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October 2020
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Going out in the CL, a blessing in disguise?

By Walter Broeckx

Losing to Barcelona could be a blessing in disguise.  We defended rather well I think in the first half and only a black out from Fabregas allowed them to score. I think Cesc will put this right for us in the next weeks. Come on Cesc, make up for this will you.

And also Van Persie will have a few things to set right. Most refs would have let him off the hook in such an important game but not this one. But we should have known this and the players should have known that Busacca would have helped a hand if needed.  It was needed at that moment and so he didn’t hesitate to make us lose the game. When the second yellow came out I knew we would have lost the qualification.

But that is the way it went and nothing can be done about it. I just hope that Cesc and Van Persie are now completely recovered for the next games.

But let us forget what has happened for now and look at the future. And if you have the chance you should see at our fixture list from now on.

12 march at United in the FA cup

19 March at WBA

02 April against Blackburn Rovers

10 April at Blackpool

17 April against Liverpool

Watch Arsenal Live Streams With StreamFootball.tv

20 April at Tottenham

24 April at Bolton

01 May against Manchester United

07 May at Stoke

14 May against Aston Villa

22 May at Fulham

And as you will see that the only time we are facing a midweek game from now on will be in April when we go to Tottenham. But for the rest of the season we only are facing games in the weekend. So we will have a bit more rest between our games and this can only bring us benefit.

In fact the only thing that can bring more games is when we go further in the FA cup. As the semi finals will be played on 17 April and this would have as a result that the game against Liverpool will have to be played in a midweek. So if we go further in the FA cup this would mean that we from now until the end of the season only have to play 2 games in midweek.  And if we should reach the FA cup final we should play a maximum of 3 games in midweek until the end of the season.

And if we go out in the FA cup in this round we will only have to play one game on a Wednesday.  Please don’t see this as me asking to go out this Saturday. But I will leave the FA cup out of the games as we don’t know if we go further and when we have to play.

But I do think that for the next 3 months with only playing around  one midweek game a month could be a big help in our run in for the PL.

So despite that for some it will be all over Arsenal, the players and the manager after this defeat and exit of the Champions League it could well be that at the end of May we will look back at this day and say: that was the moment that we won the league.

So let us prepare ourselves for 10 cup games which we must win. Let us prepare our players to give in each game 200% with the knowledge that they can rest a week after each game.  Let us go out for a run of 10 wins in a row. And that would be enough to win the league.

And let us hope and pray that from now on the players remain fit and we are free of injuries. And getting more rest in the next weeks and months could be just that little difference between an injury and not an injury.

Time to forget the Champions league. Or maybe think about the fact that we only lost the second leg due to a stupid sending off from one of our players.

Now is the time to focus on the most important thing : winning the league. Last year we lost it when we played too many games in the next weeks towards the end of April.  And as a result almost the whole team got injured. This time this will not be happening.

And I know there are no easy games in the PL but when you have a week rest to prepare for a game the task becomes a bit more easy. So I would call on you Gooners to get behind the team for this final 10 games.

119 comments to Going out in the CL, a blessing in disguise?

  • Wrenny

    It could be a definite blessing in disguise, particularly if Man Utd progress in the CL and have to play two more big European matches in April. Those games are so physically and mentally demanding, wouldn’t it be great if Utd drew Barca or Real in the QFs? That would really drain them, and it would definitely cost their injury-hampered side a few points in the league.

    When we drew Barca I thought it was a win-win situation for us. I was confident that we would give them two good games, and whether we won or lost we would come out with our confidence and reputation enhanced. Knocking them out would have been huge, but being able to go toe-to-toe with the best side in the world, and being completely in the tie until the dying seconds (one quick break or fluky goal would have seen us through) should be a confidence boost for our young team to take into the rest of the season.

  • Dark Prince

    Maybe a blessing in disguise. But after the barca match i’m sure of one thing now, that is i’m not scared of barca anymore. They simply couldn’t beat us in both legs combined when we had 11 men on the pitch. Though they were more brilliant in their football, we were more resilient in our defence. We could have won that game if we had all 11 men on the pitch. Outstanding job by our team and Wenger to show the we can beat barca and that we know how to keep the best attacking force at bay. Proud to be a Gooner!!!!

  • metalhead

    While we ponder about how much rest the players get with this ouster, don’t forget the psychological damage that games like this can inflict upon our players. Back in 2007 when Arsenal were leading in the title race, they incidentally had an away game against Manchester United in the FA cup. I remember hoping that Arsenal would lose so that the players can focus on the Premier League. My wish came true. Arsenal lost 4-0 to ManU and from that point on, Arsenal simply ran out of steam. I think that loss simply demoralized Arsenal enough to stop believing in themselves. Of course, it is debatable whether that match ruined Arsenal’s season or not. But, winning is like a habit. The more you develop that habit, the better.

    By the way does anyone have news about Fabregas’ fitness? I read somewhere that he as injured as early as the 15th minute.

  • imagooner

    Walter will be there any chance of a ref-review for this game. Because from what i have read barca have never lost a game in which the fckin c**t has refree’d and neither does any la-liga team for that matter. Though credit to barca who outplayed us they are not the team everyone says about. I think they are most dis-honest team in the football pitch and they work hard in the training with various playacting skills to get the opposition booked. I hope they dont progress further in the CL and lose out in the QF.

  • tim

    Yes, let’s hope we build on this.

    It’s about time all fans get behind our team.

    Up the Arse!

  • Dexter

    I really hope this gets the boys going. I dont care about The F.A Cup. Its only Champions League and Premier League that matter to me. So many of them deserve to win the title. After last night, I want them to win it for themselves more than for us because bar 6 or 7 games they have been immense this season, it’s been a great season and fair play to Alumina last night he did ok! The boys showed up scared and it didnt help, they just didnt believe they could do it and I reckon if we had 11 men on the pitch until the end we would have!

  • Shard

    I don’t think any loss ever constitutes a blessing, however well disguised. But we have nothing to be ashamed about with respect to this game. Of course Barcelona dominated possession, but I challenge any team to do any better, without just playing a destroying game (which depends on the referee letting you do it anyway). We did defend very well, and our expected chance to attack after the 70th minute didn’t come about as a result of what Walter rather shockingly calls ‘a stupid sending off from one of our players’. (I’m sorry Walter, the only stupidity lies with the referee)

    There are many positives to draw upon for the future. We should focus on the league, but the first (and hence the most important) step is to beat the Referee’s chosen team in the FA Cup.

  • metalhead

    @imagooner. I don’t think the Barca players are dishonest. In fact, I applaud them for the honesty they showed. There was more than one occasion where they could have easily gone down in the penalty box but they didn’t. Especially, Messi. They are not half as bad as the Barca teams of yesteryear. The other day I was watching Arsenal vs Barca 1999 and people like Rivaldo, Cocu were diving as if saw a spring in the middle of a desert!!!. Of course being a Spanish team they do play act sometimes. Like Xavi would say, It’s in their DNA!!!

