Monday, 18 April 2011
The referee giveth, and the referee taketh away, PFA are a joke
I apologise for not writing a post last night as promised, but I'm sure you can understand why I didn't. I think that, had I written something last night, it would have been even more incoherent than normal. As you can imagine I was like most Arsenal fans last night - absolutely fuming at what had gone on in the last couple of minutes of the match.
It's difficult to know where to start really. I could start with Eboue, I could start with Wenger, I could start with Fabregas or I could start with the referee. I think I'll go for the referee first, and get it out of the way.
I think you'd have to say that Mr Marriner had a fairly decent afternoon up to the 97th minute. Any major decisions had been pretty much right, including Arsenal's penalty (from my vantage point it looked generous, but I've since seen it on TV and the ref got it right). So, having said all that, what is my gripe with Mr Marriner? Well, leaving aside the fact that he is the most orange man to set foot in a football stadium since Phil Brown got the sack from Hull, I have to take issue with the fact that Liverpool equalised in the 102nd minute of the game. When the board went up with eight minutes on it I thought that about right. I immediately looked at the digital clock above the tunnel and it showed 17:50. When Robin Van Persie scored Arsenal's penalty I looked again and it was 17:58. I make that eight minutes. Even accounting for an extra 30 seconds for the goal/yellow card (given for RVP removing his shirt) it doesn't explain how play was allowed to go on and on and on and on like that. Today's Sun has put together a breakdown of the time taken out of the injury-time where the ball wasn't in play, and have used it to berate Arsene Wenger as, according to these cretins, the referee got the time right. For God's sake, what a load of old b******s. If we're going down that road then each game should last for over three hours. The clock is not stopped whenever the play stops. The referee played on past the ninety minutes on his watch - of that there must be no doubt. And it's not the first time we've suffered in that way this season - remember Sunderland? I've gone on about this first in order to make it clear that, whatever I say below about our own failings, the players should have been in the changing rooms, discussing how they had got themselves a Title lifeline, long before the equaliser was scored.
Now then, how about Fabregas next? It has long been said that Cesc Fabregas is Captain of Arsenal simply because there isn't really anyone else. It is also said that he is only Captain of Arsenal because it was seen as a way of keeping him here a bit longer. What can certainly be said is that it's got nothing to do with his leadership skills. Some people excused his disgusting display in Barcelona by pointing to his injured hamstring. Yesterday there were no such excuses. Fabregas' display was woeful. He was disinterested in the extreme and his passing was of the sort of standard, and application, that has people howling their derision at Denilson and Arshavin. Okay, he won us the penalty, but had Denilson been on the pitch and playing like that he would have been booed off. If you think I'm wrong then just consider the cat-calling that Nicklas Bendtner endured when his first touch of the ball was to give it back to Liverpool. Fabregas, meanwhile, consistently passed to black shirts, but not a word of criticism is heard from the masses. Then there is the complete lack of organisation from him after we scored. Who was out there calming the others down? Who was telling them all to get their mind back on the job until the final whistle? Who was being a leader? Certainly not our skipper. Fabregas no longer wants to play for Arsenal, that much is clear from his displays in recent weeks. Anyone who thinks otherwise is deluded. I have no problem with Fabregas wanting to go to Barcelona, but right now he is the Arsenal Captain - it's time he started to play like it.
