Drink from the goblet of our Arse

Drink from the goblet of our Arse

It’s a precarious and inexact science is football. The lines are so often wafer thin between glory and disaster. I’m talking Steve Mcmanaman’s forearms thin. A succession of delicious injury time winners has everyone cock a hoop in the Goonerverse at the time of writing. With Tottenham’s ten point advantage whittled down to one point, fingers are pointing towards our erstwhile neighbours with accompanying laughter at their premature “mind the gap” assertions.

This, as though the remaining point that yawns between us has already been overturned and Tottenham’s twitchy bowels and choking tendencies are already assured. Whilst we are quite correct to set our sights greedily up to third place, it’s worth pointing out that we only have a three point gap above Chelsea in 5th. So we’re one dodgy result away from the sky falling in, everything being shit and everyone being a cunt again.

Many, myself included, have guffawed and cringed when Arsene has waxed lyrical about Arsenal’s “mental strength” but we really are beginning to see palpable signs of it. I put this down to a combination of factors. Chiefly, familiarity. The guts of the team are still pretty new and acclimatising to one another. I’ve made the point several times before about fluidity being the hallmark of a good side. It’s a theme the ever excellent Arsenal Column has embellished upon well here.

Thomas Vermaelen was in the penalty area for two good goalscoring opportunities before slotting home his last ditch winner. He can do this because he has every confidence that either Song or Arteta will simply slot back in to his place without him having to issue an affidavit to them to do so. The swapping of positions between Song and Vermaelen very much puts one in mind of the manner in which Toure and Gilberto used to jockey. Toure’s powering runs forward could be a potent weapon and Gilberto understood exactly when to drop back and allow the Ivorian to utilise that skill set. There’s nothing more to that than trust, which takes time to forge.

But I do believe there is a core of players that ‘get’ Arsenal now. Trying to stay as objective as possible, it’s genuinely a unique club, one which is guided by a set of principles. Some players absorb that ethos and others don’t. Very good players have struggled at the club in the past due to the standards it demands. I don’t like to single out individuals ordinarily, but to furnish my point I shall indulge. A couple of years ago I would have scanned the likes of Adebayor, Eboue, Nasri, Denilson – players with varying degrees of talent – and wonder if they ever really imbibed the culture of Arsenal. (Perhaps “imbibed” is an unfortunate phrase given the excesses of some notorious squad members in the 80s and 90s).

Evaluating the talents of respective players is entirely subjective. However, I look now at the likes of Sagna, Szczesny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Koscielny and van Persie, as well as experienced heads such as Rosicky and Arteta that recognise they are in something of an autumn at this level and I see a group that genuinely see the distinction of Arsenal. Representatives of the cannon in the recent past left you with the impression they could be cut and pasted into any other top 4 side in any of the more prominent leagues if the going was good for them.

I think that accounts for a lot of the fight we have seen of late. It was clear as day in the celebration of Vermaelen’s clincher against Newcastle. It’s why Robin van Persie is prepared to make a point to a very touchy Newcastle goalkeeper and why his team mates will rush across to back him up. I am unconvinced that the cameras picked it up, but once the melee had been cooled, there were some Arsenal players not yet in position from Newcastle’s centre. From the right back slot, Bacary Sagna furiously waved his arms at his teammates and told them in no uncertain terms, “Get the fuck back!”

That sort of spirit carries you through sometimes. Sagna’s no nonsense header against Spurs that that just glowed with a beautiful “fuck this”-ness. Vermaelen sprinting 80 yards into the area after 95 minutes. In retrospect, I think you could say the F.A. Cup comeback against Aston Villa sewed some restorative seeds. Probably in the inverse manner to which last season’s capitulation at St. James’ Park became the by-word for our subsequent collapse. Or something.

In the wake of the Villa cup tie, Wenger subtly made that Arsenal distinction clear. When asked what he had said to his players at half time, he coyly answered, “You can sit around and feel sorry for yourself or you can fight and show you have the qualities to play for this club.” I like to think those words have stayed with his players. The task now is for the manager to nail their ears to the wall and repeat them over and over again. Too often over the last 2 or 3 years an apparent revival has been allowed to slink back into a sea of self pity.

