Thursday, February 1, 2007

Where Have All The Cowboys Hard Nuts Gone?

Yes, that was a Paula Cole reference. Deal with it.

Last week Lauren left Arsenal for Portsmouth, where he joined ex-Gunners Kanu, Sol Campbell, and assistant coach Tony Adams.

Although he hadn't played for Arsenal in over a year due to a serious knee injury and rehab, he was still the hardest nut on the team. In fact, he was the last hard nut on Arsenal. Dude was not to be fucked with, and a hell of a good player at that - always the kind of player you want on your team, and the kind of player you fear if you are opponent who does some stupid unsporting shit. And make no mistake - I am not talking about a thuggish goon who is more an enforcer than a talented footballer; I am talking about a good footballer who is also a warrior and someone who simply is not to be fucked with, because if you fuck with him you do so at your own peril, for it is very likely that he will kick your ass.

L12: Nots to be fucked with

Every soccer team needs a few of these types, and he was the last real hard nut to leave. Arsenal used to have the likes of Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Ray Parlour, and of course iconic warrior Patrick Vieira, as well as Lauren. Even with these players people used to knock Arsenal by saying "they need a little less Gallic flair and a little more British Bulldog". Now all the hard nuts are gone.

This got me thinking: now that 'Ralph" is gone, who is the hardest nut on the team? Well, Kolo Toure is certainly an absolute warrior on the pitch, so he obviously comes to mind first. The trick with him is that he is a Muslim and a pacifist, and has said so before. He even tried to break up the "Battle Of Old Trafford" when his teammates all wanted to scrap with ManUtd because he is against fighting, so this pretty much disqualifies him from being a hard nut. Close, but no cigar - hard nuts simply aren't pacifists.

What about Mats a.k.a. Mad Jens of North London? He's been in shitloads of confrontations/fights - back in the German league he was even red-carded once for punching one of his teammates in the face during a match. Well he is not a hard nut either: he is a nutter, an absolute nutjob, but not a classic hard nut -just plain crazy.

Hard nut? No. Fucking nutter? Yes.

So who then? Gilberto? He seems like the strong silent type who if he ever blows his stack one day then he might kill someone, but he was pretty damn calm after Robbie Savage hacked him and then hacked him again- if that were Vieira, Roy Keane, or {my god} Vinnie Jones, Savage would have likely been carried off in a stretcher, so you can't really call him a hard nut. Abou Diaby could be but he hasn't played enough matches with Arsenal for us to determine whether he is or not, but he certainly has potential. Other than him, amazingly, I would have to say that it would be Van Persie or Cesc Fabregas - neither one is a huge physical presence, but neither one seems to put up with a lot of shit - Cesc especially has not been afraid to get in the face of, talk shit, and push and shove much bigger and older players when he feels they have done something unsporting. But calling either a hard nut is a stretch.

Anyway, with Lauren's moving on it is official - Arsenal are now completely 100% a finesse team. I wonder what Vieira & Keane would think of all this...

Anyhow, best of luck to Lauren. He was very classy, never complained, played his heart out, and was a hard nut warrior. He won 5 trophies in 6 seasons playing for Arsenal (2 Prem. titles, 3 FA Cups) and also won the 2000 Olympic Gold with Cameroon (if memory serves he scored the winning penalty kick in the final) as well as the 2000 and 2002 African Nations Cups. I'll always remember the FA Cup quarterfinal replay away to Chelsea when Arsenal were reduced to 10 men but still knocked Chelsea out with help from this fine late goal from "Ralph"; Arsenal went on to defend their 2002 FA Cup title by winning it again in 2003.

Best of luck Lauren- I hope the new knee holds up for several more years.

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