Archive | September 2010

Arsenal 1—West Bromwich Albion 3

"Overall everything was difficult for us today – passing the ball, winning the ball back, winning the one against ones – and we got what we deserved which was zero points.."-Arséne Wenger

 

Almunia saves West Brom penalty Manual Almunia saves late first half penalty, which proved the only highlight of an embarrassing performance.

 

Wenger said the team suffered a 'power cut'. "What is the most frustrating is that there was no electricity there."

"We had lost a generator and then it becomes difficult to play football. I knew after the first five minutes, you saw that it was all flat. It is unusual for us because we are usually a team that has energy. We were just not there. I can't remember the last time [we were like that]. It was mysterious what happened."

The official Arsenal twiiter, which acts as a public comment box and depository of fan sentiment agreed with the manager:

"We were very sloppy defensively…"

"Insipid performance."

"…disappointed that we needed to fight back."

And to jog Wenger's memory:

"The fluidity was missing from our midfield and apart from the loss at Wigan last season I can’t remember the last time we played that bad."

 

Arsenal were this bad from the opening minute. They were shadows physically and mentally. The dark side was dredged up out of the murky past. 

Almunia's first half penalty save looked to turn around a dismal first half. Unfortunately, the second was unimaginably worse. Arsenal conceded three goals in the second half, committing foolish errors from a sickly display.

The performance goes some way in proving that a loss is not just a loss, but possesses distinct qualities that make it a particular kind of loss. In this case an ignominious and ominous one.

 

9/27/10

One Reason Among Many to See an Athletic Bilbao Home Game

Estadio San Mamés, home of Athletic Bilbao is regarded as one of best stadiums to see a La Liga match. A new stadium has broken ground and once completed the old San Mamés will be razed.


 Reason to see Athletic Bolbao 2Who wouldn't want to see a match alongside this man?

 

It is sad to think that one may never have the chance to see a game here. Last season's 1—0 win over Real Madrid was a game I didn't erase from the DVR until the late rounds of the World Cup forced me to erase it. Here was a pilgrimage to undertake.

If ESPN's coverage of European football has a single defining merit (no, not Steve McManaman), it is the freedom of the camera crew to spend time showing the crowds and the two teams in the tunnel before the match hugging and laughing before it gets serious.

 

9/25/10

Henri Lansbury Scores in Carling Cup Win over Tottenham

Henri Lansbury may be on the cusp of first team inclusion.

 

http://thefixtures.typepad.com/files/lansbury-goal-montage-320.mov

"…who is on the move? It’s Henri."

 

All but one of Henri Lansbury's first team appearances have come in the Carling Cup. He never seems languid or out of the moment, and plays with a lot of energy. His limited first team experience may be due in part to Aaron Ramsey placing ahead of him. Arsene Wenger spoke highly of Lansbury after his performance against Spurs:

"Henri Lansbury is a type of player who I rate because of his qualities, but as well his mental strength, the timing of his runs. He gives you qualities that are very difficult to find in the modern game.

“He goes always behind [the defence] and he has the timing to get in the box and scores goals from midfield. He is showing that again the other night when you see the cross coming in, who is on the move? It’s Henri.

“I like his attitude, his spirit, his mental strength and of course his qualities. He has not played for a while; he played with cramps until the last minute [against Spurs] and has a fantastic team attitude. I rate him and I like him.”

 

9/25/10

Sunderland 1—Arsenal 1

First signs of an Arsenal wobble against a consistently effective Sunderland at home.


Wenger and Bruce The two managers have always gotten along. This kind of physical contact is acceptable.

 

Arsenal midfielder Denilson may have undertaken a statistical study of Sunderland when he said, “You can’t expect to win at Sunderland because they have beaten the best sides here; it was always going to be a big game.”

Sunderland finished last season 13th in the table, winning nine games at home for 10th best in the league. Against top half teams, they went 5-3-2, which included wins against both Arsenal and Tottenham—the “big teams” as Denilson mentioned. If Denilson is insightful, he may be even cleverer. Paying Sunderland the compliment deflects the chronic problem of Arsenal’s collective defensive and focus, which lead to Sunderland’s injury time equalizer. This is not reflected in Sunderland’s numbers and hence easy for Denilson to miss.

Nothing in the game was surreal or unbelievable, in fact, it was somewhat predictable, yet there was a feel that the course of events were slightly dislodged from the axis (best reflected in this post), most notably Arséne Wenger charged with “insulting and/or abusive language and behavior amounting to improper conduct”. Here are a few.

 

Wenger touches 4th official still Arséne Wenger’s improper conduct charge is based, in part, on touching the fourth official. Johann Djourou knew this was a bad thing to do.

  

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Arsenal 4—Bolton 1

"From the two games against Blackburn and Bolton, two years ago we would not have taken six points."-Arséne Wenger

 

Kevin Davies hands on hips Kevin Davies is irritated by the injustice of receiving a deserved yellow card.

Playing Blackburn and then Bolton in consecutive league matches begins to sketch the evolutionary curve of style in the league. Blackburn will beat their opponents by clubbing, sometimes heightening the form to Stanley Kubrick’s dawning of man. Bolton still play directly, but if there isn’t a little evidence of style in their play, then it’s there in intent and spirit. Owen Coyle’s work-in-progress aims not to replace boulder with polished stone, but carve something out of it.

For Arsenal, facing one bullish club after the other presents them with an immediate chance to determine if matching the strength of Blackburn was uncharacteristic. Okay, so you beat Blackburn, well done. Now here…try some Bolton, just as fibrous, but a little spicier.

There are warm relations between the two clubs over Jack Wilshere’s loan agreement, but a new era at Bolton hasn’t curbed the fiesty tussle of ideological differences going back to Sam Allardyce. The players are quick to find each other irritating. They may even be irritated at each other before the game, finding deficiencies in the visitor’s facilities that are reflective the host’s character.

During matches, a few from each side progress from irritated to angry as the fouls and perceived injustices accumulate. There are always good hard tackles and one or two bad ones when these clubs meet. Some of the bad taste carried away from these matches dissipates, while some of it lingers (Wiliam Gallas’ tackle on Mark Davis) waiting to be re-irritated. This last match was no exception. It unabashedly began where things left off. Recently, this has ended with Arsenal winning.

Kevin Davies got things started after eighteen minutes by receiving a yellow card for a late tackle on Wilshere. The foul ended a sequence that Davies began by taking out Thomas Rosicky—a sure caution overlooked by referee Stuart Atwell.

Play stopped while a medic attended to Wilshere, which offered plenty of time for the two to acknowledge their shared past, be cool with what has just happened, but replays catch no communication between them. A stoic Davies stood there no more than ten yards away, and then grew a little irritated when handed a yellow card. Wilshere, proving to be tough as nails, looked like he needed only a snifter of whole milk to get on with things. The entire episode was so deeply impersonal that it could only be just part of the game.

 

Wilshere with medic 2 Jack Wilshere telling the medic where it hurts, but not that badly.

 

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French League Preview

Posted at the beginning of the Ligue 1 season, this piece offers a sketch of French club owners for anyone interested.

In adequate English.

 

9/6/10

 

Racing Santander Fans

Racing Santander fansHaving a snack while waiting for Barcelona to tear their beloved team to pieces.

 

9/4/10