Showing posts with label The Arsenal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Arsenal. Show all posts

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Champions League 2010-2011 Group Stage Draw

Here is the draw.

"The trophy with the big ears"
Inter Milan
Werder Bremen
Tottenham Hotspur
Twente Enschede

Olympique Lyon
Schalke 04
Hapoel Tel-Aviv

Manchester United

FC Copenhagen
Rubin Kazan

Bayern Munich
AS Roma
CFR Cluj

Olympique Marseille
Spartak Moscow

AC Milan
Real Madrid
Ajax Amsterdam

Shakhtar Donetsk
Partizan Belgrade

Quick thoughts:

---> Arsenal got a very good draw.

---> Barcelona got a super simple draw; their B team should be able to win this group.

---> AC Milan drew 2 seed that is really a 1 seed Real Madrid, as well as Ajax, and just like that group G is your OMG Group Of Death. Tough luck for AC Milan, tougher luck for Ajax, and toughest luck for Auxerre, the 4th team in the group.

---> Spurs got a tough draw on paper, but Inter without Mourinho and Twente without McLaren will both surely be down compared to last year, so it's not as bad as it looks. As an Arsenal fan who also digs Ajax, I'd be much happier if these two got each others draw.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Spurs Did It; The Squirrel Joke Will Soon Be Dead. Champions Leage Group Stage Draw Tomorrow

Well, Spurs did it. After going down on Young Boys last week then coming back up a bit, today they slammed those very same Young Boys, hard. Their 3-nil down turned 6-3 aggregate win means that they have qualified for the Champions League proper for the first time ever.

Congratulations to them on this achievement. The downside, of course, is that in just a few weeks when the Group Stage gets underway, this great joke that made the rounds back in 2006 will be well & truly dead:

Q. What's the difference between the squirrel and Spurs?

A. The squirrel has Champions League experience.

Goodbye forever, clever instance of mocking your enemy 

The group stage draw is tomorrow at 9.00am PST and can be seen live here.

Here is a list of the 32 teams that are qualified for the group stage, as well as the breakdown by pots (seeds).  Note that Jose Mourhino's Real Madrid are in Pot 2 (it looks like Lyon knocked them out of Pot 1), which means that all of the non-Spainish Pot 1 teams will be rubbing their lucky rabbit's feet and hoping to avoid them in the draw. Here's hoping Arsenal dodge that bullet. Although the last time they had to play Real Madrid in the 2006 knockout stage they became the 1st ever English team to win in the Bernebeau thanks to this nifty little goal which was "no more, no less than they merit."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

3-0 Down, 6-5 Up: Why Arsenal Need Another CB & A Proper Keeper

Here's the Arsenal 6-5 Legia Warsaw goal-fest yesterday (while it lasts) in the battle of bad defenses & worse goalkeepers.

Legia Warsaw-Arsenal: our goals go to 11.

--> Why Fabianski was playing (and why he won't be any longer).

--> Intentional or not, Wenger's reaction to Fabianski's latest schoolboy howler (2nd goal) is pretty hilarious.

--> It'll be fun & new & weird to see headed Arsenal goals this year (Chamakh).

--> Without a quality keeper and another quality centreback, Arsenal will score tons of goals this year, concede tons of goal this year, and finish 3rd or 4th.

--> With a proper keeper and another quality centreback, this team *could* win the league. Not that they will, but they could. Without them, they simply cannot.

--> Either way, they'll be super fun to watch for neutrals.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Is The Opposite Of Breaking News?

Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is officially staying at Arsenal.

Of course he was never leaving, as was made abundantly clear back on June 2nd. But that doesn't sell papers, generate web hits, or help you try to win a club presidential election all summer during the offseason now, does it?

I've always liked Barcelona. A lot. I watch most of their games, I've been to Camp Nou to see them play, and it might not be false to say they are my 2nd favorite team. That said, I lost alot of respect for their management and some of their players this spring & summer with their overt tapping up and failure to get through their heads that Arsenal were not selling or negotiating Cesc. They arrogantly thought they could get him without paying anything near market value, when 1) they didn't have the money and 2) he wasn't even for sale. The alleged ivory purity of "Mes que un club" took a bit of a hit, that's for sure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thierry Henry Makes MLS Debut Tonight. Against Spurs. Think He'll Be Up For It?

So the New York Red Bulls did sign Thierry Henry after all, as I reported here three weeks ago, back when it was the worst kept secret in soccer. Tonight he makes his MLS debut in an exhibition match against a little outfit called Tottenham Hotspur (5pm PST, Fox Soccer Channel). You think TH14 will be up for it?

Henry scored 226 goals for Arsenal, but always lists this one as his favorite.

Here is what he said last week about his first match in the US:

"I won't even mention the name of the team that we are going to play
on the 22nd. That's how big a rivalry is it for me."

This is a treat for US viewers, because the opponent pretty much guarantees that we'll see all out effort from TH14 rather than the usual exhibition match going through the motions routine. After all, we are talking about a man who has this picture on his wall at home...

"Whenever I look at the picture I always see new faces." -TH14

...and says he looks at it often and that it is one of his favorite pictures.

He may be 32 and a bit over the hill for a full season in the EPL or La Liga at the top, top level, but make no mistake- Thierry Henry will do very well in MLS and score lots & lots of goals; as it is he is probably the best player in the league right now. And he will play tonight like it is a cup final; this is a mercurial, Gallic player who is heavily influenced by emotions and mood- he can range from giving 100% for 90 minutes to sulking his way right out of a game if things are not to his liking. So don't be surprised if he scores a goal or two against Spurs tonight (which would suit me just fine).

