Time to Go

Two quotes from Sun Tzu's Art of War to begin today:

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

It pains me to have to write this - the extent of which I can hardly explain to you. I have been an eternal optimist about this club for the entirety of the last 5 seasons. In each one, I would be one of the last Gooners standing before conceding that we could not win silverware that season. As long as we've been mathematically in the title race, I have believed because I believed in the manager. I cannot thank Arsene Wenger enough for the heights that he has carried this team to in his tenure as the Arsenal manager. Even beyond Herbert Chapman and George Graham, Arsene Wenger is clearly - far and fucking away - Arsenal's greatest-ever manager. He deserves our thanks, our praise and our respect.

With all of that said, it's time for him to go.

Please don't assume that this is said in haste, the flashover reaction from a few bad defeats on the trot. I assure you that it is not - as I said above, I am and will remain one of Arsene Wenger's biggest fans. For me though, the argument comes down to a few salient points:

  1. Should a club of our size and resources win trophies with at least a modicum of consistency?
  2. In any other line of work, would a manager at any level retain their job if the faults in their process or with their team of workers remain the same, unheeded, for five years?

I think we all know the answer to both of these questions. At this point, if you believe that Wenger is still the man for the job, then the burden of proof is on you at this point to explain how that belief can co-exist with these self-evident truths. That, or it is your belief that finishing 4th and making the knockout stages of the Champions League is a reasonable limit to the club's ambition. If you hold that view, that's fine...but I do not.

That said, there's another aspect that is even more important to me than results. Whenever a player pulls on an Arsenal shirt, I want him (or her, I won't leave out the ladies' team especially since Emma Byrne is my future ex-wife) to fight to the death to defend it. I want them to realize that they are part of a chain that goes back to Tony Adams, to Martin Keown, to Perry Groves, to Eddie Hapgood. I want that player to hurt when he loses...I want him to lose sleep over it. I want him to burn with rage at the prospect of some lot of no-fucking-hopers like Spurs coming into their home and embarrassing them. I want them to look with disdain on the TENTH-PLACE FUCKING TEAM IN A SHIT LEAGUE - not the arrogant disdain of someone who thinks they just have to turn up to win, I'm thinking more the disdain that Cao Cao had for opposing armies...the supreme confidence that there was nothing they could do to stop him.

I disagree with many people - I think Cesc Fabregas does have all of those qualities. I don't know if he's a vocal enough leader or has enough gravitas to be a captain, but I do believe that he is a winner that is hobbled by injury and the fact that this club has far too many passengers. But, we are at a point now where our erstwhile holding midfielder, Alex Song, is often up in the opponents' penalty area looking to score goals. We are at a point where our Maginot Line of a back four cannot defend attacks that wouldn't pass muster in a Sunday pub league. We are at a point where a guy like Denilson is continually abused by opposing offenses, be it through muscling him off the ball or taking advantage when he lazily jogs back after the attackers pass him...and there are never any consequences for it. Some of the blame for these things, no doubt, belongs to the players themselves.

At the end of the day, though, it is the manager who buys them, the manager who selects them, and the manager who disciplines them...or not.

If this were season 2 without a trophy, I would not be posting this right now. It would still be within a reasonable window of rebuilding the squad. Players that seem great on other squads can turn into a pumpkin when they put on your shirt...it happens. The rub of the green can go against you - posts can be hit, referees can make mystifying decisions, opposing keepers can turn into Peter Shilton for a night. It's happened to every top manager at one time or another, and what counts is their ability to recognize the problems, adapt to them, and make the necessary changes...hence the bit about knowing yourself as well as your enemy.

The problem is that Arsene doesn't know himself and he does not know his team any longer. You know, I think I get it with him. I really do. He believes so much in this group of players, he wants to win with this lot so badly, he is blinded to the fact that they perhaps have the talent but they do not have the ability. It's plausible, isn't it? He sees these kids in training a few years ago and falls in love with the occasional flashes of brilliance that they show. He sees the example of years back when Fergie's kids gelled into the Manchester United team that destroyed everything in its path once they got going, and could see the possibilities in his youngsters.

Here's the thing, though. When those kids were coming up, there were more of them than just the Nevilles, Beckham, Scholes and Giggs. Ferguson identified the ones that not only had the talent, but the indomitable hunger to win and to be the best. Some people have it, some don't...it can't be taught. Like I said, some of these guys do have it...Fabregas, Eboue (oddly enough), Walcott and Sagna come immediately to mind. I absolutely believe that they badly want to win every game. I believe Arshavin has it but has been beaten down by the lack of it from those around him.

The problem is, you have guys like Diaby, Denilson, Bendtner and Vela who just don't. Even worse, veterans such as Rosicky, Squillaci, Silvestre, Almunia, and others have been brought in who also lack that killer instinct, that fighting spirit. It's one thing when you have kids, where there's an element of not knowing what you have until they've been thrown into the fray. When you're buying a guy from the Bundesliga or Ligue 1 with Champions' League experience, you should have a much better idea of what the finished product is made of.

Now, there are definitely times where he has been right and all of us have been wrong. Despite his recent proclivities, the manager was right about Song. Increasingly, it's looking like he was right about Fabianski. Even here though, there's the counter argument that he could have been right about them while they were on loan to Hannover or St. Etienne or Osasuna, while experienced stopgaps were installed to ensure that we could fight for trophies in the meantime.

Here's the truth. For 5 years going on 6, this team has not been able to defend. Famously, Martin Keown was not retained as a coach because Wenger didn't like his style (that can only read as Keown actually disciplining them, surely?). No replacement that we know of has ever been named. For perhaps 3 or 4 of those years, this team has had a clown in goal. For 5 years going on 6, this team has shown a remarkable fragility in instances where strength of character matters...in Old Trafford, in Stamford Bridge, in holding a lead against the Middlesbroughs of the world. For 5 years going on 6, there has been costly personnel decisions - bringing on William Gallas and making him captain, giving significant playing time to the indescribably milquetoast Denilson, benching Jens Lehmann when he still had several good years left, letting Mathieu Flamini go just as he was coming into his own, letting Gilberto Silva leave when he's still good enough to play for the Selecao, on and on and on and on. Like I said, every manager makes mistakes, but I challenge you to come up with a list for Ferguson or Mourinho or Hiddink or Ancelotti or Guardiola that rivals this in length and scope.

