The wonder of you(th)?

May 6, 2009

Maybe. I’m not really sure what direction today’s post will take because in circumstances like these it would be very easy to over-react in one direction or the other. It’s gutting to go out of the competition, no doubt about it. However, I think that in times like these we need to focus on the positives.

 

The team have achieved much more this season than we ever thought they would. We all know that we should have signed defensive players in the summer, but we didn’t. So, having set out our stall for the season with a very young squad, it was always going to be a long, hard season. The team did get off to a shaky start, but from November they have been on a good run, Chelsea and ManUre games aside

 

We all know that our squad lacks experience and that had Arshavin been available we may have done better in the semi-final. But UEFA’s rules are a load of cock and the experience issue is something for the boss to analyse and address. One ray of hope is that this squad now has another season of football under its collectively young belt and therefore should be more able to handle the challenge of competing on all fronts next season. Whether or not this squad is capable of that is another thing, but you would have to look at a twenty-one game unbeaten run in the league as a sign that this team might, just might, be capable of something special given one or two top class new additions to the squad, along with perhaps selling and replacing one or two as well. Adebayor springs to mind on that one, but with Ancelotti probably leaving for Chelsea in the summer that move may not come to fruition. We can but hope.

 

I don’t think that you can blame youth for last night’s defeat. I believe that we were very unlucky for the first goal as it was a slip from Gibbs which allowed Park to get his shot off. I felt desperately sorry for the lad and he never fully recovered after it and was substituted at half-time.

 

The second goal came soon afterwards when the referee gave a soft free-kick against Van Persie for an alleged foul on Ronaldo. However, it was no foul and even the NY Times said that Ronaldo won the free-kick ‘artfully’. In other words, he is a despicable, cheating cunt. The resulting free-kick, from a good thirty-five or forty yards out really should have been dealt with and saved by Almunia. But, it wasn’t and we were two goals down within eleven minutes.

 

That left us with the most gargantuan of tasks and I defy any team to come back and score four goals against the calibre of a team like ManUre in the semi-final of the Champions League. It was never going to happen and the two early goals killed our young team off. Though we didn’t concede the two goals because of youth. It was a combination of misfortune, bad refereeing and some poor goalkeeping. I don’t think that any team would have come back after such a bright start only to be hit by two sucker punches in such quick succession. We should remember that we did start brightly and it was looking like we would really make a good fight of getting back into the tie. That’s what makes it all the more disappointing.

 

So, I don’t want to be overly-negative today because there is plenty of time for finger pointing and arguing later. Today we should stand behind our team, give them the backing and support that they need. In the summer, we can discuss what needs to be done to make the squad more capable of making a sustained and consistent challenge for silverware.

 

Despite ending yet another year without a trophy, I believe that we are not far away from becoming a force to be reckoned with yet again.

 

I hope that the slip by Gibbs won’t have too big of a psychological impact on him and that he can bounce back quickly from it. It wasn’t the lads fault and he has the potential to be a better player for us than Clichy.

 

The most disappointing part of the evening was the fact that Almunia let Ronaldo’s free-kick in. I mean, it was hit from miles out and it didn’t move all that much as it travelled through the air. He really should have gotten his hands on it and kept it out. Yes, Ronaldo struck it well but it came from almost forty yards out! After that went in, we had no chance.

 

The referee certainly did us no favours either. Though, that said, he was more of a cunt to Darren Fletcher when he sent him off for something which wasn’t anywhere near to being a red card offence. You have to feel sorry for him that there is no appeal process for a red card. Just awarding the penalty would have been sufficient. If it was someone as cuntish as Ronaldo, I would be delighted with the red card. But, for me, he is one of their less hateful and cuntish players. Anyway, that’s for ManUre to worry about.

 

The penalty that Van Persie took was fantastic and no keeper would ever have saved it. He rifled it into the top corner, to the keepers left. A great finish, but it was too little too late.

 

As it now stands, that is our two biggest games of the seasons, two semi-finals, where we have failed to really make a good fist of it. Is that down purely to a lack of experience or a lack of intelligence, graft and overall quality. You would have to think that it’s a combination of all of those factors. Experience can easily be bought, likewise quality. However, the players need to learn that they have to work their arses off every time they step onto the field wearing the Arsenal jersey. It’s not enough to simply turn up. They must work. This season we have had a few too many players that have not pulled their weight, most notably Diaby and Adebayor.

