Wednesday, February 17, 2010

so THAT'S why Almunia hasn't been dropped...


Cheap, half-assed solutions to very real problems will only lead to more and more nights like this. Manuel Almunia is a laughing stock, and many Arsenal fans have wondered how he can continue to hold down a first team place. They got their answer tonight.

There are probably valid complaints to be made, but those complaints are buried under the weight of evidence that suggests an end to Arsene Wenger's project should be on the horizon. Ok, the referee could probably claim an assist for the winning goal, with the way he demanded the ball off Fabianski before allowing Porto to walk the ball in. But to say that was the only factor involved is to do a disservice to the sheer stupidity that now seems endemic to this team. And let's be fair, Porto were clever- so round one goes to rubbish but clever ahead of good but stupid.

Also, something that is consistently ignored amongst the furore over whatever injustice has befallen Arsenal this time is that games do not end in the immediate aftermath of a poor refereeing decision. More than a half hour left in the game, and what did Arsenal show? Abou Diaby falling to pieces; Wenger making stupid changes, putting on that Championship player Walcott for our best performer Rosicky; captain Cesc Fabregas again preferring to pout and moan about tackles and, for me, making it pretty clear that his mind is made up as regards this Summer. He looked disinterested for most of the game, and it's sad it's come to this, with the blame lying squarely at the manager's door. You can say you feel let down by the way Fabregas has performed in the last few games but he's a 22 year old being asked to carry a team. What tonight showed was that if he can sometimes manage to carry them, the team certainly can't function against above-average opposition (which is all Porto are) without him trying a leg.

He justt looks at the end of his tether with this mess, and you can't really blame the guy. Since 2008, this question has been hanging over Arsenal, whether Wenger is going to do enough to make Fabregas stay. He's failed himself, he's failed Fabregas, and he's failed all of us with this shambles. It is almost like he weighed up the two options and said, he'd rather pick up 40 million quid for Fabregas, than risk spending a bit of money trying to build a winning team around him. I know he was always going to leave eventually, but it didn't have to be so soon, and without ever surrounding him with the type of teammates who would convince the boy that there is success to be had at Arsenal.

I know that we could and should turn it around in the second leg, but that changes none of what I've said. All that's at stake is whether we muddle on in the competition til we meet a side good enough to inflict more humiliation on us, or just bow out now and concentrate on finishing as high as we can in the league. Of course, Arsene Wenger will want to stay in the tournament, because every new round means more money to spend on these FUCKING SHITBAGS' CONTRACTS!!!

I dread to think what he will do with that 40 million in the summer.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Just When I Thought I Was Out...


Arsenal 1-0 Liverpool
09/10 continues to defy convention. I'm happy we won a game- it seems like ages- but this recurring trope of crushing disappointment followed by nagging optimism is starting to seem a little cruel. Every time people start to write the season off, the door creaks back open. And yet the definitive sensation one feels is that it ultimately won't matter that much. But I guess it keeps things interesting, at least.

A relatively poor game at the Emirates lastnight, certainly a slow-burner. While some teams tend to fly out of the traps after a disappointment, Arsenal under Wenger have always had a tendency to get bogged down in adversity, especially in recent years. Disappointing results seem to breed a lethargy that borders on self-pity. So it was against Liverpool in the first half. We weren't helped, on the face of it, by Rafa Benitez' usual plan of containment. But then again, his team's negativity was such that there was little threat of the sucker punches we habitually walk into against the more aggressive United and Chelsea. Thus, despite a listless 45 minutes, Arsenal made it to half-time unscathed. Thereafter, there was an improvement in tempo, and the game opened up as Liverpool finally became attuned to the benefit that a more adventurous policy might bring them. In the second half, we had our only real counter-attack alarm, when Willy G chased back to execute a heroic challenge on Ngog just as his fellow Frenchman pulled the trigger. Generally, there was a sense that painful lessons might finally be sinking in. At one point, Andy Gray remarked that Arsenal kept five players back while on the attack (and with the scoreline goalless). Song and Diaby ensured that Liverpool were not granted the ocean of space that others have exploited in front of our centre-backs.

In an attacking sense, it wasn't the most cohesive performance but the result was paramount after recent setbacks. Bendtner gave us a focal point, an aerial target, things that have been missed in his and RVP's absence. That said, it's hard to escape the suspicion that he's just not a particulartly good footballer, although this was hardly the night to judge him, having only just returned from a lengthy enough layoff.

