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Sunday, 6 February 2011

Wenger's transfer policy and Phil Dowd's officiating end Arsenal's hopes

Squillaci - Where did Wenger find him?

I don't know where to start. With Manchester United getting beaten at Wolves we should have been celebrating Invincibles Day last night by getting to within two points of the Mancs. We should also have been level (at worst) on goal difference. Sadly Arsene Wenger's chickens came home to roost as we all knew they would after his refusal to strengthen in January. When Arsenal went 4-0 up yesterday I phoned my Dad and said "that's it." Even Arsenal were never going to lose a 4-0 lead. I was thinking to myself that it was a mark of how far this team had come in recent weeks that they were able to go to St James' Park and put in the sort of first-half display that was the hallmark of the team between 2001 and 2004. At half-time I was really pleased and began to believe that we might just be able to win the League, provided we suffered no more injuries. Then the second-half began...
Johan Djourou has always been injury-prone. This season, for the first time he has put together a good run of games and both he, and Arsenal, have seen the benefits. Unfortunately we always knew that we were one injury away from meltdown, and so it happened. When Djourou went off I was annoyed with Wenger - it was obvious that we needed more cover in defence but he chose to do nothing about it. At least it had happened in a game where we were already home and dry! The fact that Djourou has a knee injury is of the most concern - he spent more than a year out injured with a knee problem and if this is the same knee then we can assume that the Swiss is finished. Within two minutes of Djourou's substitution Arsenal's season started to cave in around us, with yet another referee making himself the central figure.
It's easy to say that Abou Diaby shouldn't have reacted to Barton's tackle. But we shouldn't forget that Diaby has suffered at least two serious injuries from over-zealous play against him. I don't care what they might have said on Match of the Day and such about Barton making a "strong, robust tackle" the fact is that he went in recklessly with no control over himself, and he could have seriously injured Diaby. It was a dangerous tackle by Barton and he should have walked for it. Just look at the replay and see the shape of Abou Diaby's leg at impact and tell me that Barton's tackle was legal. It wasn't. It was nasty, evil, and completely in keeping with the character of this horrible man. Is there a more odious piece of scum involved in professional football? His interview afterwards when he questioned why Diaby would react, and his assertion that Wenger should look at the discipline of his own team, was disgusting to hear - how can any reporter worth their salt stand there and listen to such comments without challenging a man who should still be in prison for beating up an innocent man in the street? Phil Dowd immediately indicated that Diaby had been sent-off for two separate pushes - one on Barton and one on Nolan - so why was a straight red card produced? That was just the start though.
At this stage I have to question Wenger and his lack of tactics once again. It was obvious that Newcastle would come at Arsenal and hit us aerially, especially at set-pieces. Without Diaby we were lacking another of our tall players. He took Arshavin off, and correctly so in the circumstances, but replaced him with Rosicky. The situation was crying out for Bendtner or Chamakh to come on and help keep hold of the ball high up the pitch, as well as adding aerial ability to the side. When we signed Sebastien Squillaci we were told by Le Boss that he was a "hard-man" with "great aerial ability." I'm afraid I have seen no evidence of either of these. As far as I'm concerned Squillaci is in the same class as people like Stepanovs and Silvestre for Arsenal - and probably not even that good. His arrival threw the defence in to disarray - the Diaby incident only occurred because he cocked up an easy five yard pass and Diaby had to put his foot in. I have been super-critical of Koscielny this season, but he is far better than his fellow Frenchman.
The first penalty was soft to say the least. Koscielny probably had no need to get so close to his man, and gave him the chance to hit the deck. However, when you see Dowd's position there is no way he could award a penalty - he couldn't see the incident. What followed summed up the referee and what appears to be a serious bias against Arsenal (he is the same man who sent-off Alex Song at Sunderland before finding a phantom minute after injury time had been completed). Having sent-off Diaby he stood and watched as Kevin Nolan grabbed Wojciech Szczesny round the neck and wrestled him to the ground to get the ball back for the kick-off. The result? A yellow card for Arsenal's goalkeeper. This is where Arsenal show a lack of leadership. The only players getting in the faces of the officials and Nolan were Sagna and Wilshere. Where was the Captain? Where was Robin Van Persie? In the days of Adams and Keown and Bould and Vieira etc there would have been ten Arsenal players getting involved and showing Newcastle who they were. As Arsenal then imploded there wasn't a single person taking charge and making sure that the capitulation didn't happen.
The second penalty is nothing short of a disgrace. We hear all the time about foreigners "buying" penalties by diving - Cesc Fabregas and Nicklas Bendtner in the last two weeks have both been accused. So what about the dive yesterday? Oh, it was an English player so that's okay. Between Phil Dowd and the linesman, Trevor Massey, Arsenal were robbed in that instant. Yes, the Arsenal players must be criticised for losing a 4-0 lead - it shows they are nowhere near good enough to win the League - but their task was made so much more difficult by such officiating. Are the incidents we have witnessed in Arsenal matches of late simply down to ineptitude? You'll have to make up your own mind - I know what I believe.
The equaliser was just one of those things - though it came from yet another free-kick awarded by Dowd for no offence whatsoever. We have suffered a lot over the years from people hitting once in a career strikes and Tiote will never score a goal like that again - never in a million years. Even after that Van Persie had the ball in the net only to be called for what could best be described as a marginal offside decision.

