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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Song late show enough for Arsenal

Alex Song - massive goal for Arsenal

I'll start by telling you that I didn't go to yesterday's game. Having spent most of last week in bed with flu I was simply not up to travelling to London and everything that goes with it. My five-year-old son took my place and, once again, had the time of his life by all accounts - he's been playing his game of football in the hall today, with Theo Walcott making one hell of an impact as a sub, and singing London Calling (though it seems to be a new version mentioning Emirates and Arsenal scoring goals) at the top of his voice! I did manage to see the whole game thanks to the local pub and its Arab satellite system - thank Allah for that.

I felt Arsenal started well, with Arshavin looking more dangerous than he has all season. In the first ten minutes he was running at people and making things happen - then he ran out of puff, again. The Russian's lack of physical fitness is a disgrace in a squad that prides itself on having such staying power over 90 minutes. After that opening burst it was back to first-time flicks and doing anything to avoid having to run with the ball - his dive in the second-half was embarrassing and should have seen him booked.
Despite dominating possession and territory we once again failed to work the goalkeeper for long periods and, going in to the final two minutes of the first-half, Green had only to make one save - a good one from Fabregas. I mentioned in the preview piece on Friday that I feared Green putting in one of his better performances, and so it proved. It seems that he certainly saves his best displays for our ground. As the second-half wore on, and he made an absolute wonder save down low to his right, again from Fabregas, he seemed to be keeping his team on an even-keel.
Samir Nasri's explosive free-kick, with no run-up or back-lift, was an incredible effort but, when it came back off the bar, I said to a friend in the pub that I felt it wasn't going to be our day. When Walcott's tremendous run and shot rebounded off the post, straight into Green's arms, I was absolutely convinced we were not going to get the winner.
I have to give praise to Gael Clichy. I have been particularly critical of Clichy on this site over the past few months, and have given him hell over his crossing. Yesterday the delivery, from both full-backs in fairness, was so much better. It culminated in the best piece of attacking play Clichy has produced in his entire career, showing composure and an eye for a lovely dinked cross with his weaker foot. When Song piled in I hesitated momentarily before celebrating as I was expecting an offside decision (had I been at the game I would have been in line with the goalscorer and known it wasn't offside!) Make no mistake, Alex Song's header might just be one of the most crucial goals we score all season.
When I got back to the car I was just in time to hear the report of the game for Radio 5. I was (though I shouldn't have been) surprised to hear the summariser say that the result was harsh on West Ham. Harsh on Green, yes. Harsh on Parker and the two centre-halves, maybe. But let's be honest here, only one team tried to win the game yesterday, so West Ham ultimately got what they deserved - nothing. This is what's wrong with English football. All the pundits extol the virtues of Barcelona, or Spain, with their attacking flair, and eye for a goal. The trouble is that they're also willing to heap praise on a team that defends for ninety minutes in the hope of a 0-0 draw. Now I'm a fan of good tactical football, with an organised defence - God knows that's how we won the Cup Winners Cup in 1994 - but you can't go on about how you want exciting football, only to praise a team that doesn't try to score a goal.
I mentioned Scott Parker in that last paragraph. What a player this guy is. With Fabregas, and his dodgy hamstring (he is injured again in case you missed his interview after the match - this will drag on all season, as it has for the past 12 months and more) almost certainly leaving next Summer, I would love to see Arsenal line up with Song and Parker, playing behind Jack Wilshere next season. The strength and athleticism of Parker would allow Song to play the more free role he is seemingly developing, while providing a proper screen to the back four. Not many players can put Fabregas in their pocket, but Parker pretty much managed it yesterday. He was on my personal wish-list in the Summer just gone, and he is still there now.

I haven't yet read today's paper, so there's nothing else for me to comment on really. We've got a favourable draw in the Carling Cup and, with a bit of luck, West Ham might dispose of Man Utd, giving us our best chance of silverware in years. I can dream I suppose. More tomorrow.

Friday, 29 October 2010

West Ham (h) preview

I don't like matches where we're supposed to win hands down. I always worry that the players will come out thinking that turning up will be enough - like the West Brom game a few weeks ago. I also worry that the opposition goalkeeper will choose their match against Arsenal to play the game of his life, which brings me nicely to tomorrow's visitors, West Ham United.
You might remember that West Ham were the first away team to win at our new stadium. It was a game that was unbelievably one-sided as Arsenal dominated from the kick-off. Bobby Zamora nicked a goal for West Ham in the first-half, and Robert Green decided to be Gordon Banks for the day, turning in the sort of display that would shock anyone who watched him at the World Cup, or since the start of this season. It was, without a doubt, the finest performance of Green's career and I recall that it came on the back of one or two errors in the preceding matches. Do you see now why I might be a little apprehensive about the game tomorrow? Green has been in the middle of a recurring nightmare since the USA game in the Summer, and most Saturday's since the start of the season he's been going through it over and over again. His mistakes have piled up as the season has gone on, and West Ham find themselves bottom of the table, largely as a result of his ineptitude. I am scared that he will choose tomorrow to become a West Ham superhero, just for the day. One thing is for certain, our forwards must put the necessary pressure on a goalkeeper who is seemingly even more vulnerable than our own. Every cross must be put in to the right area, and attacked with vigour. And we must also take on a few shots when the opportunity arises, rather than the interminable "after you, after me" nonsense we see far too often. It may seem churlish to criticise the lack of goal attempts from a team averaging three goals per match, but anyone who has to sit through it week after week will know exactly what I mean.
With a big Champions League game in midweek Kieran Gibbs might have been expected to get his second game in a row tomorrow. We all know, however, that young Kieran seems to be made from the same glass as Robin Van Persie. As a result Gael Clichy is going to get the sort of workload over the next few weeks that he could probably do without - perhaps shipping out Traore wasn't such a good idea. Gibbs will be out for "2-4 weeks" apparently (I'm saying nothing), so maybe someone like Tom Cruise might get a run out in the last two European Cup games, if we can get the necessary result in Donetsk - that's for another time. I would expect Koscielny to line up with Squillaci in the centre of the defence, following an impressive comeback by the younger Frenchman against Newcastle.
In midfield we can expect Cesc and Song to play in their usual roles, and I'd be surprised to see Denilson replaced, with Jack Wilshere suspended and Abou Diaby injured...again. The interesting selection will concern Arshavin. With Theo Walcott playing 90 minutes on Wednesday I reckon the Russian will keep his place tomorrow, but he is seriously under pressure now in my opinion. There is no way the Manager can leave out Samir Nasri, so Arshavin would be the obvious choice when Wenger decides to unleash Walcott again. Bendtner's return to the side has been impressive and encouraging, but I can't see him replacing Marouane Chamakh in the starting eleven this weekend. I think the line-up might look a little like this:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Denilson, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.
West Ham will be missing Matthew Upson, apparently. Their reserves, who included the likes of James Tomkins, were battered by Arsenal last week, so let's hope they're having real trouble in defence tomorrow. I do think they can score goals though. I've always felt Carlton Cole is pretty underrated, and would be a fine player in a good side. In Piquionne and Obinna they have two quick and dynamic goalscorers, both of whom have the ability to damage Arsenal tomorrow. Noble and Parker are both very fine players in midfield, so there is plenty about West Ham to provide some caution to the Arsenal players tomorrow.
The bookies have us down as certainties. I don't. It stands to reason that, if Arsenal put in the required effort, they will win the game (provided Green keeps off the Pat Jennings juice). Win the battle of effort, and Arsenal must surely win the game of football - turn up and ponce around the pitch, on the other hand, and Arsenal might just get stung. Let's hope it's the former. I'll post a review here on Sunday as it's my cricket club presentation evening tomorrow night, and I have a trophy to collect for the first time in 11 years!