 

Adebayor hasn’t been at the races since getting his new contract. We’ve been over him before and I have stated many times that I hope he is sold in the summer and a suitable replacement brought in. A swap for David Villa would be nice.

 

The Diaby situation is more frustrating. He clearly has heaps of talent. He is also a big guy, so he should be able to use his strength and size to impose himself on the game. However, his work ethic is virtually non-existent and he strolls around the field like he is in a five-a-side in PE class. He clearly doesn’t have the aptitude for defending, which is a disgrace for someone of his strength and size. He can’t play out on the wing. So, that just leaves the advanced role that Cesc now operates in. This may be the only role for him in this team as he can’t do anything else. Well, whether or not it is he can’t or he won’t is the key question here. Right now, it seems to be more of a ‘he won’t’ problem, because I feel that he could do it if he adopted a different work ethic. So, maybe it all just comes down to laziness. If that’s the case, then he should go too. also, we have never gotten a fully fit season out of him so it may be time to cut our losses and sell a player that spends most of his time in the treatment room, we have enough of those already.

 

Yesterday’s result now leaves us with just three games to play this season, the first being at home to Chelsea this coming Sunday, away to ManUre Saturday 16th (a chance to extract revenge there) and finally home to Stoke on Sunday 24th.

 

Gunnerblog has a good summation of the situation here.

 

So, barring a Chelsea collapse, or season is done and maybe it’s time to give some more playing time to the likes of Ramsey and Vela. Perhaps Wilshere might get a look-in as a substitute, though more than likely he won’t feature again until pre-season.

 

Right, that’s it for today. Time for dinner.

 

Take it easy and keep the faith.

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The biggest of challenges for the biggest of occasions.

May 5, 2009

Today is the day that we play what is undoubtedly or biggest games since the Champions League final in 2006. There is no real need to say what this means to the fans, the players and the staff. We all know how big this game is. This is the first truly huge night of football to be played at the Emirates.

 

It’s going to be an early start in order to watch this one live, another 03:45 kick-off, but luckily tomorrow is a national holiday, so all is good.

 

Early team news indicates that both Silvestre and Van Persie will be fit, so I expect us to start in a 4-4-2 formation with Van Persie playing in attack alongside Adebayor. Let’s hope that having Van Persie alongside him again will inspire the Togolese to get his finger out and actually try working for the team for a change.

 

That should leave us starting with Walcott and Nasri out wide and Song partnering Cesc in the middle. At the back, I expect that the boss will play Sagna, Toure, Silvestre and Gibbs, though I really hope that Djourou starts in place of Silvestre. Obviously, Almunia will be in goal.

 

It’s important that we start this game with a positive formation as we need to go at them, without taking undue risk, because we don’t have a defence good enough to absorb any kind of real sustained pressure without conceding. I think we all know that it will be ‘game over ball burst’ if ManUre get an all-important away goal tonight. With that in mind, the players will need to use their heads and not take any big risks.

 

The boss can use the memory of Anfield 1989 to give the players the belief that they can achieve a two goal win over ManUre. Though if the game finishes 1-0 to us and then goes to penalties I would fancy us to go through after our shoot-out exploits against Roma earlier in the competition.

 

I an excited, nervous and terrified all at the same time and i must admit it’s a great feeling. These are the games that we wait/hope to see our team involved in each year and they don’t come much bigger than a Champions League semi-final against the holders at your home ground.

 

Alex Fergusmoan himself admits that this game is the biggest one between our two teams:

“There’s no question this is the biggest game. The challenges and the clashes we’ve had with Arsenal in the past do not reach the proportion of Tuesday night.”

 

Cesc has, yet again, pledged his future to the club and it’s great to hear. However, I think that we all know that, in this day and age, players can quickly change their minds, but until that happens it is great to hear. We all know he will return back to Barcelona someday, but let’s hope that it won’t be for a good many years yet.

