The (very brief) Match Report: Manchester City 0-3 Arsenal

Groeten uit Nederland!

I am minutes away from heading to Schiphol Airport and my chariot to Copenhagen, but I did happen to find a perfectly lovely Irish pub to watch the match in. So, quick bullet points and then my ratings, from what I can remember (time runs together here...the match was yesterday, right?):

  • I never thought I would say this, but Lukasz Fabianski saved our season. His brilliant reflex save on Silva in the first minute could well be the turning point for our entire year. It was a tricky and unexpected shot, and our oft-maligned stopper not only got a hand to it, but he smothered it and prevented a rebound. Save of the season so far, and he's never had a more important one. If we go down 1-0 that early in their house, we lose the game. End of.
  • Samir Nasri's improvement from last season to this one has been immense. If we win anything this season, he'll be a major reason why.
  • Mark Clattenburg got WAY too card-happy with the yellows, but he was 100% correct on Borata's red card and the penalty.
  • Johan Djourou had another shocker, and Gael Clichy wasn't much better. The sooner they are replaced with Laurent Koscielny and Kieran Gibbs, the better.
  • Fabianski also stopped that raging cunthammer Adebayor twice, which was just beautiful. Bee-yoo-ta-ful.
  • Apropos of nothing: Did anyone catch any of the PSV-Feyenood match? It was on at my pub before Arsenal's match started. Feyenood may have the very worst goalkeeper on the planet. 10-0 did not flatter PSV - actually, it should have been 14 or 15. A little perspective for West Brom, perhaps?

Fabianski 9 (Man of the Match), Clichy 5, Djourou 4, Squillaci 7, Sagna 6, Fabregas 7 (Walcott 85 - N/A), Song 8, Denilson 7, Nasri 8, Chamakh 7 (Bendtner 84 - 7), Arshavin 6 (Rosicky 70 - 6)

Eduardo We Love You. Ade, We Hate You.

Morning all, my faithful brothers and sisters in Arsenal, although I assume it will be mid-afternoon by the time I post this (apologies in advance). It's been a rather full week (thankfully) since the most recent Interlull's conclusion, with two matches played and two wins recorded. Things are looking quite rosy indeed at the moment, and this coming on the back of consecutive losses to West Brom (Eep!) and the Chelsea Rent Boys, it definitely marks a welcome change in the effort, application and, consequently, fortunes of our boys in red and white.

I'll not dwell much on the Birmingham City win at the Emirates. Sean's review was more than thorough, and the basics being covered, I'll only comment on a few instances. First, for all of our injury problems at the back, we're still far too porous defensively, no matter who's playing. Birmingham had far too many chances at our goal that were created by sloppy defending and shoddy man-marking, and these issues have plagued Arsenal for years, I would say since 2006. Hhad it not been for the quick reactions of Fabianski (who really had a very fine game indeed) and Brum's poor finishing, we could very well have lost this match 3-2. We can moan about having Koscielny and Vermaelen out all we like, but the fact remains that they too are guilty of poor positioning and lapses in judgement that far too frequently lead to capitulation (letting goals in, for the less vocabularically adept). When compared with how tightly organized Chelsea's back four are, it's a wonder we're not shipping more goals than we are. My whining about this doesn't solve the issue of course, but, as I said this has been an issue since 2006, back when we had an assistant coach for the defense:

I'd welcome him back in a heartbeat. I think we all would.

Secondly, I wouldn't expect Arsenal to be given another domestic penalty decision, particularly Chamakh, for months. All the moaning Birmingham City made after the match, amounting in the end to 30 Marlee Matlins simulating Gregorian Chants, about Chamakh diving will ensure that at the very least refs will be watching Marouane very closely indeed. Much like a soft Eduardo dive and a bleating bunch of sheepshagging Celtic fans screaming about it led to our not getting a penalty call from August until December, I would expect similar inaction from English referees. Oddly enough, although he made a meal of it, there was contact and Scott Dann made no attempt to play the ball. In the end, that's a penalty every time.

Finally, Jack Wilshere needs to learn how to tackle already. If not, we're going to have a supremely-gifted dirty bastard on our hands.

With another domestic win under our belts, we turned our sights to Europe, as we hosted Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk in a Champions League group match that marked the return of Eduardo to Ashburton Grove. I think you'll all agree that Eduardo remains a tragic figure in the eyes of Arsenal supporters.

He wasn't to start the night, and Shakhtar took up a more defensive posture than I had anticipated giving their reputation. It was a bit sloppy in the early going and this might have been a quite boring affair had we not broken the deadlock midway through the first half with one of the ugliest goals you'll see this season. A poor Arsenal corner that should've been claimed easily by the Shakhtar keeper was dropped, the ball then poked forward by Johan Djourou, and finally scrambled into the net by Alex Song. A goal is a goal of course, but that was worthy of a cynical Mourinho-type side. Not only that, but the last time Alex Song scored, he started to fancy himself the heir to Eduardo and not Gilberto Silva, and he's still going forward a bit too often for my liking rather than staying behind and cleaning up.

