New Season Countdown Continues/More Conversations With Dante

I couldn’t stand the sight of Clown No. 1 raising the Emirates Cup. I’m glad we won but the ceremony had an air of cheapness about it though. It felt like I was watching also-rans from a beauty contest bonding on a night of commiseration. The sad outing was led of course by the homeliest of them all, the unwelcomed poodle walker.

When I see that clown and his understudy, I think of the car bumper stickers that say ‘MY OTHER CAR IS A PORSCHE’. It wouldn’t be so bad if we had a world class No. 1 and those two clowns were just getting some air time to keep their voices fresh. My frustration mounts as we get closer to Liverpool away.

El Cunto asked why that guy is still at Arsenal. I wonder that everyday. Everyday!

He reminded me that my earliest disapproval of the clown didn’t come after failing to hold a lead with only 38 minutes remaining in the Champions League Final. I said he wasn’t good enough and had to go as far back as February 2005, after Man United went to Highbury and embarrassed us 4-2. In Barcelona, he could have made himself an Arsenal legend. He could have shown that being down a man doesn’t mean you have to lose the game. He could have shown some serious spine. He failed miserably.

Two near post goals does not make people remember you for anything but failure. Well, except those who argued with me that he was good enough for Arsenal and that we could win the league with him. And then there were those who said that the goals were not as bad as I was making them out to be. One prominent and very, very successful blogger argued that the goals were not scored at the near post.

That’s when I knew I’d better be more picky about whom I discuss matches with.

The season following the CL disaster, Clown No. 1 and Swiss Miss conspired to lose another final. Two in two seasons! I doubt many people have placed the level of blame on this guy that he deserves for stunting the growth and bashing the confidence of the young players. I state with no hesitation that had we won either or both of those finals – especially the League Cup Final vs. Chelsea because the kids got us there and many featured in the final – the level of belief and resulting thirst for more success could have made all the difference. Instead, we have a group still struggling for identity, a group short on focus and confidence, just like the most fraudulent of goalkeepers to ever wear the Arsenal top. As El Cunto so correctly pointed out, if your spine is weak, so is the rest of your team. We’ve had that motherfucker at our club for too long.

I seethe when I write anything beyond a few sentences about him. I better move on to another topic. Arsene, PLEASE do something.

I caught up with Dante earlier this week. I could sense the excitement and eagerness in waiting for the new season to start. I could also sense a bit more bite this time from the man who always looks cool but can spew venom with the best (or worst) of ‘em. By mid November, I expect him to be fully lathered and spitting fire.

Dante: We are 11 days away from the start of the season and I cannot wait! One trophy down four more to go (League, UCL, Milk Cup, FA Cup)!

Agent 86: [Thinking; I used to be just as optimistic in past seasons. I want the new season as much as anybody but not with that set of keepers we have right now.]

Yeah, man! It’ll be a very interesting season.

Dante: This is how I saw the Emirates Cup:

Wilshere and Fimpong are BEASTS!!! I know I have said it before but they both keep on impressing me. Yes, Wilshere made a mistake when he was obstructed by Fortune but it came to nothing.

Agent 86: I’m glad you brought up Wilshere. El Cunto has tagged Wilshere as a showboat. I don’t see it. The kid has poise and focus way beyond his years. Our colleague (he who shall remain nameless) at 1886 made a good point, ‘what Wilshere did was not uncommon for a young player in the early stages of his career and certainly Arsenal players [young and old] have been criticized for not hoofing the ball and trying to play their way out of danger’.

I’m not worried about Wilshere being a showboat at all. I’d need to see more than just a questionable example of what might not even be showboating before indicting him.

Dante: [With almost uncontrolled enthusiasm] But that VOLLEY!!!!! And the kid has an attitude. Love it!!! We need attitude in the squad.

Agent 86: We used to have attitude. We used to have swagger. You can’t quantify them but they make a big difference. Imagine what teams felt like when they saw Henry and Pires with Bergkamp standing not far away. We need to get that back. We have a few players who can get us there but only time will tell. I have to say I really like what I see in Frimpong. I know he’s still a pup but…

Dante: Frimpong does not let anyone have time on the ball. He doesn’t dribble much but hey, if he loses the ball he will get it back!

