Now that you're all properly motivated, I can let us all down easily. Yes, our title challenge is now finished, and it will be another season without a trophy. Yes, this happened because we lost to spurs for the first time in 11 years. Yes, Harry Redknapp is a twitchy, droopy-faced old cunt. But allow me, the pessimist, to put a positive spin on things.

We lost to Spurs for the first time in 11 years. Eleven. Years. It took them from 1999 until this past Wednesday to record a league victory over Arsenal. In all that time, this "rivalry" was much like the rivalry between a hammer and a nail. Indeed, the Arsenal team that they beat Wednesday was without more than half of its regular starters AND had the crippling handicap of starting Manuel Almunia in goal. "But Brett," you might ask, "would we really have done any better with Jens Lehmann in goal?" To which I would answer, "Dude, are you fucking retarded? YES." We would have done better with Bob Wilson in goal, and he's 68 years old. It took the perfect storm of negative factors affecting us for totts to take three points off of us.

Our title challenge is finished, this is true. Arseblogger pointed out yesterday that mathematically we're still alive, but like him, I say fuck math (or maths, depending on where you're reading this). To be fair, it would have taken a miracle to have overtaken Chelsea even if we had won on Wednesday, and miracles have been in short supply at Arsenal lately. And though the title has eluded us yet again, we still have something to play for. If we can finish strong we can still at least topple Man Ure for second place, which would be a nice thing in itself, and could maybe shut the Mancs up a bit... although I'm sure they'll go on about their Mickey Mouse Cup win, to which I would reply:

And, lest I should forget, 'Arry Redknapp is a droopy-faced, twitchy old cuntbucket. Still, spurs fans (such as they are) are lucky to have him. After all, it takes a hell of a manager to take his team to the FA Cup semifinals, and he can't really be blamed for losing to a powerhouse like Pompey. They beat fucking everybody, don't they?

And the lone piece of good news we've had this week is that Robin van Persie is back in the side, and based on the performance he put in midweek, he hasn't lost anything. He was denied a couple of times by Gomes (who really was at his best, it must be said), and with his introduction into the side, we finally had two players going who made any kind of effort.

The other of course was Sol Campbell, and big fat Sol had perhaps his best game since rejoining Arsenal. Despite receiving as much abuse as you're likely to see a player get, he showed pace that I didn't think he had, his positioning was inch-perfect, and he did his damndest to motivate the rest of the side... Unfortunately, they by and large coasted through as though we were playing Peterborough or some god-awful MLS team. The one major negative we should take away from Wednesday's result: most of this team showed absolutely no heart or desire.

It's not easy of course to lose a captain and best player like Cesc Fabregas, but this is not a team bereft of veterans. Even some of the younger players have seen a great deal of first-team action for Arsenal (case in point: Denilson is but 22, yet he's played over 100 first-team matches for us). Still the feeling I got was that, barring a few players like Sol, Nasri and to a point, Rosicky, we fielded a team that were content to do the bare minimum, cash their paychecks and go home. This is not the attitude of a champion, and until this is addressed, we won't win a thing. I'm not trying to sound like Debbie Downer, but it's a fact. Sol won the double with us and was one of the Invincibles. We don't have enough Sol Campbell's.

We'll have plenty of time to discuss who should come in the summer and who should go, but I'm not whoring for hits on this blog, so we can discuss that another time. For now, this is the team we have, and whoever dons the shirt, we need to support them. We have an EARLY match against Wigan on Sunday, and I hope that you'll all continue to show up and cheer on the Arsenal in spite of Wednesday's result. There will be other titles, other cups, other moments of glory, and many, many more goals.

I'll leave you with the words of Nick Hornby, a far better writer than I'll ever hope to be, and a proper Gooner:

"It's not easy to be a football fan. It takes years. But if you put in the hours, you're welcomed without question into a new family. Except in this family, you care about the same people, and hope for the same things. What's childish about that?"

Stay classy.

Making the Case for Nicklas Bendtner

"He's too slow to be a striker."

"His touch is shit."

"He can't finish."

"Just sell him."

