Good morning Insiders, and I have to confess that watching our boy Lewis Hamilton finish from 6th to 5th in the rain of brazil to clinch the F1 Championship inspired me to write this short piece before introducing our new contributor “Vic Crescit” of The Gooner fanzine fame. The mixture of emotions as I watched the race on TV reminded me in part of the Arsenal. I don’t even know if the lad supports Arsenal, but I’d be very happy to pass on our warmest congratulations to the lad for making us all proud. WELL DONE LEWIS HAMILTON! What has this got to do with the Arsenal and the current woes? Well people who have followed F1 this season will have seen the F1 counterparts of FA referees act in a manner that could be called very unfair in terms of favouring the ManU equivalent Ferrari. Over the years the Ferrari team has managed to win World Championship after Championship, with the best cars and arguably the best drivers. Schumacher is the greatest World Champion of F1, yet I despised his tactics, those old enough to recall a collision with Damon Hill which took away a World Championship will know what I mean.
Anyway back to football. Arsenal have suffered from bullying tactics from teams and inconsistent refereeing. Imagine ourselves in May, in fifth position needing to make fourth. This time no Tottenham, no Lasagne. We have to beat either Chelsea or ManU to survive (Matches number 36 & 37) There are five minutes to go with the game tied. Yet we do it with a wonder strike from Carlos Vela, because like Lewis Hamilton, we never stopped believing. Liverpool lost to the Scum, Chelsea and ManU have already lost to Liverpool, so lets keep a sense of perspective, we could on our day beat all of the above. Seems unlikely I know with the current run of results, but who thought that that we would beat Inter Milan 5-1, or Real Madrid 1-0 or AC Milan 2-1? If you don’t believe that we can beat the likes of Liverpool and Man U when the chips are down and we have defeat staring us in the face, then what about looking at history?
Under Arsene Wenger, we lost 6 games in 1998 and still beat ManU to the Championship albeit by one point. Yes OK we had the best back four in the league, but also under Arsene Wenger we won the league in season 2001/2 having lost three games. So staying in the top four is quite possible despite the start we have had. We are six points off the pace, and if we beat Chelsea and Liverpool, then it’s game on. (I accept that this is a big if, but we are talking about winning the Premiership under those scenarios) drawing with ManU and Chelsea and Liverpool means that they will all have dropped two points, making our chances of staying in the top four more likely.
So just like Lewis Hamilton on the final corner of the Brazilian Grand Prix, it aint over until it’s over!!!
OK, now to the main blog of the day. I welcome Vic Crescit of Gooner fanzine fame who will be our new contributor. Enjoy! I am certain that his addition to the Arsenalinsider team of writers will be warmly accepted. His first piece is entitled “Arsene Arsene and the beautiful game”
Fabregas the King.
Arsenal, Arsčne, The Beautiful Game and WHY THE BLOODY HELL CAN’T WE DEFEND SET PIECES, FFS!
Ah, yes or, “mais oui!” as Our Arsčne (hereinafter referred to as “OA” to save on repetitive strain injuries, aka The Great Helmsman) would say. Set pieces. Our “bet noir”. MAIS OUI, MADAMES ET MONSIUERS, MAIS OUI!
Never a more topical time to explore this persistent thorn in the side of our glorious Gooner Nation. Two goals conceded from Rory Delap’s long throw in Blitzkrieg bombardment of the Arsenal box this past Saturday afternoon against Stoke City in the Potteries. I have put a name to our pain, and that name is SET PIECES. In fact any ball in from the wings, whether cross, corner, free kick out wide or, in the case of Rory “Exocet” Arms Delap, long throws in the last third.
Any such delivery into the Arsenal box appears to provoke another sort of delivery. The sort which has the entire back five urgently requesting clean shorts and under-garments from the bench. There was a nervous disability that inflicted Allied pilots during the Battle of Britain. It was known as “The Meschersmidt Twitch”. It manifested itself in pilots who had had one too many Luftwaffe fighters coming out of the sun at them guns blazing. The result (for those who survived) was a tendency to temporary paralysis and a nervous twitching of the head. About sums up the reaction of our defence every time the ball enters our box in the air.
Manuel Almunia comes on more like Manuel from Fawlty Towers. Whichever two are permed from our current four senior central defenders seem incapable of going and attacking the ball whilst it’s in the air. The full-backs seem to develop temporary blindness, becoming incapable of tucking in and helping the central defender on their side. The central midfielders seem incapable of sticking to runners coming into the box. In short, the motto seems to be “when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.”
The way we defend set pieces is absolutely text book. In fact the FIFA technical commission is using extensive clips of our set-piece defending in a forthcoming coaching video on defensive tactics and organisation. Coaches around the world are agreed that we’re a model. Of how NOT to do it. I’ve seen matches played by teams whose main half-time priority is a can of Stella and a crafty fag who defend set pieces better.
Enough already. I know us Gooners have been spoilt. We saw the greatest defence ever assembled in the English game perform with a ruthless efficiency and meanness that won’t be seen again anytime soon on these shores. Built by George Graham and moulded, so, so effectively by OA into his Brave New World of O Jogo Bonito (The Beautiful Game) as Pelé called it (SO much sexier in Portuguese), our very own No Goal Patrol was, in the vernacular, the dog’s dangly bits. Oh happy days.
Why the Arsenal defence wasn’t picked en bloc for England is beyond me. Probably because most of the England managers between Sir Alf Ramsey and Fabio Capello have been complete bell-ends (alright, Ron Greenwood knew his stuff, but he managed England when George Graham was still playing. Terry Venables was sort of all right absent his Spuds connections too. But, please, Steve McLaren? Why? And don’t start with me about Sven-Göran Eriksson. The only side he was really interested in was the one he went over. Regularly).
Memo to OA:
1) We need a top drawer goalie. Manuel is a nice bloke but isn’t up to it at the very top level.
2) We need the sort of horrible; they shall not pass central defender that strikes the fear of God into opponents and his own team-mates.
3) We need the work on team defending against set pieces. There’s plenty of help around. Give Steve Bould a bell. He’s already working with the yoof.
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