This Game is Bigger Than All of Us, perhaps I'm a little over the top right now. I may or may not be on my 7th beer (hint: the correct answer is "may"), and I may or may not be overdoing it a little. But, fuck it...Sunday is one of the most important games of the season, and I want to say my piece.

I don't know why you, dear reader, support the Arsenal. Frankly, I don't care. Your reasons are your own, but the important thing is that you're here and you're reading this site right now. I imagine that if you are, you are sympathetic to the cannon, you are down with the red and white. Taking that as a given, then I assume that you have some degree of interest in our Sunday fixture away to Chelsea this weekend.

If you are in the NYC area, I hope you will consider coming to the Blind Pig to watch the match.
Don't get me wrong - I don't believe in having an unhealthy amount of hate for other clubs or their supporters (unless it's the West Ham lot, who I despise with all of my being barring the one or two who can function in human society). But, make no mistake...this Sunday is a confrontation between a club who has done things the right way, and a club who will be at home on the day. I would hope that, even if you can't bring yourself to come out for Stoke away, or if you are trapped in the office for mid-week fixtures (as I myself am), that you will come support the light side of the Force when it comes to this Sunday's game. the end of the day, this Chelsea side are the remnants of what Jose Mourinho (a world-class manager and a world-class asshole at the same time) brought upon the English Premier League. While I respect and admire the talents of a Petr Cech or a Michael Essien, this is also the club of Ashley Cole, John Terry and Nicolas Anelka. This is the club that was Manchester City before they were Manchester City. This is the club that spent their way to success, this is the club that played Football Manager in real life (though the funny thing is I'm a FM addict, and I'm perhaps more loathe to spend money than Arsene is, though I do usually buy Igor Akinfeev or Hugo Lloris).

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that whether we're from Islington, from America, from Asia, from Western Europe, Eastern Europe or South America, we are the Arsenal and we are one. We believe in football played the right way, we believe in our manager, in our young players and in our methods. We believe that when the trophies finally come (and I promise you, Gooners...they will come), they will come from a team that we can be proud of playing the sort of football we can be proud of. They will come despite the best efforts of cynical outfits like Chelsea, or the nouveau riche of Manchester City, or the desperately-clinging-on-to-glory Manchester United. They will come despite the best efforts of clubs like Barcelona (more than a club my fucking hole...they're as cynical as anyone) to steal our best players. It will come despite poor decisions from referees, Sky pundits hating us, poor press, or whatever else comes our way.
We are the Arsenal, and we stand as one in the face of all of that,.

We are the Arsenal, and we will come out victorious in the end. Never forget that it was Arsenal that broke Nottingham Forest's record of unbeaten games. Never forget that it was Arsenal that gave the English game such players as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires, Paul Merson, Cesc Fabregas and now Jack Wilshere (who I honestly believe will take his place in this exalted company some day).

We are the Arsenal, and we are the ones who pack the Blind Pig every Saturday (and sometimes Sundays).

At the end of the day, I understand if you don't come out for Blackburn away or Bolton at home. I understand if you miss Nevada Smith's, or if you still go there because it is what is familiar. I understand if you have real-life responsibilities. But, if you believe that our support means anything at all (and I sincerely hope you do), then please, please, PLEASE come to the Blind Pig on Sunday. Lend us your voices...lend THEM your voices. I don't care if you're not thrilled about Fabianski in goal (cause I sure as hell am not), don't want to see Denilson in the squad, what have you...





If you are too, then please join us.

Arsenal 2-3 West Bromwich Albion

Earlier this morning, Chelsea traveled to the City of Manchester Stadium to face a Man City team consisting mainly of Carlos Tevez, Joe Hart and the walking wounded. They summarily lost 1-0, leaving Arsenal a glorious opportunity to climb to within one point of them heading into next weekend's summit meeting at Stamford Bridge.

Opportunity wasted.

Already, this season is at a crossroads. Will it be (to quote Flogging Molly) another day older in these exiled years, as we flatter to deceive at the beginning of the season only to implode at the sharp end? Or, will the team kick on from this, batter the blood-money chavs at their shithole next week, and seriously fight for honors? I honestly don't know - we'll find out a lot about this version of the squad come next Sunday.

To give our unfancied opponents credit where it's due, they came to play and shaded the first half. Much like the Sunderland match, Arsenal were slow off the blocks, and the Baggies didn't waste time stamping some measure of authority on the game. Don't get me wrong - it wasn't one-way traffic by any means, but games like this are hard to swallow when we're so used to trampling over sides like this...especially at home. Manuel Almunia had already made one great save at his near post when a through-ball allowed the excellent Peter Odemwingie to go through on goal. Almunia dived at his feet and ordinarily would have cleared the danger, but the West Brom man was agile enough to go far enough around him to have his heels clipped by the keeper. It was a stonewall penalty, but Almunia did brilliantly well to save Chris Brunt's spot-kick.

That said, we sure did see the worst of Almunia to go along with his best, in yet another schizophrenic performance from the Spaniard. More on that in a bit.

After the interval, it was very much a case of "second verse, worse than the first." Again, Arsenal came out strangely listless, only this time the Baggies made us pay for it. Some truly shambolic defending from Bacary Sagna allowed Jerome Thomas to easily slalom around him. Almunia had to come out to cut the angle, allowing Thomas to simply roll it across the face of goal for the unmarked Odemwingie to get the goal that, if we're being honest, he deserved for his fine play on the afternoon. While it was a nice play from the Baggies striker, Laurent Koscielny was clearly at fault for the goal. Odemwingie was his man, and not only did the Frenchman lose his mark, he stood around and watched like a moron as the pass came in for the striker to tap into the corner. Koscielny, as good as he's been this season, had a mare on the day and will quickly want to forget this performance.

It would have been one thing if Arsenal had simply conceded the one and then, as is the custom, hauled themselves into the game from there. We all wonder why this team can't do it from the opening whistle. We all have seen this many times in the past...nothing to worry about, right?

Right, except Manuel Almunia decided to revert back to last season's form and concede two horror goals to gift the Baggies all three points. The worst of the lot came just two minutes after West Brom had opened the scoring. Gonzalo Jara's tame long-range effort was the sort of shot that any professional goalkeeper should keep out 9,999,999 times out of 10,000,000. Hell, even rec-league duffers like myself would keep it out 999 times out of 1,000. However, Almunia seemed to lose his focus, or he misjudged the angle or something - he dropped to one leg, but he wasn't central to the ball at all, it hit his leg and went into the near corner.

Fuck's fucking sake.

Look, keepers make mistakes. Weird things happen, shots swerve at the last second, they bounce off the turf strangely (to this day, I insist that Paul Robinson was not at fault for Croatia's goal against England), whatever. Even with this goal, if Jara had shot it through a forest of bodies blocking Almunia's vision, I could understand it. But, to see it all the way and let that goal in seconds after the visitors had taken a shock lead...that was a dagger to the heart and to my mind prevented us from getting a point out of this (or perhaps all three).

Still, there was the remote chance of a comeback had the Arsenal not conceded a comical third goal. Once again, our Spanish stopper (sort of) was at fault. Former Arsenal youngster Jerome Thomas played a nice ball into Brunt, but it was a little ahead of him and easily claimable by Almunia had he decisively come out for it from the off. Now, I don't know if the penalty from the first half was in his mind, or if his head was gone from having given up the second goal...either way, he hesitated for two or three full seconds, allowing Brunt to collect the ball. The defenders completely forgot about Thomas, and Brunt was able to roll it across to him for yet another undefended tap-in at the far post. Frankly, this was fucking schoolboy defending for the 42,789,489,237,489,237,492,373,947th time in the last 6 seasons, and I am getting motherfucking sick of it.