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Normal service...

Get back to prison you horrible, scouse scumbag

Did you think (hope) I'd gone for good? No such luck. Since the early hours of Saturday morning I've been suffering with a nasty dose of flu. Not the much-fabled man-flu, but genuine, knock the strength out of you, keep you in bed for days, proper flu. I spent Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday (and a good part of yesterday) in bed, pretty much unable to move. Plenty of people have "flu" every year, but rarely is it the kind of flu that should genuinely qualify as such - that is actually fairly rare, I believe - particularly among younger people. As a result of this ailment I have missed work (missed it in the sense that I haven't been there, rather than missed it in the sense that I would rather be there) since Saturday night and, as you will have noticed, I've missed blogging every day (and I definitely did want to blog).
I won't review the Man City game as it seems a lifetime ago to me. Thanks to the wonders of multi-room I was able to watch the game through my sick-induced haze, though it's fair to say I wasn't celebrating any of the goals in the usual fashion, not to say the win. Almost as soon as the match was over I closed my eyes and went to sleep for about twenty minutes, something I could never normally do after any game, or any result. As far as the game itself went I didn't think it was a great performance, though Nasri and Chamakh were outstanding. Fabregas won man-of-the-match on Sky - is he the new Bryan Robson (small gag for the older generation there)? All that mattered was the result on Sunday, and a 3-0 win at Eastlands was very welcome.
I'll keep the rest of this brief as staring at a computer screen is giving me a headache again.
Last night saw another convincing away win, this time in the League Cup. I was surprised at two of the starting eleven - Eastmond and Vela, preferred to Lansbury and Emmanuel-Thomas, really disappointed me. Lansbury, in particular, must be feeling a little disillusioned today, especially as Eastmond was a genuine weak-link in the Arsenal chain last night. Hopefully Vela's "performance" will be one of his final chances in the first-team, with Big Jay moving ahead of him - he did more in his nine minutes of action than Vela did in seventy.
Aside from that I thought the boys played pretty well, with Koscielny shining at the back, and Theo showing why he could make a great strike partner for Chamakh (a bit like Alan Smith and Ian Wright, perhaps). Four more goals away from home was a fair reflection of Arsenal's general dominance, though Sczeszny enhanced his reputation still further, meaning that there is some genuine competition for the goalkeeper spot right now. All in all it was a super win and, judging by the fact that Fabregas was an unexpected sub, Wenger seems to have finally got the message about needing to win something (anything).
I can't leave last night's game though without mentioning Joey Barton (henceforth to be known, according to the Sky commentators, as "the reformed character Joey Barton"). What scum this man is. Once again Andre Marriner failed to do his job properly, as Barton should now be serving a suspension on Saturday for his assaults on Eastmond and Fabregas. The foul on Craig Eastmond was sickening, but typical of the cowardly scouse bastard. So, too, the challenge on Cesc. That he was only booked for one of them (the second one) shows the referee to be an incompetent cretin. You never see Barton picking on anyone bigger than himself - can you see him daring to kick someone like Chris Samba? I'd love to see someone like Vieira go out in a blaze of glory by showing Barton what it's like to get REALLY hurt in the tackle. Nobody would shed any tears. The man belongs in prison, so let's hope he finds his way back there soon.
I'll preview the West Ham game tomorrow evening, after I get home from my first day back at work. Hopefully normal service is resuming - it's no fun being ill, even if it stops you from working.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Man City (a) Preview

ADEBAYOR - he wouldn't dare, would he?

Arsenal visit Manchester City this Sunday in a big, big game at Eastlands. A win puts us in good shape heading towards the Winter, a defeat sees us pretty much looking down, rather than up. I don't mind admitting that I'm worried ahead of Sunday. I don't believe our centre-backs have the physicality, or the pace to deal with Carlos Tevez. And then there is the problem of Emmanuel Adebayor.

Last Sunday Man City played Tevez and Adebayor together up front and it seemed to damage their ability to get the ball in to attacking areas. Consequently they were outplayed by Blackpool through midfield. A second-half substitution (and some dubious officiating) changed the game. If we had the ability to defend I would be hoping that the same formation might be adopted this Sunday. Unfortunately we can't defend properly, and City will no doubt be a bit more cute about how they get the ball from back to front.

Whatever we think about Adebayor, we can't deny that he is a fine striker when he wants to be. Against Arsenal you can be certain that he will be in the mood to deliver. Last night Adebayor scored a hat-trick in the UEFA Cup (sorry, Europa League). Arsenal fans know, better than anybody, that he has the habit of going on scoring runs, before it all dries up for a month or so. We must hope, ahead of Sunday, that he bucks his own trend, and that Squillaci finally shows the hard-man side of him we thought we were getting. If Adebayor does score, I can't think there would be a repeat of his stupidity last season where he ran the length of the pitch, and was lucky the Arsenal fans were prevented from getting at him.