I stress again - I love Arsene Wenger. I really, really do. I agree with him on many things, ranging from the shocking tackling at times in the English game to the desire to play attacking, attractive football. I also love the fact that we as Arsenal fans have largely been patient during this time, certain sections of the blog commentariat at places like Arseblog and Le Grove aside. But, I think we are in danger of letting our appreciation for this man mask the fact that he has not done a good enough job at knowing his team, he has lost his famous ruthlessness that saw him drop Keown and Adams and Bergkamp, that saw him sell Merson and Hartson and Wright and Seaman.

I hate to say it...it fucking KILLS me to say it. But I don't particularly like this Arsenal team. I will still watch them and support them because I am Arsenal through and through. This is my club, in good times and bad. But, I don't respect this lot's lack of hunger and fight. I think they are spoiled, cossetted children (either in age or in maturity, as with Bendtner) who can't understand why teams won't lay down and die for them because there's a cannon on their shirt. I cannot understand how they can hear and read the things said about them and not want to give the whole world the v-sign and prove them the motherfuck wrong. Look, I don't care if we win trophies every year. It's always nice and I wouldn't ever turn one down. But, I care infinitely more that maximum effort is given in every game that this team plays. Even last season when we went out to Barcelona, I wasn't that upset - I felt that on that one instance, the team did try their best...they were just standing on the tracks when the train came through. Sod it, it happens to the best of us. What I can't abide is the arrogant home displays where they turn up expecting a walkover, or the stark naked fear they show in matches against the other big clubs.

I don't know if Arsene Wenger is capable at this point of realizing that something is rotten in the core of this team. I don't know if he can adjust his methods enough to be able to motivate them to change, or to get rid of the hopeless Denilson cases. I don't know if he can adjust to the realities of the English Premier League, where even Arsenal needs a Lauren and a Patrick Vieira and a Tony Adams. I don't know if this squad can ever learn to win like Manchester United has.

I don't know if Arsene Wenger is the right man to lead this team anymore. It's sad and it hurts, but it's true.

Arsenal 2-3 Chicken-Shirts - Post-Mortem

First D.J.: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today.
Second D.J.: It's coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?
First D.J.: Not hardly. And you know, you can expect hazardous travel later today with that, you know, that, uh, that blizzard thing.
Second D.J.: [mockingly] That blizzard - thing. That blizzard - thing. Oh, well, here's the report! The National Weather Service is calling for a "big blizzard thing!"
First D.J.: Yessss, they are. But you know, there's another reason why today is especially exciting.
Second D.J.: Especially cold!
First D.J.: Especially cold, okay, but the big question on everybody's lips...
Second D.J.: - On their chapped lips...
First D.J.: - On their chapped lips, right: Do ya think Phil is gonna come out and see his shadow?
Second D.J.: Punxsutawney Phil!
First D.J.: Thats right, woodchuck-chuckers - it's
[in unison]

The above is what Bill Murray's character woke up to every morning (which was the same morning), over and over until he gets his shit together and successfully wins Andie MacDowell. For our part, we wake up the morning after a match to consider how many times this club has to be burned by complacency, fear and the inability to defend simple set pieces before the lesson sinks in. What happened on Saturday morning could just as easily have happened at the end of the Everton match - the team gets out to a 2-0 lead, and decides that they don't have to play anymore. It's fucking disgraceful is what it is. Everything I said after the West Brom match holds true once again, right down to the lack of guts, fortitude and mental strength.

I honestly don't know at this point if it's the players, the manager or both. Something has to change, though.

It all started out brightly enough. For whatever reason, the scum came out of the blocks with trepidation, and the Arsenal tore into them with a ferocity rarely seen from this lot. Within 9 minutes, they had a deserved lead. A wonderful killer ball from Cesc Fabregas was initially mis-controlled by Samir Nasri. He still got it around the dive of Gomes though, but at the time I thought he had left himself with too much to do. However, he managed to dink it back towards goal from the most acute of angles, and it somehow dribbled over the line before Benoit Assou-Ekotto could get back (for his part, Gomes had shamefully given up on the play...he had an outside chance of getting back in time if he had hustled). As you'd imagine, we all went mental - you can't ask for a better start against the auld enemy than that.

As bad as Spurs were before the goal, they were infinitely worse after it. Arsenal had just about all of the ball, and they moved forward with venom in their veins on every attack. Of course, for the most part, it was undone by poor passing and indecision in the final third of the field. Still, there was a moment in the 19th where it looked like Arsenal would double their lead...Gomes at fault once again. A free kick from Fabregas was curled to the back post, and Gomes' wild flap caught nothing but a mixture of hydrogen, oxygen, and trace amounts of other gases. Unfortunately, the diabolical Marouane Chamakh (easily his worst performance in an Arsenal shirt) not only couldn't get on the end of it but was offside to boot. A few minutes later, Fabregas worked a one-two with Alex Song to get some space, but could only fire wide.

It didn't matter though, as the second goal came shortly thereafter. A rare sortie upfield by the scum was dealt with, and Arsenal counter-attacked quickly in a fashion not often seen since the glory days of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp. Nasri's pass found Andrei Arshavin, whose low cross was deflected in by Chamakh. I know I said that Chamakh had a mare, and I stand by that. The goal was well-taken, but as we'll see later, that was his only worthwhile contribution to the match. Even his hold-up play was nowhere near his recent standard.

That took us to the break with a solid lead against demoralized opponents. With any other club that has title pretensions, that would usually signify the end of any serious resistance. They'll keep it tight early in the second half, deflect any token offense coming out of the halftime team talk, and then pounce when the other side starts to hang their heads. With Arsenal, that means our problems are just beginning.

Sure enough, the lead was halved just 5 minutes after the interval. The dreadful Laurent Koscielny - who was mystifyingly installed back into the starting XI in place of the on-form Johan Djourou - was beaten on a header by halftime substitute Jermain Defoe. It bounced to Rafael van der Vaart, who connected with the onrushing Gareth Bale. Bale's low finish left Lukasz Fabianski with no chance, and the momentum was now with the white half of London. The worst part about this goal is that it came off the counter from an Arsenal set piece...I forget if it was a corner or a free kick. The problem was that both center-halves came up, and were glacially slow getting back once Spurs broke out on the counter. With a 2-0 lead in a must-win match, why risk so much by having both defenders so far up the field? This is exactly the sort of tactical naivety that costs us game after game, season after season.

