Weekend Roundup: Clash of the Titans, United's 12th man (Mike Dean), and Diving

I apologize in advance to our readers who support other clubs, as they are likely to get even shorter coverage today after this weekend's Man U v Arsenal showdown. I do not apologize to United supporters, since so many (though not all) among you are complete and utter c&nts. You are post-1996 Yankee fans.

There is plenty to talk about on that match and more today, so allow me to begin before my liver ceases all function from this weekend.

I imagine some people will disagree with my take on the action this weekend. To those people I say, go write your own damned blog then. I'm the law on this post, dammit. As an Arsenal supporter, I went into this match feeling quite confident. We were on as good a run of form as I can remember in recent seasons leading up to this. United were, outside of a good half against Wigan, playing quite poorly. Even without Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal looked the better side before the match, although I obviously would have felt much more confident had Cesc been included in the starting XI. However, if his absence Saturday keeps him out of Spain's lineup in the fucking useless international break, then it's a small sacrifice versus risking him and having him injured worse on international duty, as happens routinely with Arsenal players (see Theo Walcott on every break with England so far).

Le Boss, not unexpectedly, selected Abou Diaby to start in Cesc's absence. Diaby was coming off of an impressive brace of goals against Pompey and had played well all season. The surprise to me was that we reverted back from the successful 4-3-3 to a 4-4-1-1 formation, starting the normal back 4 but with Diaby, Song, Denilson and Eboue in midfield. The Eboue choice was also not random, as AW seemed to be looking for a bit of cover on the right side of midfield. The problem I had with starting him in this situation was that Eboue can provide a more defensive presence, he also has a knack for halting our attacks in the final third before they ever amount to much. Arshavin stepped into the Bergkamp role behind lone striker Robin van Persie. Despite any complaints I might've had, I felt this was a team that would be able to handle whatever United had to throw at us.

However, after the starting lineups were introduced, it was announced that Mike Dean would be the referee... and immediately a voice in my head spoke. Everyone knows you don't get a fair shake at Old Trafford anyway, but Mike Dean's been up Ferguson's ass for so long that one of his Scottish whiskey farts is like a freshening breeze to him. Even still, how much difference can a referee, even a biased one, really make? Quite a lot actually. As Arsenal controlled the run of play and created a number of good chances in the first half, Dean was handing out yellow cards to Arsenal players like third-world babies to celebrities. I couldn't tell if he was blind or just out to screw over Arsenal, perhaps both. But he booked Alex Song for a soft challenge, and then a few minutes later I could only look down when Song completely took out Giggs, getting all of the man, none of the ball. But somehow the second yellow never came.

Shortly before halftime, Arshavin latched onto a cross on the left-hand side of the box with space to play, when Darren Fletcher committed what was the easiest penalty call you could ever hope to make, which Dean promptly ignored. In any other match, on any other day, and with any other ref, this is an immediate point to the spot, not to mention a yellow card (or red, if you're an Arsenal player). And Dean did nothing. This was where the outrage over Dean really began to take shape. It would have been worse had Arshavin not taken Peter Finch's advice and blasted the wonderstrike of the season so far. The Russian Rocket blasted one from outside the box that had power, bend, finesse and all the demons of hell on it, and Ben Foster was no match. 1-0 to the Arsenal, and that's how it stayed until halftime.

I know that I expected an immediate backlash in the second half by United, but it just never came. Arsenal still were well in control of the match as a whole and still looked the dominant side, until Wayne rooney, running onto a ball into the box, kicked it basically out of bounds, and then went to ground as Almunia came near. To the surprise of anyone sensible, a penalty was awarded, Shrek dusting himself off and converting. The game was level.

An aside here; amid the uproar over Eduardo's dive against Celtic (and it was a dive), a couple of interesting things happened this weekend. For one, Aaron McGeady was booked for diving in an SPL match, destroying the Celtic moral high ground on the subject. For another, Rooney's dive against Arsenal (and it too, WAS a dive) was a carbon copy of the move taken by Eduardo. He left his feet prior to contact being made and flopped right down. The only difference was the 'keeper: whereas Boruc kept his head and withdrew his arms, Almunia went flailing in. Contact was made, but no more than the same glancing treatment that Eduardo took as his cue to dive, and in this case, a penalty should not have been given, as Rooney's touch on the ball took it away from any play he could have made on the ball without obstruction. Add to that the yellow card shown to Almunia for his part in Rooney's simulation, and again, Arsenal were hard done by.

After United later won a corner, Diaby struck. It is moments like these that make one look past Diaby's natural ability on the ball, his quickness, agility and overall giftedness, and want to do nothing more than hit him in the head with a ball-peen hammer. A nothing ball was floated into the box, in no danger of a United player getting to it, and Diaby, from about three feet away, made what I can only think was a decision to head it back to the 'keeper. It's the only thing that makes any sense, although it really makes no sense at all, logically. He put a fantastic finish on it, gifting United a goal and the lead. I've said it before, it's never been Diaby's physical abilities, not even his tendency to get constant niggling injuries, that have doomed him in my eyes. It has always been his decision making, which is often questionable, and in this case, unfathomable.

Diaby had a chance later to make amends, dancing into the box and creating space, but his shot left a lot to be desired and went wide of the post. United, with a lead, began to play with a bit more confidence, holding possession for longer periods and looking a bit more threatening. Nani in particular was in great position to put the game to bed but missed badly. Arsenal had, by late on, thrown Eduardo, Bendtner and Ramsey into the fray. To the outrage of United fans, 5 minutes of time was added on, and Arsenal used all of it. In the 94th minute, a long ball was played into the box, which was knocked down to the feet of van Persie, who struck home what should have been the equaliser. But the linesman's flag had been raised, disallowing it. Then all hell broke loose. Wenger went over to argue that Gallas, who had indeed strayed offside on the play, was not involved with the play on the ball (he wasn't), meaning play should continue and the goal should stand. Dean, disgrace that he is, sent Wenger off in a match that was, for all purposes, over. Wenger, in what has become to me the defining moment, went up into the stands among the same pitiful United supporters who had been calling him a pedophile for two hours. In a moment of complete defiance, Wenger stood up in front of them, a full-body stance middle finger (or two fingers, depending on where you are). I felt nothing but admiration for the man, and unless you are one of those despicable cunt United fans, I challenge you to watch that and not at least smile. Arsene Wenger is Arsenal. Arsene Wenger is football.

Despite the scoreline, I still have all the faith in the world in Arsenal this season, and I think this result and the madness that was the officiating will galvanize the Gunners and bring them together. Already this team seems like a bunch that will fight for each other, and they never laid down against United. You can talk about Chelsea all you like, I still feel that Arsenal can and should win the league this season.

That out of the way, let's briefly recap how AWESOME-O 5000 did in his first week of Premier League picks:

Turns out the Clarets weren't going to knock off every giant that came to step on them. We'll see what happens when the Blues go to Turf Moor.

I caught a good bit of this game, and I wish I hadn't. Bogged down in midfield, and several chances went begging, but not much to speak of, really.

The Scousers pull another one directly out of their collective asses, winning this one late on against a subpar Bolton side (which is redundant, I know). One has to wonder how long their luck will hold, but this team looks to be in some trouble.

Big win for Stoke, I just think Awesome-o's reason was faulty. Yes, Red-White-Striped Team does = Red-White-Striped Team, but Red-White-Striped Team + Home field does not.

Like a very persistent homeless person, Tottenham just won't go away. A late winner was needed to get by Brum, who had matched them well most of the match (which probably means they'll finish no more than 3 places apart from each other).

What? Jozy can't do EVERYTHING...