The decisive moment came with twenty minutes or so to go. Rosicky, having fluffed his lines when presented with our most clear-cut opportunity, reasserted his class. The Czech maestro provided what is known in the industry as a "goal ball", daring the profligate head of my pal Diaby to even try and miss. He didn't, and thus began the familiar spectacle of a jittery Arsenal ceding ground and seeming to invite disaster. One of the things that annoys me about this team is the way that their possession football is lauded, and yet deserts them in these situations. Surely possession football is most effective when there is a lead to protect. Teams laugh in the face of our fannying around on the edge of the area, but those guffaws would turn to tears if we used that ability while they were chasing the game. I think of Barcelona's utter mastery of the ball and the game after Eto'o's opener against United in May. But I guess efficiency just isn't in our DNA. Quite the opposite. Strange things seem to happen when we're defending a lead- lastnight we were granted the spectacle of Vermaelen charging forward looking for a killer second, and Theo Walcott, when presented with the ball near the corner flag, effectively back-passing it to Pepe Reina so that Liverpool could launch another attack.

For neutrals, it's part of the charm, but I could do without that stress.

As alluded to earlier, there was food for thought elsewhere. United dropped points at Villa- and it could have been worse if Martin O'Neill's negative streak hadn't infected his team after Nani's red card in the first half. You can really tell by his reaction to Wenger's supposed "long ball" jibe that there is some truth in the apparent accusation- why else would he get so worked up about it? Villa are surely too one-dimensional to finish in the top four this season. People talk about Arsenal's inability to adapt, but at least OUR one dimension is an entertaining one. As far as I can tell, Villa just play like the away team, wherever the venue, whatever the circumstance. Lastnight, United's ten men made most of the running but it finished 1-1 and so the momentum they have ominously threatened lately is now somewhat hindered.

Speaking of momentum, Chelsea's apparent inability to build much of it may yet prove fatal to their hopes. Whatever their current strengths, they are not the relentless machine we saw under Mourinho. After their drubbing of Arsenal at their Emirates, they succumbed to a come-from-behind Man City at Eastlands; there was a sense of deja vu lastnight as Florent Malouda's early opener was consigned to memory by a fine Louis Saha double. Once again, Chelsea failed to build on a win against Arsenal, and their season has been littered with poor performances and results away from home.

A nice night overall was rounded off by Spurs' capitulation to Wolves, a rousing response to their manager's assertion that they can overhaul Arsenal, and should already be third themselves. Our 'Arry reckons that Spurs have thrown away leads that should have seen them to a much stronger position. Presumably, these include 0-0 leads against Wolves (twice) and Stoke. Fack off 'Arry. Now we know where Jamie gets his brains from.

A word also for Steven Gerrard, who subjected Arsenal to another diving masterclass. An irony seemed to pass unnoticed during the recent John Terry furore- few seemed bothered that one of the supposed candidates to replace him in the "hallowed" role of England captain was a cheating hypocrite who beat the shite out of a DJ for not playing a Phil Fucking Collins record. I'll say no more on that.

And finally, what do we make of this:
1. Chelsea 58
2. Man Utd 57
3. Arsenal 52
With twelve games each left to play?

I say, don't get your hopes up, it's a two-horse race.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility that the top two could lose a couple more games each, or at least drop enough points for Arsenal to again scent blood. But does anyone really see the killer instinct in this team? Actually, can anyone even IMAGINE Arsenal as champions, especially after the last couple of weeks? I certainly can't.
For one thing, we'd have to win almost every remaining game to stand any chance. I know we went on a decent run after the first Chelsea tonking, but to repeat that at this stage of the season and with the major prizes in sight is a different proposition. I still think that Wenger missed a trick (or four) in the last couple of transfer windows, and Saha's impact against Chelsea, if you're looking for negatives, can be seen to reinforce that. He made Terry look like a chump on a couple of occasions, simply by being a very decent forward player. Something that Arsenal have shown themselves to lack. To be brutally honest, I think that if this set of Arsenal players were somehow presented with a genuine chance of winning the title, they would contrive to mess it up. That's not pessimsim, but my considered opinion.

