Posts Tagged ‘Champions League’

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How do you solve a problem like Arsene?

April 22, 2011

Three years ago, if I was to open an Arsenal related website and see this kind of headline, despite the first tiny cracks appearing  in the monolith with the ‘Arsene Knows’ sculpted into it, I would just dismiss this kind of question as madness. We have just moved to a shiny new stadium, we came close to winning the title on a shoestring budget with a bunch of kids just one season after our (arguably) best player in history left to the pastures new and I am still of the opinion that we should have won the damn thing, given that we missed out by mere four points, whereas we have been robbed of five points by the referees in the fashion so obvious it was disgusting. The team was an absolute joy to watch, having the correct balance of brawn and brains, our gameplay had it all and hardly anyone had any answer to that. I could not help but think ‘Blimey, the old bugger has pulled it off again, we are on our way, just watch’. And then something went horribly wrong.

From this...

As far as our fortunes and OGL’s approach are concerned, I believe that the summer of 2008 was the turning point: after saying our farewells to one of the very last Invincibles in Gilberto and the little Chav scum in Diarra (who left in the mid-season, to be precise) who both became frustrated with lack of first team opportunities, we have also lost Flamini and Hleb to AC Milan and Barcelona respectively, our ‘Little Mozart’ picked up that mysterious injury and the team had practically lost its spine. The mis-treatment of club’s loyal servant Gilberto captaincy wise, its effect on the mindset of players and the tin foil hat theories about the Italians and the Catalunyans tempting away the players the did not really need are topics for future posts which you may see shortly, but let’s stay on the subject for the time being, shall we?

Now, given that I think of it as the root of all evil (bear with me), let’s take a look at the Flamini situation in more detail: great utility player (remember CL run in 2006?), tons of pace to burn, tenacious and what is the most important of it all, a Ying to Cesc’s Yang, doing all the dirty work for the latter to pull strings in the midfield like there was no one around him. We all saw that in his last season at the club, the season after the summer when Wenger was not too sure what to do with him and tried to sell him to Brum (yes, Brum). Say what you want, but that is shocking man management and not giving him whatever he wanted mid-season or holding him over the barrel when we still had option of Diarra on our books is a case of shocking squad management as well, especially when seeing what he could do! Sure, he may not be the most beautiful player to watch and his passing stats are probably not a patch on D******n’s, but hey, if I was only interested in watching silky moves and no grit, I would just wait until the Bolshoi Ballet are in town. Ray Parlour was not the most technical player either, but it did not stop him from becoming the fans’ favourite and one of the Arsenal legends, did it? If you need proof, look no further than him being one of the players featured on the ‘Arsenalisation’ murals outside the ground…

...to this

All of that condemned us to watching the completely inept D******n and Song taking all the sting out of our play in the following season, the one when people started coining phrases like ‘crab football’ and the like. Yes, I know they were only young, but do I care? There are no trophies for the lowest average age, just entries in the record books that will serve as the sole evidence of that madness, as sure as hell not a single sane Gooner will want to remember that. This is the moment when we started hearing the pearls of wisdom about not killing players, mental strength and not seeing anyone better in the vast transfer market, which begs the question why do we maintain that mythical best scouting network in the world, unless its sole purpose is to find talented kids and buy them all like procreation was to go out of fashion all of a sudden.

So, how does Flamini come into all that, you will ask. It’s pretty simple: having lost a good player on a free, Our Glorious Leader started giving away new, improved contracts to D******ns and Diabys of this world without rhyme, reason and merit behind it. I know he was about to leave on a free, but giving the new two year deal to washed out Rosicky took the biscuit and I remember Le Grove asking whether the ink dried on that contract yet in the match report straight after that. All this reminds of a man who got dumped by a girl of his dreams for being a bit of a dick and then ending up with an ugly, mean hag, being her bitch just not to lose her. Mental? You bet your ass it is!