The first goal against AC Milan impressed me for a few reasons;
1. Gibbs shielded the ball extremely well while having a player draped over him then to send Arshavin off to the races, this was very good to see from the 20 year old left back.
2. Arshavin; what can I say? What a run! I don’t know what was better, watching that run and final ball to Chamakh or rewinding back to where Gattuso looks like he has been thrown out of a speeding Ferrari. PAAAAAHHH BOSS!!
3. Chamakh’s finish; well taken! He did the right thing and looked calm in front of goal.

Agent 86: [My turn to emote.] YES! Gibbs showed tenacity. Arshavin showed strength. Chamakh showed a good finisher’s cool. It was the first really telling highlight of the (pre) season for me. It was all there – industry, strength, and skill.

Dante: Issues I had with the games against both Celtic and Milan; in both games, we looked tired after about the 75th minute.

Agent 86: To be expected! They’ve been training really hard and some guys played in both Milan and Celtic matches back to back.

Dante: When Frimpong went off in the second half of the Milan game we lost our possession edge, similar to the way we do when Song is unable to play. Theo cannot cross to save his life! He is dangerous but anyone with that much speed is dangerous with or without the ball. Only positive I can take is that he must have got the same treatment about defending Arshavin did because I saw him next to the right back a few times when the ball was in our half.

Agent 86: On current evidence, I’m convinced Theo is not good enough. I don’t know if he’ll ever get there. He plays like a really good athlete who took up the game later than the other kids. He’s got some ability but like it or not, Chris Waddle made a good point about the football brain.

Some Blame Wenger for bad coaching where Theo is concerned. I don’t. I just feel he is what he is. Wenger coached Alex Song. He coached Robin. He coached Cesc. They haven’t turned out too badly. Theo does track back though. I’ve seen him do it regularly.

Dante: For Celtic’s second goal I have two different gripes. Djourou is not ready yet. I have faith he will be later on, but not to start the season with. I know Koscielny will partner The Verminator but no one else has been bought so I shudder to think of Djourou being thrown in early on in the season.

Agent 86: On Djourou; I refer you to what El Cunto posted Monday.

Dante: This passive and active offside **** has to stop. There was a Celtic player off side, being played offside by the whole back line. The ball was played into his general area he ran for it becoming active in the play then stopped, turned around and walked back. Flag never went up another Celtic player ran on and then poor marking after that did us in. What’s the point of playing offside when the passive player can pretend to go for the ball and stop, essentially dummying the defense????

The silly way to fix this is to make all passive offside players signal this by having to stop and re-tie their shoe lace on one shoe before joining the play. The easy way is to take this whole passive verbiage out!

My thoughts on Cesc are as follows:
I’m sick and tired of this!!

Agent 86: I have been for some time. I am disturbed by Barcelona’s latest that Wenger was ready to sign for them in 2001. Yeah, right! They’ve sunk to the depths of _pur_ with this almost signed bullshit.

Chat later, Agent 86


El Cunto the Promoter and the Debut of Conversations With Dante

The Informer has not retired. I sense that he’s not far away, refining his methods, bullying his sauces to get it right, wiping that dried yolk off his handsome face. Trust me. He’ll be back bigger, better, stronger.

Meanwhile, his alter-ego El Cunto is trying his hand at promoting. I began training Monday night for the NYC North London Derby. The herniated discs, pinched nerve, and tendonitis will not stop me playing in this match. If I have any semblance of fitness, I will suit up. It’s that important. Even if I play just ten minutes, I’ll be happy.

We’ll see if I can find enough straps and braces to make a difference. Youth is wasted on the young. Xbox playing, phone text addicted, Facebook junkie little cunts!

The little voice inside my head is saying to forget about playing and go on living relatively pain free. It’s probably right but if this match does happen and is anything like the last time I joined El Cunto for a game, it will be memorable. Two years ago, he organized a 5-a-side that I played in. The temperature was hotter than I’ve ever experienced on a pitch, seriously. Definitely not football weather! To make matters worse, the opposition had three subs for the two 20-minute halves. We had no subs. Nevertheless, despite being down something like 8-2 at Half Time it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my entire life.

El Cunto was nutmegged by some ponytail wearing cnut in the First Half. I could hear the 1886 man, “Oh, It’s like that!?!?” He was not pleased. A Half Time chat, some rehydrating, and a nice breather helped us refocus. El Cunto ran the show. I got stuck in on the ponytail wearing forward – his threat died like a candle blown in the wind but I have to give it to him, he was a decent player.

We pressed on and equalized. El Cunto was on fire. They capitulated. We wound up winning 15-10.