Monday, June 28, 2010

From Smoke To Fire: Thierry Henry to MLS
New York Red Bulls Looks Like A Done Deal

Preface: Who Is Thierry Henry?
In pictures:

TH14: best player on the planet in 5 year span covering 2002-2006

In words:
An Arsenal legend, Arsenal's all time leading goalscorer, former captain of Arsenal and France, winner of every trophy in football between France (World Cup 1998, Euro 2000) Arsenal (EPL 2002, 2004 FA Cup 2002, 2003, 2005) and Barcelona (2009 Champions League, La Liga, Copa Del Ray + 3 other titles, La Liga 2010), and catalyst of a dubiously illegal extra time goal that sent France through to the 2010 World Cup at Ireland's expense. In other words, an absolute giant of the modern game.

Photo courtesy of the one and only Arseblog

TH14 Is Coming To MLS, New York
After announcing it informally a couple of weeks ago, today Thierry Henry & Barcelona officially announced that they are parting ways. It now appears that the rumors of him coming to America to finish his career may happen as soon as this week. New York Red Bulls are already running a commercial on MSG saying that they are signing him without saying they have signed him (notice the Arsenal shorts 0.02-0.05 nudge nudge, wink wink) and by some accounts this is "the worst kept secret sports" right about now.

NY translation: "I'm not saying... you know. Da thing, with da guy.
I'm just saying. Fuggudeboudit."

Henry has said for years that he eventually wanted to come to America and finish his career in MLS, and this is the perfect opportunity for him:

1. He loves America, and he can go out and about without being mobbed by press & paparrazzi here.

2. New York is perfect for him- fashion, personality, primadonna, superstar, etc.

3. He's best mates with fellow Frenchman Tony Parker of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs

4. He's a villain in Europe and much of the world for getting France into the World Cup at Ireland's expense with his hand

5. He's now a shamed villain even at home in France after their World Cup reality tv show "The Prissy Whiny Talented Ballerinas Coached By A Batshit Crazy Lunatic" flopped.

photo courtesy of

What He Gets
MLS can offer him a breath of fresh air and a more laid back sporting culture with less scrutiny. He can be a superstar, and live in New York, which is good for his ego & personality, but he'll still be the 10th or 12th biggest star in New York, if that, so the spotlight will not be all that bright compared to anywhere in Europe.

What We Get
But more interesting is what he can do for MLS and US Soccer. Given the massive opportunity generated by the USMNT's run at the World Cup, USSoccer needs to do a few things to capitalize and grow the game in America. And MLS signing name brand aging stars is the first such step. The Beckham Experiment proved 1 thing- that US casual sports fans want a name brand who is good, not a much more unknown to them player who happens to currently be playing at a higher level than said aging star. The path forward for MLS is to sign as many aging superstars as possible. And don't worry about such a strategy stunting the development of homegrown US talent- a rising tide lifts all boats. It will make the league better, and soccer is like any other sport- playing & practicing with better players makes you better.

If your big name star played for a major European club then even better, because consider this- there are thousands and thousands of American Arsenal fans, myself included, who would most definitely go to an MLS game when he is in town & plunk down $25 to watch an Arsenal legend in the flesh. I was lucky enough to fly to London to see Arsenal play at Highbury 2 different times, but most American fans didn't, and now they will have a chance to see TH14 live and in person. And they will. Just look at the massive attendance figures in the last few years for exhibition matches played by the major clubs in the US- those same fans will definitely go to an MLS game when a favorite player from their favorite club is in town.

Yes he is a bit past his prime, and yes he has lost a step, but make no mistake, at 32 he is still damn good and damn capable, ESPECIALLY at the MLS level. The minute he signs the contract he is probably the best player in MLS, period. And he will be very successful here against the slightly lower caliber of players that he will face, and many fans who have never seen what he can do will be dazzled. Win win win.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PV4. Just Because

{to Volare}:

VI-EIRA! Oh oh oh oh
VI-EIRA! Oh oh oh oh
He comes from Senegal
He plays for Arsenal

Wasn't feeling it today at work and came across this. After watching it, I am whole again.

PV4. Legend.

I hate that his leaving Arsenal barely preceded the proliferation of the YouTubes, cause his song was the greatest, and it always gave me chills to hear 38,000 people screaming it at the top of their lungs, and gave me mega chills when 5,000 travelling Gooners made it ring around Old Trafford loud and strong after he was wrongfully sent off by the cheating fakery of Ruud Van Nistelcunt {nice penalty, fuckface}. If PV4 had played 1 more year at Arsenal, there would be dozens of vids of his song on the internet. Oh well, you can catch a tiny glimpse of it here at the 3.20 mark and you can hear it start to ring around Highbury while they await PV4 to lead Arsenal out of the tunnel against ManUtd here.

That's it. Hopefully one day someone will post some proper versions. Until then we'll have to get by on the weird ass 1998 dancehall/euro techno version by The Away Boyz.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Arsenal Complete Best 3rd Place Season In EPL History

Arsenal won yesterday to finish in 3rd place with 83 points, 4 back of champions ManUtd and 2 behind 2nd place Chel$ea. Yes, third place is disappointing after leading the league from August to March, but there are good things to be taken from this season. Arsenal improved by 15 points over last season's 68 point total, and didn't fall into an abyss after selling Thierry Henry like so many predicted. 83 points is very good; so good, in fact, that it is the highest point total for a 3rd place team in EPL history and before this season would have been the highest point total for any runner up in EPL history.

So congrats to the manager and the team for a great season. The media is overreacting as usual when it comes to Arsenal and people are calling for a clearing out and signing of a whole bunch of new players for this "failed" team, the same team that the same media were saying would be lucky to finish 4th back in August.

They are so close to winning trophies that dismantling the squad would be foolish- thankfully Arsene knows that more than anyone. Flamini will need to be replaced, and a winger who actually scores goals would be great, but dismantling is silly. And although he is amazing on the ball, Hleb can fuck off to Inter Milan if he likes- they can be just as frustrated with his silky skills but only 11 goals in 4 seasons and chronic fear of shooting.

Minor modifications, a few additions and having another go are all that is needed here. When you consider that this team was just a result or two away from being champions, I have every confidence that they could win the title with just a few additions to the current squad, and a season of full health from the likes of Van Persie and Rosicky.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Want To Play For The Arsenal?

