Inter the Future

– The match between Arsenal and Manchester City has been unanimously called dull. Everybody is right. The only thing to take from the match was Robin van Persie’s tackle on Adebayor. The less said about the match the better.

– I don’t know why Manchester City are being allowed to bring in Fulop on emergency loan. Their reserve keeper was fielded against us. Could they not use a reserve goalkeeper to back up Gunnar Nielsen? I don’t get it.

– Who do we want to finish 4th? Truly a nightmare scenario. Do we actually want Sp*rs to finish 4th? Possibly so, if it means keeping Manchester City down. If Manchester City gets Champions League football, they’ll find it easier to sign world class players. They’ll sign good players regardless, but it would be a big step forward for them. If Sp*rs get 4th, it’ll be terrible for us, but imagine the humiliation when they’re knocked out by the champions of Czech Republic. Maybe we want Aston Villa to sneak it, knowing how mediocre a manager O’Neill is. We definitely do not want Liverpool to somehow get 4th, because that would mean they would have beaten Chelsea, and if that’s the case, Manchester United will have won the Premier League. That’s a true nightmare.

– Everybody assumed Inter Milan would be put to the sword by Messi. I knew better. If I’m being honest, we made Barcelona look great. Mourinho would do no such thing. And in the end, his plan was simple. Field two holding midfielders, use Sneijder to provide creativity through the middle, deploy quick wingers to make runs between the full-backs and centre-backs, and rely on the solid defense (with the inspirational Lucio as a pivot point). Furthermore, they kept the pitch dry. Can they hold on against to their lead? Barcelona may score two goals, but I think Inter will also score once. That means Barcelona need to score three or four to win the tie. Messi’s “ascension” to immortality continues here.

– You may not like him, but Jose Mourinho is a winner. He’s proven that beyond a shadow of a doubt. If he successfully prevents Barcelona from defending the Champions League at the Bernabeu, he’ll be the Real Madrid manager next year. Guaranteed.

– Following Inter’s blueprint, could we have done the same against Barcelona if we were fully fit? I think we could have, but I still don’t think we would have played that way against Barcelona. Wenger wants to outplay Barcelona, and to get there, we’re going to need to improve a lot.

– It was nice to hear George Boateng condemn Phil Brown for his embarrassing halftime pitch talk way back. English people wrote it off, but that is the kind of thing a megalomanic does. Humiliating your players often leads you nowhere. That’s why Almunia has a “wrist injury,” even though it’s plainly obvious he does not.

– Tony Pulis is furious that information about a fight between the players was leaked out to the public. He’s apparently preparing to ship out ten of the players. A harmonious ship, huh? I can hear him already, “we’re not that kind of team.” Sure.

– I hope Liverpool fields a team of reserves against Chelsea. I would love to see the look on Alex Ferguson’s face when he reads that Damien Plessis is playing instead of Gerrard. That won’t happen though. Regardless, you have to give some credit to Chelsea. They’ve scored an insane amount of goals and have had three games where they’ve scored seven goals. They don’t have much of a style, but they bang them in. You can’t ignore 93 goals in 36 games.

– Check out this goal by Sergio Canales. Stunning. I wish we signed him, but he’s off to Madrid. Bastards.

– To close with a quote by Wenger. “For a while, we were not investing maybe because we had built the stadium, but I think our financial situation is now becoming much stronger and we will be capable to buy the players we need to buy.” There are a few things to point out here. One, it reveals that Wenger was handcuffed by the stadium. Did he complain? No. Did fans still asked for his head. Two, he used the word “need”, which indicates that he sees clear areas that need to be improved. Last, it shows that Wenger understands that next year will be crucial to this team’s development. Another trophyless season will be a big problem, and he knows it. I would love to fast forward a few months and have next season start now. But first, let’s enjoy the Champions League and the World Cup.

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Bye Bye Mr. Cunt

As cunts go, Phil Brown is up there with the worst of them.

