Arsenal 0-0 Man City Boring, Boring City

(They bored me so much I can't even find the enthusiasm to think of a better headline)

Well I wanted to do a blog about tonight’s game, and that’s why you’re reading this I guess. But I actually find myself just wanting to talk about Man City rather than Arsenal.

The astonishing lack of ambition from a team costing upwards of £500 million pounds leaves me with plenty to say, mainly about their general reason for existence, or lack of. They were a fucking disgrace to be honest, but I really don’t care enough to dedicate a blog to all that is wrong with a team like that.

From an Arsenal point of view there are certainly no complaints from me. We really went for it, took the game to them right from the start, created chance after chance, dominated play, worked extremely hard, and did everything BUT score really.

And well, y’know sometimes it just doesn’t go for you. Especially when playing against the most expensively assembled wall in the history of mankind. I’m sure bricks and cement could have been found cheaper elsewhere, but hey, when money is no object I guess some people just don’t care.

Against a £500 million 11 player defence you probably need a little bit of luck to help you through. That deserted us tonight. And when that happens, what can you do?

We showed once again we’re a force to be reckoned with, we showed once again we can no longer be out muscled, and once again we kept a clean sheet – that’s two on the bounce now. Impenetrable.

It’s utterly disappointing we didn’t win, that would have been a massive result, but I’m happy to say it wasn’t for a lack of trying. I’m really proud of our performance actually. Everyone worked their arses off and played their part (ahem, substitutes not included) and it just wasn’t to be.

I feel sorry for city fans to be honest. What an opportunity there is for them to do something really special, and then they serve up that complete and utter dross. Bring back Brian Horton.

If I get the time before the Leeds game I will try and post some more in depth thoughts, but in the meantime I will leave you with this hastily put together advert for a new film coming to a Manchester cinema soon…


Wigan 2-2 Arsenal Start, stop, start stop... start?

Well, this team just won’t take off will it? Supposedly fuelled by confidence and enthusiasm following the impressive win over Chelsea, we then went and stuttered and spluttered our way to a disappointing draw at the WD40 Stadium. 

Just when you thought we’d turned a corner, ready to build up a little momentum across a couple of games you’d expect title challengers to win, we grind to a halt, again. It’s like we’re learner drivers kangarooing our way through the season. Getting going, then stopping and stalling, getting going, stopping and stalling.

If I dressed like a prick at home, and my lounge resembled a dour police interrogation room, I may well have looked a little like this last night…

And I’m sure I’m not the only Gooner who felt that way as the game unfolded on our grainy streams. Frustration doesn’t begin to describe it.

I guess we’ll first look at the controversial team selection, because boy is Wenger getting some stick for it.

Eight changes were made from the team that beat Chelsea so convincingly. Yes it was a lot, but I was happy enough with the shake-up personally. Every player was there for a reason and they were hardly kids he put out.

Arshavin and Chamakh are regular starters anyway, you can’t argue with Bendtner’s contribution to the game, Djourou is being understandably protected after so long out of football, Wilshere has played far more minutes than anticipated and that he probably should have at his age, Fabregas missing out was an enforced change… every player on that pitch was good enough to get a win at the KY Jelly Stadium.

And what’s more, you’d have expected those who didn’t play against Chelsea to be so pissed off that they missed out on all that elation and praise, that they would work their arse off for recognition of their own against Wigan. It’s not the team selection’s fault that didn’t happen.

If Wenger had played the same team as Chelsea and we’d have got the same result last night, people would probably have lambasted him for not changing things, having just given our all in a high tempo game only 48 hours earlier. He can’t win.

I guess you could argue there’s a happy medium, but c’mon, that team was more than capable of winning the game. Our strength in depth has been lauded over the last week or so, but what’s the point if we can’t use it? No, for me the result was down to our lack of focus in defence, not the team selection. It was ridiculous for us to switch off there, yet so typical. Squillaci, who has been a regular starter too don't forget, just wasn't goal-side of his man throughout the whole corner. Which is why he was facing his own goal when the ball came back over and subsequently headed it in. I'm sorry Seb but that is basic, basic defending.

We can complain about the refereeing decisions too, and they were criminal – a penalty for a DIVE from N’zogbia OUTSIDE the box, no penalty for a trip on Theo, no penalty for a handball from Nasri’s free kick – but the real crime was conceding from the corner. Especially being in the lead at 2-1 and having seen Wigan reduced to 10 men just moments before. But it’s a crime of which we happen to be serial offenders, I’m afraid.

Arsene Wenger touched on this in his post-match interview:

“…it looks nobody takes charge on the organisation... and we need to communicate better”

Now, many fans’ response to that has been along the lines of “Well that’s your job”, “Get a bloody defensive coach in then” “Try practising it in training” etc. Which are all valid points. But the truth is that we don’t really know what goes on in training, and whatever does happen at Colney, Wenger can’t hold the players hands when they are on the pitch. I think he expects the likes of Squillaci (a very experienced defender) and our goalkeeper (it’s his job) to talk and organise the defence on the pitch, and feels very let down when they obviously don’t.

What he needs to do rather bloody quickly is address why people aren't organising, or get in the personnel who can.

In terms of individual performances, no one really stood out apart from Arshavin and Bendtner. And by stand out I don’t mean played extremely well in Arshavin’s case. He was the enigma we have come to loath love(?), doing absolutely nothing for most of the first half before sparking into life with an amazing side-volley finish for our first goal, followed by a penetrative run and assist for Bendtner on our second goal. He then went back into his own little world in the second half. His job was obviously done.

Bendtner I thought played well. An assist and a goal away from home can’t be sniffed at, and he seemed more dangerous than Chamakh for most of the night.

So, frustrating again, not just because of momentum lost, not just because we actually got ourselves into a winning position after an early set back, but because once AGAIN we haven’t capitalised on teams around us dropping points, in this case Man Utd. They won’t keep fucking up forever, and we need to make them pay for it now by not fucking up ourselves.

That said, I don’t think this was the massive fuck up many are making it out to be. Just a little fuck up. And little fuck ups can be overcome as long as they are not followed by bigger fuck ups, or even a succession of little fuck ups. But the best is to just not fuck up at all. And that's something we really need to work on!

I will end on a quote from Roberto Martinez:

"I would have preferred to play against the team that played against Chelsea and it would have been practically impossible for them to have recovered."