If this NYC North London Derby does happen, put your money on him to shine. And the Bermuda boys are eager to play so it should be fun if nothing else. Me on the other hand, well, just make sure EMTs are on call nearby.

Dante and I chatted the other day. He, like most Arsenal fans these days, has much to say about the current squad. Here are a few samplings from the conversation:

Agent 86: What has stood out for you so far this pre-season?

Dante: Arshavin gets it, after being blasted by an 18 y/o midfielder (Wilshere) for not getting back and doing his part I have seen a slight change in him.

Agent 86: I expect to see serious changes this season where he’s concerned. He owes us. He can be our Messi. I really believe he can be as good as any player in the game today if he puts his mind to it. I suppose it’s about motivation with him. I can’t hide how disappointed I’ve been. I thought we signed a legitimate world star, a football genius.

Dante: Against SK Sturm Graz I watched him point and speak to players about where to be when defending rather than trudging back on the wing head down. This ever so slight change if continued throughout the season could help to ease pressure on the back four.

Agent 86: I agree. There are times when all a defender needs is that little bit extra from a forward or a midfielder to get into a position that changes the opposition’s point of attack and kills a threat. It can be that added effort that gets us a result. Think back to Denilson’s jog back as Rooney and Nani broke away at The Emirates last season.

Switching gears, I‘ve noticed that Frimpong has gotten some very good reviews so far.

Dante: Wilshere/Frimpong instill fear! Not only to opposing pre-season teams but to my delight, in our own players. Our experienced midfielders know Jack is coming, Frimpong is coming, and if it hadn’t been for [insert any number of expletives that equal Northern troglodyte masking as a footballer in a candy-striped top], Ramsey would have arrived! Knowing that these Young Guns could replace you like for like in a game helps to remove complacency from the equation.

Agent 86: Well put! Wenger recently mentioned how you can’t be a top flight footballer without the expectation of having to compete for your place. That as much as anything needs to be addressed. We should have players who’ve experienced competition for places long enough by now. In the recent past, we haven’t had that ‘fear of losing your place’ factor playing in our favor. In fact, it’s time to just stop the general excuse that we are not experienced enough. Even our youngest squad players have gone out on loan and know what’s required of them.

Dante: All the pundits keep on harping on experience, all experience is (these are my [Dante’s] own words not quoted from anyone) is “knowing what you are up against and not fearing it”. Some players in our squad should take a lesson from Mr. Wilshere and Mr. Frimpong.

The conversation moved along swimmingly but we returned to ‘Arshavin the Salesman’:

Dante: I think the thing that will make Arshavin into an unstoppable machine is something simple, A FRIEND!!

At that point, I wandered away in thought. Wow! Could this be the key to sparking our Ruskii genii into action? The idea intrigued me.

Dante: He needs another Russian who is not a female or a pig – as we all know he hates them. He knows Clown 1 is on his way out. Everyone on the squad knows this. That’s why he has never featured*. Arshavin is about himself but when he sees that he can help himself and help the team he is in hence; “I have spoken with Arshavin about Arsenal and London life. He has only had good things to say about the club and the city. He said some very nice things about me going on to be the best goalkeeper in the world – and that he would like me to reach that goal at Arsenal with him.”

Agent 86: I hear you! And if the woman doubles as a pig, keep her from him at any cost. Seriously speaking though, I know that at least one of my colleagues at 1886 has expressed less than positive thoughts on signing Akinfeev but I’m willing to pay for his first 20 minutes’ wages if we sign him. I’d pay the entire first week but with economy and all…

[Clearly not moved by my pathetic attempts at humour] Dante: I watched some of the MLS vs. “The Giants of Europe” such as Man City, _pur_, and Manure. _pur_ will always look bad even if they win 100-0. Thierry did the business again against them on his debut. City looked pathetic and didn’t win a game the whole tour, and United lost to 10-man Kansas City. Now everyone will say, “Oh it’s just pre-season and the stars were not playing.”

Berbatov, Gibson, Giggs, Scholes, Fabio, Rafael, Nani, Welbeck, Macheda, Diouf, Evans, if you know who these players are then SHUT UP!!! STOP CRYING!!!

Agent 86: Cheers Dante! We’ll catch up with you real soon. I’ll work on the jokes if I have time after training for the derby. I promise. Buy the rest of the boys in Bermuda a round for me.

Finally, I found this bit by Arsene interesting:

“Djourou has a small hamstring problem but it is not bad. He should be available for the weekend. Rosicky had a small, small alert. He was supposed to play in the first half but he could have played. I didn’t want to take the gamble, it is only a little problem on his groin and I decided to replace him.”

