Exorcising the Demons

31 Down, Seven To Go.

The date is the 23rd of February, 2008. Arsenal are about to kick-off against top-flight newcomers Birmingham City at St. Andrews. The Gunners, captained by William Gallas, enter the game topping the table and very much the favorites to win the Premier League during the 2007-2008 season. With Robin van Persie out injured, the Arsenal have seen a nice strike partnership developing between Emmanuel Adebayor (enjoying a brilliant season in which he could hardly miss a chance) and the very much in-form Eduardo, who was bought the previous summer as a replacement for the departed Thierry Henry. It has taken a few months, but Eddie has begun to demonstrate the talents which caught Arsene Wenger's eye: Pace, determination, a silky first-touch, and a finish as clinical as we Gooners could hope for. Eduardo was the real deal.

The date is the 26th of March, 2010. Arsenal will kick-off tomorrow at St. Andrews for the first time since 2008 tomorrow, and a great deal has changed since then: Gallas was stripped of the captaincy less than a year after the match (his reaction at the late Birmingham equaliser a sign of things to come), replaced by Cesc Fabregas; Adebayor revealed himself to be a money-grabbing whore that summer and was jettisoned to newly-wealthy Man City a year later (he also revealed he was quite capable of missing a chance or 50); players came and players went. Arsenal began to crumble after the 2-2 draw at St. Andrews, and the title challenge fell apart as an injury-riddled and broken Arsenal side finished a disappointing 3rd.

It is the 23rd of February, 2008, and the Birmingham match has just kicked off. Arsenal have begun to play their normal game, controlling possession, passing the ball and making the Brummies chase around, when Eduardo took the ball headed for the Birmingham box. Defender Martin Taylor, whose name will become infamous to Gooners everywhere, slides in with a high, studs-up challenge that breaks Eduardo's leg in two near the ankle, the kind of horror tackle a particularly angry fan might say they hope happens to a rival player, but don't actually mean. Taylor is sent off, but 10-man Birmingham City take a lead into halftime. Theo Walcott scores twice in what should be enough to salvage a win for the despondent Gunners, but a dubious penalty is called on Gael Clichy late on, allowing Birmingham to claw back a point. Arsenal's title challenge begins to unravel.

It is the 26th of March, 2010. Eduardo has now been back for a year, but despite showing flashes of brilliance, his finish, his touch, his confidence but most of all his willingness to play with abandon seem to have, perhaps understandably, deserted him. Arsenal are scrapping in a real title challenge for the first time this late on in a season since 2007-2008, and we have seen another promising young player, Aaron Ramsey, cut down by a reckless and violent tackle at another away match in February. This time, however, the Arsenal have responded with visibly greater unity and (Arsene's favorite term) mental strength.

I'm inclined to attribute this change to the leadership in the team. Fabregas, thrust further into the spotlight last season after taking the armband from Gallas, was not initially seen as "natural leader." While he is not perhaps a vocal leader in the Adams/Vieira mold, Cesc has proven an invaluable resource in leading by example, and his fierce desire to win and his team spirit seem to permeate the team. Add to this the experience of Sol Campbell, pressed into service due to an injury to Gallas (to be fair, a consummate professional despite losing the armband) and fiery play of Thomas Vermaelen and the emergence of a number of other key players, and we have seen Arsenal rise from the ashes of what looked, at several points, like a lost season.

It is the 8th of March, 2009. Eduardo provides a spectacular finish and his return to Arsenal from a horrific injury at Birmingham looks nearly complete.

It is the 26th of August, 2009. Eduardo has drawn a penalty, despite, on second look, getting minimal if any contact with the Celtic 'keeper (and renowned madman) Artur Boruc. Eduardo will be hounded for weeks, and Celtic will unsuccessfully attempt to convince UEFA to ban Eduardo for several matches after the fact, despite the fact that Arsenal win the match 3-1 and the tie 5-1 on aggregate.

It is the 26th of March, 2010. Nicklas Bendtner has revealed that he may not be fit for Arsenal's first trip to St. Andrews since what has become known as "the Eduardo game." With Arsenal down to bare-bones at striker, the much-maligned Number 9 is even more of a focal point with the Gunners needing every possible point to keep title hopes alive among Manchester United and Chelsea. Eddie has had a disappointing season, with many fans suggesting that his days in North London are numbered. The influential Vermaelen being suspended, there are questions asked in defense and in midfield as well.

