Game Over, Season Over

– Epic capitulation. Complete regression. I said we needed a miracle in the league, and instead we had a miracle enacted on us.

– The season is finished, except for the fact that we have to fight now to hold onto third. That is actually important, because we don’t want two extra games, especially during a World Cup summer where players will come back without as much rest.

– Both our first two goalkeepers must be shipped out. Unlike Almunia, Fabianski did come with a pedigree. Perhaps there was an eye for a bargain in mind, but he had performed in the Polish league and is a capped international. According to most reports, he’s lights out in training too. Now, for his second consecutive birthday, he’s made horrendous errors which have proven that he’s not good enough for this club. End of. I’m not going to go into it anymore, but performing in training is way different from being a consistent world class keeper. Consistency is the key, and he has none of it. We have no idea what he does in training, but we know Wenger has stuck up for his goalkeepers before. He stated that he thought Almunia was the best in the Premier League last year, and earlier this year he backed Fabianski. They have both, not intentionally of course, let him down in a major way. We must now buy an experienced keeper like Frey or a buzzed keeper like Lloris, then make Wojciech Szczesny the backup.

– There have been many moments where I felt we made a breakthrough. Today just confirmed that this team doesn’t learn it’s lessons. We have a long way to go if we want to emulate Barcelona. They are composed on the ball all of the time. When we have a hint of trouble after coasting, we crash. We’ve dropped many points from winning positions, but this team always seems more dangerous when chasing after a game rather than leading it. We rarely score the third goal to kill off games anymore. We neither defend well nor attack well when a team fights back against us. It’s distressing in the extreme.

– You can give the team credit for fighting back and working until the last minute of the match. But look at the teams we’ve summoned those resources for, and look at where they are in the table. That’s practically all that needs to be said. We should have comfortably beat Birmingham, Stoke, and Wolves. We made a meal of it, and the false dawn has proven to be true.

– We want Chelsea to win the Premier League, as much as that hurts to say. Manchester United cannot win a fourth league on the trot and pass Liverpool in the overall Championships. That would be the worst way to end this season.

– Before anybody says it, I still don’t consider this season to be a failure. I see progress, but there comes a point when we need to take the final step. There have been hints of it during the year, but what are we left with now? Third place and Aaron Ramsey’s broken leg. We’ve had many injuries this year.

– We need to redress the balance in the team. We need to become a more solid defensive team. All the individual pieces are there, but we don’t play like one unit on defense. That’ll change when we get a good goalkeeper between the sticks. If that doesn’t happen, this exhilarating team will always just be a frustrating one. Next year will be the year where Wenger decides whether he wants to give it another go or not. It’s reached that point. We’re not there yet, but we will be in one year’s time. We must improve.

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More Than a Miracle

– Let’s just get the miracle scenario out there. We need Manchester United to either draw against both City and Tottenham or lose to just one of them. We need Chelsea to drop points against Tottenham and Liverpool. We need to beat Wigan tomorrow and hope that Wigan subsequently lose to both Hull and West Ham, so they’ll be fighting for their lives against Chelsea in the last fixture of the season. After that, we need Wigan to perform heroically and earn a draw or victory that keeps them in the Premier League. Oh, and we need to win our other three Premier League matches, one against City (who are on form and scoring goals for fun right now, which is an ominous sign when we have to field Silvestre), one against Blackburn at Ewood Park (you know how much Big Sam hates Wenger), and a relatively easy fixture against Fulham at home (they could be focused more on the Europa League). Got all of that?

– What is the percentage chance I give of this scenario unfolding? About 1%. But I had to throw it out there, just so you all know what to root for. And yes, that involves rooting for the Scum.

– We’ll know if there’s any chance in hell if it can happen before we play Wigan on Sunday, with the Manchester derby and Chelsea playing Tottenham today.

– The defeat on Wednesday was pretty disheartening. I don’t consider the season to be a failure; we have improved. However, some of the players delivered lackluster performances. If the match had been ten minutes longer, we would have won. But with Tottenham parking the bus (in an efficient way), there wasn’t enough thrust or desire from our side. Rosicky looks like a squad player now. Denilson was practically absent in an offensive sense. Diaby is a flat track bully. Our keeper is a joke.