It reminded me of when a very cynical Gooner (a guy we all at 1886 have butted heads with) once said that Wenger rushes players back from injury. He has far, far fewer sauces than The Informer (who at least can be entertaining) yet was convinced that Wenger was his own players’ worst enemy in that he will make them play while not 100% fit.

I wondered if there has ever been any truth to that when I read the quote above, which clearly shows that Arsene will err on the side of caution.

Chat later!

* Clown No. 1 started the match against SC Neusiedl 1919. Hopefully, it will be his last start in our uniform.

Andrey Arshavin

Some Gooners at the end of last season wanted Arsenal to sell Andrey Arshavin. Their argument was that it was better to sell now before his stock falls. What was their reasoning?

One good game in four isn’t good enough for one of Arsenal’s high profile and experienced players. They wanted to find a player who was more consistent. A player with a higher work rate and better attitude. Many Gooners didn’t like the fact that Arshavin was using his personal website to voice his concerns on controversial subjects relating to his Arsenal career.

The fact that he said that he has always wanted to play for Barcelona at a time when the Spanish champions were openly and illegally trying to sign the Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas, was one of many comments by the Russian that irked Gooners around the world.

It’s like telling your girlfriend that you think her friend is sexy.

My problem with Arshavin is his work rate. The man has a weakness – its tracking back and helping your team out by defending and winning the ball back. Then there’s his lazy attitude that suddenly appeared in the second half of last season. The West Ham game at home last March was a prime example of this.

Arsenal were chasing for the title. After five minutes Denilson puts Arsenal 1-0 up. Just before half-time Vermaelen gets harshly sent-off for tangling with the Mexican Franco. West Ham came out in the second half pumped up and ready to test Arsenal’s 10 men. They were after all fighting against relegation.

Song put in a man of the match of performance. Cesc rallied the troops. Arshavin disappeared.

During the recent pre-season friendly against Barnet, I noticed Jack Wilshere berating Arshavin for not covering or tracking back. Two minutes later, the ex-Zenit Saint Petersburg player cracked shot against the Barnet bar with barely any back lift.

Those two minutes said everything about Arshavin. Here’s a man who can conjure up a moment of magic out of nothing but who is also not willing to graft for the team.

Against Barnet, Arshavin was voted Man of the Match by subscribers even though he only played half a game. Against Sturm Graz on Wednesday, Arshavin went missing again.

Rumors are abound that the Russian play maker will be offered a new improved contract by Arsenal.

Perhaps this might inject some work rate into his game. If it doesn’t, Jack Wilshere is waiting – biting at the leash.

Keep It Arsenal

El Cunto

Reviewing the Attack

Robin van Persie – The picture above indicates exactly when our season began to go awry. That’s not to say that we were in sterling form before the injury. We dropped points in games we should have closed out (West Ham) and lost games we shouldn’t have (Sunderland). It’s all too clear now that the 4-3-3 system was installed to bring the best out of Cesc, but the player that made it all work was Robin van Persie. One of the best False Nine’s in the game, Holland, with all of their prodigious attacking talent, is now effectively built around Robin van Persie. He didn’t score for the first few games, but when he got going, he banged in goals and created them as well. Even after missing a substantial chunk of the season, van Persie finished with 9 goals and 7 assists in 16 appearances. He was becoming one of the best strikers in the world. When he got injured, we literally lost the one person that we had no cover for. Not really. Bendtner can play as a target man, but he doesn’t link play as well, doesn’t terrify defenders when dribbling forward, and lacks the Dutchman’s technique. Our scoring ratio dipped massively after his injury, where once people were writing about how we might break a century of goals in the Premier League, Chelsea actually went out and achieved that. The lack of cover is one of Wenger’s crucial mistakes. I believe that he wanted to bring in Chamakh before the season started, but refused to be held ransom by Bordeaux, a team we had difficulty with before (the signing of Sylvain Wiltord). Clearly, he has the talent to be one of the finest players in the world, but can he stay healthy enough. It’s a real question that needs to be answered. Before this season, he made 28 appearances in the Premier League. That was a career high for him. I love Robin, but going forward, we need a true contingency plan.