It is the 27th of March, 2010...





30 down, Eight to Go, Hammers & Barca Ahead...

When last I wrote, Arsenal had just dispatched Porto 5-0 to advance to the quarter-finals of the Champions League, aided by a Nicklas Bendtner hat trick, and were headed into last weekend facing a tough away fixture against Hull and their orange-skinned shitheel of a manager, Phil Brown. What a difference a week makes...

We got an early goal from Andrey Arshavin, who showed what he's like at his best by slipping through defenders and coolly finishing. Unfortunately, that was about all we saw of the "good" Andrey, as he managed to waste a few other opportunities and flitted in an out of the rest of the match. Hull equalized shortly after, as an offside Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink of Anaheim threw himself in front of Big Fat Sol in the box, who promptly and clumsily ran him over. It was a definite penalty, as long as you forget that he was five yards offside on the play. Regardless, it was given and Jimmy "Rocky Dennis" Bullard made it level at 1-1.

Otherwise, most of what Hull provided was less football and more Allardyce 101: foul and cheat, just don't get caught. Craig Fagan and others carried this out thoughtfully through the first half, but George Boateng got a bit carried away, first poking Bendtner in the eye away from the ball, which earned him a yellow card, and nearing the end of the half, making a dirty "challenge" on Bacary Sagna which amounted to trying to stamp on his knee. Unfortunately, this time he was near the ball, and got himself sent off. I would say that this would've warranted a straight red card, but that call would never be made on an Arsenal opponent, so not worth discussing (at about the 6:10 mark in the video).

Hull City v Arsenal
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We continued to attack and waste chances into the second half, doing little in the final third until the introduction of Theo gave us an injection of pace on the right. However, it all seemed to be headed to a draw with 10-man Hull, who, in fairness, put in a well-played and fair-played defensive effort after the dismissal of Boateng. But a funny thing happened on the way to the full-time whistle: an unexpected amount of Fergie-time was added on, 6 minutes in all. In the third of these, another break fell our way: Denilson, quiet for most of the match, uncorked a 30 yard shot on goal, which Myhill failed to control, spilling the ball in front of him. Nicklas Bendtner was immediately on it and...


I'm sure we've all had moments when something took us absolutely outside of ourselves, and this was one for me. Ecstacy. We had rescued victory from the jaws of drawfeat with a late winner, another one right in the eye of the Bendtner-haters (and you lot can stop reading right now, it's ridiculous to slate your own players, especially when they're producing like big Nick has been). Not only that, but it wasn't long before that orange-skinned, fake-tanned, Allardyce-emulating, headset-wearing, lying cheating cunt of a cunt Phil Brown was out of a job. Will Iain Dowie be able to rescue them from relegation? Perhaps. Do I care? Less than I do about Lindsay Lohan's vaginal health, which is about as poor as Hull's league performance this season. Or maybe as bad as Pompey's. Either way, it's ghastly.

So another win in the books as we head into this weekend's home match with West Ham Ushited. As with any London derby, it would be foolish to expect an easy match, and the Hammers have had a better record at the Emirates than their overall performances warrant. Gianfranco Zola is claiming that WHU will emulate the upsets pulled by Inter and Fulham over Chelsea and Juventus, respectively, by knocking us off. To this, I must argue that Inter and Fulham are sides playing in European competitions, and last I checked, the Hammers were still trying desperately to stave off relegation in the Premier League. Additionally, Zola will need to find extra time in his schedule to both rescue West Ham from relegation AND make Night At the Museum 3. Lawyered.

On the plus side for us, we have Cesc Fabregas returning from injury, ditto Tom Rosicky. Alex Song returns from a suspension for having his shirt pulled by Rory Delap and will plug into holding midfield. However, William Gallas has a calf strain which must be as misdiagnosed as Manuel Almunia's two-month chest infection. I believe Arseblogger is right to point out Arsene's tendency to sit down players with unresolved contract issues, but surely Le Boss wouldn't hold out as key a player as Gallas for something so petty, would he? I don't believe so. But what that leaves is Gallas having a worse injury than a simple calf strain. This is like straining a full-grown cow.

In any case, the Hammers will provide a tough match, but they are an opponent we must defeat if we're to establish our title claim. Eight matches left for the crown. If we're to win it, Saturday will be as much a test as any other match this season.