Today, the egocentric, fake tanned mother fucker got fired – and how happy I am. What is sweet about Phil Brown’s dismissal is that it was Arsenal that put the final nail in his coffin. The 2-1 injury time win was Hull’s fourth successive defeat and leaves them deep in relegation trouble. It was the final straw for Hull chairman Adam Pearson who said relegation would cost his club 100 million pounds.

Arsenal is the team Mr. Brown hates the most. It’s the club that he has accused of having “no class” or “grace” due to Arsene Wenger never shaking his hand and because Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas spat at his assistant. Such claims were proved to be untrue.

Teams like Hull City, Stoke City, Blackburn Rovers, Bolton Wanderers, Burnley, Wolves, and Aston Villa are managed by former players who played in England during the 1980’s, where the culture of the long ball was king. All of them are British and all of them adopt a physical approach to beat Arsenal.

Arsenal are picked on because they have a French manager and a mostly non-British first team. Manchester United are not targeted because of the veneer of respect they have for Alex Ferguson – a fellow Brit. Chelsea have a core of English players so they are let off the hook as well. Only Manchester City seem to be the other team targeted by these low level mediocre clubs, whose only ambition is to stay in the Premiership.

The dismissal of Phil Brown is victory for fans who like Arsenal’s style of play. Let’s hope that his replacement isn’t another Sam Cuntadyce or a Boring O’Neill.

The other good news is that David Beckham is injured and will miss the World Cup. The thought of having the media run stories for the next three months on whether Beckham will make an impact in South Africa is enough to make me watch C-SPAN. Beckham is old. His best days are gone. He has no pace or engine. He’s just a poster boy with a wife that seems addicted to shopping and starving herself. The man is a show pony. Shame that his show is not going to continue into June.

Beckham’s injury and the absence of Aaron Lennon is obviously a boost to Theo Walcott who must be more confident of making the England World Cup squad.

Theo should raise the bar higher. He should be aiming to make the England team. I mean, look at his competition: Shaun Wright-Phillips, Stuart Downing, Adam Johnson and James Milner. Hardly world beaters.

I think Beckham’s injury will spur Theo on and this can only be good for Arsenal as we face the start of the run-in.

Keep It Arsenal

Balance

– Now that the buzz from the Champions League victory has died down, it’s time to observe a couple of things to be aware of when it comes to Arsenal.

– While it was a magnificent display offensively, there were a few things to take note of when it came to our defensive organization. When we were up 2-0, Alex Song would frequently win the ball and dribble it into the opposition’s half. He misplaced a couple of passes, but those mistakes led to breaks for Porto. Were Hulk not rusty and if Porto were a better side, something could have came from those attacks.

– That’s the thing with this Arsenal side. It’s attack, attack, attack. I was standing next to a Barcelona fan that I chat with, and I asked him, would Barcelona do this? When we were up 2-0, Rosicky would look to get the ball, quickly turn towards the opposition’s goal, and dribble mercilessly towards it. I love the sight of Rosicky dribbling forward, but we showed no signs of slowing down and creating a sense of calm over the game. That’s something both to admire and be concerned about with Arsenal. With the game at 2-0, we needed to take the sting out of Porto and ease our tempo to a pace where we can simply out-pass and out-possess, especially in Europe. Today, against Hull, such a relentless attack will be most welcome, both for our goal difference and adding to Hull’s goal differential.

– When Alex Song makes those runs forward, pay attention to what Abou Diaby (or the second central player who is not the main offensive cog) does. Does he look to protect us from a possible counter attack? Does he join in the attack? That balance needs to be maintained. Wenger has tightened things up a bit by using the other two central midfielders in a more protective sense. Not necessarily like the axis that Liverpool had with Xabi Alonso and Mascherano, but it’s somewhere near there. Diaby plays a deeper position than he used to for us.

– Sometimes our balance is affected by the fact that our best headers of the ball are our center backs, even Alex Song has a good spring. So, when we have a corner, we have both Vermaelen and Sol/Gallas forward. When that’s the case, we need both our full backs, neither whom are very effective at scoring from corners, to play back and play the numbers game. Alex Song or Denilson should also patrol the middle of the park to prevent these counters.