Nicklas Bendtner – When Robin van Persie went down, Nicklas Bendtner was given his opportunity to shine. However, he quickly got injured as well. That is what you call a terrible stroke of luck. After people clamored for Wenger to splash the cash in January, Bendtner’s recovery from his injury is what people had to settle for. Bendtner is a player people love to hate. He’s confident to the point of arrogance. He doesn’t possess a great first touch. He occasionally misses sitters. However, if Wenger had signed a forward that scored 9 goals in 12 appearances, I’m sure people would have been more than pleased with his signing. Because that’s what Bendtner did for us when he came back from his injury. That doesn’t include his hat trick of missed chances against Burnley. Say what you will about the man. Say that he only scored against teams like Wolves (I don’t recall anybody else for us scoring on that day). Say that he isn’t as good as he thinks he is. The bottom line is, he’s 22 years old and going to the World Cup as his country’s No. 1 striker. I don’t know what Chamakh’s arrival does for Bendtner, but this is not a player you give up on.

Eduardo – I don’t want to bring back bad memories, but to me, it’s clear that Martin Taylor effectively ended Eduardo’s days of elite form. When he came back, he scored an outrageous goal with his ankle. That could only have given us Gooners hope that he would come back as strong as ever. But do you know what I see? I see a player who doesn’t have the confidence he once had, and a player who is afraid when he is on the pitch. He doesn’t strike through the ball when he knows an opposition player is near. I’m not saying it’s actively on his brain, but it’s playing a part regardless. I feel for Eduardo. I want him to come back and be the marksman he was with Zagreb. But being cutthroat, I think his days may be numbered. Between the “new” Eduardo and the frustrating Carlos Vela, I’d have to choose the latter if given a choice for the future.

Carlos Vela – That’s not to suggest that I’m pleased with Vela at all. This boy has talent in abundance. That is clear to anybody who watched the U-17 Championships that he participated in and won the Golden Boot in. It’s clear to anybody who’s seen all the beautiful goals he scored in the Carling Cup. But take that out of the equation and examine his performances in the Premier League and what do you see? He’s missed a few sitters. He’s hardly made an impact. He’s not been what Wenger thought he would be. This is a player who terrorized Real Madrid when he played for Osasuna. Instead, he missed the biggest game of his life because he misplaced his passport. He’s scored more beautiful chips than sitters. I thought he could provide an impact, but maybe it’s our formation that’s not bringing out the best in him. But, I need to see something before I can judge that. When he plays for Mexico, he is an influential player. He needs to show something next year, or he’ll be sold for a nice fee to a La Liga club very soon.

Andrey Arshavin – Labelled by a disappointment this year by many, he’s had the odd distinction of being better immediately on arrival than after the crucial six month adaptation process. I think most people are disappointed because they expect world class performances from Arshavin in every game. That’s a legitimate thing to ask since he is world class when he wants to be. When going against a defender like Jonathan Spector, Arshavin should shred him at every opportunity. It just doesn’t happen as frequently as we’d like. But, he had 10 goals and 2 assists in the Premier League this year, along with 7 assists in Europe, so he wasn’t exactly worthless. His performance against Porto in the second leg was one of the best by any Arsenal player this year. I also have the suspicion that he was injured for most of the year, not in a crucial way, but enough to make a difference. Like his openness or not, he revealed things about the Arsenal medical staff that must be addressed. We’ve lost two crucial medical members to Fabio Capello and England. It’s too early to label him a permanent disappointment, and if Cesc leaves, he’ll be one of the player we need to rely on the most.

– One thing needs to be pointed out about this review. Notice how there are only five players listed. Yes, Theo, Nasri, and Rosicky have all played on the wings. I think it’s clear though that we need wingers and forwards, especially considering that two of the five are injury risks. People used to chastise Wenger for stockpiling strikers. All of a sudden, on paper, we don’t have enough. That needs to be addressed.

Three Points Dropped, One Rescued

– During a season, there is a big emphasis placed on beating teams that you should beat. For the Big Four, this basically means that you should win all your home fixtures against teams that are not in the Top Six. Everton are currently not there, but they certainly could be by the end of the year. After defeating them 6-1 earlier this year at Goodison, nobody could have expected a waltz, especially when you factor in the terrible weather.

– That being said, we were slow to start the game once again. I don’t know why this happened yet again, but it made me wonder if Wenger was going to unleash another tirade at the team. Allowing Leon Osman, the smallest figure on the pitch, to score off a corner is not acceptable. Earlier this year, much was made of the odd stat that we hadn’t scored a goal in the first 15 minutes (which ended when Cesc scored against Burnley). That stat makes perfect sense to me. We’re frequently slow starters, and frankly it’s getting increasingly annoying.