So, down to 3-0 with less than 20 minutes left against a determined side that was defending be honest, I thought at that point that if anyone was scoring again, it'd be the visitors. However, the fantastic Samir Nasri willed Arsenal back into the match with a spirited, determined last 20 minutes. I am not sure if the Baggies decided to sit on the lead, or if Arsenal were just suitably embarrassed enough to finally take charge of the match. Either way, West Brom barely touched the ball after going up by three. Two minutes afterwards, Nasri's cool finish after some nice interplay in the West Brom penalty area gave us some hope.

Once that one went in, I personally thought that 3-3 was within the realm of possibility. However, despite all of our pressure, many of our moves broke down due to questionable passing and decisions from Sagna and the last substitute, Carlos Vela. Vela in particular had a horrid match, and I for one wonder if he'll ever become the total package for Arsenal. His talent is evident, especially in his finishing ability. Every other part of his game - especially his passing and decision-making - needs serious work though.

So, with time ticking down, that man Nasri stepped up when it mattered once again. He has made the leap this season from a very nice player into a critical one, and he once again was composed in a packed penalty area to slot in the second. Despite 5 minutes of injury time, the Baggies were able to hold and largely restricted our chances from then on. Tomas Rosicky had one decent chance on a volley, but he skied it over the bar (HEY, I'M STUNNED), and that was that. It's a bit churlish to complain about this given Arsenal's largely shoddy performance, but Scott Carson took about 20-30 seconds to take the last goal kick (maybe even a little more), they faked a few injuries, and the referee blew up at 95:06 (or somewhere in the neighborhood) with Arsenal attacking through the midfield. I don't believe it changed the result by any means, but it's fucking annoying after the Sunderland match.

Over to you, Arsene. Next week is a massive, massive test of this team and its resolve. Will Almunia be able to mentally recover? Will the team be able to grind out a result in one of the hardest places to play in the Premier League? Will we be able to take advantage of their myriad injuries (not the least of which is Frank Lampard) and get at least a point out of it?

I worry about the answers to those questions.


Manuel Almunia - 4: Almost single-handedly cost his side a point on the day. Dreadfully at fault for the second and third, and conceded a penalty that admittedly he did well to save (which is the only reason it's not a 3 or a 2).

Gael Clichy - 7: One of his better matches in a while, he did well down the left flank and caused the Baggies a few problems. His crossing was good and he did well to hold up the ball and bring others into the play.

Laurent Koscielny - 5: He lost Odemwingie for the goal, as previously mentioned. Besides that, he never looked comfortable and could have no complaints about being hauled off in the 66th minute. Perhaps we expect too much from him after some decent performances early on, but mistakes are creeping into his game and Johan Djourou has to be an option should this continue.

Sebastian Squillaci - 6: There was nothing that he was specifically at fault for, but I also can't help feeling that he should have been there to cover for his partner on at least one of the two unguarded tap-in goals.

Bacary Sagna - 5: Terrible crosses, bad giveaways, skinned alive for the first goal...but other than that, he was great.

Andrey Arshavin - 6: Largely anonymous once again. He was a shade better than he has been lately, but that's not saying much.

Abou Diaby - 6: He played?

Alex Song - 7: This was a much better performance from the Sunderland match. He was less effective when pressed into CB duty once Koscielny was yanked, but before then he was his usual ball-winning presence in the center of the park.

Samir Nasri - 9: Two goals from the Frenchman - he did everything he could to single-handedly haul his team back into the game. His passing was fantastic and he even won the ball back from the visitors on a few occasions. We absolutely missed Fabregas, and can only wonder what could have been if Cesc and Nasri were able to work together on the day.

Emmanuel Eboue - 6: He wasn't involved that much, as many of the attacks were coming down the left side. He had some nice touches, but little in the way of end product.

Marouane Chamakh - 7: While he didn't score, his hold-up play was once again vital to the team's attacking moves. He caused some bother in the opposing penalty area as well, but I would have liked to have seen him win a few more attacking headers. Had one half-chance that I remember, but Carson easily saved his tame header.


Jack Wilshere (for Eboue, 56 min) - 6: Had to play an unfamiliar role out on the wing...he did OK, but didn't have much of an impact.

Tomas Rosicky (for Diaby, 56 min) - 6: Missed the volley in the 94th minute, although admittedly that was a difficult one to get on target. Made a nice pass or two, but also didn't make much of an impact.

Carlos Vela (for Koscielny, 66 min) - 5: As mentioned, he gave the ball away far too often (especially with so much of the play coming down the left). In a game where there wasn't going to be much room for him to run at a defense or get open space for a shot, his creativity was needed to keep possession and he didn't do it. For me, he's the wrong kind of player to put on when you're chasing a game, but there wasn't much in the way of options.

From Last Minute Anger to Joy At the Lane, & Time to Take On The Baggies Again

Good morning from a misty and overcast Manhattan. It's been an interesting week for Arsenal fans everywhere to say the least, and the saying "It's a funny old game" comes to mind yet again.

The match last Saturday away to Sunderland was an odd one, yet somehow still a familiar type of match for Arsenal. Lead taken and held despite questionable officiating, yet finally squandered with a late goal allowed. We have every right to feel victimized, but must also take the long look in the mirror at the manner in which we, again, dropped points at the Stadium of Light. I won't go over the minutiae of the match's occurrences (especially since Sean did such yeoman's work with his match report)

The early going (and it must be said, much of the first half) was all Sunderland. They pressed well and closed down space to dispossess us, and went forward to attack our end dangerously but without that final product to break down our defence, which it must be said was very, very solid overall. The goal we did get was part desire on Cesc's part, part thoughtlessness on the part of Ferdinand in delaying his clearance, allowing Cesc to get a touch on the ball, part luck in Mignolet's being so far off his line, and part magic as the ball landed in the Sunderland net. All that taken together it was most enjoyable, definitely the type of goal that is an absolute sucker-punch when it happens to you. We did however pay a price, as Cesc injured his touchy hamstring on the play, ruling the captain out until Chelsea at the earliest. Rosicky came on for him; more on that later.

That said, we were affected by the performance of referee Phil Dowd. Midweek comments from Sam "obsessed Wenger-stalker" Allardyce, Owen "Sour Grapes" Coyle, and Tony "Ridiculous Toxic Muppet" Pulis complained that referees had the gall this season to discipline players for dangerous and illegal tackles, and blamed this development on the evil foreigner, Arsene Wenger. Dowd proved both his literacy and gullibility by calling the match just as any of those three idiots might have done: Arsenal player foul = booking, Sunderland player foul = Arsenal booking, Arsenal player looks like he might intend to tackle Sunderland player = free kick. Alex Song was given one of the softest yellow cards you'll ever see (until the next time Dowd refs an Arsenal match), and while his second yellow may have been a bookable offense, to have actually sent the Cameroonian off for it was the height of officiousness from the minaret with the whistle. Ironically, once we went down to 10men, we began to really control the game.

As an aside, I'm beginning to see the value of Denilson this season. In situations like last Saturday, he's particularly key in his ability to take the ball and pass it and move and continue, so that we can keep possession and kill off a match. He is not, and never will be a productive holding midfielder nor an attacking midfielder with a killer final ball; but for what he is, a sort of "possession midfielder," he does have some value so long as he's played in the right situations.

With a lead and a healthy bit of possession, we looked much better throughout the second half and probably would have scored a few if we'd had a better final ball on occasion. Our best chance to put the match to bed came midway through the second half, when Nasri was brought down in the box and Dowd inexplicably pointed to the spot. Perhaps he felt guilt at his previous cuntitude, call it Dowd Syndrome (yes, I wrote it, I'm not here to impress you people). With van Persie out (obviously) and Cesc hurt, the logical choice to take it was Nasri, but as we later learned, superstition prevented him from stepping up, so the job fell to Tom Rosicky. The Czech sent a screamer over the bar, and my foreboding kicked into overdrive.

