Protests by Liverpool Fans Go Into Overdrive

Night time protest marches through the streets. The burning of the American flag. Liverpool fans are angry and they blame Liverpool’s American owners for their woe.

Liverpool are currently $516 million in debt.

Hicks and Gillett bought Liverpool for $293 million making false promises on building a new stadium and providing a big transfer fund.

With Benitez stepping down, after agreeing a severance payment, Liverpool will now have to find a manger that will provide stability to a club that is on the verge of a crisis. The new manager will have to persuade stars like Fernando Torres and Steven Gerrard to stay, otherwise Liverpool’s hopes of finishing in the top four will again fade.

Taking on the Liverpool job is not as attractive as it was when Benitez agreed to be their manager back in 2004. Today, the football world is a lot more ruthless. The gap between the “haves” and the “have nots” has widened. You can’t stay out of the Champions League for too long, otherwise you will be left behind with the Europa League hyenas – desperate to break into the top four.

A couple of years ago, Jose Mourinho would have taken the Liverpool job. Not now. A manager like Mourinho demands a lot money to buy players, otherwise he won’t sign. Liverpool cannot guarantee a big transfer fund.

Instead of being a buying club, this summer Liverpool will probably start being a selling club – a major problem but understandable if you’re in the amount of debt that Liverpool are in.

Unless a new mega-rich owner arrives soon – paying off Liverpool’s massive debt and also pumping millions into building a new team and stadium – then I can only see decline.

Usmanov and his Red & White Holdings now have a 27% share of Arsenal. Let’s hope that they don’t borrow money in order to wrestle control of Arsenal. Saddling a club with your own private debt is criminal. You only have to witness the protests by Liverpool and Manchester United fans on that subject to make you realize what a good job Arsenal have done financially. Let’s pray that Kroenke and Usmanov don’t do a Glazer or Hicks/Gillett and put Arsenal into mega debt.

Last Word:
Chris Waddle has heavily criticized Theo Walcott. True, Walcott hasn’t progressed in the way that many thought he would. Injuries haven’t helped but Theo hasn’t blamed injuries for his poor season. Walcott though can walk with his head held high on one thing though – his England hat-trick against Croatia in Zagreb. What did Chris Waddle do in his career at aged 20? He certainly didn’t score a hat-trick in Croatia for his country. People forget how old Walcott is. Perhaps his England rejection will do him good. I think it will.

Keep It Arsenal

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Some Things Don’t Go Well Together

Liverpool verses Chelsea on Sunday will be watched world wide. The majority of fans including Spurs, Arsenal, and Man City will want a Chelsea victory. Even some Liverpool fans deep down would rather see their team lose if it means Manchester United not breaking their record of title wins. A Premiership team winning four titles in a row is not healthy, especially when Alex Ferguson is their manager.

If there’s one thing I like about Mourinho, its that he has charisma. True, running on the Barcelona pitch at the end of Inter’s semi-final victory lacked dignity and respect to his opponents and hosts. Playing loud Catalan military music and turning on the sprinklers while Inter celebrated was behavior of a sore loser. Barcelona can be very petulant.

One Barca player who I have really come to dislike is Sergio Busquets. His theatrics against Arsenal and especially Inter deserve a beating or a week in Rikers Island. The man is a disgrace.

Congratulations to Fulham on reaching the Europa League final. Simon Davies goal was top draw. Superb skill.

Fulham beat Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Juventus, holders Shakhtar Donetsk, and Roma without having to rely on penalties. Not an easy route to any final. They also made the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, going out to Spurs only after a replay. Roy Hodgson has proved along with Jose Mourinho that he is a very good coach.

The ramifications of Fulham reaching the Europa final is that they will play a weakened team against Arsenal for the last game of the season. Not that this will count for anything as Arsenal are only playing for third spot, which is an improvement from last season.

Liverpool are a club that are in a crisis. Not reaching the Europa League final is the final straw for most Liverpool fans. Liverpool and Rafa Benitez do not go well together. Benitez needs to leave the club to save his career and Liverpool need to find new owners and a new manager to reignite the club back to challenging for trophies.

People forget that last season Liverpool were challenging Manchester United for the title. This season, they are instead challenging Manchester City for the last Champions League spot. A challenge that they will lose come Sunday afternoon.

How the once mighty can fall so fast. A warning for us all.

Keep It Arsenal

We’re on the Right Path

Arsenal fans don’t realize how lucky they are.

We all know that Arsenal should have beaten Wigan after being 2-0 up with 10 minutes of the game left. Arsenal lost that game because of a Lukasz Fabianski fuck up in the last minute. No other reason.

The defeat against Spurs hurt but would the “Cunts From The Lane” have won if Arsenal had scored a once in a lifetime 30 yard goal first? Probably not. Spurs went 1-0 up and put every man behind the ball and waited to counter attack. Bar their two goals, they hardly threatened Arsenal. On another day, Arsenal would have won that game.

