Posts Tagged ‘FA Cup’

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Celebratory pottery smashing? You betcha!

May 8, 2011

First and foremost, Happy St Totteringham’s Day!

Virtual and real champagne corks are popping, laughs are being shared, 4th (or better) place trophy is once again secured and it’s not like we are going to be all mature about it, if all that comes with the additional buzz of Schadenfreude at the expense of that lot from the wrong end of Seven Sisters Road, is it? Hopefully, all that mouthing off has now been curbed until at least mid summer, when we will once again hear about how we will be upstaged by that North London superpower with their new shirt sponsor. Up yours, Sp*ds!

All the tribalism stuff aside, I would like to take this occasion to wish their Welshman a speedy recovery from the injury of yet unknown extent inflicted upon him by a rash tackle committed by Blackpool’s bad boy Charlie Adam who is apparently second in the bookings league and fourth in the fouling charts this season. Taking today’s game into the consideration, these wishes could not be any more timely: when our last week’s hero, Aaron Ramsey got his leg broken by another ‘honest lad without a bad bone in his body’ the reactions from the neighbouring camp were mostly sympathetic, some were anything but, however, we are a classy outfit and we should rise above the latter to reciprocate the former. Get well soon, monkey boy!

Speaking of primates, we have a particularly nasty lot to negotiate today and I don’t think there is any need to remind anyone what happened last time we travelled to Britannia Stadium, is there? I had my say on the subject last year and I don’t think there is much of a need for me to repeat myself. It’s a real shame that Stoke are currently on 43 points and there is no way for them to get relegated, as since Allardyce was sent on the dole where he rightfully belongs, they are about the last team in this league playing clueless neanderthal football with their players being the team sports’ answer to the missing link in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution: stuck somewhere in the middle, being too ‘tough’ for the civilised football league and too wimpy to play rugby. We should consider ourselves lucky that they happen to play in the FA Cup final next weekend, as they would probably kick the living shit out of us otherwise, still, a lot will depend on how much they will be allowed by the man in black, Mr Mark Halsey, as they are sure to give their usual ‘tactics’ a try. An early booking or two should cool a few heads there!

Team photo. Say cheese, Ryan!

After the last weekend’s win over Yoonited where Ramsey scored the only goal of the game, Our Glorious Leader seems to think that striking the iron while it’s hot is the way forward and that it will do him a world of good to return to the scene of the crime at the earliest opportunity. For once, you will not find me disagreeing him and as far as I am concerned, it’s actually good to see AW not cotton-wooling a player on this occasion – here is to hoping that this trend will now continue and be applied to each and every ‘member of staff’ at the long last! Make no mistake, Rambo is in for a real baptism of fire today, as if the stuff I read on Tw*tter over the last few days is anything to go by, their fans don’t seem to have enough decency to appreciate a top player returning from career-threatening injury inflicted by one of their own and are willing to support this clogger who is due to play his 150th game for them by booing our man instead. What a classy bunch they are, you really could not make it up.

Both teams have a few players missing, I think we can be pretty happy with their striker, Ricardo Fuller being out, as he seems to have a knack for scoring against us. If you are to believe Orbinho like I do, he managed to put four goals past our goalkeepers in as many outings, therefore him being out of the picture can only be a good thing. As far as our first choice personnel goes, we have Fabregas  and Nasri definitely out with Djourou and Clichy said to be facing late fitness tests, which means that we may see Gibbs and Squillaci in the back four, as I don’t think AW will risk playing recently recovered Vermaelen in today’s game. There are some rumours and conspiracy theories doing rounds about a few of these players being out of the picture, but let us focus on two games we are about to witness today and leave that stuff for the post which will go up in the near future. I know I have promised to touch on that subject and I am a man of my word, you better be ready for theories mad enough to make Mel Gibson’s Jerry Fletcher blush and eat his tin foil hat!

I would not expect any other unusual inclusions or players being rested as the idea is to maintain our good record against them and take all three points ahead of the two teams above us in the table meeting just after we finish our business with them Potters. I would not mind a whole lot if the later game was to end up with a mass brawl, flurry of red cards and point deductions, failing that, with a draw or a Chelsea win. Pretty please, St Totteringham? I was a good boy the whole season, you know? Amen.

Come on you rip roaring Reds!

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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!

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Angry ramblings of a lunatic.

