Greetings and salutations to all of my fellow Gooners (and an enthusiastic "Meh" to everyone else). As we approach this weekend's North London Derby, I have been feeling three emotions in my heart: Hate, Hatred, and Hatreditudenessity, and all of it is directed one way. Toward the eleven sisters from the Seven Sisters Road and their twitchy-ass git of a manager.

That's right, it's time again for the North London Derby. As an Arsenal supporter, we obviously have bigger rivals to be concerned with (Chelsea, Man Ure, Man Shitty, the scousers) in the long run, and obviously Tottenham Hotspur have rivals closer to their level (Burnley, Leeds Utd, Scunthorpe) that they have to worry about besting. But when it comes to pure, all-out HATE between two clubs and their fans, few rivalries in sports are as intense as that between Arsenal and the scum.

Now before I begin to fully indulge my hate, I feel it necessary to congratulate the Arsenal lads on their victory over Liverpool's largely A-squad (minus Gerrard and Torres) in the Carling Cup. There were a few senior squad members in the team (Eduardo, Bendtner and Nasri the most notable inclusions), but for the most part this was a regular League Cup team (meaning all reserves and youngsters) that Arsenal fielded. And credit must be given to Liverpool for actually playing attacking football with us, as few teams dare to do at the Emirates. While it may have contributed to their demise, it was an incredibly exciting match that really could have gone either way. The goals were fantastic, all three: Merida hitting a scorcher in at the near post from the right-side edge of the box, Insua hitting a lovely shot from outside the left side of the box that dipped over Fabianski to equalize, and a great effort and finish by Bendtner in the box (one of the few things the Big Dane did well all game, in my opinion). That 2-1 lead held in spite of Liverpool subbing on Benayoun and Aquilani, and although there were several chances for the Scousers to take the lead in the last 10 minutes or so, they were unable to make the most of them.

So, the Arsenal kids roll on in the Carling Cup, congrats to Arsene and the boys. Good to see Cesc andsome of the senior squad members there to support the lads as well. Now, back to hatefest 2009.

The last time we hosted the scum from the Lane at the Emirates, the result was a 4--4 draw. For Arsenal fans, who watched the team blow a 2-goal lead from 4-2 up, this felt as bad as losing 14-0 to any other team. Obviously it's bad enough to choke away a 2-goal advantage to any team (see last Saturday vs. West Ham), but that is compounded tenfold when it happens against the spurs. In the away leg, Eboue had a massive brain malfunction and was sent off for a second yellow early in the first half, and the team was forced to just hang on for a scoreless draw.

Let's allow that to sink in a bit. Arsenal did not defeat Tottenham last season. At all.

This is unacceptable. And it will change starting tomorrow.

As is usual, the Totts have been doing a good deal of talking. Which makes sense, seeing as they never seem to do their talking on the pitch. The first quote comes from Robbie Keane:

"If you look at the last four or five years, for some reason Arsenal always got ahead of us slightly," said the Irishman. "But if you look now, it's certainly even. And if you look at the squads, the bench that we have is probably a little bit stronger than their bench."

It seems obvious that this particular pikey has been stealing and sniffing a bit too much glue. Let's compare Spurs bench in their loss to Stoke: Michael Dawson, Jermaine Jenas, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Alan Hutton, Carlo Cudicini, Gareth Bale, Kyle Naughton, with Arsenal's bench vs. West Ham: Nicklas Bendtner, Eduardo, Manuel Almunia, Mikael Silvestre, Samir Nasri, Aaron Ramsey, Kieran Gibbs. Arsenal have 4 first choice internationals (Eduardo, Nasri, Bendtner, Ramsey), Silvestre was at one point, and Gibbs looks sure to be one soon. Whereas Spurs' bench features one (Pavlyuchenko). Now, I won't say Keane knows nothing about benches, having spent a long time on one at Liverpool, but he's surely mistaken. But then, Keane's made some mistakes before...

Another quote came from Spurs giraffe on ice skates, Peter Crouch: "[A]s West Ham proved, you can come back and you can score goals against them. Hopefully we'll be tight at the back and get a good result." Oh, Crotchie... sigh. I won't sit here and try to say Arsenal haven't leaked goals this season. It's fairly obvious we have. But there are two things favoring our not conceding: 1) The goal is not 50 meters high nor is it 30 yards wide; and 2) Peter Crouch will be playing striker for Spurs. In fact, here is a collection of things Peter Crouch does better than playing football.

Finally, Droopy Dog himself chimed in: "They play fantastic football but so do we. We have a squad here capable of matching anyone so we will be going there to win the game, absolutely. We always go for it and we only know one way to play."

To which I can only reply: "Yes. You only know how to play like shit."

Adebuywhore also had something to say, but my policy on TMG is not to pay him any attention. He's just acting out because he was unloved. But we have a certain diminutive Russian, so Ade knows just where he can go.

No Celeb Pick 'Em today, so I'm afraid you're stuck with me, and with little explanation, if any, here are the picks:

Bolton v Chelsea - PREDICTION: Bolton 1-2 Chelsea
Chavs go back to needing late winners versus shit teams, but still get 3 points.

Burnley v Hull City - PREDICTION: Burnley 2-1 Hull City
Hull continue their march to relegation, and the Burnley fans get a rare win to celebrate.

Everton v Aston Villa
- PREDICTION: Everton 1-3 Aston Villa
Will the Real Everton please stand up?

Fulham v Liverpool - PREDICTION: Fulham 1-1 Liverpool
Scousers go from out of contention, to right back in it, to right back out.

Portsmouth v Wigan
- PREDICTION: Portsmouth 0-2 Wigan
God DAMN do Pompey suck!

Stoke City v Wolves - PREDICTION: Stoke 1-0 Wolves
God DAMN is Mick McCarthy a shitty manager!

Sunderland v West Ham - PREDICTION: Sunderland 2-1 West Ham
Black Cats get back on the winning page with a hard-fought home win over the Hammers.

Man Utd v Blackburn - PREDICTION: Man Utd 4-1 Blackburn
United are pissed off after losing to Liverpool. Rovers are the unfortunate (or if you hate Allardyce like I hate Allardyce, the perfect) recipients of United's pissed-offedness.

Birmingham v Man City - PREDICTION: Birmingham 1-3 Man City
Man Shitty get rolling, but lose Adebayor pre-match to an unexplained rectal injury. Later it turns out to have been inflicted by Ashley Cole and Jermaine Jenas, but no charges are filed.

Which brings me to the reason I'll be getting up extra early on a Saturday, Arsenal v the scum. I feel nothing but disdain for this club, their manager, and their shit support. I'll be shocked if more than 3 of them brave Nevadas tomorrow, and being that they're Spurs, you won't hear a peep from them.

As for the match itself, despite what Robbie "crackhead travelling gypsy" Keane has to say, Arsenal are the better side. Where they have Keane, we have Van Persie. Where they have Defoe, we have Arshavin. Where they have Ledley King, we have Vermaelen. There isn't one position on the pitch where we don't outshine their shit, and it doesn't matter whether Almunia or Mannone starts in goal, either is preferable to Heurelho Fucking Gomes or Cudicini. Where they have shit support, we have a Red Army. And let's not forget the managers.

The bottom line is, for all their talk, Tottenham have always been a small club. They're the Premier League's great underachievers, and their deluded fans always seem to think that each season will be the season they top Arsenal. And every season, St. Totteringham's Day comes and goes, sometimes with an extra helping of Lasagna. And this season won't be any different. Spurs may be tied with on on points, but they'll never be our equals in class or in football, and tomorrow, we'll show them why, once again. We can't shut them up forever, but we can make sure they have no reason to release another DVD commemorating a draw. The Cannon will fire tomorrow, and the Cockerall will lose its head.

Arsenal 86-0 Scum.

I have nothing more to say about it. If all ye Gooners aren't yet ready to run through a goddamned brick wall to see this match, then I can't help you. THIS IS WHAT FOOTBALL IS ABOUT. Tomorrow. Ninety minutes. Singing and shouting.

We are the Arsenal.

- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Roundup: West Hamgover, and... PREPARE.

I watched two football matches on Sunday. In the first, Arsenal beat West Ham 2-0 at Upton Park over 30 minutes. In the second, some local kids masquerading in very convincing Arsenal costumes got their asses handed to them by the Hammers 2-0. And I thought Halloween was next weekend.

It seems that the same problems come back to bite us in the ass, time and again. On Tuesday, after letting a win slip away in the dying minutes against an inferior AZ Alkmaar side, it was obvious that the lesson that Arsenal needed to take away from that match was that they needed not to let up until the final whistle. Fast forward five days, and after going up 2-0 on (my apologies to Hammers fans) an inferior side, we did exactly the same thing. We backed off, played around with the ball rather than attacked, and were sloppy in both possession and defense. And all credit to the Irons, they made us pay, and got themselves a crucial point, whereas we dropped two equally crucial points. The question that weighs on me, and it's something I found myself asking many, many times last season, is this: How many times does this team need to be taught the same lesson before they truly learn it?