City roll on a bad Pompey team. These guys are in trouble, and they're SELLING players... the writing's on the wall

This one was close all the way through and Wigan acquitted themselves well in a losing effort, I thought. I don't know what to think about Everton this season...

I think it's time I revisit my thinking on Fulham this season. I assumed this team would push for the top half of the season based on the previous year, and the returning squad. This team have so far looked like the 2007-2008 version than the 2008-2009 edition. Let's hope they can get their shit together.

I haven't got much more to say this week, and frankly I'm worn out from reviewing the United match in my head. One thing I will mention is the disappointment I had for some of the Gooners at Nevada's on Saturday. Once Diaby gave United the lead, it was damn near impossible to get a song going, and nothing pisses me off worse than being shouted down by those plastic fucking United "supporters." We need to stand together, because when we're loud, no one can shout us down.

One last note, to the United douche who said he wasn't there to wind up anyone, but was clearly there to wind up the Gooners: Your team is shit, were outplayed, and you're winning nothing this season. I'd say I can't wait to see you when we beat you in London, but, a) I'm hoping to be at that match, and b) if United aren't winning, you won't be showing up anyway.

Until next time, you stay classy, and proud, Gooner nation...
- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Preview: Eduardo, The Champions League Draw, and (OLD TRAFFORD HERE WE F*CKIN COME!)

I do love how much there is going on right now. The lazy half of me almost wishes it weren't so, but all I have to do is look at the barren landscape of the looming INTERLULL (patented to Arseblog) to feel good about it all.

First things first, Arsenal finished off Celtic at the Emirates Wednesday to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League. So let's first discuss the 800-lb Crozilian gorilla in the room. In the 27th minute of the contest, Eduardo had the ball in the box and was closing on goal when Celtic 'keeper and known madman Artur Boruc TOOK HIM OUT. At least that's what we all thought until the miracle of super-slow-motion revealed there to be minimal contact made at all, if any. In short, Eddie took a Ronaldo. The referee pointed to the spot, Eduardo converted himself, and Arsenal had a 1-0 lead, 3-0 on aggregate.

I'll not sugar-coat it, I'm very disappointed in the man. He's a brilliant player, obviously fantastically skilled, and I'll repeat what I've thought for the longest time, that he is the best pure finisher in England. That does not excuse diving here. There isn't any reason for it, and I do offer an apology to fans of Glasgow Celtic for the way it went down. It wasn't right, and I condemn it from an Arsenal player just as much as when opposing players dive. It has no place in the sport (thanks Italy!), and needs to be stamped out. To that effect, I was glad that Arseblogger mentioned the notion of retroactive punishment for unpunished diving, thuggery, and the like. We have the technology, it's overdue.

With all that said, I've seen worse dives (I was certainly fooled when I saw it happen), and dives that had much greater impact on games (Rooney's dive that accounted for the first defeat for Arsenal's Invincibles, Kuyt in the ECC Quarterfinals 2 seasons ago). Could it truthfully be said that this particular penalty changed the fact that this Celtic team could mount no sustained attack in the first leg, nor in the second despite having more pressing need to do so? No. Celtic had a total of 2 shots on goal over both legs, the second being Celtic's late consolation goal yesterday. Arsenal still scored two more goals, so would still have won match and the tie itself without the penalty. That's all I'll say on the subject.

The second goal was a lovely bit of skill from the man we love to cheer and boo in equal measure, Emmanuel Eboue, followed by a religious sort of celebration, which earned him a yellow card. I don't quite understand it... I don't share Eboue's beliefs, but far be it from me to caution a guy for expressing himself. On top of that, how long has he been wearing that undershirt before he got to unveil it? I hope he washed it...

Later on, Arsenal brought on Arshavin and Wilshere and it took the Russian rockstar 90 seconds on the pitch to score. Played into the box by Ramsey, not Jack as I had initially thought, Andrey managed to create space with nifty spin move and finish neatly lower left past Boruc. Great goal.

Celtic did get one back late on, but the damage had been done. 3-1 to the Arsenal, 5-1 aggregate against a Celtic side who acquitted themselves well in my opinion, despite the scoreline. And Aaron McGeady certainly looked quite the player; he's got quite a career ahead of him. Platini is continuing his crusade to destroy football in England, talking about instituting a retroactive 2-match ban for Eddie, which is fine if it's instituted across the board. But per my man in London, Gareth: "One rule for us, one for everyone else as ever." There is an injury to Ramsey, who came off during the second half. No word yet on the severity, but it looks like one more midfielder unavailable for the Arsenal this weekend. One who may be back this weekend is Tomas "Who? Oh yeah, I remember him" Rosicky. I say play him, if only to prove that he's not this fragile.

Manchester United fans are up in arms about the Champions League draw that went down yesterday, to which I have one reply. Yes, the Gunners got a fairly easy draw, while United got Barcelona, Inter and Bayern Munich. Oh, wait, my mistake, they got Besiktas, CSKA Moscow, and Wolfsburg. Pardon my mistake, the quality of those three are so high its difficult not to think of them among the biggest clubs in Europe. Whinging Manc c*nts. Arsenal did get a favorable draw, but each team has its potential pitfalls: AZ Alkmaar (Dutch champions), Olympiacos (crazy fans may or may not attempt to blow up team bus), and Standard Liege (may be bored to death in Belgium). Either way, is anyone expecting either Man Ure or Arsenal NOT to advance? I'm willing to bet a paycheck right now that they both go through. Full group tables can be found here, and there are more than one nasty group in there, although Group G also looks pretty easy. United fans are claiming the drawing was rigged, as they're not the only club with a cake group, but that's the sort of reaction you'd expect from people who drink paint thinner because whiskey doesn't have enough kick.

Plenty of Premiere League action this weekend, including the first Big 4 matchup this season. I have programmed my robot, AWESOME-O 5000 to make enhanced picks this week, so let's hear what tin man has to say. AWESOME-O?




























Thank you AWESOME-O 5000. He's easily the most passionate robot I've ever met. He's actually a Sheffield United supporter. He may return in recent weeks, when he can get time off from his day job as a caregiver.

And the there's the big one this weekend. I'm referring, of course, to Arsenal's visit to the hellhole inhabited by Manchester United and their monkeyc*nt supporters. It's looking as though Cesc will miss this one due to a hamstring injury. This of course won't prevent him from being called up for international duty by Spain just in time to aggravate the injury and be out until the next round of pointless internationals of course. Those wily Spaniards... they're like miniature Buddhas... so wise.

But just so we don't have any Gooners running to jump out open windows, it's NOT THAT BAD... but don't take my advice, just listen to Paul Rudd. Song and Denilson are both fit, and I would assume we'll see Diaby come in for Cesc, given the injury to Brother Ramsey. The back four have looked more than solid, especially the central pairing of Gallas and Vermaelen, who have played perfectly off of each other. Sagna and Clichy will be available to my knowledge, and I would expect a front three of Arshavin, Van Persie and Bendtner, if only because a) Eduardo, for all of his skill, is still coming back from a severely nasty injury, b) because Bendtner is a bigger and stronger player, and did well against United when he played up front against them last season, and c) Eduardo will be treated mercilessly by Old Trafford's retarded faithful. We all know Arsene likes to protect his players, although I do expect to see the Crozilian at some point. We may even see Eboue, on to add a more defensive presence along the right. But I'm not trying to play Fantasy Wenger here, it's all speculation til Le Boss says what's what.