Anyway, we all know what happened. Our defenders worked hard and were largely outstanding, with the exception of Clichy, who still seems susceptible to frequent, costly mental errors. 4 minutes of injury time were added and still Sunderland's attacks broke upon our defence with corner after corner cleared. Nearly half a minute after injury time should have ended, a scramble for a ball in our box fell to Bent, who equalized. Probably a fair result in the end, but still a tough pill to swallow for Arsenal, given that we should have been up by 2 and never should have lost a man. Still, it's an improvement over the loss there last season (if I'm not mistaken, a late goal from Bent won it for the black cats), although we could have, and should have, had more. Perhaps the real shame is that a blinder of a performance from Squillaci and Koscielny (who is looking like a tremendous buy) will be overlooked.

One quick note to my fellow NYC Arsenal Supporters. We don't sing that song in injury time when up by a single goal for a reason. This isn't mindless protocol. Keep the faith, but respect the tradition. Rant over.

It was with this bitter taste still in our mouths that we came to our first North London Derby of the season. Having drawn the tiny totts in the 3rd round of the Carling Cup, most of us had a very bad feeling about this one, seeing as Twitchy had goaded Arsene that "fans want to see trophies, not youth teams." I don't think anyone expected Le Boss to select so many senior squad members for a Carling Cup match, nor had we foreseen the type of side ol' wheeler-dealer was forced to select given his inability to manage. Manage such a small squad in Europe and in domestic competition, that is.

Arsene being banned for one match for touching a referee on the shoulder after the Sunderland match, it fell to Pat Rice to manage via blackberry. It was hardly a full-strength Arsenal side of course, but certainly much stronger than the one that took on Liverpool in the same competition last August of course. And most of the senior squad players like Nasri, Denilson, Wilshere and Gibbs are all still very young. Potential loanee Henri Lansbury got a start in his first derby game, and he made it count. A pinpoint pass across the box from the dangerous Wilshere found the onrushing Lansbury, who Lansburied it in the net for a 1-0 lead, sending Gooners everywhere into ecstacy. It was Henri's first goal for Arsenal, and one that will surely endear him to the faithful. I've thought for some time the lad's got a future with us; perhaps the future isn't that far off...

Later in the first half our lead should have been doubled when Wilshere's incisive pass found Gibbs alone with the keeper; the young fullback was unfairly flagged for offside. We had reason to feel hard done by shortly after halftime, when the same linesman failed to raise the flag on a clearly offside Keane, and the mallet-headed pikey took a low shot that any keeper with bones in his wrists would have stopped. However, our own Lukasz Fabianski prefers his wrists to be filled with broken dreams and heartache, which allowed the scum an undeserved equalizer.

Midway through the second half, Arsene showed how much he wanted to win the match, bringing on Chamakh and Arshavin for Rosicky and Vela. Despite some near chances, we could not close out the match through 90 minutes, so we went to extra time. The Totts' legs were obviously tired headed into the added 30 min., and within moments of the restart, Bassong clipped and pulled down Nasri in the box after a beautifully chipped pass from Arshavin, and the penalty was awarded (for all of Twitchy's bleating, it was a penalty). Having had a talking to during the week from Arsene about his silly superstition, Samir duly strode to the spot and coolly stroked the ball in the net. 2-1 to the Arsenal and the fans were elated. Moments later, Arshavin's slide-rule pass found Chamakh, who was immediately hauled down by Caulker in the box, and the referee had to again point to the spot. Nasri, just as coolly as the first, buried the second penalty and along with it, spuds' hopes of advancing in the Cup. Niko Krancjar was brought on for debutant Sandro (who seems to have played rugby in Brazil), but too little, too late.

And we weren't even done! In the 105th minute, Arshavin put the cherry on his cameo, latching on to a perfect free kick from Wilshere to go behind the defence and slot a fourth goal past the keeper. The best part about this goal was this:

The video's been taken down already, but we all got an eyeful of what will surely be the first of many instances of crushing disappointment in this young man's life. Then again, I'd be crying too if I had a cock on my shirt.

So that was that. As the fans at the ground sang "Shall we make a DVD?" to the few remaining spud fans in attendance, it ended 4-1 to the Arsenal, our biggest win at Shite Hart Lane in 30 years I believe. It was a huge day for our fans of course, but while the champagne went to Samir Nasri for his two goals in extra time, my personal pick for Man of the Match is young Jack Wilshere. He was calm and strong in possession, his passing was inch-perfect, and he controlled the run of play for 120 minutes. Best of all, as tottnumb's only answer was to kick, kick and kick Jack some more, he had the maturity and the strength of mind and body not to retaliate, and instead just get back up and get on with it. Well done.

In other news, we saw Wojciech Szczesny ("He Whose Name Cannot Be Pronounced") have a pop in the press to say he deserves more playing time, to which Arsene replied that he must be patient, that Fabianski deserves chances too, and zzzzzzzzzz... I love Le Boss, and I don't like when players mouth off in the press, but I am beyond dumbfounded as to how Arsene can continue to defend Lukasz (Sean's more in-depth piece can be found after this one). Wojciech probably isn't Casillas, but we'll never know if he can't get a game. Compounding all this is the fact that Szczesny is out of contract after this season. Loyalty to Fabianski may cost us the services of someone who could be a damn good keeper, and sight-unseen is certainly better than Flappyanski. Arsene needs to tread lightly: he can't kowtow to Szczesny's public demands, as this will encourage others to do what he did. But he can't just bench the good Pole for the crap one as he has done. I suppose these are the reasons why Wenger is the manager and we're not.

This Saturday Arsenal host West Bromwich Albion. While many of the Arsenal faithful might go in expecting an easy win, I would advise caution. We've had a number of first team players compete for 120 minutes in midweek, so some squad rotation will be necessary, and the Baggies, while newly promoted, are no strangers to the Premier League, so they'll be geared up to take down a top side. Meanwhile we've got the Chavs a week later, so the element of distraction will be in the air, and we're still top of the injury table at the moment.

A lot of factors point against us this weekend. I say fuck factors. We are the Arsenal, we're at home and coming off a massive win (even if it is only the Carling Cup) over our rivals, after a sour draw last weekend. We're second in the table and we have something to prove against (with all deference to West Brom's fans) a mediocre side. People love to think the title is decided against the other top teams, and they are. But that's only because the title is decided every week. Our boys in red and white will need to go out there and hang goals on the opposition until they can't hold their head up. No more clemency, no more quarter. Just go out there, do the job, gun them down. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!

Normally I tell everyone to stay classy, but I think we can avoid that for just a little while to enjoy this picture:

Stay relatively classy, Gooners and Goonerettes...

Delusions of Competence

Lukasz Fabianski, I am sick of your shit. No, really, enough is enough...time to sod off back to Legia Warsaw, which is about your level.Admittedly, I did not see the match on Tuesday...I was stuck at work, as I am for all mid-week fixtures thanks to my cubicle job. However, every match report and every forum comment that I have seen (despite the generally-low level of knowledge the average person has about goalkeeping) has indicated that dear old Flappyhandski has lived up to his nickname once again. The way it's told, a relatively weak shot has, for the umpteenth time, found its way through the taffy wrists of our Number 2 (and if anyone has embodied a number-two, it's Fabianski).
Look, I don't like slagging off one of our own. Even with, say, Pascal Cygan I can remember the two goals he scored in one match. Sylvain Wiltord won us the league at Old Trafford. Gilles Grimandi was hideously underrated. The only times in recent memory where I've actively hated an Arsenal player are in the cases of Jose Antonio Reyes, Alexander Hleb and William Gallas. But, I probably hate this guy more than any of them. Why?