Arsenal started brightly. Robin van Persie continued his fine form, opening the scoring after a quarter of an hour, tapping in a cross from Sagna (who I felt put in one of his best performances of the season). A few minutes later, RvP sent a cross in that was headed in sharply by William Gallas. 2-0 up, and we were rolling. And then... it stopped.

It was palpable, Arsenal just ceased all true attacking play, reverting to a game purely of possession. We'd move the ball up to the box, then gradually pass it back to midfield, and repeat the same. We had a few moments, but never truly threatened. The boys continued in this vein in the second half, cruising about feeling secure in the points. Meanwhile, West Ham began to attack us with renewed focus, and rightly so. This is a team that is fighting for their continued existence in the Premiership, and they aren't without talent. But this is a team that lost to Stoke City, a team with, to that point, 5 points in 10 games, and a team we should have thoroughly beaten, and could have done, if we hadn't taken our collective foot off the gas. Vito Mannone made a flying save of a Diamanti free kick, but pushed it back in front of goal where Carlton Cole (who is easily the Hammers best and most dangerous player) put it home easily. 2-1.

Shortly after, Scott Parker went down in the box, appealing for a penalty. When I first saw it live, it looked like he was in fact taken down, but on subsequent replays, it appeared he threw himself into Gallas and then to the ground, so the referee rightly waved play on. Some would appeal for Parker to be booked for simulation. I agree it is the right thing to do, but I'm so jaded about diving (Parker was booked a bit later when Eboue himself dived) that I don't think it will ever really be addressed, so I was just glad the ref didn't point to the spot. But Hammer fans got their wish a few minutes later when a clear dive by Carlton Cole was rewarded with a penalty. Replays show Song brushed his foot, and Cole crumpled to the ground like he had died. Either Song possesses superhuman strength, or it was a dive. In any case, Song shouldn't even have put himself in a position to draw a whistle. Cole had nowhere to go. Diamanti converted from the spot (after Vito was booked for not going back to the line), the match was tied, and still Arsenal played on without urgency. Parker got a second yellow for an intentional handball, Hammers were down to 10 men, but it was only when Eduardo was introduced that Arsenal began to attack in earnest. Robin had the best chance to regain the lead denied when his goal-bound header was deflected by Robert Green's leg. Otherwise, a long shot from Cesc that curled just wide of the post was the only other realistic chance the Gunners created. 2-2 the final score and two points were choked away.

How many times does this team need to be taught the same lesson? It's not down to the youth of the team anymore, not really. Every full-time starter can be considered a veteran at this point, with the exception of the 'keeper. Vito wasn't bad, but he wasn't great either. He did a fine job making some crucial saves, but his one crucial error (not pushing a ball wide but in front of goal) led to the first goal. But this loss of points isn't down to any one player. The entirety of the squad played as if they were on cruise control for an hour or more, and they paid for it. A better team might have taken all three points, and if this team doesn't take this lesson to heart this time, I fear the next time will be a genuine loss.

Last thought on the subject: If that one point and this result gets the Hammers back on track and starts their climb out of relegation, then I'm glad we could help out, provided that we don't miss out on the title by 2 points or fewer. I'd rather keep the Hammers around, particularly at Nevadas, than to see them replaced by some other yo-yoing retread.

Let's quickly go over Stephane's predictions from the weekend that was:

Wolves v Aston Villa -- PREDICTION: 1-3 for Villa. REALITY: 1-1. Villa continue to dazzle with Jeckyll-and-Hyde displays. Beat Chelsea, draw with Wolves.

Birmingham v Sunderland -- PREDICTION: 0-2 for Sunderland. REALITY: 2-1 to Brum. Huge surprise for me, as I thought a hot Black Cats team would take at least a point from the Brummies.

Burnley v Wigan -- PREDICTION: 2-1 for Burnley. REALITY: 1-3 for Wigan. The Latics decided to show up. Burnley beat Man United but have lost to Wigan. Hugo Rodallega looks quite the player, in any case.

Hull City v Portsmouth -- PREDICTION: 0-0 -- snoozefest. REALITY: DINGDINGDING! WINNER! Stephane gets this one on the nosey. Two bad teams play shitty football to a goalless draw. Thankfully they should both be relegated by next season.


Chelsea v Blackburn -- PREDICTION: 2-2. REALITY: Couldn't have been farther off, Chelsea absolutely dominate a poor Blackburn team at the Bridge, 5-0. Rovers just looked pitiful in this one, not just beaten but dejected. Perhaps our 6-2 drubbing of them has affected them to begin a downward spiral ending in relegation. In other news, fuck Sam Allardyce.

Bolton v Everton -- PREDICTION: 2-1 to Bolton. REALITY: 3-2 to Bolton. Stephane wasn't far off on this one. To be fair, I wouldn't have predicted 5 goals from these two. Everton just aren't nearly as good as they ought to be.

Liverpool v Man Utd -- PREDICTION: 2-2 with 3 red cards, 9 yellows and over a half dozen fairly serious injuries. REALITY: 2-1 to the Scousers with 2 red cards, a few yellows, and some awful refereeing that went against Man U. And by awful I mean totally fucking rad.

Man City v Fulham -- PREDICTION: 2-1 to Shitteh. REALITY: 2-2! USA! USA! Clint Dempsey scores an equalizer, and Fulham hold on to a point away from home. FUCK OFF CITEH!

Frankly, the manner in which we drew this week (twice), has left me in a deep, footbally malaise, and I can't think of anything that might pull me out of it. Except of course the NORTH LONDON DERBY! I'm saying this to all Gooners, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, I love you all, but if you're not watching this, be it at 7:45am here or 4:45am west coast, you're dead to me. Londoners, you have no excuse for missing this, not even weddings (Mr. Baldwin, I'm looking in your direction). Shit I'd miss my own wedding for this. I've waited nearly a year since we last met the Scum at the Grove, and the feeling I had after that match I do not want to replicate. In case you missed it, you can probably understand what I mean by following these easy steps:

1. Play FIFA 09 as Arsenal; lose to Spurs (Yes, I know it was a draw, calm down);
2. Men: Hit yourself full-force in the balls with an aluminum bat; Ladies: pay a midget to sneak up on you unawares and sucker punch you in the stomach.

Or, if that seems like too much trouble, JUST WATCH THIS:

We didn't beat the spuds at all last season, and that is far too long. We are the better team by far, we are at home, and in case you needed another reason to get fired up for this IT'S FUCKING TOTTENHAM!!! I want their supporters going home in tears and queuing up to buy the commemorative DVD of their 86-0 loss to Arsenal on Halloween '09. I want us to have beaten them so badly that Harry Redknapp develops a facial tic. A worse one! I want us to be so far ahead that we start having men sent off just so we can beat them with 5 players on the pitch. That's how much I want this. I want you all to want it too.

No jokey links this week, no funny pictures. It's time for Arsenal to stand and be counted. Arsenal is more than 11 men on a pitch, it's all of us too. And when we sing on Saturday morning, no matter where we are, I want them to actually hear us in Islington.

More on Friday. Until then, stay classy, and Prepare Yourselves, Gooner nation.

- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Preview: Stan the Man, the AGM, and Hammering the Hammers

Feels like ages since I last wrote. There's been some action in the interim to address, both on and off the pitch, so let's get down to it, shall we? Ladies, I promise I love foreplay, just not in my blogs.

Arsenal were in midweek European action this week, visiting AZ Alkmaar, the defending champions of the Dutch Eredivisie. I think we all, I don't know if expected is the right word, but expected a win away. It's not so long a trip as to tire out the players (like going to Kiev or something), and you're less likely to have a player get shanked by an opposing supporter (like you might in Greece, or Rome, or at West Ham). And due to the financial state of the world, the best players in Holland don't stay in Holland but go elsewhere to ply their trade for more money. Not something they can be blamed for. But it's likely that we'll never see something like the great teams that Ajax used to put together with great regularity. And for this reason, I think many of us devalue the Eredivisie as a lower-tier league.

Alkmaar didn't play like that. That's not to say they set the pitch aflame with scintillating football. Buthe pace of the match was very plodding and slow, and I think Arsenal allowed AZ to dictate that pace, which negatively affected our usually effective game of passing and movement. We struck first, a goal set up by some nice attacking play. I really just remembered shouting "SHOOOOOOT!" when van Persie got the ball in the area, before he deftly passed across the box to Cesc coming in from the right to finish crisply. 1-0, and it looked as though we'd walk away with the points without breaking too much of a sweat.