Well from the latter part of the ad, it looks like you have to be a Dutch national. Anyhow, here is the latest Nike Football commercial featuring a 1st person point of view of being discovered and playing for Arsenal Football Club and Holland. It was directed by Guy Ritchie of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch fame, and features cameos from Arsene Wenger, Cesc Fabregas, William Gallas, Christiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney, Marco Materrazzi, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Rafa Marquez, Ronaldinho, Ruud Van Nistelrooy, and more.

Pretty slick ad- enjoy.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

You're Once... Twice... Three Times, A Blown Lead...

6 minutes from the CL semifinal was agonizing, needed a minute to collect my thoughts...

Liverpool 4-2 Arsenal
0-1 Diaby 13'
1-1 Hyypia 30'
2-1 Torres 69'
2-2 Adebayor 84'
3-2 Gerrard PK 85'
4-2 Babel 90'

Multi-language highlights over a Justin Timberlake track:

Highlights from last week's 1-1 first leg {sorry, no JT}:

Liverpool advance 5-3 on aggregate

Alot of my thoughts on the match are in the comments section of the previous post, but in no particular order:

- First off, there are a bunch of Liverpool fans that hang out around here, so I want to begin by offering my congratulations to you all. I don't think it's too harsh to call Liverpool a somewhat limited side, but yet again, for the umpteenth time, something Pavlovian happened when the Champions League anthem was played, and per usual they somehow found a way to grind out a result and get the job done. It's uncanny, and there's not much more to say other than when it comes to the Champions League, The Pool be on that kryptonite, straight up on that kryptonite, Pool be on that, straight up on that, Pool be on that kryptonite.

- Secondly, respek to Stevie G for his classy post game comments {I can't ever imagine a ManUtd or Chel$ea player saying this}:

“Arsenal are a fantastic team. At times they passed us off the pitch. That was possibly one of the worst performances I’ve ever put in in a Liverpool shirt.”

More on that last sentence in a bit.

- Or right now. The key moment in the match for me was when Flamini went off after 30 minutes and was replaced with Gilberto, who these days is sadly a total shell of his former self. Flamini has been an amazing defensive midfielder all year, and after bossing EPL midfields and then completely neutralizing world player of the year Kaka over two legs against Milan, he did the same to Stevie G in the first leg as well as the first 30 minutes of the match yesterday. As a result Arsenal dominated the midfield in both instances, enjoyed the lion's share of the possession, and prevented Liverpool from looking functional at all. When he went off and Gilberto came on, the whole dynamic of the match changed and now it was Liverpool who controlled the midfield, kept much more possession, and was able to get into comfortable and dangerous offensive rythms time and again. It's stunning how far Gilberto has fallen, and especially sad since he is such a great guy. Anyhow, this subtle change in the game was huge over the last 60 minutes, and Arsene needs to sack up and pay Flamini whatever he wants- dude is only 24, runs his ass off, is a hard nut, and plays with controlled fire and passion- basically a French Gattuso. Sign him up long term please, Arsenal are a much worse side with him out, as was proven quite dramatically yesterday.

-I was wrong in my prediction for the match- it was Arsenal who came out blazing and completely dominated the match from the off, while Liverpool bunkered down and tried to survive. Diaby's goal on 13 minutes meant that Liverpool had to come out and play, and they did. I must also credit Rafa/Liverpool for playing to win when 2-1 up instead of playing 10 men behind the ball, although I feel a part of that was that Liverpool were controlling the midfield and match due to the Flamini/Gilberto thing described above. Still, Rafa went for it instead of closing up shop like the tactical pussy {but shrewd pussy} that he often is, so credit where credit is due.

-For 3-4 months now Solon and I have been commiserating weekly on the phone about how it is just stunning that Eboue plays in front of Walcott, and how stunning it is how terrible and completely useless Eboue has been this year. For fuck's sake, Eboue has contributed 0 goals and 1 assist from the right wing all season, and specializes in giving the ball away {when he is not diving}. Walcott is still young, raw, and not the finished article, but he is an infinitely better option than Eboue on the right and in his limited appearances this year has contributed 5 goals and 4 assists. The contrast yesterday between Eboue's 70 mintes and Theo's 20 was again stunning, and after Theo's great performance highlighted by that amazing 80 yard end to end run and set up on the looked like tie winning goal on the world's biggest stage, we're basically at the point now that if Eboue starts over Theo this weekend against Manchester United then the only logical explanation is that all those disgusting ManUtd/Spurs/Chel$ea fans are right, that Arsene Wenger is in fact a pedophile, and that Eboue has the proof and is using it as ransom in exchange for his starting place.

- Also, could we have a new rule whereby Phillipe Senderos can play against Fulham, Wigan, Boro, Spurs, and basically anyone else except the top 4? He is a good defender but against world class strikers he is simply out of his depth. The "marking" on the Hyypia goal was shambolic, and although many are giving him a pass of the Torres goal, noting how great Torres is and there's not much many defenders could have done against that, look at it again and tell me why oh why, when Torres has the ball in your penalty area, would you play 3 yards off him and give him the space to turn and shoot with absolute ease? New rule: if Drogba or Torres or Rooneh is on the teamsheet, Senderos sits. It's that simple.

-I guess we should talk about the penalties. I think I'm somewhere between Myles and Arseblogger. The one yesterday was super soft and tough to take considering KT didn't push or really foul Babel, it was more clumsy and they just got a bit tangled up, but we've all seen penalties given for such things and less {although we've also seen yesterday's incident, and worse, not given as well}. On the other hand, you don't make contact with a player in the box in the last 5 minutes of a CL elimination match, especially not on a Liverpool player at Anfield in front of the Kop, and expect a penalty to not be given. As Myles said, if your man beats you in that situation, you let him go by and make him then beat your keeper. Also, part of the whole setup was Arsenal's defense still celebrating Adebayor's goal and not shifting from potential tie-winning euphoria back to concentrating on the task at hand and being ready to refocus when the ball is put back into play.

