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Tuesday 12 September 2006

Bring On The Hamburgers

Hi folks

It was very depressing this past weekend. With all that transpired in the interim, since the stinging defeat at City and with some confidence boosting international performances for some of our squad, I managed to talk Saturday’s game up completely, believing we were going to witness a totally different assured Arsenal, as opposed to the pondering and fragile efforts we’d experienced prior. I’d convinced myself that with the boost to the squad of our new signings, we’d kick-start our campaign by blowing Boro away.

So from such a height, it was a long way to fall, sitting in our seats at half-time contemplating the same old, same old, flabbergasted to hear it said on my radio that there was a possibility of us ending the day bottom of the Premiership pile.

Apparently it’s our worse start to a league campaign in 15 years. Although in truth we should be capable of cutting Arsène some slack. Based on his fairly consistent ability to work the oracle almost every season, with both hands tied behind his back when you compare the financial resources made available to many of our competitors, then I guess he’s long overdue a bit of a dip?

I was glad to read on Sunday that he’s recognised as far as our wider pitch is concerned that “we still do no know how best to use it”. Far be it from little old me to second guess the great man, but I was actually becoming a little worried that he’d failed to address something which seemed so obvious. I mean how often do we have to bang our heads in frustration, watching them try to ballet dance past durable centre-backs, when everyone knows if you can’t go through a thing, the answer is to go around it!

The problem is that Walcott is about the only player I am aware of in this Arsenal squad who has the necessary pace and who is still young enough to learn the art of instinctive wing play. Whereas no matter how many time Freddie or Hleb lime-up in these positions, they are relatively old dogs who will tend to cut in because of their instincts to head goalwards, instead of taking the ball to the byeline and whipping in a cross. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that we possess a squad who, magnetically speaking, are polar opposites from the corner flags, until it comes to taking the ball there to wind the clock down.

If Walcott was thirty I could perhaps understand Arsène wanting to leave him out, but at Theo’s tender age, he could have played two midweek games for England U21s and still been full of running come Saturday. More’s the point, it would seem absolute madness to leave him out entirely, when as the need arose 0-1 down to Boro, he’s perhaps the only player capable of providing us with something different.

Meanwhile I am hopeful that William Gallas is going to do the business but if Arsène was going to throw him straight in, I’d rather see him play at centre-back and I tend to agree with everyone who has been touting Flamini to play as cover at left-back. To be honest, after the way Mathieu managed to do such a great job for us last season, playing in this unfamiliar role and rarely, if ever letting us down, I was surprised that Wenger didn’t start the season with him back there.

What’s more I believe we need to cut Djourrou some slack. He’s proved he’s capable of playing at the top level with his country. However the problem is that over the course of a season he’s bound to make the odd gaff. That’s what learning the game is all about. But crucially, where you can often get away with messing up elsewhere on the park, much like a goalie, at centre-back mistakes are likely to prove costly.

So while I\d hope Johann has a bright future with us, for the sake of getting some clean sheets under our belt, personally I reckon Kolo and Gallas would be the ideal combination just right now, to give our defence a more solid feel. Moreover since we seem to struggle so much whenever we go a goal down, I guess the best remedy would be for us to prevent the opposition scoring, as whenever we take the lead in a game, we are capable of destroying anyone, because instead of getting everyone behind the ball, they are forced to come at us

Meanwhile we’ve some racist Neanderthal sitting a couple of rows behind us in the East Lower who came out with a “lazy black bastard” comment a couple of weeks back. I noticed a few outraged looks of disgust on the faces of a few people around who heard him and to be honest I was annoyed at myself for not saying something straight away. I think his remark was directed at Eboué, which is ironic, as he’s about the most energetic player in the team at present. Timid coward that I am, my only response was to express my increasingly vocal support for Manny, in the vain hope this tosser might get the message.

However my indignant missus has doubtless been bottling her rage ever since and she assumed it must have been the same bigoted idiot on Saturday who spat out “you Irish bastard” directed at ref Mike Riley. Róna lost it completely, stood up and turned around to scream “Less of the racist remarks! What’s your seat number?” Since this was prior to Riley awarding us a penalty, I was doing my best to hunker down and pretend she wasn’t with me J

To be honest I can’t believe she stood up for the official, rather than an Arsenal player but I guess she is a Dubliner. However it was more of a cumulative annoyance, where I am sure she must’ve felt if she didn’t say something then, she might never do so and in truth I was very proud of her.