Because, this right here personifies everything about this man. The ball in our net, once again on a preventable shot, and our custodian and last line of defense staring at it like half a moron.
This perhaps is a little harsh on him personally. I'm sure he's a perfectly decent human being and he probably can do some things very well - perhaps he's ace at making dinner for the missus, or alphabetizing his DVD collection or what-have-you. But, he's shit at goalkeeping, and it's gotten to the point where I get angry even seeing him on the bench.

The worst part about it, of course, is the absolutely misplaced faith the boss has in this man. I am no Wenger-hater - I am nothing but appreciative of the spell of success that he has brought our club, recent dry spell aside. However, every so often he has his little blind spots, and they have more often than not tended to reside between our sticks. Richard Wright, Guillame Warmuz, Rami Shabaan, Stuart Taylor, misusing the young Alex Manninger, the list goes on.

He has intimated in the past that he has wowed everyone on the training ground, and just needs that one little spark to make it work out in games. Well, you know what? I say that's horseshit. There have been keepers with better pedigrees than him who have received far fewer chances to make their mark in the Premier League. You almost surely remember Massimo Taibbi, who had one high-profile blunder for the Manks before being summarily dismissed from service. Previous to that though, he came through the Milan reserve ranks before appearing 177 times for Piacenza - not AC Milan by any stretch, but not Legia Warsaw either.

Or, to get a little obscure, how about the case of Kostas Chalkias? Capped quite a few times for Greece, a few spells with a Champions League perennial in Panathinaikos, he lasted 5 matches for Portsmouth (effin' PORTSMOUTH!) before being sent home on his bike...and he never had a single error as high-profile as the legion committed by our Pole.

Ideally, what you want from your goalkeeper is either a fire-breathing Looney Tune in the Jens Lehmann mold, or a steady guy who carries himself with quiet confidence (think Manuel Neuer in this past World Cup). Fabianski combines the worst of the first world with an utter lack of the second - he's all frenzied motion and obvious desperation. How can any central-defense pairing in the world go about their business when someone like that is charged with mopping up after them?

This is the inverse of what I believe has happened with Manuel Almunia so far this season. With the additions of Laurent Koscielny and Sebastian Squillaci, he can play with the knowledge that for the most part, he is well-protected during the course of a match. In everything from his shot-stopping to his positioning, awareness and domination of his area, he has markedly improved. As a goalkeeper, I can tell you that the central two and the keeper have a symbiotic relationship - if one part fails, both do. With Fabianski, well, he's a fountain of fail, isn't he?

The worst part about it is that this guy isn't even in the time zone of being the best Polish goalkeeper in the squad (that takes some doing!). Wojciech Szczcesny had a brilliant spell on loan to Brentford, is ambitious and confident, and displayed both shot-stopping and aerial ability in a shit-kicking league. I would trust him against the Boltons and Blackburns of the world FAR more than I would Fabianski, and the fact that he wasn't even in the squad for the League Cup game is mystifying to me.

I'm just sick of this guy, and want him gone. Sorry for the negative post, but I've had all I can stand.

Minute-by-Minute: Sunderland 1-1 Arsenal

(Note: This was supposed to be updated during the game, but The Blind Pig's wi-fi wasn't connecting for some reason. Hopefully for later ones we'll get that sorted out. This is unedited from my thoughts at the time though)


Here are the teams, nicked shamelessly from the Guardian:

Arsenal: Almunia, Clichy, Squillaci, Koscielny, Sagna, Song, Wilshere, Nasri, Fabregas, Arshavin, Chamakh
Subs: Fabianski, Rosicky, Vela, Denilson, Djourou, Eboue, Gibbs

Sunderland: Mignolet, Onouha, Bramble, Ferdinand, Richardson, El-Mohamdy, Riveros, Meyler, Malbranque, Welbeck, Bent
Subs: Carson, Bardsley, Zenden, Da Silva, Reid, Colback, Gyan

As mentioned in my preview post, this is a fixture that Arsenal lost last season, thanks to the man who we all know is really cack, Darren Bent (though we don't have much reason to sing that anymore with Eduardo's departure). This season should be different though, as our Gunners are on a goal-scoring rampage at the moment.

The big surprise though is on Sunderland's end, as World Cup star Asamoah Gyan has been left on the bench. Perhaps Steve Bruce thinks that Bent will provide the necessary physical presence, or it could be that he wants to use him late on when defenders' legs tire. Either way, former Manchester United prospect Danny Welbeck steps in to partner Bent up front.

As for Arsenal, it's the same side that put Braga to the sword mid-week. Continuity is usually a good thing, but Sunderland may be a tougher out...especially at the Stadium of Light. If things go pear-shaped, we can be a lot more confident in Vela's ability than in previous seasons.

1' - Off we go! Henderson sends an early shot into low-hanging orbit. NORAD will keep us posted, I'm sure.

4' - Sunderland have actually had much of the early exchanges, but the Arsenal backline have had little trouble so far.

5'- Some good work uin midfield has Song on top of the area. His square ball to Arshavin leaves the Russian with room, but his effort matches Henderson's on its way to the Van Allen Belt.

7' - Sunderland win a corner off of Sagna. Henderson to take, but it's skied over everyone and safely out of play. That was dreadful.

9' - Clichy wins the ball on the sideline, and gets a kick from El-Mohamdy for his troubles. But yeah, we're not targeted by these northern shitkicker sides or anything.

10' - Henderson wins another corner off of Cesc. It comes to the near post, but the Arsenal defense clear the danger with minimal fuss.

12' - A long free kick from the Black Cats comes into the box. The defense clears, but it comes back out to Henderson for the volley. No prizes for guessing which galaxy it ended up in.

GOAL! (Fabregas 13) - What a freak occurrence that was! Fabregas closed down Ferdinand's clearance, and it loops over Mignolet and into the unguarded net! The defender was badly at fault there, as he dallied over the ball for far too long. I can't say I've seen anything like that in quite some time. The Black Cats will be gutted to concede after dominating the game so far. Up the other end, Malbranque shouts for a penalty but if anything, he fouled his defender.

15' - Another Sunderland corner...Onouha wins his header, but it flies over the crossbar.

16' - Richardson canters down the sideline, and his cross is cut out by Koscileny. It comes out to Malbranque outside the area, and he completely Hendersons it.

18' - Yet another corner for the home side, as Clichy cuts out a cross. It's dealt with, but Sunderland come back in through Henderson. His looping cross is caught easily by Almunia.

19' - Song and Nasri combine to give Sagna a chance to cross. It comes to Song, but Mignolet saves at his near post. Wilshere with the corner, but Sudnerland clear.

21' - After Cesc has the run of the Sunderland midfield, some interplay leads to a shot by Nasri that appears to come off the hand of Ferdinand. On the replay, it's a stonewall penalty, but the referee isn't interested.

23' - Wilshere is robbed by Welbeck distressingly close to the Arsenal area. In response, he hacks him down, and his cautioned. The free kick is poor, and Arsenal clear.

25' - Sunderland are in the Arsenal area again...Song clears for a corner. Almunia punches but doesn't have a lot on it. Luckily, the shot back in is a daisy cutter that the keeper easily claims.

27' - Rosicky looks to be warming up and preparing to come on. The announcers reckon he may be coming on for Fabregas. Meanwhile, Koscileny trips Bent in the area, but Dowd is not interested again. In fairness, it could have been given.

28' - Arshavin has an effort from the side of the penalty area after some good work by Song, but Mignolet comfortably saves. By the way, on the replay, Bent runs into Koscileny...that was never a penalty.

