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Hear No Evil, Robin Van Persie

That match against Barcelona was somewhat typical in that we lost, a ref made a terrible decision, and it has ended our Champion’s League hopes. It’s the Barca trifecta, the dirty gits.

The whole thing was marred by the sending off of Robin Van Persie. What was a Barcelona advantage at 1-1 quickly turned into a Barcelona win when Arsenal went a man down.

Simply put, the ref was a joke. He was having a laugh.

You're a joke, ref

Given the missing Alex Song and Theo Walcott, and going a man down at the 55th, we didn’t do all that bad. Funny that you can say that with what statisticians are saying were 0 shots on goal.

A Stoke Through Our Hearts

Much like a poorly written young adult novel that oozes overtones of sexual innuendo with vampires, our match against Stoke has left me bereft of words. Sure, we got a win, and ultimately that was the single-minded goal of the day. However, the looming Sunday cup match against Birmingham ultimately decided the true takeaway of the Stoke match from Wednesday.

We walked away with 3 points, but we are now left without two crucial members of the squad for the cup final. Walcott and Fabregas will surely be missed, however we still have what it takes to win. I secretly hope that Fabregas will be ready in time, however I know that Wenger is going to be overly cautious with him.

With Arshavin, Song, Nasri, and Wilshere making up the midfield, Arsene has a choice of whether to play Bendtner up front with RVP or perhaps to utilize Denilson or Rosicky as a fifth midfielder. I would imagine he would go with Rosicky in the midfield as it is the safer bet. The back line seems pretty clear cut, but the midfield is where a difficult choice must be made. Play it safe with 5? Or go for glory with 2 up front?

I suspect Hleb will continue to the ride the bench for Birmingham. I would also suspect that after we take the lead McLeish will throw him on in the second half as a last ditch effort.

We’ve got to do this. We’ve got to win a trophy this year. Hell, let’s win four.

Come on Arsenal!

Never Forget

Arsenal’s victory over Barcelona yesterday was the stuff that dreams are made of. A bit of a rivalry has been developing between the clubs, and Arsenal has now tipped the scales in their favor. It was an epic performance against an equally brilliant challenger, and Arsenal deserve much more praise than anyone outside the Arsenal blogosphere are giving them.

The start of the game was indicative that Arsenal could pull off a win. We were dominating possession and getting some really good opportunities. It was only after the first 15 minutes that Barcelona began to settle. We continued to play a high line and pressed possession at every opportunity, which seemed to catch Barcelona off guard. The high line only failed us a couple of times (which is a couple of times too many), mainly due to Barcelona’s speed and a lack of concentration in our defense. But that could be overly critical.

As Arseblog mentioned, Barcelona were playing at their best. We should keep this in mind because it’s not as if we just got lucky or they had an off day. We beat them on their best day, with almost their best squad (like ours). We can never forget this.

The main of the night was Jack Wilshere, and everyone is unanimous in that proclamation. The boy wonder is now a man wonder, whatever that is. He played his own style of football that we goners are used to seeing day in and day out. However, he played it against what people continue call the best team in the world. The collective age and experience of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, and Messi didn’t deter him at all. He was calm and collective on the ball, maintained possession in dangerous situations, and created opportunities and passing lanes. He was in there.

He looks for Arshaviiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiin!!!! Martin Tyler was getting really heated up as Nasri barreled down that right side from Fabregas’ pass. Just check this video courtesy of Arsenalist and 101greatgoals. Arshavin is a little deserving of redemption from the critics and pundits that have dogged him. Although his form has dipped slightly, he is still a great player, and he proved that in what I already called a brilliant substation from Wenger. I was confused that Denilson wasn’t the selection, but Arhsavin proved to be the right choice. The little Russian is working out well as a substitute assassin. That second goal was a thing of beauty, from the back line to the back of the net in a matter of seconds.

Arsenal V Barcelona - Trolls

Fabregas had a great game as well, although he was marked heavily by the opposition. It was a good thing Wilshere had such a great game, because Fabregas was barely allowed wiggling room because of the heavy pressure on him. Although Busquets had some poor lapses, by and large Fabregas was cut off. The Barcelona camp had said that he was among their top priorities, and it showed on the pitch. The game had particular significance to Fabregas, with an uncertain future and what I’m sure were conflicted feelings about playing his boyhood club. It was great to see him lead Arsenal to victory.