Basically: it would be ridiculous, after all I've written here, if I were to now state that I truly believe Arsenal can win the Premiership.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

This Joke Isn't Funny Anymore: Chelsea 2-0 Arsenal

In 1984 (the book, not the year), George Orwell wrote that "Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows". Under Arsene Wenger's increasingly totalitarian regime, the fans have become used to hearing that two plus two equals five, but an atmosphere of revolt is building.

These last two have been the most disheartening games I can remember as an Arsenal supporter. I can't say I was expecting much better, but it's deeply frustrating to witness a team lose the big games, the same way, over and over. I said during the week that I could bear to see Arsenal lose, but not in the same manner again. And while the performance was improved, the decisive factors were a repeat of last week's and other failures that have apparently been ignored by the players and those who guide them. The shortcomings are numerous and have been talked about here at length before, so where to begin tonight? Why not the goals. Chelsea neatly summed up the dual defensive malaise that defines this Arsenal team. The first- the set piece. You could tell just watching that goal that there had been no meaningful work done with these players as to how they were going to deal with the opposition's aerial threat (this is something I'll return to). Terry's free header, Drogba's unobstructed finish- it was another disgracefully easy goal to concede.

The fact that Arsenal came back to threaten at the other end- with Arshavin denied by Cech- made it all the more sickening to view Drogba's second. On the break of course, and another comically simple goal to concede, when you break it down. One pass and Lampard is running at our back four- Song and Diaby deciding that a 1-0 deficit is grounds to abandon defensive duties. But still- he'll need to play a difficult through ball, right? Well, no, because Gael Clichy is going to inexplicably run infield towards Vermaelen, and away from Drogba, who collects Lampard's simple ball, works his way inside the hapless Frenchman and batters the ball past the increasingly pathetic figure that is Manuel Almunia. Fuck me, this is turning into the most annoying running joke ever devised. You'd need to have a dark sense of humour, I mean, in Larry David parlance, "Heart of Darkness-black", to laugh at this now.

To be fair, Arsenal were the better side for the remainder, but it's little comfort. Chelsea happily ceded ground, defended their area well, and played on the counter. Wenger complained afterwards- more grasping for a non-existent moral victory- that they didn't really come out to play. He does not seem to understand that they wanted to win more than they wanted to entertain. Why would they invite Arsenal into an open game with a 2-0 lead? To him it's reprehensible, and I'll admit that I find it dull and uninspiring, but it WORKED. Any Arsenal fan with a crumb of knowledge of the club's history pre-Wenger would do well to consider the hypocrisy of any condemanation of Chelsea's style. Are these "fans" claiming that they would not have celebrated in 1989, in 1991, in 1994? We're all so sophisticated now, eh?

As I've said before, Wenger's successful seasons at Arsenal have been peppered with accomplished counter-attacking play. I distinctly remember an FA Cup game at Chelsea during which Arsenal endured sustained pressure only to win the game with lightning breaks- as recently as 2003. The final in 2005 is not such a sterling example, because it consisted of United making and squandering chance after chance, but again, nobody offered to give the fucking trophy back because we hadn't put on an exhibition of possession-chess. So let's dismount those fucking high horses and fix this mess, or at least acknowledge that the mess exists.

Arsenal have a multitude of problems on the playing side that are gnawing at any sense of optimism. Many people have Almunia at the top of the list, and I guess that is a problem that should be solved quite easily, but here we are, stuck with him for this season at least. But even if he is finally replaced in the Summer, it would be foolish to think that our problems would end there.

One thing that seems obvious to me is that Arsenal need a defensive coach. Perhaps a strong number two who will have the balls to disagree with his holiness, the Autocrat. Wenger either does not or cannot coach defence. It's there in every set piece, and every time we are sliced through in another devastating and simple breakaway. The transition from defence to attack and attack to defence is too slow. Going forward, we often look ponderous. I've stated here before that we are no longer a force to be feared on the break. In a funny way, building the team around Fabregas, great as he is, has weakened this side of our game. Pace and power has been replaced by poise and stealth, but overall the team is too one-dimensional. Walcott is the only forward player with raw pace and seems to have no idea how to use it- he was invisible again. Other than that, it's pass to feet, pass to feet, pass to feet. No threat in behind, no threat in the air.