  • tim

    From The Sun:

    UEFA always refuse to comment on the individual performances of referees but did confirm that Busacca’s handling of the match will be evaluated.

    The spokesman said: “Referees are always evaluated. There is a referee observer who evaluates their performance.

    “These are taken into account internally in terms of appointments but we never make that public.”

    WHY NOT?????

    TRANSPARENCY. I WANT TRANSPARENCY.

  • BigSam Nnaji

    Well, i think its a blessing in disguise. we dont have that strong enough squad to survive mid week and weekend games. hope the boys bounce back quickly,…God Bless Arsenal

  • imagooner

    @tim: Making the refree’s observations public is like spilling the details on the money launderers in different parts of the world. It would expose the utmost corruption that exists in the football. Even if its availabel there is no chance for improvement in the refreeing with the use of advancement in technology as the governing bodies of football are run by old fools 😛

  • bollock-chops

    Hope so.
    Surely we are due a penalty or something in our favour at some point up at Old Trafford. Something must go right up there one day? Its far more important moneywise to win the league so maybe we have a chance with the referee’s in the fa cup. We will still have to overcome getting shafted decision wise in the league tho, without doubt.

  • JohnW

    Last season when we went out to Barca, you could see that we learned some thing. The team this season has played with a certain intensity, almost reminiscent of Barca. Now, as we are out again, if I was Arsene, I would try to copy the good points from both games, combine them with our good defending over both matches and teach Arsenal to play the same way the rest of the season. How wonderful it would be!
    I also hope we draw on saturday, it will allow us time to knock ManUre out of the FA later, while at the same time making sure we donate them a ‘fixture pile up’ since I expect them to go through to the QL of the CL.

  • ak47

    i read this post yesterday . if only i could find the site again. he deserves some credit. he actually helped me to foresee the defeat as a good thing.

    thing is with manure not scoring an away goal, stands a chance that their thinking the same thing so dont b surprised if they get k.o’d.

    wenger is quoted as saying he didnt expect to lose like that? so how did he want to lose?
    seems strange that in a game where possession is key we field diaby and a cesc who was clearly not 100%. add to that an uninspired rosicky. whats happened to him really?

    there were so many rookie mistakes yday it reminded me what arsene said after the ccup… the prem and fa cup are the priorities.

    it certainly looked that way. not that im criticising, id be exactly the same.

    plus i must admit i was sceptical about vanz injury, but he looked ok. good times:-). the prems ours if we want it!

    i know i know… we all said the same about the ccup :-S

  • A Casual Observer

    I thought Wenger’s tactics were spot on last night… there’s a lot of apologist bollocks flying around quoting cherry-picked statistics relating to percentage of possession, shots on target and passes completed.

    This apparently indicates that Barcelona were dominating the match and it was a foregone conclusion that they were ‘oh so much’ better than us. I disagree, we were defending a lead and playing away at Camp Nou with a referee that gave us very little in the challenge and went so far as to card our players out of the tackle, leaving the door open for Barca to attack and simulate the foul when they lost possession – but we put out our stall out very well and soaked up the pressure from an attacking Barcelona and gave them very few real chances, full credit to Arsenal!

    Barcelona needed goals, they could not rest on the ball – they had to go for it, Wenger knew this and played to put a blanket on the game in order come back later in the match with a distinct fitness advantage over Barcelona – I will admit that their midfield is a very well organised outfit and it would not be wise to take them on in a passing game away from home… indeed when you are winning on aggregate it would be tactical stupidity.

    Everything was going to plan until we went a goal down and then… well – it turned out ok for us soon after with their suicidal own goal.

    This put the cat among the pigeons with the referee as it was a clear advantage to Arsenal. We could go back to soaking up the pressure and work on the breaks… even if we went 2-1 down we would do them in extra time as they would be running on empty. Bussaca, when faced with this, sent off our striker in the most farcical of decisions. One second exactly after his whistle blew; RvP took his shot which bounced off the hoarding and into the goalkeepers hands – this in a stadium with 95,000 Barca fans whistling at any possession Arsenal got?! What was he thinking exactly? Is that time-wasting and how much time was exactly wasted… if he had just left the ball where it was it would have wasted more time?! If he had hoofed it into row ‘z’, then maybe there is a case for a talking to… but not a second yellow surely?

    It is my guess that Bussaca took the first opportunity he could to remove our attacking threat and give Barcelona carte blanche to attack with no threat on the break… it really was one way traffic from there and the match was effectively over.

    So when some spurs troll comes up to you and rubs a few irrelevant media championed statistics in your face about our performance and how lucky we were it wasn’t 10-0 – then just comfort yourself with the knowledge that he/she knows absolutely nothing about football, tactics and match-fixing… it matters not that we didn’t take the game to them – we were winning at the time, that is the point – when we did need our attacking threat; it was removed for no real reason – and when we needed to attack and score, well – our striker had long gone down the tunnel.

  • Shard

    @A Casual Observer

    That’s very well put, but sadly I think it’ll be wasted on the ones that don’t get it anyway..

    Tactically I thought Wenger did very well. I was suprised by how defensive we were and even more so by how well we were doing that job. I think the fact that we could change our usual game plan and execute it so well, is a cause for optimism. Yesterday was proof that we aren’t one dimensional. We know how to defend too.

  • Paul C.

    A Casual Observer – you made the same point I was thinking last night, i.e. how much time did RvP waste? Given the unbelievable speed that the Camp Nou ballboys get another ball back in play every time it goes out of play, one can make the argument that RvP ACTUALLY SPED UP THE GAME by doing what he did. Had he simply left the ball to roll into the corner (or done what so many players do, simply tap the ball another ten yards softly), Valdez would have had to run out to get the ball and then take it back to the offside spot. By doing what he did, RvP actually allowed the ballboys to throw another ball to Valdez immediately, which they did. RvP ACTUALLY SPED UP THE GAME!!!!! That, to me, is the most ridiculous part of the refs decision.

    Overall, a dissapointment. But Barcelona are the best in the world. They are a brilliant side and we can take a huge number of lessons from the games. We can see how they press and suffocate, how they constantly have available men, and most of all we can see that trying to pass the ball into net is not something to be ashamed of. I thought Djourou and Koscielny were superb. Wilshire was fanstastic, pity he had no support in midfield. Diaby is nowhere near matchfit yet and that was huge. We also needed Cesc last night, and he didnt show up. To have beaten Barca we needed all our players at the tops of their games and that plainly was not the case. They deserved the win.

  • A Casual Observer

    Had they won fair and square they would have deserved it… as it was they got help so they didn’t deserve anything.

    As it is we will never know – the element of competition was ‘tainted’.

    I don’t mind losing fair and square… nobody who loves football minds that.