I will say that despite Cesc's absence, I'm more confident about this match than about any away match to Old Trafford in recent memory. Obviously I'd be over the moon if Cesc were fit and ready to go, but we can cope without the captain, and United's form has not been great this season. Barring the pile of late goals they scored against Wigan, this team had previously scored just one goal in 2.5 league matches. It remains to be seen whether they'll be able to get by our defense more than we can get by theirs (especially since Rio and Van Der Sex are missing), but what I would expect is a lot of this from Tom Vermaelen. Except it will be in Belgian-ese. Which is still easier to comprehend than whatever sound groupings Mancs try to pass off as a language. It certainly isn't English.

AWESOME-O advises me not to fuck around with Fate, so my prediction, as you might have guessed, is Manchester United 2-2 Arsenal

One quick word before we part: the violence that erupted outside Upton Park before, during and after the West Ham v Millwall match, while foreseeable, was deplorable. Hooliganism is a dark chapter in the history of English football, and in history should it remain. I feel for the supporters who were injured while trying to avoid the fighting. Anyone injured while participating got precisely what they deserved. And, while it's never acceptable to rig a drawing, it'd be nice to see some measures taken to prevent these two sides from ever meeting again. This is the real world, not Green Street Hooligans. Somewhere, Elijah Wood is watching the footage of the chaos and silently shitting himself.

That's all I have for now, peeps. Join me on Monday when I'll attempt to recap the action while battling a crippling hangover suffered while celebrating with too many booze-filled booze drinks. Until then, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

- B, a Gooner.

The Papers Don't Know Anything & the Weekend Roundup

First off, apologies for the delay in Friday's post, there were some technical difficulties. As in, Kurt was in Virginia, which is technically not in civilization, and I was running around all day, so we got it linked up later than expected. Hopefully some of you got a chance to give it a read.

Another weekend in the books, and more shocks along the way. It's been bumpy so far, but for no one more than the football "experts" out there. These people have been changing direction such that they've dropped the transmission on their collective opinions. Burnley beat United, and Man U are done. Then they hang 5 on Wigan and they're the greatest team in the world again. Which is it? Neither, obviously. United have some holes, obviously, but they're still a top side, although it's irrational to start picking them as favorites.

And it's nothing compared to the complete and utter shit these airheads have been writing about Arsenal. It was all doom and gloom from the talking heads before the season, because obviously, since the Gunners didn't flash the cash this summer, they'll drop out of the top 4 and eventually, out of the Premier League. Now, since Arsenal have exposed these comments as foolhardy, scoring 10 goals in 2 league matches, and 12 goals in 3, all the papers can say is that it's a crisis as only one of those has been scored by a striker. Just because it bears repeating, there's a crisis at Arsenal because too many goals are being scored, not enough by the strikers. Frankly, if we keep scoring in bunches and winning convincingly, I doubt anyone but fantasy owners will care a lick that Van Persie and Arshavin haven't scored. Cesc is right... it's all about the trophies.

There were plenty of surprise results this time out, again, and it wouldn't be a Roundup without taking a look at my predictions compared with the results, so let's have at it then. By the way, if you're placing bets based on my predictions, you should know I am not responsible for your losses.

Birmingham v Stoke
Prediction: Birmingham 1-1 Stoke; Reality: Brum 0-0 Stoke

Well this one was a snoozer, no goals at all. A reeeeeeal Munson. Not much to say about a scoreless draw between teams who don't look like challenging for anything, so I'm done with this one.

Hull v Bolton
Prediction: Hull 1-1 Bolton; Reality: Hull 1-0 Wanderererers

This could certainly have matched my prediction, were Bolton able to finish worth a damn. The "highlights" of this one included some comically bad misses by Johan Elmander (who is proving to be Bolton's Carl Pavano) and Kevin Davies. Nothing was really happening until Phil Brown took a moment away from his spray-tan application to insert Jozy Altidore into the mix, and the young American striker wasted no time, setting up what proved to be the winning goal by Ghilas with a brilliant flick-on into the box, and nearly scoring on a few occasions himself. Brown would do well to play Jozy every week, he looks perfect for the Premier League: big, fast, good nose for the ball. The pity is he's with Hull.

Man City where they cut your hands off for stealing v Wolves

Prediction: Citybank 2-1 Wolves; Reality: Shity 1-0 Wolves

Wolves certainly showed up to play in this one. The only goal came in the first half, when Adebayor scored near-post at a very tight angle, the type of shot he would miss 10 times in 10 for Arsenal, which makes me believe that a) Adebayor has actually put in some work on his finishing; b) he got damned lucky again; or c) Man City's owners have poured some of that limitless petroleum money into technology that will allow behind the scenes types to control the trajectory of shots. I'm leaning toward c., but b. isn't as out of the question as a. is. Tough luck for Wolves, who created a good number of chances but couldn't convert.

Sunderland v Blackburn
Prediction: Boredom. And Sunderland 2-1 Rovers, sure, whatever. Reality: I got one!!!

Nailed it on the head, although from the match highlights, this wasn't as boring as a match featuring a Sam Allardyce team tends to suggest. Sunderland got a pair of lovely goals from Kenwyne Jones, who looked as good as I've seen him for Sunderland, who took the well-earned points.

Wigan v The Overpaid Fucktards who Lost to Burnley

Prediction: Wigan 1-3 United; Reality: Wigan 0-5 Uni-'tards

This was an old-fashioned ass-kicking, at least in the second half. 0-0 at half-time is the type of scoreline I was beginning to expect from United, but unfortunately for fans with a soul (and Chelsea supporters), they broke out the goal-scoring boots in the second. Rooney scored his 100th goal for United, and Michael Owen opened his Red Antichrists account. Which means that every English sportswriter is back down on Fergie's knob.

West Ham v 'Arry Redknapp's Twitch
Prediction: Hammers 2-1 Spurs, followed by mass vandalism in East London and many screenings of Green Street Hooligans. Reality: Hammers 1-2 Spuds, followed but mass vandalism in East London and the release of a Sp*rs commemorative DVD for winning their third straight.

Difficult loss for West Ham. Cole opened the scoring, followed shortly after by a Defoe equalizer for Sp*rs. An Aaron Lennon winner in the 79th broke the Irons' backs. Additionally I understand Cole has an injury problem, and a thinner strike force is the last thing Zola needs, with Dean Ashton about to retire due to injuries.

Burnley v Everton
Prediction: Burnley 2-0 Everton; Reality: Holy fuck, Burnley 1-0 Everton!

A nightmare beginning for David Moyes' boyes. Everton have had two league matches, but I don't think anyone woke the players for either. Word is that Lescott is on his way to Manchester City for 24 million pounds, which, based on his performances thus far, is about 23,999,999 pounds more than he's worth. Not only that, but I haven't seen a man with a more disturbing hairline than Lescott since this guy. Anyway, there's one more whore for City to add to their collection. the good thing is, when that dressing room explodes from all the massive egos contained within, it's going to be a sight to see.

Fulham v Chelsea

Prediction: Fulham 2-1 Chelsea; Reality: Fool-ham 0-2 Dirty Cossack Bastards

Yes, my prediction was wishful thinking, but it certainly wasn't helped with Andy Johnson missing this one through injury (and that one's going to hurt the Cottagers a good deal more if he's out for an extended period). Chelsea looked efficient in attack and capitalized on several mistakes by the Fulham defense, which appeared much less frequently last season. Could be along season for Team America. Bee tee dubs, if Roman wants his team to play more entertaining football, why would he bring in an Italian manager?

Liverpool v Aston Villa
Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Villa

These two square off today, so I can't be proved wrong or right yet. I was just thinking, it seems that Liverpool play a lot of Weekday matches, more than other clubs anyway. But I suppose when only 2.8% of your fans are gainfully employed, that's not a real problem.

