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Wednesday 6 May 2009

Just Deserts?

You know how dog owners often come to resemble their animals, well I’m afraid that our team seemed to reflect a large majority of our fans this evening, with a display both on and off the pitch that was entirely lacking in character.

Believe me, I’m not knocking the club for making an effort to make the occasion special, by shelling out for all those flags and on the basis that I was expecting to find cheapest possible, little plastic Chinese imports, I have to admit to being quite impressed. Yet considering how devoid our new stadium usually is of such colourful displays, I couldn’t help but harbour some sense of resentment that it all felt just a little artificial.

Normally Champions League games at our gaff are those occasions when the ground feels least like MY football club, as so many of the seats in the immediate vicinity seem to be occupied by complete strangers and large sections of the Upper Tier are occupied by the besuited punters who’ve managed to purloin a ticket courtesy of UEFA’s corporate partners. You can seen them all being led down the stairs by a red jacketed steward at the break, like neatly dressed sheep, all heading for the trough in roped off sections of Club Level.

However tonight most of the regulars were present around me and it was as if “for one night only” our ground was to be transformed into a partisan cauldron of colour and noise. And so it proved, for all of eight minutes, as the team responded to the intense, cacophonous atmosphere of those opening moments, with exactly the sort of high-tempo start that was necessary, if we were going to rattle Man Utd with an early goal.

Sadly, if ever confirmation was needed that this was something of a superficial hoax, it came when every last drop of energy evaporated, as Keiran Gibbs had the misfortune to slip over and Ji-Sung Park clipped the ball over Almunia into the back of the net (with credit to the Korean, as he still had plenty to do following our full-backs mishap). There was me foolishly believing that our new Home of Football had finally found its voice and no matter what the outcome, we were set to roar the team on, as if our very lives depended on the result, providing the team with the sort of genuine 12th man support that’s not been seen since we departed Highbury.

Yet no sooner had the goal gone in, than the ground reverted to being more mortuary than library, with Ronaldo showing no mercy, waiting only a further three minutes, before the arrogant gobshite conned the ref into awarding the free-kick from which he read the Gunners the last rites! It was something akin to the events in Las Vegas a couple of nights earlier and if it had been a boxing match, the ref would’ve saved us from further punishment by diving in to stop the fight.

0-2 down after only eleven minutes and with four goals being such a tall order, some of the Gunners’ young heads were bound to drop and so when our support was most needed, all those unusually vociferous gloryhunting Gooners who’d been giving it their all when hope abounded, suddenly fell silent. What’s more, as I studied the team as they trudged off at the break, with their chins dragging along the turf, I looked around for the sort of characters who might stand up in our dressing room to demand “I ain’t having this” and I’m sad to say that there doesn’t appear to be a natural leader amongst the lot of them, with the sort of mental fortitude necessary to act as the rock around which the rest of his team mates could rally.

So with a crowd that’s only prepared to react to events on the pitch, rather than inspire them and a team devoid of any players with the sort of presence and stature necessary to galvanize the Gunners into producing any sort of serious attempt at a fightback, a miraculous comeback was hardly on the cards.

With the game already lost, I seriously hope Keiran Gibbs sustained some sort if injury that merited him being withdrawn, rather than Arsène doing serious long-term damage to his confidence by making him the scapegoat. Because if there was some sort of silver lining to such a demoralising display, it was that if this side had made it to the final, it would’ve merely papered over the cracks of what has basically been a pretty mediocre Champions League campaign.

Although we have proved on several occasions that on their day, this Arsenal side has the ingredients to take on and beat the very best, it’s hard to recall one occasion this season when the Gunners engine has been perfectly tuned and running on all eleven cylinders.

Adebayor discovered tonight that after having spent almost the entire season loping around with his head up his backside, banking on a big money move in the summer, he simply can’t produce form and fitness on demand for the big occasion. And having returned to the fray from an injury-troubled spell, Van Persie was little more effective.

Myself I would’ve settled for us coming out for the second half to win back some self-respect and although admittedly the longer the clock ticked on, the more open we were to the swift counter, if ever we needed a lesson in the sort of incisiveness that has been sorely lacking while we impotently pass the ball around amongst ourselves in front of the opposition, it came with the death knell of Utd’s third.

