Saturday, 31 December 2011

Grinding was the right word for it

It wasn't vintage but it was enough to win a vital three points on a day on which many of our main rivals dropped some unexpected points, overall a good end result.  The starting eleven saw Gervinho rested for Arshavin, Ramsey returning to reform our regular midfield trio, Theo also returned after his recent virus.

QPR started well and Szczesny had to be smart to come our swiftly in blocking Wright-Phillips' shot when he had been slipped through in the inside left channel.  We created more as the half wore on, without ever really getting going in terms of the flowing passing football.  RVP had one saved from an acute angle, then another two good chances were diverted narrowly over the bar, one with his left and the other with the right foot.  Nil nil it was at half time, and on chances created it was frustrating not to be ahead.

Vermaelen unfortunately limped off not long after half time with what is reported to be a calf strain, one only hopes it is not too serious.  We continued to create some good clear cut chances, Theo missed a one on one, snatching at his shot because he had never really got his body position right, RVP continued to threaten and it was he who made the breakthrough eventually, a shocking ball from Wright-Phillips played Arshavin in down the left, he squared neatly to RVP, who did the rest in typical fashion, he scored when he wanted this time.

It would have been nice to relax in the stands with a two goal cushion but it never came, QPR had a brief surge of energy, Szczesny was forced into a good low save with his left hand, while their other good chance was a skied volley from a corner.  We missed some great chances to kill the game, Gervinho hit an easy chance wide when set up expertly by RVP only a few yards out, a fantastic defensive block stopped Rosicky's goal bound effort.  We ground it out in the end and looked fairly comfortable in the final ten minutes.

These kind of wins are essential for us to continue our climb up the table, they may not be pretty but they do show that we have developed some important spirit, mental strength and defensive stability in recent months.  Generally the defense did well, Arteta was typically solid in the midfield and RVP was excellent up front.  A word much also go to QPR and their players, the ungracious and unpleasant Barton the only exception, they deserve much credit for giving it a real go and knocking the ball around nicely.  A left back and a pacey forward look essential on Arsene's January shopping list.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Myles Palmer - Henry will not make it as a striker

So with Thierry Henry set to return to us on a two month loan deal, I thought it worthwhile to go back into history to see what Myles Palmer thought of our current strike force.  Myles seems to rate himself quite highly but it appears that this confidence is more than a tad misplaced.  Here were his early thoughts on Thierry Henry:

"And remember, Thierry Henry is not a striker. He is not a goalscorer.
He scored only 20 goals in 103 games for Monaco. And he did nothing at Juventus. 
Henry is a right-footed left winger who is quick and skillful. He can also play wide on the right.
Even Arsene Wenger cannot make Henry into a striker.
So lets get that straight in our minds before we read any more ignorant tosh in the papers.  Got it? Thierry Henry is a winger."

I think the 174 goals in 254 appearances have answered Myles comprehensively on that one.  Strangely the links to the next piece have vanished:

"Why Van Persie should be sold (Sep 29, 2008)
By Myles Palmer

Robin van Persie doesn’t make it. He is a bang!bang! striker whose style does not fit the way the team plays. He is not a team player and will never be a team player. He plays far too selfishly, most of his passes are afterthoughts, he slows the moves down, and he shoots from silly angles again and again and again.Van Persie is a current international striker but he hasn’t made it. He’s had his chance and he’s not good enough. He will never be any better than he is now. Arsene Wenger should not deny that for one more day. Robin van Persie should be sold. "

It would be one thing if this had come from a deranged fan on twitter.  However Myles Palmer is a journalist, one who thinks himself expert enough to have written a book on Arsene Wenger.  Clearly Myles doesn't have much footballing nous, and the worst thing about him is that despite this clear lack of understanding, he has such a breathtaking level of obnoxious arrogance that it beggars belief.

For me the most beautiful thing about the social media is that it has allowed your average football fan a right to reply to idiots like Myles Palmer.  Their rank ignorance and stupidity can be exposed for all to see, and there is simply no hiding from it anymore for Myles.  The social media has made journalists far more accountable to the public.  Interestingly those sites that don't allow comments or that heavily edit comments are just showing themselves for what they are, no coincidence then that Myles allows no comments on his site.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Milijas red card correctly upheld

So the FA's independent commission have upheld Stuart Attwell's decision to send off Milijas for his reckless lunge on Mikel Arteta two days ago.  I have had to listen to a lot of guff from people trying to defend the tackle as 'fair' because it won the ball, sadly these people clearly have zero grasp on the laws of football and the use of excessive reckless force in tackling, even if the ball is won.

It was not the worst reckless tackle I have seen, but in my opinion there was enough recklessness and force to easily justify Attwell's decision and this has been confirmed by the independent commission.  The FA have rescinded the joke Wigan red card at Old Trafford, showing they are quite capable of reversing a poor decision.

I can easily understand the arguments of some people who admit it was a dangerous tackle but that a yellow would have sufficed, this is an opinion, and neither right or wrong.  The line between a nasty yellow and a red is fine, this will always be a grey area in interpretation of the degrees of force and recklessness used in a tackle.

However the idiots who claim it was a fair tackle because it won the ball need to educate themselves before boring us with their misguided drivel.  The photo above shows just how dangerous Milijas' lunge was, he flew in, he was out of control, the straight leg with studs up flew in hard and fast, it was just lucky that Arteta saw it coming and managed to avoid a serious season ending injury.  Well done to the FA, for once.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Unfortunately one of those days

Sometimes one huffs and puffs, one huffs and puffs some more, but the house just won't blow down and that's just what happened against Wolves today.  There may be an element down to slight weaknesses in our squad, Rosicky and Benayoun are very similar to each other and both started today, but I have to say the main problems today were Wayne Hennessey, bad luck and poor finishing (probably in that order too).

We dominated in both halves, the opener was deserved and it was nicely finished off by Gervinho who rounded the keeper and neatly finished with his left foot.  Wolves' equaliser had more than a shade of fortune about it, a lucky deflection landed on Fletcher's head, his instinctive header left Szczesny without a chance.  We cranked it up in the second half and Wolves held on by the skin of their teeth.  Hennessey made some top notch saves, there was a very lucky block which stopped RVP's goal bound shot after Per's header had been saved, RVP miscontrolled twice when in on goal, Arshavin was a whisker away and on and on.