    Last year we lost against Barca and I was the first to congratulate them, this year we did not – what is the point of a brilliant team if, when they are really challenged to pull something special out of the bag, they are denied that with a dodgy call in their favour.

    Barcelona is a global brand – it was ecnomically advantageous to the ‘competition’ that they went through last night – football it was not.

  • Marcus

    I totally agree with you Walter.
    Get the Premiership under our Orions belt before shooting for deep space.

    Of course it was a massive stitch up.

    We defended brilliantly, a point lost on the puke yellow jaundiced pundits and media.

    Wenger’s tactics were working a treat. One more goal and then Barca needed 3 goals to win the tie.

    A minor travesty. Minor because CL is a lottery and a lot of hard work. Better to go out now than fall in a final…

  • Sharky

    Let me just say straight up that I absolutely love Arsenal football club so what I am about to say will not be totally condemned.

    There is clearly something lacking mentally with our current squad of players. Calling it a freak accident losing the way we did to Birmingham is just covering up what was am accident waiting to happen and it happened catastrophically. Chelsea do us a favour and beat Man Utd and we then drop 2 points at home. Liverpool have done us another favour but do I think we will take advantage, sadly no. If the FA said tomorrow that Man Utd were going to be docked 6 points we would still find a way to F**K things up. When push comes to shove this team consistantly bottle it when it really matters. Ironically the two players we thought we couldn’t do without last night were the ones that let us down. One through failing the basic tenet of defending if in doubt boot it out and the other by showing how stupid he can be. It was laughable when VP tried to make out that he didn’t hear the whistle when his whole body language prior to shooting at goal showed that he must have known that he was offside otherwise why didn’t he take the ball further towards the goal knowing he was clean through with only the goal keeper to beat.

    Sky sports played Shirly Basey’s song at half time, guess what it was, ‘History Repeating’ quite appropriate don’t you think. More like Groundhog day.

    As much as I’m dissapointed with what’s happened since the 4-4 draw at Newcastle I will still be watching TV at 5.15 this Saturday hoping against hope that we can get a result but the apathetic part of me is already preparing myself for dissapointment. Ho hum, there’s always next year.

  • Wrenny

    @Casual Observer
    Great points well made. Talking about possession and shots is the usual media’s c*ck-gobbling of anything Barcelona. When Arsenal has that kind of dominance they talk about how possession and nice football counts for nothing and we are wasteful, can’t kill off teams, mentally weak, blah blah blah. Barca do it and they swoon, their knees turn to jelly.

    When we show brave defending and great character when under intense terrifying pressure in front of 95,000 Catalonians, what is said about our mental strength? Not a thing.

    While the match was 11 v 11 the scores were 1-1 and we were going through. Both goals came from bad mistakes, Cesc gifted them the lead and Busquets returned the favour. In the three minutes between our equaliser and RVP’s red card Barca were visibly shaken, doubts had started to creep into their minds. The crowd were silenced and we began to look more confident and incisive on the ball, breaking through their wall of pressure much better. They knew that another Arsenal goal would need them to score THREE in less than 30 minutes.

    Bussacca knew this and did what he had to do. No Spanish team has ever lost under his stewardship.

  • A Casual Observer

    Sigh… there is clearly something lacking mentally with our fanbase.

    In the words of Cypress Hill:

    “The chain in yo brain is missin’ a link”

  • A Casual Observer

    @Wrenny – totally agree, I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  • Goons_with_Guns

    Nice positive outlook. Good article.

  • Wrenny

    That’s interesting Sharky, but explain this to me.

    How is it that our team of soft foreign bottlers have the best away record in the league? Have a look yourself:

    http://uk.eurosport.yahoo.com/football/premier-league/2010-2011/league-tables/away-record.html

    Strange huh? How have our fragile little flowers that don’t like it up ’em picked up more points away from the nice plush comfort and pristine pitch of the Emirates? Riddle me that one!

    Oh yes, wouldn’t it be wonderful if our pampered little pooches had the mental strength of Man Utd, they who as everybody knows, always get better in the second half of the season?

    But wait, haven’t Man Utd just lost 3 of their last 5 league games? That after going so long unbeaten? They’re not getting stronger as the season goes on. Woops, that another silly myth busted. Is the pressure starting to get to them, are Man Utd BOTTLING IT?

  • Paul C.

    A Casual Observer – I only say Barca deserved it because they were the better team, right now. They are. We can imagine what might have been but they dominated possession and outplayed us, even 11 against 11. We might have held on but we will never know. That is the way it goes. They deserve to progress. They are a superb team and we are not yet at that level. Without Cesc and Diaby at 100% and with Walcott’s pace denied us we were always up against it. You say Barca’s confidence was visibly shaken after the goal, but immediately after we scored Barca cut straight through us and almost scored. I would have loved to see what we might have done with 11 men for that final period of the match, but I have no problem with a team as good as Barca going through. They are without a doubt one of the top-3 sides I have ever seen in my lifetime (along with Liverpool 77-84 and Milan 88-95 – I would have loved to see Barca’s current midfield go up against Souness, Lee, McDermott and Kennedy!!!! Artistry versus raw power!!!!). It is all “what ifs?” but we lost, and against a team like Barca I am fine with that.

    I think we came out of these matches with great credit. I wanted to see if we could live on the same pitch as Barca and we did. In the first game we gave as good as we got for most of the night. Last night we defended (except Cesc) with great calmness and composure, and that should hold us in good stead for the rest of the season. We can bitch and moan about the decision (which was an awful decision) but nobody can really say we were better than Barca at any moment of the two matches (except for that amazing five minute period at home). They deserve it. I hope they win the tournament now. I hope it a Shaktar-Barca final (so people will realise how good Shaktar are) with Barca beating everyone they face from here on in 5-0 in every match.

    One thing is for sure, it is going to take a gargantuan effort by someone to beat them (as Inter put forth last year). We just didnt have enough firepower last night, too many people missing. With Song and Walcott, and Cesc 100%, I would have loved to see what happened.

  • poodle

    Well its clear that barca sees this as a HUGE HUGE victory. if they did not they would never come out with the blatant disrespect as they have today. They were nervous and they are joyful of the fact they went through and they also know how close they were to go out. My wish is that they meet first United and then Chelsea . While united get barca and then real madrid in the semis. that will make a final of Chelsea vs Real and it will occupy United all the way to the end and give us a good shot for the title.

  • poodle

    lol that was a weird post i just wrote! cant get both of them to stay and go out at the same time and benefit us!
    I need to rephrase that somehow.. just im to dimb atm to do 🙂

  • A Casual Observer

    I think that the statistics flatter them Paul C – had it not been for the creative refereeing I believe that we would have knocked them out last night… a team is more than just the players on the pitch – the manager also plays an important part – and last night, at 1-1, Wenger had Guardiola by the balls and he knew it.

    So, in that, I do not believe that they deserved it, no matter how brilliant Messi is.