Emmanuel Eboue is next on my list. Unfortunately Eboue is indicative of the state of Arsenal's mediocre squad players. We all knew three years ago that he is not good enough to play for Arsenal. I disagreed intensely with his treatment at the Wigan game a few years ago, but the reaction of the crowd that day should have been enough to tell the Manager that he was not up to the job of playing for Arsenal. Eboue has since become a cult figure with lots of Arsenal fans, but here's the thing - cult players are considered such because they are usually sub-standard. It's almost as though a player becomes a cult figure because the paying fans see him as the nearest in ability to themselves - i.e. he's not very good. Just think about Terry Mancini (though his contribution to keeping Arsenal up in the 70's should not be forgotten), Perry Groves, John Jensen - all of them are not exactly famed for being world-beaters. Eboue is merely the latest in that line. What he did yesterday, when he rushed in to the back of Lucas, was the action of a man way out of his depth. Wenger talks about "mental strength." In Eboue's case I'll give him the mental part of that, but not the strength. And it's not just the ridiculous foul that probably cost us our final chance to catch Man Utd, there is also the other unacceptable behaviour he displays. How many times do we have to see him go down as though he is the latest Eduardo, only for him to bounce back up without so much as a magic sponge? I wrote the other day about The Arsenal Way, and about Arsenal having a certain class. Eboue's behaviour on the pitch does not fit in to that, and the Board should be telling the Manager to sort it out (there is a well known story from the 1930's where the then Chairman of Arsenal, I think possibly Sir Bracewell Smith, sacked a certain Arsenal player immediately after the game in which the opposition saw their winger carried off on a stretcher as a result of a nasty tackle - that was The Arsenal Way). Yesterday he got Skrtel booked with his play-acting (he's not alone in doing it - Suarez did the same for Liverpool - but it is not becoming of an Arsenal player). What he did in the second-half when he threw himself down, pretending to have pulled something, as Suarez went towards goal was even worse - it very nearly cost us a goal - he then got up and trotted back to defend the resulting corner with nothing wrong with him. Utterly disgraceful. Hopefully it's the last straw, but due to Sagna being injured he will almost certainly have to play at Tottenham on Wednesday. I'll move on quickly before I get started on his "on-the-ball" play.
And so to Arsene Wenger. Again. His contention to Dalglish that it wasn't a penalty is understandable - from his angle he may well have seen it like that, in the same way that I saw our own penalty (I notice The Sun think it's funny that the uncouth Glaswegian told Arsene to p***-off, and then ignore the fact that he went on to tell him to f***-off as well). However, to still say it wasn't a penalty after seeing the replay is simply deluded. He criticises the referee for giving it (had he moaned more about the time added on I'd have agreed with him) and blames him for Arsenal not getting a win. There is not a word said by Wenger about the complete failure of his "mentally strong" team to see out a lead they only acquired in the 98th minute.
Once again yesterday we were back in the twilight-zone for substitutions. Marouane Chamakh was sent to warm-up, but 30 seconds later Alex Song was called upon as Arsenal's last sub of the game. These are not the actions of a man in control of himself. And why the hell was Song coming on anyway? We are nil-nil in a game we have to win, and our Manager takes off Diaby (who was head and shoulders above every other Arsenal player going forward yesterday - his best game of the season by a country-mile) and replaces him with our defensive midfield player, leaving a centre-forward on the bench. I just don't get it. I read on the official website today that Wenger has noted the fact that we are not creating much at home recently (no goals from open play in the last four home league games is an indictment of Wenger's chosen "tactics"). If he's noticed this then wouldn't it be a good idea to try something different? How about two men up front, rather than making Nicklas Bendtner try and play on the right-wing all the bloody time? How about a few long-balls up to a big target man? Tactics? Not at Arsenal.
Congratulations to Jack Wilshere on winning the PFA Young Player of the Year award. However, you'd have to wonder what sort of award this is when the man winning the "senior" version is also nominated for Young Player, but doesn't win it. I would suggest that any credibility the PFA awards might have had was erased for good last night. Gareth Bale won the main prize for his two performances against Inter Milan - bear in mind that he has just one assist in the Premier League this season. With quality like that from wide areas the Premier League is truly the best League in the World...or not. Samir Nasri was runner-up. Edwin Van Der Sar wasn't nominated (disgraceful). Charlie Adam was nominated, but didn't make the Team of the Year. Like I said, no credibility whatsoever.
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that the advertisements have disappeared from beneath this post. This is because Google Adsense have disabled my account for some spurious, unspecified reasons. They have sent me an email to tell me this, with a link that tells me how to appeal - the link is to a web-page that doesn't exist. I can only assume that this tax-dodging organisation, based in the West Indies for business purposes with a Bank of Ireland account, doesn't like to pay out to people when they are approaching the threshold at which they have to do so. If I am wrong about this and they re-instate my account I will apologise unreservedly. In the meantime they can f***-off.
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I'll post a preview of the Spurs game either tomorrow, or on Wednesday morning - it's my birthday tomorrow so if I get away from the abject misery of Arsenal right now it will be most welcome.