23 efforts on goal and 13 corners, the pressure was there, the performance was pretty decent too, it's just a shame we couldn't get the second goal that we deserved.  This is life and this is football, sometimes the ball just doesn't run for you, you have to accept this and move on, it doesn't change the fact that it hurts though.

I won't blame Stuart Attwell for the dropped points, his general incompetence was there for all to see but it didn't massively help or hinder either side.  We had a good penalty shout in the second half which he ignored.  To his credit he did get the big decision right when he sent off Milijas for a nasty lunge on Mikel Arteta, Milijas was in no position to safely challenge for the ball, he was on the stretch, he recklessly slid in with a straight leg and studs up, he was out of control, definite red card.

Other than that dangerous tackle there wasn't much else nasty in the game, but it did start to boil over partly due to Attwell's incoherent decision making.  Part of the blame for the loss of control must go to Wolves though, they sat deep to absorb and were inevitably fouling more and more as the game progressed, they were struggling to stay in the game without fouling.

We have some issues, for example we desperately need some higher quality backup for RVP, Chamakh probably only scares himself when he looks in the mirror.  I also think another pacey wide forward would be useful given that Gervinho is going to be away for a few weeks in January.  We badly need three points against QPR on new year's eve, let's cross our fingers that our luck improves by then........

Monday, 26 December 2011

Piers Morgan - the 12 days of Christmas

This is another in my series of classic Christmas carols, it is obviously to the tune of the 'twelve days of christmas', obviously repeat the lines as in the original version:

On the first day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, a call for Arsene's sacking,

On the second day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, two Beeb self humiliations, 

On the third day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, three Clarkson punches,

On the fourth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, four brain cells in tandem, 

On the fifth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, five evil decades,

On the sixth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, six Leveson turkeys with perjury stuffing,

On the seventh day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, seven stories from his ringpiece,

On the eighth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, eight denials of phone hacking,

On the ninth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, nine bloody awful books,

On the tenth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, ten 'rioting' Gooners,

On the eleventh day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, eleven Rupert Murdoch rimmings,

On the twelfth day of Christmas Piers Morgan gave to me, twelve phone calls to Ian Hislop's vicar.

Merry Christmas to all Gooners, other than Piers Morgan of course!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

New year in a prison - a Christmas day carol for 'Arry

This one is to the tune of Away in a Manger:

New year in a prison, in a cold wet bunk bed,
The tax dodging Redknapp, laid down his small head.
His cell mate above him, looked down where he lay,
The tax dodging Redknapp, oh how he would pay.

The prison bells ringing, the poor convict awakes,
and wheeler-dealer 'Arry, a shower before porridge he takes.
His fellow inmates, they love him, and they bond in the shower,
it's just lucky for 'Arry, that they use soap to de-flower.

There is a moral to this story, that crime doesn't pay,
to the wrong side of the taxman, it is not wise to stray.
Oh how we feel for poor 'Arry, and his fate next year,
it may be painful in many ways, especially for his rear.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

The Arsenal Carol - Good King Arsene-ceslas

This is my Arsenal Christmas Carol, to the tune of Good King Wenceslas:

Good King Arsene look'd out,
    Over the Premier League Season.
He saw the fixtures lay crowd'd about,
    Over the Christmas Season.
Strong though was the Gooner fight,
    Though the weather cruel.
Then poor 'Arry came in sight,
   Searching for winter fuel.

"Hither Pat and stand by me,
    If thou know'st it, telling,
Yonder poor Spud, who is he?
    Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives just down the road,
    near that burnt out rubble.
In Tottenham is his humble abode,
    where there's always trouble."

"Bring my gun and bring me twine,
    Bring the tax inspector.
Thou and I will see him pine
    then for the lie detector."
A quick blow over th' back of his head, 
    'Arry'd pay for 'is indiscretion.
Secured in a Gimp suit of lead,
    they then recorded his confession.

"Make this fair and make this quick,
    I'm a bad man who don't pay no taxes.
Though Talksport don't give me no stick,
   That's cos I scratch their backs."
This all now on the taxman's tape,
    'Arry's guilt proven with precision.
A man with the morals of a grape,
    deserving of a long time in prison.

Off 'Arry went to Wormwood Scrubs,
    knowing he must do his duty.
He'd have to mingle with some criminal thugs,
    and in the shower give them his booty.
Arsene and Pat continued on their way,
    knowing the world'd been done a great service.
Onwards to another St Tott'ringham's day,
    and many more years of Gooner worship.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Gibbs and the curious case of footballer's groin

So Kieran Gibbs has had repeated surgery on this troublesome groin and will be out of action for at least another month, realistically a couple of months is likely.  He had initial 'hernia' surgery in October and was hoped to be back in action this Christmas, unfortunately he suffered a further setback in training recently, had a repeat scan and then the decision was made to go under the knife again.

Obviously it is tricky to speculate too much without knowing the details, but one can certainly say that the original surgery wasn't a success and in this context it is worth having a brief think about the interesting problem that is groin pain in high level athletes.

The painful groin in athletes is sometimes referred to as 'Gillmore's groin', Gillmore is the surgeon who originally described the so called 'sports hernia' and it has been a subject of intense debate ever since.  Arsenal players have been operated on by Gillmore on a number of occasions according to the surgeon's presentations:

                                                 OPERATION    P.A. (per annum)
1986 – 1996 (GRAHAM) 33           3
1997 – 2007 (WENGER)  10           1

The big problem with all of this is that the diagnosis of Gillmore's groin is highly contentious to say the least.  There are many diagnoses that may mimic the inguinal hernia which Gillmore treats, hip problems, muscle tendon tears, bony problems, referred pain from elsewhere and on and on.

The problem I have with Gillmore's groin is that the results seem too good to be true, and in medicine if something is too good to be true, then it probably isn't quite what some would have you believe it to be.  The results of surgery and amazing, success rates are in the high 90s percentage wise, failure is rare, as is recurrence.  The problem is I can see very little published on the long term outcomes of these patients, most are just followed up for a short period.  The other confounding factors are that surgery has a strong placebo effect and is always combined with rest afterwards, rest being an effective treatment in some cases of groin pain related to over use.

The sports hernia certainly exists and can certainly be treated fairly effectively with surgery, I won't argue with this, but I doubt the results are quite as good as they say on the tin, as it were.  The lack of long term data backs this viewpoint up.  I would also be very careful before assuming that groin pain is down to a sports hernia, it is a very subjective and tricky thing to diagnose, there is a certain 'eye of faith' at work here.  Modern imaging such as MRI scanning is also very subjective in its results and is so sensitive it will find lots of major abnormalities in asymptomatic sportsmen.