Quite so.

Heads up Gooners, 3 points against Birmingham and we’ll (mostly) be happy again.

C’mon you Reds!


Arsenal 3-1 Chelsea "That's the way to do it!"

Recent games against Chelsea have resembled the painful monotony of a freaky Punch and Judy seaside show.

They’ve been painfully repetitive, painful to sit through, and have consisted of us taking a painful Punch and Judy-like stick battering for 90 minutes at the hands of hideous looking, disfigured characters.

And whilst we can’t wait for each show to be over, there are always some other strange folk (Chelsea fans) sitting there enjoying it far too much, egging on these most dismal of performances.

So it seems rather fitting that this morning I use the famous line from the Punch and Judy shows to describe last night’s Arsenal performance… “That’s the way to do it!”

Because last night was, without doubt, the way this Arsenal team can achieve success this season.

The ‘way’ is adding hard work, fight and desire to our obvious technical ability and skill. The ‘way’ is pressing all over the pitch, hassling, harrying, snapping into tackles and chasing back. The ‘way’ is wanting it more then our opponents.

From the first whistle to the last, we simply wanted it more than Chelsea, and it makes a world of difference.

The starting XI threw up a few surprises, which we can now look back on as inspired selections from Arsene.

Robin van Persie was preferred to Chamakh when I thought maybe both would play. Robin’s more subtle skill and aggressive edge is just what we need in games like this, especially against cunning, sly and dirty tactics from players like John Terry.

And it was Robin’s fight that set up our second goal. He showed for the ball, was pulled down/slipped, but got straight back up again and tried to battle his way through three Chelsea players. The resulting tackle put the ball through for Theo to latch onto.

An extra aggression is something Robin definitely has over Chamakh, and it would be nice to see the Moroccan develop a tougher edge to really complete him as a player. That’s no big criticism of our new striker by the way, just an observation. And to balance it out, I also observed a decent amount of crosses and balls into the box that Chamakh might have done better with than RVP did. How great it is to have both options.

Theo Walcott came in for Arshavin, and I personally think this switch was key. Ashley Cole has caused us considerable problems in recent games, getting a number of assists by bombing down that left side. Yet with Theo on, the odious little prick hardly dared to venture further than the half way line, and this cut off a very dangerous threat from Chelsea.

The thing with Theo is that he is a threat even when he’s not playing that well. In the first half he didn’t seem to do too much that was exceptional. There were no trademark searing runs, yet he was still giving Cashley a torrid time. Sometimes he bundled his way past, sometimes he drew the foul, and sometimes he simply won us a corner or throw-in high up the pitch. Either way he kept Cashley pinned back, and Arsenal on the front foot.

And when Theo had the opportunity to really hurt Chelsea in the second half he did so in devastating fashion. He assisted Cesc’s goal and finished sublimely for his own. It’s clinical moments like those that demonstrate this season’s improvement. His finish really was very well executed, his pass for Cesc perfectly timed and unselfish.

The other change to the team that might have raised a few eyebrows was bringing Djourou in for Squillaci. The surprise wasn’t that Djourou played, but that he replaced Seb and not Koscielny. It worked though. Djourou shackled Drogba with apparent ease, and Koscielny was solid enough apart from Chelsea’s goal, when he didn’t challenge Ivanovic for the header. Criticism for Fabianski, by the way, I find well off the mark. The blame must fall on Koscielny who was under the ball but didn’t challenge, he simply switched off. But let’s not dwell on that.

The team as a whole defended very well, and Fabianksi hardly had a thing to do. As I just mentioned, Drogba was a passenger in the game apart from one shot he put wide – as much a testament to our centre backs, especially Djourou, as it was to Drogba just being off the boil.

But the defending further up the pitch made a real difference. Song had his best game of the season, getting the balance between defence and attack just right. He was in the right place at the right time most of the time, putting in important tackles, making interceptions and, obviously, scoring our opening goal. He really was immense, and would have been without his goal too. I just hope he learns from the sort of game he played last night, and doesn’t see his crucial goal as vindication for continuing to go forward. It’s all about balance and decision making, and last night he was spot on.

Song was ably supported of course by Cesc and Wilshere. The three of them buzzed around the pitch all game, breaking up play, keeping possession and making Fat Frank look as old and fat as he is whilst making Essien look, well, a bit like Fat Frank really.

The midfield was excellent last night, they really were. Cesc still wasn’t at the top of his game, but he’s getting there, and made a devastating contribution to the game anyhow.

And it was with much pride that we watched young Jack still running around at the end of the game controlling things when older, more experienced players had been replaced around him.

Timing is all-important in these big games, and last night the timing of our first goal showed why. Too many times in the past we’ve conceded just before half-time, leaving us with a second half of trying to break down 11 players to contend with. Last night you could see the difference going into half time with a lead makes. We had more space in the second half to play our own game, and we capitalised on that.

In the end we could have had a lot more than the three goals. Nasri, a little quieter than usual but effective nonetheless, tried a delicious chip that Cech only just got his hands to. He then had an even better chance to extend our lead when he found himself one and one with Cech, but his flick past the keeper didn’t quite come off. A little later in the game Diaby, on for Theo, was put through only to dally and shoot with his right when a left foot strike would have surely been a goal. The time it took for him to adjust was enough for Terry to make the block. But three goals were enough to give us this much needed and important victory, and boy does it feel good this morning!

It does make you wonder a little why we didn’t play with the same verve and desire against M*n *td, when it is obviously within our capabilities. But what’s important now I guess is not looking back, but looking forward.

What does this result actually mean? Is the so-called ‘mental barrier’ really broken? Have we turned a corner against the ‘big’ teams?  Have our boys really become men? Can we now push on and put together the long winning streak needed to put the title firmly in our grasp?

Right now it feels like the answer to all of those is a resounding ‘Yes!’ But all will be undone if we fail to perform against Wigan, Birmingham and Manchester City over the next few days.

One hurdle has been cleared, now plenty more lie in wait. But if we play like we did last night there’s every reason to feel extremely confident.

Last night we really wanted it. And having that desire, working as hard as we did against Chelsea all over the pitch, is the key to success this season – so let’s hope it continues.

