Tuesday, 3 May 2011
Sunday thoughts, Time for Arsenal to ban certain press
Madrid is a truly wonderful city. As I told you on Friday I went there for the weekend on a stag do and the place did not disappoint. As most English visitors do in any city we based ourselves in the Irish bars of the Spanish capital and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Thanks to the various foreign channels showing English football (and Sky Sports) we had a choice of every Premier League game to watch on Saturday, followed by all four on Sunday. It strikes me as completely ridiculous that the only place in the World where you can not legally watch the Premier League on TV at 3 o'clock on a Saturday afternoon is the UK.
Apart from watching Arsenal win and the various comedy moments a stag weekend can bring, the highlight of the trip was a visit to the Bernabeu on Sunday morning. I have always resented Real Madrid and their superior attitude towards every other football club. However, having visited the stadium I now understand that they are, genuinely, the World's biggest football club. The ground is breathtaking once inside and the stadium tour allows you to view the most impressive trophy room you will ever see. I also managed to get my photo taken with a European Cup (one day, I pray, I will get to have a photo with it adorned with Arsenal ribbons). If you ever visit Madrid please make sure you do the tour - at €16 it really is worth every penny to see this cathedral of football.
I thought we dominated for most of the game on Sunday. I wasn't aware of an injury to Fabregas and was surprised at his absence. The trio of Song, Wilshere and Ramsey were outstanding and United had no answers to them. The first-half had the now familiar pattern of Arsenal running the show but forcing nothing from the opposition goalkeeper. That said, the denial of the penalty for the handball was a disgrace. The linesman and referee were both ideally placed and chose to ignore it. As refereeing incompetence goes the first-half effort from Mr Foy really was up there with the very worst we had to endure. How does a referee find himself in the way of the ball on three occasions? The third time he did it he actually committed a bookable offence as he fouled Robin Van Persie, while his second touch of the ball seemingly had him sticking his foot out to intercept the through-ball to Walcott. Taking all that in to account you have to laugh at Ferguson's post-game rant about the officiating and United not getting a penalty of their own (I notice nobody has mentioned Berbatov's clear obstruction of Koscielny in the build-up to that incident).
Aaron Ramsey's goal capped a wonderful comeback appearance at home. It will be interesting to see how his body reacts to such a demanding ninety minutes. We have consistently seen Diaby and Eduardo fail to put a run of games together after their legs were shattered so we have to hope that Aaron can buck that trend.
Arsenal very much deserved to win, though the last ten minutes were a painful experience. Szczesny was simply having to boot the ball down the pitch as nobody would show for it, and Van Persie was getting nowhere near his high-balls forward. I couldn't understand, yet again, why our only truly quick player was replaced at a time when Man Utd were going to have to commit more players to attack - did Eboue add anything to the defensive effort? I think not. If there was a change to be made then it had to be for Chamakh to come on and hold the ball up and bring Wilshere, Walcott and Arshavin in to the game. When we did break forward in numbers RVP managed to cock it up with a truly awful pass. Arshavin, meanwhile, showed tremendous spirit when he came on at half-time - I counted at least five superb tackles from the Russian as he gave everything for the cause.
The result was very welcome indeed, but it somehow adds to the sense of frustration I feel at how our season has gone. "If only" will be the phrase that best describes our two months between the Carling Cup Final and Sunday's win. If only we had not dropped so many bad points against rubbish teams we would be Champions. Like I say, very frustrating.
On the plane home yesterday I was reading the match reports in The Sun. For a change the report on the Arsenal game was reasonably accurate and fair-minded. On each of the previous four Monday's the sports editor of that paper, Steven Howard, has gone out of his way to have a pop at Arsene Wenger. Regular readers will know that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a Wenger apologist. However, as an Arsenal supporter, I have a right to give my view on our Manager. Reading some muppet in The Sun going out of his way to do so gives me the hump. I was amazed, given the performance on Sunday, to see Howard tearing in to Wenger again and slagging off the team as the result changes nothing. Of course it changes nothing, but how about some credit where it is due? Any sports columnist worth their salt should have been criticising Ferguson's attempt to play for a point with his team selection against Arsenal. Or perhaps picking up on the Scottish fool and his ridiculous contention that Man Utd don't get decisions in big games (I almost choked with laughter when I read what he had come out with). In my view it is time for Arsenal to take action against The Sun. If any newspaper has a genuine anti-Arsenal agenda it is them. The fact that their sports editor has now written anti-Wenger pieces five weeks in a row should see the Club take a firm hand and make it clear that The Sun is now banned from the Stadium, and from any press conference given by Arsenal. What would we lose by taking such a stance? Nothing whatsoever, so get them cretins banned from Arsenal and the message might just get through that they have no right to consistently slag the Club and the Manager in this way.