– I think Wenger will field different sets of players in order to get a better opinion of them, players like Eastmond, Fran Merida, and possibly Fabianski. Obviously, we’ll try to win every match, but this sort of thing tends to happen when we’re out of the title race.

– Give credit to Heurelho Gomes. Many people laughed at his numerous blunders during his first year, but now he’s established himself as one of the better keepers in the Premier League. He singlehandedly prevented van Persie from providing a Kanu moment of his own. I wish our current keeper would revive himself in this way. Actually, I don’t. I’d rather Fabianski do that. I’d like to never see our current keeper in an Arsenal kit ever again. A well struck volley, yes, but why does he never catch the ball? And finally, it seems as though Wenger is coming around saying today that he never said our current keeper was a “long term number one.” Damning words coming from Wenger. Lloris may not be for sale, but Frey might be a good keeper for a few years before hopefully Szczesny becomes the great keeper everybody thinks he’ll be.

– Additionally, Wenger said we need to add more to our defense. Praise God, although it was blatantly obvious. I wouldn’t mind Sol returning as a fifth choice defender. Silvestre should depart. I hope Gallas stays. There’s rumors that we’re after Jerome Boateng, but it appears City may snatch him. Regardless, we need to strengthen our side. I also wouldn’t mind going after Gregory van der Wiel.

– Interestingly enough, I heard a rumor this week that we’ve signed Hugo Rodallega and Charles N’Zogbia for 22 million pounds and that they’ve already had medicals. Twelve hours after I heard this rumor, the story broke in the British media. Today, Roberto Martinez didn’t exactly deny that rumor today. Take it with a grain of salt, but there may be something to the rumor. I don’t particularly rate Rodallega, but N’Zogbia is a dangerous player. I think the fee is too high also. Regardless, N’Zogbia is a player we need to look out for on Sunday.

– Wigan will try to play football. Their pitch is no longer a disaster, but that probably works against them. They are close to relegation though, so they will fight hard for the result. Mario Melchiot is an ex-Chelsea player, so he’ll want to help out his friends. They’ve also had results against Chelsea and Liverpool at home. So, this isn’t the cakewalk people may be predicting.

– I believe Wenger has some more fight left in him. He’ll be back next year. Arsene is hungrier than some of our players.

Round Up

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

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

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

Both clubs belong in the Championship.

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Keep it Arsenal

Post Match View – Wigan Athletic

The score could have been even more lopsided. What looked like clear handballs by Eboue and Gallas had very little effect on the outcome of the match. Eboue’s was at the Wigan end and he got his yellow for it, and even if Gallas had been penalized, a yellow, a penalty, and a goal against were surely the worst we would have deserved. In theory anyway.

Arsenal had enough chances in the First Half to put the game beyond reach. The only thing that outnumbered our opportunities were the number of fouls committed by Wigan. Arsene has referred to conversations he’s had with the FA regarding repeated fouls. It is an interesting thought to consider if “professional fouls” need to be punished more for the sake of positive, attacking football.

Arsene said that winning so emphatically after an away CL fixture in midweek is an added bonus. Yes, indeed. Standard Liege was quite a result. The boys worked very hard for those three points on Wednesday. We can look forward to seeing an entirely different team in the Carling Cup Tuesday. We certainly won’t see Cesc. There were times when he looked a step behind the game yesterday but late on he was still making runs and got his reward to show for it. It’ll be interesting to hear if he carried a knock into the Wigan match or got one during.

Silent Stan and Spike Lee were among the Yanks in the seats on a beautiful sunny day. Stan was spotted seated next to Mr. Hill-Wood. How times have changed!

Vito Mannone had very little to do that challenged his abilities. The jury will remain out on him for a while yet but I am not afraid to give him time in the team to build confidence. How else will he develop?

Eboue was lively.

Gallas and Song have played better but were good value nonetheless.

Rosicky wasn’t injured and looked good while he was on. The comeback continues.

Robin was frustrated by his poor display – we all know he’s better than what we saw.

Sagna and Clichy were safe – the latter especially as compared to last week.

Credit due to Clichy for getting into Wigan’s box to deliver a fine cross for Eduardo.

Diaby has lost the form displayed earlier this season but he wasn’t terrible.

It was our summer signing who stole the show. He is now our leading scorer.