First D.J.: Thats right, woodchuck-chuckers - it's
[in unison]

With any other club that has title pretensions, this is where they would hold onto the ball for a bit, compose themselves, and then take advantage of the other side pressing more men up the field to carve out chances on the counter. With Arsenal, you have 10 dudes with their hearts in their throats all looking around at the others waiting for someone to take control of the game and get things back on track. However, sadly for us, Tony Adams is not walking through that door. Arsene Wenger can go on and on all he wants about how a team needs to have multiple leaders, but the fucking fact is that such an approach never works. Someone has to stand up and accept responsibility, and there is no one on this squad who is capable of it. I love Fabregas...L-O-V-E Fabregas, but he isn't that guy and never was.

Whereas most top clubs have an undisputed captain who can settle the team in these moments, Fabregas instead gifted the opposition with the penalty that tied the game at 2-2. While the foul that lead up to the initial free kick was soft as hell (and make no mistake, Phil Dowd is a blind, incompetent cunt of a ref), there was no excuse for Fabregas doing his goalkeeper impersonation in the wall that left Dowd with no choice but to point to the spot. If he wanted the No. 1 shirt that badly, he should have done it before Fabianski established himself in the position. The spot-kick saw van der Vaart send Fabianski the wrong way, and all of a sudden it was 2-2 with almost 30 minutes to go. Did anyone, anyone at all, not know what was going to happen here?

First D.J.: Thats right, woodchuck-chuckers - it's
[in unison]

Chamakh was replaced at this point by Robin van Persie, who unsurprisingly contributed nothing to the cause. Still, I'm not sure which was the worse evil at this point - the half-fit perma-injured Dutchman, or the Moroccan who, when put in alone on goal, fucked around in the area long enough to allow two defenders to come back and clear the danger. Chamakh has had a good goal-scoring record this season, and is a brilliant header of the ball. But, when it is at his feet, he is only capable of positive things when he doesn't have time to think. When he does, he seems to be another who cannot accept the responsibility to make a decision and to fucking GO FOR IT. Like too many others on this team, he at times is willing to be a passenger when drivers are required. It's always a pass, always the hope that the responsibility can be shifted to someone else.

Soon after, it looked like Arsenal had - against the run of play - re-taken the lead. Fabregas' free kick was looped into the area, and was side-footed home by Sebastien Squillaci. However, the Frenchman was roughly 23.1 astronomical units offside, rightly called by the linesman. I admit to being apoplectic in real time, but the replay was clear that the lino had made the right decision.

After another half-chance where Cesc blazed over the bar, two of the more indescribably baffling substitutions of the year followed. Nasri and Arshavin - who had provided most of our attacking impetus on the day - were replaced by Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky. While I had no problem with Theo coming on, I was amazed that the two best players on the field in red were the ones coming off. Also, if you need to save a game and Rosicky is the answer you come up with, then you're asking the wrong questions.

Despite that, the Gunners' best chances to win the match came right after the substitutions. A rasper from outside the area off the boot of Fabregas was brilliantly tipped away by Gomes. Off the resulting corner, Koscielny was completely unmarked, but his header looped over the bar. At the very least, he should have tested the goalkeeper...a dreadful, dreadful miss.

A few minutes later, the former Lorient man committed the foul that led to the winner. Off the free kick, Younes Kaboul out-jumped Fabregas and Koscielny and sent a fine header low into the bottom corner to Fabianski's right.

First D.J.: Thats right, woodchuck-chuckers - it's
[in unison]

You don't need me to tell you that Arsenal provided absolutely nothing (other than one shot blazed into the Van Allen Belt by Walcott) in response to this? Since we're on a Groundhog Day theme in this report, this is verbatim what I wrote in the West Brom post-mortem:
It says something though that, after five years of trophyless seasons, after countless articles and interviews where for all intents and purposes they've had their desire and even their manhood questioned, after being mentally and physically abused by the top teams, this lot still have the same old fragility. No fight, no drive, no determination, no defiance, no guts, no testicles, no resistance. George Graham is turning over in his grave, and he's not even dead yet.

Take that, multiply that by 1000 due to this being the derby, and apply it here. What the fuck else can you say? I'm tired of saying the same old things about the same players and the same manager season after season after season. As a matter of fact, I have wasted far too many words on this horseshit result, so on to the ratings before I burst a blood vessel.


Fabianski 6, Clichy 5, Squillaci 5, Koscielny 3, Sagna 6, Nasri 7 (Rosicky 5), Denilson 5, Fabregas 6, Song 6, Arshavin 7 (Walcott 5), Chamakh 5 (van Persie 5).

London N5 Calling - Just Another Saturday?

Editor's note: In lieu of my regular Friday preview post, we have today a special guest posting from The Modern Gooner's Senior North London (N5) Correspondent, Gareth Baldwin. For my part, I've been buzzing for this all week, and will be positively bloodthirsty come Saturday, as I'm sure we all will be. We've escaped from a ridiculously scheduled interlull with nary an injury (Arshavin and Wilshere facing fitness tests before Arsene makes a decision), so we couldn't hope for better. As with every clash with the lilywhite cockshirts, there will be butterflies tempered with confidence in a team that has dominated their "rivals" down the years and already beaten them on their own ground this season, 4-1. There's not much more to say other than sp*rs are cunts, and COME ON YOU GUNNERS. Without further ado, here's Gaz...

First, an apology for disappearing since my last entry back in August. Due to a combination of moving places, a bachelor weekend in Montreal and other stuff I've not been able to pen a new entry for TMG management. There is another entry a bit different from my normal game day event post but with this weekend approaching I thought it was apt to resurface.

Tomorrow is another day in 2010, Saturday November 20th...

We have a match at home...

Nothing out of the ordinary between August to May. However, tomorrow is not just 'another day'... There will be many of us here in London rising earlier than normal on a Saturday to arrive at the pub as it opens to quell/fuel* the prematch nerves/anticipation*....* = delete as appropriate for how you feel.

Hopefully if you can't make the game you'll be in front of a TV watching. The banter has started, the predictions are being made and soon the noisy lillywhite neighbours from N17 will be dragging their knuckles down the Seven Sisters road to 'The Arsenal'.

Excitment is building in North London to,dare I say it 'Fever Pitch' levels...