There are a lot of Arsenal fans who say a lot of negative things about Arsenal players. Sometimes they're proven right (Pascal Gygan springs to mind), but just as often they go on to be proven fantastically wrong. In just the past year, we have seen perrenial Arsenal scapegoats Alex Song, About Diaby and Emmanuel Eboue make the leap from constant targets of abuse and doubt from their own fans to being recognized as talented, crucial contributers to the Arsenal cause. Yet for some, the hate continues to flow no matter what they do.

Such is the current state of Nicklas Bendtner. The big, cocky, loquacious Dane seems to split opinions of Arsenal supporters in myriad directions. Many think he is and will ever be nothing more than a donkey and should be sold to the first club who comes sniffing. Others think he does possess some of the qualities needed to be an effective striker, but will never be Arsenal-quality. Even his proponents usually have something negative to say about him.

I'll not sit here and pretend I've always thought Bendtner was a brilliant player. As short a time ago as last winter, I was slating Big Nick fairly regularly, just as seemingly everyone was all over Eboue, especially following his disastrous booing-off against Wigan and his sending-off at spurs. But while Eboue eventually became an object of pity and a poster boy for why fans shouldn't boo their own players (I'll go on record as saying it shouldn't ever happen), Nicklas has been given no such slack despite scoring some absolutely vital late goals the last two seasons. So why all the hate? Detractors of the big Dane say he doesn't score enough or frequently enough. Yet there are many Arsenal strikers down the years who have scored less often than Nick but have been held in higher regard. Case in point...

Most of you will fondly remember former Arsenal striker Nwankwo Kanu (who's still with Pompey if I'm not mistaken). The tall, lean Nigerian burst onto the scene in 1999, scoring some critical goals for Arsenal before gradually being phased out with the emergence of Thierry Henry. He became a fan favorite, with Highbury crowds frequently calling "KANUUUUUUUUUUUU" for his introduction or to celebrate when he scored. He was (and is) very much beloved by Nigeria, perhaps better celebrated by fans of his national team than by those of his clubs. His career totals for Arsenal show 197 matches played over 5.5 seasons, scoring 43 goals in all competitions, a strike rate of a goal every 4.58 matches.

Additionally, Sylvain Wiltord, the hero who won the league at Old Trafford in the 2002 Double year, and who in 2008 was voted 33rd best player in Arsenal history by Gunner fans, scored 49 times in 175 matches, a strike rate of a goal every 3.57 matches. Not too shabby, and an Arsenal legend to boot!

Nicklas Bendtner has netted 35 times in 116 matches for Arsenal, averaging a goal every 3.3 matches.

Certainly, that should be enough to endear him to the faithful. True, he never scored a league-winner like Wiltord (although to be fair, Arsenal haven't won the league in his three seasons), nor sunk a still-shit Chelsea team with a 15+ minute hat-trick. But let's look at some of the more crucial goals Nick HAS scored:

22nd of December, 2007: Bendtner comes on as a late substitute in a 1-1 match at home against Spurs. Bendtner heads a cross from Cesc in the 90th minute, breaking the deadlock for Arsenal to win another North London Derby with his first Premier League goal.

25th of November, 2008: Another late deadlock, another winner from Bendtner. A scoreless home match with Dynamo Kiev is won with an 87th minute Bendtner strike after running on to a long ball from Cesc. The Dane finishes, and Arsenal lock up advancement from the Group stage.

13th of March, 2010: Despite a man advantage after Jerome Boateng's sending off, Arsenal were unable to gain a winner with the match at 1-1. But in the 93rd minute, a long shot from Denilson was badly parried by Hull 'keeper Myhill, and Bendtner burst forth to stick away the rebound for another last-gasp winner, and days later, legendary cunt Phil Brown is sacked by the Hull board.

3rd of April, 2010: Marcus Hahnemann made saves all over his goal to keep a dominant Arsenal team from scoring against Wolves, again in spite of a man advantage (the equally cuntish Carl Henry being sent off). Deep into injury time, substitute Bendtner creates enough space in the box to take a fantastic header past Hahnemann to win at the death for the Gunners. I personally lose 3/4 of a pint of Guinness and a pair of sunglasses while celebrating this win.

