Friday, August 28, 2009

United Preview: Fabregas Out

Successful seasons are often born out of adversity, bitterness even, that fosters an "us against them" attitude. It happened, though I'm too young to remember it, in the title winning 90/91 season, when an almighty ruck involving pretty much every player on the pitch broke out at Old Trafford. Arsenal were docked points as a result, but proceeded to lose a single game on their way to winning the title. It happened, again at Old Trafford, in 03/04, when Ruud Van Nistelrooy paid for helping get Vieira sent off. After karma decreed he smash his last-gasp penalty against the bar, he was set upon by a bunch of rabid, vengeful, and most of all of delighted Arsenal players, most memorably Martin Keown. Hefty bans were handed out but battle lines had well and truly been drawn, and the censure from the powers that be only seemed to harden Arsenal's resolve. This time no games were lost on the way to the Premiership trophy.

Now, there is adversity and bitterness again, and what do we see looming on the horizon but another potentially definitive trip to Old Trafford. Pundits, even managers, will tell you that it's too early in the season for any game's outcome to be decisive, but I disagree when Arsenal are involved, and to an extent this United team aswell. Even the best Wenger sides have had a swaggering confidence that can, it seems, be easily undermined by one bad day. Again, an Old Trafford example is instructive. After the aforementioned unbeaten season, and with Arsenal, in my opinion, playing their best football in all of the Wenger era, the run went up in smoke on a fiery Sunday in Manchester. cold logic would have dictated that that game should not have shaped Arsenal's season- they were not outplayed but effectively cheated by a spineless performance from the habitually useless Mike Riley, and Rooney's dive in particular. But the bitterness was too much, and Arsenal embarked on a rotten run that saw the season fall apart. Mourinho's chelsea won the title that day.

This particular Arsenal team is playing with an undeniable swagger at the moment, but questions abound over their big-match character. Wenger likes to bang on about our unbeaten league run in the second half of last season, but it was ended by four chastening defeats, two each to chelsea and United, in which a chasm seemed to open up. There are demons to be exorcised this season, and if the process is to begin tomorrow, it will have to do so without Fabregas. It occurred to me the other day that while Henry was often said to carry Arsenal, a fair few impressive results were secured without him, most obviously against United at Old Trafford- in 2002 to win the title, the season after in the FA cup (though he did come on as a sub), early in 06/07 when Adebayor struck the winner. Fabregas seems to me a different story. It's not that he always stands out in big games- he was fairly anonymous in the FA cup semi against chelsea, for instance, as well as the poor showings against United in the champions league- but I worry about what his absence does, psychologically, to his teammates. For Song, Denilson and Diaby especially, this game is going to be a test of mettle.

But there is also a sense at the moment that there is not the fear factor regarding United that we usually take for granted. This is mostly due to Ronaldo's departure, and the attendant notion that with United's weaponry shorn of his cutting edge, their prosaic midfield is finally being shown up as incapable of really dominating games. If they lose to Arsenal, they will surely struggle with self-doubt, and Ferguson will have to call on all his semi-mythic resources to pick them up for another successful title tilt. Nani and Valencia, if selected, will be men to watch. Ferguson's return to 4-4-2 means that wingplay is paramount as it was to his dominant teams of the 90s. We've already seen this season that Rooney has added aerial prowess to his portfolio. Then again, I've a feeling that Arsenal's good performances, allied to memories of that champions league cakewalk last season, will convince Ferguson to shore up his midfield- carrick, Fletcher, Anderson- and play Rooney and probably Valencia, maybe Nani, either side of Berbatov. In the games mentioned United's midfield three destroyed Arsenal's; it was embarrassing.