Finally, the last eight in the Champions League was drawn today, and we got the worst possible draw, Barcelona. Perhaps it's karmic realignment after our cake group and 2nd round draw of Porto, but in the end, this is the road we must take. Barca are the reigning champions of Europe, and rightly so. But things aren't all bad. Consider:

- Barca don't play Allardyce-ball, so without those pesky little two-footed tackles and sneaky elbows, we're less likely to have players hurt;
- Barca's style of play is free-flowing and passing like ours, so both legs promise some brilliant football;
- Barca want Cesc Fabregas;
- Arsenal have GOT Cesc Fabregas.

If we can finish our chances, there's no reason we can't win. Of course I'd have preferred a Lyon or Bordeaux, but we don't get to pick who we play, we just play who we're drawn with. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that we're due for yet ANOTHER tiresome round of Barcelona's geneticists, Pique and Xavi, commenting on Cesc Fabregas' DNA. On that note, I hope both of their own Barcelona DNA contains some sort of terminal illness. I'll have more on this once we get closer to our match.

It's officially down to the wire in both domestic and European competition. The belief in our boys is high, the sun is shining on Arsenal. Thirty down, eight to go, with a big Spanish obstacle thrown in.


Things are looking bright these days. Don't forget your sunblock or your classiness.

5-0 Does Not Mean It's Time To Relax...

It was a brilliant evening for Arsenal fans on Tuesday. We were hosting Porto in the home leg of our Champions League tie, and down 2-1 (with the always important away goal) on aggregate after just plain giving away a pair of goals and the away leg itself. This meant that a 1-0 win or better would put us through. I had personally predicted 2-0 to Arsenal, with goals from Bendtner (making up for missing 4-5 absolute sitters against Burnley on Saturday) and Diaby. I was partially right.

To Porto's credit, they did not come merely to defend their lead and hope for the best, they actually tried to attack. It did them little good as Arsenal were all over them from the start. The deadlock was broken in our favor inside of 10 minutes, as Nasri slid a ball to Arshavin between two defenders. One of them managed to knock it out of the Russian's path with his leg, but the ball ended up in the path of Big Nick, whose sliding finish was crisp and lovely. 1-0 to the Arsenal. We remained on the attack and after a few near misses (Diaby nearly made me a prophet), we were rewarded again when Porto failed to clear a ball. Arshavin took it, confused several defenders and just skinned Fucile on the left of the box, sliding a pass beyond keeper Helton and right into the path of the Dane, who finished with aplomb. Two lovely goals from the much-maligned Bendtner, Arsenal were rolling, and our advancement in Europe was nearly secure. We remained on the attack, repelled Porto's odd attack (Vermaelen was outstanding once again), but the score remained 2-0 at the half.

Porto had a few chances after the restart, but caused no problems as we worked to find our first-half form. Still, 2-0 meant that a Porto goal brought them right back in it, so we couldn't be comfortable unless we got another. Someone's prayer was answered when Samir Nasri, already having a superb match in place of Cesc, produced some individual magic. The Frenchman took the ball on the right side of the Porto box and danced around and through three defenders, creating just enough space to strike from a tight angle, in off the far post. It was one of the best Arsenal goals I've seen and certainly the best in recent seasons. It also took us to 3-0 and nearly assured our place in the quarterfinals. But we weren't done yet.

A few minutes later, a Porto corner was cleared and Arshavin latched onto the ball and raced up the left side. Centrally, substitute Emmanuel Eboue made a gut-busting run up alongside, and Arshavin's through ball into the box was PERFECT. Eboue dribbled around the charging Helton and finished well. 4-0 to the Arsenal, and the impressive Eboue had made his mark.

But we weren't done yet. It was Eboue again who took the ball into the box in the first minute of injury time and was dragged down. The referee pointed to the spot, and Bendtner strode up to take the kick. He finished beyond Helton and now had his first Arsenal hat-trick. I felt wonderful for Nick myself, as we know how hard he works. While his touch leaves a bit to be desired at times, he did wonderfully to get three, and his limitless confidence stood him in good stead as he bounced back from a nightmare match on Saturday to be Tuesday's hero. Well done, Nick.

