Beach balls, Golden Balls, Ballon d'Or, oh my (balls)

I am not a free man! I am a number!

Everyone’s got balls on their minds today, whether it’s Arshavin and Cesc getting shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or, Beckham’s handbags last night, or the beach ball goal heard roud the world, it’s all about balls.

The good news for Arsenal fans this morning is that both Arshavin and Cesc have been shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or. The bad news is that they’ll have some stiff competition in Ronaldo and Messi this year. One thing that should weigh in on the behalf of Arshavin and Cesc is that their National sides are doing comparatively a lot better than Argentina (which is sucking, and probably will keep on sucking) and Portugal who will need 3 seeded goals to overcome uhhh… who are they playing? Cesc, meanwhile, played an important role in Spain’s Euro 2008 win and his stats in the EPL are simply jaw dropping at the moment — leading him to be ACTIM’s highest rated Midfielder in the EPL and the second highest rated overall player. Meanwhile Arshavin is no slouch, leading his Russian team to the World Cup finals and providing pure class for Arsenal. Personally, I’d rather a trophy for Arsenal at the end of the year but I don’t begrudge players individual honors — especially Golden Balls. Who could begrudge a man Golden Balls?


I guess Beckham got into some kind of altercation in a 0-0 draw last night, but really, I don’t care about all that. All I care about is that this young woman in the picture above spent hours lovingly hand crafting that sign, only to misspell her hero’s name. And that, to me, is priceless. But hey, it took balls to stand there and display her misspelled sign for all the world to see.

Speaking of taking balls, the FA has formally charged Sir Alex Ferguson for his rant against Alan Wiley. Which is pretty incredible when you think about it. Not only did he apologize twice, but he gave an actual, honest answer for why he attacked Wiley: he was mad because his team sucked. The first apology was kind of like a back-handed compliment “look, I’m sorry, what I meant to say was that Fatty Wiley is just ONE example of all the fatties who referee the game.” But the second apology was just straight forward and an admission of guilt. I still can’t stand the guy but hey, at least he admitted he was wrong. Now, the ball’s in the FA court, what punishment will they dish?

There was more referee and ball controversy this weekend, as Sunderland scored what most thinking people are calling an illegal goal. It must be illegal if Graham Poll says it’s illegal, right? Talk of replaying the match, and making us all sit through another 90 minutes of Liverpool tedium, was quickly snuffed by the league but they are going to drop Referee Mike Jones. A bit harsh, I suppose, but it’s such an obvious and easy call that he and all the other officials should have gotten it right.

Which leads us back to the Arsenal news and Wenger lauding the balls it took for Mannone to put the mistake against Birmingham behind him and come out in the second half confident. I know this is a ballsy prediction, but I think that Almunia is done. Mannone’s selection on Saturday and seeing Almunia there on the bench, looking despondent, was as clear a signal from the boss that he’d dropped Almunia as I have seen. In fact, Wenger is pretty much the most loyal manager in the EPL and it almost always pays off. Look at how he stood by Eboue while fans and the press shredded him last year. And that has paid off, Eboue is back to being a damn fine role player on this team. So, Almunia being relegated to the bench on Saturday speaks volumes to me about Wenger’s confidence in the Spanish keeper. Maybe he’ll get a chance again, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Interestingly, Mannone is named first in Wednesday’s squad travelling to AZ Alkmaar. He’s our number one for the time being.

And finally, Happy Birthday, I mean if it just so happens to be your birthday today, I hope you have a happy one. That’s it for today, see you tomorrow, for a less ball-filled blog.


  1. That headline is hillarious. Sorry i’ve been in a funny mood all day. My scouse father (he’s actually from liverpool,for my sins) had the cheek to phone me today asking does Cesc ever come back from Spain duty like Nando always does….has he ever seen our injury record after internationals?? The last break was one of our best! Fingers crossed for TR7 and hope Theo really is only 3 weeks

  2. Oh and Almunia was never good enough for us and neither is Mannone, but hes young and learning,i just hope it dont cost us much

  3. Hilarious indeed! So was the Argentina comment. Re: our weak spot DM, given Song’s impending suspension and Denilson’s injury, is Coquelin a viable option already?

    1. @Yan, I’ve like Coquelin when I’ve seen him play in the preseason. He is a work in progress and whether he becomes a Song or a Muamba remains to be seen.