I nearly fell off the upper tier when the goal above went in and delerium followed. I also forgot that I had to keep breathing in order to live for about a minute until I nearly collapsed

Tomorrow is not just another day, tomorrow is North London derby day, Gooners. I cannot begin to describe how excited I am and I hope you all feel the same wherever you are.

One of the regulars to 'The Gooner' fanzine, Simon Rose, puts it in perfect perspective

"As always in a north London derby, the relief and joy of a win will be considerable but a speck in the ocean in comparison to the horror of a defeat. It cannot be allowed. It cannot be tolerated. It must be put to the sword with a confident, commanding and clinical performance. Chins up. Heads high. No messing about. Three points."


Keep the faith Gooners. Arsene always knows.

Everton 1-2 Arsenal - Match Report

If you are an Arsenal supporter - and I imagine you are if you're here - this day could hardly have worked out any better. On our front, the Gunners grabbed all three points in a fairly difficult venue, while our nearest and dearest contrived to concede three at home to Sunderland. As it stands, we are now just two points behind the leaders. Hear those footsteps, lads?

Everton are a tough out though (last season's 1-6 hammering of them on their home field aside), and they started the brighter. The Gunners were pinned back in their own end for much of the first 15-20 minutes, but we still had the best chance during that time. A brilliant individual run by Samir Nasri took him around several defenders, but Sylvain Distin stayed with him and made an excellent block at the last.

The blue scousers came right back though, and Tim Cahill arguably should have put the home side ahead. An Arsenal corner came to nothing, and the fantastic Seamus Coleman took full advantage on the counter. That kid has a motor on him, and his blazing run left Gael Clichy for dead. He looped a perfect cross to the back post, but Cahill's header was uncharacteristically high and wide. That was a let-off, no doubt about it.

After Everton blew that chance, the men in yellow started to find their rhythm and get themselves into the game. Another opportunity was left begging, as Phil Jagielka had to make a last-ditch block to prevent a chance from Jack Wilshere after a series of incisive passes. The theme of desperation continued as Everton started to foul anything with a pulse, the worst culprit being John Heitinga. Roughly 2.7 seconds after getting a final warning from referee Howard Webb, he committed another brain-dead foul to force Webb's hand into a booking. Honestly, he was a red card waiting to happen the longer the half went on, and he can have no complaints about being replaced at halftime for Jack Rodwell.

Finally, Arsenal made the breakthrough in the 36th minute. Tim Howard made a solid save to deny Nasri's drive from outside the penalty area. The Everton keeper was back up on his feet in the time it took Andrei Arshavin to collect the rebound and pass it back, but could do nothing about Bacary Sagna's rocket into the top corner. Incidentally, Howard had done an interview before the match with the quote: "90% of goalkeeping analysis is rubbish." He's not wrong, you know...and even though he'll probably be slaughtered by the press tomorrow for conceding at his near post, it was right in the upper 90 at tremendous pace. I don't care who you are, you're not saving it. So, let's give the plaudits to Sagna for a peach of a goal, and move on.

It looked like the Gunners would play out the half with the same level of control that they had exhibited in the previous 15 minutes or so. However, a mistake from Lukasz Fabianski almost led to the equalizer. Off an Everton corner, Fabianski misjudged the flight of the ball and weakly flapped at his back post. He missed completely, allowing Louis Saha a free header. Luckily it was Saha and not a competent striker, so it wasn't too surprising to see him smash the ball against the post. It bounced off the back of Lukasz's head and out, but strangely Webb had blown for a goal kick by that point anyway. I couldn't tell if they were saying Saha committed a foul, went offside or if the ball went out. Either way, the Gunners escaped to the dressing room with a one-goal lead.

During the interval, Wilshere was withdrawn in favor of Denilson. I'm not sure if it was due to injury or some tactical reason, but I was not super-stoked to see the Brazilian at the time. However, it should be said that he had one of his better matches for the club in quite some time...so credit where it's due.

Anyway, Arsenal tore into the hosts with renewed urgency, perhaps being sparked back into life by the lucky escape in first-half injury time. Cesc Fabregas forced another save out of Howard early doors, and it only took one further minute for the Gunners to extend the lead. With Alex Song marauding further up the pitch, it was left to Denilson to stay in the holding role. From an attack he broke up, he initiated a quick counter. He helped it on to the captain, who then left Jagielka in his wake with some fine skill. He played a one-two with Marouane Chamakh, the Moroccan's return ball leaving Cesc with all the time in the world to slot home past the helpeless Howard. 2-0 to the Arsenal, and it all looked easy from there.

Oh, who am I kidding? This is Arsenal, and they rarely take the easy way of, you know, killing off games and stuff. Immediately after the goal, the corpse of Everton re-animated enough for them to attack again. Cahill's through-ball to Saha had Sebastien Squillaci beat, so the defender took his French compatriot down from behind. There are some in the post-mortems that say that Clichy was close to the play, but in real time I thought Squillaci was the last man and had to go. For once, the Howard Webb Roulette Wheel spun in our favor, and he produced a card to match our away shirts instead of the home strip.

Seconds later, Cesc was guilty of a foul that has been ridiculously overblown, even compared to his admittedly-bad one from last week. This was nothing of the sort, and the fact that utter cunts like today's Guardian minute-by-minute dweeb (Jacob Steinberg, who is an end-of-the-bench guy there as far as I can tell...with fucking good reason) can make a moral equivalence between this and a Karl Henry special is mind-boggling to me. The prick even made a "not that sort of player" crack, which I wonder if he would do were it John Terry or Gareth Bale who made that challenge. Die in a fire, you fuck.

That aside, this should have been over as a contest in the 61st minute. A fine pass from Denilson sent Nasri in behind the Everton defense, but Howard came out to bravely block at his feet. Next, Arshavin's killer ball found a completely unmarked Chamakh - a simple side-foot would have been enough to deposit the ball into the unguarded net. Instead, he managed to Chris Iwelumo it over the bar...an astonishing, astonishing miss.

To the credit of David Moyes, caution was abandoned in favor of a balls-to-the-wall 3-4-3 formation. Phil Neville and the ephemeral Mikel Arteta were removed in favor of Aiegbeni Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford. It was valiant from the Scot, but it should have resulted in Arsenal pressing on the counter-attack to take advantage of the gaps left on the flanks. Instead, the men in yellow decided that 2-0 was safe enough to try and just play out time. It's beyond frustrating to begin with, but doubly so against a side that mugged United at the death to snatch a draw a few short weeks ago.