Indeed, most of the players never left second gear, not that they were pushed to. Still it was upsetting to see Arsenal allow a match to fall to sunday-league pace and to go right with it. Which is why it was somewhat unsurprising in the end that Arsenal allowed an equalizer in injury time. There were loads of chances that went begging, and Alkmaar weren't helpless out there, putting together some tasty bits of play several times throughout the match. In the second half, Vito was left exposed at the back far too often, which should never happen to a keeper, but especially not to an inexperienced goaltender like Mannone, talented though he may be. Vito did make some special saves over the match, and really seems to be growing into the role, although I may be biased because I love singing his songs.

If anything, the equalizer was inevitable, given Arsenal's overall play not living up to its high standard, and with the run of play decidedly going Alkmaar's way, although things might have been different had a fairly obvious penalty been given when substitute Carlos Vela was brought down in the box. I don't know if referees in Europe will be giving Arsenal a hard time in these situations due to the flap over Eduardo, but the ref certainly missed this decision, and he was well-placed to see it. It wasn't long after that when Alkmaar went level, another goal let in by Arsenal off of a penalty, and that late on, two points surely dropped. I think the famous philosopher Thomas Vermaelen said it best: "It feels like a defeat." Smart man, and the best footballer since Socrates.

After a few days thinking on it, I can't complain too much. The point was as much as the performance deserved, Arsenal still lead the group, and need just three points in their next three group stage matches to qualify for the knock-out rounds, which looks assured right now.

Arsenal's Annual General Meeting, or AGM, was held this week as well, on Arsene Wenger's 60th birthday. First off, congratulations to the manager for lasting so long on earth, and many happy returns. As for the AGM itself, it was a much, much calmer affair than the last, which was marred by upset supporters publicly calling out the manager on the squad he had assembled, one of them calling Sylvestre "geriatric." Whether the man was right (he was) or not wasn't at issue, but the seeming lack of respect that AW felt, coming on the back of defeats in the FA Cup and Champions League semi-finals, may have spurred on the jackals from Real Madrid to come sniffing around. Wenger, being a man of integrity, told them where to go, and has since seen the team play some fantastic football, and barring the two defeats in Manchester (jobbed by the referee against United and to a degree in the City match as well), looking like worldbeaters.

The bigger interest was in the happenings off the pitch, as American Stan Kroenke has been hoovering up shares in the club, coming very close to the 29.9% threshold that would force him to make an offer for the entire club. Kroenke remained silent when asked about his intentions, as chairman Peter Hill-Wood stepped in, saying, "I don't think we are looking for a change in custodian. I think you will find the club is in pretty good hands... I believe he [Stan] is happy to be a long-term shareholder in our club. Really its not for me to say what his intentions are." I'll reserve judgment on the issue until something actually happens; we've seen what has happened in Manchester United and Liverpool, with American owners miring the clubs in massive amounts of debt. I will say that I'm pleased Stan is aligned with the Board, and it's encouraging that he does come over to watch the club, despite his obligations in the states.

Now I wouldn't dream of doing a Weekend Preview without a Celebrity Pick 'Em. So, through my vast influence in the football world, I was able to set up an interview with Spurs legend, David Ginola. He was about to make his picks when I accidentally kicked him in the balls and laughed. I must've tripped or something. Anyway, for some reason he didn't want to continue the interview. After going through possible replacements that included Matt Damon, Hutch from Starsky and Hutch, and the ghost of Richard Nixon, I was able to convince a true Gooner celebrity, Nevada Smiths legend Stepháne Montas, to help us out with his picks of this weekend's action. Big man, WHADDYA GOT?!

Here's how I see the matches from my, non-expert, Arsenal-lovin' POV:

Wolves v Aston Villa -- 1-3 for Villa. If Villa can't beat Wolves, they don't have a prayer of breaking into the top 4. Oh yeah, and another thing -- Wolves, at home, gifted Pompey their ONLY points of the season. 'Nuff said.

Birmingham v Sunderland -- 0-2 for Sunderland. They beat Wolves 5-2, and Birmingham deserve to lose for their poxy fans singing for Martin Taylor. Cunts. If they weren't at home, and if Kenwyne Jones were a definite to play, it'd be 4-0. But they'll park the bus in the box as usual.

Burnley v Wigan -- 2-1 for Burnley. This one could go either way. But Burnley are plucky and Wigan aren't stellar away from home.

Hull City v Portsmouth -- 0-0 -- snoozefest. They both suck ass. Of course, it could also be an extremely nervous affair as both teams actually try to attack. It'll be hilariously bad -- like 6-4 to Hull. More likely is 0-0, since both teams will be careful.

Tottenham v Stoke City -- 0-3 to Stoke, as an incredible performance by TP's men coincides with an abysmal Sp*rz outing reminiscent of their usual late season stinkfests. An early treat to bring St. Totteringham's Day that much closer.

Chelsea v Blackburn -- 2-2 with the Blue Poo looking the better team, but Blackburn's grit and luck bringing them a point.

Bolton v Everton -- 2-1 to Bolton. With nothing but 3 points separating the two, and with both having poor goal differentials, home advantage pays off for Bolton.

Liverpool v Man Utd -- 2-2 with 3 red cards, 9 yellows and over a half dozen fairly serious injuries. Uniturd ties it up in the final minutes after trailing 'Poo the entire match. Oh, yes. Just like that.

Man City v Fulham -- 2-1 to Shitteh. Unfortunate, but in the cards due to the home advantage. Shitteh's mercenaries will carry the day. If Toure and Ade play, it will be 3-1 and a more comfortable win

Many thanks for bailing me out today, S. And I reeeeeally hope that Scousers v ManUre match plays out exactly like that. Unfortunately, Stephane will have a rare off-day from Nevadas on Sunday, which means the rest of us need to step up our game that much more to make up for it. I expect every Gooner in attendance to think up one original song in the shower on Sunday morning.

Now it comes down to it, our first London Derby this season, as the Arsenal visit the confines of Upton Peniten--Park. Upton Park.

I should warn you all, however, that at this point in the blog, I've been drinking pretty heavily for several hours, so if things get a little silly, just play along, all right? Okay. We travel to West Ham this weekend, and purely based on form, we should have no problems, should we? Yeah, I didn't think so either. See, a London Derby tends to bring out the best in the players, or the worst. And West Ham supporters have seen a fair bit of the worst this season. This was a team that I, in my infinite wisdom, predicted to finish in the top half this season, and while this has not been mathematically eliminated yet, it's about as likely as Tottenham winning the league, isn't it?

The Hammers lost to us in this fixture last season, and I would be foolish to say that this season's version of the Hammers are as good as last season's, or that this season's Arsenal team is no better than last season's. However, this is a London Derby. All of the normal rules go right out the window.

That's not to say that Arsenal aren't the favorites; obviously they are. But I'm throwing both team's records out the window. Because I'm kinda drunk. We've all seen upsets, and anyone who's seen Arsenal knows that we can leak goals, particlarly on set pieces. And West Ham have personnel to score from those same set pieces, particularly Carlton Cole, who has had a fine season as a striker for a team that's had a difficult time scoring. Meanwhile, Arsenal have had little trouble scoring. Also, my friend Matt says West Ham is for fags. West Ham 1-3 Arsenal.

So I'm left guessing for myself. I won't insult the Hammers by predicting their inevitable demeeeeeeese. But then again I will. Because as any self-respecting historian will tell you, the Iron Age ended 1,300 years ago. Therefore the Arsenal will win 3-1. Arsenal have every reason to win this match and challlenge for every trophy they are up for.

So that's all I've got, Gooner and Goonerish. KEEP THE FAITH! I'll see you there on Sunday, so BRING YOUR SHOUTING VOICES. Let's make up for every missed opportunity. UP THE ARSENAL and COME ON YOU REEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

- B, a Gooner.

Head to Head: West Ham-Arsenal

This week we're jumping into a new series that we will continue throughout the season where we ask some objective questions to a supporter of the team we are coming up against in the weekend. We will then also ask the same questions to an anonymous Gooner. I want to start by thanking Sean for taking the time to give honest and objective answers. My goal in this is to present an honest view and to talk about the competition on the pitch. We'll save the banter for matchday.

So we start here. This week we face off with West Ham United where they will host us at Upton Park. These London Derbies are always intense. However, for those of you that don't remember, our meeting last year at Upton Park saw us a 2-0 win over the Hammers, and I'm sure we're hoping to repeat that and hoping to forget the goalless draw that we had when we hosted the Hammers at The Emirates later in the season.

What's Your name?
West Ham Sean.

How long have you supported West Ham?
Um, i don't know...probably since the Nixon administration.

