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Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Treble’s still on…

Arsenal tonight played their Carling Cup Quarter Final against Manchester City who are currently top of the league and more better off than we are.

Both sides played their ‘B’ teams so to speak, except Koscielny and arguably Djourou no first team players flirted with the starting eleven, Van Persie and Walcott were rested, Gervinho and Vermaelen were on the bench with other former first teamers like Arshavin on the bench also.

Manchester City opted to play their ‘B’ team also, but most of their secondary eleven is filled with last season’s regulars like Zabaleta, Kolarov, Toure, De Jong and Johnson, with first choice striker Aguero coming on and Dzeko who’s been fairly regular this season also starting. It was Aguero who was the difference maker, scoring with seven minutes of normal time remaining to break the dead-lock and send City through to their second Carling Cup semi-final in 3 years.

There wasn’t much wrong with Arsenal’s performance, other than anyone scoring, youngsters like Miquel, Frimpong and Coquelin and especially Oxlade-Chamberlain showed us there’s a bright future (as cliché as it sounds when it comes to Arsenal) of young talent to come. Every player tonight may not have been the most skilful on the pitch but showed passion and that’s exactly what we’ve lacked in matches like last year’s Carling Cup final and aftermath when we slipped from title contenders to fourth.

The main issue was however, our goal scorers. Park-Chu-Young may take some time to adjust to the new league but Chamakh tonight didn’t impress. I know some go through goal-droughts but he had so many chances tonight, especially one in the dying minutes to grab a late equaliser.

All-in-all we need another new striker, whether that’s Podolski or me, we need someone who can get a few goals and aid the team, at the moment, that’s not Chamakh or Park and they’re not played enough to be played into form because they aren’t good enough.

Decent performance and three trophies still on but we had chances to win it.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

R.I.P. Gary Speed (1969-2011)

This morning has put everything into perspective, Football results don’t matter. Last night there were people complaining that Arsenal didn’t beat Fulham, that Manchester United had a winning goal disallowed and others calling for Steve Bruce’s removal as Sunderland manager. Yes, every game has millions of pounds on the line in the long-run and every fan wants to go home happy and entertained, but the shocking news of Wales Manager Gary Speed’s passing this morning puts everything that happened yesterday and later today paling into insignificance.

I refuse to speculate how or why Gary died, the speculations and inquiries or for the correct authorities to make and report. According to early reports from credible sources, Gary took his own life early Sunday morning. why? Like I already said it’s not my place to say.

It’s undoubtedly true that Gary Speed was a lovable character in the game of Football. Maybe it’s a little cliché, obviously no-one comes out and says heartless about a person who has just passed on unless they were a convicted criminal. However, Gary has always been someone I have respected and I’m sure someone everyone who are fans of the game respected too.

Speed recorded over 500 appearances in the Premiership, the first player to reach 500 in the Premier League and a record 85 international caps for Wales, the most for an outfield player. It is not just Welsh, Leeds, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton or Sheffield United fans will mourn the death of Gary Speed today, its not a loss for Wales or those clubs, its a major loss for Football.

Condolences go out to his close friend and family, today we’ve lost a great player, a brilliant young manager, but more importantly a good man.

R.I.P. Gary Speed.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Shake my hand.

Just when you believe you have this game figured out, one idiot has to go and mess things up again, the one person you don’t expect it to be is the leader of Football though.

Sepp Blatter has always been looked at as a bit of a tool, the apparent corruption of FIFA, his stance with wearing the poppy on the shirt are just recent examples of his idiocy. However, despite how incompetent you may believe Sepp to be, no-one quite expected this comment:

“Maybe one of the players has a word or a gesture which is not the correct one, but the one who is effected by that, he should say that ‘this is a game’.We are in a game, and at the end of the game, we shake hands, and this can happen, because we have worked so hard against racism and discrimination.” – Sepp Blatter (16th November 2011)

Firstly, Sepp’s very quick to make the interviewer perceive that a lot has been done to stop racial discrimination, and he even says that it’s not in Football at all, but doesn’t both his comments contradict themselves? How can racism be out of Football if players are still using “word or a gesture which is not the correct one” as in words or gestures deemed as racial or discriminative? Arguably Mr. Blatter is saying that all the recent alleged incidents are in fact isolated ones and that Football is not a sport tolerating racism and that it’s not at all rife throughout the game. With that I would have to agree with Mr. Blatter in that I too believe the recent Suarez/Evra and Terry/Ferdinand incidents here in England are isolated matters and most if not all players and those associated with the game are far to well educated to realise using such phrases or gestures is inappropriate in whatever context. I also believe Football is not to blame for racism, it should never tolerate it, but the sport is not the cause for it, and it’s also not right to say that it’s right because “this is a game”, poor education from an early age is the real cause of racism, that and people’s ego making them believe they are untouchable when they are not and should never be.