With that out of the way, it wasn't long before we bagged a second. A deflected cross from the right by Song reached Nasri in the box, and the French prodigy settled it and drilled the ball home with a brilliant finish. 2-0 was how we went to halftime, but there was far more to come. Shakhtar were undone by their own sloppy defending again when, after having just been warned about tangling in the box on a free kick, Adriano decided it would be a good idea to put Johan Djourou in a choke-hold and then throw him to the ground. Sadly for him the referee disagreed and pointed to the spot, and in his first match back since Sunderland last month, el capitan Cesc took a lovely penalty from the spot to make it 3-0, showing his undershirt with a Catalan birthday greeting for his mother. And even then we weren't finished.

The fourth goal was just sumptuous football from an Arsenal side very much on their day. Remarkably, Denilson played a ball forward to Chamakh, who one-touched the ball into Wilshere's path. Jack played a delightful one-two with Rosickyat the edge of the box that set him one-on-one with the Shakhtar 'keeper, who must've already been sick of picking the ball out of his own net. Despite a slightly heavy first touch, Jack got back on the ball and nimbly chipped the keeper. It was his first European goal, and put an exclamation point on yet another fantastic performance from our young Englishman. We'll certainly miss him during his earned 3-match ban.
<br/><a href="" target="_new"title="CL Highlights: Arsenal/Shakhtar">Video: CL Highlights: Arsenal/Shakhtar</a>
The fifth (!) Arsenal goal was an example of why every coach goes mad when his team doesn't play to the whistle. With Gunners besieging the Shakhtar goal (again), Nasri feigned a shot from outside the area and chipped a pass over the defense to Chamakh. Every single Donetsk (I can't just keep writing Shakhtar, it looks silly) and Arsenal player but Chamakh stopped, assuming Marouane was offside, but the linesman correctly kept his flag down. Chamakh looked at the linesman, saw he was onside, and stuck it past the poor 'keeper and into the net. 5-0 and the champagne football was wella and truly on.

The introduction of Eduardo brought not only a loud, welcoming chorus from the home supporters but also the Ukrainian side's first real attacking threats of any kind. While the visitors were never going to come back from 5-0 down, not a single home fan begrudged him his consolation goal, despite it being set up by poor Arsenal defending. Eduardo played a lob into the box that the Brazilian Jadson looped back into the box, which could and should have been cleared by a tighter and more attentive defense, but it fell into the path of the onrushing Crozilian, whose finish was classic. Nothing Fabianski could have done to stop the shot, and Eduardo earned a standing ovation from the Arsenal fans. True to his word, Eddie did not celebrate the goal at all. Pure class, to the end.

There are few ex-Arsenal players who would've received such treatment form the Arsenal support upon scoring against the Gunners, and Eduardo is held in high esteem by us all, I would think. He was to have been our replacement for Thierry Henry, and by November of his initial season, it seemed he was well on his way. The Crozilian was banging in goals left and right for us, displaying silky skill and the deftest of finishes. Sadly, a shitkicking, unskilled english laborer put an end to Eddie's goalscoring ways, breaking Dudu's ankle and, it would later seem, his confidence. It was really the aforementioned Celtic penalty and the ensuing public calling for his head and that of all cheating foreigners by the xenophobic press, along with niggling injuries and Eddie's ill-fit in the new 4-3-3, that forced Arsene's hand in selling Eduardo. There will always be a sense of what-might-have-been for us about Eduardo, but it's not just his play that we'll miss, it's the way he carried himself and behaved. He was a true gunner, a fine representative of the club, and we were lucky to have had him.

In complete contrast, we visit Man City this Sunday, encountering again the scum that is Emmanuel Adebayor. The opposite of everything Eduardo represents (class, intelligence, pure finishing), this big idiot is the epitome of what is wrong with modern football. He's selfish, is convinced his own talent is far greater than it actually is, spits on his supporters, physically assaults fellow professionals (and former teammates), demands far more than he is worth, is petulant, has stupid hair, and is in total, a cowardly turd. In our last visit to the Middle Eastlands, he stomped on Cesc Fabregas' ankle, stamped on Robin van Persie's face, and upon scoring, made a point to sprint the length of the pitch (something he never did while playing for Arsenal) to celebrate in front of our travelling supporters, the ones who did nothing but support him as an Arsenal player. Not only that, but on the home match with Man City, he was so cowardly as to make sure he didn't start the match for fear of our home fans. He's like school on a Saturday folks: No class.

It seems that City fans have grown tired of his act already as well. He started last season in brilliant form, but soon reverted to type. He stopped running, looked bored and disinterested, and began shooting his mouth off about his club and the supporters. At least we had a brief honeymoon phase with Ade for a couple of seasons before he showed his true colors. City didn't even make a full season before hating the man. Given that they have the hardest-working-man-in-show-business-after-James-Brown, Carlos Tevez, it's no wonder the Citizens wouldn't mind being shot of Ade (as opposed to Ade being shot... shitty-aiming Angola gunmen). On the other hand, who would take him knowing all the baggage that comes with him?