– Once we get this part of our game right, we’ll be an incredibly strong team. For Europe, this tactical shrewdness needs to be maintained. Against Hull though, I’d like to see an all out attack and see Hull bleed all over the pitch.

– That being said, it will not be easy. We cannot afford to halt our momentum. Arsenal thrives on momentum, and no doubt Sam Allardyce’s disciple Phil Brown will want to derail that. We must make them suffer tomorrow. More improvisation from Nasri will be most welcome.

Time To Send Hull Down

Arsenal fans have to come to terms with the fact that they are still hated. Sympathy over Aaron Ramsey’s injury is over. Now we have fans from other teams united in not wanting Arsenal to win anything.

Hull City are part of this group. Fighting a relegation battle again, this northern armpit club is desperate to put a stop to Arsenal’s title challenge. Gaining a point will be celebrated like a victory because they will know that they will have succeeded in causing Arsenal major frustration.

But this game is a grudge match. It always will be with Phil Brown in charge. He hates Arsenal and will be pumping his players up in the same way that Tiny Pulis pumped Ryan Shawcunt.

There is one Arsenal player who will be targeted by the Hull players and fans. It’s the same player that scored probably the best goal ever to be seen at The Emirates so far – Samir Nasri.

Back in December when Arsenal beat Hull 3-0 at The Emirates, Nasri was involved in an altercation with the Australian Richard Garcia. The Hull defender aggressively refused to give the ball to Nasri after Arsenal had won a free-kick. So Nasri trod on his foot. The cheating Aussie then theatrically fell to the floor and pretended to die. This led ex-Scum player Nick Barmby and a whole host of Hull thugs to grab, punch and push Nasri as if he had raped their mothers.

Two culprits as well as Barmby stand out from that melee: Craig Fagan and Stephen Cunt. Expect these three wankers to target Nasri from the off.

Stephen Cunt missed Hull’s 5-1 drubbing by Everton with a foot injury but will play with pain killers for the visit of Arsenal. No doubt he will be doing what he does best: running everywhere and harassing everyone. He will be joined by Jimmy Bullard – Hull’s pathetic answer to Cesc Fabregas. For creativity Hull will look to Geovanni but if he doesn’t play, then you know that Phil Brown’s tactics are to spoil, harass and hit Arsenal with aerial balls. It’s a reason why Arsenal need Sol Campbell.

Campbell needs 10 Premiership appearances to claim a winners medal if Arsenal become champions. So far he’s only made two appearances. There are nine games left. He will be eager to play against Hull and is ideal for the aerial assault that will hit the Arsenal back four.

Nasri is shining in the role vacated by Cesc. They have similar styles and love to start and finish attacks. Central midfield is where Nasri is most effective as was witnessed on Wednesday night.

But with Song suspended Wenger will have to play Denilson on Saturday as his holding midfield player. The young Brazilian has been poor of late resulting in him losing his place in the side. His chances of making the Brazilian World Cup squad are thin, but Saturday will represent a chance to stake a regular spot in the Arsenal first team. Remember it was Denilson’s outstanding free-kick just before half-time that gave Arsenal the lead against Hull back in December. That game also saw Hull win a soft penalty after Fagan dramatically fell to the floor. Hull missed it and the chance to equalize, leaving Arsenal to score two more.

But Hull are a different team at home. They’ve beaten Man City and drawn with Chelsea. But then Hull have also lost to Spurs at home 5-1 and drawn with Portsmouth and Wolves.

There’s a reason why Hull have only 24 points after 28 games – it’s because they’re shit! Remember that even when the commentator tells you that Hull are putting in a “spirited performance.”