What I am most offended by is how out of touch Blatter seems to be, had he have made such comments in an interview forty years ago many of those who listened would have applauded, thought he was a genius and that these offended players were just overreacting. That’s because of the time, in the seventies a comment like that would be well-received, however, less than twenty years later many people would have called for the head of Blatter then, so how can he even believe a comment like that would go down well in the year 2011? Really, a hand-shake?! This is almost as bad as that journalist telling players like Evra and Ferdinand to get on with it, in fact it is as bad seeing as he’s effectively saying racial abuse, an offense so bad the MET Police feel it their business to launch an enquiry doesn’t matter.

I don’t believe Blatter’s a racist, but the seventy-five year old isn’t half out of touch, and this is why Blatter MUST resign.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

My Top Five Games

Listening to 'The Tuesday Club' podcast in its former incarnation 'Its Up For Grabs Now', the Keith Dover special, they listed El Presidente's favourite games, so here's mine, although not all Arsenal (because I'm only been to about two dozen Arsenal games which haven't been half as enjoyable.

5) Arsenal 2-0 Charlton Athletic; March 2003
An odd choice to the common eye, but there is a reason. As a seventeen year old, I only started supporting the Gooners alongside my hometeam Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2002 after watching the FA Cup final and being captivated by Freddie Ljungberg and his red hair. Who remains one of my favourite players. So my Gooner supporting Uncle, got three tickets for Arsenal versus Charlton in early Marxh of 2003 which we won 2-0 after goals from Jeffers and Pires, privileged to see Francis score one of his four league goals for us and Pires play. It was also Freddie's return from injury, which as a child made my day.

4) Wolves 3-0 Sheffield United; May 2003 (Nationwide Division One Play-Off Final)
Two months after seeing my new love Arsenal, I went to see my first love Wolves and their attempt to become one of twenty in the 2003/2004 Premiership, Wolves had been a little bit shoddy against Sheffield who has finished 3rd compared to Wolves 5th place finish. However, after travelling on two trains, and sitting in Cardiff's Millennium Stadium for what felt like two hours before kick-off, we were away, after six minutes, Mark Kennedy scored, sixteen minutes later, Nathan Blake made it two, and on the stroke of half time, Kenny Miller (who was my favourite player for Wolves) made it three. At half-time we went back to 1970s days and after watching a documentary on how the Barclays Premier League was formed, David Dein said "You either went for a pee or a burger..." which was what it felt like, the queue for the loo was about 2 miles long, and we missed a couple of minutes of the second half where Paul Butler (who in 2011 has grown into a hybrid of actor/musician Jack Black and actor/comedian Matt Berry who plays Douglas in IT Crowd) gave away a penalty for a flimsy handball. Legendarily, my Dad opted for nature calling whereas I opted for "oh crickey, there's been a crowd roar must be a goal". It was of course a Sheffield United penalty, saved by Wolves legend, the unfortunately now retired Matt Murray (the greatest keeper England never had), anyway, my Dad missed the save as he trotted up moments after Murray palmed it into the crowd. Wolves went onto win 3-0 and gain access to the ‘promise-land’ for one season at least, but it did throw up some great memories as I’ll explain now.

3) Wolverhampton Wanderers 4-3 Leicester City; October 2003
Technically, the season tickets my Dad had belonged to him and my Uncle, so naturally, I didn’t go to many early games, but one I did go to, my first was a cracker. Wolves had only won one previous game before that, 1-0 against Manchester City, so when they went 3-0 down in thirty-five minutes even to Leicester, there was no way they were going to win, right? Wrong! Seven minutes after the restart and Colin Cameron got one back, eight minutes later he scored from the spot to make it 3-2, another eight minutes later and Alex Rae equalised to make it a cracking game and then to top off one of the most exciting games in my footballing history, Henri Camara scored his first Wolves league goal to make it 4-3 to Wolves and win the game, one of the greatest games I’ve ever witnessed in my life, so good only one game that season and two more games in my life could be any better.

2) Arsenal 0-0 Manchester United (Arsenal won 5-4 on Penalties); May 2005 (FA Cup Final)
Unlike the previous game, this one was dull as anything, two hours of nothing spectacular, until the penalty shoot-out. Paul Scholes had his saved from Jens Lehmann and with his last kick of his Arsenal career, captain, Patrick Vieira scored the final penalty of the shoot-out to win the FA Cup (currently, Arsenal’s last trophy won) for Arsenal. Due to the fact it was a cup final, my first FA Cup final, it obviously has to go on this list, and it was still a great game at Cardiff with a great ending compared to my last Cup Final at Wembley in our 2-1 loss to Birmingham City this year.

1) Wolverhampton Wanderers 1-0 Manchester United; January 2004
Just two days before my 10th Birthday, Wolves played Man Utd, my Dad gave up his ticket to my Gran who took me to the game. Throughout the game was constant abuse at Rio Ferdinand who limped off to a nine month ban forgetting to attend a Drugs test. From there Kenny Miller went on to score the only goal to chants of “Champions League, you’re havin’ a laugh” from the ground to the bus-stop. “Let’s all have a disco” also comes to mind too, for atmosphere it was my favourite ever game (not just for the Rio abuse, that was just quite humouring). I didn’t attend the 2-1 victory in February of this year, despite predicting a Wolves win for months (seriously I did!), however, what a game that was.

Those are my favourite five games, not the best, but memorable for me especially the top three.