As I said earlier, there is adversity and bitterness. No Fabregas means that Arsenal will be viewed as slight underdogs despite their more assured start to the season. And the talk of Eduardo receiving a two-match ban from UEFA for his dive has Wenger spitting venom. I know that I championed the cause of bans for divers but it is unfair to single out one man just because an outclassed and angry celtic got their knickers in a twist over something fairly inconsequential to the outcome of the tie. As Arseblog says, how can a yellow-card offence in a match become an automatic suspension afterwards? The rules have to be changed, and THEN enforced. And there have been so many more worthy scapegoats than Eduardo in the recent past. call me paranoid, but there are plenty of teams and individuals who you'd struggle to imagine receiving this kind of treatment. But if it brings the lads closer together and leads them to fight that little bit harder this season, a two match ban for Eduardo will be well worth it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

I Forgot the Match

Got a bit carried away there in my sweeping statements and forgot to talk about the actual match that was played. Eboue was really rather good, he got a nice goal as did sub Arshavin but these only came after Eduardo's penalty effectively killed the tie in the first half. This was the talking point, as he won said penalty with an outrageous dive. Too much has been said about it, in a way, because it should be pretty cut-and-dried- the guy cheated to win a penalty, we see it quite a lot and unfortunately it's part of football now. The supposition that it's a foreign blight on the pure English game is a myth- Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard have been two of the prime purveyors of swan dives in the Premiership. The foreigners may have been the innovators, but English players have not been above using these dark arts to their own advantage- if ya can't beat 'em... And yet this is continually glossed over by the xenophobic English press.

Sky Sports' coverage continues to push diplomacy to sickening levels. I had the misfortune to watch Andy Gray, Ruud Gullit and Sven Goren Eriksson fail to condemn the incident- not once, as far as I heard, did they even use the word "dive". Andy Gray trotted out the oft-heard bollocks about how there doesn't necessarily need to be contact for it to be a foul- there is the notion of intent. Fair enough Andy but when the keeper clearly withdraws his arms in an attempt to avoid contact with the player I think it's fair to say his intent was TO GET OUT OF THE FUKING WAY!!! can't these guys ever just call a spade a spade? Who are these guys scared of offending? Because their constant and deliberate inoffensiveness is starting to offend me!

As per usual, the voice of reason spoke in grumpy, gruff tones over on RTE, as the great man Johnny Giles said all that needed saying. Ban divers retrospectively for three games, then it will stop. Gilesy for president.

That said, as long as the grey areas of football's rules invite a bit of cheating, I'm quite happy for Arsenal players to gain an advantage. We need to be a bit more cuntish, I'm tired of this likeable loser stuff. Systematic cuntishness has been a part of the success of Manchester United, and chelsea since Mourinho. If ya can't beat 'em...

3-1, Job Done/ Tactical Musings

Before the second leg of the champions league qualifying tie, Arsene Wenger was full of talk about how this match was more significant than the impending domestic showdown with Man United. Bigger, yes. Harder, no, and hence a borderline complacent but ultimately justified team selection. With Fabregas already out, but a commanding lead from the first leg, Wenger saw fit to leave both Van Persie and Arshavin on the bench.

An early goal for celtic could have made this decision look foolish, but despite a more attacking line-up- McDonald and Fortune flanked by McGeady and Maloney- they were again toothless throughout.

The feeling I got was that what celtic needed was some of the undoubted steel they had in the recent past, especially under Martin O'Neill. They could play a bit, but their style was mostly somewhat agricultural, and this could upset teams in Europe who weren't used to push-and-rush football with added aerial bombardment. And even then, to describe that side in such terms is to do an injustice to the classy players they possessed. OK, that primarily means Henrik Larsson, but still... even the prosaic strengths of a Neil Lennon must set celtic fans yearning nostalgically when you consider their midfielders of today. What they have now, seemingly, is a team of inbetweeners with neither the tenacity nor the technique to trouble the elite.

Tony Mowbray is undertaking an admirable quest to get them playing the right way, but with the comparative lack of quality at the club, it's a long and difficult road ahead of him. No champions league revenue this year will worsen the struggle to attract the calibre of player we would have associated with celtic in the 90s and early part of this decade. As was the case with West Brom last season, a commitment to footballing aesthetics may win him some sympathy, but when it comes to the underdogs a win-at-all-costs attitude seems most effective in British football. This was proven again by the lack of threat celtic posed Arsenal. The only strong arm tactics employed by the Scots were the result of petualance, frustration or desperation rather than any pre-conceived plan to knock Arsenal out of their stride. In a battle of skill and cohesion over two legs, there could be only one winner. While you've got to admire Mowbray's idealism, it's the pragmatic underdogs who've most often troubled Wenger's Arsenal.

