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.