If City do play 4-4-2 then we can get at them when we have possession. If the referee (Mark Clattenburg - rewarded, for costing West Ham 3 points last week, with a top of the table clash) gets hold of De Jong early on, and stymies his aggression then Fabregas and co could have a field day. I expect Diaby to replace Wilshere, alongside Alex Song, and this means that Song MUST keep his discipline and stay in front of his defence. Andrey Arshavin will return out wide, and he is now owing us a performance - he is a big game player usually, and this is certainly one of those. We know how dangerous City's wide players are, and their full-backs also like to get forward, so Nasri and Arshavin have to be prepared to work back and help out Sagna and Clichy. If Clichy can get close to Adam Johnson, and stop him running from deep, then a lot of City's supply will be stunted, though I also fear David Silva might be starting to adapt to the Premier League - let's hope he stays on the bench.

If I was offered a draw right now I would take it - as I said earlier, a defeat could be disastrous for our season. Having said that, if we get ahead, then we must prove our mettle and hold out for what would be a massive three points. Here is what I expect the line-up to be:
Fabianski - Sagna, Squillaci, Djourou, Clichy - Song, Diaby, Fabregas - Arshavin, Chamakh, Nasri.

There won't be a blog tomorrow as the night shift beckons. Next post will be some time after the game on Sunday evening (possibly late!)

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Arsene tells the sahreholders his philosophy on defence

Today saw Arsenal hold their AGM at Ashburton Grove. I've always wanted to go to this event, but I have never been a shareholder so it's kind of forbidden. Nowadays, thanks to the internet, the unwashed masses like us also get to know what went on behind closed doors, through the official website. Aside from the usual flannel given by the Chairman etc the shareholders are addressed by Arsene Wenger, who then answers some hand-picked questions from the floor. One particular part of the reports on www.arsenal.com concerned Wenger's view on "big matches." I am astounded at what he said, but it kind of explains why we keep losing them:

“I’m not against defending. Most of the big games are not decided by defending, they are decided most of the time by the first goal.” (http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/-big-games-are-decided-by-the-first-goal)

Surely I'm not the only one who can see the problem with this, am I? It's true that the scorer of the first goal will win most matches - but that kind of underlines the importance of not conceding. If you don't let in a goal you have more chance of winning the game, do you not? To suggest that Chelsea did not beat Arsenal, a couple of weeks ago, through their ability to defend is simply missing the point completely. Such was Arsenal's dominance of possession they would have beaten almost any other team in Europe, but against a team as good at defending as Chelsea they created nothing, and got caught out twice defensively themselves. I'm sure Wenger thinks most of the fans are as thick as his players, so can't see through some of the crap he is wont to come out with.

Arsene also talked about the future of Cesc Fabregas - http://www.arsenal.com/news/news-archive/-i-hope-fabregas-will-stay-for-many-years-. Wenger stated that he is "confident we will keep him for a few more years." This is really quite a statement from the Arsenal manager. To describe himself as "confident" that Fabregas will stay is a big surprise. We all hope that this is the case, while probably accepting that the Captain will not be here next season. Until such time as Fabregas starts making similar statements I will continue to expect the worst. At least with Wilshere and Nasri looking competent in Fabregas' position, and Ramsey (please God) returning, we have some potential replacements already in the squad.

Other stuff from the AGM is available on the official website.

In other news Wenger has admitted that Thomas Vermaelen's injury is a bad one, but Sky are reporting he will be back in mid-November. I will not be holding my breath. Bacary Sagna is due to return on Sunday, which is ahead of schedule if my memory serves me right. I wouldn't be keen to see him walk straight back in to the team and would rather see Eboue continue at full-back on Sunday. Sagna has struggled over the past 18 months and perhaps being dropped might do him some good.

Tomorrow is another day, and I will be previewing the Man City game in this very place - something to look forward to.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Arsenal 5 - 1 Shakhtar Donetsk, Big Jay stakes his claim

Another comfortable win last night against seemingly second-rate opposition. I have to say I don't think Arsenal played particularly well last night. I watched the match in full when I got home last night and I begin to think that I watched a different game live. Sky were raving about the way we played and how good Jack Wilshere was. Personally, I felt that the flowing football was not quite so evident last night, and that Wilshere had one of his quieter games (despite scoring with a delightful finish). Chamakh worked as hard as ever up front but his first-touch was lacking at times, though yet another goal meant he continued his fine run in front of goal - scoring in a sixth successive European Cup game is a record, incidentally. I was pleased to see him get another rest in the last twenty minutes, but couldn't understand why Bendtner didn't replace him, with Walcott on for Nasri, rather than the introduction of Arshavin out wide.
It was good to have Cesc back last night, but I felt his presence actually slowed us down for once. The skipper was starting to drop deep and demand the ball, which usually arrived to his feet as demanded. I hope this is not a trend that will develop, whereby the ball always go to him in every move - we had that with Thierry Henry and it stunted the whole team. Gael Clichy, meanwhile, had a far better game last night, but I have never seen anyone quite so clueless when he sees the edge of the opposition penalty area.
The match was rounded off in the grand manner, with the best goal of the game - but it wasn't scored by Arsenal. Eduardo had been afforded a fine ovation by the crowd when he was introduced as a substitute (at the same time as his great friend, Denilson - who looked sharp when he came on) but it was nothing compared to the reaction that greeted his goal. It is fair to say that, had the score been 0-0 at the time, the fans would not have been quite so generous! But, with the score at 5-0 Eduardo got a standing ovation, and the crowd called his name back to Arsenal's stadium announcer (for once getting something right with his crowd interaction). It was a truly wonderful finish, the type of goal we used to see before the injury. As in the Summer, I want to wish Eduardo all the luck in the World - God knows he deserves some.
The result last night meant Arsenal set a record for goals after three games in the group stages. That means little to me. However, what our three wins mean is that we are virtually through to the next round. The next task is to ensure we win the group, and a win in Shakhtar would secure just that, and a rest from the last two games for most of the first-choice players.

The Reserves were in action yesterday afternoon, as they played West Ham at London Colney. West Ham included seven recognisable names in their starting line-up and one of these, Julian Faubert, was sent-off. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas scored a hat-trick for Arsenal in a 4-1 win, and he continues to make a big noise to get himself noticed by Arsene Wenger. Carlos Vela also played in the game, but he was substituted after 79 minutes. With Emmanuel-Thomas banging in the goals he must surely move ahead of the Mexican before long - I would have him ahead of Bendtner as well. The fact that, with more players getting fit, we saw Vela left out of the first-team squad last night surely means he is on his final lap as an Arsenal player. It will take a dramatic turnaround in form and fortunes, I think, for him to be here this time next season. He will get another chance to impress against Newcastle next week, but I would like to see Bendtner and Emmanuel-Thomas as a centre-forward duo for the Carling Cup tie, with Vela and Walcott out wide. More of that to come early next week.