Alex Song was forced to play a stunted role because of the early yellow card. The early yellow was a huge decision from the referee, which was given without prior offense. From that point on, everybody held their breath every time Song went in for a challenge. We all know that even a clean challenge can result in another card depending on the reaction of the opposing player, so it was a dicey situation for Song. Fortunately he continued to press well and came off in what was a perfect sub from Wenger early in the second half.

Walcott’s speed gave Barcelona problems and confusion. Unsure of his movements, cutting inside or pushing out, Barcelona allowed Walcott to create space and openings for Arsenal. When Bendtner came on for Walcott in the 77th, I think Barcelona felt as though they’d escaped the speed problem. Nasri proved them wrong.

Koscielny was a stalwart in our back line. Although both he and Djourou played well, Koscielny was the man who stood out. Every game he is better and better, and this was the match where you wanted to see him really stand out. He made Barcelona’s strikers look like chumps.

Clichy could be blamed for Barcelona’s goal, but he also set up Van Persie’s. Besides, the whole line was caught off by that Barcelona goal. I don’t think it’s fair to single out Clichy. Clichy was an instrumental figure in taking apart the Barcelona passes.

Robin van Persie was a menace for Pique and Abidal. And frankly for Maxwell and Dani Alves as well. He had 7 shots, more than anyone else on the pitch (2 more than Messi). He also had the most shots on goal. Van Persie’s first goal was a thing of beauty. It was the type of shot that strikers take and you get angry for wasting such a narrow opportunity. But guess what? Those crazy shots can go in if the circumstances are right.

Half Karate ChopHere’s a nice little gif of Samir being a badass has also surfaced courtesy of arsegirl on tumblr. That looks like a pulled Karate Chop.

One of the things we’ll benefit from on the return leg in Barcelona is the appearance of Sagna. Although Eboue was great in the right back position that he now frequents, we all know that at the end of the day Sagna offers an edge in both defensive and offensive strength. Eboue put in a solid performance and it’s a good thing that he is still a member of the squad, despite his ups and downs. Let’s all remember that Eboue was party of the 11 that beat Barca.

As usual, Zonal Marking has a nice write-up of the match.

The New LehmannAnd @GunnerArchitect pointed me in the direction of this nice little clip from Nike which shows all of Fabregas’ secrets. It’s pretty much exactly what he did on the second goal to set up that lengthy Nasri pass/run.

Here’s a clip of Szczesny pumping it via 7amkickoff. With moves like that, he’s going to give Lehmann a run for his money as “most bizarre Arsenal keeper”. Yeah Szczesny… give it to that ghost… do it. Given his performance, he can celebrate however he’d like. He never waive red, and came up with some really spectacular saves. This guy was our third string keeper not so long ago!

Here We Go Again

Saturday’s match against Wolves was the ideal way to set the mood for Wednesday’s clash with Barcelona. Robin Van Persie was in great form as he finished both goals for us. The rest of the squad was also up to the task, and this is evident in the fact that Wolverhampton had 0 shots on goal, and only 2 shots to begin with. We were dominant, and Wolves only had a couple of spells where they looked capable of producing anything.

Cesc Fabregas was a mastermind in the midfield, setting up all sorts of opportunities from a variety of positions. We truly should have won that Wolves match by upwards of 5 goals save for the mystical powers of Wayne Hennessey tending goal. Although Hennessey was called on to make a number of superb saves, he never had much difficulty with Fabregas’ shots.

In fact if there were any criticism of Fabregas in that match, it would be that his goal-sense is a little off. He’s always in the right spot at the right time, but his shots head wide or directly at the keeper. It will be great to see how his attempts at goal against Barcelona will turn out… perhaps that’s the match when he will get on the score-sheet again.

Arshavin’s form has continued to improve. This is crucial given Nasri’s injury. Without Nasri’s fluid movement and passing, Arshavin is really going to have to step up against Barcelona. Ugh. Just writing that unfortunate city name causes sharp pain. And thoughts of Lehmann throwing his body around the pitch like a crash test dummy, screaming German profanity with eyes full of fire.

Barcelona has me nervous, and we’re more than 24 hours away. If this trend continues I may end up pissing myself at the first whistle. I may require so much liquid courage during the match that I’ll be pissing myself at the final whistle too. If it’s a win, it’ll all be worth it.

Come on Arsenal.