  • Sharky

    Hi Wrenny

    I accept and agree with all you say, no need to argue about that but my point is that regardless of how well our away record is how good we can be on our day, what grates on me so much is that all the fantastic effort put in to get us into a position where we have a chance to win something is undone so quickly when we come to the business end of a season. Even you have to agree that this is something that keeps happening,, hence my reasoning that we lack mental strength when it absolutely matters.

    The team that went to Anfield and had to win by clear 2 goals, now that is what I mean by mental strength, enough said.

  • Andrei

    This one is for all Gooners. Found it on the blogosphere the other day.

    The First Law of Persecuted Fandom. If you are a passionate fan of one particular team, and you think you notice that that same team happens to be singled out, consistently, for outrageously unfair treatment by other fans, referees, and the media. . . then you are DEFINITELY RIGHT.

  • critic

    where’s the like button???

    *SUPERLIKE*

  • Dark Prince

    Another sad news- Uefa have charged Wenger and Nasri for improper conduct…

  • Wrenny

    Sharky,

    If you get creative you can infer all kinds of traits and weakness onto teams, just like I did with Man Utd in my last comment.

    What about when Utd went into injury time at Everton with a 3-1 lead and drew 3-3? Giving up a 2 goal lead after the 90th minute, does that not demonstrate a huge mental weakness?

    What about when Man Utd drew at home to West Brom 2-2 after being 2-0 up at half time? Massive bottlers.

    After they destroyed Blackburn 7-1 at home they had a Carling Cup game at bottom of the table West Ham, and they lost 4-0. See what happened there, they got complacent and arrogant. Thought they could just turn up and win the game. No fight, no heart, not fit to wear the shirt!

    Do you see what I’m doing Sharky? This is what the press do to Arsenal day in and day out. And it can just as easily be done to Man Utd, or to Chelsea, or to anyone else you WANT to undermine and belittle at every opportunity. It’s so easy.

  • Wrenny

    And if you want to buy into these theories and myths which are based on nothing but preconceived notions about foreign players, then that’s your choice.

    I prefer facts, like the FACT that our away record is the best in the league. The FACT that we have conceded fewer league goals than Man Utd. Those things prove something to me.

    The theory that our shortcomings are based on mental strength is just that, a theory. One that cannot be proven and to me, has no value. It can be creatively applied to anyone you’d like to.

  • Ugandan Goon

    Wow,
    fuck em all, they were the better team? fuck ’em. I will forever look with a jaundiced eye at all things barcelona, they can stick the biggest chorizo where the sun doesnt shine(i hope that narrows the field a bit for those in a sunnier clime).
    Bastards.
    end of!

  • Jerom J.

    Hahah, my birthday is the only midweek game XD lets hope i get a really good present on that day and beat the spuds by at least a 3 goal margin!

  • Paul C.

    Wrenny – totally agree. People say we lacked mental strength for losing in the final against B’ham yet what does that say for all the other teams that didnt make it to the Final?

    A Casual Observer – we may have knocked them out, we may not have. It is all guesswork right now. The fact is that Barca created far more chances over the two legs than we did (even when 11 against 11) and by that basis were probably the better team. I think they ARE the better team right now. There is nothing wrong in saying that. I read in one of the papers that the Premier League should be worried that the 2nd placed team in England lost to the leaders of La Liga and yet the 2nd placed team in La Liga lost 5-0 to Barca a few months ago in one of the great demolitions of recent history. Right now Barcelona are playing their own game and it is pretty fun to watch. It took an insane performance by Inter last year to stop them. That is what we need to aspire to. They have five of the best players in the world right now in Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Villa and Dani Alves (despite him being an absolute wanker). Their “secondary” players, like Busquets, Maschereno, Pique, Pedro etc are better than our “secondary players”. Right now we have no one at that level (although RvP, Nasri, and Cesc, AT THEIR BEST, come close). In a couple of years, as guys like Song, Wilshire, Djourou etc mature further, we might be much closer.

  • Mandy Dodd

    What is is with Arsenal and referees these days?

  • gooner80

    Dont know if someone has mentioned this but it was ONE SECOND from the ref blowing his whistle and RVP kicking the ball, that was a disgraceful decision

    @WALTER i agree entirely with your article.

    Our chances have only increased, and playing two games a week is proven to lower the levels of the players that is why so many english teams have european hangovers

    The APRiL and MAy games look concerning they look tough, ANYone got any news on TV5

  • rijojohn

    hi, im actually from india! but a huge fan of arsenal!! yes as disappointing it is to lose, atleast the fact that we did put up a good fight! something which real madrid could not!! im proud of the way the team played! and just hope this does not demoralize the team!

  • A Casual Observer

    @Paul C – if Barcelona deserved it because they have the best players then why are we bothering having a competiton then?

    Why not just hand the trophy over to Barcelona right now and save us all some time?

  • Shard

    @Paul C

    You really are a saint.. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic or a disrespectful way at all. But to want Barcelona to win the UCL, and to say the nice things about them, after the way they behaved, is nothing short of saintly. At least I know I couldn’t be that gracious.

    For what it’s worth I’m not ungracious either. I agree they are at a higher level than us, and they passed it around and put us under tremendous pressure, and if that’s the basis of judgment then of course they deserved to go through. My problem with that is ,that by that argument, we deserve to win almost every premier league match this season. That is not the way it works though is it? Neither in reporting, nor in fact.. My feeling was that we were going to win that game. I know it counts for nothing, but once it was 1-1 (and they didn’t score from the immediately following chance) I knew that game was ours.

    I was willing to look at the positives more last night. But I woke up today feeling annoyed, and all the Barca love fest going on has only enhanced that. I believe we had them beaten. Whether that makes us really good, or makes them not as good as is thought I don’t know. I suspect it’s a bit of both.

  • Shard

    @ A casual observer

    THAT… is exactly the point.

  • gooner80

    @Mandy Dodd
    I think you and me had it right about losing Mr Dein.

    I think it would have been disastrous for Barca the flag ship team to go out so early of the competition, viewing figures, betting syndicates Matter and in all honesty the competition is not as good with Barca out, they have become a little bit like how brazil/ harlem globe trooters were

    I am certain with every fibre of being if RVP stays on the field the game goes into extra time or we go through, the ref killed that game the same way they did in 2006 FINAL

  • gooner80

    Has anyone else noticed the parallels between us and Barca and say us and a bottom of the table TYPICAL ENGLISH TEAM. we looked like birmingham without the fouls (in general) looking at it from the perspective of the team with less possession the football that counts is effective football, we SHOULD have gone through regardless of who was the better team. Barca hide their weaknesses by not allowing you to get at their defence hence why English teams just play a long ball over the top, seeing it from the other perspective might make us better at dealing with these type of teams in the future

  • Sharky

    Wrenny,

    Hindsight is a wonderful thing, we are all guilty of using it to spout off facts and figures and as you say Man Utd haven’t been too clever away from home but it is their home form that has kept them in contention (40 points out of 42). Chelsea have fallen away somewhat and Man City have had quite a bit of good furtune in some of their games to keep in touch. Think where we would be if the real Arsenal team had turned up for the home games against West Brom, Newcastle and not to mention the capitulation against Spurs.

