and a happy St Pat Rice day to you all. Today is the day when we celebrate the fact that Pat Rice got rid of all the snakes in Ireland and invented whiskey. Did you know the Irish for whiskey is ‘Uisce beatha’, which literally, and actually literally and not Jamie literally, means ‘water of life’?
Anyway, the legend goes that many years ago Pat Rice was walking along a quiet country road when he was confronted by a gang of ne’er do well snakes who slithered up beside him, surrounded him, taunted him, then tried to bite him and steal his few gold coins.
“What are you doing?” asked Pat Rice. “I am a mere servant of god, heading to my friend Liam Brady’s house for he has had a whopper crop of spuds and we’re going to try this new recipe that has come from the land of France in which you chop them into tiny sticks and fry them in lard.”
“That will never catch on,” said the head snake, trying to chomp on Pat Rice’s leg, a job made handier by the fact he was wearing football shorts. “Now give us your coins that we want even though we don’t have any pockets to keep them in or anything.”
“I’m tired of your serpenty ways,” said Pat Rice. “Always going about the place munching on folk, then swallowing them whole making it look like you’ve eaten a Scooby-Doo sandwich which gets stuck in Shaggy’s throat. It’s time someone put an end to your nefarious bullying of the Irish people.”
And lo, Pat Rice took a detour into the woods, fashioned for himself a whacking stick from the finest birch, and traveled the length and breadth of Ireland ridding the nation of these belly-sliding beasts. When, at last, he arrived at his friend Liam Brady’s house, quite starving and looking very much forward to this new potato recipe, he realised he’d been whacking snakes for the best part of three decades and Brady had died of consumption some sixteen years previously.
“Oh for fucks’s sake,” said Pat Rice, and went to his local hostelry for a carvery lunch and a few pints. And so was born the custom of St Pat Rice’s day when everyone goes to the pub and gets shitfaced.
So, whatever you do today, have a good one. It will be without Arsenal of course because there’s no Arsenal this weekend. The players will be resting – once they get back from the shindig Pat Rice is having for Pat Rice day, of course – and getting themselves set for the game against Everton on Wednesday.
Arsene has been talking about the team’s recent form and how there seems to be a much more focused approach when we don’t have the ball. You would think that the stats show we’re running more, putting more effort in to closing people down, but that’s not the case as the boss explains:
No [they are not covering more ground] but it is not only about distances, it is about doing it together. It is the timing of doing it [pressing] together that is vital, because you can run even more if you don’t do it together.
It’s very interesting because it goes directly to what Lee Dixon said on the Arsecast a couple of weeks back, that if the team worked more coherently when the opposition are in possession, we’d be better for it. That’s certainly been the case in the last few games and it obviously means that this is something that has been worked on at the training ground. It’s something many have wanted to see from us on a more regular basis and fingers crossed it’s the blueprint for every game from now on.
There are a couple of interesting bits from Martin Keown over on Arseblog News. He talks about the importance of Robin van Persie and how he believes that Arsenal’s first choice back four is as good as any other in the Premier League. The issue he sees with the defending is that the players a little further away from being first choice are a bit too error prone, meaning they have to cut those mistakes out or the manager has to find more reliable back-up.
What is clear though, is how much it helps to have natural full backs in the side again. We were so unbalanced and it’s the equivalent of asking central-midfielders to play up front. Just because a player is a defender doesn’t mean he’s going to be an effective full back. I think anyone who regularly plays centre-half, whatever the level, will tell you how much more difficult it is to play at full back because of the extra running, the fitness needed, the positional differences etc, and to have the full complement again can only be a good thing between now and the end of the season.
And that’s about that. Finally, and I don’t normally do this kind of thing but seeing as it’s for my brother, he’s in London today for England v Ireland at Twickenham and has been let down, last minute, by his ticket guy. I know it’s needle in a haystack stuff, especially given the day that’s in it, but if anyone knows of a spare ticket, please drop me an email (thearseblog @ arseblog dot com). Any help would be much appreciated.
Right, have yourselves a good one, go easy on the water of life, back tomorow.