This has been and remains a crazy season. Just a few news stories from the last few days illustrates the craziness of this season; first, Sir Alex Ferguson comes out in defense of Wenger and asks the fans to stop singing that disgusting pedophile song. Then, in what’s really an attack on pundits, Roy Keane gets it spot on in his defense of Arsene (you really have to read this whole article, it’s pretty amazing). Roy Keane’s outburst comes on the back of late night Tee Vee talking heads, bloggers, and writers around the world suggesting that Arsene Wenger has (or is real close) worn out his welcome. The noise from all these so-called experts reaches such critical mass that Arsene Wenger has to finally come out and say that he’s staying. Arsene Wenger… one of the greatest managers in EPL history has to reassure everyone that he’s staying at Arsenal.
And, of course, there are the scores: Man U barely escape Hull (who have now lost three in a row), Arsenal lose to Stoke, Chelsea lose their first home game in eleventy years to Liverpool, who promptly lose to Tottenham, who are sent back to the foot of the table because Bolton, Newcastle, and Stoke all won as well, and last, but far from least, Arsenal win at home 2-1 against their old rivals Man U.
It has been a crazy season, and it’s only November.
That said, I was truly heartened by what I saw yesterday both on and off the pitch. Here in my little part of the world there were half a dozen Arsenal supporters up at 7am, none of which seemed to have peeked at the score, despite the fact that the game was long over. Festooned as we were in our scarves and jerseys we looked like a right group of fans.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the bar there were only a handful of very quiet Man U supporters. I suspect that there would have been more but that they are the type of fans who look at the score first and only come out for the game if their side has won — so they can gloat.
One of the nicest mornings of football I can remember for quite some time.
But enough about that, right? What about the game?
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that, right now, I feel like Samir Nasri is the greatest living Arsenal player ever. Ok, so it’s a bit of hyperbole but damnit that kid is good. That first goal was luck, but you don’t get luck like that if you don’t try and it seems like for at least three years Arsenal didn’t even try to get those kinds of goals. Now with Nasri in there, he keeps the defenders honest, draws players to him and creates more space for his teammates because the defense now has to be wary of him not just dribbling in and passing the ball, but also that he will take a shot.
And when he’s open and has a chance, he shoots like this.
More than just shooting though, Nasri opens Arsenal’s attack on the wings as well and he showed that yesterday with some ferociously whipped in crosses which but for the profligacy of Bendtner would have been goals. So, maybe he can’t dribble as well as some others and maybe he’s not as speedy, but he’s a salty old cur with a shot like a cannon, the width of Freddie Ljungberg and a nose for goal. What’s not to love?
My friend Alex asked me if I was going to slag off Hleb in the blog today… no need. Honestly, Hleb is living his dream on the bench at Barcelona, coming on in the 74th minute of a blow-out to set up his lone assist of the season. And when he’s not doing that, he’s got time to try to tap up Cesc Fabregas and work on his dribbling skillz! Hleb will fade into distant memory more and more every day as Samir Nasri edges him out with his often brilliant play.
The other ‘good’ from yesterday is so obvious that it’s hardly worth saying, but so important that it has to be mentioned; Arsenal didn’t collapse, despite the fact that Howard Webb tried his level best to gift Man U the chance by tacking on 6, incredible, minutes to the end of the game. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous for those last 6 minutes: I was as giddy as a school girl on prom night. And when Rafael painted a masterpiece into the side of the net on the 90th minute I felt like Carrie getting buckets of blood dumped on her at that same prom. “The world was going to unravel” I thought “this will end 3-2 to the evil fucks from Manchester.”
But they didn’t. Arsenal probably should have made it 3-0 or even 4-0 (which added to the tension) but the point is that the team kept its shape, didn’t sit back, and took the wind out of Man U’s sails. When that whistle finally did blow, we all celebrated and smiled as if we’d just won the Carling Cup. It was such a famous win and so important for the rest of this season that Arsenal are going to release a DVD of the match any day now.
After the game, Arsene Wenger summed it up nicely when he said
We gave the answer in the best place to do it – out on the pitch. There was hysteria (my emphasis — tb) last week and, for me, it was difficult to understand why suddenly everybody had become so critical. But I will stick by what I believe is right, and the players showed today we have the quality and spirit to compete at the top level.
It was a great game today against a great Manchester United team and we got the victory we needed. It was a big game for the future of the club because of all that had happened. It was vital to show that our young team can win the big games. I can imagine what would have happened if we had been defeated today. But I’ve never doubted the spirit and attitude of the players, and we won this match even with some players missing.
That’s pretty much all you need to know about yesterday’s match and the rest of the season: it’s us against the world and in the infamous words of George W. Bush: bring ’em on.
Wayne Rooney is a cunt. How he gets away with the shit he gets away with is truly amazing. At one point, Theo dispossesses him and every human being on the planet earth knew what was coming next: Rooney Revenge. He tracks Theo down, who pulls a clever little move to dodge the jug eared prick, and as Rooney is passing by he kicks the back of Theo’s leg. That’s a straight red if anyone foreign does it and a yellow if any other English player did it. More than that he constantly jaws at the referee and inexplicably he’s the only person in the entire EPL (besides maybe Frank Lampard) who can get away with this stuff.
Disgusting as that was it wasn’t the worst or only example of how Howard Webb lost control of that match. From giving away free kicks at every Ronaldo dive to his failure to call blatant penalties for Arsenal, Webb had what is quickly becoming his signature with Arsenal: a nightmare game.
Bendtner had an ugly, ugly game. I don’t know if he was just trying too hard or if he just lacks the ability but for all 97 minutes he looked like he was completely lost out there. Missed headers, botched 3 on 2’s, poor touch, horrible passing, you name it Bendtner showed it all yesterday. In fact, the team won in spite of Nicklas yesterday. He’s going to need to really step up his game for Arsenal to keep this mini run up but I have to wonder if he can. Right now, I’d really like to see what he can do when paired with Vela.
Which brings me to Theo: Theo also had a really, really poor match and apart from his dummy run which created the space for Nasri’s great goal, he was snatching at shots, turning the ball over, and being outpaced by Evra. He’s had a pretty good run of games and I have to think he is tired. Again, maybe we’ll see Vela get a start in his place.
Ok, well, that’s pretty much it, I don’t want to rag on the team or get all hysterical and call for the bosses head — they won for Christ’s sake!
Next up is the Carling Cup match at home against Wigan on Tuesday (veteran’s day) and Arsene will surely rest nearly everyone except Bendtner which means that Vela should get a start, right?
With Wenger and this season, you never can tell.