The bottom line in all this is that groin pain in the footballer or athlete is a tricky thing to manage, it is not easy to come to a precise diagnosis, the treatments are not as reliable as some would have you believe and the outcomes from surgery are not as well known as one would imagine.  Medicine is an art, despite the picture that some may paint in the media or on their own glossy websites, and I am just trying to get the inexact nature of this across with this article.  Good luck to Kieran Gibbs with his surgery and his recovery, I hope he makes it back to top form soon enough.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas One and All

As you may have gathered I am a stubborn and grumpy individual at times, personally I am not a fan of what Christmas has become over time, I am not remotely religious either, other than a few moments when I believed Dennis Bergkamp to be the messiah (no offence intended to all those of you with a religion other than the Church of Bergkamp).

I wanted to annoy everyone with a generally tiresome Christmas message and this is it.  It has not been easy running this Arsenal blog, it is hard to motivate oneself to keep writing week in week out, but Ted and I have now been scribbling our various ramblings since 2007, for over 4 years now.  We are getting towards a million page views and I never imagined we would have got near this kind of mark.

One thing I love about being an Arsenal fan is the fact that other Arsenal fans are a pretty good bunch on the whole, this isn't just a rose tinted view, there is no doubt that we are a pretty different breed from some, and one can see this from the amazing plethora of Arsenal related sites floating around the Internet.  There is so much good stuff out there, incredibly so much of it is vastly superior to the so called 'journalism' one finds in the mainstream media, and some of it has even been subsequently bottled for mainstream consumption.

I don't get to as many games as I would like to anymore for various reasons, I still like to think of myself as a pretty devout fan but there are those far more devout than myself, those guys who travel the length and breadth of the country in support of the team they love, spending a massive chunk of their wage on this, it is incredible how much commitment some people have, I hold my hands up to them.

Anyway enough of the rambling, for me Christmas should be a time for sitting back and just taking a little bit of time out to think about what is important in life.  For me there is nothing more important than my family, of course football is important but one has to have some perspective, it is not as important is life, death and family for example.

In this context we should all do our best to rise above the things that it is so easy to be guilty of, things like hypocrisy, rudeness, arrogance and many many others.  Football is part of a much bigger picture and we would would all do well to realise this at times, I will freely admit that I am guilty of bad offensive behaviour at times, it's important to own up to it, apologise and learn the lessons.  We all make mistakes after all and anyone who says otherwise is simply lying.

Blogging and Twitter may not be everyone's cup of tea, but the general power for good in getting more people to communicate with each other cannot be underestimated.  I never expected to bond with some Tottenham fans for example, that's not to say I haven't mocked some of the knuckle dragging type!

Anyway all Christmas is for me is about trying to realise what's important, trying to get on with people whenever possible, trying to continue to expose ignorance and hypocrisy where I see it, and trying to be as good a person as one can possibly be.  It would be nice if Arsenal win too, but as one gets older and uglier, one becomes more able to put the bad results in context, unfortunately they do still hurt a fair bit and I still haven't worked out how to stop that.

Merry Christmas to all of you, whether you are black, white, purple of pink, whether you are Arsenal, Tottenham or Liverpool, and a happy new year!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Lucky Arsenal saved by Yossi's aerial beef

Our back line had been decimated by numerous injuries, strangely Miguel was another absentee which I have assumed means he must have picked up an injury against City, anyway we had a really makeshift back four with Vermaelen at left back and Coquelin at right back, and the formidable pairing of Mertesacker and Koscielny in the centre.  Coquelin moving to right back meant a start for Frimpong in central midfield, with the rest of the team predictable.

It was not a good performance, we never really got going for any sustained period throughout the game, there was the odd moment and our quality up front meant that we always threatened when in forward areas, but we did make hard work of a game that should have been fairly routine work.

Coquelin battled but Z'Zogbia was a bit too much for him at times.  Frimpong's naivety and inexperience was far too apparent, he was slack in possession and his defensive positioning left a lot to be desired.  This was no surprise though, he has played so few first team games.  Ramsey didn't really get into the game either leaving Arteta to battle on manfully without that much support.  The front three looked dangerous whenever they had the ball but we couldn't get it to them enough, and the midfield didn't really support them very well.

Credit must go to Villa who showed a lot of courage, it would have been easy to collapse when they went one nil down to our deserved penalty after Theo had been blatantly tugged back in the box, they did not, they battled back and looked the more effective side for long periods, and having equalised they did look the more likely to win the game for a while.  N'Zogbia and Albrighton were dangerous all game long.

Having said all that one has to say that there is a hell of a lot more team spirit and fight in Arsenal side than I have seen for a few years, and this must be fairly significant in the way in which we ground out the win in the end.  Arshavin forced a corner, RVP whipped it in, it was mat by the Israeli titan otherwise known as Yossi Benayoun, the header was downward and unstoppable.  There was still time for that malignant piece of Tottenham excrement Alan Hutton to be sent off for two thuggish and completely unnecessary challenges, hopefully TV5 is fine after the second of these.

Overall a great three points and a vital win, some positive and some negative though, as well as some terrible refereeing that included an awful decision to book RVP for diving for being body checked by Warnock.  The fight and team spirit is very encouraging, we are slowly learning to better absorb pressure and defend as a team.  The big worry I have is that we are a couple of injuries away from an utter disaster, we need at least one full back to be brought in and we need cover for RVP badly.  Still a win's a win, well done you Gunners.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Fine margins and a cracking game

Firstly that was a great game of football and a credit to the Premiership.  I cannot fault the performance and effort from our lads, despite a plethora of injuries to our full backs, we cobbled together a back four, that despite yet another injury mid-game fought hard for the duration.

This was a game decided by small margins and it is arguable that a few little things could easily gone our way on another day.  City had he better of the chances in the first half and in the early second half, but as the game wore on we really looked like equalising and if not for a fairly stonewall penalty, and some slightly poor crossing and finishing, would have come out of this game with a point.

City's side is stuffed full of classy players, for me their best two today were Aguero and Balotelli, they have pace and skill, they can create chances from nothing.  Both players forced fine saves from Sczcesny in the first half, our young Pole had to be on top form, admittedly there was too much space down our right side defensively, Djourou is no full back and was lost at times.  We created some decent openings in the first half and forced Hart into two top saves, Ramsey also miscontrolled when in a great position in front of goal.