29' - Richardson wins another corner off of Clichy. In the meantime, Rosicky comes on for the Captain, and takes the armband in the process. Almunia comfortably claims the corner.

31' - Bramble and Koscileny collide, and a foul is given to the Arsenal man. The free kick is cleared, but Sudnerland keep battering at the door. Several crosses come in, but the Arsenal defense just do clear. Henderson finally gets the last one in, but Bent heads wide. He was offisde anyway, though. Still, this is quite the spell of pressure from the Black Cats.

34' - A poor pass from Song leads to the ball being given away. He wins it back from Malbranque, but leaves his foot in and is called for a soft foul. Once again, the home side can't do anything with the set piece.

36' - El-Mohamedy causes problems once again, as his cross finds the onrushing Riveros on the back post. He makes a hash of it though, and Almunia is able to collect.

38' - Song is finally booked, as he fouls Henderson in the middle of the park after giving it away again, and reacts poorly to the call. He's having a bit of a mare so far.

40' - A poor pass from Henderson sends Arsenal away. Chamakh's strong link-up play gets it to Nasri, who finds Clichy on the wing. He cuts it to the back post, but no one was making the run. I certainly hope that wasn't a shot, anyway.

42' - Wait a minute, Richardson CAPTAINS this lot? Really?

43' - The stat came up that Sunderland has had 65% of the possession...I can't remember when we've had so little of the ball against a midtable side. Anyway, Chamakh's hard work wins a corner. Nasri takes, but it's cleared out immediately.

45' - Welbeck steals the ball off of Clichy in the area, just an unforgiveable lapse from the LB, and it eventually comes to El-Mohamedy, whose looping ball into the area is claimed by Almunia. That is a let-off for Arsenal there,

45 + 3' - Dowd blows his whistle, closing the curtain on what has been a strange half of football. Arsenal go into the interval with a 1-0 lead, but they really should scram before the cops show up. Sunderland have played with verve and bite, and have really jumped all over a strangely-reserved Arsenal squad. I don't know if it's a continental hangover or what, but the Gunners have largely been abysmal. Poor passing, lethargic off the ball...only the central defense have come out of this with any credit so far (besides our now-departed captain, of course). I don't know what Arsenal can do to shake this up in the second half...although I suppose an optimist may say that Sunderland may get discouraged the longer this goes without a goal for them. Getting to halftime without conceding was huge mentally...hopefully the team can kick on from here and get back into this game somewhat.


46' - Rashida still doesn't have a beer. Poor show from the lads behind the bar...meanwhile, Sunderland pick up where they left off, with Welbeck hooking a shot miles over.

47' - Nasri plays a lovely ball over the top to Chamakh...the Moroccan crosses to Arshavin, who volleys over the bar. That was a real chance there.

48' - Welbeck needlessly follows through on Sagna long after the ball has left, and gets a deserved yellow card.

49' - Rosicky dances through several defenders, and finds Song in a central position. The Cameroonian really should have had a pop himself, but passes off to Arshavin off to the side. His bad-angle shot is inevitably far wide of the mark.

50' - Sunderland's defense is looking a little ropey. This won't finish 1-0, I reckon.

52' - Fabulous save by Mignolet! Chamakh is played through one-on-one thanks to a great ball from Nasri, but the Belgian comes off his line quickly to bravely block at the big man's feet.

55' - Another yellow card for Song, who is off! I was afraid this would happen...and it was a stupid one, too. Song blocked off his man off the was definitely a foul, but arguably not a yellow. Still, you have to be careful when you're on a caution already AND the ref is a cunt like Phil Dowd. This will be a real test of Arsenal's mettle now.

57' - Sunderland win another corner. They work it well to Bent, who has a golden chance in a central position. Luckily, he just about keeps his shot inside the stadium. Meanwhile, Denilson comes on for the completely peripheral Arshavin.

59' - Bramble fouls Wilshere on the edge of the area. Somehow, this isn't a card? Nasri to take...but his effort loops onto the top of the net. Wasted chance, there.

62' - Gyan is just about to come on...we're going to find out a lot about this Arsenal team now.

63' - Hey! A yellow card for Sunderland! Riveros gets it for holding Chamakh back. That will be his last contribution, as he comes off for Gyan.

65' - Gyan wins another corner for the home side. It's a good one, but Clichy clears off the line after it comes off of Denilson's shoulder.

67' - Gyan fluffs a chance to take a shot from a central location, but he had made the chance for himself by brushing Clichy off the ball as if he were a child. The more time passes, the more Kieran Gibbs looks like the better option there.

69' - Yet another comes to the edge of the area, but once again low-hanging satellites are in danger. Didn't see who hit it, sorry. Up the other end, patient build-up from Arsenal (once again thanks to the hold-up play of Chamakh) results in a tame shot wide of the post from Rosicky.

71' - Phil Dowd is having a shocker. Denilson gets slid through from behind, and it's not even a foul. This ref is a fucking one-man farce. Then, Clichy goes down softly under the attentions of Onouha, and THAT is called? Fuck's sake.

73' - Rosicky to take, but Mignolet catches easily.

74' - PENALTY TO ARSENAL! - Nasri is tripped in the area by El-Mohamdy. Stupid, stupid penalty to concede.

74' - MISSED! - Rosicky takes it for some reason, and hammers it way over the crossbar! Why on earth was he the man to take the shot? For all of his talents, scoring isn't one of them and honestly we just threw away a goal there.

76' - Sunderland change, Zenden on for Onouha.

80' - Nasri and Rosicky combine nicely down the left, but the move breaks down when the latter opts to get too cute with the ball. He's another who has had somewhat of a mare.

81' - Malbranque finds Welbeck in the area, and he wins his header...but Almunia is positioned perfectly and catches well. Up the other end, Chamakh almost gets on the end of a raking long ball, but Mignolet collects.

83' - Nasri is the latest to send a shot off the launch pad and into the Andromeda Galaxy.

84' - Strangely, Arsenal have had far more fo the ball with 10 men. Denilson makes a nice run down the center, but is hacked down by Malbranque. The Frenchman gets a yellow for that, and apparently will also be coming off shortly.

85' - Nasri tees it to Denilson, whose kick is shite and goes tamely wide. Malbranque is off for Andy Reid, so that's all the subs for both teams, then.

87' - Going up for a header, Zenden lands on Chamakh's ankle on the way down. The Moroccan will milk this a bit, and good for him. Everyone does it for us.

88' - Chamakh is fouled again...he has been so important to Arsenal keeping the ball today, especially in the second half. It's taken short - Nasri skins two guys by the corner flag, but it's cut out. Sunderland break quickly, but Henderson's long-range effort is well held by Almunia.

90' - Rosicky defends against El-Mohamedy down the wing. His cross is blocked, but it's another corner...Sunderland's 10th. Denilson blocks...four minutes of added time!

92' - Mignolet's long punt sends Sunderland away, but Arsenal deal with it. Now they break through Chamakh...he's 1-on-3, but he finds Denilson who flashes his shot just wide.

93' - All hands to the pumps now...

94' - One last corner, won by Bramble. Reid's effort is cleared out...

GOAL! (Bent 95) - It is deserved, but my fucking god, what a sickener. Clichy clears into Koscielny, and Darren Bent is there to poke it into the net with the last kick of the game.