Needless to say, the men in blue began to find some openings. The resurgent Beckford powered a volley towards the top corner of Fabianski's net, but the Pole was more than equal to it. he also brilliantly parried a drive from Saha. However, in the 89th minute, he couldn't keep out Cahill's hooking volley off a corner. That's not to say that he had much of a chance at it...once again, our defense went to sleep at a vital time in a match.

That set the stage for a nervy finish, and Everton in fairness played their part. They swarmed forward with one sortie after another, dealt with to varying degrees of success by the Arsenal backline. The boss took off Chamakh for Emmanuel Eboue, so the bunker was well and truly built. With four minutes of injury time, things got a bit nerve-wracking...but the defenders endured and the points were won.

At the end of the day, there's two ways to look at this. On one hand, this was a great result against a side that had gone 7 unbeaten. On the other, complacency crept into the team's game for the umpteenth time, and there is an argument that the only things between Everton and a draw at minimum were Fabianski's brilliance and Webb's bizarre decisions. It is indicative of just how up in the air this season is where we can lose to West Brom, Sunderland and Newcastle and still be in 2nd place, just 2 points behind the blue fucks.

Like I've said before, this title is there if the team wants it. I think I speak for us all when I say that all we're looking for is a little more killer instinct.

The Modern Gooner Player Ratings:

Fabianski 8, Clichy 6, Squillaci 5, Djourou 7, Sagna 7, Wilshere 6 (Denilson 7), Song 6, Fabregas 8 (MOTM), Nasri 8, Chamakh 6 (Eboue N/A), Arshavin 7 (Rosicky 6)

Lukasz Is Our King!

Greetings, salutations, and an Arsenalicious good morning to you all from a bright and sunny New York. Something about a midweek win makes the rest of that week just seem better. The sun is shinier, the air is crisper, food tastes better, beer tastes better, scotch tastes better, hangovers are less severe. Well maybe not that last bit, but they're easier to endure due to that glowing warmth inside that those three points give you.

I'll only comment on a few things about the win over Wolves at Molineux on Wednesday, as Sean's recap covered much of it. I think we all knew how important it was to get a win there coming off the back of a dire, simply poor home loss to Newcastle in which the vast majority of our players just didn't show up. I think we all also realised we wouldn't be able to go there this time as we did last year and storm all over Wolves, as they have spent a year up in the Premiership due largely to their falling prey to the Dark Side of the Sport. My main concern therefore, more than getting a win, was keeping hope alive that none of our players would end up injured due to Wolves physical (read: nasty, dirty, cheating, cheap-shotting, cockish) style of play.

Miraculously that occurred; we didn't lose anyone to injury. In fact, we'll have one MORE player this weekend than we did Wednesday as Kieran Gibbs returns for another shot at reinjuring himself. This wasn't for lack of trying on Wolves' part. Known-psychopath Karl Henry did his best to "do" Arshavin with a second half studs-up lunge over the ball at Dr. Drei's leg that, on another day, might have ended our diminutive Russian's season.

We did get the win, both goals coming from Marouane Chamakh in the first and last minute of the match (just over 90 minutes apart). But the hero of the day was indeed Lukasz Fabianski, who seems to have a bit of 'keeper Ron Weasley in him. As in, he was complete shit, couldn't do a thing right, yet (as Sean mentioned) once he finally got a bit of confidence in himself, all that latent talent that others saw in him was able to shine.

This was indeed his best performance in an Arsenal shirt, better than his outstanding match against Man City and worlds apart from his cock-up against Newcastle (which was at least in part due to a mental lapse from Koscielny). He was confident, bold, and saved our bacon for long stretches while our goal was besieged by Wolves. Clearly the man of the match, and after a spectacular last-minute save and throw that began the break leading to our second goal, his teammates let him know.

I don't feel the need to comment on Cesc's booking, other than to say shame on Match of the Day for bleating on about how Cesc should have been sent off, when it was clearly a yellow card offense (which is what he got), yet ignoring Henry's attempt to injure Arshavin, which wasn't even a tackle at all... And with Lee Dixon on the panel as well. That's to be expected from Hansen and the other Scots twat, but Dicko is generally a reasonable man, so it's disappointing to see him toeing the company line. And I'm really glad the Mick McCarthy was impressed by Cesc's maturity in apologizing to Ward (who was injured on the play) after the match. Wenger didn't mention Henry's maturity at all, because he wouldn't think to apologize, and because we all know his maturity doesn't merit plaudits from anyone.

Anyway, a brilliant win for us midweek, and hopefully some positive momentum to take into an away match on Sunday at Everton. The scouser blues have had their share of issues the first half of this season, and while we ran roughshod at Goodison on match Day 1 last season, this time will not, I assure you, be so easy. Everton exacted a small bit of revenge by holding us to a home draw last season, and while they won't have Landon Donovan to terrorize our left flank (nor will we have the comical inability to defend of Armand Traore in charge of its safety), they also won't have Jolean Lescott refusing to defend in a petulant demand for transfer to City.

Everton's early season form has been predictably patchy. They currently sit 12th in the table with 15 points in 12 played, and their last 3 matches have seen them win 1-0 over Stoke, followed by a 2-2 away draw to Blackpool and a 1-1 home draw to Bolton. As with most David Moyes sides, they have some good talent, some not so good, and some up-and-coming players that have struggled to find any consistent form. If recent years can predict a pattern, they'll likely start to find their feet in January and finish within the top eight teams.

As for what we bring to the blue side of Mersey, I don't know that the team we field will be much different from Wednesday. Yes, Gibbs has returned, and he may be on the bench, but I'd be shocked if Arsene put him on. I wouldn't be too surprised to see Theo or perhaps Nasri get a start on the right, although I feel Arshavin and Chamakh will hold their places up front. The midfield of Cesc, Jack and Song and the back five (Fabianski, Clichy, Djourou, Squillaci and Sagna) will all very likely remain in place.

It's still November, we're still in the thick of it, and after Wednesday's match (which, it must be said, was as exciting as the Manchester Derby was dull) there is hope. We managed to keep pace with a win mid-week, we will need another three points Sunday. It was said that matches like Wolves away are what wins titles, but that's not entirely true, is it? What wins titles is consistency. I keep waiting for us to hold that idea close to heart and learn from it. Let's see if we do so on Sunday morning.