Arsenal v Pompey
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Pompey (hey, I'm going to predict 2-2 draws for Arsenal until they lose, man); Reality: Arsenal 4-1 Portsmouth

Another brilliant attacking display by Arsenal saw a troubled Pompey side well and truly put away. About Diaby scored two lovely goals, opening the scoring in the 18th minute. The first was a fine example of Arsenal football, set up when Eduardo faked and ran right by the defender on the left side of the box and crossed to the advancing Diaby, who put a fantastic strike into the top-right corner. Eduardo started the second as well, hitting a long pass into the path of Eboue, streaking up the right. The much-maligned Ivorian controlled well and sprinted forward, then slid the ball into the box, into Diaby's path again, who cooly finished lower-left. Arsenal seemed to relax a bit after the second, despite continuing to create chances. Portsmouth took advantage of a corner and on the ensuing play saw a cross into the box headed in by former Tottenscum defender Kaboul. Almunia pleaded for a free kick as he felt Kaboul may have impeded him, but to no avail, and the goal stood. On the replay, he may have had a case, but I feel the 'keeper should still have claimed the ball. The Gunners continued to attack, Van Persie was unlucky several times to be denied by David James, once on a beautiful curling free-kick that was punched out, and the halftime score was 2-1 to the Arsenal.

At halftime, Cesc Fabregas came off for a hamstring complaint, replaced by Aaron Ramsey... No word yet on whether el Capitan will be ready for Celtic (he should be rested anyway), or more importantly, United away on Saturday. Arsenal's attack did not abate, eventually winning a free kick, taken by Arshavin. The ball into the box was headed by Van Persie, hit towards goal by the sliding Vermaelen, which ricocheted off Gallas' boot and knocked into the net by what I can only think was his nose. Gallas may be the only Gunner to have scored with his penis, ass, and nose, although I can't be ceratin of this due to the dearth of video evidence from before the 1960's.

The final goal was a beauty, but likely would not have gone against a better side. Pompey's back four played a run by Aaron Ramsey onside, and Van Persie's through ball was perfectly placed, hitting the young Welshman in stride, who finished coolly past James for his first Premier League goal, so congratulations to him and let's hope this is the first of many. 4-1 was the final score, although Arsenal could have had double that if it weren't for the stalwart efforts of David James, who left shortly after the Ramsey goal with an injury; hopefully he'll be all right.

Pompey manager Paul Hart made some comments after the match that Gallas should have been sent off for a challenge on Utaka closing in on goal, and Utaka told the Sun that Gallas "admitted" it was a foul. This, taken with the Sun's history of reporting baldfaced lies, makes me feel that each copy of their paper should be prefaced "Based on a true story." Utaka, on the replay, clearly tripped over his own feet, so keeping that fiction going is Phil-Brown-esque. The bottom line is, Arsenal were clearly a much better team than Pompey, who have now lost all three league matches and are well on their way to the Championship, unless they are sold and have some investment is made in the team before it's too late. The Gunners showed a lowly Portsmouth side How to Slap a Man.

Not much in the way of news... Arsene Wenger doesn't rule out a move to bring back Patrick Vieira, and I think it would be a good move for a few reasons. First, Wenger admits there is more demand than supply for defensive midfielders, and Vieira can still do that job. Second, Alex Song (clearly our best option in the holding role in the 4-3-3) will be gone for at least all of January for the African Nations Cup (and holding that tourney every year is completely unnecessary and fucking stupid), and we have zero cover in that role at the moment. Third, all of our midfielders can learn a good deal from Paddy both on and off the pitch. Finally, while he may not be the box-to-box player he once was, we won't need him to be. In our formation, he'll be playing the Gilberto role: take ball from opponent, pass forward. That's it. And he can damn well do that well enough, even now.

There's a new bit of heartbreak for Gooners, as former Arsenal man Sylvinho has signed with Man City. I imagine that even at 35, he's still an upgrade over Wayne Bridge at fullback. I would wish him best of luck, but I really want to see City get buried this season, so acknowledging all he did for the Arsenal will have to do.

On a non-football note, Guy Ritchie's "Rocknrolla" is playing on Cinemax this month, and I highly recommend you give it a look. It clearly demonstrates that talent never truly leaves a person, it only takes a powder when Madonna's around. Thankfully he dumped that troll (who should be lurking under a bridge or in children's closets scaring the bejeezus out of them. More on Friday, and if you're lucky, an update after Arsenal's home match against Celtic. Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Preview: Week Three and The Week That Was

First off, let me start by saying that it's past 2am as I'm writing this, and I'm in that tire-but-can't-sleep mindset, so I apologize if at any point I don't sound coherent. And I just nearly wrote"cohernert" and had to look at it twice before I realized I needed to change it, so incoherence is a real possibility.

And so to football. Arsenal traveled north on Tuesday to play Celtic in Glasgow in the first leg of their Champions League play-in tie. Celtic went into this match without having lost to an English team at home since 1983 and with a good overall record at home in European matches. Arsenal were fresh off a 6-1 away thrashing of Everton in MATCHDAY ONE: THE QUICKENING, and facing some injury concerns, with Denilson, Sagna, and el Capitan, Cesc Fabregas doubtful.

Luckily for the Gunners (a theme that would permeate the match), those three all started the match and looked perfectly fit to me. Both sides came to play, the Arsenal playing some nice attacking football, Celtic being hemmed back for much of the first half and counter-attacking. The chances weren't exactly plentiful for either side, but Arsenal broke the deadlock close on half-time when Cesc Fabregas' free-kick ricocheted off of Gallas and past Boruc into the Celtic net to make it Celtic 0-1 Arsenal, which is how the scoreline stayed entering intermission. Perhaps the best part of the goal was Gallas celebrating scoring as though he'd put on some Pele-esque offensive display rather than being the backboard for Cesc's bank-shot. Oh, Willy.

Arsenal looked dangerous for basically the entirety of the second half, creating bunches of half-decent chances, most just lacking that final ball. The North Londoners were rewarded for their efforts midway through the second half, when sustitute Diaby (same injury-prone formula, now with Hair!) broke past the Celtic defense setting up Clichy, whose cross into the box was scored by Gary Caldwell to extend Arsenal's lead to 0-2. Unfortunately for Gary Caldwell, he plays for Celtic and captains their side.

In the end, that's how it finished. Celtic 0-2 Arsenal. Fabregas had another stellar game, at the core of all of Arsenal's atttacks and defending well when needed. Thomas Vermaelen, rapidly becoming a fan-favorite, put in another fine performance at the back, including one of the best defensive plays you'll see this season.

But for me, the man of the match was Alex Song, who topped what had been his best performance to date, against Everton, having another fantastic performance in the holding midfield role. He was forceful, aggressive in defense, moved the ball well, and his decision-making, which has been maddening at times down the years, was spot-on, his work rate second-to-none. Well done to him.

For us Gooners this is a particularly nice result, as Celtic don't travel well, and with a 2 goal cushion for Arsenal, the Bhoys will have to attack more, which means a more open game (and less of Tony Mowbray's diabolically clever plan: foul Fabregas in midfield whenever possible), and that's a situation that certainly gives the advantage to Arsenal. That is to take nothing away from Celtic, who fought doggedly in the first leg, and some might say were more unlucky than anything else. After all, they were unlucky to draw Arsenal in the play-in, they were unlucky that Gallas was positioned to unknowingly "back" in Cesc's free kick, they were unlucky that Gallas' sliding, goal-saving clearance in the second half wasn't an Own Goal while Gary Caldwell's went into his own net. However, I think it's difficult to argue that William Gallas isn't a better defender than Caldwell, just as the quality of the whole of this Arsenal side couldn't be argued to be lesser than that of Celtic. What's worse for the Scots is that their players seem to know it.