January 25, 2010

Well, it was certainly not what one would expect or hope to see on Sunday afternoon on the national TV, was it? It is really hard for me to draw positives from this game, as it left me with the sense of déjà vu – I mean, how many times did we see our players making plenty of misplaced passes, getting brushed off the ball all too easily and being unable to produce an answer to what a well organised, sturdy side had to offer on the day? How many times we witnessed the team caught sleeping and making it difficult for themselves? Yes, I do appreciate that it was practically our reserve side, but Our Glorious Leader promised to field a side that would have a good chance of winning the game and progressing to the next round, didn’t he?

Just one of these days, some will say. Others will blame the shit pitch, opposition set out to defend, trying to hit us on the break and the like. I will simply say that we were not good enough. You could excuse the debutants and youth players for being a little shaky, but how do you excuse another poor performance from the full internationals like Theo and Vela? ‘Oh, give Theo a break, he is just back from injury’ Yadda, yadda, yadda – he is paid more in a week than the majority of us in a year and you would think that his job description must include tasks like being able to do a little more than run at fullbacks just to bounce off them to land on his arse, misplace passes and show no footballing intelligence whatsoever. Young man, based on yesterday’s performance, surprisingly impressive Sol Campbell is closer to getting a place in the World Cup squad than you are and it is time for you to step up and produce, as long as you give a toss, that is. There were so many below par individual performances that I will just mention the three players that came away with any credit, namely the aforementioned Campbell, young Eastmond and Cesc. The rest should hang their heads in shame, then take a long, close look at the match video and proceed to work their nuts off in training to eradicate their own shortcomings.

I am absolutely livid – it’s ridiculous that we conceded the first goal just after 70 seconds as a result of one of these long throw-ins. Come on, did we really have to shoot ourselves in the foot like this? Questions must be asked about our No.2’s awareness in that situation – this was just so much like him, wasn’t it? Now don’t get me wrong: I really want him to do well, and he may become a great keeper, given enough time, but he has a long way to go and we should let him make these costly mistakes somewhere else. If I had any influence on the player purchases, he would never get anywhere near our club – I can only say that we have decided to loan out the wrong Pole and the Bees must be laughing. Someone said yesterday that funnily enough we have loaned out the only world-class keeper we have and kept the three that just don’t cut it for one reason or another. Strange that.

After producing precisely nothing, we equalised in the 41st minute, thanks to a cleverly played freekick – instead of having a pop, Cesc rolled the ball on the ground towards Denilson who duly dispatched the shot, which took a deflection or two and ended up in the net. We have gone off at the half time with the scores level and again, the scoreline probably saved our players from Le Hairdryer.

Both teams seemed to have gone out for the second half with intention to get it over and done with on the day – each team had own reasons for this: we needed another fixture like a hole in the head, while they must have been aware that it will be much tougher for them to get a result at THOF. Frankly, it was them who seemed more likely to nick it and we really looked like we were banging our heads against the wall. Cue the triple substitution with AA, Dudu and Ramsey replacing Coquelin, JET and the woeful Walcott. While the first two didn’t impress, they have been thrown to the lions by AW, honestly – tough away Cup tie in a practically reserve team is not where you want to bleed the youngsters with little or no first team experience, is it? And don’t get me started on Walcott, it should be enough to say that he was shocking – again!

Injection of talent resulted in us stretching their defence a little more and all was going reasonably well until Ramsey must have thought that it is better to go for the Hollywood pass rather than keep it simple. Needless to say, we have lost the ball, and Sidibe received a pass to run half the length of the pitch unchallenged by Denilson who just ran next to him, then backed off after seeing that he would not match his pace if he tried. The Malian ran and was allowed a pin point cross for Fuller to head in his second goal. I am sure Theo could do well with taking a leaf out of Sidibe’s book on this one: this is how you run, beat your man using your pace and cross the ball – not too hard, is it? I will not even go into the subject of Denilson not being the answer to our defensive midfield worries: it should be enough to say that if you cannot outrun or successfully challenge a player of Sidibe’s class, being the defensive midfielder, then you should not be at this club, period. Yes, Traore left acres of space, but since he wasn’t there, one would expect a player who is plugging the gap to do more than just have a little jog (yes, I know he tried to run, but he is so frustratingly slow that he makes Song look like Usain Bolt) and watch helplessly as the ball was crossed and headed in past the hapless Fabianski. Given how dire we looked until that moment, scoring two goals needed to progress in the time left was probably too much to ask. I mean, we managed two (yes, two) shots on target in the whole game. The third goal was just icing on their cake if you ask me. Tuncay’s handball spared us further blushes and the game couldn’t end soon enough. Stoke fans rubbed the salt into our travelling supporters’ wounds and no one can blame them, really.