What's your favorite memory of West Ham-Arsenal past?
1980, when Trevor Brooking put the header right past. We were a shit club from like a small little league, and then we were like the last ones ever to win the Wembley cup at top division.

What will the outcome be of Sunday's match when West Ham host Arsenal at Upton Park?
To be honest, I'm hoping for a draw. We've always had a really good spar with Arsenal, especially at Upton Park. But Arsenal is a threat. You are very present in Europe, you have a fantastic manager. I mean, he plays different than the English style that we play because he plays more like a continental European style. But he has a lot of respect from a lot of people for how he came about 13 years ago, and has changed Arsenal from a mid-table team to a top level team.

What is West Ham's biggest threat to Arsenal this weekend?
Scott Parker I would say. He's back, and he's hungry, and he wants to be back.

What is Arsenal's biggest threat to West Ham this weekend?
I don't know, it seems you work more as a team, there's no singular star. That seems to be how Wenger has it. So as far as the team, I think that alone is threatening. I don't think there will be one person in particular that is a threat, its more the whole team all together.

Where will Arsenal and West Ham finish in the table this season?
West Ham will finish in the top 10, and Arsenal, as much as everyone says Man City is going to knock out Arsenal, money can only buy you so much. I mean Chelsea has really been the only club that has been successful at buying trophies. But it won't happen with City, and you guys will stay in the top 4 at least.

But not for long with their transfer Ban...
You have to read this book called Soccernomics, it really opens your eyes how things are with teams and their transfers and buying.

Last words?
The only real downfall I find with all the good things about Wenger is he doesn't really play with his heart. Like when he sold off Vieira before his time, it left a huge whole in Arsenal's defense, that it took years to bounce back from. The main problem I think is that he looks more at the numbers than he does at how he thinks a player should play. He's gonna have a dynasty though. He'll definitely be the next Fergusson. In other words, when he leaves, Arsenal will be a completely different team. And as many things that I love to joke Wenger about, he is indeed the power point behind Arsenal and has made a huge impact on football in England.

••• And now we have the same questions with a Gooner•••

What's your favorite memory of West Ham-Arsenal past?

I guess this would be Boxing Day 98... I had flown home from London 2 days before, but I did manage to see this on MSG network. 1-0 to the Arsenal at Upton Park. Was the week after I first saw a match.

What will the outcome be of Sunday's match when West Ham host Arsenal at Upton Park?
Derbies are always anything-goes, but based on recent results, I'd have to say 2-1. WHU are having a difficult time this season, but they're at home against a local rival in Arsenal, and we've had a tendency to leak goals, especially off of set pieces.

What is West Ham's biggest threat to Arsenal this weekend?
Aside from knives? Kidding of course. Again, it's the set pieces that worry me, so I guess Carlton Cole would be their danger-man.

What is Arsenal's biggest threat to West Ham this weekend?
The way Robin Van Persie has been playing of late has been extraordinary. I'd put a pound on him to score.

Where will Arsenal and West Ham finish in the table this season?
I picked Arsenal to win the league, and I'm still convinced we can do that this season. But I had picked WHU to finish 8th or so, and there's no realistic expectation that they'll recover that much ground, although I could see them escape relegation. Although not by much.

Ask A Gooner, Vol. 2

What's your name?
Nick Hetherington

Where are you from?
London, mate!

Give us your first Arsenal experience?
1978, Manchester United 2-3 Arsenal, we took it down, I was 7 years old. All I remember was it ended 3-2, and the third goal came in the 87th minute.

Worst Arsenal memory?
Definitely when Martin Taylor broke Eduardo's leg. It was devastating.

How did you feel about our win over Birmingham this go around?
It was beautiful. It was too bad Eduardo didn't get to play, and that other cunt.

Where do you see Arsenal finishing this season?
Can we win this season? Yes. Do we have the strength? Yes. Do we have the back four? Yes. Do we have the middle? Yes. We've got the front. Yes. We've got it all. Yes. I think we can win it all. I know I've been saying this for 5 seasons now, and its about time we won a trophy. I think we can get it, and I think we could get the Champions League as well. Yes. I would be very surprised if we didn't see some piece of silverware from this season. As long as we don't get any mad injuries, the strength is there, and we've got a great amount of players to pull from now, its not like 2 seasons ago when we were a little weak, but now with Arshavin and Vermaelen, they're goal scorers. I mean we're talking about our top goal scorer being a defender. We've got beautiful game players like Fabregas, van Persie, and even Bendtner is coming up. He's only 21. If we don't win something this year, it will come down to injuries over skill and power and gameplays.

How many goals will we score this season?
We're at 27 already from 8 matches, 30 to go...um, 109!

Favorite Arsenal player this season?
Difficult, but if I had to choose, I'd go with Cesc. I just have to.

Who is our best signing in the past 12 months, and who would we benefit most to add?
Well Arshavin is without a shadow of doubt the best signing. And as a potential in January? Can we steal Darren Bent? I'll take back Patrick Vieira.

What would you most like to see us win this year?
Champions League.

Last words?

Weekend Roundup: Balloons and Brummies and Upsets, Oh My!

Welcome back, nation. It's good to see you again. Pull up a chair, make yourself a drink... sorry the post is so late going up, I've been in meetings most of the day. Never really saw the sense in meetings, especially since most of them are scheduled in order to create more meetings. It's like putting a racecar on a treadmill: you know your wheels are turning, but you never get anywhere.

Getting into Nevada's on Saturday, following yet another root-canal-like-international break, was like seeing old friends after a long separation. The familiarity you share isn't something that cna be brushed aside, despite what might have changed in the interim. Except in this case, nothing had actually changed. Jack was pulling pints and Chelsea fans acted as though they were in a library. I got through two full singings of "John Terry's Mother is a Thief" without so much as a reply.

Of course, the Chavs had good reason to shut their mouths. Villa was beating them 2-1 in the 60th when I got there and were still up by the same margin when the final whistle blew. Chelsea looked flat, as though they were mailing in yet another performance, which of course, they were. Even in the last 10 minutes, there seemed to be little urgency to the Blues' play, and the loss was a just one in relation to the effort they put in. Villa on the other hand attacked with intent and defended as though their survival depended on the result, and the three points were well-deserved. Upset number one in the books, and a good weekend of football was on the cards, for everyone but the Chelski.

Oh yeah, and Liverpool. One of the more ridiculous occurrences I've seen in the sport gave Sunderland a 1-0 home win over the Scousers. A red balloon (or beach ball, depending on the report you read) that had been thrown onto the field and was never cleared away provided a deflection of a Darren Bent strike, putting the ball in the net. Every rational mind would necessarily refer to that goal being given as an atrocity, reproachable and ridiculous.

However, football is not rational, so fuck Liverpool. This is the luckiest team in England, so it's about time some rotten luck fell their way as well. Karma's got to have some real nut-shots lined up for these peckers, they're so overdue. And in my own honest opinion, after viewing about 30 replays of the incident, I can't see that Bent's strike might not have gone in anyway. Anyway, this sort of thing is due for Liverpool.

As for real football, Arsenal took on Birmingham for the first time since Eduardo's leg was broken at St. James in January 2008. Eduardo and Martin Taylor, the biggest figures in that match, were both out due to injury. On the pitch, this was a match much like any ofther Arsenal match against a second-tier opponent. To my own surprise (and I assume that of many Arsenal fans), instead of Fabianski being in goal with Don Vito on the bench, Mannone started with Almunia on the bench.

Arsenal started off quickly, controlling the run of play, but in the first few minutes, a tough, but one has to say fair challenge by Brum's Liam Ridgewell got the ball, but also got tangled with Theo Walcott. Theo went down holding his knee and came off for a few minutes, returning to action and showed why he is so dangerous with a blazing run down the right flank and a long shot that was only kept out by good goalkeeping from Joe Hart. Theo's knee must've been worse than he let on, however, for he was subbed off about 30 minutes into the match for Andrei Arshavin... more on him later.

After a quarter of an hour was gone, the first goal was in. Robin van Persie continued to show his quality, latching on to a long pass from Alex Song (who put in another fine performance on the day--he's yet to have a bad game in my opinion), and stuck a low shot from a tight angle across goal into the bottom right corner. Robin has really started to come into his own as a striker and is on a brilliant run of form, so let's hope he keeps it up.

A few minutes later, the home fans were delighted again, when the Man of a Thousand Songs, Emmanuel Eboue, played a ball into the box on the right to Rosicky, who passed across, and when Theo was unable to reach the roller, Diaby latched on and finished with aplomb, top-right. 2-0 to the Arsenal, and the Gunners were flying.