Apart from Adebaywhore, this will be the most crucial match of the season so far for Arsenal. City have stormed to second in the league, just 2 points back of leaders Chelski and 3 ahead of us and United. They'll want to make this match a statement of intent, and it's up to our boys to put the Billionaire Boys Club back in their place. It's not an ideal time for us to play them, given our injuries, but by that rationale, when is? The fact is, we will need all eleven men on the pitch to play their hearts out if we're to win this one, nothing less will do. The lads need to find it in themselves to face adversity and overcome, and this match may well prove to be the adversity-est test we've yet had.

It's a Sunday match, so we'll know what the other title chasers will have done by the time we kick off at 11am EST. Injury news is largely positive, with Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner now fully fit, although Vermaelen and Koscielny remain injured, so they'll be sat alongside the permacrocked van Persie. He's due back in training mid-November, as is Aaron Ramsey. In any case, fingers crossed we'll have a relatively full squad by Christmas.

One last note, for those of us Gooners in the New York area, YES Network is now showing Arsenal 360 with Stewart Robson and company, followed by a replay of the weekend's match, every Monday night starting at 8pm. It's a welcome change for me as a Yankee fan, as for so long I've had to hear about their former connection with Man Ure. It's also good for American football fans that more networks are picking up Premier League content. Look for the Red Sox' network NESN to start showing by how much Liverpool lost as well. And it's only a matter of time before the Mets' network attaches themselves to sp*rs.

Until next time, let's keep it Goonerish. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!

Match Report: Arsenal 2-1 Birmingham City

Admittedly, I didn't watch this with the usual amount of care - there were sections of them match in which I was catching up with old friends and meeting new ones. When you think about it though, isn't that really the point of all this? Goals and wins and trophies are wonderful (and I've been lucky to witness many of all three in my time as a Gooner), but for me the camaraderie of it all is its most admirable feature.

Anyway, enough of that...on to the football. This is a song we have heard many times before - Arsenal dominates possession, can't create many gilt-edged chances, then goes down 1-0 to the opponents the first time they wander into our half with any purpose. Frankly, the song is overplayed at this point. You know, like this:

In the early going, Jack Wilshere showed his class with some deft passes and direct running. Emmanuel Eboue also showed some nice touches, but for the most part there was once again no end product once we neared the Birmingham penalty area. Despite that, Arsenal should have taken the lead during this stretch, were it not for yet another goddamn linesman who has no idea how to apply the offside rule (seriously, it seems like the next lino to get it right will be the first one). Samir Nasri's brilliant free kick curled into the path of Sebastien Squillaci, who fired a header on net. Ben Foster - who did not have a great game at all - could only punch it onto the underside of his bar and into the net. It looked to me that Squillaci was leaning forward and his torso was past the last defender, but his feet were level. Anyway, it was a razor-thin decision, and those always seem to go to the defense. In honesty though, put the shoe on the other foot and I'd be screaming for the flag.

Gael Clichy also had a chance after the ball pinballed around the City penalty area, but unfortunately the shot was lined up on his weaker right foot, and he fizzed his shot wide (when it would have been easier to score). One of their uncoordinated shambling scarecrows also managed to get a block in after Wilshere and Chamakh combined on two one-twos (does that make it a two-four?) to spring the latter for an open shot.

So, of course Birmingham scored.

As I recall, the Blues got a soft free-kick on the right side, just outside our area. The fact that this was called was especially galling given that they our opponents threw more 'bows than Ludacris over the course of the 90 minutes (none of which were called, incidentally). Anyway, credit where it's due, the set piece was taken well and curved nicely into the 6-yard box. It was a little too far for Lukasz Fabianski to challenge, meaning Johan Djourou was on his own with Nikola Zigic. For what it's worth, Zigic is taller than Andre the Giant legitimately was (wrestling, of course, plays fast and loose with height/weight measurements). That said, Djourou was hideously-overmatched and was badly at fault for failing to exert any kind of pressure on him. Zigic's header was a gorgeous one, sad to say, and it easily eluded the despairing dive of Fabianski to nestle in the bottom corner.

Fuck me running.

Standard procedure was followed, and Arsenal immediately looked more dangerous after the goal. Once again, it musty be asked why we can't do this from the opening whistle, but that's a rant for another time. Minutes later, controversy descended on the Emirates as a penalty was awarded to the good guys. Another of their shambling zombies in the back clipped Chamakh's heel as he was going by. Some say Chamakh was already falling over, but having seen several replays, I believe it was a stonewall penalty. Considering how often we don't get those, I'll call it a case of swings-and-roundabouts either way. Nasri took it, and once again he netted with aplomb, Foster going the wrong way.