But it’s also crucial to appreciate the fragility of the situation. As I said earlier, we’re the hunters as well as the hunted in terms of league position. Playing catch up has probably suited our gung-ho style. Draws aren’t a lot of good to us at this stage, so pressing for last gasp, all out attack winners suits the personality of the side. But one well launched counter attack at Goodison next week sees doubts resurface. I still think Arsenal could stand to do a little more research on their opponents. Newcastle’s goal on Monday was a glaring example. Hatem Ben Arfa is possibly the most laughably one footed player in the Premier League, yet Gibbs still somehow deigned to show him onto his good foot in the penalty area.

That comes down to a lack of basic research. Arsene has a philosophy that has served us incredibly well and I wouldn’t suggest we should go tossing babies and bath water all over the shop. But even a slightly more hybrid approach could make a difference. This sort of rigour comes from the manager, but I also dare say it would have taken Kieran Gibbs around 1 hour of his voluminous spare time to have dug out some You Tube reels and obtained a basic appreciation of his opponent. That’s not intended to single out Gibbs per se; it goes for the whole team. The top players put that extra 1 or 2% in.

To close, I’ll address Arsenal’s pretty amusing “Twitter takeover” Q & A this week. As harmlessly fun as it seemed to be, it did cause me to briefly put myself in the place of the players with regards to social networking, which neatly precipitated this snippet of news. I have to say if I were a player, there’s no way in a million years I would have a Twitter account. The amount of moralising and judgement for every utterance would probably lead me to a Michael Douglas style ‘Falling Down’ moment.

For instance, Jack Wilshere has used his Twitter account to say he’d rather win a World Cup with England than a Champions League with Arsenal and this week said that he wanted to see Chelsea win in Europe. Now, personally, I’d equate England winning the World Cup with successfully negotiating a tricky dump. Ideally I would like to see Chelsea sucked into a vortex leaving behind only the vast, vast entrails of Frank Lampard’s intestinal tract and possibly one of John Terry’s limbs so I could feast upon it bloody jawed and muddy pawed.

Jack thinks differently. Strange and unsettling as I find anyone that doesn’t want to howl at the moon with John Terry’s blood all over their chops; I can deal with it. So long as Wilshere performs on the pitch for us and provided he isn’t a danger to society at large, is it really desirable or important to judge his thought processes? The amount of hand wringing and tut tutting I saw in reaction to those tweets contained enough piety to sustain the staff and readership of the Daily Mail. Oh what a tangled interweb we weave. Hey ho, that will do for this week.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LittleDutchVA and point out the hypocrisy of my flirting for followers having just cocked a snook at social networking. LD.

Social :: Idiots :: Money

Social :: Idiots :: Money

So, Arsenal players took over Twitter yesterday, answering questions from fans from across the globe.

“Lots of gel,” was Mikel Arteta’s reply to how he keeps his hair so perfect. I think he’s being modest. He has been blessed by nature with the kind of hair that simply does not move. Not for him the Nicholas Cage in Raising Arizona or Moonstruck. No sir. Sometimes you just have doff the cap to genetics and DNA.

As I was out and about seeing men about dogs (and not horse sized ducks or duck sized horses) I did not have the chance to pose a question to any of them. Although how anyone could have topped Thomas Vermaelen’s ketchup question I do not know. I would, however, dispute Vermaelen’s answer. I don’t think keeping ketchup in the fridge makes it any fresher, it simply makes it colder.

Still, all good fun and I fully expect further social media madness with Flickr Festivities and Facebook Fetes until such time as they run out of social media sites and start resurrecting old ones. Bebo Bops and MySpace Merrymaking will drag these zombie networks back into life, turning Frimpong, literally, into The Walking Dench. Not literally. Mostly.

Moving on to things football and you could barely move yesterday for Newcastle players taking the press to squeal about what a meanie Robin van Persie is. Jonas Gutierrez lead the pack but others, some of whom I’d never even heard of, joined in and praised Tim Krul for staying calm. The same Tim Krul who came out of his area to confront van Persie who was merely walking back to the centre-circle talking to himself.