Well, you can certainly blame this on Phil Dowd if you want, and you wouldn't be miles off. The red card was debatable at best, with the second yellow being as soft off a sending-off as you'll ever want to see. But, at the end of the day, Arsenal were 30 seconds away from winning this game and they blew it. Even worse, goal-shy Tommy Rosicky was chosen to take the penalty kick that would have put the final nail in Sunderland's coffin. If we're being honest with ourselves, his miss was as predictable as it was frustrating. '

So, two points dropped then, and in as hideous a fashion as we have in recent memory. A win here - with no Fabregas after 20 minutes or so, a bullshit red card AND a missed penalty - would have gone a long way towards proving that this isn't the same old Arsenal. Until proven otherwise though...well...questions have to be asked, right? Champions win matches like this. We didn't.

Until next week...

Long Live The King, & Cesc On Fire

I suppose the first thing I should mention this week is the great success that was the Arsenal America-NYC Arsenal Supporters event last Saturday. I don't think I've spoken with anyone on that day or since who had anything but positive things to say about the experience. It was clearly the biggest Arsenal-related event ever held in North America, which is nothing to sneeze at, and thanks to all the hard work put in behind the scenes, really did go off without a hitch. With that in mind, I'd like to thank everyone who participated for coming out, and express sincerest thanks to our own Kurtis Powers and Josh Templeton (Arsenal America president) for their efforts in putting this together, it really would not have worked without you. Additional thanks to Jessica Tuck and all the staff at New York Red Bulls for accomodating us all for this event.

Many of you have noticed through various Facebook posts that the event garnered significant major media exposure for Arsenal fans in America, which is no bad thing. Our day with King Henry became a featured story on ESPN Soccernet, was written up on the USA site (by yours truly), featured on the website First Touch, and will be covered in an upcoming Arsenal matchday programme. I personally find this all very exciting, and it fills me with pride being a Gooner in America in general and in New York in particular, our passion for the club is drawing positive notice in London and elsewhere. Keep it up you Red & White beauties, keep it up.

Regarding the club itself, things on the pitch have gone fairly swimmingly of late, I have to say. We've taken 9 out of the last 9 points, including a hard-fought 4-1 win home to the still-thuggish Bolton. Referee Stewart Atwell, simply put, did a very poor job officiating the Bolton match, and we're very lucky no one was severely injured during the match. Professional Bastard Kevin Davies made three "challenges" that never looked like getting the ball but certainly got every bit of the man, yet was never so much as booked. Two of them, a clattering tackle that took out Jack Wilshere (no ball, no call) and a "header" that missed the ball by about 5 seconds but certainly connected with Koscielny's noggin, in my opinion were despicable yet drew zero reaction that I could see from Atwell. Bolton did eventually see red as Gary Cahill was sent off for a studs-up tackle from behind on Chamakh across the touchline. Many people, many Gooners among them, have come out saying it was a harsh red card, and Match of the Day excused Cahill for saying "he didn't maim (Chamakh)"; I personally couldn't disagree more. This type of tackle is verboten so as to safeguard players. If the player has to be injured to warrant a red card, then there is no point making these tackles illegal in the first place.

I recall turning to someone after the red card and saying, "You watch: now that they're down a man, they'll be even dirtier, and they won't even be booked because they've had a red card." Damn my precognition. Bolton defender Paul Robinson came in with studs about a foot over the ball on the edge of his box, taking out Diaby, a sure legbreaker that About was lucky to escape from. Robinson, knowing himself to be in the wrong, feigned injury himself, and miraculously escaped booking. We didn't win so much as a free kick!

I find myself growing weary of discussing the way these tackles are accepted, even encouraged by the English press, particularly when committed by English players. THIS IS NOT THE 1970'S. Chopper Harris and his ilk are no more. The game of football has advanced far beyond the "22 shitkickers knocking about in a mud pit" level. It is a technically advanced game these days, and if Shawcross and his like are what England has to rely on, they will experience even more dire times internationally. That is unless the Alan Hansen's of the world stop defending thuggery and start looking out for the safety of professional athletes in the Premier League. SORT IT OUT.

All of this nonsense overlooked at very nice performance by Arsenal. Were it not for some rather poor finishing, Andrei Arshavin could have had a first-half hat-trick. As it was, the scoring was opened when a beautiful ball from Wilshere was latched onto by Cesc, who's crossing pass created a goal line scramble where Laurent Koscielny knocked in his first Arsenal goal. However, it was back to square one a few minutes later when Koscielny, attempting to head a ball in the box back to Almunia, put it out into the path of Lee, who crossed to Elmander for an equalizer. 1-1 due to carelessness at the half.

The second half was a bit more fortunate. We regained the lead when Cesc's cross found Chamakh for a lovely header past the keeper, and in the 78th minute (following the Cahill red card), Arshavin's quick thinking in the box found Alex Song, and the Cameroonian created some space and shot over the keeper to open his account on the season. The introduction of Denilson saw Arsenal play keep-away for several minutes, until Cesc got tired of that and decided he wanted another Arsenal goal. The capain put a ball over the top to the substiture Vela, who scored his first goal of the season in style. 4-1, and well-deserved.

The Wednesday match against Braga saw less drama. Home against the Portuguese team known as the "Arsenalistas" for their red/white kits and commitment to playing attractive football, Arsenal put on a clinic, attacking with relish, dominating possession and harrying the opposition. No surprises then that Cesc Fabregas was at the center of it all, scoring twice and narrowly missing a hat trick, but at all times bossing the midfield. Like a boss.

Chamakh, fouled by the keeper, drew a penalty to open things, which was finished coolly by Cesc to take the lead. Cesc still felt generous though, and after dancing through defenders, provided a lovely through ball to set up Arshavin, who struck near-post to make it 2-0. We got a third near halftime when that little genius Jack cheekily backheeled a ball into Chamakh's path, and the Moroccan's finish was class.

The nightmare was only half over for Braga however, and Arsenal didn't give them any respite in the second half. Cesc laid a ball to Arshavin, and once the Russian got on it, he crossed back to Cesc, who scored (I believe) his first header since taking a point at the death at Sunderland 2 seasons ago. After Chamakh gave way to Vela, our Mexican superstar was played into a one-on-one with the keeper by AA23, and didn't disappoint, slyly chipping over the keeper. It's kind of his move. Vela couldn't stop scoring, and when Cesc latched onto a long ball in the box, rolled it unselfishly to Carlos, who side-footed home. 6-0, a rocking Emirates, and very happy Gooners, including Austin Williams who was present at the match.

Several pundits have gone out of their way to disparage our win, saying "it's only Braga." To which I reply, "Go fuck yourselves, San Diego." We were brilliant, and Braga is certainly no worse than Rangers, who held United to a draw Tuesday night. But as you all ought to know by now, the press can't tolerate it when Arsenal do well. Which will make our next trophy that much more satisfying.

Speaking of cancerous assholes--I know we weren't speaking of them, but I needed a segue... shut up--Sam Allardyce opened his (located on his face where mouths usually are) to say that Arsene Wenger has all the press in his pocket, and it's getting so that you can't tackle against Arsenal. If by "tackle" you mean "crunch into with studs up and intent to injure," you're still wrong, Fat Sam. The Bolton match should attest to that. Also, Arsene Wenger is generally disregarded by the English press as foreign (obviously) and soft (he's not, but they're jingoistic morons). Of course, I needed all of these statements translated, because when Fat Sam says something, all I hear is a walrus barking for a fish at the Aquarium. Owen Coyle said something about Arsene Wenger sending him a text that was complimentary, then was apparently devastated when Arsene mentioned that Robinson deserved sending off for trying to break Diaby's leg. I presume Coyle later lay facedown in tears on his pretty pink bed and wrote in his diary what a jerk Arsene is and how he'd never go out with him in a million years.

Sunderland tomorrow at 12:30 EST. If you're in NYC but can't be at The Blind Pig, hopefully you're watching elsewhere, but in any case, be sure to raise your glass and your voice for the Arsenal. COME ON YOU GUNNERS.

