Monday, 27 December 2010

Breakthrough Against The Blues


It's about time. Arsenal finally lay their big-club, big-game ghosts to rest, beating Chelsea 3-1 at the Emirates tonight. The Gunners outplayed, outhustled, and outlasted their London rivals in a thriller of a game, and Wenger's men deserved all three points. That's some late Christmas present!

In what was billed as a make or break game for my boys, Arsenal delivered and in some style too. I have no idea what the commentators were smoking in the first half, who seemed to think the Gunners were feeling their way into the game, as it was Arsenal who in fact dominated from the beginning. Apart from a Drogba snapshot in something like the 7th minute, Chelsea hardly had a sniff. Arsenal were controlling the game quite nicely but still had some trouble breaking down that stubborn Chelsea back line. Nasri's delightful chip nearly caught Petr Cech off his line but the keeper was too alert to the ambitious attempt. It was just before half time that Arsenal made the crucial breakthrough, when Alex Song latched onto the ball in the box and slid it just beyond Cech's reach to make it 1-0. When Fabregas was tripped in the box, I thought for sure we'd have a penalty, but before I knew what had really happened Song had picked up the ball and scored. A perfect time to score.

Arsenal didn't waste time trying to put the game to bed, as they soon doubled their lead after half time. The pressure from our midfield was terrific all game and it paid off in the 51st minute when van Persie managed to win the ball, which Essien accidentally played into Walcott's path, who bore down on goal before playing the ball into Cesc's path who had the easy job of tapping into an empty net. Just like that it was 2-0 but things got even better for the Gunners. Two minutes later, more pressure in the midfield brought us a reward. Fabregas, who had a game reminiscent of his finest days (not quite 100%, but he's getting there), dinked the ball through the panicked Chelsea defence into Walcott, who dispatched the ball past Cech with sublime skill to make it 3-0 and game over. It was a brilliant finish from Theo, who made a rare start and rewarded the manager's faith with a fantastic performance. Nearly every Gunner on the pitch played a blinder, but praise must be given to Djourou, Wilshere, Cesc and Theo in particular.

Chelsea tried to stop the game becoming a rout when Ivanovic headed home from a set piece but it was enough not enough to force the Blues back into the game, as they ultimately sunk to defeat. This victory should provide Wenger and his team with immense confidence, as they finally break that horrible 'Arsenal can't beat the big teams' hoodoo, and pile on the pain for Ancelotti's Chelsea. The Gunners now need to press on from this outstanding result and ride the momentum onto bigger and better things... like a league title.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Utah "Too Jazzy" For Cavaliers


The Cleveland Cavaliers fell to defeat last night against the Utah Jazz. The Cavs tried to keep it close, but the quality of Utah's squad ultimately prevailed, as the Jazz left Cleveland 101-90 winners. If you're an Inbetweeners fan, you'll get the joke in the title.

After beating the Knicks a couple of nights ago, confidence and momentum was high heading into last night's contest against the Jazz. And the Cavs certainly started brightly too, with Antawn Jamison catching fire early in the first quarter, nailing some big shots. Daniel Gibson, gifted a start by Byron Scott, also began the game brightly. Initially I was impressed by the hustle of the Cavs on defense, as the Jazz struggled to get into their rhythm and were turning the ball over. However, once the Jazz settled down, it spelt the end for the Cavaliers.

Utah's ability to get offensive rebounds was what eventually cost Cleveland the game. The Jazz were pulling down offensive rebounds whenever they wanted, as the Cavs just couldn't regain the ball. The opportunity for second chance points helped the Jazz enormously, but Cleveland still kept it close. The introduction of J.J Hickson brought an improvement in rebounding, and he eventually finished the night with a team-high 9 rebounds. Late in the second quarter, Mo Williams found his groove. His jumpshot was falling nicely, and a nice stop-and-pop 3 pointer took the Cavs back into the game. Mo was also passing the ball extremely well, racking up a lot of assists in the first half, as he moved the ball brilliantly. Cleveland's 3 point shooting was outstanding in the second quarter, with Mo, Gibson and Anthony Parker all hitting massive shots from beyond the arc. But the Cavs just couldn't get out to a big enough lead, as the Jazz were also having a terrific night shooting the ball. At half time I began to realise what a good team Utah are, in respect to the pieces they've got on their team. Jefferson, Deron Williams, Miles, Millsap, Bell, the list goes on. A defense's nightmare...

At the start of the third quarter, the Jazz were still making their shots in spite of the Cavs' best efforts. It felt like Raja Bell didn't miss all night, as he consistently converted on open shots. The rebounding difficulties for the Cavs weren't disappearing either, as Utah kept regaining possession and making it count with second chance points. It was frustrating to watch, as the Cavs were trying their best to box out, but the ball just didn't fall the home side's way. The Jazz were trying to put the game beyond doubt in the third quarter, but Gibson was keeping Cleveland in it, hitting back-to-back 3 pointers and carrying the team on his back. Boobie was thriving in his role last night, and he was growing in confidence with the increased minutes he received. Gibson is playing so well this season, with consistency that I've never seen from him before in his career. Despite Boobie's best efforts, the Jazz began to pull away late in the third. Deron Williams took control of the game, and was deceptively amazing without me really noticing. I suppose that's what makes D-Will one of the top point guards in the game, that he is a true team player. Williams was racking up the assists and moving the ball so well, giving the Cavs' defense some major problems. By the end of the third, the Jazz had opened up a decent lead, as the Cavs' offense was stuttering - I think they fell in love with the 3 point shot a bit too much, and overall just made some bad shot selections.

Cleveland needed to start the fourth quarter brightly to claw themselves back into the contest, but Byron Scott's men came out sloppy and the Jazz quickly scored 4 points to increase the gap to 16 points. From then on, the result was beyond doubt and the game started to look like a blowout. Gibson, C.J Miles and Raja Bell were intent on having their own 3 point contest in the fourth quarter, as I don't remember seeing either man miss a shot from behind the arc. However, in spite of Gibson's best efforts, the Jazz were cruising and ultimately ran out 101-90 winners. Boobie had a career night with 29 points, and he only missed one 3 point attempt all night, a fantastic performance.

Cleveland's next game isn't any easier, as they travel to Atlanta on Wednesday to take on the Hawks. I will be watching, as I recently purchased a month's subscription to NBA League Pass (an early Christmas present to myself). So expects more Cavs-related posts over the next 4 weeks! Hurray!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

A Partizan In A Pear Tree


Arsenal dispatched Partizan Belgrade at the Emirates last night, beating the Serbian team 3-1 to progress into the next round of the Champions League. It was not a typically fluid Arsenal performance by any means, but Wenger's boys got the job done in the end, and I suppose that's all we could ask for.

On a night when the Gunners needed a win at all costs, they certainly didn't look as if they were trying to get it, at least not early on. The eleven guys on the pitch didn't seem to be clicking at all; the passing was messy, we gave the ball away too often, and we just didn't look very dangerous overall. As an Arsenal fan, we are treated to the sublime more often than not and I think we are probably spoiled to an extent, because after watching last night's sloppy first half, you'd think it was Stoke or Blackburn out there, not Arsenal. But after half an hour gone, captain van Persie was tripped in the box and the referee obliged with a penalty. It did look a bit soft, and Robin definitely did his best to win it, but there was contact and the Partizan defender did leave his foot stuck in, so there should be no real complaints. Robin took the responsibility to give us the lead and confidently put the ball in the back of the net to make it 1-0. I was pretty glad to see van Persie get his first goal of the season, even if it was a penalty; they all count. However, his celebration terrified me to my bones (look at the picture below), and I would like it if Robin refrained from such daring moves in the future. I don't want him to break again.


Instead of the goal spurring us on, Arsenal slipped back into their mundane ways, and held on until half time. Fabianski had nothing to do for the first 45 minutes as Belgrade rarely looked like threatening, but the Polish keeper was powerless to prevent Belgrade's equaliser. Seven minutes into the second half, with their first shot on target all night, Partizan equalised with a deflected goal off of Squillaci. Again our defensive frailties were exposed, an all too familiar occurrence this season that has to be remedied at some stage. I don't know what the problem is, as I don't profess to be a defensive expert. I rate Koscielny and Squillaci quite highly, I believe they are excellent defenders on their day, but something is wrong there. Maybe it's the fact that Song is not protecting the back four as much he could be, but there's probably more to it. It's something for Wenger to worry about, especially when we come up against better teams in the competition.