That's it though. It didn't take long. Out of the title race as soon as the real games arrived. And the Champions League nothing more than a pipe dream, because good teams will either smother us, or play through us, or both. The season will probably retain a competitive edge, because after Wednesday we may well be involved in the undignified multi-team scrabble for 4th. From a position of strength, we could soon find ourselves staring into the abyss. Or we could just finish third, but either way, there will be no happy ending, because there is no reason to believe that what needs changing will change in the coming months. Maybe the Summer transfer window will provide respite.

Maybe Drogba will leave Chelsea. Meantime, pass the Prozac.

Eve of Destruction?

Mixed feelings tonight ahead of tomorrow's date in the last chance saloon...

I already mentioned my inkling that Arsenal were going to somehow win this game, but that optimism has since been tempered by quotes from Wenger suggesting that Bendtner is in no fit state to be starting games of this magnitude. And it's also disappointing that Diaby may not make the starting eleven- the physical presence he can provide would be welcome, particularly with Denilson in such rotten form. A word here though for the cretins who have unleashed untold vitriol on the Brazilian, and now pine for the return of Diaby in his place- I am sure these are the same people who booed and jeered Diaby earlier in the season. Opinions are like assholes- everybody's got one, but here's a fact: Diaby's had more bad games for Arsenal than Denilson. These fickle fuckers are starting to get on my nerves...

The Bendtner situation may seem unfortunate, but it's not. If you told me when I was watching the non-performance against Chelsea in November that Wenger was not going to sign a proper striker, I'd have screamed. I thought at the time that the game was a purgatorial punishment for Wenger's transfer inaction, and that there would be some attempt at a remedy in January. And here we are: on the eve of the return fixture, about to face off with Drogba and Anelka, and still without a striker.

Having mentioned my "good feeling", I also have to admit I wouldn't be surprised if we lost 5-0 tomorrow. On the one hand, you kind of feel that we're due a good performance in a fixture like this. But that attitude says it all really. It's similar to me saying that we're due to lose a league game to Spurs every year- at some point you have to question just how these kind of "hoodoos" come about. I reluctantly concluded some time ago that this particular Arsenal side is made up of bottlers, for want of a kinder term. Certainly since 2008, there has been a tendency in this team to let themselves down on the big occasion. The win against Milan stands as the exception to the rule. At times, Arsenal have played well in some big games, only to be derailed by an apparent failure of will, collectively or individually.

History keeps repeating itself, and at the moment it feels farcical, but if we settle into it any more this mediocrity will become the norm.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The "Tippy-Tappy" Myth

People say that Arsenal winning the title would be good for the game on two grounds- the way the club is run, and the way they play their football. Arsenal's style is revered as a kind of high art in amongst the dirt of pragmatic football; it apparently occupies some elevated moral plane. This idea, propagated by desperate Arsenal fans with nothing else to cling to, is starting to grate.

Don't get me wrong, I'm glad Arsenal play a passing game, an attacking game. But the notion that we do it in a somehow purer way than other attacking teams has always struck me as a myth. Wenger espouses the principle that fans are there to be entertained, and he's right. But Arsenal's style is far from consistent in that regard. On a bad day, and there have been a fair few of those in recent memory, particularly last season, this style consists of sideways passing in front of a wall of defenders. There are days when it comes off and looks spectacular, but they are relatively rare. Riddle me this: which team is more reliably attractive to watch- Arsenal or Man Utd? Bias aside, I say United. They always try to play with a high tempo, and I think that's the vital factor. It's something Arsenal progressively lost after the unbeaten season, regained briefly with Flamini's rise to prominence, and since his departure lost again. Arsenal too often come across as some kind of Barcelona tribute team, trotting out poor imitations; we are Oasis to their Beatles. When have we ever threatened to do to United what Barca did to them last May?

I don't know where the preferential treatment for Arsenal's style comes from. Perhaps it arises from the awe in which English pundits hold that great unattainable "continental technique". But Manchester United's mixture of technical ability and high pace is often thrilling. Direct play is something that Arsenal used to be rightly famous for. Wenger's title-winning sides were always more dangerous on the break. Vieira could win the ball anywhere, and seconds later it would be in the opposition net. Counter-attacking is a style that mixes entertainment and efficiency- no better time to open the opposition up than when their own attack has just ended. It seems to pass unnoticed that Arsenal are no longer the force they were in this regard. The team overall lacks searing pace, with the exception of Walcott- his problem being that he lacks everthing else. The absence of a threat in behind alllows teams to push up the pitch and further negate our passing game. Contrast that with the times when teams would drop deep, terrified of Henry's pace and Ljungberg's clever runs, thus allowing us space in which to play. Arsenal today are quite simply an easier proposition for good teams.