City took the lead not long after half time, just after Djourou had gone off, Kos was caught out of position, Balotelli cut inside and shot, the ball broke to Silva who tapped in, Silva was level at best, slightly fortunate for City that the linesman kept his flag down.  Just before this Gareth Barry should have been sent off, already on a yellow card, he went through Song's shin in a rather nasty fashion with his studs, Dowd choked this big decision, no surprise.  It was the only genuinely nasty tackle of the whole game and he didn't punish it.

RVP was so so close to being onside moments later, he was at most half a yard off, he finished neatly, it was so so tight but it didn't go for us.  The game then opened up massively, Nasri had the best City opening, but he choked it as he does so often, summing up his generally weak performance. City dropped deeper and we looked the more dangerous side as the game wore on, RVP was incorrectly flagged offside when he almost scored with a point blank header, Hart tipped over from Walcott and then saved well from RVP's low shot.

Dowd then bottled another massive decision, he had two good reasons to give us a penalty, the ball was crossed in, Vermaelen was blatantly barged down by Toure who got nowhere near the ball, first reason, Micah Richards then handled with his arm up high, second reason, Dowd was well positioned and choked again.  Still we created some great opening still, Arshavin scuffed a great crossing chance and mishit his shot when RVP had teed him up neatly, Vermaelen then almost scored twice at the death, the first was straight at Hart who tipped over, the second just wide with Hart struggling.

Overall it was just not to be our day, the injuries to our full backs did not help, a few marginal decisions did not go for us too, also we just lacked that real quality from the bench that may well have forced an equaliser, Arshavin and Chamakh are not bad players, but they have not provided much spark of late.  I thought the performances of Arteta and Song were absolutely top drawer, they worked so hard, they ran and ran, did so much great defensive work with such discipline and provided something that we have lacked in recent seasons.

Credit to City, their incisive forwards were dangerous, they always carried an attacking threat and they made things very difficult for us at times with some excellent pressing play.  It was a fantastic game of football and it genuinely could have gone either way, we just have to dust ourselves down, keep producing these kind of performances and the results will come.  It was a proud day to be a Gooner, even in defeat.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Context and the Arsenal

In this modern day of incessant news, our perpetual access to shiny electronic gadgets and the constant desire to create stories out of nothing that interesting, it is quite nice to minimise one's output and try not to just churn out bland words that say nothing of particular interest. Having said that I am going to drone on for a bit now, so read on and enjoy the irony, or feel free to leave now.

Firstly to the European draw. There is no doubt that AC Milan were one of the best sides in the 2nd pot of sides, on this level it is a relatively hard draw. However Italian sides are not nearly as strong as they once were, Milan are comparable to Udinese, who we beat earlier this year in qualification. I am quietly confident, if we play well then we will go through. The first fixture, the away leg on February the 15th should be after Gervinho's return from the ACN which is good.

Onto that little game on Sunday. In my humble opinion we have absolutely nothing to lose. We go into it on good form and City will be looking to bounce back from their Chelsea defeat. City have a very strong side, and they bloody well should do given how many hundred million they have thrown at it. It looks likely that Clichy's suspension and Kolarov's injury will see Zabaleta moved across to left back, we need to exploit this and Theo will be a key to the game tomorrow.

The two keys to tomorrow's game will be our ability to defend as a unit which has been steadily developing in recent weeks, and the ability of Theo and Gervinho to run in behind the City defence. Chelsea showed in midweek that City can struggle to break down a deep lying unit with men behind the ball, in fact City love to play on the counter themselves. We must be capable of absorbing pressure and then hitting City hard when we have the opportunity to counter. It will be a test of our slightly makeshift back four, in particular Djourou needs a good game and it is likely that he will be targeted as an area of weakness.

Dowd is the referee and there is a typically interesting preview over at Untold Arsenal. Personally I think Dowd is a terrible referee and he showed that perfectly at St James Park last season when he gave two inexplicable penalties against us, while letting Newcastle get away with some nasty thuggery. There is certainly room for corruption in the way referees are appointed in the Premier League, but I don't think Dowd is bent, he's just not very good.

A word for our opponents on Sunday, Manchester City. It will be interesting to see if Samir Nasri starts, judging from recent evidence it is unlikely and on his recent performances he is not a player who puts fear in your bones. Whatever praise is heaped upon Roberto Mancini, it must be remembered he has spent the GDP of a small country on this Manchester City side. I don't expect City fans or the media to paint anything in a fair context, that's why I will always endeavour to do precisely this.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Dowd again and Spurs love cycling

There has been some bad news today, not only is Andre Santos out for around three months as he requires surgery for his ankle injury, but it has been announced that the fat blind walrus who also goes by the name of Phil Dowd is to officiate our game away to Manchester City this weekend.

The above video sums up how many of us felt as Dowd threw our game away to Newcastle last season. He was grossly incompetent. He lost control of the football game, let Joey Barton get away with a shocking tackle and sent Abou Diaby off for an offence which was also committed by Kevin Nolan. He also gave Newcastle two inexplicable penalties, the decisions were so bad it looked like he had been bribed.

I am not hopeful that Dowd will be able to keep control of the game. He seems to have no understanding of what is cynical and what is dangerous, he routinely lets filth goes and books the most innocuous of fouls, games then mushroom out of control. Our record in Dowd games is suspiciously poor, I wonder why, I really do.

The Santos news is bad, with Kieran Gibbs at least two weeks away from fitness we are left very short of full backs indeed. It looks inevitable that the back four from the weekend will continue, so Vermaelen will stay at left back, the only real weakness in this is Djourou's frailty at right back. Personally I cannot see a better option, Theo will just have to help out Johan as much as possible.

Much mirth has resulted from the mindless abuse that has been dished out by Spurs fans following their defeat to Stoke at the weekend. It seems quite a number of rather special Spurs fans couldn't tell the difference between their referee, Chris Foy, and the Olympic cycling legend with thighs the size of small house, Chris Hoy. If anyone has any Christmas presents to buy for Spurs fans then perhaps a simple copy of this book would suffice?

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Diving does pay

In my humble opinion the governing bodies of football have done very very little to tackle cheating and indiscipline in the game of football. This has been yet again demonstrated this weekend as Luka Modric 'won' Tottenham a penalty with a blatant dive against Stoke City.

