Arsenal 2 Everton 1 / Offside rule review

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Feb 032011
 

Apologies for the tardiness of this post, I wasn’t murdered in my sleep but cut down in my prime by a poorly set  up internet connection. There is much to discuss, and sadly little is about the football itself, but rather referees, rules, and reactions.

The game was an exciting one for a number of reasons. There was the fact that Everton seemed to have the opinion that if they attempted to break legs then that might interfere with our free-flowing football. But, and I’m very happy to report this, we stood up to them, and gave as good as we got.

It was after about 25 mins that the game became truly exciting, thanks to Mr Lee Mason. Here’s the “goal”:


Well, it’s just offside isn’t it? I’m certainly no expert, and I’ll leave it to others to discuss the finer points of the offside rule, but there is no argument to the facts that:
a) when the ball was played through to Saha he was in an offside position.
b) Djourou touch was not a pass back to the goal keeper.

In the light of those two points, it seems fairly clear to me that the “goal” and Mason and his henchmen’s “decision” was a farce.

Now, what interests me more are two points. Firstly, Cesc’s reaction, and secondly, the team’s reaction.

For the first point, and we are only having this discussion because David Moyes brought it up, Cesc asked the fourth official / referee / linesman (depending on who you read) how much he’d been paid to make the decision. I understand it was the heat of the moment. I would rather that his passion ran hot rather than cold. But if true, it’s really not good for our club captain to say such things. I may be approaching “old fart” territory here, but I was always taught that the referee’s decision is always right. It might not be correct, but it’s always right. And last week Cesc tried to get the Huddersfield player sent off. He defends his alleged comments on the official site here. As AW points out, if he was guilty of such an offence then he’d have been charged. The fact still remains that he represents the club on the pitch, and haranguing the referee is not what the Arsenal is about.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with Cesc, in that both decisions were ridiculously bad. But it is up to the manager to raise these issues with the FA, and no player, especially the club captain, should be saying such things to the referee. We need to direct our feelings of injustice towards the ref or the opposition into playing well, playing hard, and scoring goals.

Which is, thank God, what happened anyway, bringing me on to my second point of the team’s reaction. Which was positive, and encouraging. Arshavin came on for the anonymous Rosicky and volleyed coolly past the Toffees’ keeper. Great finish, especially when you consider the pressure that he’s under after such a barren spell. One thing that interested my, though, was how the team celebrated the goal. It’s alwas interesting, as you can see who’s mates with who, and who doesn’t get on with other players. It seems to me that he’s a bit isolated. I could be reading too much into this, but if you compare the team’s reaction to Arshavin’s goal with the goal that Koscielny scored, you’ll see that the former is far more muted than the latter. Hmm.

It has to be said that our second was only down to poor defending by Everton. Not picking up the opposition’s centre-half is just a schoolboy error, and they paid dearly for it. After Koscielny’s goal went in, the fight went out of Everton, and we saw out the rest of the game with ease. We may not be so lucky on other occasions.

Speaking of luck, our older Polish keeper hasn’t got any, as he’ll miss the rest of the season after having shoulder surgery in Germany. I wish him well, and hope he returns full of confidence, and ready to challenge Szczesny for the number one shirt. It’ll be interesting to see who starts the next game between the sticks. With Fabianski injured, Almunia’s assumed move away couldn’t happen, and now we have a young keeper vying for the first team spot with an older, more experienced Spaniard who wanted to leave by all accounts. Watch this space.

So we face Newcastle on Saturday. Bring ’em on. This team is building up a head of steam, and long may that continue. Injuries aside – and we did miss Nasri – we’re on a good run, and if we can keep it up then who knows where we’ll end up. One thing’s for sure though, we need ManUre to drop a few points, and Rooney’s return to goal-scoring form worries me. Taking 3 points from St James’ Park will relieve my concern – it’ll be a test of strength and will in front of a cauldron of some of football’s most passionate fans. Preview to follow tomorrow.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Arsenal 2 – Huddersfield 1 Review

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Jan 302011
 

Huddersfield Town are also known as the Terriers and the played like, well, terriers. The feeling of getting through to the next round of the cup is somewhat marred by the injury suffered by Nasri, and the upcoming suspension of Squillaci after the latter got himself sent off for a professional foul.

After the first twenty minutes I thought that we were going to walk it and that my long-shot punt of 7-0 might even come off. Huddersfield sat back and waited for us to attack, in what seemed to me to be tactical suicide. After a few wayward shots from Arshavin and Bendtner we were soon ahead when the latter took a shot from the edge of the area, and it deflected off Peter Clarke into the net.

But it all changed when in about the 30th minute Nasri chased a ball over the top. He pulled up, and we could all see it was his hamstring that had gone. 3 weeks out, I tweeted. That now look optimistic with the news – albeit unconfirmed – that it’s a bad one. That means it could be about 6 weeks. Fantastic, our best player out for at least one of the two Champions League games against Barça. It’s a real shame for Sammy – just as he was finding some truly scintillating form that would certainly have found him back in his country’s national team, he finds himself out with a serious injury. We’ll miss him badly, I fear. Nonetheless, a chance for young Theo to prove his mettle and push for a permanent spot in the team.

Back to the Huddersfiled game. As so often happens when a player leaves the field with a bad injury, we looked shell-shocked, and Huddersfield could have gone two up before the end of the first half.

And just before the interval, things rapidly went from really bad to much, much worse. Squillaci blocked the impressive run of Jack Hunt, and got his marcfhing orders. When I saw it the first time, I called Mark Clattenburg some pretty terrible things, and won a rebuke from my agent for bad language in front of the Arsenally little one. It didn’t look like the Huddersfield player had the ball under control at all, but the benefit of a replay proved that it was, frankly, deserved. No sooner is he back from injury than the Fritalian defender finds himself suspended. Great.