Only moments earlier I’d been vocally abusing the little gurrier Rooney as a “fat granny shagger” but as much as it pains me, I can’t help but have the utmost respect for the lad’s footballing ability. A depressingly ineffective Theo Walcott could do well to take a lesson or two from the way in which Rooney needed only the briefest of glances up, as he was barrelling forward, to know exactly where to put the ball on a plate for his annoyingly gifted Portuguese pal. It went against the grain, but I honestly couldn’t help but put my hands together in admiration when the ugly little turd was subbed soon after.

If the on pitch massacre wasn’t bad enough, I had to endure the abject surrender of some of the occupants of the seats around us, as they walked out with half an hour on the clock. Exactly what sort of “supporters” slink shamefully away from a Champions League semi, leaving THEIR team still struggling to cling to the last vestiges of pride, amidst the ultimate ignominy of their own fans doing a cowardly runner, certainly not my kind!

Who knows, perhaps the kids will go on to lift the FA Youth Cup and in so doing, demonstrate that there are several youngsters ready to make the big step-up. Yet we’ll be extremely lucky if more than one or two prove themselves ready made first-team material and like I say, if there is any consolation for missing out on a Champions League final, it is that surely Arsène cannot continue kidding himself or us that this Arsenal squad has sufficient depth in strength, compared to the multiple options available to our competitors.

A quick glance at the two benches tonight answers most questions and makes a complete mockery of the oft touted claptrap that the clubs move into property development has been ringfenced so as to avoid effecting the Gunners spending power:
Berbatov, Tevez, Giggs, Scholes, Da Silve, Evans v Bendtner, Eboué, Vela, Silvestre, Denilson, Diaby

The worst of it is that it could be that we will once again have to endure another all-English Champions League final, wishing that both teams could lose. Although I will have some sympathy for Darren Fletcher if the whistle-happy Italian official lacks the humility to admit his mistake and denies him his chance to appear in the final. I guess instinct took over, but in truth it would’ve been better for Fletcher to have given Fab a free run on goal rather than risk an unwarranted red card, as even if Cesc had scored, it was hardly going to effect the result.

Although I’ve had a fancy Chelsea will beat Barca, we can but hope that Titi will do us all a favour tomorrow night, so that we can at least have a team to be up for come 27th May!


Anonymous said...

We don't need to be like chelski with all the artifice and multifully produced flags like one of those nodding dogs in a car window.
We need to be unrehersed and spontanious and revive the passion we once enjoyed.
Anyone who wants to leave....let them go.
Arshavin is my hero.

jay said...

Always enjoy your posts Bernard. I agree, a look at the bench tells a big tale, and we were outmatched on the pitch too. We aren't that far away but we can't keep expecting kids to progress while our rivals are buying the finished product. There has to be a balance and over the past three years we have put too much weight on the kids shoulders- it's not fair to them and not fair to the supporters. I'm hoping that we have money to spend and spend it wisely. Wenger spent on Arshavin when it was obvious we needed a spark to pull ahead of Villa. Maybe the money was there in the summer but it wasn't spent because, deep down, Arsene knew this wasn't the time to spend it, that this team needed another year. Surely, this summer is the time to splash the cash? If not now, when? If Arsene has so much confidence in this squad, then he should see that spending a ton of money to improve every area by merely 5% will put us back at the top. It's that close. In a way it's like life- houses are always expensive, but if you don't buy one when you can afford one, you'll never own one. If we don't buy a few more Arshavin calibre players when we are this close, the chance to dominate will evapourate.

Anonymous said...

The simple truth truth is Arsenal aint good enuf. For that the blame lies with AW. He has been recruiting babes and pleading for time. Well the time is up. It is obvious why the red faced/nosed is so chummy to him. He is no more a threat.
While AW maybe the best judge of a player,the red cunt has been building his team to win with minimum economy . Contrast to the gunners style of beautiful soccer,I'm sure fans would prefer which model:winning soccer as opposed to beautiful soccer.
AW better wake up and admit his policy aint working and sell ADe and Eboue who was and is foreevr falling prior to releasing the pass.
Ronaldo was majestic?Why? He was given too much room and time . It is criminal and shdnt be allowed. I daresay he will be blocked by Chelsea/ Barca when they meet. The coaches of these of these two teams are more' dare I say, more tactically astute than AW.