Birmingham attacked, to their credit, and after winning a corner, the play saw a ball played high into the Arsenal box, headed straight up into the air by Diaby. Mannone went for the ball and got a piece of it, but weakly knocked it down, and Lee Bowyer placed it past our Italian King to make it 2-1. Mannone tried to argue that he was impeded by Larsson, and while one can see his point, a bit more conviction in his leap for the ball would likely have seen it cleared or claimed.

Arsenal's passing and movement was typical of the first match back off of an international break, players shaking off the rust and reaquainting themselves with their teammates, so it was far less a crisp performance than, say, Blackburn at home. The score remained 2-1 through halftime and after, although that's not to say that neither side created chances. Robin seeing his free kick from inside the box ricochet off the bar, and Mannone making up for his earlier miscue with a sprawling save of a Ridgwell shot, which was hoofed clear by Gallas. On the whole, I felt Don Vito put in a solid performance, and with some more time in the squad should continue to improve.

It was getting late when Cesc took a toss from Vito and was nearly uncontested up the pitch, finally slotting a pass to Arshavin on the left corner of the box. The Russian's quality was evident as he calmly dribbled into the box, created a window of space and finished low into the right corner to secure the points. The Brum defenders almost looked scared of AA, just giving way before him instead of challenging him. Clearly he is the type of player that Arsenal have lacked in previous seasons, and his game-changing ability, experience and energy, are among the biggest differences between an Arsenal side from last season, which might have allowed Birmingham to equalize and frittering away two points. Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham was the final score, the expected three points in the bank, and with Chelsea and Liverpool losing, and Man City drawing with Wigan,

I don't know about anyone else, but this goalkeeping situation is much like that in which Almunia took the job from Jens Lehmann in 2007-2008: Starting keeper puts in string of shaky performances; Starting keeper is "injured"; Backup keeper comes on and impresses; Starting keeper stays "injured," returns to find himself now backup keeper.

Part of me feels bad for Almunia. After all, he waited a long time to get his chance at the # 1 shirt, and has put in some fine performances in his time. However, I remind myself that I'm not a Manuel Almunia fan, I'm an Arsenal fan, and as the situation stands, Arsenal have a better chance of winning with someone else in goal, and despite letting one in on Saturday due to indecision, Vito Mannone, in my humble opinion, gives Arsenal that better chance, but I respect anyone who would disagree.

Matt Califano had the picks this weekend, so let's have a look at how he's done so far, shall we?

Aston Villa v Chelsea

PREDICTION: Villans 2-2 Chelski; REALITY: Villa 2-1 Chelski

As I've already discussed this, here's a look at Animals close up with a wide-angle lens.

Arsenal v Birmingham

PREDICTION: Arsenal 4-0 Birmingham; REALITY: Arsenal 3-1 Birmingham

Frankly, I didn't see Brum scoring in this one, so I can't fault Matt's pick. We nearly did score 4 anyway.

Everton v Wolves

PREDICTION: Everton 2-0 Wolves; REALITY: Everton 1-1 Wolves

Will the real Everton please stand up? Frankly, this looks like a bad campaign for all teams from Merseyside, red or blue.

Man Utd v Bolton

PREDICTION: Man U 3-0 Bolton; REALITY: Man U 2-1 Bolton

For being at home, I expected ManUre to win by a larger margin. But then, ManUre stinks.

Portsmouth v Tottenham

PREDICTION: Pompey 1-3 Tottenham; REALITY: Pompey 1-2 Tottenham

Oh Totts, you never cease to disappoint your fans. This is the equivalent of a biggest turd competition. There may be a winner, but it's still a big pile of shit.

Stoke City v West Ham

PREDICTION: Stoke 1-1 Hammers; REALITY: Stoke 2-1 Hammers

West Ham continue their march toward the Championship in fine style, losing to a Stoke side with no discernible attacking prowess.

Sunderland v Liverpool

PREDICTION: Black Cats 2-2 Scousers; REALITY: Black Cats 1-0 Scousers

Sunderland are the real deal, here getting a little help from a boy from Colorado and an 80's pop song. Also, Matt texted me on Saturday and wrote: "My scousers pick was almost right on! I just didn't have the balls to pick the win." Cheer up, Maffu, there's no shortage of balls.

Blackburn v Burnley

PREDICTION: Blackburn 2-1 Clarets; REALITY: Blackburn 3-2 Clarets

Burnley can't seem to buy a win away from home. Poor li'l fellers.

Wigan v Man City

PREDICTION: Wigan 1-3 Shitty; REALITY: Wigan 1-1 Shitty

Zabaleta sent off, Adebayor is injured, and City drop 2 points.

Fulham v Hull City

PREDICTION: Fool-Ham 2-1 Hull; REALITY: Not yet played.

Matt's Whites should be relegation-bound Hull, but we'll have to wait and see on this one...

Arsenal take on Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar in Holland in European competition tomorrow. Theo will miss this match due to injury, a knee problem that appears will keep him out for at least a month. After just coming back from an injury, it's a very tough break for our boy, but let's hope he can get fit quickly. He's had more than his fair share of injury worries through his short Arsenal career; I do hope he can shake off the injury-prone tag. Meanwhile, still out are Samir Nasri (broken leg) and goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski (knee); Nicklas Bendtner and Eduardo (both groin); and Denilson (back) and centre-half Johan Djourou (knee). Sometimes I think it's a wonder we can ever field a full side.

This will be Arsenal's third Champions League match, I would caution any supporters who think this will be a cakewalk. As I mentioned, Alkmaar are the Dutch champions, and an away match in Europe is never going to be an easy trip, although a trip to Holland isn't so bad. However, I can't see Arsene allowing his players to frequent any "coffee houses" or the red-light district. All business, that one.

One last note, I wanted to let you know to watch out in coming weeks for a few new features that will be appearing on The Modern Gooner. Austin Williams will contribute from time to time a write-up of the week's experiences at Nevada Smith's, while our Senior London Correspondent, Gareth Baldwin, will have a bi-weekly section on the day's events from Ashburton Grove. I'll be letting everyone know when these will be appearing, and we're very excited for them. Our little TMG is growing up!

That's all for now gang. Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation.

- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Preview: Escape From The Planet of the Zzzzz, and Birmingham: The Search for Closure

Can you feel it?

It's the end of the international break. IT'S FINALLY FUCKING OVER!!! And it's a fantastic feeling. It's like a little bit of freedom, a little bit of joy, a little bit of laughter, and a little bit of excitement. Taken all together, that makes for a whole lot of froyaughment. And froyaughment rocks.

Over the course of the last week/decade/weekade, we've seen some laughter, some tears (from laughter), and some facial hair. I kinda grew a beard. I'm not sure if I'm keeping it. It's going to be a game-time decision.

Also a game-time decision is the availability of Manuel Almunia, who has been out since the defeat at Man City due to some sort of chest infection. Which has to be the baddest-ass chest infection I can remember hearing about. That was a whole damn month ago. This guy recovered faster than that. Now, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that the severity of Manuel's injury/infection/infecjury was, shall we say "enhanced" in the eyes of the manager by the outstanding play of Don Vito Mannone. But currently, Arsene is rating Almunia's chances as 50/50. Definitely back from injury is another 'keeper, Lucasz Fabianski, who has recovered from knee surgery and will likely start if Almunia is unable to go. I generally side with Arsene in his judgments regarding players, but I would like to point out that I have seen Fabianski put in a number of shaky performances, while outside of the first 5 minutes of the Standard Liege match, Vito has been anything but. Just some food for thought. Lastly, it appears that Gael Clichy will miss out on the match, meaning Kieran Gibbs is expected to make his first Premiership start of the season, so good luck to Gibbsy.

I know that among you there are a few fans of US Soccer, so there is one bit of non-proper-football-related news (would that be considered improper football?), and that is the status of US striker Charlie Davies. Davies has been one of the most consistently in-form players for the US during World Cup qualifying, but on Wednesday the story broke that he was involved in a one-car accident that killed one female passenger and required the jaws of life to extract Davies and the driver, another female. Davies was treated for a broken tibia and femur, elbow and facial fractures, and lacerated bladder. The latest news on Davies condition is quite positive:

“Injuries of this nature usually require a recovery period of six to 12 months and extensive rehabilitation,” said U.S. Soccer physician Dr. Dan Kalbac, who is with the team in D.C. and collaborated with the treating doctors. ”Due to Charlie’s fitness level, his prognosis for recovery and his ability to resume high-level competition is substantially improved.”

Obviously, we wish Charlie a speedy recovery, and I'm sure all US fans will hope the team will cope with his absence in the World Cup, as the team clinched a berth in South Africa this week.