Now, I want you to watch one passage of play from the highlights here (thanks to

Well, enjoy it all over and over again of course, but in particular pay extra attention from 10:40 onwards.

Watch Nasri working to close down Kakuta in the full back position, watch him put in the block, then watch Cesc stretch every limb to reach the loose ball and get it under control, ready for Song to start off the counter attack. And then watch who has ran the full length of the pitch to be on the end of the counter attack for a goal scoring opportunity, having made the initial block. That’s the work rate and desire that makes a difference. Altogether now…

“That’s the way to do it!”


Dubious omens point to no post-Christmas blues

Okay, just a quick post before tonight’s game.

First of all let me wish you all a slightly belated very Merry Christmas. Apologies for the lateness, only I was abroad for Christmas and drinking copious amounts of Belgian beer took precedence over finding a computer to write a blog on. I’m sure you’ll all understand. Although those lucky people following me on Twitter did receive their season’s greetings on the day. So if you feel left out, why not get involved and follow me here.

Anyway, onto tonight’s colossal tussle with Chelsea. You don’t need me to tell you the importance of the game, you don’t need Arsene to tell you the importance of the game, and you certainly don’t need Alan scar-head-fucking Hansen to tell you the importance of the game.

We know what it’s all about, we know the different implications of a win or loss, and we know just what we have to do (win, obviously). I care not for all the talk today, we just need to go out and show on the pitch that we know how important this game is. Go and show that everything our players and manager say in the press is also said in the changing rooms, only ten times louder and with ten times more meaning and aggression and ten times more belief.

In terms of team news, there are actually some very difficult decisions to be made by Arsene today.

Cesc and RVP are back, and should be two weeks’ fitter and sharper than their disappointing outings at Old Trafford. Cesc will no doubt start but what about Robin? Arsene hinted towards a bit of fatigue for Chamakh, which suggest Robin might get the nod up front, but then the Moroccan has now had a nice rest after the Stoke game was postponed. It’s a tough one.

Maybe Robin will play out wide to accommodate them both, meaning Arshavin might get dropped to the bench. That too is a tough one. You certainly need more work rate against Chelsea than he offers, but then you might also need that bit of magic he also provides. I’m glad it’s not me picking the team.

Just to make things even more difficult, Diaby is fit again and ready to start. His height and power would certainly be useful, but there are also times when can be accused of a lazy approach to the game a little like our little Russian. Plus of course, there’s a big difference between being fit and being match fit. I’d be surprised if he started to be honest.

Fabianksi returns to potentially displace Szczesny in goal. That would be understandable but also a little harsh on the younger of the Poles. He was great against M*n *td, and only a postponed game against Stoke stopped him from having another chance to prove himself as the No.1. He must have been gutted that game was called off, but his chance will come again no doubt.

The other question mark would be whether to play Djourou or Koscielny. I’d plump for Djourou. As much as I like the look of Koscielny at times, the Swiss has impressed me more this season after getting over a difficult start. Like the argument for Diaby’s inclusion, his added height will certainly help against Chelsea.

So lot’s of really difficult decisions to be made, but hey – let’s not complain. When was the last time we had such a full squad to choose from? It’s great. Although slightly ironic that the one player we miss the most, Vermaelen, is one of the few still out.

It’s up to Arsene to get the decisions right today though –  so good luck with that boss!

I’d like to tell you I’ve got a hunch about tonight’s game, but my hunches are wildly inconsistent, or just plain wrong – so I will keep it to myself!

I will go with some omens though – the first one being a dream…

Yep. Christmas Day night I dreamt Arsenal won 2-1, with Nicklas Bendtner scoring a very controversial winner.

We were playing Everton, so the relevance to tonight’s game is questionable (if a dream has any relevance at all!), but I’m going with it. As Tim Howard went to kick the ball out of his hands, Super Nic bravely nipped in and headed the ball away from Timmy’s hands and slotted it into the goal. It caused mayhem, but the goal stood. And I’m clinging onto that as my first omen for tonight. Bendtner, or someone in red and white, will score a controversial winner! You read it here first.

The second omen sees us return to Twitter. Today is a great day in that Robin Van Persie has joined up. Welcome @Persie_Official

Now, it would be extremely stupid to join Twitter on the day of such a big game. Imagine the abuse he will receive from idiot fans should we lose. That is no way to spend your first day on Twitter.

Therefore Robin must know something we don’t about tonight’s match. He must be super confident we will win, and that he will score, and has therefore joined Twitter today to lap up all the praise that will surely come his way after 10pm tonight. That is the only explanation for him coming on board today, and that is a good enough omen for me that we will triumph tonight.

Seriously though, the last time we played Chelski they were already being paraded as champions after a decent start to the campaign. A lucky Drogba flick and a free-kick were the small margins that separated us.

This time Chelsea are struggling for form, we are near to full strength, and the luck might just be on our side instead.

The game kicks off in 8 hours and it’s time to believe people.

Let the build-up commence…


Turning the Barcelona tie on its head

In the absence of any Arsenal-related football this weekend, I’ve had the time to reflect further on last week’s Champions League draw. A draw that, rather predictably, paired us with Barcelona once again.

Some Arsenal fans have run to the hills with their white flags trailing out of their arses, some seem indifferent – adopting a ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude, and some are positively relishing the challenge.

I have to say that I am somewhere between the ‘whatever happens’ and the ‘relishing it’ crowd. Though the more I think about it the more excited I get. Claims of ‘this is what the Champions League is all about’ are spot on in my eyes.

A few years back, when English football went through a phase of dominating the Champions League, I found it rather sad that the big European teams that used to excite and intimidate me in equal measures were no longer a force. As a kid I grew up with Football Italia on Channel 4, watching James Richardson peruse the Italian newspapers in a Milan street café over a double espresso, me thinking he had the world’s best job.

Around this time the big Italian teams had a certain mystique surrounding them. And this was echoed by romantic impressions of the top Spanish teams too. All footballing giants boasting footballing geniuses within their teams. And all representing the pinnacle of the game.

When they faded a little, particularly the Italian teams, it didn’t quite feel right. In a weird way I didn’t like to see them embarrass themselves. Like watching Robbie Savage now ply his trade in the Championship, it’s always sad to see the great come falling down.