The North London care in the community project is at the San Siro tonight. Sky were up and about early to catch the window lickers express before it left Heathrow this morning and interview some of the Spurs fans. It would be wrong for me to not let one particular deluded fool have the last word tonight, as he gave his views on their game with Inter Milan: "I fink it'll be an English game, cos we're an English side, and they've got Rafa Benitez who's an ENGLISH manager." Intelligent bunch these Spurs fans.

More tomorrow.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Birmingham fall out is annoying me, Shakhtar Donetsk preview

Eduardo - back at Arsenal tomorrow

I am getting really annoyed. Annoyed about the way in which Arsenal are being portrayed. I wrote yesterday that I was pleasantly surprised by the media reaction to Wilshere's red card. Whilst I was writing that I was recording yesterdays Goals On Sunday on Sky. I wanted to see their version of the highlights as I had been told about Trevor Francis' reaction on commentary to Roger Johnson's elbow on Chamakh - Francis apparently described it as a perfectly good centre-half challenge, or words to that effect. When I saw that the studio guests were Chris Coleman (whose views I discounted yesterday) and the aforementioned Johnson, I kind of knew where this was going. The highlights were shown minus the commentary (and minus the elbow) with Chris Kamara talking over the pictures. What followed was a dissection of every Arsenal tackle, and the alleged (though proven not to be by television - unless you are on Sky) dive by Chamakh. If you can get hold of a recording of yesterday's show I urge you to watch it and see the pious and arrogant look on Johnson's face. I had to stop watching before they had finished their "analysis" of the game as I was about to put my boot straight through the screen. Apparently they went on to talk (or at least have a good laugh) about the elbow incident. I am sickened by this kind of crap. The presenter is Ben Shepard - late of GMTV - and I urge you all to bombard his Twitter account with your views on the disgraceful TV he served up yesterday morning. To summarise, according to the "panel" Arsenal should have lost Nasri, Eboue and Wilshere to red cards, while Chamakh should have no place in football...ever...the foreign, diving scumbag - you get the gist.
I write this blog to get things off my chest and to make sure I am not bottling-up a lot of my frustration at this very kind of thing. On this occasion I haven't yet reached the tip of the iceberg with my anger. I find it so annoying, and so frustrating, that as soon as Arsenal players do something even remotely wrong, the Man Utd/Chelsea loving branches of the Murdoch media jump up and down and make out we are dirty hypocrites. They can all just sod off and die as far as I'm concerned.
Tomorrow night we will be privileged to witness the return of Eduardo (how topical) to Arsenal. When he was sold a few months back I wrote about how I felt cheated over the Croatian. I genuinely believe that Eduardo would have gone on to be a great of the Club, but for the injury. His finishing was so natural, perhaps even better than Ian Wright when he saw the goal in front of him (and even behind him on some occasions). Last season, however, his state of mind seemed to be wrong. The psychological effect of having his leg smashed (McCleish should read that phrase before comparing the Eduardo incident with Saturday's tackle) got to him, in my opinion. We were already aware that Eddie was struggling physically, with niggling injuries stopping any run of games for him. The problems in his mind seemed to start, for me, in the North London Derby where he missed twice in one-on-one situations, seeming to bottle it as the challenges were being made. He was never the same and the move in the Summer had to happen. We will never get to know just how good he would have been for Arsenal, and that makes me even more angry. Tomorrow night Eduardo will get one hell of a reception, and it will be fully merited for a man who might have been a legend. I would not, for once, begrudge the opposition centre-forward a goal, as long as we are 4-0 up by then!
The team news sees Fabregas return to the squad, "fully fit" according to the Manager. It must have been some 48 hours since the game on Saturday where he wasn't fit enough for the bench. Wenger says he doesn't know yet who will start - I bet he does really. If he doesn't then there is something wrong. He might be tempted to keep Fabregas back for Saturday, but the next game is the most important for me, and the next game is tomorrow night. Go out there, get it won, and then rest the necessary players by taking them off. I can see one or two changes being made from Saturday, and here is how I would like to see them line up:
Fabianski - Eboue, Squillaci, Djourou, Gibbs - Denilson, Wilshere, Fabregas - Nasri, Chamakh, Walcott.
What I would like to see, and what we will actually see will be different - Song will probably play ahead of Denilson, and Arshavin instead of Walcott. We will see.
Next post will be some time on Wednesday, with a review of the match and, hopefully, no more crap from Birmingham.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Arsenal 2 - 1 Birmingham City - lazy, but predictable from McCleish