With Man Utd losing we are statistically better off than when we kicked off yesterday. But mentally, and physically, I believe Arsenal's challenge is over. We have shown an inability to hold on to a FOUR GOAL lead. At the same time our two best centre-halves are injured, and so is our only defensive midfield player (who is also our third best centre-half as it happens). If he is fit next week then Song must move in to the back four - we can not afford to have Squillaci in the team. Of course this would probably mean Denilson coming back in to the midfield which would highlight, once again, the shortcomings of Wenger's squad in defensive areas - a symptom of his refusal to sign players. Henri Lansbury should be recalled from Norwich and brought straight in to the team - yes, he is a youngster, but he is twice the player Denilson is. As in 2008 I am certain that Arsene Wenger's frugality will cost us the Premier League and this is something that the Board must consider when the season comes to an end, if we fail to win it.
I don't think we can underestimate the mental effect this will have on Arsenal's players. Wenger has been telling us how mature they are now, and how they have such mental strength. Well I didn't see any evidence of it in the second-half yesterday. Nor was there any sign of the shared leadership he tells us about - Denilson clearly had a point after all. With an international break for the midweek games he will not be able to work with the vast majority of the squad this week, before we go up against McCarthy's cloggers next weekend. God knows how many will come back injured either. My glass is definitely not half-full today, and it probably won't be for quite some time.


  1. Yawn. everybody else to blame except your own team. What about the second Best goal that was a yard or two onside?

    As always - it's the referee, colour of the sky, grass too long, wrong day of the week, too many butterflies etc. Heaven forbid it could have been you to blame - that never happens at Perfect FC does it?

    Once a sore loser always a sore loser.

  2. I think you have assessed the situation most accurately

  3. A few points:
    1. Why should previous circumstances change decisions in following matches? Barton won the ball legally. That's all you can say about it. Diaby is a professional and shouldn't react the way he did, yet your reaction about Barton's legal tackle as opposed to Diaby's 2 petulant pushes is hardly proportional.
    2. I don't agree the first penalty was soft. It was unnecessary but the defender tried to go through Best's legs to get the ball, didn't manage it and tripped him. Best was going away from goal and it was a stupid challenge to make but he made it and he got punished.
    3. I completely agree about the incident after the penalty. Szczesny kept the ball for slightly too long but the reaction was far too excessive - I don't believe Szczesny warranted a yellow and I believe Nolan did. I'm not sure I agree I would want to see a return to people crowding the referee. I don't care which team it is, I don't feel it should happen as it should be the job for the captain. I remember the VanNistelrooy missed penalty a few years back and Keown was jumping all over him and man u doing something similar to a referee too. I agree Arsenal are missing a leader. Fabregas is a superb footballer and sets an example with his ability but I'm not sure he's captain material.
    The second penalty was soft though. I don't agree it was a dive though. Williamson was in the air and the defender knocked him with his arm, no intent though. If you're in the air and you get knocked, you're probably not going to land on your feet, but as a defender you can't jump and head the ball without using your arms as leverage so it was harsh.
    There were some surprising decisions on both sides from the referees. Best was clearly onside for his goal and VanPersie's finish was too nice and the offside decision was too marginal to rule it off!
    At the end of the day Newcastle were too poor in the first half to get 3 points and Arsenal were too poor in the 2nd half to get 3 points - surely a draw was a fair result? One last reitteration of a point - give the Barton bashing a rest. I agree he shouldn't be playing football and he shouldn't have been doing so since the cigar incident at Man City, shouldn't have moved to newcastle, etc etc but how can you anything but applaud him this season? Which English midfielders have played better this season? He'll always be wound up more than most and I think he's done pretty well to keep as cool as he has done