Thankfully, the scary thought of elimination from the Champions League seemed to wake us up. The rather useless Arshavin (who never got going all evening, despite a great game against Fulham at the weekend) was replaced by Theo Walcott, who stamped his impression on the game immediately. The speedy Englishman pounced on Partizan's inability to clear the ball, and Theo volleyed home from a tight angle to make it 2-1. It was a good finish, and I gave a huge sigh of relief when the ball hit the net. Walcott was brought on to give the team some urgency, and he delivered perfectly. The second goal seemed to provide the team with some momentum, and the on-form Samir Nasri quickly put the game beyond doubt, making it 3-1 with a cool finish. After some fabulous passing between Song and Bendtner, Nasri controlled the ball with immense skill before firing in low for our third goal, and his 12th of the season. The guy is unstoppable right now. It was game over from then on, but there was still time for Sagna to collect a straight red card late on. I was pretty annoyed at the time, but it was just my biased nature refusing to believe what had happened. He'll miss the first leg of whoever we have to play in the new year.

So with Arsenal securing a place in the last 16, the focus now turns to who we will face. Unfortunately the Gunners finished second in the group, after Shakthar defeated Braga, which means we'll be playing either Schalke, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, or (gulp) Barcelona. In typical Arsenal fashion, we had to go and make life more difficult for ourselves. I will gladly take either of the German teams, but I dread the idea of facing Barca or Madrid at this stage; Our leaky defence will be torn to shreds surely. Wenger says that we won't fear Barcelona, but it would undoubtedly be the worst draw to get from the available teams.

Our attention now turns to the trip to Old Trafford on Monday night. I'm hoping to be in the pub for that one, so if I get to watch it, expect something on Tuesday. Depends how much uni work I still have to fit in before Christmas!

Thanks for reading

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

We're Gunner Beat Belgrade


Arsenal play Partizan Belgrade at the Emirates tonight in the final game of the Champions League group stage. It is a must win game for the Gunners, and anything other than victory would be a major embarrassment for everybody connected with the club. The thought of missing out on the Champions League knock-out rounds is unthinkable.

After a shaky win against Fulham at the weekend, Arsene Wenger's men should come into tonight's match with some confidence. Arsenal have had a tremendous record at the Emirates on European nights, and if I'm not mistaken they have been pretty damn good this year as well. After spanking Braga 6-0, the Gunners dominated Shakthar 5-1, so it bodes well for us that the weakest side in the group is the last team we must face. That's 11 goals scored at home this season in the competition, with an Eduardo consolation being the only blemish on an exemplary home record. Belgrade are rooted to the bottom of the group with 0 points, so Arsenal should be overwhelming favourites ahead of tonight's contest.

However, we all know that football is a funny old game, and everybody loves an upset, so long as its not against your team. Arsenal should not underestimate this Partizan team, but they should expect to beat them, and in a comprehensive fashion. I expect nothing less, but on a crucial night like this evening I just want a win. Despite missing our captain, we have the most in-form player in the country in Samir Nasri. The Frenchman has been terrific this season and has flourished into an important member of the squad, plus he is on fire right now. He is undoubtedly one of the first guys on Wenger's team sheet these days, and providing he is 100% fit he should start tonight. But our crafty manager likes to shuffle his cards from time to time, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some important players rested ahead of the Manchester United game next week. I'd like to see Theo in the starting lineup, as well as van Persie who should be close to full fitness by now. Koscielny has recovered from his unfortunate head injury, so he will take his place in the centre of defence alongside Squillaci, and just in time too as it seems Djourou has picked up a knock on his thigh. Whatever side Wenger puts out, they should be good enough to do the job tonight and secure our place in the next stage of the Champions League. I will be down the pub in just over an hour to get a good seat for the match, praying for an early Arsenal goal to settle the nerves. If we get the required result, expect a post about it tomorrow. If we lose... well we won't think about that, ok?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Forest City Favourites - Robin van Persie


Because I didn't get to watch the Cavs game last night, and due to their humbling loss I probably wouldn't be writing about them anyway, I thought I'd do something different for a change. My posts in the near-future will now include some player profiles on my favourite athletes, from the past and the present. Basically, when I'm bored and can't think of anything to write, I'll do a piece on one of my favourite players. I have already dabbled in this a bit, with my post on Asdrubal Cabrera, my favourite current Cleveland Indians player a few months ago. Today's edition will focus on the Arsenal and Netherlands' striker, Mr Robin van Persie.

Without sounding like I have a huge man-crush on the guy (debatable...), I've been a massive fan of van Persie for years now. I think I really began to admire our Robin towards the end of his first season with the Gunners, especially after he coolly slotted away his penalty in the shoot-out against Man United in the 2005 FA Cup Final. He started off the next season in blistering form, earning the Player of the Month award in November 2005, and he scored some beautiful goals that year (the free kick against Wigan stands out, and that beauty against Blackburn). In 2006/07 he got even better. In what was to be Thierry Henry's final season with Arsenal, van Persie really stepped up his game and, despite missing big chunks of the campaign through injury, finished as the club's top scorer with 13 goals in all competitions. In true van Persie fashion, he scored some magnificent goals that year, but will be remembered best for his stunner of a volley against Charlton. A sublime finish. With Henry's departure, Robin became the club's top striker for the 2007/08 season, and started cementing his place as my favourite Gooner. Again he started the year on fire (including an amazing free kick against Sunderland), but injuries took their toll again on the Dutch striker, and he frustratingly missed large parts of the season for another year running. He bounced back in 2008/09, recording his finest season in an Arsenal shirt to date. Robin finished the year with 20 goals in all competitions for the club, plus plenty of important assists, and was voted Arsenal's Player of the Season as a result. Naturally, van Persie scored some real peaches that season; a brace at Stamford Bridge gave Arsenal a comeback win against Chelsea in late Novemeber 2008, and his goal against Liverpool is right up there as one of his best efforts. In 2009/10 van Persie was ruled out for most of the campaign with a nasty ankle injury, but still managed to record 10 goals in all competitions.

Unfortunately, injuries have haunted Robin's Arsenal career, and have overshadowed his achievements on the pitch. Despite being one of our most-technically gifted players, and a proven striker, I think a lot of fans have lost patience with van Persie and his never ending battle for fitness. When he's healthy, Robin is one of the best guys in the squad but the problem is, the man is made of glass. However, you have to give him some credit, as every time he has returned from injury, van Persie has regained his old form and become a key contributor to the team again.


As you might expect, van Persie has again missed a lot of time this year through injury. Robin hurt his ankle against Blackburn in August, which sidelined him until very recently. In the past couple of weeks he has made his return to the first team and is slowly regaining his form, evident with some magic moments on Tuesday in the Carling Cup victory over Wigan. I just hope he can remain unharmed for the rest of the year, because when he's firing on all cylinders, Robin van Persie is one of the finest strikers in the Premier League, and possesses the deadliest left foot in the country. He offers the club something different up front, and is a valuable asset to Wenger's side. I reckon he could create a devastating partnership with Chamakh, but alas, it remains to be seen. The way van Persie plays the game, his mastery over the ball, and his ability to strike the ball with devastating power has made him not just my favourite Arsenal player of the current crop, but probably one of my favourite Gunners of all time.

Arsenal face Fulham tomorrow at the Emirates, another important game for us. I will of course miss the game, as I'll be stuck selling books to the merciless Christmas-present-hunting masses, 9 til 5. It gets worse, because my brother, his son, and my Dad will be there in North London, watching it live. If I dwell on this any longer I might cry. At least I'm getting a programme out of it. Until next time peeps!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Gimme Some Mo!


The Cavaliers snapped a three game losing streak last night by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 83-81 in Cleveland, thanks to Mo Williams' game winning shot. Mo's 15 foot buzzer-beating jumper won the game as the clock ran out, and gave the Cavs a much needed win. The Wine and Gold had previously lost five of the last six games before last night's victory, so this win was vital and can hopefully resurrect the season. I liked this quote by Mary Schmitt Boyer: 'The Cavs haven't given their fans much to cheer about since the opening night victory over Boston. Now, perhaps they have a little Mo-mentum.' Comic gold Mary.