So I’m glad that their demise (or the Premier League’s total dominance) was short lived and some of the ‘big’ European teams are back on top. Barcelona and Inter Milan have won the last two Champions Leagues, and if it’s not going to be us – I’d much rather the trophy be won abroad.

Playing Chelsea, Liverpool or M*n *td in the Champions League holds no romance for me anyhow. So coming up against the European big boys is certainly what captures the magic, no matter what stage we meet them. And that’s exactly what this tie is all about.

Now, as exciting as the tie is, there’s a lot of doom and gloom out there amongst the Arsenal supporters. And understandably so given the way we went out to Barcelona last year, not to mention the way they are playing so far this year.

On the day of the draw, Football365 led with the headline: “Arsenal go out to Barcelona” or something along those lines. I found that rather amusing, given the style and tone of that particular website. But the point being, everybody is expecting us to lose. Fair enough. I happen to think we might spring a surprise, but I won’t go into why right now as we’ve got two months to build up to the game.

I do want to quickly look at the tie from a different angle though. Turn it on its head a little.

Here in England everyone has talked about our perspective on the Champions League draw. Who we could have drawn, who we wanted to draw, and ultimately how we now feel about getting the toughest draw of them all, Barcelona.

But actually, I wonder what Barcelona is thinking? Such is their confidence right now I’m sure they don’t fear anyone, but after working so hard to qualify top of their group – they now have to play the Arsenal.

Not Schalke, Copenhagen, Marseille or Shakhtar etc, but the Arsenal.

Do you not think they’ll be a little gutted? I do.

No matter what happened last year, I really think they’ll be disappointed to have drawn us at this early stage, and I think we can take encouragement from that. Ignoring everything you might think of this current Arsenal team at the moment, a match against us is no reward for finishing top of your group.

And Barcelona knows that. They know they would be fools to think this is a foregone conclusion, and therefore so would we.

I also happen to think that, despite them being arguably the best team in the world right now, Barcelona are still the best type of team we can play.

Would you rather come up against Inter Milan or Real Madrid? A disgusting Mourinho inspired team who will put 11 men behind the ball for 90 minutes and just pick us off on a set piece or on the counter? We know full well we struggle to break teams like that down, and Mourinho is undoubtedly a master at those kinds of tactics.

As much trouble as Messi & Co. will give our defence, at least we know we’ll get the chance to have a go at playing some football back at them. You could argue that didn’t happen last year against Barca, so good was their pressing up the field, but there’s certainly more chance of having the opportunity to play a little against them than against many other European teams. So as daunting as the prospect might be of Barcelona in the next round, I genuinely think it’s not the worst tie draw we could have got. And I for one, cannot wait!

In other news, congratulations to Nicklas Bendtner and his fiancée, who has just given birth to their first child; a baby boy.

 A real daddy’s boy, he was delivered by caesarean because his head is so big. The child is already speaking, and yesterday he gurgled to the press that he is the most promising young footballer of his time and will win the Ballon D’or by 2014.


Man Utd 1 - 0 Arsenal – Not outclassed, but outworked

I’ve just returned from the game, so anything I say will be as I saw it and without the benefit of TV replays and analysis.

But what I don’t need TV replays to see is that tonight M*n *td were distinctly average, verging on poor. They have been all season, and they were again this evening. But then what does that say about this current Arsenal team, that despite *td’s average-ness, we still couldn’t muster a real threat?

Right now, I don’t quite know what it says. If I’m being completely honest, probably that we just aren’t good enough. But as ever, things aren’t quite as simple as that.

And tonight the complication is that, although we didn’t play that well in the first half and never really got into our stride, their goal was a damn fluke. Pure and simple. And I genuinely believe that’s what influenced the game the most.

Clichy got his block in, the ball cannoned into the area at a low height and Park can get fucked if he says he knew what he was doing with that header. He didn’t have a clue, and yet it careered off his head and looped over Szczesny. A really unlucky goal to concede and one, in my opinion, we could do little about. And after that slice of misfortune, it was always going to be hard to recover at Old Trafford. If that deflection had gone anywhere else, we may well have had a totally different second half to look forward to.

Now, plenty will argue that we hardly did anything at the other end of the pitch to suggest we could have got anything out of the match – which is completely true. But being a goal down does completely change the game, especially against a team like m*n *td.

Had we started the second half level, m*n *td would have come onto us more, giving us more space and opportunities to hurt them. But as a result of their jammy goal, all *td had to do was put 10 men behind the ball and then try and pick us off on the counter. This makes it so much harder for us to create chances and break them down. They have a solid defensive unit anyway, never mind when they take a lead and can sit back.

So yes, maybe in a nutshell I’m saying that we were unlucky to not get anything out of the game. But then I’m not making lame excuses and ignoring the obvious either.

Apart from that little bit of luck and Howard ‘Fred The Red’ Webb (think about it, have you ever seen them together?) what really separated two average teams tonight was the work rate.

We were second to nearly every ball, and in a game where both teams were poor, the team who puts the most effort in will more often than not come out on top. In fact, what struck me the most was that we were second to the second ball so often. We may win a tackle, but no one would pick up the pieces. We’d win a header, but it would fall to no one. If the ball was loose, we’d undoubtedly struggle to take control of it. And the worst thing I saw was the lack of a challenge for aerial balls in midfield.

If Szczesny were to come under any criticism tonight it would be for his distribution. His kicking looked nervous and was poor as a result. However, despite his clearances falling short on a number of occasions, our midfield simply did not react to the situation. They wouldn't even put the effort in to come in closer and give themselves a better chance of winning these balls. Instead they just stayed rooted to the spot and let a m*n *td player pick the ball from the air unchallenged, all direct from our keeper’s kicks. It happened so many times and it was extremely poor to see.

Generally, as is M*n *td’s way, they compensated for their meh-ness with work rate – especially in midfield. And lo-and-behold, they triumphed. We really should learn from that.

Not every single Arsenal player was guilty of this, but many were. Jack worked his arse off until he tired, and when I commented on how poor I thought Chamakh was tonight, CannonSense Snr rightly shot me down and said he’d ran his heart out. Which, when I think back, he did. He just didn’t get much joy tonight – but at least he put the effort in. Arshavin, please take note. Generally our movement was rubbish tonight too, not creating angles, not helping each other out, not making penetrating runs. Which in itself is a lack of effort too – it’s not always just about chasing and closing people down.