And still the haters begin, "Yes, but..." But what? The boy has negatives, as do all players. But let's look at what he does give us, rather than what he doesn't. He's big, which sets him apart from all other Arsenal forwards and all Arsenal players but Sol Campbell. He's strong enough to hold off a big center-half and create space (see Wolves). He doesn't run offside 20 times a game like Adebuywhore, who he hated long before you and I did:

He has an absolute penchant for rescuing Arsenal with late goals to equalize and to win matches. And for all this, he's only just turned 22 this season. Didier Drogba was 24 before he scored 15 goals or more, and that was in Ligue 1. Will Bendtner ever be what Drogba is today? Probably not. Nor will he ever be Thierry Henry or Dennis Bergkamp. But he is currently a valuable player, and at his young age it stands to reason that he can improve, while Drogba probably won't.

Finally, for all those who think that Nicklas will never amount to much and that we should sell him now... just think where we would be if we had followed that advice when people were calling for the heads of Song, Diaby, Eboue and so many others. Arsene Knows...

We're off this weekend, so enjoy the sunshine. Arsenal visit Shite Hart Lane on Wednesday to renew our rivalry with Spurs, akin to the rivalry between Hammer and Nail. We're out of Europe, but we're still in with a shout for the league, and with United playing Fergie's old pal Allardyce and his Blackburn shitkickers (read: the fix is in) while Chelsea host Bolton, we need the points as much as we need just to beat the scum and bring St. Totteringham's Day that much closer...


And stay classy.

Character, Determination, & Injuries

Apologies this is so late in the day... I had this just about finished around noon, but the blog was broken. Without further ado, here's Bloggy McBloggerson.

There's one thing you can say as a fan of this Arsenal team, and that is that no matter what, at least we'll look good and move the football. Unless we're playing Barcelona.

The dominance shown in the first hour by the Catalunian side on our home pitch was staggering. They controlled the possession (and mostly in our half, as well) such that we looked amateurish by comparison. When we did win the ball, we gave it right back, through a combination of our own lack of sharpness and poor decision making, and most importantly due to the exceptional pressing, counterattacking play by Barcelona. They passed with greater skill and vision than I can remember seeing from one of our opponents. I understand that our defense can look porous at the best of times, but Barcelona got in a rhythm where they were just firing shots at our goal and it was all our boys could do to throw themselves in front of shots, and we're actually lucky to not have accidentally conceded a handball in the box. Not only that, but Almunia had the greatest 45 minutes of his career, stopping everything that came within his reach. We were also helped by some very poor first half finishing, it has to be said, by Ibrahimovic. The man was missing some absolute sitters. Our only discernible chance came on a break when Nasri let go a curler from the left side of the box that went just wide. 0-0 was a very lucky halftime score, despite having to substitute Arshavin and Gallas due to injuries (both now face 3 weeks out). It could very well have been 5 or 6 to nil. But the major negative was the booking of Cesc, which would mean he would miss the second leg. A yellow card on that tackle was more than a little harsh, and while I recognize that UEFA refs are more likely to dish out cards, Barca made sure to make the most of it by diving like Cristiano Ronaldo circa 2006.

With all of that said, the appearance of Eboue seemed to do us some good, as his directness, pace and, lets face it, effort in comparison to Arshavin caused some problems for Barcelona. This, however, would not prevent Barca from taking some of the chances they could not in the first half. Ibrahimovic continued his attacking, but this time remembered how to finish (note to self: do not slag off Zlatan Ibrahimovic as useless at halftime). He was assisted by the appearance of Bad Almunia, who found himself well off his line in the first couple of minutes after the break and could only watch as Ibrahimovic chipped him for the first goal. And this lead was compounded when the Swiss simply skinned our defense yet again, finishing near post, as Almunia could do nothing but watch. All optimism was drained from me, and it was all I could do to keep singing in the pub, although a lot of that was just to take the piss out of the Barca supporters. Here's a hint: "Bee Bee Baa Baa Bee Baa Barca!" doesn't make sense in English OR Spanish.