As a quick aside, I remember watching FSC's "Super Sunday Plus Sabado Gigante" or whatever the fuck it's called, and after going over each of Bendtner's increasingly cringe-worthy misses against Burnley, Warren Barton made the point that "Arsenal fans will never love Nicklas Bendtner because he doesn't finish." Or something along those lines. Admittedly, some Arsenal "fans" will never love Nick no matter what he does, and many of these would rather be right than happy. I saw a comment on one blog after the Porto match saying that Nick was just lucky and that his goals were tap-ins. First of all, random commenter, you're a moron. The first goal required great strength and skill, and for the second his positioning was pin-point perfect, staying just onside and in an area where the keeper would be hard-pressed to reach a cross to him. And he scored both. Secondly, what kind of self-absorbed fan are you to be upset when a player that you've slagged off ON YOUR TEAM scores a hat-trick? If I'm unkind in my assessment of a player, I'm thrilled when that player has an amazing game. Bendtner haters, suck it up. I can't understand the bile directed toward the lad. He's just turned 22 this season. You know what Drogba was like at that age? Not as good as Bendtner is. So suck it, Warren.

Now we come to my title for this post. Yes, it was a lovely win, a brilliant performance and a dominant one. But it will be for naught if Arsenal become complacent. We come right back on Saturday to face DBH (Dirty Bastards Hull) at the KC Stadium, which is either named for the home of the Royals and the Chiefs, or for the Sunshine Band. It will not be an easy match. Hull are managed by Phil "OC" ("Orange Cunt") Brown, and his Allardyce-inspired brand of anti-football never makes for an entertaining match. Add to that their overall cuntiness and dedication to a "good English" (read: dirty) style of fouling and kicking, and they're never going to be the team you want to travel to play. Nevertheless, that's what Arsenal will do, and nothing more than 100% will get us the points and keep us in the title hunt.

Is this a winnable match? Of course. But it will not be easy. It will be rough, physical and demanding, and we will need to do it again without our captain, as Cesc will miss another contest with his dodgy hamstring acting up. We'll also be without Song (suspended), and may be without Sol, Rosicky and some guy named Carlos Vela who I can't remember. William Gallas remains sidelined with a suspiciously long-term calf problem, so if Sol is too old to play tomorrow then we're stuck with Silvestre, and my heart is already about to seize up at the thought of it. Get well soon, Big Willy. Please.

I expect we'll line up with Almunia in goal, Sagna, Silvestre, Vermaelen and Clichy at the back, Denilson, Diaby and Nasri in midfield, and Arshavin, Bendtner and Theo up top [*UPDATE* It appears sagna will be held out of this one, so Eboue will have his chance to shine again - Ed.]. I really do hope Theo continues on his good form, because when he's clicking, he's dangerous, and when he's not, he's dangerous to us. Come on Theo, look at that goal mouth beaconing. Go on, have it. We're alive and well in Europe and in England. Let's take the fight up north. COME ON YOU RIP-ROARING REDS!!!!!

One last note... big ups to NYC Arsenal supporter Mark DeFrancis for a new song for our attack. To the tune of the "Pinky and the Brain" theme:

Arshavin and the Dane, Arshavin and the Dane, One is a Russian, the other's Insane, They're Arsenal's attack, 'til RVP comes back, Arshavin, Arshavin and the Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane Dane...

Look forward to belting this one out at Nevadas on Saturday. Hope to see you there, but wherever you are, sing loud and proud.



I don't have plans for a long post this week, but I will save some of you some time and energy right now.

If you don't think Ryan Shawcross is "that kind of player," you're wrong. So fuck off.

If you think Ramsey is somehow at fault for his own injury, you're wrong and stupid. So fuck off.

If you think this is "just part of the game," and shouldn't be disciplined, you're wrong. So fuck off.

Finally, if you feel any sympathy for Ryan Shawcross for the terrible ordeal he's been through, just fuck off.

Still here? Good.

We all know what happened. Ryan Shawcross made a bad touch on the ball, and in a desperate attempt to keep Aaron Ramsey from winning it, made wild challenge for the ball. When you watch the replay, there are only two possible outcomes: 1) Ramsey is able to leap up and merely be "taken out" by the careering leg and foot of Shawcross, or 2) Shawcross breaks Ramsey's leg. That's all. Obviously, the latter occurred, and Aaron Ramsey is seriously injured. While Arsene confirms it is not career-threatening, he will miss an extended period out of the game while he recovers. I would speculate 9-12 months, and although I'm not a doctor, I do have a PhD in Phunkology.