Now onto the question posed in the headline: it is my belief that someone has to put a stop to this poxy little project of his, there are players in this team that simply don’t deserve to play on this pitch, let alone wearing the Arsenal kit and they need to be cut out like cancer. Quite frankly, if he can’t stomach doing this, well, I say if he can’t live without them, he may as well leave with them, as it’s sad to see him tarnishing his undisputed legacy for the sake of the misplaced and unreciprocated loyalty towards the ‘Excusables’. Just to wrap things up, it’s over to the late Guru saying a few words on the subject:

Worth listening in its entirety, whether you are a hip hop fan or not, you will be surprised how accurate this is…

Thank you for reading!

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Who needs a snappy headline when you win 5:0?

March 10, 2010

It’s getting late and I will be losing a wee bit of sleep writing this, but I will gladly keep my eyes open using matchsticks today at work, as I am still buzzing after seeing the events that unfolded last night at the Emirates.

Legend has it that Saint George slew the dragon tormenting the good people of Silene, last night it was more or less all about Saint Nicklas doing the same with a little help of other fine heroes – sure, this would never have happened without contribution of other equally, if not even more impressive players like Arshavin, Eboue, Nasri and others. Our hat-trick hero missed a whole bunch of sitters a few days ago and anyone could be excused for laughing out loudly when told that he would score three goals last night. It seems like he must have used up all the shit luck allocated for the foreseeable future (or it has something to do with some sort of Danish voodoo where Jensen cast a spell making Nik unable to find the net with him in goal), let’s hope his first hattrick will boost his confidence ahead of the coming games for him to try and collect more of these lovely match balls.

As I said yesterday, it was all about scoring first and scoring early without allowing them the away goal advantage and the good guys in red duly obliged – first goal came after Arshavin won the header from Almunia’s kick, the ball landed at Nasri’s feet and he fed our little Russian for him to charge into their box where he collided with their defender and goalie and the ball ended up banged into the empty net by the Dane. The second came fifteen minutes later when one of the Porto players tried to be a little bit too smart for his own good too close to his goal and this resulted in the ball being nicked by AA who danced between three defenders and squared the ball to Bendtner for the easiest of the tap-ins. Andrey had a chance to add to the tally a bit later, but blasted his shot over the bar with the goal gaping.

As much as it was all Arsenal in the first half and as much as the pundits were surprised how poor the visitors were, they needed just one goal to take us back to square one. Second half started with them pushing for it and nearly getting one from a set piece when Nasri managed to clear the ball off the line. It has to be said, we have taken our foot off the gas in the second half and this helped us to realise that we were far from home and dry – two minutes later, Nasri dribbled past half of our opposition’s defence and placed the ball at the far post. With three goals, we were all but through, but we felt like running a riot and scored another one after a classic counter attack: Arshavin pounced on the ball cleared from our box, ran half the length of the pitch and cleverly passed the ball to Eboue who rounded the keeper and scored fourth. The Ivorian also won a penalty for Nick to complete his hattrick.

Now this is what I am talking about – needless to say, Fabianski owes last night’s heroes a good few rounds of drinks after making it a bit difficult for his teammates ahead of this game. We are through to the quarter finals and I will be looking forward to the draw due to take place next Friday just ahead of the West Ham clash.

Just to wrap it up (I need to run to get myself ready for work):

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

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Porto preview – time to slay them dragons for good ;)

March 9, 2010

A very short post today – since the brilliant victory on Saturday, I didn’t get too much time to spare, due to our friend visiting us, getting drunk on Saturday evening, making a short trip to Broadstairs for the first seaside fish & chips of the season on Sunday and doing some less exciting stuff last night.

As we all know, the Fair Knights of North London haven’t managed a glorious victory at the dragons’ lair, hence we will have to do it the hard way with the ugly beasts coming to our castle all fired up and thinking we are here for the taking. Make no mistake: stakes are high and we will have to be at our brilliant best to get past them. The main thing is not to concede an early goal, stupid or not, as we may find it hard to score two or more if they will try to make it difficult for us. If we score early, we may be in for a treat if they choose to go all out attacking and open themselves up.