    Trends are based on what has gone before and what has gone before is Arsenal falling away at the same time of the season over the last 4 years. I don’t want to be a doom merchant but just like hindsight you have foresight and foresight indicates based on what has gone before that we are in for another end of season like the others.

    I hope that I’m wrong, I sincerely do with all my heart, but I’m seeing the signs just like last year and the year before.

    You can make as many excuses as you like. For instance Edwardo breaking his leg had an effect on the team, Ramsey ditto, Van persie out for most of last season. If we win nothing again this season, what will it be this time, losing to Birmingham? being totally out classed by Barca? knocked out of the FA Cup by Man Utd. There will always excuses for failure.

    Just one more observation using Man Utd as an example. How many times have Man Utd started a season really poorly and been written off and then stormed back to win the league in the later half of a season and how many times have Arsenal started well only to fall away. That’s the difference between teams with both a winning mentality and a strong squad.

  • A Casual Observer

    My Troll-dar is pinging…

  • Mandy Dodd

    Agreed 80 – since Deins departure, we have not had anyone of his influence in the corridors or power. Or if we have, they are doing one hell of a job keeping quiet about it.
    To me, what the ref did to RVP, the timing of it was calculated, not incompetence or letting home fans influence decisions. At 1-1 Arsenal had become a serious threat to Barca. Right from the start, it was clear what the ref was going to do – any tackle we made (ok except Diaby on Messi) was punished in some way, their players were let off the hook time and time again. RVP had his throat grabbed right in front of the ref FFS. Only conjecture, but if we had made it to ET, I am sure this ref would have had a few suprises in store for Arsenal.
    EUFA just do not like English clubs,as demonstrated constantly by Platini some suggest they even fear the influence of EPL teams. They will like us even less as English teams find ways of flouting the FFP regulations.
    Barca lost out last year, a Spanish team will not be allowed to miss out this year.
    Once we the draw was made, there was only really ever going to be one outcome. Our mistake was to mess up the group stages but now we are out, an English team will not win this year so maybe better out sooner rather than later.
    We have other targets to aim for…just hope the Manc ref brigade do not scupper them.
    All that aside, Barca are some team!

  • Shard

    The very first foul called in the very first minute was a Xavi dive. The referee simply did not let us touch the Barcelona players. Their passing and pressing is brilliant, but other aspects of their game, and their behaviour off the pitch, means that as far as I’m concerned, they will never count among the great teams.

    @Mandy dodd

    Yes, the timing of the RVP sending off was brilliant. I can’t shake the feeling that we had them beaten. If their post game comments and their crassness is anything to go by, then they knew that too, and that they resent the issue ever being raised.

  • Marcus

    Paul C says:

    It took an insane performance by Inter last year to stop them. That is what we need to aspire to.

    This is where the irony and the media scirocco kick in Paul…

    Did you not notice, Wenger took a leaf, and a chapter, stuff it, Wenger took the whole frikkin chapter and verse out of Mourinho’s inter book, and defended deep like Rourkes drift.

    Er.

    MYTH 1 – BUSTED – Wenger has no plan B
    MYTH 2 – BUSTED – Wenger only knows one way to play
    MYTH 3 – BUSTED – Arsenal can’t defend
    MYTH 4 – BUSTED – Wenger is a dreamy footballing romantic with his head in les nuages
    MYTH 5 – BUSTED – Arsenal were losing this game, and the sending off papers over the cracks

    er, FUCK NO….

    arsenal were winning.

    3-2

    One more goal and Barcelona would need 3 in half an hour.

    ER…Wenger was playing a masterstroke.

    Mohammed Ali took 8 rounds of grief , and then knocked out the fearsome Foreman.

    There is more than one way to skin a cat.

    In the eyes of the Britisch, media, there is only one way….to depict the cat as French, to stick an Arsenal shirt on it, put a palletboard around its neck titled which might as well bear a yellow star, and then kick it unceremoniously to death

    It is one thing to lose ANOTHER rigged match, but it really is pouring acid into the wound to hear all the tired
    endlessly respun platitudes of the media voiced by one and all, over and over again…especially unpleasant when Gooner ‘supporters’ voice them

  • Shard

    @Marcus

    I agree with all you say. But I think Paul C meant we should aspire to reach Barcelona’s level of performance, not Inter’s.

  • Wrenny

    Sharky,
    Just to clarify, I neither agreed or disagreed with the theory that Arsenal have some kind of mental strength problem. I just don’t care about the notion, because I don’t deal in those perceptions and gut feelings.

    I don’t spend time with the Arsenal players, I don’t know them personally. I don’t know and can’t argue with you whether they lack mental fortitude, or if they lack leadership. I don’t work at the training ground either – so I have no idea if the medical team isn’t up to scratch, or if the coaching methods cause more injuries, or if Arsenal players have brittle-bone disease, or if there’s too many chips and not enough vegetables on the lunch menu. I don’t know, and you don’t know. But these are the kind of stupid things that some fans will speak about as if they have great authority on the matter, when they don’t know either. And if I don’t have information on these matters, I’m not going to formulate an opinion on them and point to these as ‘problems’ that ought to be fixed. Because that’s f*cking dumb.

    When it comes to something like ‘mental strength’, people will see what they want to see. As an example, some say that after we beat Chelsea we went and drew at Wigan, and it shows we’re weak. Right?

    Well, on the flipside you can argue that after we lost at Man Utd, we responded brilliantly with the emphatic win against Chelsea. And after that disappointing draw at Wigan, we responded again with a brilliant 3-0 win at Birmingham where few teams come away with three points. Such great strength to come back from poor results eh?

    ‘Mental strength’ is something mysterious and intangible, and you can spin-doctor it any way you like to prove a point.

  • Marcus

    How do you quantify mental strength?

    Fabregas was the guy who stepped up and hit the penalty that won the European Champ for Spain, and got the 400 ton gorilla off their back.

    That takes incredible mental strength.

    The defence showed incredible resiliance…actually slightly reminiscent of England’s finest hour, Campbell and Adams V Argentina 1998.

    The mental strength now needed is to actually believe they can win the Prem, when every game they seem to be playing 11+1 , where the 1 = an agenda hammered out somewhere not far from FA HQ.

  • Sharky

    Casual Observer,

    Don’t be so flippant with the troll dig. Maybe I should have taken the red pill and woken up in a world where Arsenal were going for their 19th title, lol.

  • Shard

    As opposed to going for the 14th?