And we come to this week's Celebrity Pick 'Em. You may know him as the man behind the balloon-boy controversy in Colorado, or possibly from his role Tessio in The Godfather. Or you may not, as he was not involved in either of those things. I know him as a USA and Fulham fan, Arsenal admirer, raconteur and man-about-town, my friend, Matthew Califano. Matt, let's have those picks!

Aston Villa v Chelsea

PREDICTION: Villans 2- Chelski 2

Synopsis: Gabby Abongalahor has been on hot form… I still think that Chelski takes an early lead in this game, but a controversial penalty call goes Villas way when Bosingwa’s uni-brow trips up Gabby in the box.

Arsenal v Birmingham

PREDICTION: Arsenal 4-0 Birmingham

Synopsis: Eduardo scores 2 and Vermalen breaks Martin Taylor’s leg. Eduardo buys him a drink and Alex McLeish is last seen standing on the touch line yelling “KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!”

Everton v Wolves

PREDICTION: Everton 2-0 Wolves

Synopsis: After a slow start Scousers-blue is on hot form and everyone knows that Wolves don’t have big enough feet to successfully kick a soccer ball. Even if they have 4 of them.

Man Utd v Bolton

PREDICTION: Man U 3-0 Bolton

Synopsis: Come on asteroid, come on asteroid!!!

Portsmouth v Tottenham

PREDICTION: Pompey 1-3 Tottenham

Synopsis: Jermaine Defoe takes advantage of a frightened and weakened Pompey back line, chains them to a radiator, and grapes them… Jokes on Jermaine though because Tal Ben-Haim has super-AIDS.

Stoke City v West Ham

PREDICTION: Stoke 1-1 Hammers

Synopsis: Christ, I couldn’t possibly care less about this game. All I know about these two teams is that Rory Delap has a howitzer for a throw, and West Ham fans have plain ol’ regular howitzers that they like to shoot at Millwall supporters.

Sunderland v Liverpool

PREDICTION: Black Cats 2-2 Scousers

Synopsis: This has upset special written all over it. Sunderland has been playing well this year and Darren Bent has been on fire since he left that insipid cess-pool known as White Hart Lane . Liverpool is without both Torres and Gerrard due to injuries… yet I still don’t have enough balls to pick the Black Cats for the out-right win.

Blackburn v Burnley

PREDICTION: Blackburn 2-1 Clarets

Synopsis: Holy shit! A game that I care less about then Stoke City vs. West Ham! I didn’t even think that was possible! Strike up the band!

Wigan v Man City

PREDICTION: Wigan 1-3 Shitty

Synopsis: Which Wigan team shows up… the one that beat Chelsea 3-1 or lost to Hull City 1-2? I’m gonna say that it’s the one that lost to Hull … The rocks of their D and Midfield both play for Honduras , and they’ll both probably still be hungover after Los Catrachos clinched their first World Cup berth since 1982.

Fulham v Hull City

PREDICTION: Fool-Ham 2-1 Hull

Synopsis: The battle of Americans on shitty teams. Being one who supports the Whites and hates the orange (I am of course referring to Phil Brown’s fake tan) I can’t in good conscience pick a win for Hull City.

Thanks of course to Matt for helping out, I couldn't have done better myself. It just goes to show you that Fulham supporters, though slow-witted and somewhat girlish, can still provide a valuable service on occasion.

Finally, I give you my take on Arsenal v Birmingham this Saturday. With Eduardo and Martin Taylor both missing this match due to injury (no disrepect to Matt, as Arsenal injury news rarely appears in Fulham news circles), much of the drama of this match is stripped away, but I do feel that, for Arsenal fans and I imagine for any players who were involved in the Eduardo match, there is some unfinished business between these sides. Now of course this is not the same Birmingham side that we faced that fateful day in January 2008; there is always a great turnover in a side that goes through the relegation-promotion yo-yo. And without the great villain Taylor involved, fans won't have any particular player towards whom to direct their pent-up bile. But I expect that William Gallas will be more than a bit fired-up for this one.

If I was a betting man, and I am, but living in a country founded by puritans that England kicked out for being too prudish and religiousy (thanks England!), I'd put money down on Willy G popping up with a goal in this one. Arsenal, being on a good run of form and at home with something even more than points to play for, should take this one.

My Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Birmingham.

That's all I have for this week, y'all, especially seeing as we're just exiting the Wasteland of the International break. But I hope to see as many Gooners at Nevadas as can get there on Saturday. It's been a long time without my Arsenal, and that first Gunner goal I expect to feel cathartic, just as a win over Birmingham would. There is plenty that's left unresolved for me as a fan, so I'm looking for three Arsenal points tomorrow, and a bit of closure to boot.

We unfortunately will not have the new t-shirt designs in due to a delay with the printers, but we will definitely have them the following week for our match against West Ham. If you've pre-ordered, expect them then.

By the way, when you get a chance, take some time to read this post at the Online Gooner by N5's own Gareth Baldwin. Well done GB, and we can't wait for you to start contributing here at TMG in the future.

Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation.

- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Preview? Meh, I guess... Anyway VOTE OR DIE!!!

So, uh, what's up guys?

*Tottenham fans*

Yeah, I get it. Internationazzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Well, at least the baseball playoffs are on, although that's cold comfort for someone such as myself seeking my next Arsenal fix. It's honestly gotten to the point that I don't know what to do with myself on weekends when Arsenal aren't playing. I know, it sounds like an addiction, but it's not. I can quit anytime I want...




It's times like these when the lyrics, "You'll never know just How much I love you Til you take my Arsenal away" really find a home in me.

Beng as there's little that's newsworthy in the football world right now, this is going to be a bit shorter than usual, I'm afraid. But let's cover what can be covered and have done with that, eh?

First, some local news: apparently, Sir Alex Ferguson was indeed at Nevada Smith's this week to watch the 1-1 draw between Aston Villa and Man City. See, I told you guys he could be found passed out on the floor of the mens room. It's not the first time he's been over, and I'm sure it won't be the last, as I hear he does have a place in the city and on retiring will likely spend more time there. Gooners, get your pizza-slinging arms ready.

Arsenal have agreed to loan out right-sided fullback Gavin Hoyte to League One side Brighton for one month. I think Hoyte is a gifted footballer, he has pace and is an aggressive defender, and I do believe he's a better player than his older brother Justin Hoyte, who also came up through the Arsenal youth system. I found it a bit odd that the loan was for one month; I can only assume that Arsene has plans for the lad in the upcoming Carling Cup matches. Hopefully this will get him more competitive football than the occasional reserve match.

Transfer speculation has already begun. Transfer speculation. In early October. Meaning that we can expect nearly three more months of this pointless bullshit before January even arrives. Jeebus save us.

Anyway, I thought we'd do something a little interactive this week. I'm going to list a bunch of the transfer rumors (rumours, for our English friends) that I've come across this week, and it's up to you, our esteemed readers, to choose from among them the three rumors/rumours that I made up myself, and vote for your selections by emailing us right here. Those of you who guess these correctly will be entered into a drawing to be featured in one of our upcoming Ask A Gooner or (if you're unfortunate enough to support a club other than the mighty Arsenal) Speaking With the Enemy segments right here on TMG, the home of classic ro--er, football entertainment. Your choices are:

Patrick Vieira to Return to Arsenal in January as Cover for Alex Song During the African Nations Cup, and to Stay On as Player-Coach;

St. Etienne Midfielder Blaise Matuidi to Arsenal;

Cesc Fabregas to Real Madrid or Barcelona This Summer;

Emmanuel Eboue to Barcelona in January;

Bari Defender Andrea Bocelli to Arsenal in January;

Tomas Rosicky to Leave Arsenal On a Free Transfer in January;

Sao Paolo midfielder Hernanes to Man City in January;

17 year-old Colchester United midfield wunderkind Sidney Finch to Man United in Jan;

Barcelona Defender Carles Puyol to Join Arsenal in January.

Now even legitimately reported rumors at this point in the season smell of laziness on the part of sports journalists. Although as I've been putting my brain through its paces trying to find SOMETHING to write about, I can't entirely fault them. Except the Sun. Only a piece of shit rag like that would have Twitchy-ass 'Arry Redknapp as a contibutor. C*nt.

As far as real football (not that nationalistic, flag-waving bullshit) goes, that's about it. But we're already one long week down, and we will escape this nightmare, just as sure as Diego Maradona likes putting things in his nose. I do have some bad news for you however: no Weekend Roundup on Monday. If you even need to ask why, you haven't been paying attention to the Great Depression of football news this week, and I envy you. But, on the bright side, there are two brand new shirt designs now available from the NYC Arsenal Supporters store, and they are my two favorites so far. Just in time for our Halloween showdown with the Eleven Sisters from the Seven Sisters, I present "We Hate Tottenham"; And for our beloved El Capitan Catalan Fantastico, allow me to present "The Cesc." We are taking pre-orders, so get yours in today!