Jack Wilshere - MOTM, despite the red card

The boys managed to pull out a hard-fought 2-1 win yesterday against a tough and organised Birmingham City. The match headlines, though, are only about Jack Wilshere being sent-off. I had intended to write a blog last night, but having had a bad journey home (which would have been at least an hour longer without a tour of the back-streets of Purfleet) and keeping an important appointment with the Sky+ box, I simply ran out of time. I also wanted to get a flavour of the media reaction to Jack's red card before reviewing the match. I have actually been pleasantly surprised.
When Wilshere made his challenge I thought it was, perhaps, a bit high. The lack of protest from anyone (including Wenger who was about five yards away) indicated that the players knew it was a bad challenge. The replays I've seen on Match of the Day make me think that it wasn't so bad after all - late, but not especially high. The fact that he was showing his studs was also a factor, I'm sure. A red card, yes. A leg-breaker of a challenge, no. It was a real shame as Wilshere had stood head and shoulders above everyone on the pitch with his performance yesterday - definitely the Man of the Match, regardless of the late misdemeanour. I listened to Radio 5 in the car on the way home (I turned off before 6-0-6 started as I've had enough of Savage's inane ramblings) and heard Chris Coleman slagging Wilshere like he was some kind of mass murderer. He described Wilshere's foul, and an earlier one by Eboue (which was nothing more than a foul) as "two of the worst tackles you'll see all season." I can only assume that Coleman has missed the leg-breaking challenges so far this year. Chris Coleman knows all about broken legs, having had his career ended following a car crash, but he is also Welsh so we shouldn't listen to him anyway. In a week when bad tackling has been fully on the media agenda it was somewhat ironic that an Arsenal player be given a straight red card for a bad challenge. Alex McCleish has predictably tried to compare it with Taylor's challenge on Eduardo. This is incredibly crass, but not unexpected from someone of such limited intellect as the Birmingham manager. The fact is that Taylor was a 6-feet plus centre-back, smashing in to a diminutive striker with rare abandon. Jack Wilshere on the other hand is a 5'8" midget who was making a challenge, from a standing start, on a 6'8" giant. To compare the two, given what happened to Eduardo, is beyond the pail.
Arsene Wenger rather stole the thunder of Radio 5 with his post-match interview where he said it was a deserved red-card. Arsenal's PR machine has also swung in to action with a supposed statement from Wilshere saying how sorry he is, and how he will learn from it. By doing so Arsenal have diffused any chance of the media trying to destroy Wilshere (having built him up in recent weeks). I hope that Wilshere does not change a thing - his willingness to make a challenge is what sets him apart in Arsenal's midfield (one challenge on a fast-moving Hleb yesterday was a joy to watch). I should also point out that Zigic's forearm smash on Wilshere earlier in the second-half has been completely ignored. So too a blatant elbow on Chamakh by Roger Johnson just moments after the penalty incident and a seperate flashpoint involving Nasri - more on that below. Let's move on.
In terms of the rest of the game Arsenal had started well with Chamakh missing a great early chance, having been set up by another Wilshere moment of class. Having not made a breakthrough we seemed to revert to type. Suddenly we were giving away silly free-kicks (mostly through another inept display from Alex Song - once again woefully out of position throughout the game as he set off up field). Eventually, having failed to close down a cross - remember I mentioned the importance of this in Friday's preview piece - Djourou failed to mark Zigic who directed his free-header perfectly. At 1-0 down the cracks were appearing again and Zigic should have made it 2-0 a couple of minutes later. The boys survived the scare and got back in to the game with a penalty. Birmingham claimed that Chamakh dived over Dann's challenge in the box. TV replays show that he didn't. In his interview on Radio 5 McCleish stated that Dann had "sworn on his girlfriends life" that he didn't touch Chamakh. Rumours of the poor lady's sad demise are, as yet, unfounded. Nasri dispatched the penalty confidently and I was delighted that there was no celebration from the players who ran determinedly back to the halfway line to get on with the game. Nasri should have been sent-off after the restart for putting his knee in to Ridgewell following the award of a free-kick. Thankfully he got away with it, but not before Ben Foster's behaviour had betrayed his Man Utd past. Having run 30 yards to remonstrate with Chamakh after the penalty award, he decided to chase even further to involve himself in Nasri's spat. At Old Trafford, of course, this is accepted behaviour. It didn't wash yesterday, but he should also have found himself headed for the dressing-room with a booking for each incident.
The second-half started with a well-worked goal as Wilshere and Chamakh combined again (and a nice flick from Song was also important) with the Moroccan providing a lovely finish. At 2-1 so early on I thought we would go on and score at least one more goal. There were a few shots straight at the keeper and Bendtner came within inches of connecting with a Rosicky cross (I had Nasri to score in a 3-1 win at odds of 35/1 so was particularly keen for a third goal). Rosicky had come on for Arshavin midway through the second-half. Arshavin was a disgrace yesterday and I got the distinct impression that the fans are beginning to see through it all. The Russian has been living on his Anfield performance for far too long. When he arrived he was a dominant force, acting like a real leader on the pitch. Now he has become a passenger, a luxury we can't afford. He must step it up, or be dropped. Abou Diaby led most of Arsenal's attacking moves but seems to act as though the last defender has thrown a force-field around the penalty area as he turns and goes sideways or backwards, ultimately losing the momentum and/or the ball. Frustrating is the word to describe Diaby.
Following the red card we had to endure a painful few minutes of aerial bombardment. Bendtner made a couple of crucial headers in defence, but failed miserably to hold the ball up, which added to the pressure we were under. I'll forgive him after three months out. The final action of the game saw Arsenal stop for an offside which was never going to come - the guy moving on to the ball (I apologise for not recording who it was) was clearly onside. The only Arsenal man still concentrating was Fabianski who flew from his line and hurled himself head-long at the ball - it was a bit "Bob Wilson" actually. It was, without doubt, the best piece of goalkeeping we've seen from the Pole in a very long time. The cheer that greeted it was the loudest of the day and will, hopefully, have filled Fabianski with some necessary confidence.
With Chelsea and Man Utd dropping points it was crucial for Arsenal to win. It makes the defeat to West Brom and draw at Sunderland an annoying interlude as we should now be level with Chelsea, despite being beaten by them. No matter. We are where we are, and we move ahead with a Champions League game in midweek before another huge test at Man City next weekend - without Jack Wilshere.
The midweek match preview will be here tomorrow evening.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Birmingham City preview

So here we go then, back to the Premier League after a fortnight of boredom. Two weeks of hoping not too many players come back in plaster are over and we can get on with the important business of watching Arsenal. In fairness, following two defeats in a row in the Premier League, the break came at a decent time in my opinion. The injuries we were suffering before the Chelsea game meant that Wenger had a reasonable number of players in for training for a change during the internationals (and Carlos Vela's Mexico ban meant he didn't have to go globetrotting).
Yesterday we were told that Theo Walcott, Nicklas Bendtner and Kieran Gibbs were all available for the squad tomorrow. Meanwhile Fabregas, Sagna, Vermaelen and Van Persie are still out, as is Manuel Almunia. This means that our striking options are a little more flexible than they have been, but we remain short-handed in central defence. I will be disappointed to see Koscielny and Squillaci line up together again tomorrow - they've conceded five goals in two league games, and been made to look pretty ordinary. In my view it's time for Johan Djourou to come in to the side, but I doubt he will. The return of Gibbs will hopefully see Gael Clichy back on the subs bench. With Sagna out of the side, Emmanuel Eboue will have an opportunity to play a few matches in his real position at right-back. I like Eboue - the way he battled back from the Wigan match two years ago shows real mental fortitude - and I would like to think that a couple of decent performances will see him retain his place when Sagna is fit. Sagna is very good in the air, but his defensive performances have become sub-standard and his attacking play is woeful - his crossing of the ball is on a par with that of Clichy. As I say, Eboue now has a chance to stake his claim to a starting berth at full-back - it's up to him to make the most of the opportunity. I would also like to see Alex Song dropped, in the interests of giving him a genuine kick up the arse, with Denilson coming in to replace him. My starting line-up would be somewhat different from Arsene Wenger's, I am sure, so this is what I think it might be - rather than what I would like it to be:
Fabianski - Eboue, Squillaci, Koscielny, Clichy - Song, Wilshere, Nasri - Arshavin, Chamakh, Rosicky.