Preview: Sunderland vs. Arsenal

Greetings, fellow Gooners!

For those that don't know me, I am the newest contributor to the Modern Gooner...and I'm stoked to be here. You will find me at the Blind Pig on weekend matchdays (during the week, I'm unfortunately chained and manacled to my cubicle - a shite state of affairs, but I'm a foot or so too short to be between the sticks for Arsenal!), and my intention is to handle match previews and matchday live-blogging.

That said, we are coming off the 6-0 demolition of a decent Braga side in the Champions' League. There has been the usual patronizing rumblings in the Idiot Punditry about how it doesn't count because they're just a small team from a footballing backwater (that has a hilarious habit of kicking England's ass in international play, but don't let that stop you, Idiot Pundits!), but let's not forget that they had eliminated Sevilla from the competition not that long ago. Meanwhile, the Rent Boy Chavs beat up on a smaller club than Braga, conceded a comedy goal in the process, and they are the all-conquering Uncrowned Champeens of Europe. Get to fuck.

Anyway, I didn't see the match, but the highlights were majestic. Braga were defensively porous and their keeper might have done better on one or two, but the fact remains that the result was more down to Arsenal's play than Braga being poor. This was Arsenal in the mood, and hopefully that will carry over to tomorrow's clash with a fairly mediocre Sunderland side. On the other hand, away games after a midweek fixture have not been kind to the Gunners in the past, so surely this will not be a walkover.

For the good guys, I imagine the back five picks itself - Manuel Almunia, Gael Clichy, Sebastian Squillaci, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna. The central pairing had the occasion of the Braga match to get to know each other a bit in as low-pressure a situation as you'll find. This will be a sterner test, but the two have provided reasonable performances so far. That higher level of assurance and calm has, in my opinion, contributed to Almunia's decent start to the campaign. Long may it continue. Sagna has also been playing well, but Clichy has continued his worryingly-erratic form from the end of last season. I wouldn't be overly surprised if Kieran Gibbs steps in at the LB slot.

The midfield may see Tomas Rosicky get a start, but I doubt it. He will be a fine choice to come off the bench if the worst happens and we're down a goal or tied in the second half, though. Given the likely-physical nature of the opponents, I can see Cesc Fabregas playing ahead of Alex Song and Jack Wilshere, whose ongoing transformation from one-dimensional attacking threat to box-to-box midfielder is an unexpected (but welcome) surprise.

The front three will hopefully see a continuation from the Braga match, with the impressive Marouane Chamakh leading the line, flanked by Andrei Arshavin and Samir Nasri. That said, if Nasri isn't quite ready to play two matches in a week after his recent injury, then I would love to see Carlos Vela come in on the left. He already has more goals in this young season than in the entirety of the last, and there is a directness to his play that has been lacking in his previous appearances.

However we line up, there will be problems for this Sunderland team. Their line in the table so far - 4 played, W1 L1 D2, GF 4 GA 4 GD 0 - is a marvelous picture of just how middle-of-the-road this lot is. The Guardian reckons that their backline will consist of Nedum Onouha (Great Young Failed English Hope # 3482048), Anton Ferdinand (Great Young Failed English Hope # 3232937), Titus Bramble (Great Young Failed English Hope # 3111113) and Kieran Richardson (Great Young Failed English Hope # 2323287).

Seriously, it's like a necromancer got a hold of the corpse of England's U-21 team from 1999.

This is not a backline that on paper should provide anything beyond token resistance to the Arsenal attack, but they have a solid prospect in goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The Belgian is in due to an injury to Scott Gordon (I know, I'm stunned too). After a somewhat shaky start in their draw with Birmingham earlier this season, the young custodian came up with a string of fantastic saves to repel Manchester City's overpriced and overrated soldiers of fortune. It's one thing to keep out Carlos Tevez when he's missing sitters from millimeters out, and quite another to stop our rampaging hordes. That said, these young backup keepers always seem to play blinders against us. Adam Bogdan was brilliant for Bolton last week despite conceding four, and besides that - remember Stefan Postma for Aston Villa a few years back? If Mignolet keeps us out one or two times early in the match, will our guys get frustrated? It's something to keep in mind.

I don't know much about their midfield, though I am a little shocked to see Steed Malbranque still in the league. Between the back four and this guy, there's more uncoordinated shuffling zombies in this team than in your average Romero flick. Ahmed El Mohamedy - on loan from the Egyptian league - will be on the other flank (I haven't seen him play, but Egypt is one of the better African sides...keep that in mind) while the center will consist of Jordan Henderson (in for suspended violent psychopath Lee Cattermole) and Paraguayan World Cup ace Cristian Riveros. This is largely an unknown quality for punters like us, but Le Boss will surely know all about Riveros from his scouting and punditry work in South Africa at the very least.

Darren Bent (Great Young Failed English Hope # 3287328) will partner Ghanaian target man Asamoah Gyan up top. This is where Sunderland can give us the most problems if their midfield and/or fullbacks can get them the ball. While our defense handled the aerial bombardment of Blackburn fairly well, this is another matter entirely. While Sam Walrusface's men (Quick aside: you see the quotes in the press from him today? Is he a delusional twat or what?) are big and physical and that's about it, Gyan especially possesses some actual skill to go with it. I'm not saying they're going to run riot, but it is a point of concern.

That said, this is a fixture that Arsenal lost last season and I think the lads will be out for revenge. The official prediction from this quarter is 3-1 to the Arsenal.

Thanks for reading, and hopefully see you at the Pig!

- Sean

This Is Who We Are: The New York City Arsenal Supporters

In 2008, in an effort to establish some unity among Arsenal supporters at Nevada Smiths, Kurtis Powers and Brett Chase decided to start introducing themselves to the various people watching Arsenal separately. A few handshakes resulted in the creation of the New York City Arsenal Supporters…

This Is Who We Are: The New York City Arsenal Supporters

We are local, vocal, of as many ethnicities and backgrounds as make up New York.
We are organized but relaxed in attitude, intensely passionate about Arsenal but reasonable enough to objectively discuss the sport with opposing fans.
We are American and Arsenal ’til we die.

There are millions of Arsenal supporters around the world, and none are lesser for being from somewhere other than England. This is one reason why we started the NYC Arsenal Supporters, as a way to bring these Arsenal fans here together. Over time, we’ve seen good friendships develop within the group, and even if there are a few minor personality conflicts, the days when we gather together to sing up and cheer on the Arsenal, all disputes are forgotten in our unity behind the club. We are a red & white family, in the end.

We have seen our numbers swell from our early days at Nevada Smiths with a small, hardcore group of 10-15 to our present days at The Blind Pig, when a 7:45am match against an opponent as nondescript as Blackburn (no offense… oh who am I kidding, I hate Blackburn) will draw upwards of fifty, and a match against a “name” opponent means well over 100. To the cynical, such growth could only mean more Americans latching on to an English club for a while as a fad, but those of us who have watched this group grow and mature know better. The numbers may have increased, but we all still sing with the same heart (and volume), display our colors with as much pride, and love the Arsenal just as much as any Gooner from N5.

American Gooners spend loads of their own hard-earned money on shirts and other items expressing their love for the club. That’s not even to mention the number who spend thousands of dollars to go to London and other places to see the Gunners play whenever possible. Supporting a club in another country with this kind of zeal takes a true commitment, that is more than financial. It is a sacrifice demonstrated by the great number of us who turn out each weekend here in NYC for every match, singing proudly, win, lose or draw, and it’s a sacrifice that we gladly make.