Unfortunately I didn't watch the game, as I have yet to pony up the cash to get an NBA League Pass subscription. Christmas isn't far away now, so I'll be buying it within the month. However, I still feel obliged to comment on the game, because there is nothing sweeter in basketball than a last second game winner. Mo finished the game with 25 points, the majority of those coming in the second half. It's good to see Williams finding his groove again, and I hope last night's performance will give him the confidence to keep excelling on the court. In a transition season like this, the Cavs are going to need leaders and Mo can become an important one. In the wake of Lebron leaving, this team is Mo's for the taking and I hope he can stay in Cleveland for many years and become the core of this Cavaliers squad. Take note Byron Scott...

Anyway, I'll leave it at that as like I said I didn't get to see the game live and so don't have a great deal to write about. One more thing though. Antawn Jamison... I don't want to see your shot get blocked so easily ever again, because what Larry Sanders did to you was plain nasty. I'll leave you with the video of Mo's brilliant game winner. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

F@>!?*%$!!!!


Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse. Arsenal slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Braga in Portugal last night, making life just a bit more difficult in the Champions League. A poor loss to a team we should really beat, and more injuries added to our already crippled squad. What at first appeared to be a group we would walk out of with ease, has now come down to a nail-biting match against Belgrade in two weeks time. I still expect us to beat a team like Partizan, especially at home, but it should never really have been this close. The latest news on the injury front is that Eboue has damaged the ligaments in his knee, and Fabregas has got more hamstring problems that will sideline him for a few weeks. Brilliant...

Wenger took a gamble with Cesc last night and obviously it didn't pay off. It's the last thing we need at this time, to lose our captain and star of the team, but that's just the way it goes for Arsenal these days. More walking wounded every season. The Gunners face Aston Villa this weekend, a massive game now in light of recent results. A loss against Villa will be devastating to our title ambitions, so a win is a must right now, but it won't be easy. Some good news is that Aaron Ramsey has stepped up his rehab on the road to recovery, completing 45 minutes unscathed against Wolves reserves yesterday. Finally, something positive! It's still way too early to expect him back in the first team, but hopefully he can return to the squad after Christmas. I've certainly missed Rambo, and with Cesc struggling for fitness all season it would be a welcome relief to have the Welsh Wonder back in action. Fingers crossed anyway.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Time To Bounce Back


Arsenal are in Portugal tonight for their Champions League clash against Braga. The Gunners need just a draw to ensure qualification into the knock-out rounds, but Arsene Wenger's men will undoubtedly be looking for a comprehensive win to bounce back from the crushing defeat at the weekend against Spurs. We'll be looking to take all three points this evening to ensure we finish top of the group - it could be very important later on in the competition.

The less said about the North London derby the better. I didn't watch it, instead I had to suffer through it by checking the BBC Football site whilst I was at work. You can imagine the joy I felt when I saw we were 2-0 up, thanks to Nasri and Chamakh. "Excellent!" I thought. So I checked later on to see it was 2-2, and I knew right then and there that the hurt wasn't over yet. Reluctantly I checked the web again, and to my dismay I saw the final score, 3-2 to Spurs. "Urrrrrrrrrrrgh" was what I came out with, or some rude curse word. It just pisses me off that we, A) Keep dropping points at home, B) We didn't capitalise on Chelsea losing AGAIN, and C) We gave away a two goal lead to the old enemy and lost. No doubt you can expect another classless DVD release from the marketing department in Tottenham very soon.

When you lose in such a fashion as Arsenal did, it is crucial to bounce back with a display that the team and the fans will be proud of, to show us all that the world is not in fact crumbling around us as we speak (maybe a bit dramatic...). Travelling away in the Champions League is never an easy task, as the previous clash against Shakthar demonstrated. I expect Braga to present us with a similar challenge, and I don't imagine the Gunners will cruise to a dominant win like we did when we last faced the Portuguese side. Especially as it appears Arsene will be resting some of our key players tonight.

From my understanding, Arshavin, van Persie and Clichy have not travelled for tonight's game, due to injuries and Wenger wanting to rotate the squad a bit. Clichy has a back problem, but its not such a problem when the young Gibbs can just slot right in. I can understand van Persie being rested, as we all know his track record with injuries - it's probably a smart move to save him for a more important game. I'm still a little disappointed not see Robin on the bench though; he's always been one of my favourite players on the team, so I always like to see him get some minutes. Hopefully it won't be long until he's 100% fit and back in the starting lineup. Arshavin's exclusion from the squad is not a big surprise, as we have adequate cover for him and it won't hurt him to get some rest for a few days.

Apparently Cesc may also be on the bench as a precaution, but he is still in line for a potential start. Again, it makes sense for Wenger not to risk our captain in a game where we realistically only need a point. Given Fabregas's recent troubles with his hamstring, it's a wise decision. Wilshere, Nasri or Rosicky can fill in for Cesc when needed and I expect that will happen tonight. So that's the people who are missing, but who is actually going to play? Well, I'm not Arsene Wenger so I don't know, but I can use the power of prediction and venture a guess or two. I'd like to see Bendtner get a full 90 minutes, and Theo to get a run-out too. In light of Bendtner requesting more playing time in the press recently, it only makes sense to hand him a place in the starting eleven and see if he can back up his words with goals. Don't be surprised to see Bendtner lineup alongside Chamakh this evening, or replace the Moroccan altogether. In midfield, Wilshere, Denilson and Song would be more than acceptable for this type of game, but Nasri could slot back into midfield if Wenger wants a bit more creativity in the middle of the park.

I'd really like to be in the pub tonight to watch the game, but I'm still unsure if I will. Other commitments and the like, you know how it is. All I want to see, hear, and know is that Arsenal play to their best and just get the job done. No more mental lapses, no more gifting teams easy goals. Just win. Check out Arseblog's match preview for a more in-depth look ahead of tonight's clash; he doesn't bullshit anyone.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Back To The Future


So I finally cracked and shelled out the £30 or so for an Arsenal retro shirt. I opted for the long sleeve version, to make it that extra bit "vintage". I've been wanting one for ages but could never muster up enough spare cash to buy one. However, a friend of mine is having a 60's themed party this weekend so I thought, "is there anything better than going as an Arsenal footballer from the 1960's?!" An ingenious idea from me if I don't say so...

I pounced on the purchase thanks to Kitbag having a "10% off everything offer" on their site for the last few days. Looks like I bought it at just the right time, as it appears they've stopped this deal and all items are back to full price. Just in the knick of time. I'm pretty chuffed with the shirt, it arrived yesterday in record time (I didn't even pay for speedy delivery either). It's an official Score Draw retro shirt, licensed by the club as well, and it does look a bit nice I'll admit. The shirt came in a fancy Score Draw box which was a nice touch too.

If you are wondering why I'm resorting to posting about the new stuff I've bought, it's simply because I have watched bugger all sport recently. I've either been working, or been away, or just flat out missed live sport for the last week or so. So until I watch a game, be it NFL, NBA or the Arsenal, I will then write something worth writing about. Because trying to write about highlights I've seen is a bit useless.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Does It Get Any Better?


The Cleveland Browns shocked the world yesterday, upsetting the New England Patriots in a 34-14 classic. The Browns flat outplayed the Patriots all afternoon, and it was right up there as one of the most entertaining games I've witnessed in my four years as a Browns fan. A day I'll never forget and thanks to my good friend Will, I got to watch it all, live and in glorious high-definition.

After the Brown's win two weeks ago in New Orleans there has been a rise in optimism amongst Browns fans, that things might finally be going in the right direction. After beating the Patriots in such a convincing fashion yesterday, the idea that Mangini's Cleveland squad have finally turned a corner is becoming a reality. The Browns were dominant from start to finish, something I never believed I would type. I was cautiously optimistic before the game, not sure if we could repeat the upset we saw in New Orleans, but I never expected the performance my beautiful Browns provided.