That got us to the interval at 1-1, but the Arse should have been off to the races by then. Luckily for us, Chamakh struck again early in the second half, and that would be all we'd need. This was a textbook example of what the team is capable of when everything clicks - an imperious back-heel flick from Alex Song was chested down by Wilshere, who pinged a through-ball past the static Brum defense immediately upon the ball hitting the ground. Chamakh took it in stride, beat his man with a marvelous spin move, rounded Foster and slid it into the net. Sexy football, indeed. It may be a bit churlish to point out that Foster came out at the wrong time and was guilty of indecisiveness once he did, but it's true...that one was partially on him.

The game got chippy from there, though the team did fight back unlike in seasons past. You will read reams and reams of coverage on Nasri's petulant yellow for retaliation and Eboue's scissor tackle that was a yellow card (but file under "seen them given" as far as a red is concerned). You will read twice (or perhaps thrice) that for Wilshere's stupid, rash studs-up challenge that earned him a deserved red. I want to make it abundantly clear that young Jack was 100% in the wrong on this one, and has to take his punishment (to his credit, he's admitted his mistake...unlike most of these northern shitkicking fucktards). But, what burns my ass about it is that everyone is gleefully jabbing the knife in and claiming that we are hypocrites, instead of describing it as another example as to why tackling is out of control in this sport.

If we're such hypocrites, why is that Shawcross and Henry and all of these guys have rap sheets a mile long when it comes to violent play, but tell me ONE OTHER FUCKING TIME where Arsenal have been guilty of the same in the recent past. You can't do it, because it isn't there.

However, I hate to do it, but I have to give a "C'mon, son!" to many of us who were at the Pig yesterday. I don't mind the "she fell over" bit, especially when someone is clearly over-elaborating on their fall. But with the Wilshere thing, this is EXACTLY the kind of challenge where we'd be baying for Jack's blood if the shoe were on the other foot. It was a nailed-on red card and given the fact that we've had to endure Eduardo and Diaby and Ramsey's leg breaks, we really should be better than that.

Oh, and the two announcers who worked that match can, with all undue haste, die in a fire. I have never heard such bias in my life, and it's this "stout Englishmen can elbow anyone they want, but the real problem is Johnny Foreigner going to ground (WHEN HE WAS FUCKING FOULED IN THE FIRST PLACE)" nonsense that contributes to the ongoing problems in the game.

Anyway, the red came in the 439274927th or so minute of injury time, so luckily it didn't cost us. They had one more dangerous cross into the area, but Fabianski did very well to claim it and seal all three points. At the end of the day, this was a good win on a day where United dropped points at home to West Brom (meaning they only got one more than we did for that fixture), and Chelsea drew at Aston Villa. So, with Mank City winning 3-1 against Blackpool, we're in 3rd place on goal difference.

Still, that won't mean anything unless form improves and we stop making heavy weather of shitkickers like this.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Fabianski 7, Clichy 6, Squillaci 7, Djourou 5, Eboue 6, Nasri 7, Diaby 5, Song 7, Wilshere 7 (take away the red and it's 8), Arshavin 5 (Rosicky 70 - 7), Chamakh 8 (Bendtner 79 - 6)

Interlull, Injuries and The Bob

Morning all, from another grey, sleep-inducing day in New York. Seems I open with something similar quite often, which I find confusing until I remind myself that it's autumn and autumn here sucks, in spite of what Winona Ryder, Richard Gere and any gerbils would have you believe:

Cinematic lies of the worst kind. In any case, it's rather fitting weather I think for an Interlull which featured a number of our players come back from injury, go out injured, and have small injuries reassessed and determined to be potentially fatal. So, nothing new there, really.

As it turns out Bacary Sagna is expected to miss some time due to a lingering thigh injury; I suspect 90's Irish band The Cranberries, but the powerful Van Morrison lobby is blocking my research. Anyway, Bac is scheduled to miss three weeks, so we should have him back by April. Fingers crossed. We will have Eboue to fill the right back role, which will at least give us some more songs to sing and perhaps some more accurate crosses for our forwards to miss. So that'll be good-ish. The songs will, anyway. Additionally, the manager today revealed that Laurent Koscielny will miss the Birmingham match due to some sort of back problem. For fucksake, even our players who DON'T have international duty come back hurt. No further details on the severity of the injury, but all indications are that Johan Djourou will start the next match, which in itself is pretty severe.

We will expect back both Theo Walcott and Nicklas Bendtner, which will be a boost to us up front at least, particularly if Theo can rediscover the red-hot form he was on before his injury, and if Bendtner can get on the pitch. Arsene seemed very excited about the fitness of Bendtner, although I'm sure there are plenty of Gooners who won't be jumping for joy. I love Big Nick though, so it's good that he's back, same for Theo. At this rate, it's an oddity just to have enough warm bodies to stick on the bench.

