OK, I’m back again for my first “proper” post in almost a fortnight after a rather delightful holiday in Malaysia. I’m quite relaxed and refreshed and ready to get back into the blog and back into the Arsenal.
But where to begin? I thought I’d run through the latest Arsenal news by looking at it from a ‘The Good, The Bad & The Ugly’ perspective.
The Good – Eduardo’s suspension gets overturned
The news today is that UEFA has overturned the decision to suspend Eduardo for two matches for his dive against Celtic after reviewing Arsenal’s appeal. The decision means he will be able to play against Liege and for all intense and purposes, his bad reputation has been cleared.
Whilst I maintain that Eduardo did dive I also believe that the right decision has been made. Under the current rules there is no way that Eduardo could really have been punished and had the suspension stood, it would have meant a lot of extra work for UEFA going forward. They would essentially place them in a position whereby any team in European competition could point to the Eduardo case whenever a dive occurs and use it as grounds to have a player suspended. Knowing this, my feeling is that UEFA backed down not because they didn’t believe Eduardo dived but because by suspending him they would be setting a dangerous precedent that they are just not ready to cope with.
Hopefully the issue of diving will be dealt with on a consistent basis via the use of video technology going forward, but in the meantime this is a good decision for both Eduardo and Arsenal. Hopefully the booing might lessen as well, although that might be asking too much.
The Bad – Manchester City 4-2 Arsenal
Saturday’s 4-2 loss to Manchester City was an exhilarating if ultimately frustrating match.
I watched the game with the official Arsenal Malaysia supporters in Kuala Lumpur (more on that later in the week) and – despite being 4-1 down at one point – just like at Old Trafford I thought we were a little unlucky to lose. After a reasonably sharp start we were unlucky to go behind when Micah Richards scored from an offside position, but did not really do enough in the first half to merit an equalising goal.
The second half was a different story as we came at them with real intensity and went close on a couple of occasions before Robin van Persie scored an excellent goal. It was great to see Tomas Rosicky back on the pitch after a long absence and his substitution for Denilson midway through the second half definitely appeared to change the game as he set up van Persie to finish beautifully.
At 1-1 and with momentum going our way I really thought we would go on to win it. It wasn’t to be, however, and I believe the turning point of the game came soon after when Emmanuel Adebayor stamped on van Persie’s head. While our boys were understandably riled up after that moment – who wouldn’t be? – I think the team as a unit effectively lost their heads and the game became more about Adebayor then it did about putting the ball into the net.
The moment that summed it up to me came after Craig Bellamy’s goal when Nicklas Bendtner, William Gallas and Emmanuel Eboue (I think) all took swipes at Adebayor as he nipped down the wing and almost set up Shaun Wright-Phillips to score. Had any of those three put in a more controlled challenge then they most likely would have won the ball but that is exactly the sort of thing that can happen when players lose their cool.
As it was, Adebayor had the final say when he scored the third and with our boys pushing desperately for a way back into the match the home team notched a fourth. I was delighted to see Rosicky pull a goal back with a clever run off the ball and finish and it was good to see our boys go down fighting – Shay Given made a superb near-post stop, van Persie hit the post (again) and we also had a shot cleared off the line.
On another day we would have won this match and although it was no disaster to lose away to City, who look a genuinely strong side, the main lesson to be learnt from this game will be about maintaining cool heads under pressure. I felt we missed the pace and agility of Andrey Arshavin up front – van Persie, Bendtner and Abou Diaby collectively looked a little sluggish – but the introduction of Rosicky certainly sparked things up, while defensively this was as bad as we’ve been this season.
As it is, we’re playing good football and although we’ve lost two of the opening four matches I don’t see any real reason to panic just yet. It would have been nice to win one of the games in Manchester but I strongly believe the last two losses were more a case of bad fortune then a lack of effort or below-par performances. With Wigan, Fulham and Blackburn next up and United playing against City this weekend the opportunity is certainly there to get back up with the big boys sooner rather than later.
The Ugly – Emmanuel Adebayor’s idiocy
It’s hard for me to precisely express the way I feel about Adebayor’s conduct on Saturday but I’m going to give it a right go. Basically I feel, as far as onfield football behaviour goes, he was an idiot.
Two deliberate stamps on Fabregas’ ankle and van Persie’s head – players he has no problem with in the past – countless aggressive challenges, an alleged slap to Alex Song’s face and a celebration that was only designed to infuriate the Arsenal supporters who had backed him right up until he started looking for a move away from the club. He was playing with emotion and he’s clearly an emotional guy but this was a performance that outlined his lack of class and intelligence.
I expressed my sentiment towards Adebayor in a fun way (!) by burning his shirt earlier today but the truth is that I’m really very pissed off. While the game unfolded I was actually hoping that someone like Song or van Persie would stick the boot in and hit Adebayor with a hard, fair challenge and if he doesn’t get targeted in the return clash at the Emirates then I would be very surprised and perhaps a little disappointed. In my eyes he has become a bigger hate figure than Ashley Cole and few things would give me greater satisfaction this season than to knock Adebayor and City out of the FA Cup or beat them comprehensively in the league.
The good news to come out of Adebayor’s performance is that he is very likely to be suspended for it, most likely for five or more games. There is no way he will avoid a three-match ban for the stamp on van Persie, while his goal celebration should warrant a further two-game ban under current rules. He could also be given matches for the challenge on Fabregas and it will be interesting to see what sort of garbage he will come up with when a ban comes his way. Personally I can’t wait.
Anyway, I’d better leave it there for today. I’ll be back again tomorrow to preview our first Champions League group game of the season against Standard Liege. In the meantime I just want to say hello, it’s good to be back and let’s stay positive.
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