Full Circle: Eboue and Wigan

It was against Wigan that “The Better” Emmanuel Eboue suffered his worst moment as a professional football player. A player who wants to be loved by the fans more than any other, he delivered a humiliating performance that culminated with him being booed off the pitch. At the time, I reckoned that his Arsenal career was over. I was wrong, and I’m so happy that I was.

Sure, there are people who still rip him. There are also moments when you get frustrated with his play and his occasional forays into simulation. But here is a man who won his way back into our team the proper way.

Instead of sulking and delivering lackluster efforts, he’s worked hard and proven to be a real asset to the team. At the moment, he can function as a utility man. He can play as a right back, right winger, or a central midfield player. The fact that he doesn’t necessarily excel at any of those positions is of no real importance. He is not a first choice player, but he’s a player we definitely need in our side.

You see, I have a real soft spot for Emmanuel Eboue. He is clearly loved within the Arsenal locker room, and I truly believe that he doesn’t possess a malicious bone in his body. That doesn’t mean he can’t be ruthless, as he so aptly demonstrated in his condemnation of Adebayor’s actions. It just means that I feel his presence brings a positive spirit to the squad.

In fact, if you consider the fact that Eboue was subject to some actual horrific treatment by our fans, you could comprehend it if he came out and acted moody and continued to play like he didn’t give a damn. It happened with one Emmanuel (although his treatment was NEVER as poor as the media would have you believe), but it didn’t happen with this one.

It is no surprise to me that Eboue is still an Arsenal player. He genuinely cares about our fans, our team, and our manager.

As for Wigan, they come into this fixture as a completely different side to the one we played against. At that time, Steve Bruce was virtually lollygagging his way into the Sunderland job. He showed little passion, and the match was a rather forgettable 1-0 affair that we just about squeaked out at the Emirates.

Now they have Roberto Martinez, a figure who is a beloved figure himself at Wigan. He was one of the first foreign players to ever play for Wigan, and when Steve Bruce deserted them, there was only one possible man for the job.

He likes to play football. They’re a much more formidable side than West Brom though, as they possess the players needed to clog up the midfield in Hendry Thomas and Diame. But if they play open, it’ll be slightly easier to carve them open as opposed to when we last played them.

If we see a dominating display tomorrow, we’ll know our team is back on track. We’re beginning a stretch of games where we need to start stamping our dominance all over the pitch.

Hicks of Northern England

Here are some interesting facts about certain cities and towns that have Premiership clubs:

The London borough of Newham, where West Ham play, is the most ethnically diverse area of Britain.

There are no black communities in Stoke-on-Trent, Bolton, Blackburn, Burnley, Hull, Sunderland, and Wigan.

99% of Wigan’s population is white. Hull and Sunderland are not far behind with populations that are approximately 98% white.

The north-west towns of Blackburn, Burnley and Bolton have large Pakistani communities. Over 20% of Blackburn’s population is Pakistani. Yet, 99% of it’s season ticket holders are white.

Blackburn’s population is only 105,000. Wigan has a population of 81,000

Burnley has the smallest population, only 73,500 and is only 12 miles away from Blackburn.

What these small towns have in common is clear. They have small populations that are about as ethnically diverse as Hitler’s Germany. They have high unemployment rates, high teenage pregnancies, and high drug use. The result is an increase in white trash getting high and procreating.

This sounds like the Hicks in South Carolina or Alabama. It’s not far off.

In the eyes of the Stoke, Blackburn and Hull fans, clubs like Arsenal represent everthing that they are not and never will be: ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan, urban, modern, properous and foreign. The last point is important. If you support a team like Hull, then you have to accept that your team is never going to win anything – unless it’s a promotion play-off.

In fact, supporters of teams like Stoke and Hull will endure more disappointment than success. Every season they face a battle to stay in the Premiership. Eventually, however, they will go down and disappear like Bradford City. It’s the reason why their supporters take a bigger interest in the English national team than any of the fans from the top four clubs. Supporting England gives them a superiority complex that Hull or Stoke never can. Success is far more likely to be achieved with England than any Wigan or Blackburn.

So when a club like Arsenal employ mainly foreign players and coaches, supporters from clubs like Stoke are resentful. After all, Arsenal are an English club, yet contribute nothing to the English national team.