It’s obviously far more difficult to be an Arsenal fan here in New York, or indeed, anywhere across America than it is for supporters from London or anywhere else in Britain; as it is for many of us here, their families indoctrinate them into supporting a team. While there are a few among the NYC Arsenal Supporters who are from North London or England, the majority of us have been drawn to Arsenal some other way. I know for myself, I did not arbitrarily choose a club and start following them; in a way, Arsenal chose me as much as I chose Arsenal. I expect it was the same for all of us.

We are American, we are New York, we are Arsenal ‘til we die. And we provide another meaning behind the line, “We all follow the Arsenal, over land and sea.”
This is who we are. The New York City Arsenal Supporters. A club, a religion, a family.


Okay, some brief notes on Arsenal and our event this weekend. As we all know, Theo picked up a nasty ankle injury, putting him out 4-6 weeks (since it's Theo, probably 8 weeks). This came after Capello announced the England physios' prognosis that it would only be 2 weeks. The whole thing reminds me of van Persie's injury for Holland last year: an international match (read: positively useless) where the injury was caused by a challenge that wasn't terrible. The most disconcerting similarity however, is that in each case, the national team's physician's prognosis was optimistic to the point of lying, and this I fear will become a trend. By the time the ugly truth about the injury is found out, the international break is over and their coaches and staff aren't under a microscope anymore, as they've fucked off like a thief in the night.

The other notable injury from this catastrophic round of USELESS FUCKING INTERNATIONAL MATCHES was a slight achilles tendon injury for Tom Vermaelen, meaning he will miss the Bolton match tomorrow. While I think we all wanted a look at new boy Sebastien Squillaci, this is hardly the way any of us would've had it. We may have Samir Nasri back for tomorrow, which is a small boon in a sea of misery. In all, after seeing John Terry and Frank Lampard excused from the England squad through "injury," only for Ancelotti to marvel at how well they had "healed" during the Switzerland v England match. Not for nothing, but if Arsene is so concerned with the risk of injury to his own players during international matches, I think we could all appreciate a little less honesty when it comes to injuries. What are the national teams going to do, demand to examine the player?

Finally, we come to the main event of the weekend if you're an Arsenal supporter in NYC this weekend, the TH14 extravaganza. The itinerary includes a sort of Gooner social at our old haunt Nevada Smiths tonight, then the Bolton match at our new home the Blind Pig tomorrow morning (kickoff is at 10am, but with about 200 people expected, you'll do well to arrive earlier than that). Tomorrow afternoon, we head out to Harrison, NJ to see the great Thierry Henry himself leading Red Bull New York against Stan Kroenke's Colorado Rapids; afterward, those who have paid for tickets with us will be able to meet Arsenal's all-time leading scorer himself. Our contact at Red Bulls tells us that Thierry is very excited about the event, so let's make sure we sing his name loudly and proudly, during and after the match. In honor of our hero, here is the greatest picture ever taken of Thierry Henry:

Anyone with questions about the event or who wish to purchase the few remaining seats can email, or reach out to Kurtis and myself on facebook at NYC Arsenal Supporters, or visit the Special thanks for extraordinary efforts in making this a reality go out to Arsenal America president Josh Templeton and vice-president Kurtis Powers. Well done, brothers.

I hope to see everyone out tonight or at least tomorrow, this really will be a once in a lifetime event, and is already the biggest Arsenal event ever held in North America. Until then... VIVE L'ARSENAL!!! VIVE L'HENRY!!!

This Is Our Squad, Let's Get Behind Them.

Hello again, mon Arsamis. Much has happened since I last posted (vacations have a way of making their presence felt), and I don't think I need to comment much on the Blackpool and Blackburn matches. Blackpool acquitted themselves well I thought, for a longshot promoted side with just 10 men; if our finishing had been sharper, we would have had 9 or more. Theo got his first career hat trick, and given his poor preseason, his renaissance was most unexpected for me. At least we didn't concede (although an early header after we broke the deadlock would have been put away by better opponents).

The Blackburn away match was, well, a typical Blackburn away match in many respects. Allardyce's gorillas attempted to push, shove, trip and foul their way to victory, we relied on our "Total Football" mentality, and thanks to goals from Theo and Arshavin, we prevailed. Much has been said about the goal we conceded, and I admit it concerned me. Sagna was caught too far forward, Samba took the ball out of the back unopposed, and when we saw Koscielny battling with the physical (and cuntish) El-Hadj Diouche, the French-Pole (Frole? Ponch?) was bested; Diouf crossed the ball into the middle for his teammate/namesake Other Guy Diouf, as Clichy stood stock-still, and an easy goal was scored. No fault of Almunia's, the team defence let us down.

Speaking of Almunia, as the transfer window closed on Tuesday with no further purchases, he has been solidified as the Arsenal # 1, for good or ill. I would have liked to have seen Schwarzer come in; he was our only realistic target, since City would never have sold us Given and Sebastien Frey is linked with us as a matter of course. Schwarzer, for me, is not a great keeper, but very good, and a huge improvement over Almunia and FabiIfuckinghatethatguy in their weaker areas (set pieces especially). But as Fulham couldn't find a replacement, Stockdale was injured, and since Mark Hughes is a complete and utter cunt, the sale was nixed and we were left with what we had.

Which brings me to the title of the post: This is our squad, let's get behind them. Having had a few days to cool down, I can say that I overreacted a bit to the news that we had bought no keeper, that having been identified as a period of need at the start of the window. I was livid, probably more upset with the manager than I've ever been before. But all I needed was a quick look around the blogosphere to peek at some of the comments submitted by Arsenal "supporters." Our own fans were calling Arsene Wenger, the single most successful manager in Arsenal history and a football icon in his own right, a pedophile, and apparently some began comparing him to mass-murdering despots (Hitler was definitely used as an example... not sure if Pol Pot got the mention but he's usually the forgotten mass-murdering dictator).

Most others didn't quite go that far but made it a point to continuously state that we are hopeless, will be lucky to finish top-10, blah, blah, snore. The typical doom and gloomers; even as a general pessimist, I don't understand this outlook. If everything is so awful and the future is already negatively decided, why bother worrying about the club? Where is the joy in having a team to cheer if you don't bother to take joy from it? I came across so many of these "fans" and their ilk, and engaged a few myself, that I quickly forgot my own rage at a signing that wasn't and was pressed into defending Arsene and the club against our own bone-headed supporters.

Much of this ire toward the manager, based on many of the comments I came across, has as much to do with Wenger's nationality and accent as it does any actual football-related decisions. As an American, I have a small understanding of this bias; America's relationship with France does not go back as long, nor is it as intertwined, as England's, although (in recent years especially) it has been rocky at times. But I don't habitually sneer when I hear a French accent and don't understand those who do. I also am able to approach my club football affiliation without national pride entering the picture. Would it be nice to have an American on Arsenal? Of course. Would I love the club any more because of it? Doubtful.

Those of you who've read The Modern Gooner for a while will know I don't wear rose-tinted glasses; I call them as I see them, and generally admit when I'm wrong, so I don't follow Wenger blindly. But I cannot abide so-called Arsenal supporters going out of their way to have a go at the manager, the players, and other fans who actually support the club. This is blind despair, and it is just as destructive as blind faith. Being a supporter does not mean you follow along pretending everything is fine even when they're not; but it also does not mean that you mire yourself so fully in self-pity and despair that you cannot see the sunnier side of things. Being a football supporter, being an Arsenal supporter, is a lot like life: there are highs and lows, good times and bad, light and dark. Knowing this balance allows us to appreciate the good and great moments, the goals, the cups, the celebrations, that much more, because you realize that things won't always be this good. Cherish the best parts and banish the worst without discounting them. Manuel Almunia is our goalkeeper, but there is a silver lining to this situation: he's not Lukasz Fabianski.

This is our squad. Let's get behind them. Victoria Concordia Crescit.