Sometimes it's like watching a genetically-engineered team of clones, and not in a good way. Everybody wants the ball to feet. Wenger seems to ignore the importance of having players willing to run beyond the opposition, without the ball. I always thought the single greatest factor in Cristiano Ronaldo's transformation from show pony to one of the world's best players was his apparent realisation that while it may be more satisfying to dribble past a defender and score, it is more efficient, and easier, to run beyond the defender, receive a pass and do the rest, with the ball having done most of the work. He's always been overrated in his ability to take on and beat defenders anyway. If you watch even his best goals, very few are the result of solo runs. But anyway, my point is that Arsenal have far too little variation in their play, and their collective passing game is often too slow and deliberate, to really be as consistently entertaining as some people think. Looking again at Wayne Rooney's great goal from the weekend- it was really quite a simple run that he made, and it was the desire to make up the ground, more than anything else, that was impressive. But simple as it essentially was for a player with those instincts, could you name an Arsenal player who could be relied upon to make the same run? Plenty could have made the pass that Nani made, but possibly only Fabregas could be expected to get in the position Rooney did [just how much do we rely on that kid?].

So in summation, I think that Wenger has in recent years made a conscious decision to play a more possession-based game, and since we are not as good at it as, say, Barcelona, this has been to the detriment of Arsenal both in the sense of entertainment and efficiency. Maybe the cruellest irony of all is that with Wenger having tailored his team's style for European football, English sides regained the ability to impose an English tempo in the Champions League. The likeliest obstacles to European success for Arsenal now are the teams that hold a hoodoo over them in domestic affairs.

This Sunday is One Last Chance for Project Wenger

Wenger may coddle his "kids", but recent encounters against Chelsea and Manchester United have been the equivalent of corporal punishment. And the evidence so far is that they don't learn their lesson.

The trouble with a philosophy like Wenger's is that one can never wholly dismiss it, because it is all about "the future". But people are slowly coming to realise that this future may never come about. The only way to judge the project right now is to assess its progress, and last Sunday's game suggested that there has been precious little.

I still sometimes watch my 97/98 season review on video, to remind myself of that feeling of success. The problem being, nostalgia can never truly substitute for the warmth of the moment, the distance just leaves you cold. But there's an interview with Tony Adams in which he states his lack of belief in "transition"- as in, the notion that a "transitional season" is an excuse for a dip in performances. God knows what Adams thinks of the last five seasons at his former club. We seem to be lost in a fog of hypotheticals. It's understandable, because what else can one cling to after an experience like Sunday's? But what Wenger will find is that selling a POSSIBLE future is no longer adequate. I'm glad for another hammering, in a way, because its symmetry with last season's game hammers an important point home. There has, in the space of a year, been no change.

While watching Arsenal, I'm often left cursing individuals. We're all fond of pointing at someone and saying he's not good enough. But let's interrogate that assumption. Think of the team that taught us our latest lesson. What is it that makes Darren Fletcher or Park Ji-Sung "good enough" for the biggest club in England? Is it simple talent? Only to a small degree. The definitive factors are work-rate, character. People who will subordinate themselves to a greater cause, something bigger than themselves- isn't that what football is?

Now, think of Arsene Wenger, and the team he's been building and rebuilding since 2004. Has he been using the same criteria as Alex Ferguson? Does he believe that talent alone is enough? Watching the game on Sunday, it was the team that has won it all that was showing the greater desire, against one that has achieved nothing. How do you explain that? Watch Denilson's non-attempts at defensive action in the build-up to all three goals. What I see is a man who has been constantly indulged, and that is emblematic of the team as a whole. Wayne Rooney was United's sole striker and he did more tracking back than Rosicky, Nasri and Arshavin put together.

Wenger espouses the same team ethic that characterises United's greatness but on days like Sunday it rings hollow. Sure, there is a unity to Arsenal as an attacking force, but when attacks break down the attitude seems to be, "leave it to Gallas and Vermaelen and Song". Not spending money to replace players we deem unfit to wear the shirt is one thing, but when those same players seem unwilling to fight for the shirt, well that is worrying indeed.