And of course, the "small" injuries to Cesc, who was nearly fit for Chelsea two weeks ago, and Vermaelen, who was just short of fitness after the LAST interlull, both remain unresolved. Arsene reports that Tommy V is still "10 days away," which can likely be taken to mean that his amputation is now gangrenous and last rites are being administered. It's rather concerning about Cesc, obviously. A supposedly slight hamstring issue that ought to heal up rather well appears to remain an issue despite 4 weeks out. Given his issues with hamstrings throughout last season (and taking into account the career-threatening hamstring issues experienced by Tomas Rosicky), this is not something to be taken lightly. We're not the same club without Cesc, and despite the emergence of Nasri and Wilshere, we don't have anyone else who can do all of the things that Cesc can do on the pitch. Not to mention we've been without a proper captain for weeks now, and the lacklustre display against the Baggies followed by periods of tepid play at Chelski may have been a bit different had the skipper taken part.

All of this, and we're still missing the permanently-crocked Robin van Persie. I don't know what kind of wages Robin is on, and while I love watching him and while his commitment to the club warms my heart, one has got to wonder if we'll ever get a full season from him, or even 3/4 of a season. The threat that he'd become that superstar if we were to sell him on begins to feel more fantastical with every passing season.

Arsene commented this week on the impressive nature of Aaron Ramsey's speedy recovery, as our young Welshmanis finally out of the training room, kicking the football and running. He's a long way off yet (I'd be surprised to see him in full action until December, personally) but this is some encouraging news. Hopefully he'll come back full speed. Glad to see you back on your feet, Rambo.

We've seen as poor an injury record at Arsenal this season as we did last season, when many of us thought it couldn't get any worse. How foolish of us. It remains a mystery why we are so hard-bitten by the injury bug, while other clubs remain largely unaffected. Is it our training? The players' diets? Some sort of bizarre physiological coincidence that predisposes all of our players to be injury-prone? No one seems to know. All I do know is that I think it is long overdue that we abandon whatever medical practices we have been employing, since our players' injuries only seem to get worse once treated. It is high time we start utilizing voodoo full-time. And for anyone who questions the benefits of this, think about this: Picture Thomas Vermaelen pursuing you as you try to dribble away. Scary, right? Now picture ZOMBIE Thomas Vermaelen pursuing you as you try to dribble away. Fucking terrifying, and he wouldn't stop for an injury, barring a gunshot to the head, for which even Mike Dean would show a yellow card. And it's a lot simpler and cheaper to sacrifice a live rooster than to utilize all those beeping machines and such. Food for thought. Braaaaaaiiiiinnnnssss...

Speaking of people who've had their brains eaten out, Fat Sam Allardyce was shooting his fat gob off in the press again.

We host Birmingham City at the Grove on Saturday, and as we should all be aware, Alex McLeish's side will not lay down and die for Arsenal. If anything, Arsenal will look a bit wounded and vulnerable to opposing sides, coming off of consecutive defeats to WBA and Chelsea. One would assume that Brum will look to come into our house and take at least a point. It's down to our players to prevent that from happening. Cesc was quoted in the press this week saying that Arsenal lack a "winning mentality." I'm not going to favor the haters and demand his head, because he's our captain and because he's right, and because FUCK the Cesc haters. An Arsenal team with a winning mentality would not have capitulated three damned times to West Bromwich Albion, nor would they have hung their heads and played with no urgency for long stretched when down at Stamford Bridge. Cesc has that mentality. Who else in our side does?

I found it disheartening that Arsene was quoted replying to Cesc's statement, and softening the blow a bit:

"As long as you have not won you are not completely certain that you can do it - but that does not mean that you lack the desire to win. This team has a great desire to win, but you have to show it week in week out."

All well and good to say, but I think our players have been protected a bit too much. If the truth stings a bit, they need to be introspective and figure out why don't turn up every single match and give it all. One way or another, they will need to commit 100 per cent, or they should find another club. There is no half-assing it at Arsenal Football Club. That wasn't good enough for Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp, David Rocastle, Patrick Vieira, David O'Leary, Alan Smith, Ian Wright or any other Arsenal legends. It shouldn't be good enough for our current crop, who haven't won fuck-all at this club in comparison.

Speaking of Arsenal legends, Robert Pires is in training with the club in an attempt to remain fit. Le Bob is without a club at the moment (having AWESOMELY rejected the Philadelphia Union's offer), and while Le Boss kind of said that we wouldn't sign him, I believe he said similar things when we had Sol Campbell training with us last season, so there's no guarantee. Either way, welcome back Bob... you've been sorely missed. We haven't had a player of his dreaminess since, and I admittedly have a man-crush on Bob Pires. Hell, I think it's gayer NOT to be attracted to Bob.