  4. Thanks Mark, a valued contribution. As with the Spurs mug on here the other day - if you want a sensible debate about football then you're in the right place. If you want to spout bollocks because you're not an Arsenal fan then do us all a favour. If you're not an Arsenal fan then what, really, are you doing on this site? Sad.

    By the way I'm assuming you're a NUFC fan. No doubt one of many tens of thousands who were always there during the dark days in the late 80s and early 90s.

  5. Cheers Al, I like the way you put your points across - good sensible debate. Nothing will persuade me that Barton's challenge wasn't dangerous and reckless and, therefore, deserving of a red card.
    I agree that Williamson no doubt felt some contact but he threw himself on to the ground and then waved his arms for the penalty - that is cheating I'm afraid.
    In terms of getting round the referee I agree it's unseemly, but it has never done Man Utd any harm. Also, the incident you referred to at Old Trafford was the thing that, most Arsenal fans would agree, sparked us towards the Title that year.
    As for the Barton-bashing, I agree he is a fine footballer, but he is a disgrace and a danger to other players. Nobody should be believing his "little boy" act when gets interviewed. A purely nasty individual in my view.

  6. So can you justify doing the wrong thing if it can be perceived as galvanizing your team? If you're going to condone what Keown did with regards to riling VanNistelrooy in the same way that a tough challenge clearly did to Diaby? He rose to it, VanNistelrooy didn't. With regards to it never doing man u any harm, again I don't see that as a reason to justify it. Man U seem to get the majority of referees' decisions going their way - I've always seem it as the biggest shame of all when the best teams or the best players feel they need to do other things to swing decisions their way. This is like Ronaldo diving when he was at Man U. He was arguably the best player in the world at the time and there were very few teams or individuals who could cope with him on the ball so why he had to con the referee to get decisions I'll never know. This has only been exacerbated by Howard Webb's comments recently too.

    Obviously I'm always going to err on the side of defending newcastle players but I've already stated I don't think he should have been allowed to carry on after what he did earlier in his career. For whatever reason he was given an opportunity to continue and it seems this season he has finally started to become the player and the person he is capable of being. I agree his interview rhetoric helps him as he seems far more eloquent than perhaps he should be but I don't think the challenge yesterday was a return to his old ways. We'll obviously have to agree to disagree on this. I would never want to see any player injured and would never wish that on anyone but I do still love it when you see a proper tackle. These are becoming increasingly rare nowadays and I don't think people should be condoned for it. It was one footed and he didn't leave the ground, but I can see why arsenal fans don't like them as it interrupts your style of play. I'm not knocking it as it's rare a team plays more attractive football than arsenal but I don't view that as a dangerous challenge so shouldn't be penalised.

    Anyway, I'm sure we can agree whatever your feelings on the result, it was one hell of a game of football and you can't argue about Tiote's finish!

  7. I love the way Arsenal fans act like their team has never won a soft decision, ask any fan who the worst is and it's Arsenal...mention that to a Gunner and we're all "jealous".

    I have no problem with Arsenal's football like most others I enjoying watching them play but your constant blame game is getting old. The ref (who I think is terrible before this match) gave soft decisions to your team and Newcastle, the difference is Newcastle capitalised from said situations.

    The Barton Tackle: if when you go the ball you just stand there in front of Joey Barton with one foot on the ball showing him the ball, it's there to be won so he's obviously going to tackle you, and just because abou useless has been injured before doesn't mean people can't tackle him like Joey said maybe they should play netball....and if you were there (even up in the gods) you would have seen useless go down like he was injured, looked up seen play was going on so jumped up and kicked off, isn't that simulation? Trying to con the ref? No, Arsenal don't dream of that.

    1st penalty: never a penalty but teams like Arsenal get them against teams like Newcastle so we'll take it.

    Nolan incident : Once again arm chair pundits who weren't there didn't see Nolan get booked for his half headlock half hay maker so just play the inconsistent ref card. Wilshere trying to get Nolan sent off? We'll not mention that.