I can live with the penalty being given yesterday, but when taken together with the beyond horrible no call last week when Kuty clearly arm-tackled Hleb in the box and it was not given, even though the referee was 5 feet in front of the play looking right at it, is just a massive kick in the balls. Whether or not the fact that last week's referee was from the same hometown in Holland as Kuyt is relevant or not doesn't matter: it was 10x more a penalty than Toure's awkward pseudo-collision with Babel, so taken together that is a very bitter pill to swallow. Right after it happened I reflected on something I wrote after last week's match:

But that penalty no call will still haunt me next week when Liverpool 1) hold out for a 0-0 or 2) win on a fluky goal.

And I feel like the penalty qualified under #2 above.

- That being said, shit, these things happen, that's the way the cookie crumbles, etc, etc. And it's not like Arsenal didn't have a whole bunch of opportunities to win the tie and make any dodgy last minute refereeing decisions completely moot, so the focus should be on that as much as the penalties. The total domination last week, Bendtner literally kicking out a ball that was 1 foot from rolling into the net {holy shit what a controversy that would have been if he didn't as he was judged, very late indeed, to be in an offsides position when Hyypia was standing on the goal line and another Liverpool player was behind the goal line altogether}, Adebayor's chance in the second half, and many, many more. Finally, as much as it pains me to say this, it's not a guarantee that if the penalty was rightfully given against Kuyt last week that Reina wouldn't have saved it. I think 75-85% of penalties are converted, so it was probably but not certain that it would have resulted in a goal {and of course then everything would have changed and the rest of the match would have been played differently, etc, etc, etc}

- And let's not forget also that Arsenal took the lead in this tie not once, not twice, but three times, and all together protected those 3 combined leads for a grand total of 22 minutes {4 min, 17 min, 1 min}. So I can totally see where whining about penalties would ring hollow with neutrals/opponents- looked at another way they have no one else but themselves to blame, whether they couldn't seem to catch a break or not.

- So that's that. Again, congratulations to Liverpool. The Champions League isn't a beauty contest, and it's not about playing the most attractive soccer, it's about results, and Liverpool got the result by showing almost their entire repertoire of the ways they can score: 1) set piece 2) hopefully punted route 1 longball to Torres and hope for a moment of magic {29 moments of magic in 40 matches sure seems worth $50 million now, eh?} 3) a penalty 4) a breakaway by a fresh and newly introduced Babel against an exhausted Fabregas after the other team has 10 men in The Pool's box trying to desperately get an equalizer. The only thing missing was a fluky deflection, or the occasional Stevie G rocket shot from outside the box. But again, it worked, they got the result, and they move on, and also once again Arsenal played beautiful stuff, creted numerous chances, and converted exactly 1 less than they needed to win. In that regard this 2 legged tie was a perfect microcosm of both teams.

- I have been trying to get to Zen place about this for nearly 24 hours, and I think I finally have by realizing that I would much rather lose to Liverpool in the CL quarterfinals than win only to lose to Chel$ea in the CL semifinals- that would be 10x worse.

-So congratulations again to The Pool and best of luck against Chel$ea- I'm sure that when 2 weeks rolls around I will be pulling hard for the Reds against the Blue$, and ditto if it's The Pool-ManUtd in the final. Hopefully Barca will win the whole damn thing, or at least Barca and Liverpool can do something to stop the worst potential CL matchup of all time for an Arsenal fan: Chle$ea- ManUtd. I'm not sure I'd watch that, as literally I would not know what to do- what to root for, if I would want every pass to be completed or intercepted, etc- it would truly be dividing by zero for my brain.

So Come On The Pool! and Forca Barca!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Liverpool-Arsenal: What To Watch For

Champions League Quarterfinal 2nd Leg
11.45 a.m. PST
Score after 1st leg: 1-1

I have no idea what will happen today- could be anything, and no result will surprise me.

Anyhow, Arsenal know that they must score a goal, as 0-0 would put Liverpool through on the away goals rule. In a way it's better knowing exactly what you have to do. The trick will be scoring that goal if and when Rafa decides to put 10 men behind the ball, close up shop, and play for the 0-0, and hope that maybe a Torres moment of magic or one by someone else on the break can sneak a goal.

That is basically how the game will play out. Arsenal will again dominate possession, but the trick will be whether or not they can break down the packed in Liverpool defense and get a goal.

Scoring first would be ideal, because then it would force Liverpool to come out and play which would open things up for Arsenal and make it more likely that they could get a second goal. BUt even if Liverpool score a goal it's not the end of the world, because Arsenal have to score a goal anyway, and if they did then 1-1 would get them to extra time and perhaps penalties {note: do. not.want.}.

1 more thing to watch for: there is alot of talk about Liverpool packing it in and playing for 0-0, but what happens oftentimes at big games at Anfield, especially big Champions League games at Anfield, is that the crowd is so energized that Liverpool play the first 15-20 minutes on adrenaline and attack and create several chances- this happens time and time again, and then after 15 minutes things settle down a bit. If you're a Liverpool fan then you hope they can land a knockout blow in this first frenzied phase of the match; if you're Arsenal then you hope to hold them through this initial adrenaline rush until the game settles in, and perhaps even score one yourself while they are actually trying to go forward a bit with more than just route 1 longballs.

So look for a energetic and even frenzied first 15 minutes, then for the match to settle down into what everyone is expecting: Liverpool to defend with 10 men behind the ball and trying to maybe sneak a goal against the run of play, while Arsenal will all the possession trying to break them down.

Oh, and Mr. Referee- if Dirk Kuyt grans an Arsenal player by the arm and tackles him in the penalty area today, and you are standing 5 feet away with a front row seat, then for fuck's sake call a penalty.

I'm taking off my work shirt, throwing on Kanu25 circa 2000, and going across the street to the pub.

Come On You Gunners!!!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

Arsenal totally and completely dominate and yet fail to win.

Oh, you have? Me too, many times over.