Thank you for reading, I will be back tomorrow with my views on this squad’s deficiencies and our chances to get our hands on the silverware this season. Potters’ debacle leaves us with just two pots to compete for, the competition is as tough as it gets, we are short in a few areas and the final week of the transfer window should be put to a good use.

Grrrrrr…

Whoosah… Whoosah…

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Can we pot The Potters after we’ve trotted over The Trotters?

January 24, 2010

Today we play Stoke City in the 4th Round of the FA Cup.  As far as I am concerned, it is absolutely crucial to get a positive result in order to maintain momentum, which we managed to gather since that infamous Chelsea defeat when we found ourselves 11 points off the pace, the smug journos entered the ‘We told you so’ mode and no one gave us a chance in hell to mount a realistic challenge for the Premier League title or any other trophy for that matter. Some may say it should not make any difference whether we win or lose this game, but I beg to differ: in my humble opinion, there is more to it than just a game won or lost – if we lose, we will be out of contention for another trophy and the mentality of the entire squad may suffer big time. A draw is no good for us either, given that reverse fixture would have to be played sometime in between the big clashes just ahead of us, taking into the account that 5th round games are scheduled just three days after we play Liverpool at home.

Having just watched both the press conference and AW’s pre-Stoke exclusive on ATVO, I am none the wiser – classic Arsene: a lot of talk about putting out the team with a good chance of winning the game and the usual Wengerisms referring to quality and mental strength. This man really loves keeping cards close to his chest, doesn’t he? All we could find out from watching this is who will definitely not play due to injuries and being rested: Diaby, Sagna and Mérida are out of the equation, having suffered in the recent Shitkickers double header. On the positive side, we are to welcome back Wilshere and Ramsey is back in training as well as B52. While Jackie Boy is quite likely to feature, I wouldn’t hold too much hope for the other two, with the make or break period just around the corner.

Our Glorious Leader said he was going to use the squad and that means wholesale changes in layman’s terms: it’s not really hard to guess that Fabianski will take the position between the sticks for this one, but it will be quite interesting to see who will be played right ahead of him – my money is on Sol & Sly CB pairing, with the former possibly being replaced by Bartley later in the game, as I have my doubts if Sulzeer has enough in his tank to last the whole 90 minutes in the tough away cup tie. I would think Gael will get a runout in the left back position to allow him some game time to tune up a little bit. Right back and defensive midfielder positions will probably be shared between young Coquelin and Eastmond respectively. Further up the pitch, we should see JET to provide some physical presence partnered by Wilshere and the front three should consist of Vela, Eduardo and Theo. I am expecting a few big guns sitting on the bench, but introduced only if it is absolutely necessary, as I don’t think anyone would like to see them being risked, bearing in mind that we have a bigger fish to fry.

According to BBC Sport website, Tony Pulis has a whole different kind of selection headache, having everyone fit and available, Rory ‘Towel Boy’ Delap who is expected to recover from a knock alongside Faye included. Add this to the hostile atmosphere mentioned in yesterday’s post and it can be assumed that it will be far from easy, given that we are likely to field a side just slightly stronger than our usual Mickey Mouse Cup XI. AW pointed out to the fact that these kids have enough experience – fair enough, he fielded a similar side in the last Champions League group game and we looked the better team and should have won.

But hey, you just never know, do you? To quote the great late Kazimierz Górski: ‘The ball is round and there are two goals’ – these are the only two things certain in football and that is what makes it so entertaining. Just ask Spuds held to a draw yesterday by the might of Leeds – Beckford, you are an absolute legend! When the time comes, I will sit in front of my TV to cheer for whoever gets a runout for Good Old Arsenal…

Thank you for reading – COYRRNATG!!! 😆

P.S. Check out this article on the Daily Mail website, written by Gary Lineker of all people. Good read!

