fact that he got a hand on it, from such a short distance, would reinforce my view that his reflexes are top notch.

Wilshere was ineffective, and Merida’s ideas never came off. Give some credit to Wenger, for the most part, he really did want to win this match. He might have settled with losing the match as well, but he definitely did not want to draw. He brought on Diaby and Nasri for the jejune youngsters because Wenger wanted to win the game.

They made an instant difference, adding initiative and slick passing to the team. Soon, a Robert Green double save only kept us out.

With a touch of luck, the ball fell kindly for Ramsey who dispatched it wickedly past Green and into the net.

1-1, time to go for the kill.

Eduardo rose to meet a Vela cross to score a superb striker’s goal. He may not have confidence shooting the ball with his feet, but that header was a peach. It was placed perfectly, and you knew West Ham was finished.

After the match, we drew Stoke City away. I obviously do not fear anybody, but I would have preferred a minnow. The reason for that lies in the fixtures. This is the series of games after the FA Cup match away to Stoke: Aston Villa away, Manchester United home, Chelsea away, Liverpool home, followed by FC Porto away.

Methinks that the FA Cup may be sacrificed, but for the moment, I’m happy that we’re still in the FA Cup and that Ramsey chose us over Manchester United.