– Both are goals were technically “lucky”, but they were the result of slick passing moves. Why don’t you tell me how many of these “lucky” goals that Frank Lampard scores every other week? You don’t have the British media stuffing the word “lucky” down our throats when he does that, do you?

– Manuel Almunia was atrocious once again. He almost got Sagna injured when he threw a ball to him and Pienaar quickly tackled Bacary in an attempt to try to win the ball. He collided into Traore when it appeared that Armand had it covered. He flapped out a cross which made him effectively concede an open net. He went down to ground far too early and allowed Pienaar to chip it over him with ease. He failed to communicate to Traore that nobody was near him, allowing us to concede another corner. He made a decent 1 v. 1 save against James Vaughan, but did little else. How many times does he have to be told that a goalkeeper’s duty is not to start attacks but to relieve pressure? How many times is he going to toss a ball to one of our sidebacks when they’re not ready to receive a pass?

– The James Vaughan 1 v. 1 was created in a moment of incredibly poor sportsmanship by Everton. Denilson was on the ball and suddenly crumbled to the ground. He was not tackled or put under pressure by an Everton player. We were down by a goal, so this was no attempt to stop Everton’s momentum nor was it time wasting. Now I understand that you’re supposed to play to the whistle, but they should have kicked the ball out. Instead, they launched an attack and created a massive opportunity for Vaughan. After that chance died, Cahill kicked the ball out of bounds and the commentators saluted Everton for their sportsmanship. That’s frankly ridiculous.

– Andrey Arshavin was a peripheral figure, as were our other forwards for most of the match. Nasri linked well, but we created very few chances during the match. We need to get Andrey the ball more. The fact that Landon Donovan, who gave Traore a torrid time, had more of the ball than Andrey is a galling fact. It’s both Andrey and the team’s fault.

– Quite honestly, without Cesc and Alex Song, our midfield was light and it was always going to show. After a couple of sparkling displays, Ramsey added nothing to the match other than some tidyness. Denilson was effective, but we failed to control the game for large patches of it. Everton were simply the more eager side, closing down on our players fast.

– At around half time, I wondered how fair it was that we were playing in such atrocious conditions, when most clubs didn’t even try to get their matches off. Fulham, also in London, postponed their match. There are not as many scheduling conflicts for teams like Hull, so why would they try to get their match in?

– At 1-1, I thought to myself, with this weather, we need to score soon. Anything could happen, and when Rosicky gave away the ball, they scored. At 2-1 down, conceding two corners in a row, an equalizer and a point was most welcome. The fact is, we could have scored again after the second goal and we really did go for it.

– The elimination of thinking that “a draw is a good point” is what led to us conceding the second goal. Throughout the year, we’ve been going for winners more frequently than in past seasons. That’s both a good and bad thing, but in this case, a draw really is a decent point.

– When Gallas, Vermaelen, and Denilson all went down during the game, I feared for the worst. Apparently, the central defenders are both fine, but how much longer can they continue to be durable?

– I’ve been reading a lot of reports saying that Everton were robbed of the three points. While we were outplayed in the first half, we largely dominated the match in the second half. The only reason we went down is because we were aggressively trying to go for the winning goal. We had 65% of the possession. Just because a smaller club comes and frustrates a club like ours for large stretches does not mean that they deserve three points. It just means that they competed. A draw was the correct result.

– As it stands, a draw means we are now three points behind Chelsea. That still means that we can beat them at Stamford Bridge and be ahead of them. That is why the single point has value. This is the opposite of when we threw away two points at Upton Park. As disappointing as the performance was, an actual loss would have stunted our momentum. We prevented that, and Rosicky atoned for his earlier mistake by having a huge hand in winning us the point that moments earlier seemed gone.

Turf Moor

A little over a year ago, our Carling Cup team played Burnley at Turf Moor. Amongst the highlights of their season, they dumped us out of the competition by a scoreline of 2-0 with Nicklas Bendtner guilty of missing a number of chances against their “beast” goalkeeper Brian Jensen.

A few months later, we were gifted another match against them in the FA Cup. We beat them comfortably at the Emirates, but they would go on to comparatively bigger things. Achieving promotion through the playoffs, they have sustained an up and down season where survival solely depends on home form and six pointers against teams fighting relegation.