I’ve heard a lot of people criticise our centre backs since leaving the ground. Well, from where I was sitting I thought they were great, Koscienly in particular. Rooney was reduced to long range shots and rarely had a proper sniff. He hardly troubled us in truth.

So for once blame can’t really be aimed at Seb and Laurent. It was more our attacking players who weren’t on their game, but I’ve already explained why it was much harder for them after we conceded.

Clichy has come in for some stick too, and unfortunately I have to agree based on tonight’s performance. The penalty was harsh, no doubt, but his general play was riddled with mistakes. The problem is, his mistakes so often follow a great piece of play, and this makes him all the more frustrating. He’ll make a great challenge, then pass the ball to the opposition. He’ll bust a gut to be first to the ball, then dally on it and lose possession. Tonight I thought he handled Nani okay, but messed up once he’d won the ball, inviting pressure right back on us again. A strange night from Gael really.

So where does all this leave us? Well, two points off m*n *td at the top having played a game more is the obvious answer. But in terms of the team it’s difficult to tell. We can take heart from the fact we weren’t outplayed, yet be frustrated that once again we were out worked. We can be encouraged by the performance of our goalie and centre backs, yet be dismayed by the displays of the likes of Arshavin, Clichy and even Cesc when he came on. We can take comfort in the fact that their goal was pretty damn stuffy, yet worry that we posed no real threat ourselves. So basically I don’t know where we are right now, but what I do know is that there’s still a long way to go this season, and we can still improve and work on what’s not right.

Well look at that, I managed to end on a positive. Must be the Port talking! So here’s to a response against Stoke Rugby Club.


P.S. I appreciate all this was a bit of ramble, but it’s nearly midnight and I just wanted to get my thoughts down. Finding time to do a proper blog is a little difficult at the moment.

P.P.S. If we’re going to put Theo on for the last 15 minutes to cause some mayhem, try passing him the bloody ball!

Schwarzer can’t thwart(er) Super Sami

Phew. My main concern about this game… One of my many concerns about this game was that Mark Schwarzer would put in the performance of his life to really rub in the fact we failed to sign him over the summer. Thankfully, Samir Nasri had other ideas, and the on-fire Frenchman put in an inspired performance of his own to take us top of the league.

And fortunately, he also made sure that the many other concerns which actually came to reality, didn’t matter in the end.

Samir’s two goals were simply sublime, and deserving of winning any match. That we made such hard work of it is the frustrating part.

The first half saw us play some stunning football. Nasri, Arshavin and Chamakh were pulling Fulham all over the show, and when our first goal came on 14 minutes it was fully deserved. And we should have had more. But then how often do we say that? Schwarzer had already made a great stop from Arshavin, and Chamakh hesitated and laid a off pass when he was in a better position to shoot – both should have added to the tally and put the game to bed.

Instead, 30 minutes in Squillaci and Koscielny forgot they were both French and failed to communicate with each other. As a result the head of Seb smashed into the face of Laurent and the resulting confusion saw Kamara put through and he finished past Fabianski.

It’s easy to criticise because it looked shambolic. However, if you wanted to be sympathetic towards our defence you could say it was unlucky and the disorientated Koscielny would have otherwise been in place to stop Kamara. If he’d have gone down the ref would have stopped play, but he continued to say on his feet and Fulham profited from the confusion.

But I don’t want to be sympathetic, because I think issues in defence need to analysed and sorted, not glossed over when we get away with it.

The goal really put the wind back in Fulham’s sail, and we struggled to get a grip of the game again. Frustratingly we went in at half time level. Which was unbelievable, really, given the quality of our play for two thirds of the half. But that’s the Arsenal way. We shouldn’t be surprised any more.

The second half saw a very even affair with chances for both teams, only the quality of Nasri shone through to win us the game. It was edge of the seat, heart pounding, gut-tightening stuff trying to hang on, but hang on we did.

So it’s a very welcome win at the Emirates without, bar the first half an hour, being a classic display. Right now I shouldn’t really care how the points came, but with some massive games on the horizon, I really want to see some issues addressed.

Obviously our soft centre really needs to be sorted. Not knowing how long Vermaelen will be out for means we have to get the best out of the players who start. That so many teams are scoring from their first and often only attempt on goal is a real worry. The quality is there in the players, that’s a given, there’s just something missing in terms of leadership or coaching. I’m leaning on the side of coaching to be honest.

I could be completely wrong but I just think the right training in certain defensive areas is being neglected, when it shouldn’t be. It’s terrible how easily we let teams back in to matches and it really has to stop. Today should have been a pretty comfortable win – it was far from that in the end.

When Djourou came on for the concussed Koscielny I thought he was much better. In fact he had a great game. He was strong, dominant and composed. I really think he should be starting now. Obviously Wenger sees it differently, but I just wonder whether he’s still being cautious because of Johann’s injury problems. Maybe that explains it. He was great today though, and he looked like he towered over most players on the pitch bar Hangeland, which is something this Arsenal team really needs.

Another area that needs addressing is Alex Song. Now, I think the guy is a fantastic player, I really do, but this season he’s a little all over the place. He’s gone from being probably the club’s best player last season to being, whilst far from the poorest player, pretty damn disappointing. And it’s all because of his positioning. I just don’t get it. If he was so successful last season, one of the few successful aspects of our whole campaign actually, then why change it? He’s playing too high up, not offering the protection we need in front of the defence and leaving us exposed. He has got the ability to do some nice things higher up the pitch, but other people have more ability and he should leave those others to do the fancy stuff.

Wenger has to take some blame for this. Surely he should be bollocking Song every time he strays. Surely he should be pulling him to one side before every game and saying,

“Now Alex, listen to me before I shave your fucking stupid hair right off, today you will do what you do best and sit in front of our back four and not let any fucker pass”.

Yes I truly believe that’s how Arsene speaks.

And yet still The Song strays. It baffles me. It shows a lack of discipline, and a selfish streak that is unwelcome in the team. It reminds me a little of the 4-4 draw with Sp*rs the other season when he came on as a sub at 4-2 up all smiles and giggles and laughing as he made his way onto the pitch. It was the wrong attitude, like he thought the game was won. And look what happened there. It’s not exactly the same but it’s the slack attitude that is familiar. He seems to not give a toss about what’s going on behind him as he marauds forward to try something like a silly shot from a stupid angle when the much better option is a pass. Sort it please Alex (and Arsene). It only annoys us because we know what you can do. You’re a great player when you do what you do best.

