Yoonited/Play Up At Pompey/Money, Money, Money

Well, Wednesday night at Old Trafford wasn’t a lot of laughs, was it? We were lucky to score nil. United could very easily have caned us by four or five and effectively won the tie. I still think we’ve got a mountain to climb on Tuesday night. Christiano Ronaldo hitting the woodwork was our “get out of jail free” card for this round. I doubt we’ll get that lucky again at the Grove.
I’d like to think we can keep a clean sheet at home but I doubt we will. If United get just one in the regulation 90 minutes they’ll be no possibility of extra time or penalties. We’ll have to beat them on aggregate, scoring at least three without further reply. Before the first leg I thought we had to keep their lead down to one AND score at least one away goal. Porto managed a two-all draw at Old Trafford in the quarter-finals and United still won through by a single goal in Oporto.
Keeping them down to a one goal lead wasn’t all luck however. Manuel Almunia had what I think was his best ever game for us. He can be proud of his night’s work. As can Kieran Gibbs, given a torrid time by Christiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney, he battled all night to some effect. The youngster was clearly targeted as a weak link by Sir Red Nose. Although not faultless, his was a battling, committed display. Alexandre Song also did OK and made some important tackles. I  thought Kolo Touré and Mikaël Silvestre too did alright, apart from their goal. The latter particularly has come in for some fearful stick from some Gooners. He clearly hasn’t got the legs anymore, but he does have experience and knows all the United players well. I could see why that got him the nod ahead of Johan Djourou.
Arsčne Wenger is a man who clearly knows more about football than I ever will. I confess though that some of his tactical decisions on Wednesday night baffled me. Whilst I could see why Cesc Fàbregas was played further up the park than usual when he made his comeback after his long injury lay-off, he plays his best football just ahead of a holding midfield player in front of the back four in central midfield I think. Having now watched a recording of the first leg (I listened to it live on the radio) he looked notably more effective when he dropped further back. Likewise I can’t see Samir Nasri’s strengths as a defensive midfield player. That didn’t come off either for me.
Up top, Emmanuel Adebayor had another horrible performance, just as he did against Chelsea at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final. Theo Walcott never got the service he needs, quality balls rolled in front of him to use his pace. The midfield was too busy going backwards most of the time. Let’s have this right. Manchester United is a quality team with a very astute manager. They’re not as fluent as they were last season but they’re still a VERY good team well managed. Yes, they’ll exploit any weakness the referee shows and have no compunction about clogging the opposition if they think they’ll get away with it. I loathe them but I have a lot of respect for them. Let’s not think  that our poor display on Wednesday was all down to us. Sometimes you can only play as well as the opposition allows. That said, we didn’t show nearly enough desire to work as hard as United were in the middle of the park. You have to earn the right to play.
I’m sure we miss William Gallas, not only as a defender but also as a leader on the park. I don’t like him as a man but there’s no taking away what he can add to the team when he’s playing well as he has been since he lost the captaincy. On that note the injury woes continue. Robin van Persie, Eduardo, Gaël Clichy and Mikaël Silvestre will all definitely not play at Fratton Park on Saturday. Clichy is definitely  out for Tuesday too with the others all touch and go for the return leg. Arsčne must be looking upwards as asking, “What did I do?”
I’ve been banging on for weeks now about one game at a time. At this stage of the season, needing three points from the four remaining Premier League games to absolutely assure us of fourth spot I would vary that just slightly to say no player carrying any injury at all should be risked on Saturday. We should select our strongest team from those who are fully fit. A win at Fratton Park would nail down fourth but next Tuesday represents our last remaining hope, albeit a slim one, of a trophy this season. And one we all crave if we’re honest.
I close my comments on last Wednesday with another reference to Christiano Ronaldo. The bloke is probably the best player in the world at the moment. What a pity he’s such a complete bell-end as a human being. He’s been giving out yards about how the referee cost them in the first leg. What a horrible self-satisfied slug the man is. No class, no grace whatsoever. It’s not surprising really. I don’t suppose the bloke ever hears the word “no”. That sort of constant pampering and fawning would turn even the nicest of us into spoilt temper-tantrum brats I’d imagine.
Lastly I want to mention an email that I, along with all other red, silver, gold and platinum members of The Arsenal received yesterday (at least I assume it was sent to all) publicising the The Legends and Youth Ball 2009 in favour of the Arsenal Charity of the Year, the Teenage Cancer Trust. The event is to take place at the Grove on Thursday 21 May. The TCT is a worthy cause. I hope they will understand my concern. Tickets for the event are priced at…..wait for it…..£1,200 the pair or £6,000 or £10,000 for a table of ten. Arsčne Wenger and Roger Daltry will be the hosts and members of the Arsenal first team squad will be there.
I’ve got no problem at all with charities tapping high net worth individuals. All charities are having a hard time with fundraising in the recession. But does the marketing have to be quite so untargeted? I for one have just lost one of my two part-time jobs due to the recession. I’m struggling, not as much as the one billion of our neighbours on this planet who have to try and get by on about 70p a day to be sure, but I’m feeling the pinch. I’m also just about to be asked to stump up the best part of £2,100 to renew my season ticket, including the four additional cup games this season. Because we’re in the middle of a horrible recession I’ve paid off all my debts and cancelled all bar one of my credit cards, for which I’ve lowered the credit limit and I pay off in full every month.
To then get an invite to copper up £600 for a jolly, even a jolly for an excellent cause, is insulting. The club should have targeted this sales pitch much more carefully at those who’ve actually got that sort of money sitting around spare. I know I haven’t. I hope the Arsenal Independent Supporters’ Association (AISA) takes this up with the club. It would be nice if Arsčne and the players made themselves available once a year to attend supporter events that most of us can afford to go to, like the annual AISA/REDaction dinner (sold out I’m pleased to say).
The club’s answer to the problems I and a LOT of other Gooners are going to have in finding the money to renew our season tickets is to offer an Arsenal affinity credit card with six months’ interest free credit. That assumes that all of us will qualify for a credit card, many won’t. It also assumes that increasing access to personal credit in the middle of a recession is a good idea. In many cases it isn’t. What we need is the sort of scheme that Sunderland has. They offer interest free instalment payments to season ticket holders paying by direct debit. I’d like to see that introduced at Arsenal. If they payments started in April and ran through to September the club would have a third of the money in the bank by the current renewal date of 1 June with rest banked by Septe mber. Defaults couldeasily be dealt wit h by suspending entry until the arrears had been paid. How about it, Mr Gazidis?
Here’s to three points on Saturday and fourth spot in the bank.
Keep the faith!

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