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool

Shots: Arsenal 15, Liverpool 4
Corners: Arsenal 6, Liverpool 3
Possession: Arsenal 65%, Liverpool 35%

Arsenal scored a great goal from a short corner when Adebayor rose to bury a great Robin van Persie cross in the 23rd minute. But just 3 minutes later Stevie G did good work to put in a cross that Dirk Kuyt was able to slide and stab home because both Clichy and Senderos decided that marking the only man in the box was not at all necessary but rather they could just stand around and watch. Shambolic defending, the kind of schoolyard shit you see in my rec league on Sundays, but should never see in the Champions League.

And despite Arsenal's domination in the second half, that was that. Hell if Arsenal had 65% possession for the entire match then I guarantee they had 70% for the second half, which is just unheard of- Liverpool were literally struggling to get out of their own half. A critical moment was when Kuyt grabbed the onrushing Hleb with his arm, tackled him in the box, and somehow despite having a front row seat from about 5 feet away from the play the referee inexplicably did not award the penalty. Further incompetence a bit later when Bendtner somehow managed to clear the ball off the Liverpool line by getting it mixed up in his legs, when if he would have just not touched it, it would have gone right into the Liverpool goal- the linesman flagged him for offsides in front of goal, which I don't see how that is possible when Sami Hyppia is standing on the goal line.

But make no mistake, Arsenal should have won this match 3-1 and no amount of sour grapes at the referee can change the fact that they did not convert their chances and domination into a convincing win.

But that penalty no call will still haunt me next week when Liverpool 1) hold out for a 0-0 or 2) win on a fluky goal.

Fuck it, it's over, and now the task is clear. Arsenal must score a goal at Anfield at the minimum and beat Liverpool in their house at most to advance. They beat their asses twice in 4 days last year at Anfield, knocking them out of two cup competitions, so it can be done. But as we've discussed many times over, Liverpool in the CL are just a different animal.

Fenerbache 2-1 Chel$ea
Fenerbache gifted Chel$ea an early lead with a terrible own goal, then stormed back with two beauties, the second of which was an absolute screamer and redemption for Deivid, who scored the opening own goal. 2-1 is a nice win for Fenerbache, but with the {albeit lucky ass} away goal all Chel$ea need next week is a 1-0 to go through. I can see them getting that, but if Fenerbache can score a goal at Stamford Bridge I think they will pull off the shocker.

Yesterday morning I wrote:

If I was forced to pick today's/tomorrow's matches, I would guess a Roma-ManUtd draw {without Totti more like a ManUtd win}, a Barca win, an Arsenal-Liverpool draw {if so then 0-0 please} and a Fenerbache win.

Not bad, eh?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Champions League Quarterfinal Preview

First off, the television situation:

Roma-Manchester United, ESPN2, 11.45 a.m. PST
Schalke 04-Barcelona, Setanta 11.45 a.m. PST AND ESPN Classic, 2 p.m. PST

Arsenal-Liverpool, ESPN 2, 11.45 a.m. PST
Fenerbache-Chel$ea, Setanta, 11.45 a.m. PST AND ESPN Classic, 2 p.m. PST

Now then...

Roma-Manchester United
These two met at this very stage last year, and Roma won the first leg 2-1 only to get absolutely hammered 7-1 at Old Trafford in the return leg. Roma under Spalletti are tricky in that they play an unusual formation and style, some call it a 4-6-0, others see it as a loosely structured 4-2-3-1. Either way, Roma seem a stronger side this year than last, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them win today, but to have a real good chance I think they also need to keep a clean sheet. Like many Champions League games, this could be a tight and boring 0-0, but if the game gets a goal then it could really open up and we could see some real fireworks. Of course, watch for fireworks in the stands and around the grounds as well, as there were the typical fightings & stabbings last year with the added bonus of Italian riot police beating the shit out of Man Utd fans. UEFA has threatened Roma with revoking their already awarded 2009 Champions League final at Stadio Olympico if there is more violence today.

*Update* I didn't realize that Roma talisman Totti will miss today's game with a thigh injury. With that in mind, a draw would be a wonderful result for Roma, a scoreless draw even more so. This game might be a snoozefest if and until there is a goal scored.

Roma 0-2 Manchester United.

While the play was fairly even, United scored two goals, the first one a great goal by C Ronaldo from a Scholes cross, the second one of the crappiest goals you will ever see, as Roma went Keystone Cops in defense and the keeper and 3 different defenders managed to all fall down/crash into each other/fail to clear it/fail to mark Rooneh who tapped into an open goal from 3 yards out. After that Roma looked like they knew it was all over, but they still tried in vain to score despite winning 10 corner kicks to ManUtd's 1.

This tie is basically over, with ManUtd not only 2-0 up but with 2 away goals.

Schalke 04-Barcelona
There's no two ways about it: it is really difficult to see anything but a comfortable Barcelona win here, and I, like everyone else, would be shocked to see anything different. For some reason Barcelona's road woes in La Liga have not followed them over into the Champions League this season, and even with Messi still out they have so many horses in the stable that this should be meat and drink for them as the Brits say.

Schalke 04 0-1 Barcelona
I only saw the goal, so can't comment much about the rest of the match {Schalke had 24 shots to Barca's 5?!?!???}. The goal was a beautiful and clever through ball by Iniesta to the onrushing Henry, whose first shot was saved, but like a good shooting guard Henry followed his shot and worked hard to cross it to Bojan at the far post for a simple tap in.

Barca return home next week ahead and with a road goal. At this point I'll be amazed if it isn't a clash of the titans, Barcelona-Manchester United semifinal matchup.

I have absolutely no idea what will happen here; it all depends on which teams show up. Liverpool in the prem are truly mortal and often completely average, but in the Champions League they always seem to step it up a notch and play like the 5 time European Champions that they are. For Arsenal, the team that outclassed AC Milan twice can beat anybody, but the team that recently played 5 EPL games earning 4 draws and a loss was pretty damn rubbish. The key for Arsenal is don't concede tomorrow, I think they would be happy with 0-0. On the other hand, so what if they do? Just last year they beat Liverpool 6-3 at Anfield with a mostly reserve team.