Birmingham look set to be without Cameron Jerome. This is good news for me as Arsenal do not cope well with a big, physical striker. However, he will likely be replaced by the even bigger Nikola Zigic. Since arriving at Birmingham Zigic has been pretty disappointing - a 6'7" striker who doesn't jump his height - but against Arsenal's centre-halves he might just come in to his own. Birmingham will have Seb Larsson playing out wide and looking to put his quality crosses on to the head of the big man. Whoever is playing at left-back for Arsenal, whether it be Clichy or Gibbs, will have to break the habit of a lifetime and get close to Larsson, making sure that the crosses do not come in. We certainly can't rely on our goalkeeper to come and take things in the box. Birmingham are also dangerous at set-pieces, with Ridgewell a regular scorer from those situations.
Alexander Hleb is doubtful for the opposition, and has issued a statement denying that he is unhappy there. This is a man, remember, who left Arsenal because he didn't like London life (he neglected to mention the £60,000-a-week pay-rise at Barcelona). Let's face it, if you didn't like London, you'll bloody despise Birmingham. Hleb not playing would be a good thing for Arsenal as I am never keen on seeing ex-players come back to embarrass us. Admittedly, it is unlikely that Hleb would do much shooting if he got near the box, but I'd rather not find out.

I'll post my views on the game at some point tomorrow night. Three points and a couple of goals would do nicely and make the journey home infinitely more enjoyable.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Rambo in training, early team-news, Rooney angling for a move

Aaron Ramsey - I hope we can see this celebration again soon

Eight months on from the GBH inflicted by Ryan Shawcross, Aaron Ramsey is back in training. The Welsh teenager is targeting an unspecified date in November for a return to playing. I will be keeping my fingers crossed for Aaron, and hoping that he is not plagued, in the same way Eduardo was, by continuous niggling problems. Whilst it is great to hear that he is in training, I will not be putting out the flags just yet. I have never known any player to come back properly from a such a horrific break - let's just hope that he bucks the trend. Best of luck boyo.

In the team-news for Saturday we are told that Fabregas and Almunia are "nearing a return" but not for Saturday. I am really surprised to hear that Cesc is still not fit - this is quite confusing considering that the man himself was on Twitter last week saying that the Chelsea game was just a couple of days early for him. I hope there is nothing sinister going on with regards Fabregas and his future - he has also been talking about Barcelona again. Elsewhere Sagna and Vermaelen are "10 days away." Of course they are. Meanwhile Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner are "in contention" for Saturday (all of this is according to www.arsenal.com). If Bendtner appears on Saturday then I never want to hear about the importance of pre-season matches for fitness ever again. I will be doing the regular pre-match preview tomorrow.

I don't have a lot of interest in Manchester United, as you can imagine. Nor do I have a lot of interest in Wayne Rooney. However, I am intrigued by Rooney's decision to tell the World that Ferguson is a liar. Most of us had probably surmised this at some point, but it's always nice to be proved correct. There is no doubt that Rooney has been seriously off-form this season, and I think most people had put it down to his personal problems, or Ferguson's claimed ankle injury. With Rooney coming out today and saying he had no such injury I get the impression that he is actually not happy at Old Trafford anymore - and he is now actively looking for the exit door. It does not pay for any player to cross Alex Ferguson - just ask David Beckham, Jaap Stam and Roy Keane. It doesn't matter how big a star you might be, Ferguson will not have his authority challenged. Even the thickest of footballers, and their advisers, will realise that is the case, so the only conclusion to be drawn is that Rooney is deliberately forcing the hand of his Manager in order to secure a transfer. If and when it happens, you know where you heard it first.

More tomorrow morning, before a horrible evening at work. Looking forward to Saturday a lot now.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Arsenal players return to real football, England get worse

Roy Race - set to sign Andy Townsend?

The international break is at an end. Thank God for that. What an interminable ten days it's been since proper football left us. Checking the official website gives no indication of injuries suffered as yet - though Diaby did play for France last night so there is every chance of him being out for a few weeks. Congratulations to Henri Lansbury who played the final half-hour for England U21 as they qualified for their European Championships next Summer. We can only hope that Jack Wilshere is not selected for that tournament, and gets the Summer off instead. However, with this being a Stuart Pearce production, you can be fairly certain that Jack will play every minute of every game, before being dropped for the Final having "taken his eye off the ball."
Elsewhere Nicklas Bendtner is declaring himself fit for the game on Saturday, despite having played no football whatsoever since the World Cup. I would be surprised, and disappointed, to see the big Dane taking his place in Saturday's squad. I'm a big fan of Bendtner (in the minority, I know) but I don't want to see him anywhere near the team until his fitness has been proven with a couple of run-outs in the Reserves. No doubt we will find out in the coming days whether Almunia has returned to fitness (if he was ever really injured) and Wenger might then have a decision to make. We will see.

And so to England. I must admit that I only watched the second-half. When I saw Wilshere was on the bench I realised the first-half would hold no interest for me, so I watched a particularly enthralling episode of New Tricks on my Sky+. When I switched on after 48 minutes and saw a nil-nil scoreline I felt it was only a matter of time before Jack came on. I will make it clear at this point that I am not upset that Wilshere did nothing but sit on the bench last night - a midweek without a game will do him good - but, honestly, how crap were England? In the time I watched the game Gareth Barry got booked for his third foul of the half, gave the ball away four times, and missed a good chance in the final minute (those were the only times he got involved in the action), and yet Jack did not replace him. If you talk to anyone that watches Man City they will tell you that Gareth Barry is their weak link in midfield - a terrible waste of money. So, while I am pleased Wilshere was given a rest, I wathced in disbelief as he wasn't given the chance to turn it round for England last night. Instead of that, Kevin Davies got a cap (and a booking for an elbow!) and the other substitute used (for his 46th cap!) was Shaun Wright-Phillips. When you see quality like that being introduced from the bench it is easy to understand why England are so woeful.
As I sat through the game I got more and more annoyed with Andy Townsend, commentating for ITV. We watched Ashley Young pretending to be Tom Daley in the penalty area, with a full somersault - Townsend had seen penalties given for less. When Rooney chased an opponent 50 yards just to kick him, he was "frustrated" with the refereeing decisions going against him earlier on. Both of those men are, of course, English. Whenever a Montenegro player made a foul he was being "cynical" and deliberately stopping England from playing (only a crime if it's not against Arsenal, where such tactics are to be applauded apparently). Anyone who was a fan of Roy of the Rovers will remember that the bad guys were always the "swarthy foreigners," and I got the distinct impression last night that Townsend must have been angling for a move to mighty Melchester Rovers, such was his opinion of England's opposition.
When England played their first friendly after the Summer Capello introduced a lot of younger, new players to the squad. Now that the "competitive" (Montenegro's substitute striker plays in the Spanish second division for Rayo Vallecano) stuff has got going he has returned to the tried and tested (and failed) performers. Of last night's team, Adam Johnson and Ashley Young were the only ones not selected for the World Cup on merit (Ferdinand and Lescott would both have been in the final squad but for injury - Ferdinand got injured in a pre World Cup training session). All the other players were part of the national embarrassment that the World Cup became. I bet the youngsters appear again in November when they play another meaningless game against France, which will probably mean Wilshere and Gibbs and Walcott getting injured again.