Playing Chelsea straight away is surely a perverse kind of blessing. Questions have been raised that no routine win against Premiership also-rans would answer. The players have one last opportunity, as far as I'm concerned, to show that their manager has not lost touch with reality, and that they alone can turn Arsenal back into a winning machine. They can lose, but they had better not lose the same way, or else the rest of 09/10 becomes an interminable wait for a Summer in which every fan will be hoping for Big Changes.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Groundhog Game: 1-3 v United

Aggregrate scores from our last two home games against the two best teams in England...
Arsenal 1-7 chelsea
Arsenal 2-6 Man United

No lessons are being learned.
Largely the same bunch of players, slump again to the same outcome.
The lack of signings where they are so obviously needed is damning enough. But the fact that this group of players failed so miserably, yet again, to gain the slightest measure of revenge for their last roasting by a hated rival, suggests one (or both) of two conclusions:
Wenger is simply tactically inept and unable to learn lessons, no matter how painfully inflicted, or Arsenal simply have a poor set of players that cannot hope to match the best teams.
I guess it's a bit of both. Arsenal's squad was largely put together on the (relative) cheap and it follows that their players are not quite as good, generally. But at the same time, a look at the two team sheets does not reveal such a discrepancy as to excuse the yawning gap in quality and, crucially, efficiency that was again exposed yesterday.
Thus the overwhelming proof is that Arsene Wenger, now more than ever before, lacks tactical sense. [And, by extension, the consistent failure to win trophies is suggesting that his stubborn footballing philopsophy betrays a lack of strategic sense, once you move past balance sheets and on to the things that fans actually care about].

Ferguson is not renowned particularly for the tactical side to his management, and sometimes even shows a tendency towards needless tinkering, but he has constantly outfoxed Wenger. He has a flexibility far beyond that of our manager, an appreciation for circumstance that while rarely compromising United's positive approach, often aids them in the marquee encounters. This kind of genius seems beyond our blinkered leader. You look at United's team and you couldn't really call it their strongest, but then, what is? While they had injured and suspended absentees, Ferguson also picked the horses to suit the course- a tried and tested route against Arsenal. Wenger on the other hand has only one way. He saw fit to put out a tactical carbon copy of the team that was mercilessly pasted by chelsea a short time ago. Same plan, same lack of effect in a big game. In fact, it's proving not only ineffective, but self-destructive. To see Rooney's killer, wonderfully-worked second was the worst kind of deja vu, less than 12 months after he teed up Ronaldo at the end f a similar breakaway in the same stadium. By all means, praise United for their peerless mastery of the art of counter-attacking, but what of the sheer stupidity of the team that invites it time and again? With the scoreline at 1-0, caution did not have to be discarded so early. And then the dose repeated early in the 2nd half, ensuring the contest was dead twice over.

The worst part, as with the chelsea game at the end of November, was the realisation of how easy good teams find it to play against us. It kills you to think that both of them have won at a canter, and not even by playing amazingly, but just by doing certain things very well that seem to totally defuse Arsenal's threat. clearly, something is rotten in Denmark. When your two centre backs and holding midfielder have decent games all the time and you are still so easily and regularly opened up, it points to a systemic flaw. Arsenal still fail miserably to defend collectively; there were, I thought, signs of an improvement at the start of the season, but that now appears a false dawn. counter-attacking sides continue to pose an irresolvable problem- remember city tonking us while seeming to be dominated early in the season. Wenger's way is not working. We can play it to a tee and lose, so on the days it fails, against top sides, we stand no chance at all.

And if the blame for tactical ineptitude and naivite lies mostly at Wenger's door, it must also be remembered that a condemantion of the players who patently aren't good enough, or don't try hard enough, is a condemantion of him above all else aswell. It is his misplaced faith, not ours. Who, amongst the fans, believes in Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia? Are we really supposed to believe that Arsenal cannot find or afford to bring in better?

He finally saw fit to criticise some of his players, without naming names, after the game. He seemed surprised at their failure to perform. In that regard, let's face it, he was pretty much alone.

And now, chelsea. And Drogba.
But I'm glad for a big game. The only real tonic, one feels, after the latest humiliation, would be for Arsenal to construct some kind of defence against the prosecution's reasonable assertion that we can't win when it matters.
And I have a funny feeling we might do it. There is no rationale for my position. To be an optimistic Arsenal fan tonight, logic must be abandoned. But logic has abandoned us for much of the season in general. And, bottom line, things always pan out well for Manchester United....