Modric cheated Spurs a goal and what would the punishment have been if he had been caught? Just a yellow card. There is not enough disincentive to cheating in the game, so players will continue to go down after no contact or the slightest of touches in order to gain an advantage for their team.

It would be very easy to clamp down on diving and make it a real rarity. Simply retrospectively ban anyone caught diving in the penalty box for three matches, this would soon result in players thinking twice about diving in the box.

Sadly the media are also partly to blame in all this. Dorrans of West Brom was quite rightly booked by Mike Dean yesterday for a blatant dive against Wigan. Roberto Martinez fairly pointed this out afterwards. However the moronic Shearer and Hansen stated on MOTD that there was enough contact to have gone down, they were condoning cheating. The media have largely done the same thing with Modric today.

Cheating has become an acceptable part of the game in this country and this is rather sad. It would be so easy for the authorities to stamp it out but they don't' seem to care for fairness or progress. The corrupt and inadequate malignant process known as FIFA doesn't want fairness in football, FIFA continues to ignore any chance to bring technology and retrospective punishment into the game.

I don't want the Premiership to become as bad as the likes of the Spanish league, watching the Real Madrid-Barca game last night emphasised just how bad this cheating and gamesmanship can become if it is allowed to blossom unchecked. There was routine diving, routine feigning of injury, routine rolling around on the floor after minimal contact and no sportsmanship whatsoever. This is not where football should be going.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

125 year birthday cake iced with goal of rare splendour

Frankly I can't be arsed to do a formal match report, my mind is racing and I keep rewinding, then replaying that utterly sublime winning goal from Robin Van Persie. Although our overall performance deserve a three point bounty, the game could easily have gone on to be a goalless draw, we could so easily have been left to rue the excellent first half chances that had come and gone.

We created a multitude of chances in the first half. Hibbert somehow kept out Ramsey's effort after Walcott's cut back, RVP strayed offside when a goal looked likely, Ramsey hit over, Gervinho was thwarted by excellent goalkeeping from Tim Howard. The performance was not lacking in the slightest, all that was lacking was a finishing touch.

Perversely as we seemed to be running out of ideas in the second half and as the clear cut chances appeared to be drying up, RVP scored a goal that was fitting for the occasion. Alex Song chipped through a delightfully flighted ball, RVP ran onwards, the ball dropped over his shoulder in slow motion, he hit it first time, his head was down and he did not get carried away with his left boot swing, the ball fizzed perfectly into the bottom right corner off the post, a magnificent goal, goal of the season so far for me.

Everton huffed and puffed but didn't create a decent clear cut chance of note all game, the only real scare came when McAleny's fizzing right foot volley inched just wide of Szczesny's left hand stick. We have started to look far more comfortable in defending leads, a massive positive that can be taken from the games in recent weeks.

It was a fitting way to celebrate 125 years of Arsenal Football Club, a brilliant goal that was cheered by one and all including a certain Thierry Henry who was in the stands. The team has grown immensely in the last few months and the last minute signings have most definitely made a real impact. The defence is looking solid, the midfield balanced and the forward line incisive. With the right movement in the market in January then we could achieve something of note this year.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

New European treaty excludes Manchester

It's been an interesting week, from a personal point of view I have been busy welcoming a new mini-Gooner into this world and from an Arsenal point of view we have seen a couple of rather meaningless defeats and a very important away win in the league. Strangely the only result that really mattered was the Wigan game and that means most of us have been largely content.

The Wigan game showed how much the team has come on in the past few months. We did ride our luck early on with a Santos block saving our blushes, but from then there was only one winner. Gervinho caused havoc all game long, but the opener came courtesy of an Arteta scorcher, Vermaelen then added the second with a header. RVP and Gervinho completed the rout. The confidence that resonated through the team was in mark contrast to the side that could not keep a clean sheet earlier this season for love nor money.

The Olympiakos game was another kettle of fish. Only a small handful of first team players made the trip and unfortunately one of them, Santos, picked up an ankle injury which leaves us dreadfully short of full backs for a few weeks. It was not a surprise to see us lose this game, it is no easy place to travel, but the manner of the defeat and some of the defending was pretty poor to say the least.

Fabianski was terrible before his substitution due to injury, his replacement Vito Mannone was just as bad. Squillaci was by far the poorest of our back four on the night, terribly hesitant, poor decision making and unconvincing with much that he did, Johan Djourou was also poor. Benayoun put in a good shift, and our young central midfielders tried hard, Emmanuel Frimpong was caught on the ball on more than one occasion, showing his need of more experience before being given a run of games for us. Arshavin again disappointed, as did the profligate Chamakh.

It was a reminder that we do need to do some work when the transfer window opens in January. A striker must be high up our shopping list, while replacing some of our ineffective players such as Arshavin, Fabianski, Squillaci and Chamakh must also be a priority in the coming months. We just need a bit more quality in the squad and as things stand it is pretty tough on the youngsters to have to come into a side full of such players.

Now onto last night and the failure of Manchester in Europe. I will not mock Manchester United, they deserved to go out, they had an easy group which they buggered up comprehensively, however they have taken this on the chin and don't deserve fun to be poked at them. Onto Manchester City, unlike their Manchester counterparts, they do deserve to be mocked, they have unsustainable thrown around ridiculous amounts of money in the last few years, they have behaved like spoilt rich kids and have so little respect for anyone but themselves, they have sold their soul and deserve the humiliation.

Although some in the media like to pretend that Manchester City's European campaign was a rip roaring success for their first year, it most definitely was not, they have numerous big money signings who have plenty of European and International experience, they have no excuse for their own dismal failure. The joy experienced by so many neutrals yesterday as Napoli scored their first and second goals will not be lost on City fans, they are fast becoming the most hated club in the country for very good reason. What a fantastic moment for football, it is great to see City's arrogant money bags come crashing down around their corpulent rears; perversely it is the kind of footballing moment that City's fans would have enjoyed themselves in years gone by, but now they have sold their soul it is their turn to be laughed at!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The perverse nature of pride in defeat

I have to say I was not expecting such a good performance from our second string last night, looking at the two sides on paper it really should have been a whitewash, but Arsene has been overachieving with these kind of elevens for years now, I really should not have doubted his skills.

In the end the side that cost about the same as Edin Dzeko was the better of the two in a battle against a side that contained Edin Dzeko. In the end our lack of quality up front was the deciding factor, for all our control of the game and composed passing, we just couldn't finish off the moves. It is sad that Chamakh has become such a shadow of the player that we saw at the start of last season, it is hard to see him recovering now after so many months of poor form.