Most heartening on our side of it is the fact that Wenger seems to have regained some of the tactical bloodymindedness of old without compromising the flowing football. Arsenal, so far this season, are pressing high up the pitch, looking to win the ball early and it's paying handsome dividends. All of Wenger's succesful Arsenal sides have had a power in midfield that allowed them to do this. For all the talk of flowing football, our best teams were often as dangerous when YOU had the ball. How many goals came from a tackle followed by one or two forward passes and a finish? Quite a few.

After the sale of Vieira and the emergence of Fabregas as the main man, there was I think a conscious change in approach on Wenger's part. He covets the champions league of course but even in great years like 01/02 we had underachieved in it. I'll always remember that year, that we were absolutely flying in the league, but in amongst all the positive results, Deportivo came to Highbury, played us off the park and won 2-0. After that we lost to a poor Juve side and were out after that second group phase. While our mixture of power, pace and technique proved to be dominant that season in England, at times we were outplayed by European sides who knew how to keep the ball under pressure.

But with Fabregas becoming a central figure I think Wenger saw a chance to change tack a bit and build not only the team, but its overall style, around a central playmaker who could really dictate and dominate a game through, primarily, possession and mastery of the football. Vieira was, in Myles Palmer's words, a "warrior-technician", and embodied the type of stylish power-football that Wenger's early Arsenal teams played. But those sides never made much headway in Europe. Not to oversimplify, but it was only after Vieira left that Arsenal got past the Quarter Final stage, and it was the very next season, with Fabregas and Hleb, a new breed of Wenger player, at the heart of it. This emerging Arsenal style was less direct, more possession-orientated. Note also that while results have improved in Europe, we've most often fallen out of contention early in the league, where the more dynamic old Arsenal would be more suited to dealing with a lot of opponents.

The closest Wenger's got to striking a balance was 07/08. We came within a cunthair of winning the league, but injuries, bad luck and arguably a lack of big-game character proved costly, not only in the Premiership but in the champions league awell. Overall, though, we played some great stuff, and Flamini was vital to it. His partnership with Fabregas was perfectly complimentary, a huge improvement on Gilberto in two significant ways. Firstly, tempo- Flamini did things in a hurry on the ball, whereas with Gilberto and Fabregas in tandem, too many games the season before, particularly at home, had been played at a snail's pace that allowed a constant wall of ten or eleven in front of us to form and solidify. Secondly, the related point of winning the ball- whereas Gilberto, as his "invisible wall" nickname suggests, was most adept at nicking it and making interceptions in front of the back four, Flamini was a box-to-box terrier who got in opposition's faces as they so often did to us. In other words, a player like Flamini allowed Wenger to concoct a sort of fusion of early and latterday Wengerball philosophies, suggesting the possibility of simultaneous domestic and European success. While the masterful Fabregas had the ability to ensure midfield dominance of the ball, especially against less aggressive European sides, Flamini provided the steel and industry to supplement this, both upping the tempo of our passing and often winning the ball in areas that allowed Fabregas, Hleb and others the space in which to fully exploit the opposition.

The effectiveness of what I'm talking about was nowhere better exemplified than over the two legs of the tie against Milan. While it took a Fabregas potshot and a breakaway goal in the last ten minutes of the second leg to put the Gunners through, their dominance was complete over 180 minutes of football. Admittedly, Milan were having a poor time of it domestically, but the fact remains that they were European champions and had wonderful players at their disposal. Yet the way Flamini defused the threat of Kaka, and Fabregas prompted from midfield, was inspirational. A year earlier, Milan had destroyed Manchester United at the San Siro playing patient possession football that made a fatally passive United midfield look like schoolboys (that was probably the night Fergie decided to buy Owen Hargreaves). Yet here they were the ones who were outpassed. And it was the speed of Arsenal's passing that made the two games so thrilling despite the lack of goals until late on. I think that Flamini was the overriding factor in all this- in that glorious tie and in our sustained challenge over most of the season. He was, as far as I'm concerned, the most underappreciated Arsenal player that we've seen under Wenger, and the fans who dismiss him with that unimaginative "Flamoney" pun and say we don't miss him would do well to look at the shambles of last season and do some reflecting.