Several midweek Premier League matches went on as well. Birmingham defeated Portsmouth 1-0 on a James McFadden penalty. Phil Brown's charges didn't put in the work at home to Tottenham, and were decimated for their poor showing, 5-1. Which puts sp*rs at the top of the league. Sp*rs going top is only going to hurt their supporters more in the end. This team needs to aim for mediocrity and spare their fans injury due to expectation.

Liverpool hung four, not unexpectedly, on Stoke in an easy win; Chelsea play comeback kids again, coming back from an early Darren Bent goal to beat Sunderland; and, my favorite: MANCHESTER UNITED LOSES TO BURNLEY. A team that I have picked for relegation (and I'm certainly not alone there), who haven't been in the top flight in over 30 years, took down the league champions. They're the World Champions too, if, like United supporters, you put any faith in that Club World Cup nonsense. I give that one the ol' "dismissive wanking motion".

Ahead this weekend, there's a full slate of matches up, so let's take a look at what's on tap...

Birmingham v Stoke

Stoke come in licking their wounds after the hiding Liverpool handed them. Birmingham look to make it two in a row after beating Pompey, who are making a strong case for finishing bottom.

Prediction: Birmingham 1-1 Stoke

Hull v Bolton

Hull took it on the chin from Chelski on MATCHDAY ONE: THE QUICKENING, and again to Sp*rs mid-week, but will look to bounce back at home at the KC Stadium against Bolton. Bolton look to erase the memory of ever having been managed by the walrus-fucker, Sam Allardyce.

Prediction: Hull 1-1 Bolton

Man City where they cut your hands off for stealing v Wolves

Wolves managed to get off the ground with a win over high-flying Wigan this week. Man Citibank beat Rovers on Saturday and beat Barcelona at the Camp Nou, obviously meaning they are now the best team in the world.

Prediction: Citybank 2-1 Wolves

Sunderland v Blackburn

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz--mm, wha? Must've dozed off there. No, I wasn't tired, then I started watching Sunderland v Blackbzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

Prediction: Boredom. And Sunderland 2-1 Rovers, sure, whatever.

Wigan v The Overpaid Fucktards who Lost to Burnley

Wigan have been a bit Jeckyll and Hyde; in two matches, they've looked more than a little impressive and then immediately flat the next time out. Manchester United fans have begun abandoning ship and buying Chelsea shirts already.

Prediction: Wigan 1-3 United

West Ham v 'Arry Redknapp's Twitch

Hammers threw Wolves a beating on Saturday, and Sp*rs are coming off of two straight victories for which they will obviously be releasing a commemorative DVD. But this is a London Derby, and anything can happen, especially at Upton Park.

Prediction: Hammers 2-1 Spurs, followed by mass vandalism in East London and many screenings of Green Street Hooligans.

Burnley v Everton

Burnley home again, coming off a shocking but much appreciated victory of Manchester Overrated. Everton have had time to think about what went wrong in the straight up beating they took from Arsenal, and it appears they've decided that selling Jolean Lescott to Man, Shitty in exchange for copious amounts of cash and buying at least one more player is their best bet... I don't know if I agree, but it's Moyes' problem, let him sort it.

Prediction: Burnley 2-0 Everton

Fulham v Chelsea

The West London Derby. Fantastic result last time at Craven Cottage, where Clint Dempsey came on as a second-half sub and made himself the hero, pulling Fulham a point where they might've gone empty-handed. Should be a good atmosphere as always, and while you wouldn't usually put Fulham on Chelski's level, anything can happen in a derby match.

Prediction: Fulham 2-1 Chelsea

Liverpool v Aston Villa

The Scouser got their groove back by taking shooting practice against Stoke, but Villa have yet to recover from a 2-0 loss at Villa Park to upstarts Wigan. And they won't turn it around at Anfield.

Prediction: Liverpool 3-1 Villa

Arsenal v Pompey

Arsenal are flying high after an opening day destruction of Everton at Goodison Park, followed by a strong winning performance away to Celtic in the Champions League play-in. They look to open up at Emirates with a win, and Pompey will be willing to oblige them. Still no Theo Walcott, but Eduardo esta javota. Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Pompey (hey, I'm going to predict 2-2 draws for Arsenal until they lose, man)

That's all for now. Enjoy your Friday, and for all Americans, stay in the air conditioning. Nobody wants to be that statistical old lady in Texas that dies from the heat but would have survived "if only she'd had an air conditioner." I'm taking no chances, bitches.

Oh, and if you're coming to Nevada's on Sat., I'm bringing my niece to see her first Arsenal match, so let's have a nice atmosphere and try to give me warning if you're going to shout "C*nt." Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

- B, a Gooner

Champions League Play-in Preview, Celtic v Arsenal: Beyond Thunderdome

So the mighty Arsenal travel north to Glasgow to take on the Bhoys of Celtic Park tonight in what is easily the toughest Champions League play-in tie I can remember. Seeing as kickoff is in a mere two hours (7:45pm BST/2:45pm EST), this won't be too in-depth, but I thought it would be good to have a quick preview of this away leg.

First of all, all need to bear in mind that the winner of this tie will benefit to the tune of 40 million pounds. For our American readers, that's $66 million. The loser of the home-and-away tie will be dropped into the Europa Cup, a far less prestigious competition featuring the likes of Fulham. Taking nothing away from Fulham, but they're hardly Barcelona or Madrid, are they? That competition would net a team far less in the way of revenue, and while the bean-counters and the respective boards of the two clubs are aware of it, you'd have to think that the players and managers are just as in-tune to this fact.

I would imagine, however, that this is more of a point of pride for the players. Celtic have collected a fair number of big-time scalps at home in recent years in Europe (2008-09: drew Manchester United 1-1, beat Villareal 2-0. 2007-08: beat Milan 2-1, beat Benfica 1-0. 2006-07: beat Benfica 3-0, drew Manchester United 1-0, drew AC Milan 0-0), but have just one win away from home in Europe in the last 6 years. This obviously suggests that should the Gunners pull a positive result (a win or at least a draw with goals), they're likely to go through. It certainly won't be easy, however. Celtic have lost just once at home to an English side ('83-'84 to Nottingham Forest in UEFA Cup), and in 8 matches versus English teams at Celtic Park, they have won 4, drawn 3 and lost just the once.

On paper, Arsenal appear the stronger side, even without Nasri/Rosicky/Walcott and presumably without Sagna or possibly Denilson. Arsenal can still field a team like this:
Eboue - Gallas - Vermaelen - Clichy
Fabregas - Diaby
Van Persie - Bendtner/Eduardo - Arshavin

Which should be plenty to take a result against most teams, even if Diaby is in the squad (although personally I'd choose Ramsey if Denilson isn't fit). But on paper, Arsenal looked to have a near-equal opponent to open the Premier League season at Everton, and we all know how that turned out… it's as the saying goes, that's why they don't play the games on paper. In addition, I looked it up and historically the English and Scots don't get along so well. I know, I was as surprised as you, but Mel Gibson apparently directed a film about it a few years back.

So it's legit, and we can certainly expect the Scots to raise their game, and for the home crowd (as well as the dynamite away supporters) to make for a big, big atmosphere at Parkhead this evening, which would be amazing to be there for, but will certainly translate to the television/hopefully-decent-internet-feed. As we're approaching kick-off, I'm going to stick with my gut/superstition and predict another 2-2 draw, while hoping I'll be wrong to a tune of 6-1 to the visitors tonight.

Danger Man: Aaron McGeady, winger. Quick, strong, good with the ball at his feet and is the creative heart of Tony Mowbray's club.
Weak Link: Depending on whether he has a meltdown (and that's an 89% probability), Artur Boruc (GK).