I know this is in the past now, but all van Persie did was laugh at Krul, and let’s face it, there should be more laughter in the world. It’s a difficult enough place without criticising people who simply want to find the joy in things, like Robin did. The other thing that struck me was, you know, the fact that these same Newcastle players played on the same team as one Joseph Tarquin Marmaduke Constantine Oliver-Cromwell Barton.

It seems a bit rich to me that these players, who would have been witness to his many and varied attempts (some successful of course) to wind up opponents should now find behaviour far less vituperative so objectionable. Maybe I’m doing them a disservice, maybe they always did but were too afraid to say anything lest they find themselves on the end of some Barton revenge (I heard he once posted a teammates baby’s arm to him with a note saying ‘Here is your baby’s arm now give me your lunch money pal’ before finishing with a quote from Kant – at least I think that’s what it was, I could have misheard).

Maybe Alan Pardew, he himself a righteous man, ever the sportsman and certainly not one for gloating when his team has scored a goal, recognised that he had a dressing room full of sensitive, good-willed souls and rid them of the scourge of Joey so they could grow and become better people as well as better footballers. Or maybe they’re all just a pack of idiots who should think before they open their mouths. I think know where I’d put my money.

Anyway, enough about Newcastle and Tomas Rosicky says he turned down massive money from Russia and China to stay with Arsenal. He says:

Arsenal let me get to the point where I had just half a year on my contract and could talk to anyone I wanted.

In both cases it was financially huge numbers, so that somehow you had to entertain it, it’s not easy. Some days I thought about it, but money is not everything, I’m glad I’ll be able to continue at Arsenal.

I guess it all comes down to what you want from football. Of course anyone is going to be tempted by monstrous amounts of cash but if you want to play top level, competitive football then surely one of the top leagues in Europe is the place to be. It’s not as if they’re being asked to play for tree fiddy ($3.50, goddam loch ness monster), at Arsenal, but Russia aside I guess it’s a sign of how money is flowing all over the game that China even becomes an option.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Nasri go to China when he next decides the club he’s at isn’t paying him enough despite the fact he’s earning loads and contributing far less than he thinks he is. Although much could change, one day’s destination is yesterday’s MySpace if the money turns up elsewhere.

I’d warrant that if, all of a sudden, Ireland discovered a massive oil field which would provide for all of Europe for 50 years, turning the country into a much paler and freckled middle-east, with oil barons and O’Ligarchs owning football clubs, Nasri would be a Shamrock Rovers or Bray Wanderers player before you could say ‘Ou est my chin?’

And speaking of China, another pre-season fixture has been announced, this time in Hong Kong against Kitchee FC on July 29th. Anyone know a good pub close to the train station?

Ryo Miyacihi talks about how he’s learning lots at Bolton.

And that’s really about it. As the next game doesn’t take place until Wednesday we’re low on news news, if you get me. There’s no team stuff, no injury updates, and no press conference guff until next week.

So for today let’s leave it there, back tomorrow with an Arsecast and whatever scraps we can forage from the bins in the alleys in the world of Arsenal. Till then.

Some time to rest, then to get going again

Some time to rest, then to get going again

It does seem odd that this weekend will be entirely Arsenal free, but due to Everton’s FA Cup commitments that’s the way it’ll be.

Funnily enough, they play Sunderland who knocked us out, and I guess the best we can hope for is a rough, tough, energy sapping scrap on Saturday. It’s at Goodison Park so the scorched earth, no-man’s land pitch at the Stadium of Light won’t play a part, but while some might worry our momentum is interrupted I think it’s no bad thing that we have a couple of days off.

Winning games the way we have been winning them recently is no doubt exhilarating, but also physically and mentally exhausting. We don’t have the biggest squad in the land, we can only rotate so far and maintain our effectiveness, so a chance to rest and recuperate is no bad thing.