I only hope he’s got the message and if he hasn’t, hopefully I’ll have the balls to tell him to put a sock in it, as I’m certainly not prepared to endure that kind of crap at every game.

This wasn’t the only person who I was desperate to put a sock in it on Saturday. The tannoy in the West Upper at THOF was absolutely useless, as it was totally unintelligible and it used to bug the hell out of me, not being able to make out a word of anything Wenger had to say. However we’ve got the opposite extreme at the new place, where the PA is completely deafening.

I am pretty sure that there couldn’t have been a single person amongst the 60,000 present who didn’t hear the stadium announcer the first time when he explained the problems with the tube and I know he’s obliged to get the information out, but with us chasing the game with the clock ticking down, it was driving me bonkers that he kept repeating this long-winded ear-bashing every few minutes and if I found it dreadfully distracting, I am sure it wasn’t helping the players.

Several other people have also raised the issue of the half-time refreshments at the new place, or more’s the point, the fact that you can’t get any! Perhaps it will improve as the staff get used to serving folk a little quicker. But if it doesn’t, then it would appear that the club have seriously underestimated the need for these facilities.

Perhaps they are too busy taking huge amounts of money in receipts from all the corporate facilities to give a monkey’s about the fact that they are missing out on a few quid from those of us mug punters who can’t be bothered to spend the entire break queuing and possibly missing the start of the game, in order to get served. At the friendly last Sunday, I directed the Brazilian lad who took Ro’s ticket, upstairs in order to get a half-time drink. Although I am not sure the queues are any shorter in the Upper Tier than they are downstairs.

I had a mate and his son over from France for the Villa game and I went upstairs to meet up at half-time. I found them in a queue, where we stood and chatted for the entire duration of the break and when the teams appeared for the second half, they eventually just gave up and went back to their seats, rather than risk missing some of the action.

Am I correct in thinking that they’ve removed the burgers from the half-time menu since the initial opening, as it occurred to me back then that I must check out the four quid’s worth of “100 per cent pure beef” but I haven’t seen them offered anywhere since. I just wonder if they’ve reduced the items on offer in an attempt to speed matters up, as since the number of serving points is now fixed for good, the only way they can improve things is with the speed of service.

Along with everyone else, I am also amazed that the club haven’t got around to doing anything with the gloomy looking grey/green concrete fronts of the balconies of each level. Strangely enough, after all the hoo-haa last season, I’ve yet to see any evidence of the Israeli Tourist Board sponsorship which caused such an amusing sh*t storm when it was announced – mind you they’d doubtless be wasting their money trying to promote tourism over there at the moment, when instead of the obligatory straw donkey that folk bring back from Spain, the only souvenir you’d be guaranteed of coming home from the Holy Land with at present is a pile of shrapnel!

Subsequent to barney over this, I was wondering if the club’s sponsors have exerted some sort of control over any other advertising space sold in “their” (!!??) stadium, as otherwise I would’ve expected the club to have sold off the prime space on these bland concrete fascias, as they let the whole of the rest of the stadium down. If this isn’t the plan, then surely they could at least paint them, or at best, I am certain it wouldn’t cost very much to have them covered with the same sort of banners we had on the front of the North Bank at THOF, celebrating some of the Gunners most glorious title triumphs.

No doubt when Spurs get to visit in December, the worst of the animals amongst the envious scum support will be looking to do as much damage as possible to our spanking new stadium, wrecking karseys and absolutely anything else they can vandalise (I will be highly surprised if the huge concrete “Arsenal” lettering doesn’t require a paint job afterwards). But on the basis that they are going to be intent on inflicting some sort of havoc, we might as well give them good cause. Thus I will be very disappointed if we haven’t got around to putting something up by then to rub their noses in a reminder of WHL 71 & 04

Hopefully by then our form will have long been back on track, as we have to continue to have faith in the fact that “Arséne Knows”. Seeing some of the comments below, it would appear that some of you don’t fully appreciate how lucky we are. I also get pissed off occasionally by the fact that Arsène isn’t a little more animate, as there are times when we could really do with a tea cup throwing display and for him to kick a few arses. However Wenger is not a Martin O’Neill type and never will be.