In any case, the optimism that 07/08 engendered was largely obliterated by the dual blows of the loss of Flamini and, ridiculously, Diarra, who should have been kept to replace the Flamster in the event of his departure. This was exacerbated by Wenger's infuriating refusal to replace in turn either of these players OR Gilberto who was also allowed leave. Anyone who went into last season expecting success needs their head examined. I don't care if we reach brilliance again, I'll never forgive Wenger for the way he allowed things to decay after a season that seemed to promise much. 08/09 was not even a transitional season. If 07/08 was a big step forward, this was a giant leap back. We lost the dynamism that Flamini and Lassana Diarra provided, and were left with unsuitable partners for Fabregas- Denilson, Diaby and the raw Song. For me, this ridiculous state of affairs was best summed up when Wenger lsot faith in these guys to the extent that he ended up playing Nasri in central midfield in the biggest game of the season, when United tonked us at the Emirates. What a shambles. If Villa had a bigger squad, I probably wouldn't be writing about a champions league qualifier right now.

But I am, and as mentioned, we've new cause for optimism. Hope is what being a football fan is all about, after all. While unwilling or unable to buy a player that could duplicate the impact of Flamini, or even one as physically imposing and technically adept as Vieira in his pomp (ok, not many of them actually exist), it's possible that this new 4-3-3 could be the solution. As I've mentioned before, two players alongside Fabregas in the central areas provides him with the support one feels he needs to play his best stuff. If neither Song nor, especially, Denilson have the game to do that alone, then playing them both seems a reasonable idea. In the games against Everton, celtic and Pompey we've played the high-tempo, pressing game that was conspicuous by its absence in the seasons either side of 07/08. As stated, I thought Flamini was vital to setting that tone before; he had the mobility and tenacity to negate the apparent weakness of not having a specialist holding midfielder. Now, the pressing is more of a collective thing that starts with the three man forward line but intensifies in the midfield axis of Fabregas, Denilson and Song. While I enjoy a bit of leisurely possession football as much as the next man, and it's amazing when it ends with a goal, as with Nasri's second against United in the league last season, there's probably nothing quite as thrilling as direct counter-attacking football. In 97/98, 01/02, 03/04, many a great move started with a tackle by Vieira around halfway and ended mere seconds later in the back of the net. The evidence so far this season suggests that Wenger's new 4-3-3 could see us replicate that explosive style of football, or at least fuse it with the pass-pass-pass style we've developed of late. Until chelsea decide to sell us Essien for 7 million, this may suffice. Man United at Old Trafford on Saturday will certainly tell us more.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fabregas absence to encourage Celtic?

It has emerged today that Fabregas will be missing for the second leg against celtic, having been withdrawn at half-time against portsmouth. Wenger says he could return at Old Trafford at the weekend, but it would be interesting (I don't mean enjoyable) to see how we'd fare without him. I feel that the result would more than likely provide food for thought for Wenger, who apparently regards our squad as huge, and for any fans who've got carried away with the good start.

As for the celtic game, Fabregas' absence suggests to me that it may not be plain sailing, and an early goal for the visitors could herald an unbearably nervy night, but to expect much from that ordinary celtic side is probably a bit unrealistic.

The flying start continued with the aforementioned home game against pompey ending in a 4-1 win. Abou Diaby plundered a surprising, and impressive, brace on his first start of the season. The laughable comparisons to Vieira have duly reemerged, but perhaps, and this is tentative on my part, the new formation can be good for Diaby. I don't see him ever being capable as, say, a partner for Fabregas in a 4-4-2, but maybe with the insurance of Song in front of the defence Diaby could add some dynamism in place of Denilson. The Brazilian does at times seem like a poor man's Fabregas and in the name of variety Diaby could be a viable alternative in that position... BUT, Denilson deserves it at the moment because he has some acquaintance with the word 'consistency' and doesn't have such an infuriating tendency to take too many touches on the ball in a central area.