9am EST kickoff on Sunday, Everton v Arsenal. COME ON YOU GUNNERS.

Keep it goonerish.

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0-2 Arsenal: Match Report

Once again, I did not actually see the match - my corporate masters saw to that. So, as with the Newcastle match, I will have to speak in generalities as to what this means for our season overall - albeit this time with the benefit of long-form highlights from 101 Great Goals.

I may have mentioned in this space my belief that Marouane Chamakh was one of the most important off-seasons signings that anyone made this summer. There were certainly more high-profile ones, and perhaps some of the fanfare was lost as everyone and their mother knew that the Moroccan was joining us when his contract expired. Still, the added dimension he gives our attack - read as: a direct option FINALLY - has been an invaluable weapon on several occasions this season. The bottom line is that most of our opponents haven't tactically adjusted to this yet, and the big man is getting his share of open headers (that isn't to discount the wonderful stuff he's done with his feet and through his graft and energy as well...but the aerial presence has been sorely lacking in the recent past).

With that said, it's not surprising that Chamakh opened the scoring...but the goal coming just 37 seconds into the contest does raise one's eyebrows. All too often, Arsenal mosey around in midfield for the opening exchanges, only coming into the game once the other side shows some resistance (or, even worse, takes the lead on their first shot). This time, the Arsenal rearguard repelled a Wolves attack and Tommy Rosicky found Alex Song's drifting run to the outside. It's unusual for Song to be there, but there is no cause for complaint this time - his gorgeous cross was timed perfectly to Chamakh's run, and his header left Marcus Hahnemann in Wolverhampton's goal with no chance whatsoever. Cue a sort of quiet bedlam in my cubicle (following Eurosport's MBM as the Guardian couldn't be bothered this time), as I never expected us to take the lead so soon.

Unfortunately, an old bugbear resurfaced during the rest of the half - presented with a myriad of chances to kill off the game in its crib, our attackers spurned every one of them. This could have been calamitous, as Wolves eventually recovered from the shock of conceding so early and got themselves back into the contest. Halftime came and went, with Arsenal maintaining just the one-goal lead.

Whatever inertia was gained from the early goal seemed to have dissipated with the end of the first half, as Wolves came out for the second half with desperate urgency. Coming off the heartbreak of giving Manchester United everything they could handle only to come away with zero points, it was obvious that they saw an opportunity to cash in on Arsenal's recent stuttering form in all competitions. It got to the point where I couldn't concentrate on my work at all - all I could do was cringe as the MBM described in excruciating detail the siege on Lukasz Fabianski's net.

That man, though, was for the second time this season the Man of the Match for me. One vital moment in the first half was his timely lunge to his left to prevent an open header at his back post. His timing, mobility and decision-making (Newcastle aside) is getting better. His reflexes have always been there. All he needs is consistency - I'm not saying he's Iker Casillas, but he's quickly becoming the best option that we have available at the moment. But, besides all of these factors I've listed, there's one even more important one for a goalkeeper: confidence. Know when that seems to have come back for our Lukasz? Right here:

Up 3-1 against Partizan Belgrade to start our Champions' League campaign, he saved a penalty from Cleo to maintain the lead. All told, it wasn't that vital of a save in the grand scheme of things...chances are, Arsenal would have comfortably won the game anyway. But, you have to see it through the eyes of a keeper. Even at my own humble level, I can tell you all about it. There are stretches where you drop clangers left, right and center...and believe me, you start to wonder where your next save is coming from. I can only describe it as a gnawing, sinking feeling that hangs right in the middle of your gut. You second-guess yourself on every shot, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You worry so much about fucking up that it takes away your focus and CAUSES you to make mistakes you wouldn't normally make. It's like being on a deserted island with no lifeboat...no way back. Then, it happens - the opposing team is marauding down the pitch, and despite the voice in your mind that plagues you during these times (oh no, here we go again!), the shot comes, and conscious thought leaves you. Legs spring into action, your body goes airborne, a hand flashes out...and tips it around the post or over the crossbar.

Holy FUCK, I know how to play this game! I'm good! Really!

In waves, it comes back. Seriously, it's a fucking rush. Adrenaline courses, flushing away that awful feeling in your guts. KING KONG AIN'T GOT SHIT ON ME!

Goddamn, that feeling is wonderful.

Anyway, my point is that even though it seemed normal at the time (Manuel Almunia has saved tons of penalties and never quite got over the confidence hump - it's different for every goalkeeper and every situation), this is obviously happening with Fabianski. His save right at the end - mirroring the Man City save in which he got down in a hurry and saved a wicked shot without leaving a rebound - kept it 1-0 long enough for Chamakh to break loose and score the second in alone on Hahnemann.

Suck on that, McCarthy.

Anyway, this clearly was three priceless points for the Gunners on a day where the Manchester sides canceled each other out, and Chelsea kept rolling with a win against Fulham. We remain 5 points behind Chelsea, but are now just 1 behind United. This was exactly the kind of gut-it-out performance that I think we all needed to see in the post-mortem of the Newcastle debacle. We needed to see these guys win ugly on a day where they did not have their best match, when Cesc Fabregas was invisible and the back four were makeshift at best.

The only downside was that a tackle by Fabregas (which was not included in the highlight package I happened to see) was used as more ammunition for the "Same old Arsenal, always cheating" fucktards. It really is too much to bear, sometimes. Conveniently, nobody seemed to take note of Violent Psychopath Karl Henry doing his thing once again:

Well, OK...this isn't it per se, but imagine this with Henry's studs on Arshavin's ankle...the ball nowhere in sight. But hey, he's not that kind of player, right? Just a brave, stout English yeoman defender playing honest football. A man's game, and all that.

Cunts. Utter, utter cunts.

We won't let that dim our happiness on the day, though. Big, big result in an increasingly-tightening Premier League. More of the same on Sunday against Everton, hopefully. The good news for that one is Marouane Fellaini got himself sent off yesterday, so there will be that much less bite in their midfield. Still, I'll leave it to Brett to handle the official preview on that one.


Arsenal 0-1 Newcastle - the Not a Match Report Rant

So, I didn't see the game. But, what a load of wank that was, huh? For the second time this season, Arsenal has lost a home fixture to a newly-promoted side. Unlike the West Brom match, which featured the old "destined to fall short rally" chestnut, this was an instance where the home side were never at the races. Outfought, outhustled, outcoached, outscored, well-beaten.