It is a bit late for writing a longer piece and elaborating on our team options. As far as I am concerned, we are more than capable to get the right result against them as long as whoever we have available is played to his strengths and walks out with the right attitude.

I am off to cook something tasty and fill my fridge with lager – it’s all about the right preparation, no?

Come on you rip roaring Gunners!!!

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Is this a déjà vu or have we come of age?

March 2, 2010

Welcome back after a good few days without a word – change of my daily routine caused by the recent job switch left me a little bit distracted and I just did not feel like writing stuff just for the sake of it, as for the weekend, I was busy helping my friends move house, hence no match preview and post game analysis – I promise to make amends this week with a good game preview ahead of the next home game against Burnley and hopefully a jolly post match piece.

While I’ve been away, we have obviously beaten Stoke at the expense of Ramsey’s injury – all I can say is I want him to get well soon and I hope any sane football fan is with me on this. As for you, Mr Shawcross, you are a shitkicking, disgraceful sorry excuse for a footballer and you do not deserve to play in the world’s best football league, simple as.

Just like in that Taylor on Eduardo situation, Arsenal player was supposedly ‘too fast’ for ‘honest English lad without an ounce of malice in him’. Well, let me put it this way: in some countries the authorities will ask you to pass additional exam before issuing you with a driving licence for a car or bike above certain engine size or power – this is just common sense, as allowing people to operate machinery they are not capable of operating is simply dangerous for them and anyone within close range. Ryan Shawcross playing football at this level is like someone who drove a Nissan Micra all his life and has been asked to drive a supercar in a street race with the big boys – dents, scratches and all that. This time however, it’s more than a bit of a paint swap: our amateur driver caused extensive damage to a very rare specimen and it will take much more time in the garage to get it back on the road all purring and raring to go. My point is that if you are too ‘slow’ to play in this league then you pose danger to players with genuine talent and should ply your trade in a lower division.

I would not want football to become a non contact sport, but a red card and three game ban for someone who just took out one of the hottest talents in world’s football for a season is just laughable. Proper action must be taken against the players who like to ‘let them know they’re there’, which may sadly end up in a potentially career threatening injury. When Taylor broke Eduardo’s leg, someone said he should have been banned for as long as Dudu takes to recover to full fitness – taking our Crozilian’s fitness record since then into consideration, he would probably not be a footballer by now and you never know, such example would probably have saved Ramsey’s leg too!

Enough on that, now let’s move on to praising the good guys: despite looking shell shocked, players got their shit together and managed an emphatic win against our latest bogey team. That is what I am talking about, gentlemen! Now keep this up and show that you have matured and you can win as many of the remaining games as possible and you never know, we may just nick it.Three points behind the first placed Chelsea does not look like a mountain to climb and if we will do better than the leaders trying to contain City at home and mash them Spuds at WHL, then it may become close enough to get excited…

Question is: do we have it in us?

Comparisons between now and the situation from two years ago are all too obvious as a broken leg and some properly dubious officiating in the Champions League leave some of us a bit sceptical – some may say we have all been there before, and there is no point in getting our hopes too high not get disappointed, but hey, where is the fun in that? Like I said before, it’s all about expecting your team to win, or at least to give it a hell of a go and I will never accept anything less. We have shown that we can overcome the pressure and win an important game,  now it is all about building on it: we are entering a period where we play totally winnable games and aiming for 12 points and CL progression in March is not too much to ask, is it? This would allow us to enter the business end of the season on the boil and maybe, just maybe, surprise a few.

Thank you for reading and thank you for dropping by when I was ‘away’ for so long, now that I have caught a bit of rhythm in the new place I may be able to write a bit more. I will be back with a Burnley game preview and maybe one more post before that if I find enough time to write – still getting my head around all the new stuff at work and all that. Good news is that I no longer have to work on weekends and it will allow me to go to more games, starting with West Ham on the 20th…

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Poland apologises for Fabianski.

