What feels better than scoring?
–Clint, are you a fan of wrestling and in particularly John Cena? I’ve seen you celebrate using the same trademarks he uses!?
-It’s in reference to ‘you can’t see me’. I wasn’t doing it because the wrestlers were doing it, just ‘you can’t see me’ because I scored. -From an interview with Clint Dempsey
Arsenal’s first loss since mid-December means little on the death bed.
Arsenal’s critics over the last few seasons have been kept at distance by the legitimate counter-arguments of youth, finances, and a fidelity to a noble philosophy in the hostile environment of runaway Capitalism that has engulfed the game. But the chorus of criticism has gained the upperhand. The counter-arguments are wearing thin and those reluctant to criticize Arséne Wenger have been left no choice but to join the ranks calling for change.
The shift of position may not be a change of heart, a wholehearted defection, or declaration that the Wenger project is dead, but a call to the end of the project’s purity, an invitation to some kind of compromise with engrained principles and practice. Call it an adulteration one can live with now that the outcome of a rarified worldview threatens to diminish or damage the club far more than the supposed tarnish of necessary change.
The single thread that kept Arsenal in the title race has now been severed. Arsenal have dropped to third behind Chelsea and the title race has taken its customary form. Free from restraint, anger and frustration color everything seen.
By God’s providence he was catch’d, with dark lantern and burning match.
Just about to light the prime, caught him in the nick of time.
“What shall we do with him!”
“BURN HIM” –Prayer by the Bishop of the Edenbridge Bonfire Society
Contrition lies deeply wedged in Wayne Rooney’s throat. Following the public disclosure of his affair and his near departure from Manchester United, saying sorry clearly is not easy for him. In its place there is an admission of sorts, which comes a little late, as if it was forcefully wrung from him. Launching a verbal assault at a Sky TV camera while celebrating a hat trick, provided an opportunity for Rooney to issue an unprompted and expedient apology in an effort to preempt criticism and avert or minimize disciplinary action. But it was also meant as a gesture of personal growth and maturity that he hoped would be recognized in light of the recent past, regardless if the effort was carefully managed and scripted.
The apology moved quickly to sanitize the “foul-mouthed rant” by addressing his responsibility as a role model:
“I want to apologise for any offence that may have been caused, especially any parents or children watching. Emotions were running high and on reflection my heat-of-the-moment reaction was inappropriate. It was not aimed at anyone in particular.”
This didn’t help his case with the FA who issued and upheld a two-game ban “for the use of offensive, insulting and/or abusive language”. Rooney issued a statement after the failed appeal. Admittedly gutted, he went on to defend himself:
I am not the first player to have sworn on TV and I won’t be the last. Unlike others who have been caught swearing on camera, I apologised immediately. And yet I am the only person banned for swearing. That doesn’t seem right.
Rooney portrayed the incident as a common occurrence for which he chose to make an exemplary apology. Whatever, it was a poor defense. Not having the benefit of seeing the incident unfold on television is a thin excuse and requires us to uncomfortably stretch the benefit of the doubt. The speedy apology indicated that it didn’t take long for those who watched the ranting live to relay the truth of how bad it looked, regardless if one thinks swearing trivial—it’s not Libya after all, Rio Ferdinand said.
Arsenal drop two more points in final seconds of stoppage time.
With one win in five Premier League games, Arsenal is doing its best to distance itself from the title race. Heading into March, Arsenal was challenging for four trophies and appeared to be on the cusp of purging the dogged issues that have left the club flailing helplessly in seasons past. Doubts about the squad’s resilience were legitimate, but coming off a win against Barcelona in the Champions League and having gone undefeated in league play since December was evidence to almost convince one that this season would be different. Five weeks later Arsenal’s primary battle is fighting off a full-blown crisis rather than for the title that was once there for the taking.
On opening day at Liverpool, Arsenal were gifted a late goal in the first 1—1 draw. A tidy symmetry for the big picture doesn’t say much, even for karmic balance. Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll have replaced Fernando Torres. Steven Gerrard is out. Kenny Dalglish’s weathered face holds greater hope than his predecessor’s. The despondent atmosphere has been replaced with a helium excitement. However one feels about Roy Hodgson and his six months in charge, Liverpool are a different team; rejuvenated, at times playing really well and exciting to watch, which must be taken into account, especially when keeping in mind how truly dull they were last season. An unwatchable dull.
Since early January, they have won 3 of 8 away matches on the road, and 4 of 17 for the season. Liverpool is now in the category of the good team with a poor road record.
None of this matters too much since Arsenal is squarely to blame for their fall.
This season referees have been messing around with what is considered “actively involved” in an offside play. If the aim is to favor offense, any benefit is outweighed by confusion.
Narrowing reading of “actively involved in play” is one reason John Carew was not deemed offside. Or, John Carew, in an offside position and actively involved with the obstruction of Lukasz Fabianski’s view, is not considered interference.
In 2005, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) clarified when a player is “actively involved in play”:
1.) Interfering with play means playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team mate.
2.) Interfering with an opponent means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movements or making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.
3.) Gaining an advantage by being in an offside position means playing a ball that rebounds to him off a post or crossbar or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.
A sequence of plays in a Champions League game between Auxerre and Real Madrid illustrates the disadvantage the defending team faces when active involvement is too narrowly interpreted.
Real Madrid is in firm control of the game, pressing the Auxerre goal. They are moving the ball around freely and beginning to stab Auexrre’s midsection. From the center of the pitch, maybe five meters outside the penalty box, a Real Madrid player sends an angled pass over the top of the Auxerre defense toward two Real Madrid players. The Auxerre defense, after attempting to clear the ball, had pushed up field, leaving the Real Madrid players lingering in an offside position.
The pass nearly reaches them, but is headed away by an Auxerre player standing just in front of them. The Auxerre back line pauses, looking for the offside call. There isn’t one. The header can’t clear the ball effectively and Real Madrid retains possession and momentum. Xavi Alonso is particularly good during this stretch of the match, effectively pinning Auxerre deep and putting balls into the penalty box for his strikers.
Although the ball had only nearly reached the Real Madrid players, they are not deemed actively involved. It can be assume that if one of the Real Madrid players touches the ball, then the call would have been flagged and whistled. With this in mind, the play was not a threat, although the Auxerre players couldn’t be certain of this until the play was stopped.
One of the best matches of the year shows Serie A at its best.
Great football. Great theater. A Napoli win would put them into second place. The Stadio San Paolo was stuffed with unruly Napoli fans and the coolest Neapolitans with close associations to Aurelio De Laurentiis. Down 2—0 at halftime was a tragic circumstance given the occasion. The final 30 minutes of the match more than made up for this slow collective deflation.
But Napoli came back in the second half to tie the game at 2—2 and nearly went ahead a few minutes later. Christian Brocchi answered for Lazio with an incredible shot that hit the crossbar and deflected straight down just inside the goal line, but the referee didn’t award the goal. Brocchi was displeased to say the least.
A terrible call, which fortunately amounted to little, as Napoli scored an own goal two minutes later and Lazio was again in the lead. After fighting so hard to get back in the game, the blunder sent Napoli manager Walter Mazzari over the edge. Managers often scream, throw their arms up in the air in angered disbelief, but Mazzari picks grass.