Finally, with Birmingham's visit to Emirates will be the first reappearance of Alex Hleb at Arsenal since he forced his way out to Barcelona (who still haven't paid up, by the way), only to be benched, loaned to Stuttgart, benched some more, and flogged off to Birmingham. While I think we all enjoyed the delicious schadenfreude as his hubris led ultimately to his abasement and humiliation and other big words, he did admit that he never should have left. So while I'll hope his play contributes to a Brum loss on Saturday, I won't be too hard on him. Although if anyone else wants to have a go, I'm not stopping them.

And we're back, Gooners. Roll on Saturday. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!

As a parting gift, here's a video of Le Bob at his Le Best. Enjoy.

As the International break ends...

Ah, another international break, or as Arsenal fans (via Mr. Arseblogger) know it as – the ‘interlull’. Excuse me while I *yawn*. That’s better.

Well then, where do Arsenal stand approximately 7 games into the season? Sitting in 4th place on 11 points sandwiched between Manchester United and Spurs (never a nice place to be), and, a whole 7 points behind Chelsea, that’s where. Hmm
Some monkey mathematics tells me that’s roughly 1.57 points per game which multiplied by 38 gives me a total of 60 points. A wholly pointless exercise I agree but nevertheless…

Well then, you may ask, what is it I’m trying to say? It hasn’t exactly been a stellar start to the season has it? But then again, away trips to Liverpool, Sunderland and Chelsea…. But, on the flip side, a home loss to West Brom…

Basically, I, like most other Arsenal fans, am a little unsure of the start Arsenal have made. The team has played well in some games and not so well in others, scored some great goals but conceded some rather sloppy ones… It’s a bit of a mixed bag at the moment, isn’t it?

Arsenal have got two new centrebacks and they’ll take some time settling in--they’ve been excellent in some games, let’s not forget. They have the ability and given time should become more consistent. Chamakh had made a decent start and again, given time, should become a real asset. Jack Wilshere has, quite simply, made a phenomenal start and has been one of our better players. Another addition to the squad you may say. Walcott finally looked as if he was going to be the player we all hoped he would be until he got injured…

Ah, injuries. One league table Arsenal do top is the Injury Table. When was the last time Arsene was able to play the same team in consecutive games? Surely a team that is constantly being hampered with injuries, a team that is constantly being arranged differently every week will suffer from a lack of continuity? How can relationships on the pitch blossom when one part of the relationship is lying on the physio’s treatment table his leg covered in plaster? Frustrating isn’t it? But a situation that, unfortunately, us Arsenal fans are accustomed to.

Very recent news suggests that both Fabregas and Walcott will be available for the next game (yay!) against Birmingham at the Emirates. In fact this is how Arsenal’s next few games line up:

Birmingham (h)
Manchester City (a)
West Ham (h)
Newcastle United (h)
Wolves (a)
Everton (a)

I think Arsenal are more than capable of getting a point at Manchester City while I think the rest of those games provide excellent opportunities to get maximum points. Given the fact that Arsenal have players coming back from injury (Bendtner is also due back after the Birmingham game) and that the upcoming games are not the most difficult, I believe that come this time next month, the gap between Arsenal and Chelsea may be smaller (why doesn’t the injury Lord strike down on them?). It’s something us fans have to believe in.

Chelsea, to the contrary of what I I’m reading and hearing pretty much everywhere else, have NOT won the league. Yes it’s a cliché but the league is not won in the first few games – remember Arsenal during the opening games of the 2004-05 and 2007-08 seasons? (sorry for that painful memory). It CAN happen to Chelsea. Suddenly they pick up an injury or 2 (look at their bench – not a lot happening there), maybe lose a game unexpectedly (it will happen) and, suddenly, the confidence will go. Suddenly they won’t look the impregnable force they seem to be now. Suddenly they’ll be looking over their shoulders, getting a bit twitchy (Brett: “HAHAHAHA, ‘Twitchy’ “) that there are a few clubs who have the ability to catch them. And Arsenal are one of those teams. Yes, Arsenal look a bit vulnerable defensively, yes Arsenal have been a bit sloppy, yes Arsenal have had injuries but surely, SURELY, this injury curse will abscond sooner or later (I live in hope) and that is when Arsenal have the ability, and capacity, to take FULL advantage of the situation that will be presented to them.

It is ridiculously early to write off this season. Arsenal have a large squad and, in some areas, a ridiculously talented squad. There’s a very long way to go, so come on, let’s get behind this team and after the next 6 games, if Arsenal play to our full potential, the position in the table will look a little bit healthier.

Look at that. A mini review regarding Arsenal’s start to the season and I haven’t even mentioned the goalkeepers.

What is a supporter's place, exactly?

Fair warning, friends - this is something that's been on my mind since seeing a video done by a bunch of Liverpool supporters. Let's forget our rivalry for one second to talk about something a little more important.

Here's the video - I know they are usually rivals, but I urge you to give it a look:

There but for the grace of (insert deity/non-deity of choice here) go us. We were one Alisher Usmanov away from perhaps starring in a video like this ourselves. Turn that over in your mind for a bit...let it really seep in.