There have also been several occasions in the past when I’ve cursed the fact that he’s such a cold, calculating type, where he breaks down absolutely all his decisions into percentages and every player is simply the sum of his current statistics. To my mind there are time in this beautiful game of ours that you need to make a decision based on gut instinct, instead of mere mathematics. However Arsène is what he is and up to now it’s worked marvellously well for him.

My biggest fear is the five-year theory, where it’s suggested that every five years you need to change either the team, or the manager. But then his squad has evolved to the point where there are only a few remaining players who’ve been with us long enough for there to be a possibility of them having grown weary of listening to the same words each week. And while I’d give anything for a few more (or even one, at this point in time!!) British / Irish players in our first team, I am not about to start stabbing him in the back as quick as some appear to be doing.

Those who’ve been a bit quick to start knocking the boss should perhaps bear in mind that most every club and International side on this planet would break the bank to get Wenger as their manager. What’s more, if we are to believe that Le Prof has actually lost the plot, with Martin O’Neill having gone to Villa, pray tell me exactly who would you choose as a replacement, as personally I can’t think of many managers (certainly none available) who can hold a candle to Arséne?

I’d love to have a character like O’Neill in the Arsenal dugout because it’s so much easier for us to relate to someone who wears their heart on their sleeve in the same manner as us supporters and having someone screaming like a banshee up and down the technical area for the duration of the 90 is so much more inspirational than our phlegmatic gaffer. However as much as I adore Stuart Pearce’s barmy touchline antics, the former Notts Forest hardman has probably nutted one player too many and so hardly compares in the intelligence stakes.

Moreover while I am convinced about O’Neill’s abilities to encourage a relatively average side to play out of their skins, his time at Celtic certainly didn’t prove whether the Irishman has the capacity to fine tune the very cream of world class talent. Until such time as O’Neill is successful at a top club, I will continue to have some concerns about whether he has the necessary patience to cope with the incredibly whimsical nature of the sort of modern celebrity players who might be pulling in several times O’Neill’s salary.

Finally for those who aren’t aware, yesterday’s post was the weekly column that I write for the Irish Examiner and consequently my comments in the last couple of paragraphs are directed at the Chelsea supporter who contributes, along with a Man Utd and a Liverpool fan, to their Terrace Talk feature, Whether it’s the fact that she has the needle to Newcastle because she doesn’t think the Toon Army deserves their reputation as some of the best fans in the Premiership, or she’s airing her grudges about the likes of Curbishley, the Chelsea lass seems to have a chip on her shoulder which ensures that she is almost always having a pop at someone or another.

I’m able to take most of her comments with a pinch of salt. However after she had a pop at Gallas last week for his supposed failure to show proper appreciation to the club responsible for making his career and for his comments about the Arsenal having the best fans (which really seemed to upset her), following the perfectly timed remarks on Match of the Day about how silent it was at times at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, I am afraid that in this instance I simply couldn’t resist rising to such bait. Personally I would have thought that following a week when her club seems to have been taking flak from absolutely all quarters, it would have been wiser to have kept her head below the parapets, since I could have returned fire with any number of different bullets and had a direct hit with each!

Bring on the Gerries
Peace & Love

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Anonymous said...

Great Article Bernard.

Geoff you sound like a total c**t.

Good luck to you pal for getting your free beer at half time.Sounds as if you have more money than sense. However seeing that you are condoning racial abuse and have a somewhat warped idea that matchdays "would not be the same without it" maybe you should stick to a soft drink instead. We dont need people like you in our club or in indeed in football.

Anonymous said...

Re: the unsightly concrete strip that runs below each tier I noticed on Saturday that a couple of cannon type fascias had been placed against the concrete at the South End of the ground - hopefully the start of a complete covering. Also it strikes me that the obvious priority was to get the stadium opened on time, hence the lack of Arsenal related decoration within the councourses, hopefully this will be rectified in the near future.

Anonymous said...

geoff, your surely not for real, those are the most bigotted views ive heard for years, your an embarassment to arsenal.

Anonymous said...


You sound like a total cock.

Firstly not everyone can "put their hands in their pockets" to pay higher prices than what are already the highest terrace prices in the Premiership!!!