Park came terribly close in the first half, forcing a terrific save from the City keeper with his deflected close range effort, while the Ox's stinging thirty yarder looked destined for the top corner, but he was again denied by the City keeper Pantilimon. City's millions told in the end but it could have been so very different.

I agree with Arseblogger in the fact that a lot more positive must be taken from this game than any negative. There were some great performances from some inexperienced youth products, all the young midfielders stood out for me. Le Grove's assessment is pretty much spot on.

One thing I find amusing is just how poor so many of City's multimillion pound players looked against our youth products and cheaper signings, particularly Samir Nasri, who faded away into nothing as the game wore on, just as he had previously done in an Arsenal shirt. It was cracking to see Frimpong confront his cowardly frame at the final whistle, we do not need players like Nasri, we want players that will fight for the shirt whatever the weather, like Emmanuel Frimpong.

The fact that we can take heart from losing a game says a lot about the grotesque corpulent beast that Manchester City have become. The money that they have been throwing around in such a destructive and disrespectful manner is a force for bad in the game of football. They have numerous 20-30 million pound players sitting around on the bench and on loan at other clubs, and on leave with depression!

I sense that a rather large number of City fans would rather look away that confront the ugly monster that they end up staring at in the mirror. It is more comfortable to live in denial than own up to the existence of the ghastly creature that has now taken over the club's soul. If City go on to win a few trophies this season then it is comparable to a father taking on his five year old son at tennis, winning 6-0 6-0 6-0. In the context of reality if they don't win the whole lot they should be ashamed of their underachievement.

Most normal individuals wouldn't get much satisfaction from such hollow victories, winning is all about the context of the victory, if one has infinite resources in comparison to one's competitors, where is the competitive edge and where is the pride in victory? It is a strange phenomenon and one hard to describe, but I would rather Arsenal never won a trophy ever again than become like the grotesque monster that City have become.

The great irony in all this is that City have become far worse than Manchester United ever were and their hypocritical fickle fans just can't see it. The title of this post is just trying to get across that it's more the way you do things that's important and the context of it all, perversely one can take far more pride from certain defeats than one can from certain types of hollow victory.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Rest In Peace Gary Speed

It has been confirmed that Gary Speed was found dead this morning. He was found hung in his own home. He was only 42 years old.

Gary Speed was a model professional and one of those rare characters that seemed to be respected by everyone because he conducted himself with such decorum throughout his long and distinguished career.

I saw him play a few times live against us and what stood out for me was his total commitment, his never say die attitude and his refusal to give up. He will be remembered as a great footballing professional.

Rest in Peace Gary Speed. It is times like this that we should all realise that there are many things much more important than football and now is a time where we should all rise above any tribal rivalries. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Gary's family and close friends.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

One point is better than none

I had mixed emotions after today's trip to the Emirates but if I am honest I was generally pleased with the overall performance and the character shown to come back from a goal down against a well organised and disciplined Fulham side who fought hard throughout.

The surprise in the team selection was that Arshavin came in for Gervinho and I have to say that the big negative of the game was the Russian's truly pathetic performance, he days with us are surely numbered. He was ineffective going forward, his movement lazy, his defensive work poor, he was just generally poor in everything he did, his only decent moment was the correctly rules offside goal in the first half.

We weren't great in the first half but we were the better side, and created some decent openings, the best of which saw Ramsey force a sublime save from Schwarzer that tipped the ball agonisingly over the bar. Theo tore them apart down the right hand side, the opposite of the ineffectual Arshavin on the right.

Earlyish in the first half RVP was denied by a rather inadvertent goal line clearance but the game didn't really get going in the second half until Fulham opened the scoring thanks to a slightly unfortunate own goal by Thomas Vermaelen, but after this goal the volume increased and we bombarded Fulham until the final whistle. Diaby, Chamakh and Gervinho all came on for the siege.

The equaliser was fantastic, a great Walcott cross met by a thumping Vermaelen header, unstoppable. We showed great fight and guts as we threw the kitchen sink at the Cottagers. Schwarzer had to be on top form as he made several decent saves, while some other good chances came and went. Overall we created enough to have won it but it just wasn't to be, sometimes this is life.

A special mention must go to the referee Mike Dean who was generally clueless throughout. He missed numerous clear fouls which were committed right in front of him, he ignored several very decent penalty shouts in the second half, he somehow allowed big Phil Senderos to stay on the pitch after the most blatant of second yellow card tackles on Gervinho. He was just generally crap and can't control a football game.

Personally it seemed to be a point gained today, although it was frustrating that we couldn't take advantage of some great chances to win the game when the score was 1-1. The team showed character and fight to come back when it would have been easy to go down one nil. The crowd were fantastic in really getting behind the team when Fulham had taken the lead. The big negative was Arshavin's weak performance, while it does look like we could do with some higher quality striking reinforcements in January.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Job efficiently done - media take note

I just wish the media would stand up and be counted at times like these. So many experts thought we would be the only English side struggling to make it through the Champions League group stages. The polar opposite of the mainstream media's predictions has come true and this tells a whole story in itself.

Other than the last minute lapse that gave Dortmund their consolation goal, this was a pretty commanding performance on the whole and we even saw a set piece goal from a corner, Vermaelen flicking on to RVP to smash home emphatically to make it 2-0. Song's skill and trickery to jink past three men to set up RVP for his first was simply sublime and capped a fine performance from the solid midfielder.

Man City, Manu and Chelsea all have various amounts of work to do. We do not. Those in the media who were so very very incorrect with their predictions should own up to this and say sorry. They will not though, there are a lot of biased ignorant fools who think they know a lot more than they do in our football press.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Solid Arsenal see off gravity prone Canaries

An away win, another three points, job done, as simple as that really. Despite the injuries to two of our full backs, Jenkinson and Gibbs, we adapted and the outstanding Koscielny did very well in the right back slot. The rest of the team was the same first choice side that has been purring of late.

We meant business from the off, numerous excellent clear cut chances came and went, and if there was to be any criticism today it would be that we should have scored at least a couple of goals before Norwich took their first half lead. RVP, Gervinho and Theo all missed excellent chances, to be fair to Theo the goal line clearance from Martin which prevented a certain goal was utterly majestic, if not rather lucky as well.

