Wolves And The International Break


by VIC CRESCIT A decent win in the Black Country on Saturday, aided by some iffy Wolves defending and goalkeeping. Still we weathered the early storm Wolves whipped up quite well, although a lack of sharpness on their part in front of goal helped.
Now we head into an international break with a number of our European players featuring in crucial World Cup play-offs, not least France v Ireland. The training ground will be a ghost town as normal over international breaks. Fingers crossed that our internationals all make a safe return in time for our next game in the north-east against Sunderland in the League on Saturday week.
Talking of Sunderland, another plug for the on-line petition being run by those NICE people at the Football Supporters’ Federation (FSF) about Sunderland fans unjustifiably banned from watching their team by their club. NOBODY has yet been charged, never mind found guilty, of any offence following trouble at Newcastle Central station involving Sunderland fans and police with Mackems returning from a pre-season friendly in Scotland against Hearts. Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The FSF is quite clear. Any supporter who is found guilty by the courts of football-related violence can’t complain if they receive a banning order. However, to ban fans who have merely been interviewed by police is going FAR too far.
and sign the petition. We all want safety and security in and around the game. What we don’t want is disproportionate and unjustified use of force by the police. In this particular case three supporters were hospitalised as a direct result of police use of batons and police dog bites. One fan was left lying unconscious in a pool of blood. This is the sort of policing we’re more used to seeing from the Rome police, not in this country.
On the positive side returning to things Arsenal, although a late defensive lapse lead to yet another goal against from a ball in the air in the box, we showed good collective effort and resolve on Saturday. AZ Alkmaar coach Ronald Koeman has said we’re right up there with Barcelona as proponents of o jogo bonito (the beautiful game) as Pelé famously called football. He also said we won’t win either the League or the Champions League as we’re a) too inexperienced b) play too much football, unlike Chelsea and c) not physically strong enough.
Koeman knows a thing or two about frustrating us having successfully done that as manager of both Ajax and PSV Eindhoven. He didn’t manage it this time. I wouldn’t be too quick the write of his views as sour grapes however. There is a grain of truth in all his criticisms of our shortcomings. We have to learn to be more ruthless when we hit the front in games and in not conceding “soft” goals. There is a time to shut up shop in some games, although the great Dutch manager Rinus Michels, whose “total football” with Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national team illuminated the game for nearly four decades (he also managed 1st FC Cologne, Bayer Leverkusen and the Los Angeles Aztecs of the old North American Soccer League) once said that the simplest way to defend is to play the game in the opponent’s half. We need to learn though that closing down a game consists of more than running the ball into the corner and late “time” substitutions.
The criticism of inexperience has something to it but is less valid than it was. Perhaps the most valid criticism is that we’re capable of being out-muscled. Chelsea have done this to us on a number of occasions, as have teams like Bolton Wanderers, particularly under Big Fat Sam Allardyce. There’s zero point in moaning that teams don’t let us play our game. I remember Reading trying to play football against us in the League at their place a couple of seasons ago. All credit to them for that, but we stuck four on them that day. You can’t blame the opposition for trying to counter our strengths tactically. We’ve simply got to stand up to the bullies.
All those reservations taken into account, I still think we’re a significantly better side than we were last season. If we can get to the New Year somewhere where we are now in the League and finish first in our Champions League group I for one shall be very happy. A real bonus would be beating Citeh to reach the semi-finals of the Carling Cup.
Keep the faith!

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