I won't bore you with a play-by-play recap of the game, you can read that on any other site or blog. Instead, I'll share my opinion on the stars of the game; The good feelings are overwhelming, so much so I can't find a way to criticise any member of the Browns squad of players, coaches, or the organisation in general. Here we go then:

Colt McCoy. Oh Colt, how I and the majority of fellow Browns fans are taking you to our hearts dearly. Mr McCoy had some game yesterday. He never put a foot (or pass) wrong, and was so composed throughout the entire battle. His pocket presence was fantastic, always aware of the oncoming Patriot blitzes, and Colt constantly scrambled to safety on multiple occasions. It's so nice to have such a mobile quarterback on our team; I mean he's no Michael Vick, but Colt can tuck the ball and run when he needs to, as he demonstrated perfectly late on in yesterday's contest. Late in the third quarter McCoy took off on a scintillating 16 yard run through the New England defense, before diving into the end-zone for the touchdown, which effectively iced the game putting the Browns up 24-7. McCoy was as good with his arm as he was with his feet. Colt was tremendously accurate with his passing throughout the game, completing nearly 75% of his pass attempts, as well as being clutch on 3rd down situations. Credit must go to our receivers who caught everything thrown their way, as well as our brilliant 0-line for giving Colt the necessary time to perform - everybody seemed to have a great game on the offense. Colt is making it extremely hard for Mangini to even consider dropping him in favour of Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace, and this can only be a good thing for the team and fans. Fred Greetham at OBR believes our rookie QB should be handed the starting job for the rest of 2010 and I can see no reason to argue with that. Keep it up Colt!

Peyton Hillis. If you didn't know about Mr Hillis already (shame on you if you didn't!) you certainly do now, after another terrific performance from the bruising running back. He had probably the best game of his early Browns career, as he exploded for 184 yards rushing and 36 yards receiving with 2 touchdowns. The athletic big man was a human battering ram against the Patriot's defense as he never seemed to stop going forward. Even when he made contact with New England linebackers, he took the hit and kept his legs going to gain more yardage. Hillis has certainly been the revelation of the 2010 Cleveland Browns, and the best thing about him is he keeps getting better and stronger every week. The Broncos must be hitting themselves for letting him go...


The Browns Defense. I don't know if I've ever witnessed such a strong performance from this Browns defensive unit. Tom Brady was visibly frustrated yesterday after he and his offense continued to beat their heads against Cleveland's brick wall of a defense. It's not often Brady is kept in check with such ease, as the Patriots failed to maintain any sort of momentum on their way to scoring only 14 points (when it was predicted they'd score so much more). The Browns players routinely forced Brady and co. to make critical mistakes, which were crucial to Cleveland's victory (the forced fumble and recovery by Elam just before half time was particularly important). A brilliant game from Rob Ryan and his men, as they look to gain strength from this game and continue to improve as the season goes on.

It doesn't get any easier for the Browns, as they face the New York Jets next weekend in a hotly anticipated contest. After victories against the Saints and Patriots, the Browns should go into next week's matchup fearing no-one. Bring on the Jets!

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Come Back Kings Catch Cavs


The Cleveland Cavaliers succumbed to their second defeat in a row last night, as they lost to the Sacramento Kings 107-104. After a blistering first half where the Cavs scored 67 points and lead the Kings by 14, Sacramento emerged from the break determined to claw their way back into the game. They did just that, outscoring the Cavs 54-37 in the second half on their way to victory.

The Cavaliers were a joy to watch in the first two quarters. Ramon Sessions finally settled down after two poor performances against Boston and Toronto, as he was dominant early on. Sessions drove the lane aggressively, but he knew when to stop and not push it too much, which was good to see. He finished the game with 21 points and looked a much better player overall. I had my doubts about Ramon after his up-and-down game against Boston and his awful trip to Toronto, but he looked composed and selective last night. If he can continue this form he can become a strong weapon in Scott's offense and make the Cavs a much more dynamic team. Sessions was not the only guard who had a good night, as Daniel "Boobie" Gibson was equally impressive. Under Byron Scott, Gibson looks like a brand new player for the Cavs. He looked very confident shooting the ball, his court vision was fantastic, and he just looks rejuvenated in this new Cavs team. I hope he can continue to flourish as I've always been a Boobie fan and would love to see him become a core player for us. Anthony Parker had a very solid night as well, as he continues his impressive play in the post-Lebron era. Parker looks like he finally belongs in this team, whereas last season he, like the rest of the squad, took a back seat to number 23 Now Parker is an important part of the team and his clinical shooting is a great asset. He'll never be a superstar but his contributions are vital to the Cavs and he had another strong showing against the Kings last night. Keep it up AP!

Unfortunately the Cavs could not sustain their brilliant play from the first half, as Sacramento shut them down for the rest of the game. The Cavs could only muster 37 points total in the third and fourth quarters, and were out-rebounded significantly. As the King's defense tightened up, so did the Cavalier's scoring opportunities. The fast-break transition points that were routine in the first half dried up as the Kings snuffed out the Cavs offense. Once Sacramento set their defense, Cleveland failed to find a way to effectively break them down and the attacks became stagnant and wasteful. The Kings had a lot of success against our defense though, as their hot shooting propelled them to the win. The Cavs tried to come back late on, and thanks to Gibson cut their way into an 11 point deficit, but were unable to finish the job and lost their second game in as many days. John Krolik (or rather Ryan Braun who filled in last night) at Cavs: the blog summed up the defeat nicely here.

So the Cavaliers continue to grow and attempt to find out what kind of team they are going to be. They play Atlanta next on Tuesday where Mo Williams is expected to make his return from injury, so here's hoping his presence can bring us a victory.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Cavaliers Crush Celtics On Opening Night


What a fantastic way to start the season! Thanks to the generous folks at NBA.com and their free League Pass preview offer at the moment, I was able to watch every minute of yesterday's classic between the Cavs and Celtics. I'm so glad I did.

The new-look Cavaliers team hustled to a 95-87 victory last night in front of a sellout crowd at the Quicken Loans Arena. I doubt many pundits, so-called "experts", and the majority of fans expected the young Cavs team to beat the veteran Celtics, but they went ahead and did just that. It was certainly a close game, and the Cavs could have given up in the 3rd quarter when they trailed Boston by 11 points. However, Byron Scott's dynamic Cavs side battled back against the odds to stun the Celtics and take home the win.

JJ Hickson, I player I really liked last season, became the go-to guy for the Cavs as he took over the game in the first quarter, racking up 10 points very quickly. He was moving well, setting good screens, and making shot after shot. His mid-range jumper is impressive, and he continued to be a pest to the Celtics all night as he eventually finished with 21 points on 8 of 11 shooting, with 6 rebounds. I'm really hoping Hickson can continue this form over the course of the season as his athleticism is truly something to marvel at, as he glides through the paint with ease. Hickson is my boy this year, I'll be rooting for him.

Hickson was not the only Cavalier who helped lead the team past the Celtics. Daniel Gibson had a mixed evening but came through for us when it mattered, as he had an impressive second half to the game. He finished with 16 points, including some clutch free-throws with the game winding down, to seal the win. Gibson missed his first eight shots, as nothing seemed to be going his way, but he finally nailed a big three pointer in the 3rd quarter and he took off from there. The bench as a whole were impressive last night, as they carried the team in the second half, and really became the catalyst for victory. Ryan Hollins was particularly impressive, as he played good defense, came through on offense when he was called, and worked hard for the team all night. Anthony Parker's clutch 3 pointer with 1 second left on the shot clock late in the 4th quarter was the final nail in the coffin, to cap off a memorable Cavaliers win at the Q.

Obviously the team is far from perfect, and there is still a lot of work to do, they are not the finished article. Not every game will be like last night (unfortunately). The offense had some bad stretches, they looked lost at times as the Celtics really put the pressure on. Ramon Sessions was inconsistent for the majority of the game; he seemed to rush the break and force the offense a bit. Most of the time, Sessions should have passed the ball when he opted instead to shoot, a mistake more often than not. As a point guard, I didn't expect him to be as aggressive as he was, and Sessions consistently got called for offensive fouls. I think he needs to tone it down a bit in the future, as Gibson ended up getting more minutes than him in the second half. However, he did have a terrific 2nd quarter where he really got into his flow and finished the night with 14 points. The team are obviously still a work in progress and it will take time to get everything right. Patience will be key this season.