The Dowd Abides

A lot has been said about the Newcastle game, but I haven’t had a chance to chime in yet. My very quick summary is that we lost that match for three reasons, in order of importance:

  1. Phil Dowd and the assistant referees
  2. Arsenal rolled over too easily
  3. Diaby lost control

Dowd’s decisions were atrocious. He awarded a number of dubious fouls in Newcastle’s favor, missed fouls and card-able offenses directed at Arsenal players, and awarded a non-penalty. The reason this is the biggest issue in the game is that no matter how well Arsenal played, Dowd’s decisions would’ve always change the tide.

Had Dowd not made horrible decisions, perhaps Arsenal wouldn’t have been so susceptible to just rolling over to Newcastle. On the other hand, perhaps Arsenal would’ve rolled over even if Dowd wasn’t a bumbling idiot. In fact, that would have been a much more desirable outcome. At least then it would be just our fault, and not the combination. The difference between the first and second half was astonishing. We completely lost our will to survive the match. We defended perfectly in the first, but the pressure of the crowd, the ref, and Newcastle overwhelmed us.

I empathize with Diaby’s outburst. His leg was snapped by a tackle very similar to that. In addition, Joey Barton is a thug who commits these offenses on a regular basis. It’s a wonder he is still even allowed on the pitch given the number of long lasting injuries he’s inflicted.

It is instinct to react physically like that when you are being threatened physically. The only problem is that players aren’t allowed to react like that, so the red was absolutely warranted. It should’ve been given to Barton as well, or at least a yellow (combined with the prior non-carded tackle on Arshavin).

In summary, it was a game we just couldn’t win. We have to move on.

However, that shouldn’t stop us from making fun of and laughing at Phil Dowd. This man has cost us more than one game. In fact, he has cost more than Arsenal more than one game. His list of terrible decisions reads like a who’s-who of premier league match-ups.

In fact, Wilshere was entirely justified to tweet that Dowd was terrible that match. I can’t believe that the F.A. wants to prevent players from speaking their minds honestly about the match, especially with the types of decisions being made. But where is the consistency? They are completely void of credibility given the seeming randomness of their punishments. Some players are punished for questioning tweets, others are not. Or did they let Wilshere go because he was absolutely right?

The F.A. needs to review Dowd’s recent performances. He’s been at the end of the bar guzzling scotch all night and the bartender really needs to cut him off.

There are currently no english words to describe the number of ways I want’ to make fun of Phil Dowd through the use of Photoshop. I may produce a series.

Dowd - La Forge

How many non-Arsenal kits do you think Dowd owns?

Yo Everton Ima Let You Finish But…

That was a dirty, scrappy match that we won yesterday. There wasn’t a stretch of the match that wen’t on for more than 5 minutes (I think) that didn’t have a rough tackle, foul, or whistle. Unfortunately, in the first half, the ref was entirely one-sided.

I am beyond angry at the announcers for that match. They talked about that off-side call as though it were a ‘debate’ and that it was a ‘gray area’ since it touched an Arsenal defender on the way in to Saha. How do these jokers get on the air? If the man is in an off-side position when the ball is played, it doesn’t matter if it ricocheted off an Arsenal player. In fact, if the game were refereed by super-intelligent and super-quick referees (or robots for that matter), the whistle would have been blown BEFORE it hit off of Koscielny. Am I wrong about this? The only case in which Saha would have been onside was if that were a pass back from another Arsenal player.

Hey Moyes. Why don’t you stop trashing Arsenal players about whatever it is they did or did not say. Let the refs handle it. Or Kanye.

Kanye Gives Moyes What He Deserves

Yeah Moyes. Listen to Kanye and be humble that you even got that one lucky goal.

And today is a special day. Because Arshavin scored, I think he deserves some praise. It’s a Double-Kanye-Whammy.

Everton Gets the Kanye TreatmentSo ridiculous.

Anyways, Arshavin finally got over the troubling mental blocks that he’s been going through. He was much, much better against Everton after coming on in the second half. He was in control and really helped turned the tide. After the second half we never looked in doubt, and fortunately the two goals came just within 5 minutes of each other. Hats off to Koscielny who scored another brilliant header. I like that trend.

The only downside of this match is Song picking up an injury. As if losing Nasri wasn’t bad enough. I haven’t heard any word yet as to how bad the injury is, but hopefully our golden haired hero will be back soon enough.