  • DC

    As you say Walter, defeat last night may well prove to be a blessing in disguise in such a tight EPL season but victory was so very near and could so very easily have gone our way if not for YET MORE shameful goings-on that we all witnessed and i have no desire to revisit again!
    Make no mistake, Barcelona are the best “passing” team on the planet and their whole game is based on that being their main form of defence. However, last night the boys showed everyone that they can do things the other way too if necessary, which is very encouraging for the future, and that they can compete with this passing juggernaut for a FULL NINETY MINUTES when all things are permitted to be equal between the players, the squads and of course, the officiating!
    @ Casual Observer and Wrenny, i totally agree with your sentiments and analyses. Why should we go away from home and play in a totally different way from the way we normally play unless we had a game-plan?! Barcelona knew this too and at 1-0 then 1-1 deep into the second half with 11 vs 11, and a frustrated and tiring Barcelona from their relentless pressing game, you could easily have envisaged the scenario of the last 25 minutes of the second half at the Emirates recurring. Guardiola and Barcelona knew this and whether they nearly scored immediately after Busquets’ OG is irrelevant as another away goal from us was still highly likely with our full-compliment of players as the half went on.
    Barcelona are an intelligent passing side and no one can begrudge them that label but to heap unquestioned praise on them for this “assisted” victory is wrong and there is no need for us Gooners to be too disheartened! The lads did us and the club proud over the two-legs and they will do even furthemore more next year!
    As the Lord Wenger has openly intimated, overcoming and triumphing over the “Anti-Arsenal” corruption in the Premiership this season is our priority, then next season, we can focus on successfully tackling the Champions League “Pro-La Liga” corruption as the “New English Champions”! Strength & Honour as always!

  • Marcus

    The mental strength argument is a bit flaky sharky.

    WE all know how the last time Arsenal were in sight, we were hounded out of the running by atrocious refereeing, with a hint of something darker under the belly.

    We played an absolute blinder in the European cup,2006, and fell to plain misfortune, punching way beyond our weight to get there.(sic: SAF)

    What is mental strength?

    Andy Roddick has lost 3 times in Wimbledon finals…..in your book he would be a bottler. But that is just not the reality. The reality is is he is an exceptional fighter who just doesn’t have the raw gifts of Federer. The 1 and half hour toe-to-toe fifth set at Wimbledon 2009 was incredible. He lost, so I guess in your book he is a waste of space.

    The trouble now for Arsenal is that after so many setbacks, many NOT self-inflicted, but externally caused, (sorry but examine the amount of times Arsenal have been kicked off the park, or had a one-eyed ref), the mental burden will become much more intense.

  • Sharky

    Wrenny,

    You say that you don’t deal in those perceptions and gut feelings. What! you didn’t think that we would beat Birmingham or should have beaten them. You might as well have approached that final as a neutral if you had no preconcieved notion that we would have won that game easily. How did you feel afterwards? Fine? all warm inside?

    Personally, I couldn’t sleep that night as I kept playing that scene over and over in my head wondering how the hell did we let that happen.

    You know what,, even if we manage to win the league after all that we have been through, people will still not give us the credit for it, they’ll just say how weak the league was this year.

    Hope we can keep this discussion amicable.

  • Sean

    ‘Rigged match’.
    Arsenal?
    I expect the supporters of Wolves, Stoke, Bolton and Wigan would have something to say about the likes of Arsenal, Man. U., Chelsea and Liverpool getting…..erm…..’marginal’ decisions over the years.
    And how many times have we seen the appalling behaviour of two of the boring CL sides result in no decision by the referee in order to ‘keep 11 men on the field’…..’for the TV audience’?
    If Liverpool v Man. Utd. had been Stoke City v Wigan on Sunday there is NO WAY both teams would have had 11 men on the field at the end.

  • Marcus

    SHARKY:you didn’t think that we would beat Birmingham or should have beaten them. You might as well have approached that final as a neutral if you had no preconcieved notion that we would have won that game easily.

    Why was beating BHam ever a foregone conclusion?
    Personally I expected us to lose, probably because the match meant 1000 times more to Bham than us.
    Any team on its day can rattle any other team…to enter a final against a fellow premiership side with anything less than total respect for the opposition is lunacy

  • DC

    Let’s hope that the Italian League leaders can ease some of our pain by ending the Tiny Tots season tonight! Somehow though, i see that as a remote possibility with Bale back! Shame!!!

  • Shard

    @sean

    And that makes it ok?? By ‘crying’ foul, if what is achieved is that refereeing and football administration becomes better and more transparent, then won’t it be worth it? Stoke city will benefit as much as Arsenal will, and apart from deriving the petty pleasure that having a little bit of a swipe at someone else provides, I don’t see why anyone should have a problem with it. Apart from the authorities of course since any power to the people would curb their own.

  • Paul C.

    Marcus – as pointed out above, I meant we need to aspire to Barca’s level, not Inter’s. What I meant was that it took an insane performance by Inter last year to beat Barca, and if opponents have to play out of their skin to beat you then that is all you can ask for. You are never going to win every game, and sometimes opponents will have unbelievable performances and win, that is the way it goes.

    As far as tactics go, I thought AW laid out our game plan really well last night. AW couldnt have foreseen Cesc and Diaby being such non-entities in midfield, that put far too much pressure on young Jack and our back-4. But even with that we were one kamikaze moment away from getting to half-time all square and I really felt that if we did that (similar to getting to half-time 0-0 in the famous Anfield match in ’89) then we would have a great chance. You can’t criticize AW for Cesc’s moment of madness. Up till then I thought we had defended very well.

    I would have loved to have seen how we could have done 11 v 11 after the own goal gave us the advantage. But alas. It would have been one hell of a rearguard action, that’s for sure. I admire the way Barca play though. They have some assholes, such as Alves, but even he is a wondrous attacking player.

    And regards that “mental strength” thing: a few years ago people were accusing Barca of not having any mental strength after they went 5 years without a trophy. Xavi, Puyol, and Iniesta were among that group. Like Wrenny says, you can use all kinds of angles to make a case for or against some kind of mental strength.

  • Marcus

    Yes, “rigged match” Sean.

    The outcome seemed pre-determined.

    Regarding the apparent bias of big clubs over small clubs, I hear you…just one of many issues plaguing British football, corrupt administration, mediocre and at times diabolical refereeing, etc etc.

    The whole thing needs sorting out…even the referees are revolting…I mean in revolt…lol… but that may be all part of the smokescreen

  • Marcus

    Ah ok PAul..sorry, i misunderstood.

    Lol…yes the mental strength argument is hilarious…

    now they are saying Federer lacks mental strength, which
    is extremely funny….here is the guy who goes 15 match points down ,
    and usually comes out at the other end….

    the Media just love talking balls

  • Shard

    @marcus

    LOL…the referees most certainly are revolting. Cheers for the laugh that produced..