Norwich's goal was also rather generous. Morison kicked Mertesacker from behind and then tugged at him, he also got nowhere near the ball, Mertesacker then went down, Morison then scored. It was very generous refereeing from Dowd, most neutrals would see a kick and tug as a clear foul. Either way, it didn't take long for us to get a deserved equaliser, the ever penetrative and sharp Walcott destroyed his full back for the umpteenth time and set up RVP for a tap in.

The second half continued as the first half had ended, with us dominating and creating good openings. Walcott was close, Gervinho looked to have scored having rounded the keeper but a magnificent save kept him out, there were several other good chances too. Our work rate and pressing was giving Norwich no room to breathe, we controlled the game well and we looked dangerous when we went forward with the cutting pace of Gervinho and Walcott on the flanks.

It was only a matter of time before our domination told, Ramsey nicked the ball in midfield, he was then cynically tripped, Song took over, fed RVP and he did the rest with a brilliant dinked chocolate footed finish. Norwich had one chance in the whole half from a right wing cross, but that was it really, we defended well and Norwich didn't really threaten much.

A word must go to the cheating Holt who kept diving and cheating to win Norwich free kicks, one shameless dive in the penalty box was particularly pathetic, he could have tried to shoot, but instead he threw himself into the defender looking for the spot kick, really really poor stuff. Dowd also failed to control the game adequately, Norwich were rather cynical with a lot of rather deliberate fouls as we broke away, he should have got his cards out a bit earlier for some of their cynical fouls.

Overall we looked like a really decent side today, the whole eleven were working hard for each other and there were no poor performances at all. Vermaelen was particularly outstanding, typically fast and aggressive with his defending, winning possession time after time when it didn't look possible. The midfield were pretty efficient and did their defensive work well, Ramsey is getting stronger and sharper with each game. The front three were great, RVP and Theo in particular, they ran the show and scared Norwich whenever they had the ball at their feet. If we can keep this eleven fit then the only way is up the league table.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The machine starts to purr

It was only just over two months ago that we got spanked 8-2 at Old Trafford, the turnaround since has been rather extraordinary, it has not always been glorious in terms of the ease of victory but over the last month the team has definitely continued to grow in a way that has seen the performances mature and the nature of the wins become more and more convincing.

"The spirit of the squad was right from the first to the last minute. We worked well together. I was always positive with the team because of course we were in a very bad position - but you felt the desire to do well. Now that we are doing better it is still there."

Arsene has emphasised the togetherness of the team and that is what I am most happy about. There have been so many games in the last few seasons in which the eleven have not all pulled their weight, in which we have not worked hard enough as a unit, especially defensively.

There were many excellent individual performances today, certainly the young Jenkinson did fantastically well, the centre back pairing excelled, the midfield was slick, the forwards dynamic. The fantastic thing is that we now have a proper unit, we have a group that are properly motivated and that will fight for each other.

This season is one for rebuilding but there is still much that can be salvaged from the early season wreckage if we can keep this kind of ethic going. If we can continue to grow as a team and secure our big three men to long term contracts then there is certainly hope for the future. We have several very winnable games coming up in the league before we face City on December the 18th.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Sparkling display destroys classless Chelsea

I have to own up to being too nervous to watch today's game, I kept up to date via radio and the web, my plan is to watch the full ninety when the dust has settled, and how I will enjoy that now. This was a monumentally big game for us, we could not afford to lose another game, in fact many would have taken a point, hence Arsene must take immense credit for really going for Chelsea's atherosclerotic carotid from the very off.

The vast majority of 'expert' media pundits lazily wrote us off before the game, they assumed chelsea's arrogant spoilt brat millionaires would simply brush us aside, how wrong their shoddy assumptions turned out to be. Anyone who has watched us play at the bridge in recent years would know that this game is very rarely one sided, we often push Chelsea hard even when we lose.

This win is an emphatic statement of intent from Arsene Wenger and I have to say he has proved a lot of people wrong in recent weeks. He got things spot on today, and even with some key men absent he took the game to Chelsea when lesser managers would have taken the more cowardly damage limiting option.

I will comment in more detail when I have had a chance to analyse the game in the cold objective light of day. It must be repeated that the weak repetitive drones in the media have been cracked firmly in their abhorrent flabby chops by Arsene Wenger today. Arsene deserves great credit for turning things around after an unsatisfactory summer of dawdling, his young side have dispatched a far more experienced and pricey Chelsea side. In a league that is losing part of its soul thanks to classless little clubs like Chelsea and City, this is heartening to see.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Chavs and other business

So the AGM has been and gone, unfortunately I have had to rely upon other peoples' accounts and comments, but it seems pretty clear that there is a bit of a vacuum in our boardroom in certain areas of skill. Arsene was impressive as always, there was a lot of talk of a united front which is reasonable, but certain key failings were avoided in a way that was slightly disrespectful to the supporters who care for our club and want to know why these errors have been made.

Our win against Bolton was impressive given the players we rested and it adds to an excellent recent run of form. However the awful start to the season that included a humiliating defeat in Manchester, a home defeat to a mediocre Liverpool side and an away defeat to a poor Blackburn side was partially avoidable. We left our squad too weak, sold key men and brought in signings so late that it was bound to take us time to find our feet, and as a result we have thrown a lot of points down the toilet. I think all a few of us want is to know what happened and why errors were made, and then what is being done to prevent any future disasters from occurring.

Anyway I do not wish to dwell on this matter, we have a huge game against a rather small club from west london tomorrow, a club that is so big it has to give tickets away for its champions league home ties as no one will buy them. I hope Vermaelen is not given another game so quickly, he must return in a graduated manner, plus Kos and Merte have been outstanding of late. The good news is that our nemesis Drogba is out suspended which has to be a good thing. There are some intetesting choices for Arsene, at last we have a few fit playes and some options. The brave option would be to play Arshavin alongside Song/Arteta in the midfield with the same front three that played against Stoke.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

3-1 to the football team

There are footballing sides that deserve respect and there are some that quite simply don't, and Stoke fit snugly into the latter category. I have never understood the English media's love of Stoke City and Tony Pulis, they represent all that is dire and negative in the English game. Today they did not disappoint in this regard, there were endless long balls and hoofing, there was plenty of falling to ground easily (Crouch the chief culprit), there was time wasting from early on and there was very little attempt to play what most of us would call football in the true sense of the word.