With United battering Wigan 5-0, and chelsea providing a trademark dull performance to triumph 2-0 at Fulham, it was left to Liverpool to ensure that the weekend was not completely a reversion to bland familiarity. Mistakes led to three goals conceded at Anfield, and Aston Villa left with a 3-1 win to remind everyone what a dogged proposition they have often been, and can still be, under Martin O'Neill.

Returning to Arsenal and the subject of our 'huge' squad, Wenger would do well to recognise that this hugeness is mostly the result of dead weight- he keeps citing almost permanently injured players as part of our supposed strength. Ok, Nasri, Walcott and Rosicky will at some point be off the injury list, but we all know that these names will be readily replaced on that list by Eduardo, Van Persie, and, er, Rosicky. In any case, it would border on negligence for Wenger to ignore the holes at centre back and defensive midfield- with Song off to the African Nations cup for up to a month... After the grim twist that 07/08 took, for the same problems to derail our charge yet again would be a bit too much like Groundhog Day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

premiership update

chelsea are certainly most people's favourites now, after an authoratitive performance at Sunderland yielded a 3-1 win. Those among us who have the capacity to remember anything further back than last week will recall that they were off to a flyer under the doomed Scolari last season aswell, so let's not jump the gun or anything. In fact I'm gonna put down a flag and say chelsea won't win the league this season. Number one, as Ferguson said before the last campaign, their squad is old and that hasn't really been addressed. They have for a long time been hugely reliant on Lampard- he was the only key player of theirs who didn't go missing, literally or figuratively, for a sustained period last season- and this will, as has been noted elsewhere, be a particularly gruelling season with fixtures piled upon fixtures in order to finish early before the World cup. While there are areas which suggest overt improvement on last season- a motivated Drogba, and a fit again Essien (arguably the best midfielder in the league)- the extent to which Ancelotti is going to maximise chelsea's potential with his preferred formation remains a bone of contention, in much the same way Scolari's disregard for width in his midfield selection proved fatal last time around.

On the subject of Ancelotti, I read a short interview with him in Four Four Two magazine that crystallised my conviction that his team will fall short. Ancelloti explicitly stated that he had been appointed to win the European cup, and his record with the Milan pensioners suggests that this is indeed more likely than a Premiership triumph. I expect Essien, Drogba and co to bludgeon their way to that elusive European crown this May.

But back to the league. The reason most will now install chelsea as outright favourites is Man United's unexpected 1-0 reverse at Hull. Not to sound smug, but having seen United's starting line-up before the game, I did say to my brother that I expected the home side to get something. It's amazing what one absence can do. Without Ronaldo, United's midfield, long a potential weakness, is at last being shown up. Park- carrick- Giggs- Anderson is hardly fearsome stuff, and one wonders about Ferguson's decision to leave out Valencia. Even if the winger had started, the Ronaldo factor is hard to ignore. Until Rooney finally makes that small step up that he has threatened for so long, to consistent brilliance, United may suffer for his often erratic form. Now, finally, he is the main man, and with that comes a new and overbearing pressure.

So far, Michael Owen has looked out of place, but it's early for obituaries. He is bereft of confidence, but the inevitable, impending first goal will change that, and he could yet prove a vital figure. And I know it's trite, but one expects if Ferdinand and Vidic were in tandem, the scoreline may well have been reversed.
Nonetheless, there are a multitude of question marks over United at the moment- the goalkeeper situation another one- and this can only be heartening for rivals.

In such a group we must now include city, who have one of the best squads in the league, and Spurs, whose 5-1 humiliation of Hull served notice that they mean business this season. Their hopes parallell those of city in interesting ways. Both will aim for the top four, although Spurs may be more quiet about it. Both have strength in depth that Liverpool and, largely because of a constantly crippling injury list, Arsenal, seem to lack. And, a crucial but oft-overlooked fact, both have no European distractions in a season that could prove prohibitively busy for the traditional top four.