Torres is on fire and should be feared, but other than that they don't scare me on paper; besides Torres only Gerrard and Mascherano are world class in my opinion, but again, on European nights something Pavlovian happens and they almost always step it up. A key matchup to watch for is the central midfield, and who wins that battle: Cesc & Flamini against Mascherano and Gerrard.

To sum up, I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen here, and there is not any result that would really shock me.

Fenerbache are the first Turkish side to make it to the Champions League quarterfinals, so you know they are excited and you also know that their fans will, be, ummm, up for it. Even after 1 billion dollars in player transfers under Abromavich, Chel$ea's game plan still often breaks down into hoofing hopeful route 1 longballs up towards Drogba and hoping for the best. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Fenerbache win the first leg tomorrow; if they can win and not concede an away goal to Chel$ea then I think they have a great chance to pull off the shock of the tournament thusfar. One thing we all know for sure- they will enjoy an unbelievable home field advantage tomorrow.

If I was forced to pick today's/tomorrow's matches, I would guess a Roma-ManUtd draw{without Totti more like a ManUtd win}, a Barca win, an Arsenal-Liverpool draw {if so then 0-0 please} and a Fenerbache win.

What do you think?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Champions Leage Quarterfinals Set

Here's the result of the Champions League quarterfinal draw held this morning:

Arsenal v Liverpool
Chel$ea v Fenerbache
Manchester United v Roma
Barcelona v Schalke 04

1st legs to be played April 1 & 2
2nd legs to be played April 8 & 9

Arsenal host Liverpool Sat April 5 in the EPL, so they will face each other three times in a week. Here's hoping that Arsenal draw the EPL version of Liverpool rather than the European Liverpool.

Manchester United fans will be thrilled at the prospect of returning to Rome, where they were treated so hospitably last year, first by Roman 'ultra' fans and then by the Roman police.

Chel$ea get to go on one of the least fun road trips there is. Witness this, this or this.

Schalke will be given no chance by anyone outside of Gelsenkirchen.

So there it is. There will be no re-draw for the semifinals; the winner of the first two quarterfinals listed above will meet in the semifinals, as will the winner of the last two, so Arsenal could theoretically win the Champions League without facing foreign opposition after the round of 16 {Liverpool in QF, Chel$ea in SF, ManUtd in final}; the same is true for The Pool. Funky, but that's what happens when 4 of the final 8 are from the same country {first time ever byt he way}.

Semifinal 1st leg April 22 & 23
Senifinal 2nd leg April 29 & 30

Final: Moscow, May 21

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Every Team Has Shitty Fans

So alot has been made of the Aston Villa fans last weekend, who took only 14 minutes of the Arsenal-Villa match at the Emirates before they started singing a song comparing Eduardo to Paul McCartney's amputee wife:

"He used to have silky skills,
now he walks like Heather Mills"

Appalling and shameful? Yes. Arsene Wenger said it best: "unfortunately there are no limits to either intelligence or stupidity".

However, as an Arsenal fan, I can't get too self-righteously outraged over this for many reasons. First, apparently it was a fairly small number of fans that participated. Secondly, some pathetic Arsenal fans for years have taunted Spurs fans with references to the Holocaust and gas chambers, and apparently as recently as this season some were said to have sung "We've got Cesc Fabregas, you yids are scared of gas", which is far worse than what the Villa fans did.

The truth is that no fan base is homogeneous. Each has geniuses and idiots, rational people and lunatics, reasonable people and unconscionable people. A small portion of every fan's base is an embarrassment, like a giant ass-pimple that can never be popped or heal. Now some teams have a bigger percentage of the whole that participate in despicable behavior {Arsenal or Portsmouth vs. Milwall or Lazio, for example}, but no fanbase is completely lily-white and 100% pure. Hell there are Georgia fans that I see at games all the time that cause me to be embarrassed for my team and my university, just as there are classy fans of Florida, Tennessee, Auburn, and Georgia Tech. It's not as plain and simple as our current fearless leader would like to believe, that everyone on our team are valiant heroes and everyone on the other team are horrible evildoers.

When these groups of fans do horrible shit then they should certainly be called out on it, but entire fan bases should not be called out as classless and shameful. I am certain that a large portion of the Villa fanbase is embarrassed by the song, just as millions of Arsenal fans, myself included, want nothing to do with and completely condemn any Arsenal fans taunting Spurs with Holocaust and gas chamber references.

So a big fuck you to the Villa fans that sang that song, but not to all Villa fans as a whole. Ditto for sick ass anti-semitic Arsenal fans vis a vis Gooners as a whole.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

History 0-2 Arsenal

First English team to ever beat Real Madrid in Madrid?
Check. Spring 2006

A brilliant goal by Th14 beats Real Madrid

First English team to ever beat AC Milan in Milan?
Check. 4 March 2008.

"You're not champions,
You're not champions,
You're not champions anymore!
You're not champions, an-y-more."

An amazing Cesc scene suitable for all ages

Hopefully one of these vids will survive more than a few hours.

Gattuso can only watch...

Cesc celebrates.

AC Milan 0-2 Arsenal.

Match highlights {sadly no sound} here.

An excruciating game to watch, as once Again Arsenal ran circles around Milan, created tons of chances, couldn't convert any, hit the crossbar, etc., etc. and dread set in that although AC Milan should have been put to the sword and be 0-3 or 0-4 behind over both legs, they would somehow sneak a goal or get to penalties and win.

Then in the 85th minute Cesc Fabregas got the ball, ran forward, ran right around Rino Gattuso, and let fly from 35 yards, the ball found the miniscule space between the outstretched dive of the goalkeeper and the post and went in. Magic. 1-0 to the Arsenal and super tired Milan would now need 2 goals in less than 10 minutes to win. Instead Arsenal added a second late into injury time.

Icing on the cake courtesy of Theo & Adebayor

Cesc's goal in the San Siro will go down in Arsenal history, and was so reminiscent of Henry's goal in Madrid. Both wonder goals knocked out European heavyweights and made history at the same time.