The Spurs and Wigan defeats are history now. We move on.

Arsenal have now lost three games in a row. This means that Arsenal are in a crisis. Therefore, Wenger, according to The Negatives, must go. His replacement could be anyone from Mourinho to Dennis Bergkamp – anyone who can make Arsenal fight and not surrender like they did at Wigan.

If, however, you compare Arsenal with Liverpool, you might think otherwise. You might be glad that you’re an Arsenal supporter.

Liverpool will not be playing Champions League football next season. They are in massive debt and up for sale. They need a new stadium but can’t afford one. Their manager Rafa Benitez will probably join Juventus next season and take a couple of star players with him – including Steven Gerrard.

The latest rumors about Gerrard make John Terry’s off-field exploits look like powder puff.

Gerrard has got a 16 year old girl pregnant. The teenager is keeping the baby. His wife is having an affair with Derby County defender Kris Simmons. Their marriage is over and Gerrard is seeking a move away from England. His lawyers are currently trying to stop any of this information being made public. Gerrard, meanwhile, fears for his World Cup place if the teenager gives birth out of wedlock.

If these rumors are true, Liverpool are in a crisis – not Arsenal.

Keep It Arsenal

Football Is A Funny Old Game

Not long ago, I heard someone say that Abou Diaby was a waste of space at Arsenal. The guy was adamant that the player is worthless. He didn’t even give an allowance for the Diaby not having been able to put in an uninterrupted run in the first team.

I understood and even accepted the latter part as legitimate – part of being a good player is to stay healthy. I didn’t buy the part about him not being worth a place in the squad. He is worth a place and more. It’s taken a while for him to show why but Wenger has trusted him for a reason. He delivered tonight. I was especially pleased to see his celebration with pumping clenched fists. I haven’t seen that much emotion from him.

His header on 72 put us ahead of Liverpool and proved to be the difference. He and Gallas were outstanding. Eboue played well and Almunia also helped our cause. His fantastic fingertip touch on a Ryan Babel effort was enough to ensure that the crossbar did the rest. It was a well earned victory from a fairly difficult game.

Bendtner and Gerrard looked to have dived in search of an advantage. It wasn’t pretty. Diving never is. Until there is a Draconian response from the authorities, it will go on. Sometimes we’ll benefit from it sometimes it will hurt us. Shame on Nicklas! Business as usual for Gerrard.

Cesc raised his arms to deflect a Liverpool free kick in injury time. I’m not sure if Howard Webb didn’t see it or if time just ran out. He blew the final whistle, much to Liverpool’s ire. Maybe not exactly poetic justice but there’s some twisted kind of justice there, for sure. Those Champions League memories still linger. And had it been Arsenal players remonstrating with the ref on Full Time the way Kuyt, Gerrard, et al have done, we’d hear another round of Arsenal-hating rants for the next few days.

With United drawing at Villa Park and Chelsea losing to Everton, we have hope. Our remaining fixtures read as follows:

Sunderland H
Stoke A
Burnley H
Hull A
West Ham H
Birmingham A
Wolves H
Harry’s Scumbags A
Wigan A
City H
Blackburn A
Fulham H

If we can’t beat Chelsea and United on our way to the title, a back door route would be fine with me. I normally like to beat the best to be the best, but a run of 13 wins to close out the season will be impressive. It would surely put serious pressure on the teams above us. You never know!

We need to focus on winning and fighting and doing the things that we haven’t done against United and Chelsea. We need poise and the heart of a lion. Is the hunger truly there? Can the mistakes stop or at least be reduced to a minimum? Three points from Liverpool is a good start.

Do players like Walcott, Clichy, Rosicky, Nasri, Bendtner, Ramsey, Denilson, and Almunia feel that they can win a title? I did see a better display tonight. If they look at the remaining fixtures and are not energized by a strong sense of belief then they should all be sold.

Wednesday, 10 February could be a pivotal point in the season. We shall see.

Anti-Arsenal Football

After Arsenal achieved immortality in the 2003-04 season, there was bound to be a change. For Arsenal, it proved to be the peak of that combination of players, something that may not have happened had Manchester United not been allowed to cynically foul our players and been awarded a penalty courtesy of a Wayne Rooney dive. For the rest of English football, they needed to figure out how to play against this behemoth of a team.

Claudio Ranieri’s disastrous managing of the Champions League semi-final match against Monaco proved to be his demise. Following his departure, Abramovich landed the hottest young manager in all of football, Jose Mourinho. His arrival would signal the introduction of tactical football amongst the elite clubs. Let me explain what I mean by that.