February 18, 2010

And this is pretty much all I can muster – once again, we have been exposed: no quality in the squad, no presence, no fight, yet we could have and should have won this game if it was not for the idiot selected to play in goal. Two absolute howlers from our no.2 gave the poor Porto side a win. If it was not for Sol heading in a goal in the first half, we would be as good as out of yet another competition. It’s back to drawing board for Our Glorious Leader as far as I am concerned: as our captain said, it was a result of schoolboy errors and it would be extremely difficult for anyone (unless you happen to be Arsene Wenger, that is) to disagree with that…

I am really sorry that I won’t write anything more, but I am starting a new job today and I will be damned if I will be there late just for the sake of stating the bleeding obvious: yes, we are still in it, but do we have a chance of going all the way?

I will leave you with that thought…

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Porto preview. Can we gun down The Dragons?

February 17, 2010

Good morning Arsenal junkies, wherever you are!

Man, it has been really tough going all cold turkey after that nice rush of games being played every three days or so, no? Fear not, we are about to get our fix in the shape of the first game of the Champions League proper: we are on our way to Dragons’ lair, which is a tough place to go and the Fair Knights of North London (as opposed to a certain bunch of miscreants from down the road) will have their work cut out if they want to return with their shields and take a step closer to the elusive big eared footballistic equivalent of Holy Grail. Our quest begins here and it’s up to the folk in the shiny red and white armors to become heroes and legends –  lock and load Gunners, time to go medieval on them!

After a good result against Scousers, we are set for another moment of truth tonight – this will be a real test of maturity, mental strength and squad depth: once again, our squad seems decimated by injuries and there is some serious need for some of the underperforming players to step up and prove their worth to the club and ranks of doubting Thomases amongst the supporters. While I don’t mind seeing Sol starting in Billy’s place, I have my reservations about two positions where we have been notoriously understrength squad wise: after losing Song (knee) and Almunia (finger) we will have to make do with our second choice defensive midfielder and goalie who had a few stinkers recently and should play out of their skins to prove a point. They should consider themselves very lucky that Our Glorious Leader has patience of a saint, however, even this has to be wearing a bit thin these days as far as I am concerned. Frankly, I don’t think they will be allowed too many more lapses before Le Boss finally wields his axe – please don’t get me wrong, I am praying for both of them to soak up the pressure and play a blinder, but barring this uncertain occurence, these two may be the very reason for our undoing. Then again, as usual, I would like nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Moving on to the front three: with Arshavin out injured, I reckon we will see Bendtner in the middle partnered by Rosicky and Nasri in the wide forward positions. Well, at least this is who I would like to start: there are other options in the shape of Carlos and Theo, but I think they may be worth introducing later in the game against tired legs when they should put their main assets to a better use and tear them a new one. This team should have more than enough in their locker to score a crucial away goal or two and if we get this right, we may be able to gain some priceless advantage ahead of the return leg.

Just a small mention of yesterday’s games: as I said, barring some miracle, both visiting teams (ManYoo and Real) are pretty much as good as through, with the former scoring three away goals at San Siro and the latter losing by just one goal to Lyon. You will say that it will be enough for Milan to win by two clear goals and for Les Gones to hold the irritated Galacticos to a draw in two weeks time to progress, but you have to admit that it is much easier said than done…

Thank you for reading, let’s hope for some top-notch entertainment and good result tonight!

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Are you watching, first teamers?