And secondly football without a bit of namecalling isn't football? Maybe you'd be better off in Spain with all the other bigots. Calling someone a wanker is thing like calling someone a black/Irish wanker...... you ignorant wanker!!!


Bern said...

I'd love to be able to afford seats in Club Level, but I couldn't even afford our two Upper Tier seats any more, at nearly four grand (£!875 x 2) and as a result we've ended up swapping for seats downstairs in the lower tier.

But drink doesn't happend to be my preferred poison and so it would only be the good view, rather than the free beer in Club Level that would attract me

Meanwhile I have plenty of mates who sit in Club Level, one of whom I pulled up for apologising to me for "selling out" as I explained to him I'd be up there in a flash if I had that sort of money available. However none of my pals seem to have any problem with me taking the mickey, as they seem far more pissed off than me with the sort of people for whom the football is obviously not a priority, as they trickle back to their seats ten minutes into the match.

Come the day when Club Level is not half empty long after the game has restarted, then I will stop taking the piss but until such time, I have to tell you that I can't help resenting the fact that there are so many people with such a good view of the proceedings but who don't appear interested in taking advantage of it because they are too busy drinking free beer, or "networking"

As far as the racist remarks go, I'm in total agreement about the PC madness as I think it's totally over the top and doesn't really address the underlying problem. That is to say it's great that footballers in this country don't have to endure the sort of racist b/s seen on the continent. However that does not mean that the racists themselves have simply melted away. So instead of spending millions on pretending that everything is rosy, we should be doing more with regard to education and promoting tolerance in order to change minds, rather than creating a society whether everyone is walking on egg shells about speaking their mind

It's a difficult subject, as in the past everything has been fair game on the terraces so long as you could attempt to put off the opposition and when you start introducing limits, you then have a problem with where you draw the line

For example I can recall being at Stamford Bridge deriding Damien Duff with a rendition of "where's your caravan?" and wondering if I was going to get it in the ear from my Irish missus on the way out

What's more as a jewish Gooner, I've grown completely oblivious to the whole "yid" thang as if it didn't wash over my head, I'd be having rucks with people every other week

However having sat on the terraces of a La Liga game in Tenerife and heard this geezer's daughter, who couldn't have been much more than five, repeating her father's insults directed at one of their own black players, calling him a "burro negro", I would absolutely hate to think that kids at our new stadium might be similarly influenced into believing such racist remarks are an acceptable form of behaviour

Therefore my feeling is that whilst it is a road which is fraught with danger (eg. do we ban songs about players "taking it up the arse" for fear of offending the gay community?), I think it is down to us as individuals to decide what we feel is acceptable or not. And I would hope that there might be enough civilised folk at our new stadium who find this sort of behaviour sufficiently abhorrent that they are prepared to make their feelings known, otherwise the individuals concerned will never know that so many disapprove of their behaviour

To be honest, doubtless I'd have never made a stand over the fact that someone had called Riley an Irish bastard and was more than a little embarrassed that my missus came to the defence of a referee. However I am extremely proud of her for having the balls to speak her mind, when so many of us had neglected to do so after the previous incident because we were all too timid and after she has set such an example, I will be very disappointed in myself if I don't express my opinion as audibly as she did, if there is another repeat incident in the future

I have to admit that I didn't notice the canon fascias which others noted at the south end, but if these are to cover up the grey concrete, I for one will be very glad. Apparently in a project such as the building of our new stadium, where money is tight, it is customary for there to be some skimping on finishing decorative touches. However I am led to believe that enough people have represented their opinions over the lack of Arsenal-ification inside the stadium to the people that matter, that hopefully we will see this situation recitified in the near future

Big Love
PS. If my post achieved something in stimulating the debate on the subject of racism then in my humble opinion it was well worthwhile

SgGooner said...

Hey Bernard. Been a while since I came in here. Yes, I managed to get into the Stade for the CL Finals. :)

Anyway, I agree with the racism that's going around should stop. And it starts with the individual. I applaud your missus and I hope more will stand up against it. Let's keep the sport a sport.

This Gooner has not been to the Emirates yet and after hearing that it's not totally ready, I'm wondering when is the best time to fly over? A group of us are planning to do the Chel$ki game on 5 May 07. The Grove should be ready, no?