I think I'll close with some things you could do instead of watching the foot-ball this weekend:

1) Watch the USA v Costa Rica match;

2) Go out to a nice dinner;

3) Watch the news;

4) Play video games with colleagues;

5) Spend time with family and friends and your friend's monkey.

That's all I got people. I'm drained. Enjoy your time away from football, or enjoy the international matches... frankly, I couldn't care less about them. So until next time (Friday), you stay classy Gooner nation.

- B, a Gooner.

Weekend Roundup: Captain Fantastic Gets the Champagne Football Flowing

It really gets no better than watching a post-match press conference in which Fat Sam Allardyce tries to convince everyone that his Blackburn rovers side should have won a match that they lost by four. It really takes a set of low-hangers to attempt something that brazen and foolish, and watching him embarrass himself made this win all the sweeter.

Arsenal put on what was arguably their finest attacking display yet this season, and with all of the goals this side has put in already, that's quite an achievement. It was also certainly an example of what this Arsenal side can do when they are at their best, and the same can certainly be said for El Capitan Catalan Fantastico, Cesc Fabregas. Fab 4 was behind seemingly every attack the side made before coming off, and even got on the scoresheet again himself, something he didn't do much of last season.

The match started off with a groan, I'm sure, from the Arsenal supporters, as in the fourth minute, Nzonzi hit a looping header off of a long lob into the box by Paul Robinson that went just beyond the outstretched hands of Mannone and into the net. Sickening way to start off, but there you go. However, almost immediately after the restart the run of play was all Arsenal, leading up eventually to a brilliant goal by our leading scorer and all around great Belgian, central defender Thomas Vermaelen, another scorching left-footed strike from the edge of the box to equalize. It wasn't all sunshine and rainbows just yet though, as before long Blackburn had regained it's lead off of a David Dunn strike that deflected off the leg of William Gallas and crossed up Mannone, who was unlucky to allow two early goals that were a bit on the flukey side.

That was the last from Blackburn however, as the Gunners began to take the fight to them. Blackburn were aggressive in defense, but on this day the fluid movement and crisp passing from Arsenal were more than a match for anything that Rovers and their Fat Bastard-looking manager could muster. And since so many people enjoyed it the first time, here's Sam again with his identical cousin:

It was the Cesc Fabregas show from then on, as he slid a beautiful ball in to Robin van Persie who coolly finished low with his left across goal into the right corner equalize, and shortly after setting up Arshavin in similar fashion, whose strike (also left-footed) replicated van Persie's, to take the lead, which they wouldn't relinquish. 3-2 at halftime to the Arsenal was well-deserved, despite what Sam "Hasn't seen his prick in years" Allardyce would say. They did have something to complain about, as early in the second half Vermaelen conceded what should have been a clear penalty that wasn't whistled, taking down Dunn in the box. Fat Sam said that there should also have been a red card, but Fat Sam also tells people he weighs 190 lbs, the camera adding another 215.

There was a fabulous fourth for Fabregas, alliteratively enough, Rosicky playing a lob to Cesc on the edge of the box, slightly left of center, and the Catalan's (what else?) left-footed strike was placed perfectly, making up a bit for his effort against Olympiakos that was denied by the woodwork. Anyway, if anyone was unconvinced by his 4,312th midweek denial of an imminent departure to Barcelona, they should pay heed to his celebration, kissing the badge to reassure supporters (which incidentally didn't stop the Daily Telegraph from running this piece of shit... I do so hate the English press). I love Cesc, and as the song says I would gladly let him shag my wife. But since I'm single, he'll have to settle for Kurt's wife. As an aside, I think we need a new Song for Cesc... He really only has two, and both are reworkings of older songs. For godsake Eboue has like nine songs; so, I'm challenging all Gooners to come up with something original for our Captain Fantastic.

But wait, there were more goals! Arsene brought on Theo Walcott for his first appearance of the season, and he didn't disappoint, as Arshavin from the left of the box passed to (who else?) Cesc, who laid it right into the path of Walcott, striking a low finish into the left corner, past the hapless Paul Robinson. A great way for Theo to start his season, and I think we all have high hopes for him, above all that he stays healthy.

Cesc and Arshavin made way for Ramsey and Bendtner, and it was Big Nik who capped off the scoring, moving right across the top of the box and firing in a scorcher that ricocheted in off the post. It's great to see him scoring like this, not least in that it continues to quiet the haters, and the fewer of those I hear, the better I feel. 6-2 the final, the points well and truly won but more importantly a dominant league performance. Arsenal now sit fourth in the table with a match in hand on Chelski, United and Liverpool, and no reason to think we can't continue to climb with the side's current form and upcoming fixtures. Have a look at the highlights and comments from Wenger and William Howard Taft:

And, since this is the Weekend Roundup, let's roundup the other action from around the Premier League, and see how United's whiskey-smelling manager did in Celebrity Pick 'Em:

Bolton v Tottenham
Prediction: Bolton 2-2 Tottenham; Reality: DINGDINGDING WINNER!
Sirallix was dead-on with this one. As always, neither of these sides were good enough to win.

Burnley v Birmingham
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Birmingham; Reality: DINGDINGDING WINNER!
Sirallix is two-for-two, Burnley chalking up an impressive home win against another of the potential relegateds.

Hull City v Wigan
Prediction: Hull 1-1 Wigan; Reality: Hull 2-1 Wigan
Wigan looked the better side in a scoreless first half, but were decimated by Hull in the second, despite pressing to equalize late on. The same Wigan side who beat Chelsea a week ago.

Wolves v Portsmouth
Prediction: Wolves 1-0 Pompey; Reality: Wolves 0-1 Pompey
Pompey get their first three points of the season, although it hardly takes the pressure off the club. A large injection of oil money is still unlikely to save them from relegation, and Wolves are screwed anyway.

Man Utd v Sunderland
Prediction: Man Utd 75-0 Sunderland; Reality: Man Utd 2-2 Sunderland
A completely undeserved point for United, as Sunderland were the better team on the day, and wonder of wonders, a lucky break in Kieran Richardson's sending-off (for something that Rooney gets away with consistently), leading to their equalizer. God I hate United.

Everton v Stoke City
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Stoke; Reality: Everton 1-1 Stoke
Toffees continue their disappointing run this season, failing to beat a Stoke side that they should have handled quite easily. Moyes' teams have historically started slowly, but this season they've yet to recover from being shellacked by the Gunners on the opening weekend.

West Ham v Fulham
Pred*hiccup*iction: West Ham 1-1 Full Ham; Re*hiccup*ality: West Ham 2-2 Full Ham
London Derbies are never easy, and these two teams, to me, are fairly well-matched to begin with, so a draw seems a fair result.

Chelsea v Liverpool
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool; Reality: Chelsea 2-0 Liverpool
Chelsea put in their first truly convincing performance of the season, getting two second-half goals. Liverpool never really looked like winning, and looked flat for the bulk of the second half.

Aston Villa v Man City
Prediction: Aston Martin 1965-Man City *vomit*; Reality: Match not played as of this writing.
The jury remains out on whether Aston Villa will field a squad of classic sports cars and whether Man City will be puke. Although the odds on the latter are pretty good, in my opinion.

I'm sure Sirallix will be back for future editions of Celeb Pick 'Em (or CPE), seeing as he'll do just about anything for a Klondike bar's worth of sweet, sweet alcohol.

I'm sure every Gooner was quite proud and happy to see Thierry Henry back at the Emirates, if only as a spectator. With his recent comments that he'd like to come back to Arsenal in some capacity (joking that he'd even be the waterboy), I know I love him that much more.

Elsewhere, our favorite drunken Scot, Alex Ferguson, is in a bit of hot water after publicly questioning the fitness of referee Alan Wiley. Frankly, I thoughy SAF had good reason to kiss Wiley's ass, but Alex thought differently: "He (Wiley) was not fit enough for a game of that standard. The pace of the game demanded a referee who was fit. He was not fit." The FA is investigating and charges of improper conduct may follow. Ferguson may also get hit with pizza again. You never know, Cesc is still around and we do play United once more...

And Old Twitchy himself, 'Arry Redknapp apparently doesn't pay his taxes. Excuse me while I double over laughing...

That's all for now, Gooners and Goonerettes (and assorted followers of other clubs, cuntish or not). We now stare into the abyss of the Interlull, but more on that on Friday. Until then, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

- B, a Gooner

Weekend Preview: Blue-Balls Football, Slaying the Walrus, and Sirallix's Adventures in Celebrity Pick 'Em

It's always difficult as hell, the first week back at work after a week off, and this one has been no different for me. Add to that the early arrival of winter and things could certainly be better in my part of the world, so I intend to while away my sorrows in sweet, sweet booze and hopefully a win for the Arsenal this weekend. If nothing else, at least I'm not in this lady's shoes...