Danger Man: Among the many options, one would have to think Andrei Arshavin, attacking midfielder. No longer cup-tied, he's a match-winner and a game-changer.
Weak Link: If Diaby plays, then it's Diaby, hands down. If not... well, after Saturday, I can't rightly think of one. Can you?


And as we know, there is only one team, the famous Arsenal F.C. Until next time, enjoy the match, and as always, you stay classy, Gooner nation.

Weekend Round-up: Matchday One: The Quickening

There are a million stories in the naked city. But after Matchday One: The Quickening, there is really only one story, and lucky for me and my fellow Gooners, it's the mighty Arsenal, who won at Everton, 6-1.

"Arsenal lack the squad depth, experience and toughness needed to win the league."

"The Gunners can't possibly win if they don't spend any money."

"With the exits of Adebayor and Toure, Arsenal' will fall out of the top-four and the Champions League."

Countless quotes like these had been bandied about for months; now, I can't help but laugh at the pundits, backing off their words so fast that they leave skidmarks. The talking heads on television and radio, the print media and countless blogs, having written off Arsene Wenger and the Gunners in the preseason, have done nothing but fellate Arsenal (and Wenger) with their spoken and written praise since those 90 minutes were up. Rightly so, and completely expected. The "experts" need to spend as little time being wrong in order to look as though they know what they're talking about, until they blow it again. I personally loved having Arsenal as an afterthought before this season, since it makes any success that much sweeter later on.

The Gunners put paid to that with the biggest opening day win in Premiership history. A game that was, headed into Matchday One: The Quickening, the best matchup on-tap, between the previous season's fourth- and fifth-place finishers, sure didn't pan out as expected.

If you didn't see it, then you missed a systematic dismantling of a good Premiership side, Everton, by the Arsenal that was so complete and decisive that the usually dedicated Everton Scouse were walking out of Goodison in droves by halftime. Arsenal's passing was silky, direct, incisive and deadly, leaving the Everton defense in shreds. The defense performed brilliantly, working together and ending almost any threat the Toffees would pose before it could begin. The midfield and forwards harried the opposition, offering no space with which to work, and upon winning the ball wasted no time getting it upfield and beginning attack after attack after glorious attack. It was F**KING FANTASTIC. I haven't been so excited watching a league game since the days of Bergkamp, Henry, Vieira, Pires & company. Everton were on the run from the first few minutes on and were kept on the back foot for 90 minutes.

Game analysis? What, you want specifics? Fine. Arsenal opened the scoring after 26 minutes, Bendtner surging in from the right after a clever move, playing the ball to Cesc who laid the ball into the path of Denilson, who, wonder of wonders, hit a rocket shot from outside the area that curved into the top-left corner. Shortly after, Everton had their most sustained attack, holding Arsenal back in their area for a few minutes, culminating in Denilson clearing a ball off the goal line from a headed corner.

The Gunners continued to slice apart the defense with precision passing and movement, and after 37 minutes they had doubled their lead, Thomas Vermaelen scoring a header from a Van Persie free kick on his Premier League debut. Just a few minutes later he was joined on the scoresheet by his partner in central defense William Gallas who scored a brilliant header from a free kick taken by Cesc. The Gunners went into the break 3-0 up and confidence was abundant. Everton looked despondent, and didn't make any resurgence after the interval. Cesc scored in the 48th, after a long attack started by Denilson, who passed to RvP, who set El Capitan free with only Howard to beat, and he did so. Bendtner came off in the 63rd for Emmanuel Eboue after having had a brilliant match, but the Arsenal attack kept up, Cesc taking a throw from Almunia, driving down the other end and scoring his second. Cesc celebrated after this by holding an Arsenal shirt reading "JARQUE" numbered 21, dedicating his man-of-the-match performance to the memory of Daniel Jarque, the Espanyol captain who recently died at age 26, a friend of Fabregas'.

The Gunners weren't done yet, however. The man that many people had pegged to score in this match, Andrei Arshavin, put a toe-poke from the left that ricocheted off the back post, right to the feet of Eduardo, who just doesn't miss from there. Not a great day for US international 'keeper Tim Howard, who was under fire for the entire match. Everton managed to get one back, in injury time, when Louis Saha, who has either been injured for two seasons or on the international space station, netted when Pienaar's shot was parried away by Almunia. It certainly didn't dim the spirits of the Arsenal fans with me at Nevada Smiths on Saturday. The singing and celebrating continued long after the final whistle blew. The Everton reaction would be somewhat more subdued, although I imagine it felt like this.

And I would be derelict not to mention in particular the outstanding performances put in by Thomas Vermaelen, who even apart from scoring looked aggressive, confident and commanding at the back, and Alex Song, who is rapidly making me re-think our need for a new holding midfielder. He was all over the midfield, collecting the ball and getting it up-field for attacks, occasionally joining in. He had his best game in an Arsenal shirt by far. More of this from these two, please!

My talking about it really doesn't do it justice, but you can bask in the ethereal glow of the Gunners' performance here.

But, even though there's only one team in London (The Arsenal, of course), there was plenty of football to be played this weekend, so let's briefly recap, shall we?

Chelsea v Hull City

Prediction: Chavs 2-0 Hull Reality: Chavs 2-1 Hull
Hull put up a good fight, and Chelsea needed to be rescued by the last-minute heroics of Didier Drogba. Didn't look all that impressive, so hard to say if Chelski was just lousy or if Hull were that good.

Aston Villa v Wigan Athletic

Prediction: Villans 2-0 Wigan Reality: Villa 0-2 Wigan
Probably the second biggest shock scoreline of the weekend. I LOVE this result. Wigan put a boot up Villa's ass, attacking well and moving the ball well, while Villa just didn't look like they even showed up. If the Villans fail to turn up again next time out, I'd say it's time to bail on their players in fantasy. Maybe Gareth Barry meant even more to this team than we thought.

Blackburn v Man City

Prediction: Rovers 1-1 Man Shitty Reality: Rovers 0-2 Shittybank
Adebarndoor proves the adage "The sun shines on the just and unjust alike," by firing home to give Citeh the lead on his debut, and Stephen Ireland added one of his own just before injury time. By all accounts rovers didn't acquit themselves well in any sense, but then, it is Blackburn Rovers.

Bolton v Sunderland

Prediction: Bolton 1-1 Sunderland Reality: Bolton 0-1 Sunderland
Darren Bent proves not to be a complete waste of money (just 90% or so), heading home the winning goal for Sunderland early on. Bolton put in a typically Bolton-esque performance by not scoring.

Pompey v Fulham

Prediction: Portsmouth 0-1 Fulham Reality: Pompey 0-1 Fulham
Fulham get an away goal from Bobby Zamora, who up until this preseason couldn't score a goal if you put him unmarked, directly in front of an empty net gave him an electrified goal-scoring machine. I suspect somehow that the Chinese are involved.

Stoke City v Burnley

Prediction: Stoke 0-0 Burnley Reality: Stoke 2-0 Burnley
Either Stoke are better than I thought, or Burnley are worse. Stoke haven't changed anything from last season, their best offensive weapon is still Rory Delap's throwing.

Wolves v West Ham

Prediction: Wolves 1-2 West Ham Reality: Wolves 0-2 Hammers
Mick McCarthy, the Jimmy Carter of the Premiership, looks set for another one-term-and-out after the Irons put the Hammers down (see what I did there?) on his Wolves with goals from Mark Noble and Jack Collison. Bright start for the Hammers, beginning of a long season for Wolves.