    But seriously, them ‘revolting’ will probably be them demanding more ‘pay’, since it is them that take most of the heat, in the absence of which they could threaten to turn into a ‘whistleblower’ 🙂

  • Johnny Deigh

    @Wrenny – You’re right – a Spanish side (club or country) has never lost under his rule: 21 wins, 7 draws, 0 losses
    http://worldreferee.com/site/copy.php?linkID=29&linkType=referee&contextType=stats

  • Paul C.

    Marcus – absolutely right about your examples of mental strength. So many times the media use that ploy when it was simply a case of one team (or individual) being better than the other and the loser actually displaying unbelievable mental strength just to hang tough. But they (like Roddick) then get pasted with that “lack of mental strength” argument.

  • gooner80

    There is an increasing number of teams I want revenge from and in no particular order

    Spurs (at white hart lane)
    Man U
    Birmingham
    Stoke
    Barcelona
    Chelsea

  • walter

    Would be interesting to find out where he is spending his holidays….

  • Mandy Dodd

    Does anyone know if Nasri could be facing a ban or is it a fine after being charged today?

  • Johnny Deigh

    ESPN Brasil have a round table after Champions League fixtures. They spent around 20-30 minutes talking about how bad the referee was and how ruined the match. They all gave credit to Barcelona, not wanting to take anything away from their win, but they all agreed that ref interfered with the outcome of the match by sending off Van Persie, right when Arsenal looked to be coming into the match, just like in the home leg. The ref ruined what should have been an exciting match of football.

    They brought in their expert, Mauro Cezar Pereira, to assess some of the main decisions. He said he felt that it wasn’t a penalty on Messi in the first half, that RVP’s sending off was ridiculous, and that it wasn’t a penalty for Pedro that the ref gave after it appeared that the ref originally had given a goal kick based on the reaction of Pedro.

    I translated Mauro’s article from his blog giving his thoughts on the match:

    Barça were Better, Arsenal didn’t Shoot, but the Referee Interfered

    Arsenal didn’t manage a shot the entire game. Found a goal, an own goal, in the 2nd half, and didn’t do enough to merit qualification. Only that football is not played only on merit, but there is also the strategy of a battle in which each team uses the weapons at its disposal. The Gunners used what they had available facing the best team in the world, at the home of the almighty Barcelona.

    But the Spanish champions weren’t very good, they played below their ability, they created and wasted chances with a very weak performance by David Villa. And they arrived at 3 – 1 which qualified them also thanks to refereeing mistakes. Massimo Busacca went too far by sending off Van Persie and in turn interfered with the unfolding of the game. He also disrupted the course of the battle by giving a non-existant penalty to Pedro.

    Some may allege that during the first half Messi suffered a clear penalty. That’s debatable because the Argentine also forced the contact, by trying to “go inside” of Diaby and the Swiss ref didn’t give anything. If he, being so close to the action, didn’t think it was a penalty, then that’s it, full stop. It’s not the ref’s job to compensate, when he helped to decide the outcome of the match. Yes, even the best teams once in a while win with the help of the referee.

    In any case, Barcelona deserve their spot in the quarter finals. But that does not mean that the mistakes made by he who should be judging the duel should be ignored. I cannot stress enough: whoever whistles a match must serve as a mediator, not as a deciding figure of a big football match. These European referees must be watching a lot of matches of the leagues here in Brazil…

    ~ Mauro Cezar Pereira

    http://tinyurl.com/4d9hza5

  • Johnny Deigh

    @Walter “Would be interesting to find out where he is spending his holidays….”

    Probably on somebody’s yacht in Marbella.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Barca Madrid final anyone?

  • Shard

    I can’t wait for Walter’s ref review. I will have a look at the match again to determine in my mind just how much were Barcelona allowed to get away with things. I have a feeling that MANY fouls that they committed were just not given, which would also mean that we couldn’t attack at all, which Xavi seeks to highlight, minus the referee’s influence of course, in order to protect their perceived monopoly over true attacking football. But he also said sending RVP off was the correct decision , which just shows him up as an idiot, or a liar. If it were Barca on the receiving end of that they’d probably have turned on the sprinkler right then.

    The loss was unfair, at least in the way it came about if not in itself. But the reaction to the defeat (by some of our own ‘fans’) and even to the victory (by Barca themselves) prove that there really is no justice in football (another false claim by Xavi)

  • Pete

    Has anybody seen these photos (RVP and Nasri manhandled by Barca…)

    http://twitpic.com/47v9ox
    http://twitpic.com/47viku

    Unbelievable. 🙁 Should have been 2 straight reds?

    Pete

  • Mandy Dodd

    As I say, this ref was no bumbling homer, he was a street smart cheat. The timing of the RVP SO, the way he instantly invoked the time wasting rule to get him in the way he did, that was calculated and thought out.
    I am sure he hoped Barca would be 4-0 up and he would not have to compromise himself in such a way – but at 1-1 he knew he had to act, he did so in clinically erverting the laws and spirit of the game.
    Of all the refereeing decisions I have seen, this is the one that leaves me in no doubt the game is bent. The pen was harsh – he ran into the leg of Kos – i my opinion, deliberatly but at that stage of the game , Barca were going to get everything from this ref.
    We suffer from bent refs in England and Europe

  • Shard

    @mandy dodd

    it is like 2007-08 again isn’t it? The only thing different is that we are better now. I think all our players will be extremely focused and wanting to win every game from now. I’m also sure that if the referees continue to cheat us out of wins in every game, we will have Arsene making an accusation in public. For better or worse.

  • walter

    If the refs would have been reversed we would have had a far better chance. The ref in the first leg Rizolli is known as a very strong person who doesn’t easily gives in to pressure from the crowds.
    So the appointments of the refs said something for those who want to see.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Very similar to that season – but yes, we can do something this year – IF our key players stay fit. But we cannot underestimate the red refs – Howard Webb will cross out path at some vital point.
    As has been pointed out, the lack of midweek games coming up compared to rivals can help us.
    The reaction of alleged Arsenal supporters to this game depresses me. We had our 2 best players not fully fit, our GK injured, others such as Diaby not match fit, key players such as Song and Theo injured, were playing away to the best team I have ever seen – yet the bent ref took our threat seriously enough to have to step in, and seriously embarrass himself in the process. Hopefully this will damage his career – even EUFA do not want such obvious shows of match fixing. Yet, on Talkshite, so called Arsenal fans, or maybe Spuds/ Mancsleepers were lining up calling for Wengers head. Ex players were not helping “George Graham would have won that game with a game plan” – thank you Mr Perry Groves.

    Me – I blame Denilson for last night!

  • Shard

    @Pete

    And while UEFA charge wenger and Nasri for their comments to the referee, where are reports, or calls for them to ban Abidal and whoever the other c*** was?

