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 Arsenal.com 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.