Anonymous said...

ok we lost!
Bernard, "You know how dog owners often come to resemble their animals"....well lick your own bollocks!

have you actually played football ???? had 7 teammates out with injury???? tried to carry on with 3rd stringers??? tampa_Arsefan

Gibbs was unlucky o slip on our very slick pitch, but i'll go one on one with you any day. it's easy to be critical when the last ball you kicked was in your nappys.

3 games left in the season and your vitriolic bullshit is not needed. so f**k off to spurs. WE ARE ARSENAL! WE WILL GO ON! Victoria Concordia Crescit

Anonymous said...

We've been living in a dreamland. The kids aren't good enough and that was displayed for the whole world to see in that massacre at Emirates. Stop pretending that Arsenal is a big club. It's not and will not be, until we have good players in the team. And that won't change as long as Arsene Wenger manages the club. He was sacked at Monaco for the same mistake, i.e. experimenting with youth. No-one dare upset Arsene at Arsenal.

As to the fans, the same pain will repeat itself next season. Our comments this season are blow by blow the same as last season and will be the same as next season. There'll be no change from Wenger. Same spin, same kids, same ineptitude. The only course of action left for the Arsenal fans is to protest loudly to Arsene Wenger and to the board.

Anonymous said...

Terrific post. I think you hit the nail on the head. We'd been talking about this at the beginning of the season: leadership. We didn't have it today and the team looked defeated after 10 minutes.

And the crowd's display was pathetic to say the least. What's the point in going to a CL semi-final at home and sitting on your hands? If there was ever a time that the players needed the fans it was after going down by 2 goals. And they didn't deliver. For the young team that we had, the fans could've made the difference--they didn't. I wish every game had the kind of support that our travelling Gooners give--they're simply incredible. Gutted.

Dov Bloom said...


Cant help but think i know you from many years ago but thats not the point.

I agree with you about the fakish atmosphere at the grove. I have always said that something odd happened to us since we left Highbury.

The performance on the pitch was very poor from certain players. I cant blame Gibbs or Almunia as one was a slip and the second was just simply a piece of brilliance from Ronaldo. the ball just went so fast and seemed to collect more speed just before it came near Almunia.

What i do blame are our tactics. We seem to scared to have a pop at goal and defensivly we are like a champiionship side at times, for example when we attack down the wing, Walcott as ineffective he is, had Evra tight on him with another united player close to cover Evra THEN the CB would come over to bridge the gap so there was no room for runners etc. When the attack us, there is no cover for the full back and the distance between Sagna/Gibbs and the CB's is like 10 feet so we are always stretched so as a unit we are crap at defending and individual performances of the defence barring the full backs is laughable (all season)

Adebayor is just not an Arsenal player. He doesnt care and just want money from wherever he can. Nasri is great at running down the line and cutting in and then passing the ball backwards. Look at how Arshavin attacks the defence by running at them and always looking to go forward unlike Nasri. Cesc was wasted by Wenger by playing forward as its not his game. he is a great player but he isnt the Xabi type player.

When I look at you blog and I see the photo of you and George Graham it makes me wonder what would be if we had a defensive cach like him today with the football brain of Wenger.... then we would be the great Arsenal we all wish we are.

Anyway, all credit to MAn United, they deserved it now the champions league deserves Barce to be in the final so it will be a true game of the best teams in Europe. (still hope Henry gets his winners medal tho)

All the Best


Anonymous said...

Your negativity about the crowd really irritates me. The fans around us were great, in good humour and vocal, and kept it going despite the misery that unfolded. Some supporters seem to forget dreary days at Highbury where we there was no flippin noise, you sound like a miserable old man every time you go on your "Highbury memory lane" rant. The future is world class stadiums like the Emirates, of course it's a different atmoshere to what we had at Highbury but it's no bloody Craven Cottage. All Gooners are all hurting today and negativity about everything just makes it worse. Come on Arsenal.

Bern said...

I recall well the deathly hush at Highbury at times, but there were also plenty of other big occasions when you could sense that the crowd appreciated they had a role to play and gave it some welly.

At our new gaff, if things go against us, there may be the odd pocket of staunch support, but by and large, the vast majority will sit back, preferring to get on the players backs rather than make the effort to try and inspire them.

If the fans around you were great then wonderful, but if you didn't see all the gloryhunters heading for the exits after the third goal went in then you should've gone to Specsavers

Unknown said...

The very worst thing about watching that game on tv was without a doubt when the camera panned the stadium and all I could see was so called Arsenal fans leaving, it was over for them so they abandoned ship... it made me sick!!