Keep it Arsenal

Porto @ The Emirates

The last time Arsenal overturned an away leg deficit was back in 1979, in the European Cup Winners Cup, against Hadjuk Split. Arsenal lost the 1st leg 2-1, but won the 2nd leg 1-0 thanks to a Willie Young header and went through on the away goals rule. Arsenal were then knocked out in the next round by Red Star Belgrade, 3-2 on aggregate.

Cesc is out tomorrow. Nasri should take his place in the attacking midfield role – a role that he will thrive in. It’s his natural position. Campbell is back to add to steel and organization to our defence. This is a welcomed boost as Gallas is still out with a calf injury.

Wenger has saved his sharpest garments for tomorrow night: Diaby, Arshavin, Song, and Campbell. These four will make Arsenal shine and see them through to the quarter-finals for the third consecutive season.

Porto do not have a good record in London – having lost their last six consecutive matches there. The last one being a 4-0 defeat to Arsenal last season in the group stage.

Arsenal will score tomorrow night. Ignore Bendtner’s six misses against Burnley. He had an off day. In any case, I would take Bendtner’s six misses against Burnley if it means he scores a crucial goal like the header he scored against Stoke.

Arsenal are on the start of a winning run. Since losing to Porto, the Gunners have won their last three games, albeit against teams fighting relegation. During those three games, Arsenal’s opponents amassed 9 yellow cards and one red, whereas Wenger’s team only received two yellows.

It’s hard to look ahead to a grudge away fixture to Hull City on Saturday. The Tigers lost 5-1 to Everton yesterday – who also missed a penalty. It will be a game similar to that of Stoke. However, Hull are a lot worse. Beating them will add another nail in Hull’s relegation coffin and thus eventually see loudmouth Phil Brown get fired. That will be extremely satisfying.

It’s going to be an interesting week.

Keep It Arsenal

Post Match View – Hull A.F.C.

After what some call a good result away to Burnley on Wednesday, we returned home to face a Hull City team that provided many highlights last season. From an Arsenal point of view, those highlights were almost all for the wrong reasons. Whether it was the home defeat, the alleged Cesc spitting incident, or William Gallas’s controversial goal in the FA Cup, we seemed to always have problems with Phil Brown and his club. This recent fixture matched each of last season’s for talking points.

Last Sunday’s victory against Liverpool showed that we can respond when we need to. It also showed that we might possibly lack the intensity and focus required of a champion. I was very concerned with how little desire there seemed to be in an Arsenal side that claims it wants to win the Premiership. In the end, it would take Arsene Wenger’s wrath to inspire them to victory.

I was not impressed with that so-called good result at Turf Moor in midweek. Sure, one point is better than none. And yes, Manchester United lost up there this season. So what! Burnley should be three points when and where ever we play them. Champions beat the teams that they are clearly better than. I may be oversimplifying things with that kind of thinking but you just can’t accept dropping points to sides you should beat. The same lack of intensity as in the First Half against Liverpool last weekend made me question how badly this team wants to fight for the title.

Hull was a good test for what I needed to see from this team. Would they stand up and say that injuries will not deter them from their goal or would they show the required desire? Would they play to the opposition’s level and risk not capitalizing on United losing to Fulham or would they take the game to Hull?

Manuel Almunia’s form has been erratic at best. He was and remains under the microscope despite making a key penalty save against Geovanni. Steve Bennett was wrong to give a penalty. Silvestre did nothing to gain an unfair advantage. And I wonder why there were no red shirts reacting to clear the rebound? Only Hull’s ineptitude saved us from the embarrassment of seeing the rebound being put away.

Thankfully, Almunia did his job. Overall, he was far safer than he’s been lately. Which wasn’t hard to achieve to be honest.

Initially, it looked as though Hull’s approach would be to go at fourth choice left-back Mikael Silvestre as often as possible. On 6, a Stephen Hunt free kick from that side was dealt with at the near post by the Arsenal keeper. On 8, he left his line to reach a stray ball before Gallas. The half was more about Arsenal’s inability to create much of a threat to Hull’s goal despite having more possession. Diaby, Eduardo, and Arshavin efforts were either off the mark or easily dealt with by Boaz Myhill.