Stoke were utterly outclassed today and got exactly what they deserved, precisely f*ck all. Although our nerves were a little jangled at 1-1 when Stoke undeservedly scored following some poor defending, it should be remember that Stoke should never have got the joke free kick that led to the goal. Crouch was cheating yet again, his theatrical reaction to losing a header won it, Shawcross was not marked from the subsequent free kick and he headed in back across goal, we lost another header, Crouch then tapped home the knock down.

It had been one way traffic until Stoke equalised, our passing and movement had been decent, several chances came and went, Ramsey was very close with a thumping drive from the edge of the box having been set up by the outstanding Gervinho. It was then Ramsey's turn to repay the favour, he dinked the ball through to Gervinho, the Ivorian's chest control and powerful left footed drive gave us the 1-0 lead that our play deserved.

The midfield worked well together all day, the three of Song-Arteta-Ramsey had a nice balance of power and guile, they knocked the ball around neatly and never allowed Stoke much time to breath. If there was to be a criticism today then it had to be of Theo Walcott and Chamakh. We were not incisive enough in the final third, part of this was down to Chamakh's mediocrity and lack of cutting edge, while Theo's movement was a tad predictable and one dimensional for me.

Gervinho has brilliant all game long and it was his direct attacking play that set up RVP for our second and third goals. Arsene must take some credit for introducing the Dutchman at the right time. For our second goal, Gervinho expertly jinked outside his man on the right flank and supplied a brilliant cutback that RVP cleverly knocked home. While for the third he strode past his man in the inside left position and cut the ball back again for RVP to tap home, perhaps Begovic should have done better too. The sub Arshavin also added something that Theo had failed to.

Overall I was generally very impressed by today's performance, we looked a good side and a bit spark was appearing in our passing game, our players are definitely looking more of a unit and the new signings have made a lot of progress since their arrivals a few weeks back. It was excellent to see the football team win and Stoke comprehensively outplayed. The main area we need to improve in is in the final third, Theo needs to up his game and we need our squad strikers to provide more depth behind our leader RVP. Well done the Gunners, I hope we keep building momentum and grow as the season progresses.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Average Arsenal edge mediocre Marseille

I don't mean to be negative, I am just trying to be realistic and objective, but up until the last few minutes we were really very average in the final third and hadn't created much at all of note despite a hell of a lot of possession. Still the introduction of Gervinho had given us that little bit more spark up front, Djourou's excellent cross was flicked on by Gervinho, Ramsey was in the right place at the right time and finished expertly, a great late goal and an invaluable three points gained. Great result but definitely not a great performance.

There were some real positives which I shall start with. Koscielny was absolutely superb, he timed every header and tackle to perfection, while Mertesacker was decent alongside him. Jenkinson had done well before his injury midway through the second half. Santos was terrible in the first half, he gave the ball away cheaply on several occasions and was defensively poor.

Arteta had a cracking game, he did a lot of excellent defensive work, he used the ball intelligently as well, while Song played with great discipline alongside him. Rosicky did ok, he worked hard and did his best, but if one is going to be critical he didn't do enough going forward. RVP was not supported well enough, Theo did reasonably and was a definite threat, perhaps his final ball could have been a bit better. Arshavin was absolutely awful, sloppy in possession and utterly ineffective in attack, he really should have been substituted off sooner.

I was deeply unimpressed with Marseille, they were very very mediocre, they gave the ball away as cheaply as us, provided very little attacking threat, Remy had one decent dribble that led to his shot being deflected just wide but that was about it. It did look like a draw until Ramsey's winner and really we were a tad fortunate to come away with a win in the end.

The thing that concerns me is not our defense, other than Santos' dodgy defending we looked very solid at the back. Mertesacker and Koscileny are a solid emerging partnership, while Arteta and Song played very well in the heart of our midfield. The thing that concerns me is our average play in the final third and the terrible form of Arshavin. Marseille were there for the taking tonight and we only just scraped home.

Gervinho's spark and dynamism contrasted with Arshavin's complete lack of an attacking threat, he looks like a man lost at sea, bereft of confidence and belief, he appears to be floating away into a abyss of mediocrity. We lacked great options on the bench, the Ox was strangely left at home, while a hell of a lot of weight is being put on RVP's shoulders, he really needs another striker to take some of the load. I do not mean to whinge after a win but we have to see tonight's win in context, there were certainly some big positives, but we cannot ignore the fact that there are some rather big problems staring us in the face.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

RVP galvanises shaky Gunners

Firstly thank you Robin Van Persie, two fantastic goals, almost the goal of the season in the first half when his fantastic turn and chip was denied by the post, a fantastic captain's performance that proved the difference in the end. He is a truly top class talent and would get in most top sides in any league in world football.

Secondly well done to all the lads, it was not perfect by any means but small steps are being made forward, slowly I know but it will take time and patience for things to be turned around. Defensively we need to have a settled back four and this has not happened yet due to never ending injuries, we need more continuity.

Overall the work rate was there, we have looked more of a team in the last couple of games, things are starting to gel a bit. Sunderland did have that dangerous spell in the first half where our defense looked a bit shaky, but other than that we looked pretty solid. Szczesny's magnificent save from Cattermole's header to stop us going 2-1 behind was pivotal, brilliant keeping again from him. Larsson's free kick was top notch, Arteta silly to leave his arm high when going for a header, still it was still slightly harsh to call in deliberate handball given that his opponent also had his arm raised.

Suunderland made things tough, they packed their midfield and were allowed to repeatedly break up our game with a lot of rather deliberate little fouls, Webb was rather slow to clamp down on this tactic and really should have shown some earlier yellows to stop this negative cynicism. Having said that we should have been out of sight before Sunderland equalised, RVP terribly unlucky with his chip and then Gervinho blazing over when in an excellent position in the box just afterwards.

I don't think our 4-3-3 system did us any great favours today, RVP didn't get a great deal of support from the midfield, Gervinho started excellently but faded, while Theo was generally poor and not in the game. Song and Rosicky played well, Arteta slightly less so. I would have liked to see 4-4-2 today but the chances of this look slim unfortunately.

Overall today was definitely a small step forwards and we need to keep doing this, we need to edge forwards slowly but surely, we must be realistic about what this squad can achieve. Realistically even with Jack Wilshere, Sagna and Vermaelen all fit, this squad is still well short of challenging for the title, there is plenty more work to do in many areas. Still a win is a win and we should be grateful for that, booing any players during the match who are giving their all is not productive and does not impress. Let's be decent fans and get behind the lads at games.