So Arsenal will be missing an extremely talented young player who had broken into the first team at age 19 and was playing brilliantly. Lost in the Stoke match due to the injury and the aftermath was the quality of Ramsey's play. He was superb in midfield, using his touch and pace very well, and showing that not only is he physically gifted, he has a wonderful footballing brain and a great deal of courage. He'll need that courage to get through this ordeal.

Ryan Shawcross, on the other hand, has now broken two players' legs by the age of 22, and was called up to the England squad for his troubles. But the press, along with his manager, the unctuous Tony Pulis, have managed to portray him as the real victim in all this. The poor boy will miss three whole matches! With pay. And is unhurt. But vicious foreigner Arsene Wenger, who obviously doesn't understand how football is played, made him feel bad. Wenger is continually called out for not apologizing for calling Shawcross horrendous and insulting the sweet, sensitive English boy. Which makes no sense, As AW only called the tackle horrendous (which it was). But still, it's "let's heap shame on Arsene Wenger." Bollocks to that. Arsene has forgotten more about football than Tony Pulis will ever know, and as for Ryan Shawcross, he has been rewarded for his history of violent behavior. I'll provide a few examples.

1) He was a violent player while on loan at Antwerp:

2)He broke Francis Jeffers' leg.

3) He attempted to break Adebayor's ankles from behind when Stoke hosted Arsenal last season, while Ade was out of bounds, as was the ball (see video here).

4) He broke Aaron Ramsey's leg:

None of those videos are easy to watch, least of all the last. But together they illustrate that Ryan Shawcross, while perhaps not intending to injure anyone, plays with a disregard that makes him just as dangerous as the type of sociopath who would intend to injure. So in these cases, the intent is irrelevant. Indeed, as he has already declared he will not change the way he plays, he's proven he's a big body with nothing upstairs controlling it, and that's just dangerous. Even Blaster had a Master.

And the sad thing is that as soon as Ramsey's injury occurred, we knew that the reaction would be anti-Arsenal, or at least pro-Shawcross. Arsene knew as much when he said "Spare me how nice he [Shawcross] is." Because the same thing happened when Martin Taylor broke Eduardo's leg, and the same thing happened when Danny Smith broke Diaby's ankle. Every pundit went out of their way to shout about how nice each one is, and how they aren't "that type of player," just as it has happened this time. They may all be very nice boys. But their personalities don't matter.

The point that must be made overall is that the prevailing attitude in England encourages and rewards reckless challenges as "physical play." At least when English players do it. Largely, this boils down to money. Smaller clubs make less money and therefore cannot sign players of the technical ability of a club like Arsenal. Obviously, they will make more money if they can remain in the top flight, so if they can't beat Arsenal playing football, they must adopt other methods to compete. These methods were put forth several years ago by then-Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce who famously espoused the belief that "Arsenal don't like it up 'em." Ingenious. As though the Gunners are odd for not enjoying a good 90 minutes of kicking and fouling. But Allardyce's Bolton had a bit of success for a few seasons against Arsenal by employing the damnable tactics of dirty play, and since the referees never did anything to the likes of El Hadj-Douche or Kevin "Master of Elbow-Throwing" Davies, other teams without the skill to beat Arsenal at football began playing the same way.

And Arsenal and Wenger are accused of whining when they argue that they are unfairly targeted for rough play, though the preview of nearly every Arsenal match against a smaller (typically northern) club includes a bit from a player or manager saying they intend to do just that. The referees continue to turn a blind eye, the fouls become more obvious and reckless, and the end result is what happened to Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey. Three players, three broken legs, all in the span of under 4 years. I would ask when there has been enough, but I already know it's not now; less than a week after Ramsey's injury, Burnley (another small, less technical northern club) promised not to hold back and play just as "physically" against us on Saturday.

The conclusion I've reached is that we just can't reason with these people, the ones who defend the Shawcrosses of the world because their team needs to play this way to beat us, because we're mostly foreign, because he's English, or just because they want to be cunts (mission accomplished). Like you can't negotiate with terrorists. We have to fight. And I don't know about you lot, but I've got a bellyful of anger directed at the rest of the league and every pundit who defends thuggery for any reason. I encourage you all to keep your anger, own it, don't let it go. We've never had more reason to go out and win every match, our players know it and we know it. If you love the Arsenal, show it. Sing your heart out, chant for the boys, get behind them and support every single one of them, no matter what your opinion of them has been. They wear the shirt and honor the crest. We must do the same.

Burnley on Saturday at the Grove. Victoria Concordia Crescit.

Arsenal 'til i die.