Now I’m aware all this sounds overly negative after a crucial, table-topping win. But with M*n *td and Chelski on the horizon, we really shouldn’t let three points paper over the obvious cracks. Having said that, I am now going to talk some positive stuff.

*Puts on positive hat*

Woo. Yeah! Get in! Now for some great performances:

Nasri I’ve already talked about, amazing today. Djourou I’ve singled out already too. I also thought our full backs were great. Sagna his solid self but Clichy was really good. I will knock him for his mistakes so I will praise him when he plays well. No mistakes today, some dangerous overlapping, a couple of quality balls into the box, and great anticipation that he does so well. Nice one Gael.

Fabianski also pulled out some crucial saves along with the odd important punch. Saves that secured us the points in fact, which is always a good thing for a goalie to do. I do think he could still dominate the area better, but this consistent run of games is showing the quality he has. Keep it up Fabianksi.

Finally, I will give a shout out to Arshavin. I’m not one of them, but he’s had his critics this season. Some people over-looking the importance of his assists and focusing on his inability to track back at times, and his slight wastefulness in possession. The last couple of games have seen big improvements though. It’s obvious he’s not been in top form, but sometimes you just have to let a player play himself back into form, and it seems Arshavin is doing that right now. Hopefully the ridiculous booing of him today because of Russia beating England to the World Cup spurred him on even more. He faded a little towards the end, which suggests his fitness still needs working on, but overall he had another very good game, including a lovely pass for Nasri’s even lovelier first goal.

So there we go – an extremely important win putting us at the top of the table. Great stuff. We weren’t at our best, we were frustrating, we nearly fucked it up, but we won, and it does feel really good. Now we are at the top there’s a real incentive to just stay there. The players should realise that everything is in their own hands now, and really should fight to control their destiny. Their destiny being the Premier League title! Onwards we march.

And that just leaves me with one last thing to say...

Fuck off Mark Hughes you massive prick.


Braga 2 – 0 Arsenal - Be careful what you wish for

So there I was at half time bemoaning how flat we were, how uninterested we seemed, how boring and uneventful the game was. I was desperate for something or someone to spark the game into life in the second half.

But oh how I wish it had stayed that way.

This boring, uneventful football match was heading for the draw that would hand us the point needed to all but qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

Instead, the match did indeed spark into life, but in completely the wrong way for Arsenal. And so we now have another tick in this season’s ‘games lost’ column, along with a nerve wrecking, all or nothing final group game to play in order to secure our qualification.

That’ll teach me for wishing something would happen!

I’d like to say the game hinged on two big incidents that went against us. 1. Carlos Vela being denied a blatant penalty. 2. Going down to ten men after Eboue was stretchered off.

But to blame the loss on those events would be the easy option, a nice excuse. It would only serve to gloss over our real failings; mainly that in the 70-odd minutes before these ‘defining’ incidents, we did precious little to try and win the game anyway. That, along with the now habitual end of game collapse.

We were dreadful. No zip, no drive, no creativity, no urgency, seemingly no desire to put in a performance following last Saturday’s catastrophe. (And seemingly no desire to prove you’re worthy of a starting role eh Nic?). A massively changed line-up could go some way to explaining it, but the 11 out on the pitch were certainly strong enough to overcome what is without doubt a very poor Braga side.

Even if we weren’t firing on all cylinders up front, it would be nice to think we could at least stay solid defensively to hold out for a point. Not so. The cylinders were firing in defence alright, only we were placing them right up our own backsides.

Inevitably, two very poor goals were given away due to a lack of concentration and weak defending. Yawn.

If Simon & Garfunkel were Gooners they’d re-release two versions of The Sound of Silence to commemorate this Arsenal team, such is the familiarity of these issues.

Side A would be ‘The Sound of No Concentration’ and would start with the words,

‘Hello lack of concentration my old friend, I’ve come to play with you again’

The B-side would be titled ‘The Sound of Weak Defending’ and would start with the words,

‘Hello weak defending my old friend, I’ve come to play with you again’

If only clubs still did FA cup songs!

To suffer another huge crumble at the end of the game is truly disappointing. That it is now so predictable makes it even worse.

I’m not going to dwell on it right now though because quite frankly, there’s not much else to say. It’s simply up to Wenger and the team to put things right, and quickly.

In a strange way, I felt very little emotion following the Braga result. And I genuinely think that it is a hangover from the Sp*rs defeat. I feel numb right now, or maybe shell shocked is a better word. And have done since Saturday. There’s a kind of dull ache taking refuge inside and it didn’t budge before the Braga kick off and it’s still not gone from me now. Maybe a resounding win in Portugal might have helped lift it, but the loss has just kept me in the same zombie-like state. Quite hard to explain really, but I’m sure I’m not the only one to feel this way.

The few positives to came from the Braga match were Djourou, who was excellent at the back, Rosicky, who was all over the pitch trying in vain to make things happen, and Wilshere who, though not playing particularly well, was at least always willing and always showing for the ball. He never hid, like some of his team mates were trying to, and you’ve got to love that about him.

I said I won’t use it as an excuse, and I won’t, but it still needs to be said how fucking atrocious the refereeing was on Tuesday. I mean really, truly fucking atrocious. Persistent fouling and diving went unpunished and big decisions were completely ballsed up. We had bookings handed out left right and centre for perfectly fair ball-winning challenges whilst they got away with their antics largely scot-free. And of course there was the Vela incident.

As obvious a penalty as you are likely to see, and the ref books poor Carlos for diving. Unbelievable. But the best bit was the total lack of input from these penalty area officials that UEFA is experimenting with this season – in place to offer an extra pair of eyes on key decisions in and around the penalty box, supposedly. Well fuck me, what a waste of space they are. The penalty aside, which saw no consultation between referee and the new penalty-area-prick (PAP), there were other decisions completely missed too. Like a Djourou shot that deflected for a corner right in front of the PAP.  I saw another blatant penalty get missed tonight as well, as a Rangers defender took down Dimi Berbaflop. What these PAPs are doing is anyone’s guess, but they’re certainly not helping the referee with the big decisions. Fucking PAPs.