There’s a lot of talk of ‘breathing down the neck‘ of Sp*rs, which is true, but all the same there’s a long way to go yet and there are some difficult games ahead. There’s no doubt they’ve gone a bit quiet in recent weeks, we have minded the gap and what have you, but I am very much in the camp of he who LOLs last LOLing the longest and the out-loudiest.

Perhaps it is just the natural order of things, the universe righting itself, but we cannot think for one second that we can ease up now. As Goodplaya pointed out yesterday the fact that we’ve become the first team to come back from behind in four league games in a row is a testament to the spirit and character of the side, but I think we would all prefer if we didn’t go behind in the first place, and maybe that’s something we need to work on.

Don’t get me wrong, the coming from behind stuff is hugely enjoyable (in the end), and definitely provides the team with a confidence boost as well as creating that uncertainty in the opposition who know they’re facing a team who can score at any time right until the death. Any team we face now will be more than aware of our propensity for late, late goals and that can work for us, but it’d be much better to be a goal or two ahead going into injury time.

At some point the last minute winner won’t arrive and we’ll have to look at why points have been dropped. And if that were the case on Monday, for example, you’d have to question our finishing. The chances were created, they just weren’t put away, and that’s an area in which we can do better, I think.

Going back to where we stand right now, our league position and so on, I’m with Tomas Rosicky, who says:

If we take our foot off the gas then we will pay for it. This team has something special but on the other side we have to find a way to make it a little bit easier for ourselves and not go behind in every game.

We are there, just one point behind third place, and we have to carry on like that. If we do that we will be there.

Whatever has changed since the cup exits is hard to define, but something definitely has, and it’s down to senior players like Rosicky, van Persie, Arteta etc, to make sure that what has changed doesn’t change back. You can be sure the manager and the coaching staff will be getting that message across on the training ground, but once you cross the white line it’s down to the players.

I think it’s a legitimate question to ask why the team hasn’t played with this attitude and spirit all season. I wish I had the answer, but the important thing now is that we maintain it until the end of the campaign. If we do, and if we play with the same drive and energy that we’ve shown in the last few weeks, then I think we’re more than capable of finishing the top four and possibly even third. But as Rosicky says, if we relax at all we’ll find out how unforgiving this league is, as if we didn’t already know.

Speaking of Rosicky, I haven’t touched on his new contract. The more cynical will say it’s a player being rewarded for just a handful of decent games, but the decision will not have been made on his recent form. He’s a player that Arsene loves (literally) and there was talk of extending his deal long before the last few weeks.

That his new deal has coincided with a run of good form, well, that’s just one of those quirks of timing, and not a bad one either. He says himself that getting a regular run of games has allowed him to build some rhythm, and taking into account his current injury free status it’s all come together nicely for him, and us.

Obviously one swallow does not make a summer, and all that, but having a player of his experience in the squad is important, not to mention the undoubted quality he has when he’s in this kind of form. If he can keep it up I think he can make a very important contribution to our last 10 games, and hopefully many more beyond that too.

In other news, Andre Santos will play for the reserves tonight against West Brom as he looks to get match fit again, while Wellington says Arsenal are watching him in every game he plays and he wants to come back to the club, perhaps via the Olympics.

And that’s about that other than to point you at the Arseblog Shop for some new prints and, of course, the book which is still available.

News as it happens throughout the day on Arseblog News, you can follow on Facebook and Twitter, and if you work in a terrible place where they censor your internet, remember you can get Arseblog slammed into your box every morning by joining the Mailing List.

Till tomorrow.

New: Legends prints in the Arseblog Shop

Got walls? Need things to hang on them? Tired of the picture of the dogs playing poker?

Well, the Arseblog Shop has just launched a new series of Legends Prints – featuring Charlie George, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, Ian Wright, Liam Brady and Highbury (with more coming soon).

They’re A3 digital prints on glossy 300gsm paper, retailing at a mere €8 each and you can also buy them in bundles for extra value. Don’t disappoint your walls.

Click here to see the prints on offer

Don’t forget there are still copies of So Paddy Got Up available in the Arseblog Shop as well as in real life behind the bar at The Tollington. For more info about the book, including reviews and reader feedback, have a look here.

Charlie George print