It's got me wondering about our real place in all of this. Look, I'm hardly naive enough to believe that supporters can or perhaps even should have designs on affecting the day-to-day running of a football club. We are not qualified to do so, and the old adage about managers who pay too much attention to what's said in the stands soon joining them there comes to mind. We can certainly express our opinions about what goes on during games, who is on the roster, whatever. But, Ebbsfleet United is not exactly the model I'd like any rational, grown-up club to follow.

However, I do wholeheartedly believe that football supporters have a right to a club without unnecessary debt, that makes at least a token effort to treat supporters as something other than a revenue stream, and that maintains the important traditions that make a football club what it is...that makes up its identity.

I can understand that the natural on-pitch and terrace-song hostilities that we have with other clubs can lead us to schadenfreude when misfortune comes their way. Now, if we're talking about a certain Scouse club capitulating at home to Blackpool, then shit...that's half the fun of what we do. But, when it comes to the very survival of a club, when it comes to the demolishing of a dynasty and a bulwark of the English game, then perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to stick the boot in when they're down.

Without our enemies, then what is our purpose? Whatever we feel about United and Chelsea and Liverpool, would you really want a whole fixture list of nothing but Stoke and Sunderland? I sure as fuck don't.

My point is, moneyed interests are firmly entrenched in the game and nothing we say or do is going to change that....there's no unringing that bell. What we can do however is to be vigilant about who owns our club and what they are doing with it. Had the sale to the Red Sox owners not happened, then I would have hoped that Liverpool supporters would have finally smartened up and coordinated to not buy merchandise, not travel to away games, the foreign supporters not traveling to Anfield, etc. I would do the same if it happened to Arsenal.

What do you think? Personally, I think supporters from every major and mid-sized club should get together and agree on some kind of Supporters' Bill of Rights or something. Then again, most of us are lazy sods, aren't we?

I've Got Those Chelsea Blues...

Afternoon all, from a grey, dreary, rain-soaked, commute-destroying "day" in New York City. Much to cover of course, so let's not get too involved in pleasantries, eh?

West Brom. What can you say? What's done is done, and I feel as though Sean well and truly covered the match earlier this week. I do feel the need (read: bile) in me to discuss a few points from the loss, so please bear with me.

For one thing, as Arseblog pointed out several times since Saturday, we witnessed several players putting in the same types of lazy, strolling, infuriatingly effortless shifts that saw us drop easily winnable games and points toward the end of last season against the likes of Blackburn, Wigan and of course, the tiny totts. I'm referring largely to the enigma (read: asshole) that is Abou Diaby. He has a few positive qualities as a footballer: he's big, has a bit of pace, can control the ball well, has the ability to surge forward at times when the mood is on him and pops up with the occasional goal. However, all of these traits seem inextricably linked with his desire at the time, which seems to come and go with the wind. He's completely unreliable, and taken as a whole, it would be wrong to say he's the type of player we need. It's long been said that we can't judge him yet, that he's too young. He's 24. When's he going to grow up?

Dishonorable mention: Emmanuel Eboue. We unfortunately saw the Ebooable Eboue on Saturday. Listless, lethargic, without his normal energy and enthusiasm, which usually cover what he lacks in skill. Eboue no like.

For another, I think in light of Manuel Almunia's injury status, I judged him a bit too harshly for his second half implosion. He did seem to be favoring his shoulder a bit after the knock first occurred, and I think that very much affected him throughout the second half, particularly the goal scored near-post on him. Perhaps I'm being myopic, perhaps I just feel bad for the man. But I do doubt that Arsene would drop him from the squad at this point in the season if he weren't well and truly hurt. Although Arsene does still have all the faith in the world in Fabianski, so who knows what's going on in that head of his.

In the end, we can moan about it all we like, but we were just flat outplayed on our home ground by a newly promoted side. And every time we have one of these uninspired losses against (all apologies to Baggies fans) clearly inferior opposition, we hear and say the same things: Well, hopefully we'll learn from this and not repeat the same mistakes. Clearly, we haven't learned, and signs point to that day never actually coming. It falls on the shoulders of the players at the end of the day, and some of them just don't have the stomach, the application or the desire to be an Arsenal Football Club. We can do without them.

Off the back of this dispiriting defeat (and the best thing that can be said is at least Chelsea also lost and United drew), we faced a stiff test in an away match in Serbia against Partizan Belgrade. It was a chance to rebound from the negatives of the weekend and to show that we would be ready to face Chelski this coming Sunday. What we got was a bit of a mixed bag, really. We didn't learn anything new about our players: we still can play amazing football if we have the space, and can score some dazzling goals (the first was a delightful bit of skill and finishing from Wilshere and Arshavin), yet our defenders consistently get themselves caught out of position and end up being quite vulnerable to counterattacks, especially as "defensive" midfield players like Song and Denilson bomb forward leaving our centrebacks hopelessly exposed. This is a tactical issue that can and must be corrected on the training ground. If I can see it, I'm sure others can as well.