Overall it was a successful opening night, and a game I will remember for a long time. I really enjoyed the hustle and hard work the team put in, and the fans responded to it with multiple standing ovations and incredible noise. The team rewarded them (and me) with a fantastic upset win against what most people consider the best team in the East. Kevin Garnett, on the Cavs, commented: "I think they value that their strength is playing together." And I totally agree with Boston's big man, it is an absolute joy to watch the Cavs play as a real team now. It will ultimately be what determines their success or failure this year. Mary Schmitt Boyer at The Plain Dealer summed it up nicely: "By beating the arch-rival Eastern Conference defending champion Celtics in their first regular-season game since the departure of Lebron James, the Cavs served notice that they're still here and they can -- and will -- win with James." Not every body in the media was so positive about the Cavs' upset win, as Steve Aschburner at NBA.com couldn't help but put the fire out. "The Cavaliers, with so many of the supporting cast still in place, have the special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and the sesame-seed bun. But oh, are those two all-beef patties ever conspicuously missing." The majority of the national media are not going to stop reminding us that Cleveland are a lot worse off without Lebron, but they should at least give credit where it is due and praise the team's success, which Aschburner begrudgingly does in his article. We all know Lebron has taken his skills to Miami, I think we've heard enough about him already this year, because I know I have. It's time to focus on the guys who he left behind, the players who will carry the Cavaliers flag night after night; the guys who went out and beat the favoured Boston Celtics. I think the Cavs will continue to surprise a lot of people throughout this campaign, just like they did last night.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Taking Apart The Toon


Arsene Wenger's youthful Arsenal side strolled into the Carling Cup quarter-finals tonight, with a 4-0 win away at Newcastle. It was an open, often scrappy game, which swung back and forth for it's entirety, but Arsenal ultimately prevailed as they romped to victory at St. James's Park.

The boss went with a mixture of youth and experience tonight, an early sign that Arsene may be taking the Carling Cup more seriously this season, in light of our trophy drought (which the national media LOVE reminding us). Wojciech Szczesny started in goal for us, one of our promising young keepers waiting in the wings (for Almunia to move away and Wenger to lose patience with Fabianski.) Laurent Koscielny made his return from injury, as he partnered Djourou, Gibbs and Eboue in defence. Craig Eastmond was gifted a rare start in midfield alongside Rosicky and Denilson, complete with new haircut. And finally, Bendtner, Walcott and Vela started up front.

Due to my inability to get my act into gear, I regrettably missed the first ten minutes of tonight's match. So I didn't see our early chances to go ahead, and I also missed Nile Ranger taking the ball around Szczesny but failing to score after a Koscielny clearance. However I did see everything else, so here we go:

I thought for the majority of the game our young keeper was excellent. Szczesny looked calm and composed, and dealt with everything thrown at him to earn himself a well deserved clean sheet. His save from Alan Smith was superb, a finger-tip effort onto the post. Every time Newcastle threatened, Szczesny was there to halt the danger. He was dominant in the air and seemed to organise the defence well. The young Polish stopper had a fine game and I'd love to see him in the first team a bit more this season; It wouldn't hurt us to have him in goal for the West Ham game this weekend, who currently lie at the bottom of the league.

It was end to end stuff for the entire 90 minutes, and the result could have gone either way. Arsenal were their usual dominant self at times, passing the ball around leisurely and keeping possession for long periods, but Newcastle had their chances. Koscielny was brilliant on his return and seemed intent on keeping the Toon at bay this evening, often intercepting Newcastle passes and wrestling back possession. He was immense, and I hope he can slot back into the side quickly. However, not every Gunner had a fine outing tonight. Craig Eastmond seemed to struggle at times, which surprised me as he looked pretty comfortable in the first team last season. Carlos Vela also put in a very forgettable performance. The young Mexican appeared disinterested at times and ultimately failed to really get into the flow of the game. A poor outing for him tonight, when he had an opportunity to show Wenger what he could do; he'll be disappointed with his effort.

Despite the open nature of tonight's game, it was Arsenal's ruthless finishing that decided the match and put Newcastle out of the competition. The Gunner's first goal came from a rather messy piece of play. From a set piece, Bendtner headed the ball back into the six-yard box where Koscielny and Eastmond both tried to nod it into the net. The ball bounced up off of Ryan Taylor, whose clearance struck Newcastle keeper Tim Krul in the back of the head, and then rolled into the back of the net to gift Arsenal a 1-0 lead just before half time. It was pretty funny to watch but I was relieved we had finally scored.

Arsenal started the second half in strong fashion and it wasn't long before the Gunners doubled their lead. A header from Koscielny made it's way into the path of a free Theo Walcott, who raced towards the Newcastle goal and clipped the ball over Krul for a delightful finish. What a lot of people didn't see, including the referee, was Bendtner wiping out Newcastle defender Mike Williamson in the process. It was a daft thing to do from the Danish striker and it was a clear foul. I know if it happened to my team I'd be outraged as a fan, but it didn't happen to me and I'll take whatever I can get (excuse me for being honest... and biased). Bendtner proceeded to annoy the Toon Army a bit more by putting the game beyond doubt in the 83rd minute. It came just at the right time too, as Newcastle had been enjoying a period of pressure and looked close to grabbing a goal back, until Saint Nic himself blasted a shot past Krul to make it 3-0. Fabregas, who had replaced Vela earlier on, stole the ball in midfield and calmly played it to Bendtner out on the left. "The Great Dane" advanced on goal and unleashed an unstoppable shot to end the game; it really was a nice goal from our Nicklas. Five minutes later, Walcott grabbed himself another goal to make it 4-0. Theo took advantage of Newcastle's high defensive line and slipped clear to slide the ball under Krul for his second goal of the night, his sixth of this season. Another lovely goal, and the game was all but over. Szczesny made two more impressive saves from the pesky Andy Carroll (who was rather good tonight - Wenger called him 'charismatic') and rough-faced Ryan Taylor before the final whistle was blown.

All in all it was an entertaining game and it's always nice to get a win away from home, especially in a place like St. James's Park. I really do hope Wenger is taking this competition more seriously this season. The Carling Cup is deemed the least prestigious of the English domestic trophies, but it's still a trophy, one that the boss has never won in his time at the club. The Carling Cup is realistically within our reach, and has been for the past few seasons as we consistently make it to the latter rounds year after year. I'm all for letting our kids get a run out, and they always do really well, but I'd like Wenger to pursue this trophy like any other and after tonight's performance it looks like he might be doing just that.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 25 October 2010

A Fantastic Day Of Sport


Well what a day I had. Two of my teams getting massive wins helped put a smile on my face that'll probably last all week. The mighty Arsenal travelled to the blue side of Manchester and returned with a morale boosting 3-0 victory. To make things better, the Browns shocked the world by beating the reigning Superbowl champions in their own stadium, recording a historic win in the process. So you could say I'm feeling pretty happy this morning.

First up was the Arsenal - City game which kicked off at 4pm. I was still at work when the game began but slyly managed to follow the game through BBC Sport's updates on the internet. As soon as the clock struck 5pm, I was out the door and quickly in the pub for the second half. I missed Nasri put us 1-0 up but have since seen the goal and it was a real beauty, a lovely finish from a confident player who has started this season brilliantly. I of course missed Man City's red card too but I have heard it was deserved. And last of all I also missed Cesc's penalty miss, not one of his best efforts I understand. However, I did catch the second half, so I feel obliged to comment on what I did see.

Despite City playing with 10 men the game had a very open feel to it and they looked pretty dangerous going forward even thought they had the disadvantage. But as the game wore on, it was obvious City just didn't have it on the day. Arsenal soon began to dominate possession and ensured the win when Alex Song put us into a 2-0 lead. A ball into Chamakh was cut out by the City defence but thankfully it fell to Song on the edge of the box who rifled it past Joe Hart for his second league goal of the season, and his second in the space of a week. City pressed on but couldn't break through thanks to Fabianski. The young Polish stopper had a great day, recording a deserved clean sheet, which is apparently our first one away from home for 10 months. His saves against Silva and Boateng were particularly impressive. With the came coming to a close, Wenger gave a run-out to Theo and Bendtner and it was the latter who rounded the match off with a delightful finish. The tireless Nasri managed to keep the ball from going out and then played a superb ball into the path of Bendtner, who calmly slotted the ball around the onrushing Hart to make it 3-0. A fantastic away win and just what the Gunners needed to re-establish our title aspirations, while putting Manchester City firmly in their place at the same time. You can have as much money as you like, but it will take some time before they gel as a team and start winning trophies.


After Arsenal's victory, it was time to turn my attention to the day's NFL games and the Browns. There was no way Eric Mangini's men were waltzing into New Orleans and beating the Superbowl champions I thought, and I was not alone; Nobody expected a Browns win, certainly not the people around me in the pub and the pundits on the TV. But the Browns came through for me, and battled to a hard fought 30-17 win. Unfortunately I was not in a position to watch the game. At the pub, my friends and I had to make do with the Rams - Buccaneers game, which was entertaining but obviously I would have preferred to have been watching our miraculous victory at the Superdome. Still, the Rams lost in the last 10 seconds, and my friend Simon (the only Rams fan in the room) nearly broke down in tears at his team's collapse. Commiserations mate, I feel your pain.