And so the game rapidly swung in Huddersfield’s favour as they made the extra man count, if you’ll excuse the cliché.

He may be having a bad patch, as is so widely reported, but guess who tracked back to put in a last-ditch tackle to prevent a Huddersfield goal – our little Russian! I was impressed with his work for the team, if not for his finishing.

Huddersfield got their equaliser on the hour when Lee headed home a corner. Cue panic at Arsenally Yours, the tearing up of all my betting slips, etc etc. But I cheered up when I saw el capitano warming up, and was happier still to see him come on to replace the clearly rusty Diaby.

Yet again, he transformed the game. His presence alone seemed to calm the team, and we had chances with Koscielny, Arshavin and Bendtner going close.

As the game came to its close, and I was considering how best to rant about having yet another replay against lower league opposition, Bendtner was hauled down in the centre of the area, about 5 feet from goal, by the last defender. Clattenburg did point to the spot – I suppose we can thank our lucky stars for that – but why no red card? It couldn’t have been a clearer goal-scoring opportunity. Idiot. But I didn’t like seeing our captain trying to get said idiot in black to see sense and send the Terrier’s defender off. There’s just no need.

Up stepped Cesc, and slotted the penalty home. Thank God. Once again he saved our bacon, and we saw out the remaining minutes to win the tie and proceed to the next round. We’ll face Leyton Orient at the Matchroom stadium in the fifth round. Should be a great game, and one the Arsenally grandad would have treasured. The O’s were, if you like, his second team, and he’d also check to see how they got on every Saturday. A mate of mine is a fan, so I may well find myself there.

But that’s not for 3 weeks or so. In the meantime, we face Everton at home after a laughably short rest of 1 day. One day? I know they’re all supposed to be professional athletes, but that’s ridiculous. And, it’s worth pointing out, Everton may not be doing wonders in the league, but they managed to get a draw against Chelski.

Despite the win, it’s all a bit depressing, really. Nasri out for up to 6 weeks, our only reserve defender suspended, and no time to prepare for Everton. But how about this to cheer you up – Fulham 4 Sp*rs 0. That’s much better.

Arsenally Yours,

Will

Huddersfield Preview, Odds, & New CB Rumour

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Jan 292011
 

At noon on Sunday we face Huddersfield in the fourth round of the FA Cup. Clearly, complacency is our enemy here, as it was against Leeds and against Ipswich. Our other enemy, this time an enemy from within, is the dreaded rotation. I was tempted to abandon my usual team prediction, but I’ll give it a go nonetheless.

Here’s the injury news from the official site:

I imagine that the skipper may get a rest, as will young Mr Wilshere. Up front, I’m pretty certain that Chamakh will start. I’ve a feeling that Gibbs might get a place ahead of Clichy. So I’m going for:

Szczesny; Eboue – Squillaci – Koscielny – Gibbs; Denilson – Song – Diaby; Nasri – Chamakh – Bendtner

Odds

That is a team that can easily beat Huddersfield, no matter how well they play, and even with Kevin Kilbane and Benik Afobe, our loanee who AW has allowed to play against us. The best price on an Arsenal win is a laughable 1/7. I’m plumping for 4-0 at 9/1 with Sportingbet, and our loud-mouthed Dane to score first at 9/2 with Bet365. My long shot? How about 7-0 at 66/1 with Sportingbet? I thought so too, to the tune of a few pennies.

Transfer News

Our bully-boy, leg-breaking opponents in the Carling Cup Final, Birmingham City, have signed Curtis Davies and Obafemi Martins is on his way. I don’t really think this makes them much of a tougher prospect – though Martins does have some qualities – but it just brings into perspective our lack of movement in the transfer window so far. As regards our bid for another youngster from Southampton, Alex Oxlade-Chaberlain:

There is no news and I’d be surprised if there will be any.

I’m disappointed about that. Yes, it could be the typical Wenger silence before the signing, but it could be that Southampton are pricing him out of our reach and into the likes of Chelski and Mansheikhster City. He might be worth the money if he’s as good as other former Southampton youngsters like Theo, and dare I say it, the chimp from up the road, Gareth Bale.

As for our defensive issues, we’ve been linked with as many CBs as the press can think of, from PSG’s Mamadou Sakho to Per Mertesacker to Chris Samba. So my bullsh*tometer was on high alert when I heard another rumour. But firstly because I read it first on the rather excellent Young Guns Blog, and secondly because he really does sound like a Wenger signing, I think this rumour might have some legs, so to speak. I’m giving it a 4/10 – certainly possible, but decidedly whiffy.

The player in question has possibly the most unpronouncable name in football I’ve heard yet – Šime Vrsaljko. My agent spent some time in Croatia and apparently it’s Sheemé Vursal(ye)ko, if you catch my drift. I think I’ll call him Shimmy. Anyway, he’s a right back who can play centre back, he’s young, quick, technically gifted, and great on FM. Apparently we’ve sent representatives to Dinamo Zagreb, so we shall see. I’m not holding my breath.

In other news, our favourite nutty Russian, Andrey Sergeyevich Arshavin, has been doing a little introspection and decided that he’s not on form. I’m absolutely positive that I saw this same story on the official site a few months ago. I hope this time he’s spurred on to perform better. He’s not playing badly per se, but he’s clearly lacking confidence. That we haven’t seen any shots from distance from him is a good indicator of this. Let’s hope he puts in a good shift against Huddersfield.

Arsenally Yours,

Will