Once again, we took an early lead, capitulated, and had to scratch and claw our way back into the match. The turning point for me was the sending off of Jovanovic for taking down Chamakh in the box. I must say, the replays of the incident looked to me as though Marouane took a dive, but others have argued against that view, so I'll suspend judgment. Not that it initially mattered anyway, as Arshavin's penalty was worse than Rosicky's miss against Sunderland, for what it's worth. In the end though it was the Moroccan master who knocked a header in to give us back a deserved lead. The scoreline was further inflated for us when Squillaci headed home his first Arsenal goal to make it 3-1. Wilshere, Arshavin and Chamakh were all subbed off after we'd regained the lead, presumably to be fresh for this weekend's clash at Stamford Bridge.

Ah yes, Chelsea, the elephant in the room, the turd in the punch-bowl. They are the defending champions and have started off playing as such, their first result that wasn't a win being the loss on the weekend to a depleted Manchester City. I'm of the opinion that, while they're certainly not the greatest premier league team I've ever seen *COUGHINVINCIBLESCOUGHCOUGH*, we would still need a lot of things going our way to win against them. Clearly, Fortune isn't so much smiling at us as she is pissing on us, keeping such players as van Persie, Vermaelen, and it would appear, Fabregas, ruled out due to injury. That's not even to mention the other players who are getting used to the confines of the treatment room: Bendtner, Walcott, Ramsey (obviously), Almunia and now Kieran Gibbs! And we thought last season was bad. I shudder to think where we'd be right now if not for Chamakh. Using our talented Russian midget as a central striker again, I imagine.

If I'm honest, I just don't like our chances this weekend. We will almost surely play Eboue on the righthand side along with Sagna to deal with the double threat of Malouda and Cuntley, which removes some of our ability to really play football. Additionally, our midfield will likely consist of Wilshere, Song and... who? Rosicky? Diaby (pleasedon'tbeDiabypleasedon'tbeDiaby)? Denilson? Not one of them is going to strike fear into the hearts of Drogba. Then there's Drogba. He has been scoring for fun against us for so long now I can't remember the last time we held him without a goal. I believe it was this fixture in 2008-2009 since the only goal they scored as a Djourou OG, but I digress. My point is, the man has made scoring against Arsenal seem routine. Granted, in recent seasons we've seen him do that against Gallas and Toure later Gallas and Vermaelen... Maybe it was Gallas? Okay, don't shit on my dreams, I can hope.

My final point today is in regard to Lukasz Fabianski. He has long been the bane of Arsenal supporters' existence, typically turning easy saves and clearances into simply diabolical examples of How Not To Be a Goalkeeper (copyright 2009, Pendant Publishing). From Chelsea in the FA Cup semifinals 2 seasons ago, to the Porto away match last season to every match down the stretch, he has been hopeless, hapless and dangerous to be around. Yet somehow he managed to have a very solid match at Partizan. Now, I don't know if it was down to playing in front of a smaller crowd, being in Eastern Europe, the steroids he took that morning or whether it was some long-con in which he pretended to be a shit goalkeeper for years in order to lower the bar and make us all nauseous at the sight of him, only to reveal his true talent and ability in a blinding flash, like when Gandalf came back to life in The Two Towers. But he did have a solid game, including a penalty save and a brilliant diving stop late on, so fair play to him.

That does NOT mean that I have any confidence in him whatsoever this weekend. Playing Partizan Belgrade in front of their (actually rather impressive) supporters is one thing; playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in front of their (typically lackluster) supporters is another animal entirely. One match does not erase all the mistakes, costly errors and Keystone-kop-ish blunders of monumental proportion that he has so far shown himself capable of in his time at Arsenal. Wenger always says he's brilliant in training: I've never seen that from him. Perhaps he's severely overdue for a long stretch of good games, I'm not the football gods, I don't know. We've seen as much evidence for alien abduction as we have for Fabianski being a quality 'keeper. All I'm saying is, he could go a long way to repaying some of the manager's faith in him by having a good day against Chelsea on Sunday. If not... I don't know. My last straw for him came at Porto last season. I have no more straws. I am strawless.

Roll on Sunday. Will this decimated but hopefully spirited Arsenal side get a result against the rent boys at the Bridge? Is Stamford Bridge related to Wayne Bridge, and if so, has John Terry cuckolded him as well? When will Ashley Cole and Jermaine Jenas just admit their love for one another and try to adopt a baby from China? Some of these questions, or only one, will be answered this weekend.

I'll leave you with two jokes: Luca Modric feels that other teams in the Champions League will "fear" Tottenham after they beat FC fucking Twente. Also, Rafael van der Faart believes that the spuds will beat Inter without him.

Whatever happens this weekend, we'll never be as sad and deluded as that lot. COME ON YOU GUNNERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!