Good Tuesday, Arsefans and it’s going to be an exciting day ahead as Gooners all over discuss tonight’s game and how many goals we’re going to lose by. There really is no point in me writing anything about how important this game is, how winning could kick-start our season (again!), how losing would blah blah blah, how we need big performances from the big players and so forth. We all know.
In injury news we’re without Freddie Ljungberg who has a virus and, more importantly, Robin van Persie who got another kick on the knee which forced him off against Doncaster. The Dutchman is by far the bigger loss this season but by the law of averages Freddie has to score a league goal at some stage and he does tend to pick up a few against United so he’s a miss as well. Gilberto is back however so he can add some experience to the midfield. All we need for him to do now is add some passing, tackling and leadership.
Speaking ahead of the game Arsene Wenger has
said he has high hopes for 2006 and that people are too quick to write Arsenal off. He says “Don’t rule us out too quickly. We want to make 2006 a great year for Arsenal Football Club. The team is very determined to achieve that. People draw quick conclusions. If our squad were all aged 33, I’d say yes. But we have the youngest team of all the four and we’re not as far away as people think we are. We have until May and I’m a great believer that there is a lot, lot more to come from my team.”
Now, despite the problems we have, and I have never denied that we have them, I think people have been far too quick to dismiss the team and it’s potential. It’s funny for me that – after 8 or 9 seasons when we have never finished outside the top 2
– the first time we struggle a bit the manager all of a sudden doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. I’ve heard people say that we should look to replace Arsene Wenger. That’s a nice way to show faith and gratitude for what he’s done for us, isn’t it? “Sorry Arsene, forget the past, forget the trophies, we’ve had a bit of a bad patch and it’s time for you to fuck off.”
Madness. The same goes for Thierry Henry. I’m sick of reading every time he has a quiet game that he stood around thinking of Barcelona like he never had a quiet game before. This is a man who has scored so many goals for us, our record scorer, a man who has dazzled us, a man who has always been loyal to the club on and off the pitch, and maybe he’s not the best captain yet, maybe Tony Adams would struggle a bit to lead a side as young as this, but he deserves better than people who tell him to fuck off. There’s a reason why Barcelona want to sign him, you know. It’s because he is one of the best players in the world. A difficult concept for some people, I realise, but you can be guaranteed that if he was available every single team in the world would want him. He’s not good enough for some fans, of course,
but he’s good enough for Barça, Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Acrington Stanley.
I will admit that the manager has become a victim of his own success. He has set very high standards at this club and at the moment we are not reaching them. I will also admit that I think he’s made mistakes, primarily by not replacing Vieira as I wouldn’t call his sale a mistake in the long term, but I also think he has more than earned the right to rectify those mistakes without people calling for his head. He hasn’t been let down by the young players he has tried to bring through and who will have learnt so much from their time on the pitch this season. In my opinion he’s been let down by some senior players who, had they shown the same desire and hunger as the youngsters, would have made a big difference. The two main wide players, Pires (who has a bit of a cheek asking for a 2 year deal based on his performnces) and Ljungberg, the goals have dried up and those goals make a difference. Gilberto was expected to step up in midfield but he simply cannot cope with a physical game and can be bullied off the park – and when you consider he’s 6’2 and full of muscle is not good enough. Sol Campbell has been woeful at times when we needed someone to provide stability at the back. And Thierry – he’s had an injury hit season, still scored 13 goals but what I would say is we need him to show more leadership. When the chips are down we need him to bellow, cajole and take the game by the scruff of the neck. It’s difficult for a striker to be captain to be fair but there’s no doubt he could improve this part of his game.
I think if the manager adds to the squad in January in the right positions – midfield and possibly defence – there’s more than enough time to turn things around, to put together a run of results and to climb our way up the table. I know he’s spoken about how bringing in players would deprive young players the chance to play but he’s surely got to see that it’s the older players that need the pressure for their places, that they’re the ones who need the kick up the arse and the motivation to improve their performances.
In my opinion people are too quick to make judgements in football these days. And that works both ways. A young English player puts in 5 or 6 good games and all of a sudden he’s the best thing since sliced bread. A hugely consistent team has a bad patch and all of a sudden it’s the end of an era and years of hardship and barren trophy cupboard lie ahead. A bit of perspective is what’s needed.
Anyway, it’s still only January 3rd, there’s plenty of time and plenty of football between now and the end of the season. Three points tonight would be a massive boost and beating United would be fantastic for morale. Let’s hope we see a proper Arsenal performance tonight.
Finally, having been MIA for a long time, we’ve made contact with Leopold Mendacious who has received some unusual Christmas presents and has been speaking to an old Arsenal favourite about how to solve the problems we have right now. Check out Disgusting on the real ANR.