Thursday, February 29, 2024

Think different

It’s normal on a Friday for Arsene to talk but man did he have a lot to say yesterday. Ahead of the United game on Sunday he was defiant and positive, doing what a manager (or anyone in a leadership position) should do. While there’s still a chance, however slim it is, however crap you’re feeling about things, you have to go for it. He said:

Do you really think that we go to Manchester United on Sunday believing the season is over? That would be ridiculous. We have worked extremely hard since the first day of the season against all the odds. I can understand people who say the team’s season is over but if we win at Manchester United we can win the title and that’s why it’s important to focus. What is at stake on Sunday is the work of a whole year.

Strong words indeed and he is totally right of course. We keep talking about games being crunch games but the last couple of months have been pretty painful. We won in Milan, lost at Chelsea, lost at Anfield, can we win at Old Trafford? I don’t see why not. It’s going to be tough, very tough, but we’ve won big tough games before.

Now, it’s natural when you go through a bad spell like we did for people to be critical. I think most football fans are critical by nature and I suspect that Arsenal fans are probably the most critical of all. We analyse our players so very closely that there’s really no margin for error. I’ve done it, many of you have done it, all the other websites do it to one extent or the other, and I wonder if we’re not making life that bit tougher for ourselves in doing so. It’s like the line that’s trotted out about Adebayor – reading around some sites you can find the most amazingly critical pieces about him.

‘He can’t pass, he has no first touch, he needs 17 chances to score one goals, he’s a lazy bastard, he’s this, he’s that he’s the other’.

Seriously, when you find your top scorer, a 25 goal striker, a man who scored in both legs of the Champions League quarter final, a guy whose goals carried us for a long period this season, getting that kind of stick then what fucking hope is there for anyone else? Senderos got the backing of the boss after his ‘bad game’ against Liverpool but you’d swear that he was the only young centre-half to ever fuck up the way some people go on. Look at the 2nd goal in the 2002 FA Cup final. Watch Freddie Ljungberg, hardly the most physical of players, leave the Chelsea centre-half on his arse before going on to curl home that beautiful goal. The centre-half was a young John Terry, who also had a lovely own goal habit in his early days.

I’m not saying Senderos is exempt from criticism, nor is Adebayor when it’s merited, but fucking hell it’s getting ridiculous at this stage. I’m as pissed off as anyone at what we’ve let slip this season but as much as it hurts you have to accept that this team was good enough to get to the top of the league, good enough to beat AC Milan, good enough to be 5 points clear. Now when the chips are down everyone is a potential transfer out, bar one or two. Seriously, some of these other blogs and their commentators are working themselves up into a Championship Manager frenzy. They want this player, that player, two of them, one of those, one of the other and a couple of those just in case. Get real, it’s not going to happen. Arsene has never operated in the transfer market like that and he’s not going to start now. He says:

If you say we maybe lack maturity, perhaps you are right, but to suddenly have to kick everybody out and buy 10 new players? I don’t see why, even if you have money.

He went on to say his target was to keep all the existing squad and add ‘one experienced player‘, stressing the point it was one player, not one in each department. I’m waiting for some heads to explode now because this isn’t what the internet mob is baying for. I think it’s too early to start talking about transfers, there’s enough time in the summer to go through the ‘Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Have we signed anyone yet? Have we signed anyone yet?’ stuff but I suppose the manager’s transfer target(s) will be dictated by who leaves and who stays (primarily Gilberto and Flamini) and if there’s any chance of Rosicky walking again. But until then I’m going to studiously avoid comments and posts which have lists of players on them that we just won’t be signing. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like the manager to spend money this summer but what is the point of getting so stressed about something you have absolutely no control over?

So while everyone has an opinion about certain players and their merits please remember that these other players make mistakes too. I saw names bandied about today which made me laugh simply because they’re being judged on Match of the Day highlights or goal clips. We watch Arsenal closely, we see the performances, the form fluctuating, good habits and bad habits of players. But only the biggest football anorak can possibly say they watch any other team as closely and even then there’s no way they could watch all of them. If they did they’d see the kind of errors our players make all over the place. In fact, next time we score a goal try reverse your perspective and look at it from the point of view of the opposition and apply the same standards you do to ours. Who should have made the tackle? Who missed the header? Who gave the ball away? Who was out of position? When we score a goal it’s brilliant play, when we concede we offer no plaudits to the opposition’s potentially brilliant play, instead we immediately criticise our own.

I’m not trying to tell anyone what to think, by the way, I just think that all this moaning and groaning is playing right into the hands of the media who love a good ‘Arsenal in crisis’ story. Maybe the only thing Arsenal fans can all agree on at the moment is that the papers and pundits do like to turn the screw when they get a chance. So quick to build us up this season they’re really enjoying sticking the knife in now that we’ve gone through a bit of a bad patch. It doesn’t help when you have the interviewer on Arsenal TV asking Cesc stupid questions like ‘Are you going to stay at Arsenal your whole career?’

Seriously, talk about dense and Cesc’s answer was fine but it leaves us right open for ‘Fabregas casts doubts on his Arsenal future’ stories. Someone needs to have a word with whoever that idiot was.

Anyway, I’ve kind of strayed off my point a bit here which was that we really kind of need to just chill out a bit. Of course be upset but all the moaning and groaning isn’t going to change anything now. I said in the Arsecast I thought it was a bit unfair that we’ve lost sight of all the enjoyable moments we’ve had this season. I know teams are judged on trophies and ‘nobody remembers the pretty football’, but I remember lots of that pretty football and I enjoyed the shite out of it. So there.

In the final Wengerbites the boss talks about how Theo has to be given time to mature and that we shouldn’t expect Liverpool style runs (and that’s not the splatters after a pie and chips at Anfield) from him every game. I don’t think anyone would but I’d like to see him start on Sunday, the boss’s comments suggest he might be used off the bench again.

He also talks about the ‘respectful arguments‘ he’s had with Jens Lehmann and how he has no regrets over Thierry Henry’s departure.

Manuel Almunia talks about how Jens Lehmann ‘hates’ him – and it’s fairly obvious the Spaniard is fed up with the German now. And who can blame him? Nice zinger about how Fabianski and Mannone are better than Jens too.

Emmanuel Adebayor talks to the Independent about Tuesday night and the game tomorrow:

The game is quite similar to last season because then people were saying no matter what happens they will win because Thierry was injured. But now we are fighting to come back and to win the title, it is going to be interesting game. We are not going there to sit back. We cannot. Arsenal football is to push the ball forward all the time, everyone knows that. We are going to put them under pressure, we will show what we can do.

Right on, big man. And let’s not forget that while United possess the biggest attacking threat in the league they’re without Vidic and possibly Rio Ferdinand too. So there’s a good chance for us to take advantage of that. We’ve only scored 7 goals less than United in the league but have conceded 10 more. There’s the difference – they’ve been rock solid at the back and Ferdinand and Vidic have been a very strong partnership. I don’t know exactly what the Ferdinand situation is but Vidic is definitely out so we have to go there and try and turn that into a weakness. You can see how our defence missed Bacary Sagna, there’s no reason why their defence won’t miss their two first choice centre-halves.

Right, that’s that. Plenty for a Saturday morning, no? Time for a good fry-up and some Pro Evolution Soccer on the newly bought PS3. I can kick lumps out of whoever I want.

Till tomorrow.

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