So it's now established that Reggie Hodges is the best punter in NFL history, right? My tongue-in-cheek comment aside, that fake punt and his amazing run was really something special, especially the way he glided past Lance Moore and kept chugging his way to the 10 yard line where he was finally stopped. His 68 yard run set up a Browns field goal and as we know every point counts in the NFL, especially when you're facing the Saints in their house. In fact, the Browns had a very successful day as far as trick plays were concerned. Cribbs's lateral pass to Eric Wright on a punt return was impressive, as was Peyton Hillis's pass to Colt McCoy. When plays like that come off and work to perfection, you really have to give credit to the players for executing, as well as Mangini for taking the risk. Of course, credit must also go to Rex Ryan and his defense. When was the last time Drew Brees threw 4 interceptions in a game?! I doubt he even did that in high school! Obviously Brees had an off day, but you have to give major props to the Browns for being there in the right positions to make those big defensive stops. David Bowens is feeling on top of the world no doubt, with his two interception returns putting the cherry on top of yesterday's win. Just an amazing day for the Browns and I feel so proud to be one of the faithful. I don't care if I'm from Cleveland or not, there's no reason for me not to celebrate this win like any other Browns supporter. I love it.

So the Browns head into their bye week full of confidence and Arsenal are back to second in the league, hot on the heels of Chelsea. Sunday October 24th 2010 was a fine day indeed, one I expect I'll remember for some time.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Sayonara Shakhtar


Arsenal cruised to another Champions League victory last night at the Emirates, where they easily dispatched the Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. The Gunners strolled to a 5-1 win, with former Arsenal man Eduardo grabbing a late consolation for his new team.

It was an assured performance from Wenger's men on the night. I was expecting the match to be a bit closer but Arsenal soon put any fears I had to rest. The opening few minutes were cagey, as both sides appeared to be testing each other out but it wasn't long before Arsenal capitalised and took the lead. After the Shakhtar keeper spilled a corner (doing his best Fabianski impression), Djourou pounced on the loose ball and poked it into the path of Alex Song, who ambitiously attempted a Cristiano Ronaldo-like 'Rabona' shot, which deflected off the defender and bounced kindly into the back of the net to give us a 1-0 lead after 19 minutes. It was pretty funny to see Song attempt such a move but he got the result he wanted, a good goal in the end. I think Song had a decent night, he made no mistakes that I could see, but I do worry that with his increase in confidence over the last 18 months or so, he maybe thinks he's a bit better than he really is, especially going forward in attack. I just have concerns that his constant need to join in on the attack will some day hurt him, as the back four becomes instantly vulnerable when Song leaves his position. But hey, I have no complaints about him until he makes that mistake; Song is a quality player for us. Speaking of the defence, I was very impressed with our pair of centre backs last night, especially Djourou. I know the guy has had injury problems over the last few years, but I have always been a fan of Johan and it has irritated me in the past when Wenger would go with Silvestre over Djourou, for one example; beyond frustrating. He performed well last night with Squillaci, as Shakhtar looked pretty toothless in attack overall. They even made Fabianski look good, who to be fair to him made a very good save in the early minutes of the second half. More games like that in the near future please.

Arsenal continued to press after the first goal and doubled their lead just before half time with a beautiful goal from Samir Nasri. An Alex Song cross was expertly controlled by our young Frenchman, who calmly got the ball down and lashed a shot past the helpless Shakhtar keeper for a two goal lead. Nasri has impressed many fans so far this season, as he continues to carry over his form from last season. The guy can't put a foot wrong. Leading 2-0 at the half, we were cruising and the game was pretty much done and dusted.

After Fabianski's save from Adriano just after the restart, Arsenal took control of the game and never relinquished it. With just over half an hour to go in the game, Djourou was brought down in the box and Captain Cesc stepped up to take the penalty, comfortably scoring from the spot to put the game to bed, 3-0. I was glad Wenger took the decision to start Fabregas and he deserved his goal. You could sense he was a bit rusty early on in the match, which is to be expected after a three week break, but Cesc quickly returned to his normal playmaking self. Denilson replaced him after the penalty, where I expect Wenger had an eye on this weekend's game against Man City; we all want the captain to be fit and rested ahead of that crucial clash.

After going ahead by three goals courtesy of Cesc, the floodgates opened up. Jack Wilshere, who played his last game for a couple of weeks ahead of his impending suspension, had a brilliant outing and thoroughly deserved his goal. After some good work with Rosicky, Jack took a rather heavy touch but still maintained enough poise to calmly lob the ball over Shakhtar's keeper to make it 4-0. Probably the best goal of the night, it was so well taken, and the build up was vintage Arsenal. Only minutes later it was 5-0. Nasri chipped the ball over the Shakhtar defence into the path of Chamakh, who after glancing at the linesmen rolled the ball into the corner of the net for a deserved goal. Everybody including Chamakh thought he was offside, but thanks to a great decision by the linesmen the goal stood and the game was over. Nasri's pass was a thing of beauty too.

To cap off the evening, the returning Eduardo entered the fray for Shakhtar and scored an absolute peach with eight minutes to go. An innocuous ball entered the Arsenal box where Squillaci couldn't quite get to it, but Eduardo connected perfectly with a superb effort which flew past Fabianski to make it 5-1. It was a really nice moment for our former number 9, as the fans, Arsenal and Shakhtar, rose to applaud Eduardo for his well taken goal. It really is a shame that we got rid of him this summer, as he obviously still has feelings for the club and many fans still hold him in high regards. I hope he can resume his career in Ukraine and find success there.

All in all it was a good night of football. Arsenal are now 3 from 3 in the group stage, and barring any meltdowns we look sure to make it into the knockout stages for another year. Next up is a tough trip to Manchester to face Mancini's City. I will be at work unfortunately (GRRRRR) but hopefully I can make it to the pub for the second half. Fingers crossed!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Counting On Colt


First things first; I have a confession to make. Unfortunately I haven't been able to keep tabs on my beloved Brownies so far this season, not really. The week 1 game against Tampa Bay... I was in Spain. Every other game since... I've been here in Bath with no internet access for close to a month. I've managed to catch some highlights on friend's laptops, I've followed games on my girlfriend's Blackberry, but it's not been much fun to tell you the truth. I was even able to watch other live games in a pub in town, but not the Browns.

Alas, I have finally arrived into the 21st century with broadband back in my possession, complete with my beautiful yet flawed Cleveland Browns. Let's get you up to speed with what I know so far:

Peyton Hillis. The man is an absolute beast. Despite knowing bugger all about how our season has been going, I made absolutely sure I knew about him. He has been a revelation this year and I love it. I was pretty shocked the other day when I read that Jerome Harrison had been flogged to the Eagles but my worries subsided immediately when I remembered we have a battering, bruiser of a running back with the number 40 emblazoned across his chest (and back). It's clear to all that Hillis is going to be the go-to guy now until Montario Hardesty is ready to start his pro career, which won't be until next year anyway. In fact, with the injuries in Cleveland mounting every day, Hillis has become the focal point of the offense, and is single handedly keeping the Browns in each game they play. Long may Hillis's success continue in Browns Town, I'm still getting over that one handed catch he made last week... stunning.

And that's about it. My 2010 Browns knowledge ends there. I understand our defense has been pretty shoddy (no change there then). I know we beat the Bengals in a close one, and have been pretty competitive in the other games we have lost. But still, any fan hates to see their team sitting at 1-4, and it doesn't make things any better when a trip to Pittsburgh is up next.

I hate the Steelers and I'm not even from Cleveland. I have no affiliation to the city apart from my child-like love for their sports teams, yet, I still despise the Steelers as much as any die hard Browns fan does abroad. I'll never forget our 13-6 victory against them last year; I celebrated that win with as much vigour as I do when Arsenal smash United or Spurs. Plus, it was amazing to see Big Ben get sacked so many times that night... oh how his o-line struggled.