      1. @ctpa, I meant to add that Wenger might draft Nasri in to the DM spot before he let’s Diaby in there or promotes Coquelin.

    2. @Yan, Nasri is in a reserve game this week. If he comes through then I expect he’ll be on the bench for WHU and on the plane to play the Republic of Ireland on the 11/14/09 or is it 14/11/09 🙁

  4. so… over/under on the English media coming up with these articles:

    1. The Balloons on the field are due to the influx of foreign fans and players to the premiership.

    2. Somehow tying Arsenal and Arsene Wenger into Balloon-gate.

    3. Nevermind the fucking balloon, Liverpool were terrible and didn’t deserve anything from the game without Torres and Gerrard.

      1. hahahahahaha!
        and yeah… for the 4th one… that will be coming real soon.
        although slowly they are starting to place some blame on Rafa.
        I think GIllette’s rant last week got some people thinking.

      2. @Tim, Don’t be playing the “blame the Americans” game. I think the Liverpool problem is a little more complex than the fact that the Americans leveraged their purchased of the club and have left its transfer budget in shambles and the new stadium project on indefinite hold :O

        Lucas has not progressed. Johnson is an overpriced defensive liability but in the England 1st team 😉 The wheels have come off on Carragher. Their LB position is a revolving door. The drop off in quality after Torres and Gerrard is shocking for them and great for us 🙂 Liverpool has shipped out Crouch, Alonso, Keane and they are left w/ N’gog, Zhar, Voronin, and Babel. This is all on Benitez.

        1. @ctpa, At this point, Benitez should ask Alan Wiley if he would willing to suit up and play in the midfield for Liverpool 🙂 We know he’s fit as a butcher’s dog and can out run most of the combined teams of Sunderland and Man U.

        2. @ctpa, Excellent points, yes lets discuss about Benitez player selections – that didn’t pan out!

          AND THROUGH IN THE ALONZO FIASCO; he was so stubborn; dragged out the situation so long that when he realized he was going to lose Alonso, he was caught short of time to find suitable replacement OR leverage REAL’S desire to pay more money.

          Add to this that he has not really won the fans over in their support of HIM.


    Graham Poll wasn’t that good as a referee but he is now a ‘valuable’ resource as to what is and what is not proper refereeing. He runs the rule over Mike (I’ll be down in the Championship on Saturday) Jones who couldn’t ‘see’ the beach ball on the pitch, Stuart (I may look young but I still can’t shave at 26) Atwell who was beyond incompetent at Everton-Wolves, the lack of preparation for referee back up at the Chelsea-Aston Villa game and finally the 2 non calls in our game: the Walcott tackle and the GK interference from Larsson.

    You also have to love the jab Poll takes at his former 4th official for not reminding him of the yellow card count on a player.

    Week in and week out, those types of tackles where the trailing leg cuts down the player are carded despite the tackler getting the ball. Why give the card if the player got the ball, because the tackle is dangerous and players have to be protected. Week in and week out, GK interference gets called for even less contact than the premeditated backing in from Larsson. Arsenal though did what they have to do which is WIN the game (outright) to eliminate the incompetence of referees and linesman from stealing our points. Winning eliminates the “it’s football” excuse when you lose as a result of officials errors (eg. see Liverpool).

    You have to wonder whether or not a team should bother to show up if the refereeing is going to be so bad that the match was already decided by some god’s coin flip.

    We now know that Walcott has a strain of his medial collateral ligament and will be out for up to 1 month. Rosicky won’t play because of knee problem although it sounds like he will be back for WHU. We have only 3 strikers getting on the plane to Holland (RVP, Arshavin, Vela). I’d say that w/ our injury history, Wenger rolled the dice by not pursuing Chamakh because he would have been on the bench. We now have Bendtner, Walcott and Eduardo on hospital stretchers.

    Ferguson’s ‘camp’ concerned that the FA will want to make an example of their boy. Is that a problem? You might as well make an example out of the EPL’s most preeminent manager who has a history of making unpunished outrageous statements.

    Why is it in England you have a new campaign that has managers wearing a new colorful button every week?

    Example of a good manager, see Roberto Martinez. Example of a bad manager, see Alex McLeish. Birmingham City on their best day after the 40mil has been spent (and w/ supporter favorite Martin Taylor in their lineup) will never ever get the wins that Wigan have so far this year.