Then, while Barca seemed to relax, confident in their dominance and in their two goal advantage, a turning point arrived in our favor. A turning point in the shape of Theo Walcott. Theo came on as a substitute and almost immediately, you could see the impact his pace had on the game, getting in behind Maxwell and causing havoc with the high line Barca were playing (which contributed to their pressing and possession). Barca simply had no answer for him. Shortly after appearing, Theo burned Maxwell again to a lovely through ball by Bendtner. Theo's shot was low and on-target, and if think Valdes should've done better, then fair play to you. But I went mad when we scored that goal, and suddenly the supreme Barca confidence seemed shaken. Walcott continued to torment Barca's defenders, which gave Arsenal more options, more space, and ultimately, more possession. We attacked Barca, and soon got another favorable break: Pique's booking meant that he too would miss the second leg. The free kick earned on the foul was sent spinning over the bar by Cesc, unfortunately.

The arrival of Thierry Henry (and I can't disagree more with supporters who don't love Thierry now, he is and always will be an Arsenal LEGEND) brought a huge ovation from the Arsenal faithful, but apart from one attack, his presence ultimately didn't do much for Barca. We seemed to be headed for a 2-1 defeat, when a Walcott cross bounced to Bendtner in the box, and with fantastic foresight, headed the ball to Cesc's feet. El Capitan went to shoot, when his foot was entangled between Puyol's. Cesc went down, the penalty was given, and amazingly, Puyol was sent off (meaning of course that he too would miss the next leg). It was a very harsh red card, but being the officiating was dreadful anyway, I'll take it. Cesc was the obvious choice to take the kick, and he didn't disappoint, burying the ball in the net. 2-2 and we were back from the dead.

And then... tragedy. Cesc, our captain, our heart, our fearless leader, was hobbled by what has now been revealed as a broken leg. With all of our substitutions used up, he should have just gone to the sideline, but hero that he is, Cesc stayed on. Obviously, this ended our attacking threat, as we just tried to keep the ball and let Cesc alone, so we were unable to take advantage of Barca's 10 man team. The final whistle blew, we were still alive, and while a 2-2 draw isn't the best result, it's better than I could've hoped for considering the way the first hour went.

The price, however, was quite steep. Arshavin and Gallas out for 3 weeks, Denilson doubtful, and now Cesc out for the season with a broken leg. Yet another swath of injuries, which has been the story of our season. Is it the players? Is it the physios? Is it the lack of protection we tend to receive from referees? Maybe all of the above. Obviously we're not dead and buried, but something needs to be done. Maybe we can outfit our players in armored suits, or have their skeletons coated with adamantium or something. I don't know the answer, I'm not a fucking scientist.

Anyway, Saturday our team limps in to face Wolves at home, and while this is a team we should expect to beat, we can't be overly confident. We are far from the same team that won 4-1 at Molineux in the fall, with even more injuries peppering our squad. Expect players we've all forgotten about, like SEELVESTERRR, Carlos Vela, and The Artist Formerly Known As That Guy Who's Still Hurt (Tom Rosicky) to step into the side. I don't know what to expect from Vela, since we haven't seen him this season, and he may have died over the summer and been replaced by a cheap Mexican knock-off. But we can expect SEELVESTERRR to make all of our hearts stop at least twice, and for TAFKATGWSH to put in a solid shift. We'll need his best, and his leadership, if we're to get through this.

Finally, to address the NYC Arsenal Supporters, thank you all for making it out on Wednesday, it was brilliant. Unfortunately, due to the current circumstances at Nevada Smiths (of which I'm sure you've all been informed by Kurt), we plan on skipping Nevadas in favor of Lunasa this weekend in order to show support to Kieron, who's working there temporarily. Now, if you still want to go to Nevadas I'm not stopping you, and we still love Jack and think of the place as our home. But it may be really lonely, unless you like ManUre fans. Lunasa is located at 126 1st Ave, between St. Marks & 7th. Google maps can get you directions via train, so don't rely on me for directions. I don't work for MTA. I failed the "Surly and Incompetent" entrance exam.

Anyway, I hope to see you all on Saturday. Kickoff is at 10am, and according to Manuel Almunia we need maximum points here on out. As much as he wears my nerves to the nub, I think we have to trust him on this. COME ON YOU RIP-ROARIN' REDS!!!