Away this year, they have played eight and lost seven. At home, they have played eight and won five. One of those victories was against Manchester United. They only lost to Jekyll and Hyde side Wigan.

They often seem to score goals of extreme class, even though they’re usually dominated by most clubs. They do try to play football on the ground, and they have their share of unheralded players (Wade Elliott being one of them).

On short rest, all of the above may give you an indication that today’s fixture may indeed be a difficult one. Make no mistake, there will be a battle at Turf Moor.

But there are two general truths behind this fixture as well.

First of which is that Burnley themselves recognize the uphill battle they face when playing a team like Arsenal. Matches away are generally regarded as fixtures that will result in zero points. At home, they can hope for a draw while playing for a shock result. These kinds of results happen very rarely. Look at Wolves yesterday against Manchester United. Mick McCarthy is being torn open for fielding a reserve side, but he’s well aware of the primary objective, survival. Whether Owen Coyle will feel the same way tomorrow is not for me to say. He’ll try to go for the three points, but he’s not counting on them. He’s trying to keep Burnley in the Premier League. He needs to achieve consistency at home and against the relegation zone teams. We are trying to win the league, and that results in a different sort of expectation, which leads to the second truth.

“If you want to win the league, you must go there and win. That’s what it is about in the Premier League.” – Arsene Wenger

That, my friends, is the bottom line.

Winning the Premier League is about consistency. And consistency really means beating all the teams you should be expected to beat.

With Andrey Arshavin’s rocket shot, our title hopes have been vigorously resuscitated. If we drop points, our confidence will dip once again and we will dither some more.

The visit to Turf Moor will be an important marker as to whether or not our title raid is for real.

Post Match View – Liverpool F.C.

Before the match, I reminded a fellow Gooner that it would be an opportunity for those whom Arsene has believed in to repay the faith. I singled out Theo Walcott. Let’s be clear however, almost the entire team need to show their worth now more than ever.

United and Chelsea dropped points in dramatic fashion yesterday. The trip to Anfield became crucial in how we see ourselves and in determining what role we will play in the title race. We just could not afford to do any less than take all three points. Being an also-ran this season is simply not an option.

The match was billed as the return of Andrey Arshavin. It would prove to be an appropriate description. Steven Gerrard stated in the build up that Arsenal were as afraid of Liverpool as Liverpool were of Arsenal. We certainly started the game like a team that looked afraid but regardless, I’m sure even the bravest Liverpool supporter was mindful of Andrey Arshavin’s presence and what it could mean.

The home team started as the more effective side. They were quicker and fought harder than we did. It seemed like they wanted it more. Why were we not winning the 50-50s? Why were we being second best in the battle for midfield? Did our players realize what was at stake?

Almunia was up to his usual act as early as the 10th minute when he kicked a safely delivered back pass from Traore straight into touch. There was no pressure on him. He just kicked the ball into touch, gifting possession back to Liverpool. Later in the broadcast, one of the match announcers mentioned that he doesn’t take pressure off his back four. How true!

It was an excellent point. He reacts well to shots, but he doesn’t do the things that help the men in front of him. Invariably, it leads to more pressure back on him.

In the 12th minute, Torres was put through by Gerrard. It was the kind of chance that Fernando Torres usually buries. We escaped.

A minute later, an attack that looked like offsides in its construction (as Vermaelen and Gallas would question after the play) led to Gerrard breaking into the Arsenal penalty area. He was chopped down by Gallas but only after a hard first touch. Howard Webb did not point to the spot. He could easily have done. We escaped again.

The Kop were in fine voice.
Liverpool were the better side.
Arsenal were playing with fire.

We would respond however, even if not in the most convincing manner. On 14, Cesc’s free kick was headed high by Vermaelen. On 19, Sagna’s excellent low cross won us a corner.

On 25, Gerrard’s free kick was punched by Almunia. Heart in throat every time the ball is sent into our box. What a shame! A club of our stature needs a much better keeper.

On 28, our First Half effort was encapsulated in a moment that made me cringe. Cesc and Nasri tracked back to help Traore. Fine! Johnson won a throw-in deep in our half. Still no harm done, but when the ball found its way to an unmarked Dirk Kuyt, and then to Steven Gerrard who was free to shoot from the top of the box, I wondered how Cesc, Nasri, and Traore could allow it to get through. Losing a one v three situation signals very poor defending. That is unacceptable in a game that you cannot afford to lose. Our performance overall was unacceptable.