Although personally, it looked like she enjoyed that a little too much.

And on to the football. Plenty of midweek Champions League action this week, matchday 2 of the group stage, and on Tuesday, Arsenal hosted Olympiakos, the Greek champions. As a quick aside, fuck Fox Soccer Channel. They showed the Arsenal match on delay at 10pm EST, which meant that for 7 hrs and 15 min, I had to steer clear of facebook and most sites on the Intarwebs, and avoid all football-loving friends and coworkers in order to watch the match as if it was live. On top of that, Arsenal don't play a Premier League match on FSC until sometime in November. Rupert Murdoch, eat a dee-ock.

So, what to say about this match? First off, there can't be any doubt that Arsenal DOMINTATED this match from start to finish. Olympiakos as a whole could not get anything done against the Gunners, who moved the ball extremely well. Arsenal's passing and movement were exceptional, and they created chance after chance.

Olympiakos had one answer for the Gunners' attacks, and his name is Nikopolidis.

Despite looking like he should be mall-walking, the Greeks' 'keeper was outstanding, denying every Arsenal chance in the first half, and the one that he couldn't have gotten to, a lovely shot by Cesc Fabregas, was denied by the woodwork. We went into halftime in complete control of the action, but I felt increasingly nervous (as I imagine everyone else felt at the time) and frustrated, and I admit that I did think once or twice that it might be One of Those Nights.

The second half was much like the first, unless it was even more controlled by the boys in red and white. Olympiakos were pushed so far back at times that it was all they could do to clear the ball to midfield, right to our defenders, starting the attack all over again. Yet each time, Arsenal were denied. Now to be fair, while Nikopolidis did plenty, he was assisted by some less-than-stellar Arsenal finishing.

Finally, Arsene brought on Eduardo, and almost immediately after his introduction, the Crozilian took a ball in the box, turned and found an onrushing van Persie to strike home from close range. A brilliant goal and well-deserved for the Dutch Master, who had another fine game, and really seems to be growing into the central striker role. Just a few minutes later, Cesc played Arshavin (who on replay appeared more than a little offside) into the box, but to have denied his backheeled finish would've been a shame. Same old Arsenal, taking the piss... You can find highlights of the match in Russian or Greek or Esperanto or something Here.

So, two late goals give the Gunners three well-deserved points and control of the group. As Kurtis said to me afterwards, "This match was like blue-balls," and I felt he was absolutely right. Excitement building, followed by frustration. It was like this match took place when I was a teenager at Meaghan McHugh's house with her parents in the next room. While the release wasn't quite the same in this case, it was just as cathartic, and well-worth all of the precautions I took in order to watch the match in its entirety.

In the rest of the Champions League, the biggest surprises were the upsets of Liverpool (away to Fiorentina) and of AC Milan by Zurich. Equally as fun to mock, seeing as Liverpool take such pride in their Champions League wins (seeing as they can't win the Premier League), and Milan for benching the better part of their starters for this one, not taking the Swiss seriously (but then, who isn't sick of the Swiss?). In any case, I am not above schadenfreude, and so am perfectly capable of reveling in my rivals' disgraces. I'm sure Matt Flamini is enjoying himself in Milan.

But enough of that Euro nonsense, we have the English Premier League back in action this weekend. Joining us this week for Celebrity Pick 'Em is Alex Ferguson, who I found on the floor of the Nevada Smith's mens room. Alex?

SAF: Gee yer hands off me man! Don' ye know *hiccup* who I am?

Brett: Well of course, you're Sir Alex Ferguson, you manage Manchester *coughcuntscough* United...

SAF: Oh... fer a moment there I thought I was Queen of the Old West again... ess a recurr... recurr... it's a dream I have a lo' of the time. Now where's my spirits? Ah, heere we arrre... *chugs half a pint of whiskey* Glad et's an off-day, no press around so I don't have to watch my intake.

Brett: So... if I offered to buy you another pint of booze, would you be so kind as to make your predictions for the Premier League fixtures this weekend?

SAF: Son, if you buy me a drink, I'll swallow yer shaft.

Brett: ... That REALLY won't be necessary. Just the picks, thanks.

SAF: As ye wish, sonny jim. As ye wish...

Bolton v Tottenham
Well, both sides have an appreciation for football, they just don't *hiccup, vomit, wipe mouth on sleeve* play it very well. Thess ought to be a shitshow, which usually costs extra in Manchester.

Brett: Ew.

Prediction: Bolton 2-2 Tottenham

Burnley v Birmingham
Burnley are no' a bad side, et's just that their home ground is infested with flesh-eating zombies, which kept us from establishing any effective passing when we played. It's dirty cheating and et should be stamped out of the game. Oh, and that dirty foreigner Wenger put a spell on us that day as well.
Brett: Oh jeebus...
Prediction: Burnley 2-1 Birmingham

Hull City v Wigan
Hull have the advantage of playing at home, wretched tho' et is. Wigan have a deeper squad, but *slams whiskey, lights cigarette, breath catches fire, 9 new spider-veins appear on nose* this esn't some namby-pamby Chelsea team they're dealing with. Each member of Hull City has been instructed in the art of spitting for self-defense.
Prediction: Hull 1-1 Wigan

Wolves v Portsmouth
As neither of these teams are threats to mine, I have great respect fer both managers and the shitty football that they play.
Prediction: Wolves 1-0 Pompey

Man Utd v Sunderland
Ye might say I have a conflict of interest, but I do feel we have a slight advantage over the Black Cats, although I daresay Steve Bruce's bhoys will make quite a match of this... should be quite a tense affair.
Prediction: Man Utd 75-0 Sunderland

Everton v Stoke City
Everton have a very fine manager, man by the name of David Moyes. He's the best Scottish manager since me! *drinks lighter fluid in giddy fit, throws up Barbie doll with head missing*
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Stoke

West Ham v Fulham
This is to become known as the "Battle of the Hams," and this time I'm no' referring to my jowls slapping together. *Drinks coffee spiked with nuclear waste, grows third eye on temple, gouges it out with pencil*
Pred*hiccup*iction: West Ham 1-1 Full Ham

*stumbles off barstool, stands back up shakily*

Chelsea v Liverpool
Well well, the big match of the week eh? Nonsense... ye can't have match of the week without Manchester fuckin' United! Especially when ye've a filthy eye-tie and some fat Spanish waiter managing the sides! No' to mention a Russian owner on one side and a couple of bloody Yanks on t'other! What d'ye mean United are owned by Yanks? I'm a knight, I had Glazer made British citizen with my super-knight powers *drinks mead* I've got a good mind to have Mike Dean red card every player from both sides right now...
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Liverpool

Aston Villa v Man City
Oh Aston Martin es a fine flash automobile, like what Sean Connery drove in the James Bond movies. I recently had one outfitted like Q would hae done, so that it would boobytrap the driver and make him crash, bu' the bastart walked awee from et... big Danish focker...
Prediction: Aston Martin 1965-Man City *vomit*

Our thanks to Sirallix, who will hopefully stop trying to kiss the male paramedics on the mouth so he can recover quickly and manage United to a loss this weekend.

Arsenal host Blackburn on Sunday in an interesting match. Balckburn in the last three seasons have gone from competitive thugs under Mark Hughes, to pathetic under Paul Ince, and now to pathetic thugs under Sam Allardyce and his big fat walrus face. Under Hughes, Rovers were a bit of a Bogey team for Arsenal, employing Hughes' patented "Just Keep Kicking the Arsenal Players" tactic, which he has since carried to Man City. Allardyce favors a similar approach. Widely (very widely, in fact) known as the father of English anti-football, Allardyce's squads rely much less on technical ability than on defense, tactical fouling, and the occasional counter-attack, and I expect no less than that on Sunday.

Arsenal however, are coming off the backs of consecutive wins over defensive minded teams (Fulham by their own choice, Olympiakos out of necessity), they should be well-ready for whatever the walrus can throw at them. I think we can reasonably expect the following:

- Arsenal will attack and look for an early goal to press Blackburn into attacking;
- Rovers will park the team bus in front of goal and hope to prevent any scoring;
- Sam Allardyce will flap his gums about how his team were the better side and were "cheated" in some way out of the points.

Prediction: Arsenal 3-0 Blackburn

Finally, Arsene Wenger celebrated becoming Arsenal's longest-serving manager this week. I know much has been said about this anniversary in other places, so I'll keep it short and sweet: Congratulations Arsene, and Long May You Reign.

That's all I have for this week, peeps. Enjoy the football and the bitter cold weather. Until next time, you stay classy, Gooner nation...

- B, a Gooner