But this xenophobia isn’t just related to certain English fans, it’s widespread among English coaches. Fabio Cappello and Sven Goran Eriksson are secretly despised by English coaches like Sam Allardyce. In the eyes of Allardyce, the England job should be for an Englishman not a foreigner. England is the home of football and beer. Italy is the home of pasta and opera.

So why is Arsenal the target for this English xenophobia and not say Chelsea, a fellow London club that has a foreign owner, coach and just as many foreign players?

The answer: Arsene Wenger.

Wenger epitomizes everything that coaches like Alladyce are not: sophistication, style, multi-linguist, international and educated. Wenger was the first foreign Premiership manager. He revolutionized English football with sports science, continental coaching methods, diets, communication, training facilities and foreign players. Because of Wenger, Arsenal will always be the founder of change in the way Premiership clubs, think, act and play. But not everyone likes change.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan says he will never appoint a foreign manager. He hates the foreign influence on the Premiership, stating that it has brought an increase in diving. However, the biggest xenophobes are the managers at clubs like Stoke. Tony Pullis thinks that his coaching methods are just as good as fellow foreign managers.

Pullis has never coached or studied abroad. His experience is with lower league teams like Bristol Rovers. He has never coached a team that has played in any European competition, only English teams that fight relegation. He knows that he will never coach a top four club. Those jobs rarely come around and when they do, they go to foreign coaches. That fact hurts him.

So when Arsenal play teams like Bolton, Blackburn, Stoke, or Hull there are certain factors you have to remember. They employ managers like Phil Brown, who like to play traditional English football – long ball, in-your-face, no time to settle, kick and rush. They pick big, burly, physical players like Ryan Shawcross to score goals from set-pieces or crosses. They play for a draw, stating that they are fighting relegation even though it’s September.

All of their managers are English, born and raised in these small, white, northern hick towns.

They hate Arsene Wenger. It’s why they try so hard to beat Arsenal more than any other club.

Wenger represents everything they know they can never be or will be. Wenger represents change. He is a pioneer. He is Arsenal. Without him Arsenal are nothing.

The Negatives need to remember that.

Appreciate William Gallas

As soon as I saw the replays, I knew he was finished for the year. In fact, I immediately texted a great man those words. I don’t think he knew what it really meant, seeing as he was watching the game on tape delay later. Naturally, some people blamed Alex Song for it, but it was the type of injury that can happen in football. Accidents happen. We can accept such things, even if we think it is unlucky.

When Rossi landed on Gallas, Rossi immediately sprung up and waved for the stretcher. He knew what happened. Rossi was also involved with Almunia in the early part of the game, crashing into him while chasing a ball. Rossi is not a dirty player, and he’s actually quite good (even if he should play for the United States). So, seeing his requests, I knew Gallas was down for the count.

The remarkable thing about Gallas on Tuesday was this. Yes, he was carried off the field. Yet, almost one minute later, he re-entered the pitch and defended against a Villarreal attack. He was clearly hobbled and injured, as he chased down the ball. That being said, he was still in the right position and he cut off the channel. After that, he collapsed onto the ground and was substituted off. After a few moments of early jitters, Djourou did well enough and Kolo turned into the mountain of a defender he can be. Kolo probably put in his best performance of the year, and that is a welcome sign knowing that Gallas will be missing from here on out.

Most people think Gallas is off. Myles Palmer has stated that a deal to Marseille is already finished and that we’ll be signing Sebastien Bassong from Newcastle. Arseblog likes to speculate that Gallas might have played his last game for us. Arsene meanwhile has come out and stated that he will be back. I like Bassong, I think he’s a good prospect and he won’t need to adapt to the English Premier League. We are also rumored to be interested in Sakho from Paris St. Germain. These are good things to hear, being that the defense is probably the only element of our squad we need to beef up. That being said, I would be thrilled to see Gallas stick around.

William Gallas is a warrior. William Gallas is a man who only cares about winning. William Gallas helped right the good ship Arsenal this year when everybody was prepared to cast him off as a cancer. William Gallas is a Gunner.

Just a small note about Wigan. They will be without Lee Cattermole, and this will affect their game. They will use Michael Brown and Watson to fill the center of the midfield. They will want to win tomorrow as they want to finish 7th. We will be tired, but the one player who will be ready is Andrey Arshavin.

Arshavin said yesterday that he loves our club. Andrey Arshavin is a Gunner.