Celtic 0-2 Arsenal

The gulf in class between the two sides was obvious on Tuesday night, even if there was an element of fortune about both of Arsenal's goals. I had been fairly jittery about the game, and while the pre-match atmosphere only heightened that feeling, nothing after kick off suggested that celtic could pull this off.

And so it proved, but only after a flukey Gallas goal, Fabregas' free kick hitting his back and flying into the corner of the net, right on half-time. Before this Arsenal had largely conformed to that irritating but often justified stereotype of passing in pretty patterns with little by way of end product. While our midfield was dominant throughout- and Song again particularly impressive- the front three still hasn't really gelled, and Arshavin and Van Persie both look unaccustomed to their specific roles. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to argue that celtic deserved parity to last on a night when they were largely outclassed.

Gallas' goal, and its timing, had a deflating effect on the hoops. In the first few minutes of the second half, the tie should have been put to bed, but Arsenal proved wasteful in front of goal. Thankfully this didn't end up costing the Gunners. After Diaby's introduction, the Frenchman prompted a move that saw clichy send in a low centre, and caldwell could only slide the ball into his own net. With about twenty minutes left, celtic's resistance was broken. The tie looks over.

While it looks like we're in the group stages again, and can be pleased with the night's work, I'd preach caution as ever. It's been a solid start to this season, and with solidity something that we've lacked of late, all Arsenal fans will take that. Goodison and celtic parks are difficult places to go get a result, and we've handed out one hammering, while in the second game showing plenty of grit as well as superior class. While the forward players were not as ruthless or as sharp as against Everton, a high level of graft atoned for the slight loss of craft, and that's a good sign. As mentioned in my last post, Vermaelan and Gallas look to compliment eachother very well, so far.

I still believe that the formation is an implicit acknowledgement that neither Song or Denilson are quite imposing enough to partner Fabregas in a 4-4-2. But if in actuality, as seems likely to me, Arsenal just can't afford to buy that calibre of player, this seems like a worthy and so far moderately successful experiment. I say moderately because as stated earlier our two most potent attackers, Van Persie and Arshavin, don't yet look quite comfortable.

Also, forgive my pessimism, but if Arsenal can't afford players of similar quality to compliment him, then why wouldn't Fabregas move back to Barca next summer? The Spanish gutter press are claiming a deal is already, provisionally, in place. Obviously, we should by no means take that as gospel but he'll certainly move in the not-too-distant future. It could well end up a great regret to all of us that Arsenal can't, for a multitude of complex reasons, surround him with the players he deserves.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thoughts on 09/10

