Wanted to point out that Bradford has apparently won their last 9 shootouts. The odds of that happening in general are astronomically small. That particular statistic was worrisome at the end of extra time. Mostly because I manage to always assume we will manage to screw something obvious up. And we did.
Szczesney did pretty much all you could ask of a keeper. He blocked two of the pk shots, and certainly gave tremendous effort in the net to keep Arsenal alive. So, points to him for being pretty consistent and doing his job about as well as we could hope. We’re lucky to have a keeper with such an athletic physicality since it allows so much coverage of the goal.
Now, on to our 5 shots.
Who on earth selected these shooters? I can in no world think of a situation where I want Chamakh taking penalties. With Rosicky available, and even Sagna one would think that there are far safer choices than the striker we occasionally give a run out to so fans don’t forget he exists.
Had I been making the choices I would have selected Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, and Thomas Vermaelen. This is not to claim that Rosicky would be guaranteed to score, but he is the Czech national team captain, and he has taken numerous penalties. Surely that is a better cv.
I can’t argue with the inclusions of Santi and Verma. Both are established players both for club and country and I expected better from both of them. I thought both pks were pretty poor. Santi has to do better in general. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance, but he’s still getting muscled around an awful lot out there on the pitch. I want to see more of the fight that I’m sure resides inside the diminutive Spaniard. We want him to be our David Silva, but he’s not there yet.
Verma has been exceptionally frustrating this season, not Gervinho level frustrating but getting there. His judgment has regularly been suspect, and there have been many a costly mistake. While watching AFC I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve exclaimed “oh for f*ck’s sake, Verma” at the television. It’s a lot. I promise you.* I don’t know if the pressure of being Captain is getting to him, or if it is merely a matter of being disappointed and frustrated by the realities of the club. Regardless we need our captain to be reliable and consistent. He’s neither right now. Positionally, I’m wondering if when Kos is healthy again if it would be worth considering moving Verma up to a holding mid position, since that is an area we have trouble in at the current time. Basically he needs to get it together and play like the Verma we all know, not this ghost of himself that makes boneheaded fouls.
Onto the lads: Jack and Ox. Pride and joy of our current mediocrity. Both stepped up, and put the ball in the back of the net. They did what senior players did not. Jack’s been out for 17 months with an injury, and Ox has been on shaky form. I never doubt that they play for the shirt, the crest, the club, and the fans. They are integral to the rebuilding process of Arsenal.** Our youngsters have long proved ability, and again our youth were able to capitalize where veterans of professional football could not. Thank goodness for them because in them I see the future of our club. Now we just need to turn the corner in January to see how things shake out.
* I’ve been told that yelling at the tv appears to be a genetic thing in my family. It has been well documented that my grandmother yells at Ole Miss on tv, and my mom yells at the Saints (NFL, not Southampton). There appears to be no rehab for tv yelling. I’ve looked.
**There is an upcoming post about Arsenal reshuffling and rebuilding that I’m still working on.
The old lion moved across the plains. Over his shoulder he saw his constant companions of late, a pack of hyenas, jogging along behind him, their pace synced to his.
The game keeper looking on, had a great affection for this great lion, and no great respect for his entourage. The game keeper told his assistant, “I named all those hyenas. I named them after some guys I knew back in England. Yeah, there’s John. There’s Matt. That one there with the stupid-looking hair tuft on his head, that’s Ollie. Yep, they’ve all got names.”
The hyenas had sized up this lumbering lion. He was older again this year. Life on the plains had taken its toll. The spring was gone from his stride. He had been forced out of his pride by 3 younger males who had come of age. And more basically, he had not eaten well…
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I thought that this would happen. Scratch that. I really really really didn’t want this to happen. As a fan I had faith in the player who had stepped up and been the captain that Arsenal needed during a particularly dark fall of 2011. AFC stood by him through injuries because there was obvious talent and potential. Last year he was the Player of the Year in the EPL, and a truly bright spot for fans still smarting from Fabregas backing his bags for Barcelona. He was a damned good captain on and off the pitch during 2011-2012. I will always be appreciative of the leadership he showed during that time.
It’s stupid to get emotionally attached to players. Players aren’t expected to have the same loyalty that fans do. Fans live and breathe a club, while players represent that club. We want players to love their clubs, but we also have to be reasonable and not expect it. There are far more in it for the money (as they likely should be) players than those who want a legacy at one club. Football isn’t populated by multiple Tony Adams or Paolo Maldinis. It’s hard to accept that most players will never love a club like I do, but frankly it’s better for my heart. I just have to learn how to make myself believe that idea.
Speaking with other fans about the letter released on van Persie’s website http://www.robinvanpersie.com made me realize that it was the faith we had in him as the club’s captain that he wouldn’t leave which makes this feel like a betrayal. Many felt blindsided. Others were angry. I was sad. Very sad. People choose players that they love for many reasons. Everyone has a favorite. Robin was mine. Robin had a chance to become a legend, and he’s chosen not to.