Man Ure v Birmingham

Prediction: Man U 3-0 Birmingham Reality: Man U 1-0 Brum
A particularly underwhelming performance from United, who palpably miss Ronaldo. This is a Birmingham side the champs should have put to the sword, but could manage no more than a rooney tap-in from a missed header. 3 points, but Chelsea, Arsenal and others have to smell blood in the water.

Spuds v Scousers

Prediction: Sp*rs 1-3 Liverpudlians Reality: Sp*rs 2-1 Hubcap Thieves FC
Wow. A Tottenham club with virtually no healthy defenders who spent much of last season in the relegation scrap took the trendy pick to win the league this year, Liverpool, and footballistically raped them in the face. Liverpool managed a Gerrard penalty (go figure, the ref awarded a penalty to Liverpool) but were thoroughly outclassed by Sp*rs. I find I don't mind a spuds win so much if it helps us out.

Everton v Arsenal

Prediction: Everton 2-2 Arsenal Reality: Everton 1-6 Arsenal
This just makes me want to predict a 2-2 draw for every Arsenal match this season. Never felt so good to be wrong.

Arsenal are saying all the right things, Cesc naturally leading the way, saying:
It is just the first game in the title race, that’s all. We must keep going like this. We know we can do that if we continue to play like we did against Everton. But I must underline that it is just the first game. We won 6-1, but this is football, one day you are the best and two days later you are the worst team in the world. Let’s keep it real, this is game one and there are 37 to go so we will talk at the end to see how we have done.

And what else could he have said? It's what you expect a true captain to say. Arsenal want trophies this season, and Cesc most of all. He would've been Man of the Match against Everton even if he hadn't scored at all; he was all over the pitch, in defense, in attack, leading by example. It's his pledge.

And speaking of pledges, if you haven't caught this commercial from Nike, give it a look.

F**K. YES. How can you not love Arshavin? I can see fearing what he can do to your team (Liverpool, I'm looking in your direction), but he's just adorable. He's like a cross between Pele and a teddy bear. And seeing Eduardo say "I'm Back" just gave me a chill... as I'm sure seeing him actually back will give chills to defenders all season. I think the video speaks to Arsenal's expectations of themselves this season, and the focus from Cesc seems unwavering. The fact of the matter is, this is the fruit of all of Arsene's rebuilding, the "youth policy," all of it. They have the talent to win, they have the desire to win, and there's not been a better time to do it. So now all that's left is, well, to win.

Finally, Arsenal have their away leg to Celtic in the Champions League tomorrow, so this will be a nice test for the boys against the Bhoys, and Celtic Park always has a great atmosphere for European matches, and this should be no different. Pride and some 35 million pounds is riding on these two ties, the players and fans all know the stakes. For this away leg I think I'll just predict 2-2 and see what happens.

Right, so I'll recap that and more on Friday. So until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

-B, a gooner.

Weekend Preview: Matchday One: The Quickening

Match Day One. Just say it to yourself. Let the words form and roll off your tongue. It feels right. It's the verbal equivalent of washing away the worries, the pain, and equally, the successes of the previous season, to replace them all with the sunny optimism and equality that comes with a new campaign. Everyone starts on equal footing on Match Day One.

Of course, that's really just a mindset. Looking ahead with our more cynical glasses on, we can't see comparing the likes of Burnley with the likes of Liverpool, or Wolves with Chelsea, can we? Equality is in the eye of the beholder.

I've been scouring the intarwebs all week, but there's been precious little actual news to comment on, be it transfers or otherwise. Instead, as is the way with the close-season (which, as of this writing, we're still in, remember), fact is replaced by rampant transfer speculation and injury news. So, while the football world has given me precious little to work with, let's look at the Premier League as it stands before MATCH DAY ONE: THE QUICKENING

Liverpool sold the player that I felt was the heart of their team last season (apologies to the Steve Gerrard fans and apologists out there) in Xabi Alonso to Real Massive Debt, for 30 million. Pounds. Rafa Benitez turned around and brought in Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani to step into the void. Unfortunately for Rafa, even more unfortunate than his facial hair, Aquilani promptly picked up an ankle injury that will keep him out for eight weeks, leaving the Scouse faithful with little more to pin their hopes on than hatchet-man Lucas in the interim. Luckily for our favorite hubcap thieves, the Scousers Aug/Sept. schedule contains one match that looks semi-challenging from the outset, Aston Villa, and that's at Anfield. In fact, Liverpool don't face another big four team until Oct. 4th, at Chelsea, and they may even have Aquilani back then. Unfortunately for Liverpool, his eyes will still be so close together that he will lack peripheral vision.

Injuries and Arsenal seem to go together like skin and poison ivy: the more you wish it would go away, the more you seem to get. In addition to the already problematic injuries to Nasri and Tomas Rosickhamstring, which are at least compensated by relative depth at their positions, Arsene Wenger announced that the club would be without defender Johan Djourou for a month and # 2 goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski for 2 months. In addition, Theo Walcott will begin another season out injured (back). The most concerning of these, to me, is Djourou, because it means any injury to center back pairing William Gallas and Thomas Vermaelen will see *shudder* Silvestre starting in the Arsenal central defense. I can say without hyperbole that I think Martin Keown could come in off the street today and do a better job than Mikael Silvestre. Silvestre is slow, old, mistake-prone and loses focus far too easily for someone who's been a professional this long. On top of that he's a manc c*nt with a big stupid fish face. TalkSport had reported on Wed. that Arsenal would be signing Fulham's Brede Hangeland, but the player has rubbished those rumors, so we're back to square one, with little-to-no depth at central defense. Gooners, if you pray, pray for the continued health of Gallas and Vermaelen. It's a long season. Thankfully, we still have our Russian Lord and Savior.

United will be without GK Edwin Van Der Sex for about 2 months, meaning Ben Foster will take over between the sticks. Which means tragedy to United supporters and high comedy to everyone else, in equal measure.

Chelsea don't seem to have any major injuries at the moment, but it's only a matter of time before Ballack falls in the bathtub and breaks his hip. Luckily, he recently signed an endorsement deal with Life Alert, meaning if he falls and can't get up, he just has to press the button on his necklace to summon health care professionals. So it's up to the rest of us to wish reeeeeeally hard that he falls on his chest and crushes his Life Alert along with some ribs.

On an extremely uneventful transfer front, Mark Hughes won't take no for and answer on the sale of Jolean Lescott. While Hughes' behavior remains limited to the transfer market, one can't quite say the same for his players. And all of Man City's fans are going to feel like they've been raped in the face the first time Adebarndoor misses 10 easy sitters. And each subsequent time. And fair play to David Moyes for telling City to fuck off. Lescott's his player, Everton are much closer to breaking the strangelhold on the top 4 than City are, and he's not obligated to sell a player with a contract. And if he does, I hope Everton bleeds them dry.

Speaking of Manchester City, Fuck Manchester City.

Congratulations to Hammers fans, who will be happy to know that Radoslav Kovac has signed a permanent deal. While I don't see this making as much of an impact as the rumored transfers of Luca Toni and Eidur Gudjohnsen, he's an experienced international in their midfield, so keeping him around can only help.

Pompey have signed retired Arsenal forward Kanu to a one month contract. The state of attacking options at Portsmouth must be in dire straits if they're pulling a Rent-A-Center deal for a retired forward... He's not retired? Really? Are you sure, because he's like 47. Whatever, I guess if Romario can announce that his old wrinkly balls are making a comeback, anything's possible.