February 16, 2010

Our Reserve League side managed to put Chelsea’s to the sword at Griffin Park last night. I did not get to watch the full highlights, let alone the full game (thanks again ATVO, their channel can show these games, care to explain why not ours?), but I have to give big thumbs up to JET and young Luke Freeman. The former danced through their defence twice, using his size and technique wisely to set up both goals, whereas the latter scored the first and calmly set up Giles Sunu to score the second goal after a huge deflection. Chelsea pulled one back immediately, but that was all they could do score wise – the game ended with Gunners win and it cemented their second position in the Reserve League South table.  According to the match report, Neil Banfield opted for playing 4-4-2 instead of 4-3-3 from the start and maybe, just  maybe, it could be a good idea for the first team against some when the other formation doesn’t work like it should – could this be the plan B we have been crying out for? There’s just one way to find out…

Champions League proper commences today with a bang – both today’s games should be quite interesting: we have the choice of AC Milan hosting ManYoo and the ‘new Galacticos’ travelling to Lyon.  I would like nothing more than both home teams winning, but I wouldn’t bet too much money on it, to be honest – AC Milan are nowhere near the force they used to be and Madrid will most probably be too much for Lyon to handle. Then again, you never know, do you? The beauty of football is that the games are never won on paper – if you need examples, look no further than numerous upsets we have witnessed in the domestic cup competitions: anything can happen as long as the team considered to be underdogs doesn’t walk out with damage limitation mentality. I will be watching the United game and cheer the Rossoneri to get one over our league rivals, as our chances of winning the damn thing will improve considerably without the other two British teams in the mix. Mind you, I am not counting our chickens as our game against Porto will not be a walk in the park either and I would consider a score draw a good result and a minimum requirement – anything less than that and it may be quite difficult for us to progress.

I will be back tomorrow with the Porto game preview as well as my thoughts on today’s clashes. Hasta la vista, muchachos y muchachas!

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Silence before the storm?

February 15, 2010

Rise & shine, everybody! We have gone through the weekend with no Arsenal game – just checked the fixture list and noticed it was the first since November when RvP went to play Italy in some poxy friendly and sustained an injury which practically ruled him out for the rest of season. Due to no football being played by the good guys in red, we have no new injuries to report. Well, we have a little problem with Song and AA, but there is hope that the former will feature against Porto in two days time, however, our little Russian will definitely not play there after picking up a hamstring problem.

There were a few interesting cup games to watch during the weekend, like So’ton v Pompey, where our former player, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie (currently on loan there from Spartak  Moscow) clocked up two assists and a brilliant, calmly taken goal in the emphatic win over their local rivals. It was the first South Coast derby for about 5 years – a few of my mates live in Southampton, I asked them if they were going and they just laughed: ‘Dude, it’s like trying to get a ticket to a CL Final or worse.’ I was told that Police was on full alert and ordinary, law abiding citizens were advised to refrain themselves from taking unnecessary walks in the parks and the like. In other games, Chelsea have obliterated Cardiff, Fulham put four past Notts County’s keeper, Brum defeated Derby and the other games played ended with scores level and require replays. To find out when the replays are due to take place as well as the quarter final pairs, click here.

It’s quiet. It’s too quiet. I am fully expecting fireworks in the coming two days with ManYoo playing AC Milan tomorrow and us playing Porto on the day after. This, with the other games played this week should give us some idea of what our chances of lifting the most coveted trophy in European football are. Obviously, there is the other lot of teams starting next week, but as long as we fare better than the other two British teams still in the competition, we are in with a chance…

Anyways, I am off to work – two more days, people! I am about to start new job in a few days time and I can’t wait, really. Not that I am a workaholic or something, but at least it’s something to look forward to. Have a nice day 😉

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Zzzzzz…

February 12, 2010

With the pressure off and no football to discuss in sight, traffic on blogs ground to a halt: after couple of months when we played a game every three to four days, making us wait for the next game the whole week seems to be a bit cruel if you ask me. This weekend, the league stops to accommodate FA Cup and Champions League  games – we travel to Portugal next Wednesday in the latter competition and it should be a hell of a game: in the hindsight, dropping out of the FA Cup looks like a blessing for allowing the players some rest before that, as our CL opponents will play a league game tomorrow. Yes, it’s only their league’s whipping boys, Leixões, but it is a game of football nevertheless and will hopefully leave their players a tiny bit less fit and rested ahead of the crucial first game of the knockout phase. As per usual, it’s a double edged sword: our next league opponents are coming to THOF on the back of eleven (yes, eleven, imagine that) days of rest since their trip to Pompey.