    Best's goal that was disallowed: onside by about a yard? See so it's not just inconsistency against you.

    2nd penalty: softer than the first but like the first point we'll take it, and i'm sure the linesman gave that one who didn't really have a good game.

    Tiote goal: slight nudge on Barton for the free kick but I've seen Arsenal players go down off less so it's only fair and you can't really complain.

    RVP offside goal: You say it's marginal I say you're offside or not and luckily for me the rules agree, I hate MOtD too but they put the offside line up and you could see he was offside, so not really "marginal"

  8. I think it is hilarious that followers (word chosen carefully) of other clubs look at and comment on an Arsenal site

    A few facts
    1 Barton is scum and his only place in football should be via a prison team
    2 Diab should not have technically reacted. However try being assaulted (because that is what it was) by a social parasite and not react! I personally would have put the little mug in a ward whereby he was being fed by a tube
    3 We have been on the wrong end of 3 abysmal revving decisions yesterday which would have seen us win 5-3
    4 The only way Newcastle could contemplate European football is if they joined the SPL where the could fight for 3rd place behind the big 2
    5 We hear a great deal about great Geordie fans - It's not long since St James Park was half empty - muff said!
    And 6 once again AW has screwed up a top chance of winning the league by not signing anyone

  9. OK Micky "the keyboard warrior" if that is hilarious, get out more. Seriously. newsnow showed this article under the 'Newcastle' section so I had a look at what was said about my team and what do you know? Arsenal fans moaning AGAIN! Not just about the ref but now attacking our fans and the fact we are nowhere near europe...pathetic.

    1. Barton may be scum to you and eventhough I don't approve of his past antics at all but somehow he's got a 497th chance and I'll support his FOOTBALL on the pitch for my team. Everything else off it is none of my business, and certainly none of yours, unless he kicked the fuck out of you....one can certainly hope!

    2. He shouldn't have reacted, well done...and for what you say after that I'm sure you would have big lad. If you think that's assault you definitely don't go out much except maybe to the emirates where that is attempted murder...a 50/50 tackle how dare they!

    3. Happens to most teams against you so now you know how it feels, ref is the easy scapegoat (after Barton obviously) although not sure where your 5th was from van pussy was clearly offside?

    4. How is that relevant? Typical gooner why not say why squillaci diaby koscielny eboue arsebandit are shit instead of talking about the Toon not getting into europe? Idiot.

    5. Half empty? yep the 80s and early 90s were lean years...why you bringing up old shit? It's even less time since you moved from the library with your wank fans and your atmosphere is even worse (if that was possible)

    6. Is the only one I 100% agree with and maybe you should talk about that and how it's venger's crusade to prove to the world he can do it cheap which is costing you lot the league the last few years, and the fact he doesn't know what defending is. Or taking off Walcott when he was terrorising us. And the most worrying, the lack of heart as your players just disappeared when the fans got a bit interested...I hope to god you play like that agaisnt Barcelona I would love to see them beat you moaners and then you couldn't complain...well venger will find something or he didn't see it

  10. We can only assume that Joe is a moron. Last time I looked Wenger was spelt with a W. Oh dear.

  11. Oh dear I think I upset the ball bag! They breed them hard up north. Still at least while he was typing it saved his missus from a beating!

  12. Typical Arsenal personal attack. Everything I said was correct, you two just stick to saying "Oh dear" like a pair of poofs and that will cover up your problems...just make sure you get out more michael and look up "assault"

  13. I wonder if Joe understands the word "irony?" Personal attacks (apparently "typical Arsenal") but then talks about people being "poofs." It must be awful having a northern chip on your shoulder.
    If, of course, the cretin had read yesterday's blog properly he would have seen me having my regular gripes at Arsene Wenger, just as much as my ranting about the referee (something that doesn't happen just because Arsenal lose a game).
    Apparently Joe doesn't like phrases like "oh dear" as it's a bit effeminate. That's fine. I daresay up north a man can't make his point without using some big-man swear words.
    In short, Joe, you're a bit of a prick.

  14. Im off for a shandy as that's what us southern softys drink! I'm wondering if with his comments about poofs that he doth protest too much. Perhaps mrs Joe should worry that he may be Martha instead of Arthur!