However, eager as I am to see the Browns play, I am not expecting a repeat result from 2009. Our quarterbacks Jake Delhomme and Seneca Wallace are suffering from ankle injuries which means the Colt McCoy era begins ahead of schedule, tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. Our rookie QB is being thrust into the deep end for his professional debut, by facing one of the top defenses in the NFL. Our young Colt was never expected to see much action this season, apart from holding a clipboard on the sidelines in an effort to learn the professional game, but things change quickly in the pro's and Colt will have to adapt quickly It's going to be some task for him to guide the team to a victory but stranger things have happened. Look at Max Hall last weekend, who made his first NFL start in an upset win for the Cardinals over the reigning champs Saints. Who saw that one coming?

So we're all counting on Colt now, and I wish him the best of luck in tomorrow's contest; he's gonna need it. Our offensive players can help him out by playing out of their skins, and our defense can help by not giving him such a mountain to climb. Here's hoping anyway.

My next post will likely be on Wednesday, where I'll write something about Arsenal's Champions League game against Shakhtar Donetsk. I'm hoping I can get to the pub Tuesday night for that one. I missed the Gunner's comeback win against Birmingham today as I was at work, so I'm not really in the position to comment on their performance and victory.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 11 October 2010

I Am Still Alive


And so is this blog, for anyone wandering where I've been for weeks. Since moving to my new digs for my final year at uni, my housemates and I have had a nightmare trying to get our broadband set up. Hopefully this will all be sorted out by the end of the week, and I'll be back blogging again soon.

It's amazing how much you miss having no internet access for a couple of weeks. It'll all be better soon though...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Sucker Punched In Sunderland


Arsenal travelled to Sunderland today in a late kick-off and the result was a disappointing 1-1 draw. I feel sick. Sick and pissed off. Phil Dowd managed to ruin what could have been a good game, with his terrible and inconsistent refereeing. An absolute joke.

First of all I should make it known that Sunderland deserved to grab a point. They played extremely well against us in the first half, keeping possession for most of the 45 minutes, a feat that few teams can perform against us with such ease. We did look a bit slow to start the game, never really getting into our flow and the slick passing we loyal Gooners are accustomed to failed to materialise as the Black Cats dominated possession.

Despite Arsenal's failure to launch, we took an early lead in the 13th minute against the run of play. And it was some goal, which will undoubtedly be one of the oddest you'll see all season. Anton Ferdinand failed to play the ball, as his clearance struck Fabregas's right foot and the ball ricocheted about 40 yards into the back of the Sunderland net. 1-0 to the Arsenal just like that, a complete fluke but gladly accepted (you could see the Arsenal players having a bit of a laugh about it during the celebrations). We managed to keep Sunderland at bay until half time, and we started the second half brightly as our passing began to come together.

Although today's game cannot exactly be called a classic (not by any means) there were still a lot of positives to take from the match. For starters, our defence were on top of their game this afternoon. Squillaci and Koscielny were outstanding; they were dominant in the air and on the ground, and look to have slotted into this Arsenal side with ease. Two fantastic performances from our new boys. In fact, the majority of the team played pretty well today and I can't really think of any particular individual who should be singled out for criticism. Wilshere was quality, as was Nasri who was at his dazzling best. Chamakh did well to lead the attack, and Rosicky also played pretty well (apart from his penalty miss... wow did that cost us in the end) when he replaced Fabregas in the first half (here's hoping Cesc's injury isn't a nasty one).

And now for the negatives. Hold on a sec, there is only one. And it starts and ends with Phil Dowd. The 47 year old Premier League official had a terrible game. Alex Song should never have been sent off. His first booking he received was laughable at best, as Song barely made contact with Steed Malbranque at all. His second yellow card was controversial yet again, as Malbranque decided to try and collect the ball by running through our midfield monster. Well that didn't work, and so the former Tottenham man decided to just fall over instead. Out came Dowd's little black book and Song was dismissed with over half an hour left to go in the game. Phil Dowd, you are officially a moron.

And the rest is history. Rosicky wasted a chance to secure all 3 points by blazing his penalty over the bar and despite resilient defending from 10-man Arsenal, it was not enough, as Darren Bent equalised in the 95th minute when there was only supposed to be 4 minutes of injury time. Thanks again Mr Dowd! Like I said earlier, Sunderland's efforts this afternoon warranted a deserved point so I'm sure their fans are over the moon with this result. But I am not. We had a chance to go top of the league this evening, and I fear that dropping 2 points today will cost us in the long run. Put it this way, I am going to be one angry Arsenal fan if we lose the title in May by 1 or 2 points.

Alas, this is football and these things happen. We've got to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off ahead of Tuesday's Carling Cup game at White Hart Lane. Ol' Twitchy himself will no doubt put out a strong team, probably his first 11, so our kids will have to be at their best if we are to progress in this competition. I hope Wenger mixes in some of our starters so the kids have some experienced guys to lead them out there, as this is a cup we have a great chance to win this year, like we do every year, so I want Sir Arsene to take it seriously. Hopefully I will be able to catch the game in the pub as I'm moving back to Bath tomorrow for uni again. If I have the internet I'll try and write something about it, but you'll just have to wait and see!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Something To Braga About


At last I have returned from my Spanish adventure, and have had a lot of catching up to do in the world of the internet. My Browns lost the season opener (not much of a surprise), my Indians have already decided where they're going on holiday as they are just going through the motions now, and the Buckeyes are 2-0 with wins over Marshall and Miami. Ohio State football is my new passion this year, as I have yet to really get into the college game, so I will just refer to them as THE Buckeyes, as they are not yet MY Buckeyes (give it some more time and devotion though).

However, my Arsenal were kind enough to wait for me to get home before they started their Champions League campaign, against Portuguese side S.C. Braga. I did miss the weekend game against Bolton, but I caught the highlights on Match of the Day and that was satisfactory enough for me considering I was on holiday. But I was lucky enough to get home just in time for last night's game, and I'm extremely glad I was able to see it. I was pretty confident ahead of the match, we usually seem to do well in the group stage of the CL, especially at home. My confidence was rewarded in the end thanks to a dominating performance and a thumping 6-0 victory. I won't bother giving a match review as you can everything you need to know right here. But I will share a few thoughts and feelings on what I saw; I'll try to be brief!

Fabregas was magnificent as always. His penalty was very well taken, and his header was a nice finish also (it's always nice to see a midfielder like him score a goal with his head - it just doesn't look like it should happen). His passing was exemplary and yet again he proved how valuable he really is to us. From what I saw against Bolton, Cesc was at his play-making best as it looked like he had a big part to play in all four goals that day. Against Braga last night, he carried on his brilliance from the weekend and he completely ran the show. Arshavin continued his good start to the season as well; he looked dangerous on the ball, took his goal well, and apart from a few wayward passes the little Russian put in a fine display. I was glad to see Chamakh get another goal for himself at the Emirates, after a some nifty but very odd work from Jack Wilshere (like a back-heel pass, but with his standing foot... it was really weird). Carlos Vela, the "king of the chip shot", also played well when he came on for Chamakh. His first goal, which of course was a chip over the keeper, was beautiful and his second goal was finished nicely from a pretty tight angle. I am still unsure if young Carlos will fulfil his potential - the hype surrounding him a couple of years ago was pretty high, with many fans (high expectations attached) itching to see him in the red and white. Vela has struggled so far in his still-early Arsenal career, but I don't think this can be entirely blamed on his performances alone. I believe that Wenger has yet to give him a real chance to show off his stuff, and I don't really know why. When we had a few strikers out with injury a season or two ago, Wenger seemed reluctant to hand Vela a place in the starting eleven on a regular basis, and when he did Vela was stuck up front alone against teams like Stoke and Hull, who would kick the crap out of the young Mexican. However, so far Vela has started this new season impressively and if he keeps scoring goals in the minutes he's given, I hope Wenger will provide Carlos with more opportunities, not just 10 minute cameos in games with lost causes or blowouts. Keep on trucking Vela, I'd like nothing more than to see you become an Arsenal great.

All in all, last night's win was the beautiful game at it's best, and an Arsenal win with plenty of goals never fails to put a smile on my face. Now that the Indians' season is practically over, the posts here on Escape To Forest City will start to take on a dominant Arsenal theme (didn't they already?). If I can get down to Twerton Park a few times this year I will also write some stuff about Bath City, so this blog will end up being pretty football filled. I will still be writing about the Browns, but if they are too hideous to watch, I may end up avoiding them like the plague, and we'll see how the Cavs get on too in the post-LBJ era. So apologies to any of my readers who are not interested in the Arsenal stuff... maybe you'll learn to love it, with time... right?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Escaping To Espana


I'm off to Spain for a week, beginning tomorrow so there will be no new posts until the 14th at the earliest.