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Victory over The Hammers lines us up against The Potters

January 4, 2010

Phew, that was a bit of a nervy affair wasn’t it? For over 60 minutes until the double substitution we huffed and puffed but could not break down well organised, hard working Hammers and if that wasn’t for introduction of impressive Diaby and Nasri, we would probably find it very hard to get anything out of this game after they managed to beat our one man offside trap and put one past exposed Fabianski. Something tells me our Polish goalie will not have Sly on his Christmas card list after getting exposed again in a FA Cup tie!

Yesterday I said it would be curious to see what sort of team will be selected to take on West Ham in the FA Cup 3rd round game. There was quite lot of heated discussions on whether we do or we don’t care enough about this particular competition, which might have lost a bit of its old glamour, but still brings plenty of joy to football fans and is capable of giving us one or two romantic moments. Yesterday certainly brought one of these in the shape of once mighty Leeds United currently languishing in League One giving the Ol’ Red Nose’s team a bloody nose: SAF complaining about not enough injury time added on – priceless. What goes around comes around, Sir. It’s called karma and she’s a bitch 😆

The lineup suggested we were dead serious about progressing to the next round – the only ‘irregularity’ in the back four was Silvestre who surprisingly captained the mostly senior side and played in the left back position. The fact of players like Gallas not getting rest was quite unexpected, all things considered: we play Bolton on Wednesday, I guess AW must think out defence will not have their work cut out against them, since they are normally the ones who come to Emirates to frustrate us by keeping 10 men behind the ball and counting on occasional break.

In the midfield we saw Merida given a rare start beside Song and Ramsey. As much as I like the fella, this must have been one of his worst games for Arsenal – he had a real mare with plenty of misplaced passes and  poor set pieces, which resulted in AW putting him out of his misery to replace him with in-form Diaby. I have guessed our front three right, but for some reason Eduardo started on the left with Vela in the middle and Jackie Boy taking the spot on the right. A word on our little prodigy – I seriously hope he will get a loan move soon, as he has gone off the boil a little due to lack of playing time against the real opposition. Yesterday he looked like he needs it badly after being promoted to the senior squad where he is not getting anywhere near the amount of minutes he played last season while he was very much a part of our successful youth setup. Like Merida, he was substituted in the 65th minute and this is when we started fighting back with some real bite.

Until then, we did not do a lot, did we? Yes, we dominated the proceedings in the first half, but did not offer any serious threat to Green’s goal – a few tame shots, most of them straight at their keeper, a string of very ineffective corners and in the dying minutes, just as the commentary said something regarding WHU being ‘reasonably happy’ about being level at the break, it turned out that they had other ideas. Conceding a goal right before the whistle is always a blow and this one was no different – they seemed to have come out flying in the second half and seemed hell-bent on killing the game off. For the best part of first 20 minutes in the second half they looked the better team and it did not look like we had the answers. This piece from club website says it all:

Nasri and Diaby are both warming up, do Arsenal need to change things here? If I’m honest West Ham look more likely to score the next goal in this game.

Cue the aforementioned double substitution and inspired comeback – all of the sudden things started clicking and we finally looked like we were right in it: our movement and passing began to be more accurate and purposeful and their players started resorting to some ol’ time wasting antics, which left our travelling fans and AW unimpressed. One of these was Green after being forced to make a double save from Diaby and Song who was impressive again and will be sorely missed during the ACN.

Whilst their idea in doing this was to try and  break our stride, it was only enough to delay the inevitable. They say the cream always rises to the top, and this time was no different – just six minutes later we finally managed to break them down. Vela received Song’s pass on the edge of the WHU box and fed Ramsey who hit it with power and venom past hapless Green. Second sweet strike in as many games with his ‘weaker’ foot and another MOTM award – this guy will be something else. We got the winning goal just five minutes later when Vela crossed into the box for Eduardo to somehow outjump nearly three inches taller Upson and head the ball into the top corner. Green might have just got his fingertips to it, but it wasn’t enough and sparked ‘England’s,  England’s number six’  chants from jubilant Gooners seated behind his goal. He got beaten by Vela one more time, only for Daprela to clear it off the line. There were a few more good efforts by Dudu and Ramsey with the former putting the smart header over the bar and the latter seeing his late blast saved by the Englishman.

Subsequent 4th Round draw paired us with Stoke City at Britannia Stadium. This may be an interesting one, with vital fixtures coming thick and fast right afterwards. A lot will depend on our injury situation as well as on what kind of new signings we will or will not get before then. More on the latter tomorrow. Thank you for reading 😉