This is not good enough. Or, to put it another way:

As mentioned, I cannot say much about the particulars of the match - the result was ruined for me on Facebook on my way back home from a friend's wedding, so I didn't bother to watch. There are better uses of 90 minutes, up to and including sawing at my own jugular with my house keys. At this rate though, are particulars necessary? We've seen this game before - entirely too goddamn often over the last few seasons, in fact. With that in mind, I will speak less about keepers flapping at set pieces and more about what I feel are the root causes of this malaise.

Perhaps the most damning indictment of this team at present is the fact that they are sufficiently weak mentally for it to take two separate forms. There are some teams in world football that succumb to nerves when faced with the prospect of a visit from the big dogs. Any supporter of Atletico Madrid would commiserate with us on that point, with their boys now having gone an incredible 18 matches against their cross-town rivals without a victory. There are others who bravely go out on their shield against the giants, but who cannot bring themselves to apply the same conviction to a routine visit from a relegation-threatened minnow.

Somehow, Arsenal manage to accomplish both.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but a large part of that falls on the manager. Arsene Wenger alone determines the composition of the first-team squad, the 18 who suit up on any given match day and how they are disciplined and treated. He is the one who offers lucrative contract extensions to players that have dubious claims to having earned them. He is the one who gives the halftime team talk when his side are 1-0 down to Newcastle, he is the one who gives the full-time team talk when his side capitulates and ships three goals to FUCKING WEST BROM before deciding to begin playing.

C'est vous qui doit accepter cette responsabilité, M. Wenger.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not flinging myself off of any buildings...I'm not calling for the boss' job, I'm not writing this season off nor any of the players specifically. As it stands, we are a little past the quarter post of the season, and we are 5 points off the pace. Chelsea are a good side but they are not invincible - they'll have their injuries, their suspensions, and their hiccups (losing to the SCOUSERS? Christ!). We are three points behind draw-happy Manchester United, and are level with their nouveau riche cousins in blue. This season can certainly be salvaged.

The time to do so is now, though.

Contrary to the frankly knee-jerk reactions that the Arsenal proletariat will give voice to after a bad loss, I don't think the problem is much with the composition of the squad. Of course, I'd love an Igor Akinfeev or Hugo Lloris in goal, I'd love a Brede Hangeland in the center of defense. In other news, I'd love to be writing this on the Riviera with a drink in one hand and the other around Natalie Portman (You may ask how I'd be writing this with both hands occupied - the answer, of course, is that I'd be dictating it to my assistant...come on, people!). Back in reality, I'm writing this in my cubicle when I should be working, and we have the squad we have. On paper, it's one of the strongest in the league...and it should be doing better than it is.

I don't even know if it comes down to something like "we have to defend better"...well, at least with our center-halves, anyway. They know how to defend - Laurent Koscielny alone has made several brilliant interventions this season, and for the most part we've dealt with set pieces far better than in seasons past. Even when you look at our beleaguered fullbacks though, I feel like the mistakes that Gael Clichy and Bacary Sagna have made this season are less a matter of positional nous and more a matter of grey - in other words, the bit between their ears. That goes for the squad as a whole. They amble aimlessly at times, letting the game pass them by. We've all screamed at our televisions at the lack of effort shown by Andrei Arshavin since his early-season purple patch. We've bemoaned the lack of cutting edge from Tomas Rosicky, the susceptibility to injury from Robin van Persie, and the errors from our goalkeepers (I still insist that for the most part, Lukasz Fabianski has been better than expected overall since he's taken the No. 1 slot).

We know these guys can play football. Every so often, when the stars align juuuuuuuuuuust right, they actually show it. Just ask Blackpool about that one.

It says something though that, after five years of trophyless seasons, after countless articles and interviews where for all intents and purposes they've had their desire and even their manhood questioned, after being mentally and physically abused by the top teams, this lot still have the same old fragility. No fight, no drive, no determination, no defiance, no guts, no testicles, no resistance. George Graham is turning over in his grave, and he's not even dead yet.

Again, I'm trying very hard to not overreact. Maybe they'll turn the corner - we looked shite for a while in 1998 as well, and we know how that turned out. The problem is, most of these guys have won nothing in their careers. Cesc of course has internationally, I think Tommy was on the Dortmund side that won the UEFA Cup, but other than that? Squillaci winning with Lyon and Arshavin winning with Zenit is nothing like the Premier League. At the highest levels, for the most part these guys have been found wanting.

And what of the manager, then? What of the man who is supposed to instill the spirit and fight he incessantly talks about into his charges?

I won't get much into the allegations of his private life, because frankly I don't care. I am one of those who in any arena - sports, politics, whatever - I believe that marital fidelity does not conflate with the ability to do one's job. Shit, I think Elliot Spitzer should still be our governor. But, on a more practical level, he has allowed said private life to become a very public distraction at a time where it just isn't fucking needed or wanted. The last thing Arsenal needs in a season where West Brom, Sunderland and Newcastle have already happened is for a media circus to surround the manager. It's bad enough that many in the press have a vendetta against him for daring to call out England's Brave Journeymen on the fact that they're talentless shit-kickers with a borderline psychotic willingness to inflict injury on their betters. Now we have to endlessly hear about where his willy has wandered? COME ON, SON.

We've covered fragile players and a morally-suspect manager who is letting the inmates run the asylum. But, this mess we're in is a team effort from top to bottom...and in that I include the home support. I knew anecdotally that it was fairly anemic most of the time, but it took my visit for the West Ham match for me to see just how piss-poor it is.

With West Ham's mutant chromosomally-challenged skinhead shitbag wankers going on and on about how our support was shit and that our manager is a pedophile, with them admittedly showing the same stoutness in support that their defense was showing on the pitch, our lot mainly sat there and took it. I'm not saying that every single person has to be a rabid shouter, I understand that their are families and kids and whatnot. But, how the shitting FUCK do a few hundred people out-sing 59,000? That should never happen. It's a disgraceful state of affairs, but it's a state that I believe our club has specifically and deliberately cultivated. There's no designated ultras section - guys like me (and the lad in front of me, to his credit) are interspersed in with the prawn-sandwich brigade. We have managed to make our 60,000-seat monolith the least-threatening bulwark since the Maginot Line.