More tomorrow when I hope we'll have something in the form of early team news for Saturday.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Arsenal according to Nigel

The Dover Gooners - another magnificent evening with an Arsenal legend

Today it is not so much MY Arsenal Opinion as Nigel Winterburn's. As I told you on Friday, last night was the annual Dover Gooners Legends Dinner, and this year's esteemed guest was none other than Nutty Nigel. Over 220 members of the Dover Gooners were in attendance, from all over England, and also Italy and an Austrian delegation including the legendary Andy Kovacs.

After a superb meal, we were treated to a wonderful question and answer session with Nigel. Making his way around the room, which added a real personal touch, Winterburn swapped opinion with anyone and everyone. His views on Arsenal's goalkeepers were pretty much the same as everyone else, so no surprise there. I asked him if he felt cheated to have only played twice for England. It was interesting to hear him say that, for a few years, he would listen in hope for his name to be announced in the squad, but eventually he knew it wasn't likely to happen and had to accept that. As a result of these snubs, he now has not too much interest in England, or how they get on, but he loves Arsenal and he was there last night "out of respect to the fans." Nigel doesn't begrudge the players what they are paid these days, but he feels that the distance (both metaphorical and real) between players and fans is an unhealthy problem - he used the way the team arrives at the new stadium as an example of how things have not changed for the better in that regard, saying that turning up at Highbury through the crowds was enough motivation in itself.

A couple of people questioned whether he felt Arsene Wenger had reached the end of the line, but Nigel warned that people should be careful what they wish for. I didn't necessarily agree with him on that, but Nigel felt that some of the problems lie elsewhere - I won't say where! Winterburn was quite candid when talking about David Dein. He described the former director as "Mr Arsenal" and he feels that Arsene is missing that relationship, particularly with regards to making the necessary player purchases.

One of the questions asked regarded the leadership, or lack of it, on the pitch in the team today. It was surprising to hear Winterburn echo Wenger's mantra that there should be 11 captains on the pitch, with each player having responsibility to lead from the front. Nigel felt he didn't necessarily see the importance of one man wearing an armband. Coming from someone who played under Tony Adams this was a bit of a shock to me. He was not attempting to denigrate Adams in any way though, and he felt that Tony and Steve Bould were the best centre-back pairing he has seen - Bould came in for particular praise. His favourite player, as it has been with all of the legends to attend through the years, is Dennis Bergkamp.

Nigel doesn't feel that Bruce Rioch was a deliberate stop-gap, put in by the Board, until Arsenal could get Wenger to join. Again, I would rather not be the one to publicise what was said but, had the approach of Rioch been slightly different, we might not have seen Arsene Wenger as soon as we did, if at all.

Finally from Nigel was a comment with regard to his altercation with Brian McClair. Most Arsenal fans will be fully aware of the penalty miss by McClair in the final minute of a 5th round FA Cup tie, in front of the North Bank. We didn't find out exactly what Winterburn said to the Scotsman, as there were children present, but his dislike of Manchester United and Alex Ferguson came through loud and clear! He was also able to make a joke about his altercation with Paolo Di Canio.

All in all Nigel Winterburn provided those present with some fine entertainment, and his honesty was refreshing, even if you didn't agree with some of what he said. Clearest of all was his respect for the fans, and love for Arsenal. He would dearly love to see them win a trophy this year ("even the Carling Cup"), and he believes that it would be the catalyst that would propel the boys to greater glory. I really enjoyed the evening and it is a credit to the organiser that the event goes from strength to strength (as the organiser happens to be my brother I can't say too much for fear of accusations of bias).

In the more important business of the evening, we were able to present a cheque to Nigel, collecting on behalf of The Willow Foundation, for £2,500. The raffle was, once again, a memorabilia collectors dream, with some unique items up for grabs. More information on the work of Willow can be found at www.willowfoundation.org.uk. The Dover Arsenal Supporters Club have recently re-launched their website at www.dovergooners.com.

Don't forget you can follow the blog on Facebook (It's MY Arsenal Opinion) and on Twitter (@ARSENALDvbrisG). With the final international matches taking place in midweek we can, hopefully, resume normal service with some more regular Arsenal news.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Thank God for Danny Murphy, Dover Gooners supporting Willow

Nutty Nige - I'll be meeting the legend tomorrow

I was sitting around yesterday wondering what the hell would I be able to write about today. There was so little about that I considered whether I should bother. When I logged on to the internet this morning I was presented with one of God's own miracles -a story from Heaven. God bless you, Danny Murphy. At last someone has spoken out about the thuggery of English footballers, encouraged by English managers:
What an absolute breath of fresh air this is. Naturally the gnarled old pros have been lining up to say what nonsense they think Murphy is talking - the irony of listening to Dirty Danny Mills having a go at Murphy on Sky this afternoon was not lost on me (Mills will forever be remembered by me for being made to look a twat by Thierry Henry, on the touchline right underneath my East Stand seat at Highbury). Stoke City's chairman has once again decided that it is unfair to talk of his club as a dirty team. He said "Stoke are no dirtier than any other team." I think the facts speak for themselves on this - Stoke are dirtier than most sides.
It's interesting that it has taken the outspoken views of an Englishman to actually get the papers taking this seriously. Can you imagine if someone from those softies at Arsenal had come out with the same comments? Danny Murphy, I applaud you, and you should be lauded from the rafters for showing such courage in speaking out on behalf of the talented footballers in the Premier League. Let's hope that the Fulham skipper has now focused attention properly on the disgraceful play endorsed by certain managers, and that the FA and referees will take proper notice. Perhaps, if they do, we will have seen the end of the leg-breaking challenges that have been prevalent since Martin Taylor got away with, effectively, ending Eduardo's Arsenal career. What's more likely, however, is that Murphy will be charged by the FA for his comments - and that would just about sum the whole thing up.
Tomorrow night is the annual Dover Gooners Legends Dinner. Over the years our guest speakers have been Perry Groves, Charlie George, Terry Neill, Sammy Nelson, Eddie Kelly and Bob Wilson. Tomorrow we are welcoming one of our finest full-backs, Nigel Winterburn. Nutty was one of the most under-rated players of any generation - his two substitute international appearances were a criminal waste of a fine defender - a better footballer than Stuart Pearce, and as for Graeme Le Saux, enough said. Having had so many of the "older" generation in recent years, it will be interesting to listen to a man who spans the Graham and Wenger eras.
Since we began our fundraising dinners in 2004 the Dover Gooners have raised thousands of pounds for Arsenal's charities of the season, and "our" charity, The Willow Foundation. In the last two years we have been concentrating all our fund-raising on Willow (hence the advert at the top of the page) and we hope tomorrow's raffle of Arsenal memorabilia will bring another bumper donation. More information on Dover Gooners can be found at www.dovergooners.com.
The next blog will be on Sunday evening, with a bit of a report on Nutty Nige's question and answer. I'd better get my suit out...