Finally, David Rat-Faced-Chav Bentley has apologized for a drunk-driving incident in which he wrapped his car around a lamp-post. Bentley says this has been "a wake-up call" for him. I'd like to think if I woke up to discover that I was a rat-faced c*nt who played football for the eleven sisters from the Seven Sisters Road, I'd be exploring the bottom of the Thames in concrete Nikes. My good friend Andrew Bennett said it best: "He couldn't even do it properly and kill himself." This is your year, Sp*rs fans!

Well I don't know about you, but I can't wait to get up nice and early and get my drink on in celebration of MATCH DAY ONE: THE QUICKENING. It's a new day, for whatever team you support. Except spuds, you lot are still going tits up.

Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation…

-B, a Gooner.

Poll: Will Arsenal drop out of the Top 4 As So Many Pundits Suggest

Come by and cast your vote.

Poll Results: Which Premier League Team Do You Think Can Slip Into a Top Four Finish This Season?

It will stay the same: 9 votes (56%)
Man City: 3 votes (18%)
Aston Villa: 2 votes (12%)
Everton: 1 vote (6%)
As long as it isn't United: 1 vote (6%)

New poll to surface later today.

Weekend Roundup: Emirates Cup and Farewell Swiss Tony

Starting today through at least the end of this season we'll be posting a bi-weekly (Weekend Preview & Weekend Round-up) section covering the action and news surrounding English Football, and most importantly, The Arsenal. Show your love to the newest contributor here, Brett, and hopefully we'll get him motivated to write more than twice a week. So, without further adieu, here's Brett...

Bringing the Emirates Cup back home. Could this be the first of many this season? Photo: Arsenal.com

Well, it was a sight to see, watching Cesc lift the Emirates Cup. I think we've all been so starved for silverware that most of us at one point or another might look at this tournament as meaning more than it does, myself included. But I don't want anyone getting too carried away, so in the interests of staying grounded, let's look at what our mighty Arsenal accomplished this weekend, shall we?

In our first match, we also faced what one would have to admit was our first real challenge of the pre-season. Yes, Hanover 96 is a Bundesliga side, but Atletico Madrid qualified for the Champions League this season, same as we did, so it was time for the Gunners to step up to the plate. The first half was a bit uneventful… Arsenal controlled the run of play but very few chances were created. The best of these was taken by the forgotten man, the resurgent Tomas Rosicky, who took a sneaky pass from the left beyond the defenders and deftly finished into the top right corner. Classic Rosicky, and this was a glimpse of what he adds to the squad when he's healthy, and even though we do have an abundance of attacking options, Tomas' footballing intelligence and skill on the ball can be breathtaking. Personally the thought of him playing alongside Cesc and Arshavin is exciting to say the least. The defense looked solid, although continuing a worrying trend of slipping up in defending set pieces, as the shortest player in the box, Aguero, was let free by Denilson to put a header off the post and out.

In the second half, things became a bit more interesting. The introduction of 17-year-old Jack Wilshere started things moving in the right direction for the Gunners, as Jack displayed the skill, control and vision he's become known for in his brief Arsenal career, making darting runs through and around defenders and generally making a nuisance of himself to the opponent, and you can't ask fairer from the youngster than that.

Still, the match remained scoreless until the 83rd minute when, after the introduction of Cesc, Eduardo and Arshavin, the Arsenal broke the deadlock. Arshavin latched onto a brilliant flick across the box to the left-hand side and carefully shot past the keeper at the near post, something I'm sure we'll all be looking forward to seeing a lot of this season, and opponents will likewise be dreading. However, almost immediately afterward the defenders were caught off guard by a long pass to Pacheco, who snuck behind the central defense (an area I personally am a bit concerned with, but more on that later), and finished past Mannone to equalize. A bitter pill, but deserved, and it looked like Atletico would have themselves a point, when in the last minute, our little Russian Maestro struck again. A pass into the box saw Arshavin touch once, rolling the ball past the keeper and almost over the end line at the right post, and the Owly one, from his backside, somehow managed to slide the ball over the line into the net from an impossible angle. This would certainly have been a nominee for Goal of the Year if this had been the regular season. So, a full 5 points for the Arsenal, in the Emirates Cup standings, where points won per match are added with goals scored, and with Rangers defeating PSG earlier in the day, we headed into the second match with a lead in the mini-tournament.

Arshavin with what one day will be looked at as one of the finest goals in his career

Sunday's match versus Rangers started off with a bang in the opening 10 minutes. Arsenal moved the ball to the Rangers' box, Cesc passing low to the center, flicked back by Eduardo, and England's Only Hope, Jack Wilshere, finished low and to the right, a cracking goal to make it 1-0 to the Arsenal in the second minute. A few minutes later, the Gunners struck again, and this time it was Eduardo slipping past the defense to the right of the 6 yard box, and coolly finished across the face of goal and in off the post to make it 2-0 to the Arsenal. Plenty of singing to be done and good cheer to be had among the home crowd, less so among the Scots who traveled down to London.

The score remained 2-0 through half time, although Jack nearly had a second with a looping shot punched over the bar by the Rangers 'keeper. Rangers had a few brief glimpses of hope in the first half, but in all were thoroughly dominated by the boys in Red and White. Rangers weren't defeated by all means, as they showed by breaking some attacks in the second half that troubled our defense. Song made a brilliant goal-saving sliding tackle in the box to preserve the 2-goal advantage, and Almunia was forced into a couple of saves himself. It wasn't nearly enough, as Jack struck again, sealing himself Man of the Match honors in two days running, finishing a low pass across the box from Aaron Ramsey (who looked decent himself in both matches) with a darting run from the right. 3-0 to the Arsenal, and finally some silverware!

Captain Jack celebrating after his 2nd goal. Photo: TeamTalk

All in all, it was a good tune-up, and both matches seemed to have more urgency than a typical preseason match. We took on a Champions League-caliber opponent in Atletico, and the SPL champions in Rangers and emerged victorious both times. We displayed impressive, dominant attacking play, and solid, if sometimes mistake-prone defense, which is not likely to change anyone's impressions of what the team was capable of before the tournament. But I prefer to remain positive about the team. We look like we can compete with anyone, and we can certainly finish (which is more than can be said for the hapless Adebarndoor for Man Shitty). And in the coming weeks, we'll have to trust that Arsene will address our defensive frailties.

Speaking of which, all was quiet on the transfer front but for one noticeable departure. Philippe Senderos has been sold to Everton, likely paving the way for Jolean Lescott to join the millionaires' club at the Middle Eastlands. It's unfortunate for us, as I think we'd have been better served keeping Senderos as a capable deputy to Gallas, Vermaelen (who remained out injured… a bad sign for a new Wenger signing) and Djourou, who will likely handle the bulk of the work at center-half. Without Swiss Tony, we're a couple of injuries away from Silvestre starting in central defense, and nothing scares me more. Except maybe ghosts. They're pretty scary. I think we'll all be wishing big Phil good-luck in his career going forward (minus the matches he plays against us, of course). He was much-maligned in his time with the Gunners, received more than his share of criticism, but I always liked him personally, and will miss him.

Phil Celebrating in 2007. Photo: BBC

But there's plenty of time left. It does appear that the return of Patrick Vieira is gaining some traction. I don't think it addresses our major hole (defensive midfield), and I don't know how much Paddy Longlegs has left in the tank, but he'll certainly add a great deal of experience and professionalism to the team, being a returning legend. Maybe it will shut up the bleating media about "the last of the Invincibles has left Arsenal," blah blah. Anyway, it's been said elsewhere, but if it's a choice between Vieira and no one, I'll be perfectly happy to hear the dulcet tones of an Emirates crowd singing, "VIEIRA, WOOOAHHH, VIEIRA, WOOAAAOOOAAHH…"

Anelka and Vieria. Photo: DailyMail

Until next time, my goonery chums, Up the Arsenal.