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.