Nonetheless we managed to escape, again. How many more chances would we get? ‘Firm the @#$% up,’ I thought. ‘Get in the game and fight for your lives,’ I pleaded silently.

Within minutes, I saw some semblance of urgency even if it was nothing to shout about. Nasri and Denilson shot but did not trouble the gigantic Pepe Reina. He’s not even be 6′ tall but he’s better at crosses than our No. 1. Sad!

On 39, Gerrard gave Neves an embarrassing sombrero reminiscent of PV4. He fouled Gerrard by sticking out his rear as the Liverpool captain went by. It was a stupid foul. Even if he’d allowed Gerrard to play on there were five blue shirts in position to help defend any threat. The resulting free kick reached Almunia at face level. Face level! It wasn’t fiercely struck. It didn’t swerve. It was kicked directly at him.

He chose to palm it away when he could have caught it. The ball landed directly in Dirk Kuyt’s stomach. He brought it down and shot past Gallas who had no chance to make a heroic goal-line clearance. And did I mention that the sequence was precipitated by Almunia’s horrible clearance from another well delivered back pass?

1-0 Liverpool!

‘WTF is going on?,’ I thought. A friend who is usually very supportive of the one-time candidate for England’s nN. 1 jersey sent me a text at that point, questioning his ability to help us achieve the big things we’re trying to achieve. I didn’t want to say I told you so. It would have been gratuitous if not just plain cruel but you’ve read my feelings on Almunia here before.

Half-Time came and we had not made a convincing show of intent. Our season, if not the careers of some of those Arsene Wenger has trusted in the face of harsh, sometimes vile criticism, was in the balance and THAT is all they could come up with?!?!

In April 2004, we’d just lost to Chelsea in the Champions League, to Man Utd in the FA Cup before that, and had fallen 2-1 behind Liverpool at Highbury. The Arsenal haters were rubbing their hands as a week that started with a chance at a treble now looked like a week from hell. Our EPL title chance was in jeopardy as we went into the locker room at Half-Time.

Robert Pires would later reveal that Arsene said nothing during the break. He just let the players contemplate what seemed to be on the verge of happening. The Second Half was an entirely different story. We’d eventually win 4-2 with Thierry Henry contributing a hat-trick which included what was voted the 10th best goal in Arsenal history.

Fast forward to Anfield, December, 2009. It was revealed after the match that the manager laid into the players with some serious venom. “The boss screamed,” said Cesc. “I’ve never seen him like that before. He was really disappointed in the First Half and said we didn’t deserve to wear the Arsenal shirt. And I think he was right.”

The Second Half was started with more urgency from Arsenal. We looked more lively. We made space where we couldn’t find any in the First Half. We looked much better but how could we not? On 50, a good Arsenal build up would lead to the over-rated Glen Johnson knocking the ball into his own net.

1-1 and GAME ON!

On 53, I noticed Sagna being a bit lazy. Let me correct myself – he was very lazy. I wanted to yank him through the screen by his blonde mane but I refuse to buy another television right now. I’m saving for a trip into space.

Torres took advantage and rounded the once nearly faultless Arsenal right back into the box after turning him like a top. He shot from a tight angle. Thankfully, Almunia saved when Kuyt was arriving in a frighteningly dangerous position. How Sagna can call that defending is beyond me.

On 57, Almunia took a booming goal-kick that was half cleared by that Liverpool defence. The ball landed to Benayoun who botched it up even further by sending it straight to Alex Song who was standing inside the center circle. Two passes later, Sagna squared to Cesc. Our captain lofted the ball across the Liverpool 18. Walcott jumped but did not make contact. Johnson had lost sight of Arshavin. The Liverpool full back stuck out his right foot and the ball seemed to bounce straight to our little genius. He unleashed one of his trademark short back-lift rockets off the post and into Reina’s net.


Liverpool never really threatened our goal after we took the lead. You could see them trying to raise the tempo as time ticked away but it just wasn’t in the cards. They simply are not the force they’ve been the past few seasons. There were substitutions and fouls and more substitutes and more fouls and eventually Howard Webb blew his whistle.

Three must points gained in the manner of a potential champion, a few weeks after losing to Sunderland in the manner of a team that threatened to win nothing. That is not the consistency we need. The manager has talked about the eventual champion being the team that shows the most consistency. We need to make sure that this victory places us on that path. It was a step in the right direction nonetheless on a good weekend for Arsenal Football Club.

I hope Almunia is dropped and Theo finds form soon. Neither is doing the manager any favors.