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

England's excuses sorted for 2012, video evidence doesn't apply to Chelsea

It may not have escaped your notice that Jack Wilshere, aged 18, is in the England squad once again. Jack has also been named in the U21 squad. The U21's play on Friday evening, while the full squad is not in action until Tuesday (tickets still available all over Wembley, incidentally). You might remember that England failed spectacularly at the World Cup over the Summer. One of the reasons put forward - and it appears after every championship failure by England - was that the players were knackered after a long season. It is thought by the experts that a Winter break might aid this, though the Premier League appear to be not too keen on the idea. With this in mind it is quite incredible to think that England's brightest new talent - the aforementioned Jack Wilshere - will be subjected to playing in a kids game on Friday, before potentially playing again the following Tuesday, and then returning to play for Arsenal the following weekend. What exactly will Jack Wilshere learn from playing for England U21 when he has played in every Arsenal match this season in three competitions? Come Euro 2012, for which England will almost certainly qualify comfortably, they will fail again. The usual excuses will be trotted out, including the idea that the players are tired. When that happens, be sure to point out to everyone who moans about it, that England are their own worst enemy - the sort of organisation that would choose to put its new star in to a game of no consequence, rather than giving him a few days rest and recuperation.

When I wrote about the Chelsea game on Sunday and Monday I didn't mention the fouls by Malouda and Essien on Sagna and Diaby respectively. For me the foul by Malouda when he stamped (and that is exactly what he did) on Bacary Sagna was a disgusting foul. The referee missed it, but the cameras did not. Less than two minutes later Essien went over the ball on Abou Diaby. Again, nothing from the referee. As a result of the challenge Diaby is not in training with France, but nursing his re-injured ankle (I will be very annoyed if he goes on to play for his country this week). As usual, the fouls were ignored by the TV pundits. They have chosen to concentrate on the De Jong assault on Ben Arfa (incidentally, when Newcastle call for a six-month ban on a foreigner it's okay - and I believe it is too - but when Arsene Wenger calls for a ban on an Englishman he is a raving mad lunatic). However much Sky and the BBC might choose to ignore the misdemeanours of the Chelsea midfield, why are the FA not acting? The incidents seem to have been missed by the referee which would indicate that under their rules the FA can take action (if the ref did see them but chose not to punish accordingly, then he should be suspended too). The fact is that both of the incidents should have resulted in a red card. That being the case the FA should be doing something about it. Could it be that only Arsenal suffer from this? Paul Davis missed out on an England career because of video evidence, lest we forget. Perhaps Arsenal should have made more of the incidents on Sunday, but they would only have been accused of sour-grapes.

More to come later in the week - maybe tomorrow, but probably Friday.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Wenger seems to be reading this, what are the BBC afraid of?

Holland - a country that knows how to treat cloggers (heh!)

It seems that Arsene Wenger is a fan of the blog. Following my observation yesterday that the game was simply deja vu from last season, Arsene has been quick to respond via the official website:
"People will say [that it is déjà vu] but I don’t feel that," said Arsene. Well, he's right, people (i.e. me) are saying it was deja vu. Wenger is maintaining that Arsenal created plenty of chances to have won the game. I do not agree. We dominated possession and territory, but chances to actually score were few and far between. According to Match Of The Day Chelsea enjoyed 53% possession in the match - complete nonsense, which just about sums up the BBC, of which there is more below. At the end of the day, Chelsea seem to remain on a different level to Arsenal, though our (perpetual) injury crisis should not be ignored - I think we might just have had a bit more cutting edge had Fabregas been fit.
Time to move on.
I'm sure you will be aware by now that Hatem Ben Arfa, of Newcastle, had his leg smashed by Man City's Nigel De Jong yesterday. For some reason Roberto Mancini did a Ferguson after the game and sent Brian Kidd out to do the post-match interviews. This was Kidd's comment:
"We all know Nigel is as honest as the day is long."
What does that have to do with breaking people's legs? This is the same Nigel De Jong that broke Stuart Holden's leg earlier this year. The same Nigel De Jong that broke Xavi Alonso's rib in the World Cup Final by kicking him in the chest. Still, I expect he loves his mum, is really devastated about Ben Arfa's leg, and is not really that kind of player (and any other English footballing cliche bollocks you can think of). On Match Of The Day it was described by Lee Dixon as "one of those things" and generally swept under the carpet. Why do the BBC consistently fail to condemn serious foul play and over the top aggression on the football pitch? Are they afraid that Ferguson will not be the only one to refuse interviews long-term?
It is really quite sickening that so many players have suffered terrible broken legs in the past couple of years (four in 2010) in the Premier League, and yet our main media outlets (and their so-called experts) refuse to speak the truth about the players making these challenges.
The Dutch, meanwhile, are more inclined to speak frankly. As a result of yesterday's "tackle" (watch it on Youtube and see his right leg come through to smash the Frenchman's leg in two places) De Jong has been kicked out by the Holland manager (ignore, for a moment, the irony of that following the World Cup Final). On the Dutch version of Match Of The Day De Jong was branded a "criminal" by one of the pundits, and another ex-pro has stated that De Jong "needs mental treatment." How refreshing to hear an honest reaction, rather than the old pals act so prevalent in England.
With an international break (yet another one) now upon us there will probably be a lack of Arsenal news in the next few days. If there is anything out there that is worthy of comment then I will post about it. In the meantime I'm going to enjoy watching the celebrations from the Ryder Cup - it's been a Monday very well spent.