Maybe you can't quite make the same leap I am from quiet fans to crap performances on the pitch. Personally, I think it's a disease that has spread throughout the entire club. It is a smug complacency and a feeling that trophies should come to us simply because we're the Arsenal. It is an unwillingness to get stuck in (on the pitch and in the stands) for a visit from Wigan Athletic or Partizan Belgrade. It's a complete disowning of everything that made Arsenal what it was - the desire, the fighting spirit, the commitment to defense (even with the earlier Wenger sides, the beautiful flowing football often came on the counter after we repelled an attack).

For the short term, I'm still on board with Wenger and his vision. I do believe this team can find that spark to get some of that fight and commitment back. I think Cesc can lead us to trophies in the short time we have left with him. But if that belief is not reciprocated by those who need to show it the most, then I am able to be convinced that our future lies with another manager and different players. Not yet, but how long must we accept this?

Early Sunday Matches and Gael Clichy Make Homer Something Something

Yes, it's another ass-crack o' dawn kickoff, and on a Sunday to boot. I must apologize for no blog post last Friday, although I can't accept full blame: I had virtually completed a lengthy entry, when the blog just casually sort of erased everything. And before I could refresh to the most recent save, the autosave kicked in and everything was blank. And then I blacked out for a while, and came to half naked and covered in blood that was not my own.

Note to self: Stop confessing to potential crimes on blog.

Anyway, it's been a sort of up and down week for Arsenal. Coming off the backs of consecutive away wins over Man City (3-0) and then midweek over Newcastle in the Carling Cup (4-0), we were back home to host West Ham United. While the Hammers are struggling at the bottom of the table and looking good candidates for relegation, a London derby is NEVER an easy fixture, and this was no different.

As a match, it was a pretty poor affair for neutrals and virtual torture for most Gooners. How is it that the slack-jawed mistake-waiting-to-happen Robert Green looks absolute pants against every other team, but against Arsenal, he's channeling Iker Casillas? The Flopping Englishman absolutely stood on his head and was stopping every chance we had, including a mouthwatering bit of play which saw Sagna get deep into the right side of the box, cross for Fabregas whose power shot was snuffed by Green. We made some poor passes, didn't mark well, and while Fabianski didn't have much to deal with, we didn't seem to get forward enough for me. Late on in a scoreless deadlock, it appeared that West Ham was playing for a draw, and looked like they'd have their way. 85 minutes gone, and Gael Clichy got the ball on the left side as Arsenal players poured into the box... my hopes were raised, then dashed as Gael switched to his right foot, which might as well have been a pegleg for all the good he's done with it for Arsenal. Wonder of wonders, he swung a ball into the box with that foot, and Alex Song came out of nowhere with a diving header into the net. A late goal and proven, after a few uneventful minutes and the final whistle, the winner.

Midweek, with a number of injury concerns (midfield especially), we traveled to Donestk for a return match with Shakhtar and Eduardo. It was a somewhat weakend Arsenal side, but with enough quality to come away with a result. That result (and assurance that Arsenal would be through to the knockout stages of the Champions League) looked a good bet early on, when Wilshere (who worked very hard all game) flicked a ball ahead on the left side; Theo Walcott was 3 yards behind a defender pursuing the ball, then even with him and in possession, then ahead by 6 yards and finishing from the edge of the box.

It was a fantastic display of athleticism by Walcott, and the fastest I've ever seen a footballer run with the ball. A 1-0 lead put Arsenal in a good position, and looked like it might be a springboard for bigger things. What we got, instead, was a lackluster 80 minutes from most of the side, who just seemed overconfident, careless, and in some cases just plain disinterested.

Due to injury woes for Song and Denilson, young Craig Eastmond was thrust into a match that seemed to overwhelm him. His own goal was a bit of his day in a nutshell, struggling against the tide only to make a bit of a mess. However, it was a queer thing that he was the one marking the much larger Dmytro Chigrynskiy, and this, to me, points out fundamental organisational failure on set pieces. Expecting the 5'8" Eastmond to stop the 6'3" centre half is ludicrous. Chigrynskiy headed the ball, which was deflected by the leaping Eastmond into the net for the equaliser. It's unfortunate that Eastmond did connect with the ball, as Fabianski was in a good position to stop the header off of the Shakhtar man.

Shortly before halftime, what ended up bing the winner came on a typical lapse in thought by Gael Clichy. The Frenchman raced ahead of the attacking Srna to the ball. Pressed by Srna, Clichy inexplicably tried to turn with the ball and, I suppose, beat his man on the turn and go upfield, instead of knocking it right out of bounds. Srna stepped in and stole the ball easy as you like, picked out Eduardo waiting in the box, and Fabianski had no chance to save the goal.

The introduction of Vela gave me no confidence, and it's becoming hard to see what the manager sees in him, particularly with Jay Emmanuel-Thomas pressing hard for a place in the senior squad, and with the January arrival of dynamic Brazilian winger Wellington Silva. Our Mexican not-so-super-star will likely see fewer opportunities for football if he continues to put in such uninspiring performances. Chamakh entered the fray but had little to do as Shakhtar dominated midfield, and JET got a brief cameo in which he looked like Tecmo Bowl's Christian Okoye (for those of us too young to remember, see below)...

Alas, it didn't result in a goal, and a listless performance from most of the Arsenal team meant we were never going to come back. It's depressing, of course, but we can only hope that we will learn from our mistakes here. Like we never ever seem to.

As I mentioned, it's an 8:30am kickoff on Sunday for our home match with Newcastle United. Don't let the 4-0 drubbing we gave them at St. James Park a couple weeks back fool you into thinking this will be a walk (as I'm afraid some of our players will); Toon were holding back several regulars in Kevin Nolan and impressive striker Andy Carroll, and subhuman midfielder Joey Barton, for a derby with Sunderland, where they ran roughshod all over the Black Cats. Count on two things: It will be a tighter game than 4-0, and Joey Barton will try his damndest to injure someone. Let's just hope it isn't Cesc. Or Nasri. Or Theo. In fact, let's just hope he injures himself, how's that?

I haven't decided whether or not I'll be down the pub for this one yet. 8:30am kickoff is terrible; although not quite as bad as 7am Kickoff, Arseblog's American guest-blogger on today's Arsecast. Just poor, made all of American Gooners look crap. Hopefully next time Arseblogger picks an American it will be one who knows the game and who can talk without long, awkward pauses.

Anyway, roll on Sunday. And, as Dennis taught us, be Goon to each other. Laters.