We had nearly twice as much possession as did Hull but nothing to show for it. Worse was that I still hadn’t seen the type of urgency I would like from an Arsenal that cannot afford to drop any more points. That and the mood of the game changed with a series of controversial moments. On 43 Geovanni brought Arshavin down from behind with a crude challenge. The infraction was about 25 yards outside of Myhill’s box, to the right of his goal.

During the usual period of protest and delay that happens after all fouls that close to the goal, Hull’s Richard Garcia went down abruptly. Replays showed him pushing Samir Nasri away as our No. 8 came to claim the ball for the free kick. Nasri then responded by squashing a cockroach on the Hull midfielder’s ankle. It must have killed the roach because it sure looked like it hurt Garcia. Rather than thanking Sam for his efforts to prevent the filthy bug from crawling into the guy’s boot, Garcia’s teammates became very angry.

Match commentator Craig Burley felt that it wasn’t a free kick, even after his partner (seated next to him) stated that Arshavin had been “clattered from behind”. Burley nor his partner made any mention about Nick Barmby raising his hands to shove Nasri in the back of the head. They also must have missed Myhill leaving his line to shove Song in the head. They chose to stress how stupid Nasri was and how Almunia had run 100 yards to essentially help keep the peace. Burley’s comments were nothing short of what I expect from an ex-Chelsea thug who looked and played more like he belonged on an NHL ice hockey rink than on a football pitch.

Several minutes later, Abou Diaby won a free kick in almost exactly the same position. That too was deemed a non-foul by the expert Burley. Replays showed that it was indeed a foul – Diaby would probably not have gone down if Boateng hadn’t reached his arm across the body of our No. 2 as he ran towards the Hull goal. Denilson stepped up to bury a perfectly taken free kick.

HT, 1-0 AFC.

The Second Half featured the urgency I’ve wanted to see. I accept that it was only Hull City. It was not Chelsea or United, but it was a needed improvement from recent displays.

On 48, Arshavin fed Eduardo who’s run and shot led to a poor finish. Soon after, Diaby shot Eduardo’s square pass straight into a defender. Our No. 9 moving to the middle was having good effect.

On 55, Steve Bennett proved again that he is an awful referee. He called a penalty that clearly was not. Up stepped Geovanni. Almunia saved it but questions remain about why there were no red shirts on the screen when the ball rebounded to the Stephen Hunt. If it weren’t for his ineptitude, Hull would have equalized.

At first, I thought maybe the Arsenal players were poorly positioned as the penalty was struck. Then I thought maybe Bennett had missed the amber shirts entering the penalty area before the ball was struck. I was wrong both times. Our boys were just being lazy ball-watchers. Shame!

The replay confirmed that Almunia moved forward a fraction of a second before Geovanni kicked the ball. Please correct me if I’m wrong but was the same angle shown when Sorensen saved Cesc’s penalty a few weeks ago? He moved forward illegally as well.

On 59, the excellent Abou Diaby worked a sweet one-two with Alex Song. Diaby penetrated the Hull back line as he received the return. His pass across the Hull goal was tapped in by Eduardo.

2-0 AFC

On 61, Eboue whacked Stephen Hunt. I enjoyed that as much as the fine effort the boys were putting in. The Second Half was an awakening in some ways. I hope it lasts.

On 61, Cousin was brought on for Garcia. I’d like to hear Phil Brown explain why he picked the shorter Fagan instead of the man who scored against us last season. And knowing that he had the towering Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink available adds to my point. Almunia’s poor form has been there for all to see. Challenging him with cross after cross to a tall center-forward might have caused us more problems than the chosen formation.

Hull’s lineup is not my issue. Phil Brown is Hull’s manager, not Arsenal’s. Thank goodness for that!

Credit to Zayate for good defending on 69. Silvestre had done well to put in AA23. Ramsey came on for Nasri on 69. It’s funny how early in the game, Burley had voiced his preference for Ramsey to Man of the Match Abou Diaby.

