Thursday, November 30, 2006

3rd Place and The Cups

That pretty much what Arsenal have to play for now this year. They way they have been playing lately, they need to shake themselves quickly if they want to be serious about that 3rd place spot, which is vital because it brings with it qualification into next year's Champions League.

Tough to get used to that for the 2nd year in a row they are out of the title race so early, when you consider that since Wenger took over in 98 96-97 they never finished out of the top 2 between 97-98 and 04-05. But it is what it is so people need to stop all the whining and complaining and support them in good times and bad.

They have shown in beating ManUtd at Old Trafford and destroying Liverpool that they are capable of outplaying and beating anyone in a one-off, so the FA Cup and Champions League are still very much in play. Of course they have to get a result next week at Porto in their final grouop stage match to get through to the knock-out stage of that competition, which will be the defining match of the season until the spring run in, since the CL has a layoff until said knock out stage starts in February. Making it or crashing out will have a huge impact on the team's mentality going forward as the middle of the season plays out.

Speaking of the huge CL match next week, an aside- most people are bitching about this because Th14 picked up a yellow last week against Hamburg, so because of the card accumulation rule he misses the huge match away to Porto. I think the bigger point is: forget the wrongful yellow card for a presumed intentional handball that never touched his hand- the more critical ramification of that horrible horrible call is that the perfectly legitimate goal was disallowed, giving CSKA 3 points and Arsenal none when they both should have gotten 1 point each. My point is that the table is currently Arsenal 10 pts, Porto 10 pts, CSKA 8 pts, and Arsenal need a result away to the 2004 Champions League Champions to assure qualification, when the standings should be Arsenal 11 pts, Porto 10 pts, CSKA 6 pts, and Arsenal should already be through to the knockout stage and next's weeks match would be little more than a training session. To me that is the bigger woulda/coulda/shoulda lamentation than TH14 missing the Porto match.

Final CL thought - amazing to think that it is completely possible that last year's champions (Barca) and runners up (Arsenal) may both crash out of this year's CL in the group stage. Barca must beat Werder Bremen outright or they are done, and Arsenal must get a draw at Porto (unless CSKA draw or lose to bottom dwellers Hamburg, then they are through even with a loss).


moin said...

Wenger took over in 96 dude.

And here's my toast to a Werder victory.

Kanu said...

Yup, fixed. Meant to actually type 97 (96-97 season) and fat-fingered it. Thanks.

It sure will be exciting to see an elimination game so early in the competition.

thistle71 said...

i am a big proponent of the sturdy and marginally violent holding midfielder. it is something that has been lost in the english game as the focus (in terms of domestic products) has turned to "all-rounders" (to borrow from cricket) when not everyone can be bryan robson. gerrard and lampard, good though they are, are poor man's versions of this ideal. too many teams have placed too great a responsibility on kids developing to emulate that, that the good old defensive holding midfielder is now rarely produced in britain and ireland. roy keane and david batty, imo, were two of the last great domestically produced guys.

their absence creates a weak midfield, and losing the ball in the middle of the park in the british game is disater against lower teams playing route 1.

my point - english teams have been importing creative enforcers for a number of years now. arsenal was one team who did very well in their choice of patrick viera. since he has been gone, their game has suffered immeasurabley.

triangle wing play is much easier to achieve with mettle in the middle of the park. arsenal just don't have it right now and their place on the league table adequatley reflects that.

in other words, they need a complete bastard. once they get that, they will get back to winning.