The Champions are knocked out; the quarterfinals await.


Barcelona 1-0 Celtic. Barca win 4-2 on aggregate, but best player in the world these days Lionel Messi leaves with a torn thigh muscle- a big loss for Barca, but for how long?

Manchester United 1-0 Lyon. ManUtd survive Keita beating their keeper but hitting the post, and win on aggregate 2-1.

Sevilla 3-2 Fenerbache. Teams tied 5-5 on aggregate, and heading to a penalty shootout as we speak. ***Update*** Fenerbache goalkeeper goes from goat to hero: he let the first two Sevilla goals go right through his hands, then saves 3 penalties and Fenerbache beat Sevilla 3-2 on penalties to advance to the quarterfinals.

Records Are Made To Be Broken

Champions League Round Of 16 2nd Legs

AC Milan-Arsenal
ESPN2 11.45 a.m. PST
1st leg 0-0

This is the biggest match for Arsenal Football Club sine the 2006 Champions League Final, and the biggest match for the current Arsenal team ever {gone from 2006 are Henry, Ljungberg, Pires, Campbell, A Cole, Lauren, et. al}.

No English team has ever beaten AC Milan at the San Siro.

No English team had ever beaten Real Madrid in the Bernabeu before Arsenal did it in 2006. Furthermore, a win isn't even required today- any scoring draw will see Arsenal through to the quarterfinals on the away goals rule. And even though the current team had nothing to do with it, Arsenal did go to the San Siro with their backs against the wall {needing at least a 3-0 win} a few years back and beat the shit out of Inter Milan 5-1.

What will happen? I'm not sure, but I do know this: Arsenal's youngsters will once again run circles around the old men of Milan {average age of 33 when Maldini plays and Pato does not}, just as they did in the first leg. Beyond that I'm not certain if 1) they will create tons of chances but fail to score and go down to a goal from the wise old men or 2) they will get the away goal that would then require Milan to score two in order to advance.

Here's hoping for the latter.

Come on you Gunners!!!

Other Matches today:

Manchester United - Lyon
1st leg 1-1
Man Utd's late away goal in the first leg gives them the advantage here.

1st leg 3-2 to Barca
With 3 away goals, and Celtic never having won an away game in the Champions League {30+ and counting}, it would be shocking for Celtic to beat Barca today by 2 goals in the Nou Camp.

1st leg 3-2 Fenerbache
Sevilla must win here but their 2 away goals make thier task doable: 1-0 or 2-1 and they advance.

I'm off to the pub.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Eduardo And Injury Porn

Went to the pub to watch Birmingham-Arsenal on Saturday morning. Two minutes in and Martin Taylor tackles Eduardo hard, and Eduardo is down in a heap. After a moment it is obvious that he is really injured badly. Then I see something I have never seen before- the cameras show his teammates, and they are visibly freaked the fuck out, like they literally saw a ghost. Cesc is angry and really rattled, Hleb has both hands on his head in disbelief, Adebayor is beyond shocked and stunned, as is Sagna- who just lost his 29 year old brother last weekend- his hand is over his mouth in utter shock and disbelief {if you think I am exaggerating I think that they will show these reactions tonight on the Monday night Fox Sports World report on FSC}.

Sky didn't launch into all the replay angles like normal, and soon word comes that the injury is so horrific that Sky is refusing to show any replays. Then I see that Eduardo is not conscious and is being given oxygen through a tank/mask thingy. After attending to him for 9 minutes, they place a white sheet over his body before stretchering him off, something that I have never seen in any sport other than horse racing when a horse breaks down and has to be euthanized on the track {they put up a giant sheet to shield the procedure from the stands}.

Forget the game, which is a whole nother story, but what got me thinking during and after the match was the Brits decision not to show any replays, and how 1) I liked that and 2) how different an approach that struck me as versus American sports coverage.

When horrific injuries happen in American sports, it's serious injury porn time. They typically show 100 replays of it, from every angle, use the telestrator to circle it, and point it out in excruciating detail time after time after time. Then, on the highlight shows, they often continue the injury porn by saying shit like "if you have a weak stomach, then you really should turn away for a few moments or leave the room", which strikes me as the exact same thing as a website telling a 15 year old boy "EXPLICIT SEXUAL MATERIAL- DO NOT ENTER IF YOU ARE UNDER 18". Tyrone Prothro, Bryant Young, Tim Krumrie, Joe Thiesmann, et al...

Anyhow, it just struck me as respectful and classy of the Brits to refuse to participate in the injury porn, especially considering it was Sky {owned by Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox and several tabloid newspapers the world over}. In this day and age the injury porn seekers will find the video and pics on the internet in short order, and some injuries are so bad that it seems exploitative and gratuitous to show them several times over. I really wish that American sports media would follow the Brits lead on this, although I am beyond certain that they never will.

I didn't feel the need to rush home and find the pics on the internet, but Sunday I did break down and click through on a link to some pictures from an Arsenal blog, and I wish I hadn't, there were 9 pictures and after 2 I was done and wondering how long it would take for me to ever get that image out of my head. Now there's apparently slo-mo replay of it from other angles out there, but I'm going to pass: after seeing the scene at the match, seeing 2 pics, hearing his teammates talk about it, and hearing that the surgeons were seriously considering having to amputate his foot, I know all I need to know, and anything more seems pornographic at this point. If I live the rest of my life without ever seeing the video I'll be just fine.

As far as the injury itself/the incident/Martin Taylor/the rules which govern such things/etc, I completely agree and could not add anything to what Arseblogger said so eloquently about it yesterday {where he has a stunning picture just before impact to completely dispel the story that it was an innocent case of missing the ball} as well as today, so if you want an excellent and reasoned opinion about the situation read his stuff.