On 78, Bennett once again showed why he should not be an official at the top level. Denilson fouled George Boateng as clearly as Phil Brown is a f*&^#ng fraud. Bennett didn’t even attempt to go for his whistle.

On 80, I reflected on how well Diaby, Song, and Denilson had done. No sooner than my reflecting was done, Diaby exchanged successive one-twos with Song and Arshavin. His finish capped a fine display.

3-0 AFC

On 87, I saw a good sign. Vermaelen ran the length of the pitch to force a corner. The points were safe but the effort was no less notable.

On 88, Theo chipped toward an open net but failed to punish Gardner’s error. On 90, a good build up ended with a shot by Ramsey. The movement and passing brought a smiling and applauding Arsene Wenger to his feet. One of the many differences between our manager and Hull’s is the commitment Wenger has to playing the game the way it should be played. In the dying minutes Hull almost farcically chased a consolation goal by repeatedly looking for the head of Daniel Cousin. They finally connected but only for the 6’2” striker to head well high.

The Second Half offered a glimpse of the effort required to convince people that we really want to win the title. Controversy notwithstanding, we did the minimum I expected. Come on West Ham!

To Hull and Back

On September 27, 2008, Hull City A.F.C. threw us for a loop when they scored with a Geovanni thunderbolt and a Daniel Cousin header. Had we won that day, we would have gone top of the table. Instead, we suffered the second defeat at the Emirates ever.

We didn’t exactly go into a complete tailspin after that; the Tottenham 4-4 draw would see to that. But it did dent the belief of our young squad. As Wenger stated in his press conference, he said that the result made the squad question whether or not they were able to win the league. Hearing such comments disappoint me, but I guess I can understand his thinking.

We should not have dropped points against Burnley. Consistency is what will win us the Premier League title, and we cannot afford to go up 1-0 and drop points. To be fair, we did have a nice purple patch after Cesc’s goal, but we have to learn how to finish off games.

Such is the state of our squad that when something goes against us, it tends to make us wilt rather than galvanize us. It is an incredible positive that we have Andrey Arshavin, because he doesn’t seem to be a character to be affected negatively by blips.

And with that, we welcome Hull City and Phil Brown back to the Emirates. The last time we played them, the Cesc Fabregas spitting row dominated the headlines. Even though Cesc will not play tomorrow, feelings still linger and a part of me did not want Phil Brown to be fired just so we can annihilate them at the Emirates.

The players must view this as an opportunity to seal old wounds and establish real consistency. As hurtful as the Burnley point was, we still were able to get 4 points in two difficult away fixtures without playing particularly well. Hull will be looking to “get in” on our players, and we’ll have to show that we’re game.

That’s how things will be reflected. If we win games, everybody talks about how the opponents gave us far too much space. If we drop points, analysts talk about how teams got in our face and refused to give up any ground. The difference doesn’t rest with the opposition. It has more to do with how well we play. We play well, we create that space. We haven’t been as brave anymore in doing that, looking tentative while holding possession of the ball and having strikers who are frankly off colour right now.

We fail to get anything less than three points tomorrow, and I will have serious doubts to our title challenge.

Briefly, let’s discuss the Champions League drawing. I fear no team, but FC Porto is a favorable draw. It’s not an easy matchup, but they have lost influential players from last year’s team. Hulk has developed, but is no Lisandro Lopez. They did perform admirably in the Champions League group stages, but they currently lie in second place in their league behind Benfica. We should be able to edge them in the Round of 16.

Additionally, Mick McCarthy should really shut it when talking about issues of integrity. He can do whatever he likes with Wolves and I understand that his primary objective is to keep them up, but what he did does set a dangerous precedent, albeit I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before. First off, he sends a negative message to his own squad, but more importantly, what’s to stop other teams from not sending out full squads against Manchester United in the future. It is what it is, but I for one am rooting for Burnley to demolish Wolves this weekend.

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