I jokingly mentioned on twitter that this was heartbreak that hurt similarly to the break up of that first great love that everyone has in high school. The heart stomping, hope destroying, innocence losing, and a variety of other hyperbolic terms. And it hurts like hell. Intellectually you know it’s a small problem of decidedly small importance relative to poverty or hunger, but at the moment you’re told the news it can feel like your entire world is crumbling.
No matter who wears the captain’s armband, I’m still going to be up way too early on Saturday mornings here in the US to watch the Gunners. I’m going to wear my kit and yell at the tv. It’s going to be glorious because I will be watching Arsenal.
Players leave. Clubs remain.
I woke up late yesterday morning, and thus had to watch the match via dvr while avoiding the internet and anyone who could spoil the results. When Arsenal went down two, I was worried. Very worried. Worried enough to pause the match and take some more cold meds that had a pleasant sedating effect to perhaps help dull the pain and had the added benefit of fighting congestion. And then we scored.
Cue shouting with glee in a hoarse voice. Then we scored again, and suddenly the match was wide open. Arsenal was doing exactly what fans hope they will every week. We weren’t capitulating to Spurs. Being down didn’t mean we were out, and the play of our guys proved that fact. We saw goals by two players who don’t regularly score, and the celebration was clear on their faces. Both Tomas Rosicky and Bacary Sagna appeared so excited that it’s a miracle they managed to stay grounded flying that high. Theo Walcott had a brace, and of course the captain Robin van Persie had to add his strike to the total as well. Despite starting slowly our offense really stepped up, and did what we’ve known they are capable of. Perhaps now they will believe it as well.
There were a few defensive miscues with our center backs getting split, but that’s likely a result of while Koscielney and Vermaelen not working together for the better part of the season in that position. It will however, be something that must be kept in mind for the matches that follow. It would be easy to guess that those two will be the center of our defense for the rest of the season. Better communication, and frankly time on the pitch together should solve that problem.
Looking forward to Liverpool, we need to be certain that we do not come out complacent. It’s going to be a difficult match that we can hopefully pull three points from. From this point forth we can make significant improvements to our season, and continuing to play like we did during the second half of yesterday’s match is just the beginning.
Arsenal is on their way to Milan either by now, or shortly to follow. This roundof 16 leg at the San Siro is in no way going to be an easy match for the Gunners. Milan will always be a difficult opponent, more so when on their home field. From what I can tell via the UEFA Champions League website, Flamini is not in the CL squad for Milan. It doesn’t matter much as he hasn’t had a lot of action this season due to persistent injuries. He will likely be available as a free transfer at the end of this season as Milan is unlikely to resign him. The Milan injury list has been a bit of a revolving door, and their striker availability issue is reminiscent of Arsenal’s defensive injury woes. Both squads have had some rough patches this season, especially against rivals, so there is a lot on the line for this Champions League match up.
A few thoughts about the upcoming match
• Robin van Persie is in amazing form. He’s possibly the hottest striker in Europe right now. We have Thierry Henry as a striker possibility. Theo Walcott did well in the previous Champions League matches, so perhaps his European form is better than his league form.
• If Ibrahimovic is on, we’re going to have some problems. I’m not sure that we have a defense that is capable of trying to out muscle him for 90 minutes. As Arsenal fans let’s hope for one of his disappearing matches.
• The Milan defense. Theo should easily be able to out pace any defender he comes up against blazing down the wing. Thiago Silva is easily one of the best center backs in the world, and he is probably the main concern for RvP. Depending upon Nesta’s injuries or lack there of, we should be aware as he and Silva were able to neutralize Barcelona for large portions of the match.
• Arsenal midfield. It’s possible that we are sliding Song into a defender’s role, but with Gibbs healthy there is that option as well. If Ramsey and Arteta continue to pass with accuracy, and perhaps limit the backheels, we should be pretty solid.
Overall, I think that the advantage right now is to Arsenal. Milan have had a shockingly bad run of form against strong competition. The Juventus and Inter (boo hiss) matches highlighted weaknesses in the Milan midfield that if Arsenal can take advantage of using our pace, we could get a break on them quickly. They are slow, and haven’t held possession very well. We’ve done fairly well with counter attacking, and Milan would be a better squad if they had kept Pirlo, but that’s neither here nor there.
The Gunners are in better form. We’ve got a hot striker, a pretty solid defense. Midfielders who don’t give up. And our keeper is clearly reliable. It’s a relief as an Arsenal fan to not be worried about the keeper.
As an aside, I’m hideously jealous of anyone who will be at this match. These are my two teams, and while I wish they would be meeting in the final rather than now, this is still going to be attractive football. My heart lies with Arsenal on this one. Forza Arsenal!