Nothing like a 6-1 win on the first day of the season to motivate me to write.
That said, the result is not one any Arsenal fan should be getting over-excited about. For instance, that Arseblogger guy on, after (rightly) moaning all summer about the need for signings, had this to say:
"A truly fantastic performance against a very good team. Don't let anyone tell you it just was down to Everton being bad. Everton were bad because we made them look bad. We harried, competed, won tackles and headers and the only little spell of pressure they had in the game, some time in the first half if I recall correctly, was when we stood off them. Once we snapped out of our doziness Everton were under the cosh again."
Of course, Arsenal's performance was impressive, you don't score six goals in any game without playing very well. And 6-1 is a truly eye-catching scoreline. But it would be remiss of me not to mention that Everton were hugely complicit in their own downfall. The Lescott situation has been talked of as a big factor, but judging from the highlights, the whole side was guilty. Especially on the two soft set-piece goals that ended the contest before half time. More ludicrous still was the sight of Fabregas' second goal, Arsenal's fifth, when he picked up the ball in his own half and strolled about fifty yards unchallenged to fire home from the edge of the box. I guess to sum up my reservations about getting too optimistic after this result, I'd say this. People will see that Arsenal heavily beat a physical, competitive side, the type they usually struggle against, and assume that this is a "new" Arsenal with a stronger spine. The problem with that is that this was not, to all intents and purposes, the real Everton, they didn't really get amongst Arsenal, or if they did, it stopped after one wonder goal and two soft ones. It's the games where the thirty-yarders don't find the top corner and goals aren't gift-wrapped that really tell the tale of the season, there'll be plenty to come, and to me, question marks remain over the quality and, moreover, character of this Arsenal team. Another worry then is that a result like this will encourage Wenger not to buy the central midfielder and centre half that this squad so desperately needs.
How's that for raining on a parade? Perhaps I should provide some balance then. The new boy, Vermaelen, looked impressive. Despite his relative lack of height, he competed well in the air. At moments he looked like the proactive defender we've been looking for, like he could be a Vidic to Gallas' Ferdinand, for want of a better analogy. And he scored. Not a bad debut, all in all? More important than all this though- as I was discussing with my brother before the game, Arsenal players generally look and often act like a bunch of petulant fanny merchants. Not just the fact that they often get bullied out of games, but you only need look at the goal celebrations- a bit of homoerotic posturing here, a ridiculous dance by that slobbering degenerate Eboue there- to see that this is a team in need of an injection of a bit of the "Roy Keanes". And here we have Vermaelen, a man with the cold eyes of a serial killer. If you take that blundering buffoon Big Philly Senderos- he always looks on the point of tears- not a good look for a centre half. And we've all seen Gallas blubber like a child in public over things not going his way, it was about time we added a scary looking prick to the backline. Maybe we've now finally found the answer to the problem that hideous cunt Didier Drogba (altogether now- "IT'S A FUCKING DEESGWACE!") yearly poses to our defenCe... it's a pity it had to happenc at the expense of my beloved Kolo though.
The new formation, some kind of 4-3-3, also worked well. Barcelona seems to be the reference point, although in fairness there's a world of difference between Leo Messi on the right wing and Nicklas Bendtner... Speaking of the Dane, who I'm always apologising for, he had a good game, so there's no need for me to apologise today. I really think the guy gets an unfairly rough ride. It's probably because he comes across as a bit of an asshole, whereas the perennially underwhelming (you know it Brehony!) Theo Walcott is mollycoddled and praised by fans, probably because he seems quite a nice lad. Anyway, if anyone wants to complain to me about Bendtner, I'm just gonna think back to that miserable run of games a few years ago when Julio craptista partnered Jeremie Alialialialiadieire upfront- two men who, at the time, couldn't find the net if you gave them a map. In summation, LEAVE BENDTNER ALONE!!!
From what I've read, Denilson had a decent game, gave the ball away a few times but was busy, sounds like typical Denilson to me, but with the added bonus of scoring an absolute belter. Cesc was Cesc at something approaching his best, two goals, two assists, can't ask for much more than that. Song was by all accounts outstanding and he's come a long way from the knuckle dragging chimp we knew less than a year back (if it seems like there's a racial undertone to any of my descriptions, I assure you it's just your imagination).
I'm focusing there on what I still think could be a problem area, the midfield. To me, this 4-3-3 looks despite the good start like something of an attempt to compensate for the inadequacy of our midfield players (excluding Fabregas of course). A bit like what United got bogged down with when Roy Keane was on his last legs and Paul Scholes was gone blind... If all you've got are a polished turd like Eric Djemba-fucking-Djemba and Kleberson and so on, you may as well play a few of them, seemed to be the thinking, so that they can cover for eachother, save on the potential costs of replacing Keano's hip, and surround superior opposition midfielders like flies around poo. Admittedly Denilson and Song are a bit better than polished turd, but evidently not so much so that either can partner Fabregas in a 4-4-2... Which I still think should be the preferred option. But until we sign a proper replacement for the Flamster, I guess this formation is worth a go. Arhavin looked a bit bored on the left wing though...
I'm tired. So having totally failed to deliver the promised season preview, I'll leave that til later in the week, after the celtic game.
Because I get tired of talking just about football, any more I'm going to recommend a song that I really think everyone in the world should then go and listen to, and they will of course not do so because they don't like my taste in music or just have better things to do. But in the words of my hero, R.P. McMurphy from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, at least I tried.
#1..... The Rolling Stones- "Moonlight Mile"