On a more positive note, Aaron Ramsey completed 45 minutes of a reserve game against Wolves yesterday. To throw him back into the action against clogging bastards like Wolves seems a little harsh, but I guess he’ll have to face ‘their sort’ again some time, so why not straight away? Next reserve game for Aaron… away at Stoke.

We won’t see him in the first team till after Christmas I shouldn’t imagine. But it’s a welcome boost nonetheless. Especially with continuing doubts over Cesc’s long term future fitness.

So it’s on to Villa on Saturday, and it’s there that we really, really do need to see a performance from the boys. They’ll be no push over, the Villains, but despite all the doom and gloom, the incentive of going top of the league, if only temporarily, should motivate us enough to win. Well, you’d have thought it would anyway. Though this team might have other ideas.


An almighty collapse I can't put my finger on - Arsenal 2-3 Sp*rs

Shit. Where to start. Erm… it’s not often I come straight from the game to write a blog, I often have time to digest, analyse and hopefully offer a reasoned, rational point of view. But here I am, only 20 minutes after full time with a blank page to fill about a game we have just totally, fuckably, messed up. Yes, I feel so bad I just made up new word. Put fuckably in your Urban Dictionary you urban twats.

Hello new readers from Newsnow. Welcome to CannonSense.

So, what do we make of that?

Well, first of all, what a first half. One of the best team performances of the season so far I would say. Completely in control, passing it about like a dream, scoring a lovely first goal through Nasri, and a lovelier second goal from Chamakh, the perfect half in almost every sense.

The first goal owed itself to just a little fortune to begin with. Nasri was put though wonderfully by Cesc, the Frenchman mis-controlled the ball when one-on-one with the keeper, but Gomez’s nose knocked the ball away from himself and Nasri latched onto it at the tightest of angles. He managed to roll the ball goal-bound with enough spin on it to make a square shot bounce back on itself and into the goal. A truly brilliant finish from a man in fine form. And coming only nine minutes into the game, it was the perfect start.

In short, we went on to control things, Sp*rs had pockets of pressure but little else, and then when one of their attacks broke down we countered in 12 seconds to put ourselves 2 nil up.

With Thierry Henry in the crowd, it was almost a goal in homage to the great man himself. A swift break like the ones he used to capitalise on so often when he was a Gunner. (yes I know he still is at heart).

After playing it out of defence, Cesc took control in midfield, shifted it out wide to Arshavin, who put a dangerous ball across the Sp*rs penalty area for Chamakh-my-bitch-up to prod home. A lovely goal that put all Gooners in a land of loveliness for half time. Seriously, everything felt so good with the world. My slightly flat pint suddenly developed a bubbly fizz, the annoying Sp*rs fan behind suddenly seemed far less annoying and far more comical, Ian Wright’s hat made me giggle rather than think ‘What a prick!’. It was great…

Then… then came the second half.

It’s weird really because it seemed as if not that much football was played in the second half. Obviously it was, but for all those who are crowing about how awful Arsenal were in the second half, it’s difficult to put a finger on why. We weren’t being comprehensively outplayed or anything like that. We just suffered at the hand of a few big incidents.

The first coming early in the second half when we seemed to forget Gareth Bale was playing, which is understandable I guess given his first half (non)performance. Indecision at the back meant that we didn’t clear our lines, Bale wasn’t properly tracked, and when the ball broke to him one-on-one, he slotted in their first goal.

Poor defending, but a goal I always expected. To expect a clean sheet from Arsenal these days is to expect to be sectioned.

The first few minutes after their goal Sp*rs were naturally buoyed, but I thought we responded well to that. We took back control of the game and my suddenly diminished confidence started to grow again, I really thought we’d get a third.

Then, what I think to be the key factor of the game happened. Phil Dowd-syndrome gave a very soft foul against Song, and from the resulting free-kick Cesc Fabregas, stood in the wall, inexplicably raised his arm to block it and concede a penalty.

Seriously, what the fuck was going through his mind? I really don’t understand it. It’s the sort of mindless action I’d expect from Eboue (god bless him), Denilson (when he’s off form) or, or, well to be honest I don’t know who else would do such a stupid thing. But Cesc… Cesc? There was just no need!

Up stepped Rafael Van de Vaart to make it 2-2 and be the second Sp*rs player to have a gash game but get on the score sheet.

Now, I’m not one for blaming an individual for a loss like this… it was certainly a collective capitulation, and so I’m not going to put the defeat wholly at the feet of our captain. But I do genuinely believe that had they not been gifted the chance to draw level like that, the game would have ended so differently. We were getting back into our groove after they had pulled a goal back – it felt like a third goal was coming. And then that. THAT! It was so unnecessary, so stupid, and yet ultimately so pivotal in how the rest of the game was played out.

(**CannonSense takes a break to go and drink some strong Belgian beer with a rather fine lady**)


(**CannonSense returns**)

Having said that, we really didn’t do much in the second half to warrant us scoring a third goal. I said I felt it was coming before Sp*rs equalised, but in terms of real chances after that, not much was created. Fabregas curled an effort that was pushed away by Gomez’s nose, Koscielny missed a right sitter of a header, but apart from that there wasn’t much happening of note. We had a goal disallowed for offside, but for once the decision was the right one.

Now, forgive me at the this stage for getting the order of events mixed up, but I can’t remember whether the above chances came before or after the third Sp*rs goal, such is the wallow of self pity I’ve drank myself into at this point.

Anyway, Sp*rs' third goal duly came. A free-kick was whipped in and the otherwise god-awful Kaboul headed in. Devastation and despair. That was to condemn us to our third defeat at home.

A massive second half collapse that is so hard to explain.

Football really is strange sometimes. And it’s the mental side of it that is so difficult to understand. Why can a team rip another to shreds in one half, yet be totally unable to replicate their play in the other half? How one goal can change attitudes, affect ability, it baffles me.

Yet we saw all of that today. Credit (*cough*) I guess to Tottenham who must have had a real bollocking at half time, and responded. But really, what couldn’t we do in the second half that we did in the first? A strange one indeed.

And so what is it with this team fucking up when we’re in such a good position? This was a chance to go top of the league for fuck’s sake!