My thoughts and wishes are with Eduardo, who is well liked by his teammates and seems like a really good guy. So shitty for him that at age 24 he was really coming into his own and ready to lead Croatia at this summer's Euro2008 after leading them to qualification. He may or may not ever play again, but I just hope that he is able to recover to full heath and be able to walk and function normally. Best wishes man, forget about soccer right now and just get well.

Get better, man

Even if we never see this again,
here's hoping for a return to full health

Also, happy 25th birthday today, or as happy as it can be considering the circumstances.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AC Milan Beat Arsenal 0-0

Arsenal 0-0 AC Milan

That's quite a remarkable headline when you consider that:

1- AC Milan were outshot 17-8, out corner kicked 9-2, and outpossessed 57%-43%
2- Arsenal did not concede a road goal to Meelan
3- 0-0 means that Arsenal have a considerable advantage going to the San Siro in 2 weeks, as any scoring draw means that they will go through on the away goals rule {and hell, 0-0 gets them into extra time}, and if Arsenal can score a goal at the San Siro then Milan will have to score 2 to avoid elimination

Those three points above would make you think that Arsenal "won" this round 0-0. If you didn't watch the match that is.

Cesc and Rino enter The Matrix. "Whoa!"

Arsenal's youth, speed, and incessant work rate pressured Milan in the first half and never allowed them to get going, they were always under pressure, the kind they just do not see in Serie A. Arsenal particularly stifled Milan's extremely talented midfield and never gave them any space to do their thing or get into any sort of rhythm at all. Arsenal had the better of it even though no clear cut chances came of it. However, close to halftime, as you saw the Milan players really huffing and puffing and trying to catch their breath when the ball was out of play, you knew that the second half would be trouble for them.

And it was. Arsenal absolutely dominated the 2nd half, ran circles around Milan, and started creating great scoring chances one after the next after the next. It seemed only a matter of time, but Arsenal either had good shots right at the Milan reserve keeper {who looks exactly like George McFly} {also- Dida hurt his back while sitting on the bench last weekend- and had to be stretchered off from his own bench! How very Dida...} or they fell victim to the old Arsenal problem of trying to walk the ball into the net instead of shooting when a decent chance was available. To Milan's credit, they never panicked at the back when they were under siege, they were as cool, calm, and composed as you would expect them to be.

As the clock ticked down the fear became that AC Milan, after getting completely dominated for damn near the whole match, would sneak a crushing road goal from a set piece or a Kaka moment of brilliance- that would be sooooooo AC Milan. It didn't happen, and then Arsenal dominated the end of the game, only to see more shots right at McFly and then Adebayor to smash a header off the crossbar in the final minute of extra time.

How did this not go in? {nice grab Massimo Oddo}

Arsenal really would have deserved the goal that they so desperately seeked, such was their domination. They will have to settle with having the advantages described above going into the return leg in 2 weeks. A goal will would require conceding 2 to get knocked out, so hopefully they can score first. Of course, cagey old Meelan are the absolute masters of weathering storms and then beating opponents with a moment or two of brilliance, and taking their chances when they get them.

So AC Milan "won" 0-0 because they really should have been put to the sword tonight, but managed to survive and lived to fight another day: Tuesday March 4th to be exact.

Frustrated, nervous, and hopeful am I.

In other action:

Lyon 1-1 ManUtd
Manchester United got a late equalizer from Tevez in the 86th minute to get a draw in Lyon 1-1

Celtic 2-3 Barcelona
Barcelona came from behind twice to beat Celtic 3-2.

Fenerbache 3-2 Sevilla
Fenerbache got an 87th minute winner to beat Sevilla 3-2, but Sevilla's 2 road goals put them in a pretty good position: 1-0 or 2-1 at home and they are through.

Yesterday's results:

Liverpool 2-0 Inter Milan
I watched the first half on Slingbox and the 2nd half at the pub. Materrazzi was controversially sent off in the 30th minute after picking up his 2nd yellow card, each of which was fairly ticky tack and dubious and could have simply been given as free kicks. But sometimes you pay when you have the well earned reputation as one of the dirtiest players in world football, and here it came back to bite him in the ass. It almost seemed that the referee knew that he had fucked up, as he turned down at least 3 hand balls in the box by Inter- the first two were not intentional but PV4s, although not intentional either, was a move more likely to be witnessed on a volleyball court than a soccer field.

Even with a man advantage for 60 minutes Liverpool were pretty shit, squandering their chances, and it looked like Inter would escape with a 0-0 until Johnny from Kobra Kai Dojo Dirk Kuyt got a lucky goal off a wicked deflection that left Inter keeper Julio Cesar no chance. Stevie G made it 2-0 at the death with a great goal that might have taken a deflection as well. I still think Inter will beat their ass in the San Siro and at least get to extra time if not win. One thing is sure for Inter- they cannot concede unless they plan on scoring at least 4.

Roma 2-1 Real Madrid
With the crucial road goal, Madrid will still be favored in the eyes of many to get it done at home and go through.

Schalke 04 1-0 FC Porto

Olympiakos 0-0 Chel$ea
Can Olympiakos nick a goal at Stamford Bridge and make it interesting, forcing Chel$ea to score 2?

Return legs are in two weeks, Tuesday March 4 and Wednesday March 5 and should be a great 2 days of knockout round CL footy as the field is narrowed to 8.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Asskicking Doesn't Cover It. Trust Me.

Manchester United 4-0 Arsenal.

The most remarkable thing about this match, looking back on it, is that it finished only 4-0. It should have been 4 or 5 nil at halftime, and that was before Arsenal played the 2nd half a man down thanks to continually idiotic Emmanuel Eboue.

I'll write more thoughts on this later, but for now this is all you need to know: Darren Fletcher scored. Twice. That pretty much says it all, doesn't it? Is there anything more indicative of a total and complete annihilation than Darren Fletcher scoring two goals? I suppose there is one thing: a Darren Fletcher hattrick.

Congrats to ManUtd, a well deserved thrashing.

For Arsenal, fuck it: one less thing to worry about, and now they can concentrate on the EPL first and CL second.

More later- it's way too nice outside for me to be in here typing. Laters.