One of Jose Mourinho’s right hand men, Andre Villas Boas, was a scout who would compile mountains of data on opponents. An avid Championship Manager player as well, he would literally provide Mourinho the blueprints to each specific match, allowing Mourinho to delegate specific roles to players. Jose would provide certain instructions to his players, always maintaining a defensive shape and relying on that foundation to win titles. And win he did. The only time Arsenal beat Jose Mourinho in the Premier League was near the end of his reign, and in that match neither Didier Drogba nor Michael Essien started in the match.

Manchester United had to endure a three year stretch where they didn’t compete seriously for the Premier League title. They were near the leaders, but they weren’t anywhere near their dominant selves. Were it not for a Carling Cup victory, many people posed the question whether Sir Alex Ferguson was the right man for the job. Having had their asses handed to them by us in 03-04, he started cutting deadweight, one dimensional players like Ruud van Nistelrooy and rebuilt the side.

Meanwhile, Liverpool introduced a tactician themselves in Rafael Benitez. He probably goes the furthest in terms of specific directions to players. If he had his way, he would control the players himself. To be fair, his approach leads to a solid base that keeps them in games (mainly in Europe).

Why do I mention all of this? It’s to point out that Wenger does nothing of the sort.

It could be true that Wenger studies opposition teams and tells his team to be aware of certain danger men or tactics, but for the most part, Wenger trusts in his team to play their football and win. His philosophy is simple. Control the game through precision passing and possessing the ball. In other words, if we play our game, nobody can beat us. Barcelona approach the game in the same way. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing Stoke City or Chelsea, this main idea does not change.

This is not to bash other managers at all. Everybody is free to have their own approach, and at the end of the day, 99% of the time, results are all that matter.

In the last two weeks, we’ve been subject to a lot of talk about how we’re predictable and that there is a clear game plan to beating us. They argue that if you hold your defensive shape and allow Arsenal to try to pass through you, you can break down their attack and fashion opportunities to score by playing counter attack football. This strategy only really works if they convert their opportunities. In the last two games, the opposition has been able to do that through completely faulty defending. Had that not happened, we would have continued to grind out chances and potentially win the game. That did not happen, so we’re labeled meek, one-dimensional, and plain not good enough.

Now, at the end of the year, we’ll see if the latter part of that assessment is true. I won’t lie, after the last two matches, it’s caused me to think long and hard about many players in this side. I question whether or not they have the hunger to win desperately for the man who meant the most to them in their professional careers. But, again, I’ll address that when this season ends.

Anyway, back to the original train of thought. In other words, when playing against Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea decide to play a form of football they usually do not play. Against almost every other opponent (except Barcelona, once again), they’d just play the way they normally play. Were they to play normally against us, the games would be far different. They know that, and we know that as well.

Tomorrow, Rafa Benitez will probably adopt a similar tactic against us. And it is up to our defense to help keep the game alive. Currently, we have conceded 30 goals in the league. With that type of defense, you cannot win the Premier League.

But like I said, teams are wary of getting into street fights against us. They do not want to exchange blow for blow, because that sort of game will allow Arsenal to eventually carve them open. I do not blame other teams for adopting the tactics of defending as a unit and playing counter attack against us. That’s their right, but it’s also on us to stifle those counter attacks and keep the pressure on their defense by providing real penetration instead of twiddling our thumbs.

This team is not far away, but until it shows more intelligence on the defensive end, we’re going to keep running into brick walls. It’s time to start breaking through some brick walls.

Bolton Wanderers Back to Back

It’s been an eventful week so far. Liverpool were knocked out of the FA Cup 3rd Round by Championship side Reading who are fighting a relegation battle. Liverpool cannot afford to fire Benitez. It would cost them over $25 million. I have no sympathy for Liverpool fans. Growing up in London during the late 1970’s and 1980’s a lot of kids supported Liverpool because they won trophies. They were glory hunters – the original Man U fans. They hated Arsenal when George Graham turned the club’s fortunes around. They still do but even more so because Wenger has got Arsenal playing better football than any of the Liverpool teams that played throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s.

Liverpool are in trouble. If they don’t make 4th spot at the end of this season, then Torres will have to go. Gerrard may follow. Off the pitch, they are financially unstable. An average team and bad finance do not bode well.

Eight Ghanians from the victorious Under 20 World Cup team are in Ghana’s squad to play Ivory Coast today. With a number of notable names missing – such as Essien and Appiah – from Ghana’s team tomorrow, we could see one or two of them make their African Cup of Nations debut.

Certain English managers have been complaining about losing players to the tournament. In France, 66 players have left to play in Angola. Haven’t heard many complaints coming from their club managers and coaches.

Haven’t seen an Arsenal hat-trick for a long time, especially in the Premier League. I wonder if Sunday’s game against Bolton will provide one for Arsenal. Eduardo step forward.

Two back to back games against Bolton. What joy!

Keep it Arsenal

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.

1-2 AFC! COME ON!

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.