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