        1. I hadn’t thought of him, but he may do? I was mainly thinking of Steven Hunt, players of that ilk, who’ve caused more than a few season-long injuries.

  6. Tim, Wenger hasn’t been that loyal to the keepers for some reason: two bad games from Jens and Almunia had replaced him; two bad games from Almunia – well, definitely one – and he’s suffering the same fate?

      1. @Tim, I’d have to say it was more than 1 bad game. It was the first 3 or 4 this season. I forget the exact numbers but, if I remember correctly, Tim had pointed out that 5 shots over 3 games had led to 4 goals. That would be understandable if they were all tap-ins across the 6 but there were all from outside of the box. Manny seems to have lost something and I think he might be on his way out. The kids we have seem to be more acrobatic and motivated than Aluminia (Vito, Lucas and Szczesny). The biggest criticism of any of them is the lack of experience. Minutes will fix that. It’s not ideal but at least Vito TRIES.

    1. @Mia, I can’t argue w/ Wenger on the GK decisions because he made the right call on Lehmann. That “chest infection” story was getting a little long in the tooth in this day of modern medicine and antibiotics. Just like the Henry “injury story” when he was dropped for the holiday campaign years back.

    2. @Mia, Jens fate was cast with his being red carded so early in the Champions League Final against Barca.

      Almunia’s fate: the dyke started to crack with Bentley’s goal. Since, there have been a series of similar ‘lack of concentration’ goals given up.

      These are not correctible on the training ground.

      Great opportunity for Fabianski, Mannone, Szczesny OR another.

  7. Nice post today, and how did you know it was my birthday?
    Too bad about the severity of Theo’s injury. Hopefully we get a chance to see Vela get a run out this week. And I agree that Almunia has been dropped, but I believe he is going to get one more chance, but that it has been made clear to him that we have other alternatives we aren’t afraid to go to. Cheers.

  8. Just as an aside, I loved “The Prisoner” and Patrick McGoohan’s other show “Secret Agent”. I also watched “The Avengers”. Dianna Rigg was the best Mrs. Peel.

    Another con job by the media to protect a player of no talent. Nowhere in his statements does Wenger absolved Ridgewell. All he says is you cannot prove “intent” in the tackle as in did Ridgewell mean to maliciously harm Walcott.

  9. Kudos to you Tim for at least bringing out an ex referees clarification of what a lot of people do not know about football laws.

  10. The so called pundits are so naive. They are such dullards who do not even know the letters of the law, how much less interpretation of such laws.

  11. I agree with Cpta that there was always something suspicious about the Almunia ailment. Looks like Fab (now back in training) and Vito will be fighting it out. Almunia’s strongest suit was penalties, so we’ll miss him for that, but since his penalty saves were reaction saves – unlike Jens’s, which were from studying the videos – and since his reactions must, given his age, be slowing a bit, it really does seem now is the right time for the kids to battle it out? Who’ll play in the Carling, I wonder – Vowel-less did a good job against West Brom. Terrific for fantasy teams, this emergence of Vito and Fab. I can’t wait to get rid of the costly (in both senses) Cech.

    I have just been trying to decipher Wenger and Eboue’s press conference, translated into Dutch, on the AZ site. Hard going – I struggle with Dutch – but there’s nothing at all on arsenal dot com. Really that site is the pits.

  12. Hope Vela gets at least 20 mins. Koeman watched the Blackburn game and is expecting to face Van Persie, Arshavin and Rosicky up front, but Vela he won’t have seen ever. I’m not expecting it to be a particularly tough game so it’s an opportunity for the kids – Wilshere and Merida have travelled – to show what they can do. Touch wood, fingers crossed.

    1. @Mia: I think I owe you an apology. Because I use to know a guy whose nickname was Mia, I just assumed that you were a man and may have refered to you as such in some of my comment. I only realised my error of assumption when I read in one of Tim’s comments that you are a woman. Forgive me for my wrong assumption. I have been meaning to apologise since Sunday.

    1. Probably you couldn’t find it in L’Equipe because it’s quite old. At least, I read it, or something very like it, ages ago. Maybe it’s just being translated now because of Wenger’s birthday?

  13. I hope we put AZ Alkmaar to the sword early. For the record, I do not like Ronald Koeman after the disaster he perpetrated at Valencia.

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