 

“How many times have I said this. My future belongs to Arsenal and I want to be at Arsenal. I see my future here. I do not have to tell anyone to be relaxed or more confident that I am staying. My name has been linked with other clubs for four years and I am still here. That should tell you something. If I had not come to Arsenal when I was 16, I would probably not be playing in the semi-finals of the Champions League or have had the opportunity to play in a Champions League final [against Barcelona in 2006. I am really grateful to what Arsenal have done for me. Now, it is up to me and all the Arsenal players who were brought here when they were young to achieve things for the club that believed in us and the fans who supported us. It is up to us to pay them back. For most of the players it could be the most important games of their career. We want to make history and we want to go through.”

 

He’s the club captain and I hope that he will lift many trophies for us before his time in England is done. It’s good to hear him talk about the players owing the club a lot for making them the players that they are.

 

The boss is bullish about our chances tonight and I truly hope he is right. It would be amazing if this team were to reach the final our Europe’s premier competition.

 

“I’m very confident the team will produce a magnificent performance. We play at home, where we have a strong record in the Champions League. For many people we are super-outsiders but I personally believe we will do it. If I had said in November that we will be in the semi-finals of the Champions League and FA Cup and go 21 games unbeaten — as we have in the Premier League — you’d have called an ambulance! I feel very proud of this team because they have been through difficult periods and shown great mental strength. And they have faced much more adversity than all the other teams I have had here. The progress this team has made since the start of the season has been remarkable.”

 

I wouldn’t only disagree with one part of his statement and that is that it hasn’t so much been a progression since the start of the season as one since November 22nd after we suffered that humiliating defeat by Man City. No Arsenal fan, not even the most ardent would ever have predicted that we would secure fourth spot in the league with three games remaining but also reach the semi-finals of both the FA Cup and Champions League as well as having a decent Carling Cup run. So kudos must be given to all involved in the club for keeping their heads and turning things around.

 

To think that we have achieved this despite multiple long-term injuries and a shortage of quality players in defensive areas makes it all the more remarkable. Of course, we still need to improve and tweak the squad in the summer, but we should all be happy that this team has salvaged some pride and respect from a season that looked doomed to abject failure just six months ago.

 

The boss also tries admirably to defend Adebayor but to be honest it doesn’t really wash with me and it is clear to all that he needs to return to the kind of form that he showed for us last season.

 

“I can understand the criticism Adebayor got at United. But I watched carefully that game again and he put a lot more effort in, more than people think — and he was really isolated. We didn’t give him enough support on the night. He works hard in training, he’s focused and he wants to do well.”

 

Congratulations must go to the Arsenal ladies who defeated Sunderland ladies 2-1 to bring home yet another FA Cup for Vic Akers and the ladies. That’s thirty one trophies in twenty two years for Akers and the ladies. What a record!

 

In other news, Marc Overmars broke his leg in the last minute of a game at the weekend. Let’s hope that he makes a speedy and full recovery.

 

So, that’s about that. There are now twelve hours until kick-off and I will be looking into adjusting the angle of my TV so that I can watch the game from the comfort of the throne should things be going down to the wire. I have my lucky Cesc jersey sitting waiting to be worn. I would have it on right now, but i don’t want any of it’s lucky charms to wear off before kick-off.

 

One thing we must all remember is that if we progress tonight, we still have a lot of work to do before winning anything. Likewise, should we lose, we must strive to keep our heads and not lose the plot calling for the manager’s head. To achieve what we have this season and to have progressed so much since the end of November should constitute quite a successful season, all things considered. Twenty one games unbeaten in the league is quite an achievement and has been done largely unnoticed by the mass media, just the way I like it.

 

The performances of Cesc, Nasri, Walcott, Van Persie and Adebayor will be absolutely vital for our chances tonight. Let’s hope we get big performances from all.

 

Okay, time to go and stock up on toilet paper, snacks and ginger ale. No beer for me tonight. I want to remain focussed and able to aim my rage and hatred in a more controlled way at Ronaldo and co.

 

‘til tomorrow. Let’s hope we get the performance that we all crave tonight. I would love a 3-1 to the Arsenal with our third goal coming in the 5th minute of injury time due to a deflection off Ronaldo. That would be sweet. But, any victory that would put us through will do.

 

Come on you REEEEEEEEEEEDS!!!!!!!!!