What do you call a forced break like this? Arseblog once coined the famous ‘interlull’ in respect of the intermissions caused by some irrelevant international games. Hmmm, none of these to be played, it’s the FA Cup this time. Cup-o-lull? Cuppa break? I’ll get my coat…

I guess this will be me done for today – I am changing jobs next week, today is one of the two days for me to do some boring stuff like servicing my car and the like. There is also a small matter of leaving do tonight…

Thank you for reading and have a nice day Gooners – off to save the world!

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Trophies. It’s all about trophies.

February 3, 2010

It’s just a stupid sports commercial. Or is it? Amongst the boasts and wishful thinking of others, Captain Fantastic tells us what we are in it for. Trophies. In case some of you forgot, it’s something that is being handed to the individual or team that goes right to the top, vanquishes whatever stands in the way and keeps the composure when it matters the most. Whenever a team does it, the fans go mental and that gives players the positive buzz as well. Winning stuff breeds winners, not winning squat and being also rans doesn’t. Yes, it’s that simple: it creates something called ‘winning culture’, where only 100% commitment is enough and failure is not tolerated.

Our Glorious Leader, after not delivering any silverware for a good few years still has the cheek to prioritise the trophies he wants to win – Carling Cup is for kids and FA Cup is just a nuisance. It seems like – once again – AW has his eyes firmly set on the Champions League and the Prem. Now don’t get me wrong: it’s really commendable to have ambition and aim high. Then again, is it realistic? The table doesn’t lie: we are 6 point off the top, we play leaders next and the show our boys managed on Sunday doesn’t exactly inspire confidence ahead of the short trip to Stamford Bridge, if you take their proud home record into consideration. However, now that we seem down and out with no one giving us a chance in hell, we may go there and win. Barring some ridiculously lucky draw, I wouldn’t count my chickens as far as putting our hands on the Ol’ Big Ears is concerned either. Not to mention that our next opponents may have other ideas too: Porto smashed Sporting 5:2 yesterday, just to let you know.

Carling Cup is referred to by some as ‘Mickey Mouse Cup’, ‘Milk Cup’, ‘Worthless Cup’ and the like. Try telling that to fans who belted out ‘We’re going to Wemberly’ after beating their respective opponents in the semis. Sticking to your principles is all fine and dandy, but how is letting our young  players getting spanked by Man City in the quarters beneficial to them in any way, shape or form? Sure, it should teach them humility and give them a benchmark to aim at, but it is also dangerous for their mentality: being played off the park and losing 3:0 is not good, no matter what sort of excuses you can come up with. Plus, if you effectively throw the game in the quarters, it doesn’t do the senior squad any good either as far as their belief in the manager and the like is concerned.

As for the other cup we have deliberately dropped out of, I think I have said enough in the post I wrote the other day. What needs to be pointed out is that our most prized asset and skipper asked AW to play in that fixture, clearly being the one who wanted to win it more than Arsene. ‘It’s all about trophies’, he says in the above commercial and you could be excused for thinking that he may start considering his options if we finish this season empty handed. Fighting for the Champions League existence in order to balance the books doesn’t sound too exciting when you are an exceptional young footballer with more realistic chance of winning stuff someplace else, it’s the pensioner’s job. Given that Cesc publicly voiced his opinion that reinforcements were absolutely necessary in order to compete (some will say it’s a poor attitude to have, I will say it’s honest), our manager’s lack of activity in the transfer market is baffling.

I am not a doom monger, just a very, very angry fan. Some will say it is not our divine right to demand trophies and I concur: it’s not, but demanding ambition, dedication and giving them all a damn good go certainly is…

Thank you for reading!