Thanks y'all.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Walking (Off) In a Cabrera Wonderland


As I didn't have the chance to watch the Arsenal game live yesterday (a 2-1 away win for the mighty Gunners) I am going to forgo writing a match report about the match. Instead, today I am going to write a little piece about one of my favourite athletes in recent memory, the one and only Asdrubal Cabrera. And it seems an appropriate time to do so, considering his momentous feat last night; but we'll get to that in a bit.

Cabrera hails from Puerto la Cruz in Venezuela, and is quite possibly the only athlete I really know to hail from the country. The young shortstop was acquired by the Tribe in 2006 from the Seattle Mariners, and eventually made his Indians debut on the 8th of August 2007 against the Chicago White Sox. Despite being a natural shortstop, he made his big league splash at second base in the 2007 season and performed admirably, helping the Indians to a 96-66 record, the best in baseball that year (joint with the Red Sox). He became particularly adept at hitting in the later innings, batting .375 after the 7th inning and beyond. He started the 2008 season at second base again, as Jhonny Peralta still held onto the position at short.

It was on May 12th that Cabrera grabbed the attention of the national media. Facing the Blue Jays at Progressive Field, Asdrubal turned the 14th unassisted triple play in MLB history. The unassisted triple play is probably the rarest defensive play in all of baseball, so it was quite an achievement for our boy. This guy went to visit Asdrubal a few weeks after the event, and you can see the details of what occurred in the video.

Despite his historic play, unfortunately our hero struggled to maintain his 2007 form and was sent down to Triple-A Buffalo mid-way through the season, as his performances at the plate were not up to scratch, batting just .184 with 14 RBIs after 52 games. However he didn't let the demotion get him down and battled back to the majors in July and went on to play in 114 games for the Indians that year, batting a respectable .259 after his early struggles. Cabrera maintained his consistency throughout the 2009 season as well, managing to play in 131 games as well as leading the club with a .308 batting average that year. Not only did Cabrera find his swing at the plate, but he also established himself as one of the top defensive players in the league. After Casey Blake was traded in 2008, Peralta vacated his position at shortstop to fill in at third base, enabling Asdrubal to finally play in his natural position every day, where he's quickly become one of the best shortstops in the majors.

For 2010, new Indians skipper Manny Acta promoted Cabrera to the leadoff position in an attempt to make the most of Asdrubal's ability to get on base and set the table for Sizemore, Choo and Hafner to knock him in. In typical Tribe fashion, injuries have hindered Acta's plans to become reality, and Cabrera became one of the many casualties as well. In a series against the Rays, Asdrubal collided with Peralta when both men attempted to field a groundball by Hank Blalock. Cabrera was forced to leave the game with a fractured left forearm, and was immediately placed on the disabled list, and has missed a big chunk of this rather miserable season as a result.

However, my favourite player has returned from injury and is slowly finding his form again, as he regains the strength in that left arm. And there is no better example to highlight Cabrera's return than last night. Asdrubal hit his first career walk-off home run against the Royals yesterday, capping a 4-3 win for the Indians through 10 innings. It was a beautiful shot over the right field wall, and you could see Cabrera knew it was gone the moment he hit it. He's not known for his home runs, in fact they are a pretty rare sight for the 24 year old, but you have to love it when your guy hits a beauty like he did last night.

I've been a fan of Cabrera for a couple of years now (or "As-Cab" as I like to call him sometimes - lame, I know). His slick defensive skills are exceptional, he comes up with some real gems, regularly robbing batters of singles through the infield with his diving stops and quick reflexes to get the ball to first. Cabrera is my kind of player, a grinder, and I'm all about the defense so it's natural he's become my favourite Indian in such a short time. Here's hoping he enjoys more individual success in what's become another lost season for the Tribe. Asdrubal is undoubtedly one of the centre-pieces of this Cleveland team, along with Choo and Grady et al, and I'm hoping he can remain a member of the Tribe for a long, long time. I'll be rooting for him anyway, whatever happens.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

That Time Of Year Again



On the eve of the NFL season (well, not eve, but we are close now) it's that time of year again. Fantasy Football is underway, and my team is ready to battle it out for another year. Now readers who think I am referring to that terrible excuse that is the Barclays Premier League Fantasy Football are mistaken; I am not talking about that, and anyway that is not really the same thing - for a start any participant can select any player they like, so most teams in a single league always have the Rooneys, Drogbas, Fabregas' etc. I don't really see the point in it to be fair, when its structured like that. It's not really a game at all.

I'm talking about the real Fantasy Football, the NFL, where I draft my own players and manage them over an entire season. I hand-pick my guys, and it's tough luck if I don't get someone I had my eye on. Them's the breaks kid. With my NFL chums over at PESfan.com, we are entering another season, each striving towards the ultimate goal... The w00tbowl. This year I was given the 6th overall pick, out of 14 players, so every other round I had the 9th pick (we reverse the order every other round, geddit?). In light of this, here are the results of my draft for the 2010 season:

1) Frank Gore, RB (SF)
2) Larry Fitzgerald, WR (ARI)
3) Ryan Grant, RB (GB)
4) Joe Flacco, QB (BAL)
5) Brent Celek, TE (PHI)
6) Pierre Garcon, WR (IND)
7) Mohamed Massaquoi, WR (CLE)
8) San Fransisco 49ers DEF
9) Matthew Stafford, QB (DET)
10) Montario Hardesty, RB (CLE)
11) Greg Olsen, TE (CHI)
12) Ryan Longwell, K (MIN)
13) Denver Broncos DEF

So let's review:

Quarterbacks


Joe Flacco will be my starter, a 4th round selection. I wanted one of the more elite QBs but by the time my turn came round they were all pretty much gone and I had to settle for Flacco, who's not known as being a fantasy stud. However, Flacco has another year of experience under his belt and has a new weapon to target this season named Anquan Boldin. I'm hoping for good things from Flacco, a solid QB at least. Stafford is a great backup, who should be better this year under an improved Lions offense.

Running Backs


Probably the strongest part of my team, I should be solid at running back this season at the very least. I had trouble deciding whether to take Gore or Steven Jackson with my first pick, but I went with Gore because A) The Rams aren't very good and rely on Jackson A LOT and B) Gore has been consistent for years now and should be a safe pick. I'm not overconfident about Grant, I know he struggles at times in Green Bay but he's a starter at least and will get a lot of carries this year as long as he stays healthy; he'll be my starter in my RB/WR flex position. Hardesty is my homer pick here. I expect Jerome Harrison to start the season as number 1 in Browns town, but if Hardesty explodes onto the scene with some spectacular performances, then I have him on my team, ready and raring to go. My "sleeper" pick if you will.

Wide Receivers


Certainly the riskiest department of my squad. We all know Fitzgerald is one of the best receivers in the league but the problem is "Hollywood" Matt Leinart throwing to him. Can he put the ball in Fitz's hands often enough to make my selection worth it? He better do, that's all I'm saying. Garcon is a safe pick but I worry that Manning, who has so many options in Indianapolis, will overlook Garcon on certain days and I won't get the production out of him I'd like. Massaquoi had a mixed rookie campaign in Cleveland, but he's undoubtedly our top receiver for 2010 and if Delhomme connects with MoMass early on in the year, he may become my number 2 receiver sooner rather than later. Overall I reckon I might need to swing a trade or two around the league; this position could do with some strengthening.

Tight Ends


I'm pretty pleased with my selections for this position. Celek is one of the top tight ends around these days and Olsen is one of Cutler's primary targets in Chicago too. I like what I've got here and doubt I'll be chopping and changing much here.

Defense


I was away when it came around to selecting my defense, but I can't argue at all being given the 49ers. A top defensive unit they've got by the Bay, and Denver are a solid choice as my backup. However I don't expect to use the Broncos much at all, only on San Francisco's bye week I reckon.

Kicker


Who really cares about the kicker position? Not a big deal when it comes to fantasy, but point are points and Ryan Longwell should get me enough.

So that's my team this year. Not great, but solid, hopefully a playoff contender. This site here has ranked my team and some "experts" have weighed in on what they think. Check it out, an interesting read for sure.

Thanks for reading.