We all know it’s not ability that is hampering us. We have it in abundance. Physical strength? Nope. This wasn’t a physical game at all, and it had no bearing on the result. Mental strength? Well, you’d say ‘yes’ that’s exactly what it is, but then you look at away results against the likes of Wolves and Everton, where our mental strength was lauded.

Concentration? Maybe. Complacency? Maybe again. But it’s all stuff we should have learned from time and time again. So an inability to learn from mistakes? That’s nothing new, but plays a massive part. On the whole though I can’t easily identity where the real problem lies.

I will say it again… had Cesc not raised his arm, I think we’d be talking about a different result altogether.

BUT, I’m not going to be abusing Cesc for his actions anymore that I already have. And I certainly won’t be joining the hoards who are jumping to condemn Koscielny and Fabianksi. We collectively threw this game away.

And to be honest, I really feel sorry for Wenger. You could see his pain on the sidelines, and he must feel really let down by his players this evening. He’s had a tough few weeks and a big win over big rivals would be just the tonic for him. Yet having put ourselves in such an amazing position to win the game, we really fucked it up for him, for ourselves for everyone related to the Arsenal.


Anyway, I’ve gone on with myself far too much now. Time to give it a break and try and enjoy the rest of my Saturday night. It looks like Birmingham has done us a favour. But in truth, that just makes today’s loss all the more frustrating. We could be sitting prettily at the summit right now. No, we SHOULD be sitting pretty at the summit right now. But we’re not, we’re left lamenting another game thrown away.

To end on some sort of positive note though, despite all this, we’re still well, well in the mix for a shot at the Premier League title. How many more chances we’ll miss to really get a grip on it I don’t know. But right know – it’s still all to play for.


Wolves 0 – 2 Arsenal Fabianski bounces back

One of my main frustrations about many Arsenal games over the past few seasons is the number of times an opposition goalkeeper decides to put in the performance of their season against us. They will flap, fluff and flounder against the like of M*n U*d and Chelski, yet develop a shield of invincibility against us. Be it Green, Kirkland, Friedel (who is actually a very good keeper) , some unknown reserve, or Robins…(oh ok, maybe not him), many-a-time have we come up against an inspired goalkeeping performance that keeps us at bay.

Well, last night the tables turned – it was our time to benefit from a goalkeeper’s performance of the season. Wolves will have seen the many mishaps Fabianski has been guilty of, including the one just days ago against Newcastle, and they will have been licking their brutish lips I’m sure. But last night they came up against a top performance that was definitely responsible for denying them points. And it’s a long time since we’ve said that about one of our keepers!

Fabianski was bold, confident, sharp and agile, and he made a whole range of saves, of differing styles, to keep a clean sheet and secure our win. It could have been so different without him, so well done Fabs – keep it up. (And with Szczesny signing a new long term contract with the club today, he’ll have to.)

Poor streams meant I didn’t see the game live – giving up on chasing them after 15 minutes and going to watch the Manchester Derby instead. Believe me, stream chasing is more fun. But for that reason I can’t provide an in depth analysis of the game.

It seems Arshavin was lively and unlucky not to get on the score sheet, Cesc was still way off his best, and Chamakh of course recovered extremely well from his weekend slump to score two vital goals at either end of the game. A very important player for sure, and hopefully he went some way to answering those critics (admittedly not many of them) who questioned whether he could score as many away from home. Hmm, maybe ‘questioners’ is the right word then, not critics. Anyway the boy did good, as did the team to grind out a very difficult win.

In front of Fabianksi we defended very well. Sagna made an immense block at one stage, and Rosicky too positioned himself on the goal line to make a vital clearance. We created chances up front but also let Wolves create many of their own.

After taking such an early lead it would have been nice to have pushed on and put the game to bed before half time. But we all know that’s not the Arsenal way these days. In the end we had to survive a bit of a siege, right up until Chamakh finished the game off. This Arsenal team wouldn’t have it any other way.

We were far from our flowing best once again, but this time the hard work was noticeable and it compensated for the lack of finesse on the night. We were pressing from the front and it makes such a big difference. It needs to continue into the next game.

A great away result then, and it leaves us third, just 1 point behind M*n U*d in 2nd place and still 5 points behind Chelski. Not an unrecoverable gap at this stage of the season – as long as it doesn’t get any bigger.

There’s been a lot of talk today about MOTD and how they focussed on the Cesc challenge but not the Karl Henry one. I’ll add to the ‘debate’ and say that it is indeed disgraceful and hypocritical. But then I wouldn’t expect anything less from that useless lot. In fact, I predicted exactly that scenario, as I’m sure many of you did as well. And Alan Hansen is just getting worse. How he can defend the Essien tackle is beyond me. What is he taking? Maybe over the years his common sense is gradually seeping out of the unsightly scar on his over-sized forehead. The massive scar-headed twat.

Seriously, how can a two-footed jump-stamp type thing not be as bad as someone sliding in to make a block? Don’t think I’m excusing Cesc’s challenge here. I’m not. I’m just saying he slid in late to block the ball. He was late, got the man and was rightly booked – with a red card not completely unwarranted. But it was certainly no worse than a deliberate two-footed lunge. It baffles me.

And all his macho “not acceptable in this day and age “ talk is just ridiculous. Well, Alan, if you’re so disillusioned about football ‘in this day and age’ why don’t you fuck off my TV screen and go find another job talking about something else. Because quite frankly, ‘in this day and age’ I find your piss-poor punditry pretty fucking unacceptable.

Can you tell he winds me up? I had better stop talking about it now.

Having said all that, Lee Dixon did display a bit of class, all picked up at our club of course, and today tweeted:

“I said that Henry tackle should come after Fabs but we ran out of time. The apology by Cesc made it poignant to show his first. However they could fit the Henry tackle in. I apologised to Arsene for not being balanced”

At least he’s responding, explaining and his apology to Le Boss was a nice touch. It doesn’t excuse the BBC though. It’s their duty to provide unbiased analysis and if that means they have to work harder to make time for it then so be it.

 You can follow Lee on Twitter here @LeeDixon2

So now we move on to another very tricky away tie oop north. Everton on Sunday. Last night’s game was perfect preparation really. Confidence boosting to hopefully bring out a better overall performance from us, yet good practice for if, as I’m sure it will, the game turns in to a tightly fought battle that we need to grind a wind out of.

Let’s keep grinding then, arsegrinders.


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