  • Pete

    @Shard
    That is the million dollar question.
    I’d be amazed if they are charged.
    And disgusted if they aren’t.
    Probably just me, but the world seems to be getting more and more morally bankrupt.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Pete, I must say you are shaking my ref review upside down.

    The picture from Nasri is the best proof you can find that the ref was an absolute disgrace. It happened right under his nose. For god sake what does a ref want more to send a player off??????
    That should have been two players send off. This is an utter disgrace!

    If Uefa would charge Wenger and Nasri I would go to those C*nts and ask if a ref who let such a thing go under his nose is worhty of being a ref in the CL.

  • Johnny Deigh

    @Mandy Dodd – I agree… it was never a penalty for Pedro, he let the ball go past, buckled his knee and ran into Koscielny’s leg. In other words, he ignored the ball, went for the defender and went to ground. The ref didn’t point to the spot right away either.

  • Mandy Dodd

    The European CL is these days about as true a competition as the continents annual song contest.
    With about as much chance of anything English winning this year.
    Nothing will change while Blattini are there I’m afraid.

  • marcus

    Even Walter is losing it now.

    Walter, I would love to see the Machiavellian guide to refereeing:

    “How to win games for friends and how to influence games for people in high places” by Bent Whistler

    Once you’ve done the full works, it would be a real laugh to do a book launch as some pseudo Official organization like Fifal…

    Fans in fits of absolute laughter

  • DC

    From all the fallout and images that have come to light from the match, Barcelona’s victory was clearly predetermined regardless of how we chose to play. It does seem that it was just a matter of how the footballing authorities manufactured it so it didn’t appear too obvious to the watching public – THEY CLEARLY FAILED! It truly is us against all of the footballing authorities in Europe but we’re gradually wearing them down and exposing the corruption that exists, and i’m sure we will triumph very soon if we just remain steadfast in our beliefs of how the game should be played and how a football club should be run.
    @ Johnny Deigh, perhaps if we did play in the Brazilian league (the most successful exporter of world-class footballers) then maybe we’d finally get the respect and impartiality we deserve from those that are truly knowledgeable of the game?!

  • Johnny Deigh

    @DC – Yes, it’s true that Brazil produce a huge number of fantastic players. However they know that their referees are horrible – and that’s why Mauro ended his article like that. He sarcastically meant that the European refs much be watching Brazilian football and picking up bad habits from Brazilian refs.
    By the way, there was a big match-fixing scandal in the Brazilian league that came out not too long ago though I don’t think Mauro was alluding to that.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_football_match-fixing_scandal

  • Pete

    @Walter
    Walter, I must say that when my wife (not a footie fan, but a teacher!) saw those photos, she got very upset/angry. The problem from her perspective is the old one, that if kids see (quite appalling) behaviour like that not getting punished, it hardly encourages good behaviour in the classrooms and society in general…

  • Sean

    Marcus
    The outcome ‘seemed predetermined’ because Arsenal aren’t as good as Barca and hadn’t learned from the hammering they got last season.
    Ironically, Barca also hadn’t learned from last season as, for the second season running, they allowed the second leg an importance when, at half-time in the first leg, it should have been (like vast chunks of the tedious competition) already an academic exercise.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    A letter I wrote this morning in disgust in response to reading this morning’s Independent.

    It was addressed to all three Party Leaders at Westminster and 606 at the BBC.

    I trust there is not a single Arsenal fan who does not agree with my sentiments……….

    Sirs

    The insidious article in today’s Independent by Sam Wallace implies that Arsene Wenger, manager of Arsenal FC, has decided to deliberately ‘throw’ the FA Cup quarter final at Old Trafford this Saturday. See http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/european/wengers-rivals-will-be-fretting-now-he-can-focus-solely-on-league-2237353.html

    There are several thousand Arsenal FC supporters who were encouraged to purchase tickets for that game by Arsenal FC at £41 a ticket, not to mention transportation costs considerably inflated on public transport due to the short notice of the purchase, hence the inability to buy cheap Apex returns. All in all, it is expected that > £500,000 will be expended, excluding food and refreshments, hotel accommodation etc by those supporters.

    I am sure that not one of them would have undertaken such a financial outlay if they knew that the tie would be thrown and I expect categorical assurances from Arsenal FC Directors, manager and players that they will lose every single match in the League from now to the end of the season, threreby ensuring that they fail to qualify for next year’s Champions League, unless they either play to win on Saturday or refund, in full, all legitimate expenses associated with Saturday’s trip, documenting in national newspapers their contrition and remorse for such unacceptable business fraud, not to mention revealing in full to Fraud Squad officers any other occasions where such fraud of supporters paying high prices for tickets has taken place.

    There is an arrogance in Mr Wallace’s article which is contemptible and I suggest you require him to justify his comments. They are disgraceful, incompatible with being a sports journalist and should lead to him asking M. Wenger an absolutely direct question at the next Press Conference: ‘If you knew that you would have your genitals cut off for lying, would you indicate to this meeting whether you are throwing Saturday’s match to concentrate on the League??’

    If he will not do that, he should be relieved of his duties for ‘bringing the sport of football into disrepute’.

    I am not joking and I will not back down. Either football fans know that tickets are purchased to watch a fair fight, or they are not sold.

    End of story.

    YF

  • Sean

    …..And which clubs do you think have most contributed to this ‘do they or do they not want to win this competition’ mentality?
    The hardest opponents that Arsenal could have faced in the League Cup was a club like Birmingham City and I was amazed that some bookies had them at 6-1 and even 7-1 to win the game!
    Had Arsenal faced Chelsea or Man. Utd. either one might have put out a weakened team to ‘save them’ for the wretched ‘Champions’ League or the Premiership.
    Shot with your own gun, I’d say.
    The 6th Round of the FA Cup in the year 2011 is, alas, not the place to see the best of the competition…..for that I’d point you in the direction on the opening rounds in August through to the end (with, this year, Leyton Orient the honorable exception) of January.

  • des

    Instead of winning our group games, we let it slip. The away games at Braga and Shakhtar saw totally the wrong team selections with the introduction of the usual suspects. Time and time again, this motley crew persistently demonstrate that they just can’t do the business. These were the same two teams that we thumped eleven goals past at home earlier in the season. Losing these two away legs was where the damage was done. We consequently failed to win our group and got paired with Barcelona whilst Shakhtar played and beat Roma.

    As runners-up in our group, we even lost the right to play our last 16 home leg second. Nevertheless we all made a huge noise and waved our free red and white flags when Barcelona came to town and sucked in two late goals in what has been dubbed the greatest five minutes ever at Ashburton.

    In last night’s return leg, the actions of our two men who we were sweating on for fitness, both played a huge part in our demise. The actions of both Cesc and Percy must have made them as totally gutted as the rest of us. Both these players are total geniuses and we are honoured to see them in action week in and week out. The fact that yet another awful ref saw fit to play five minutes of time added on at the end of the first half provided Cesc with enough time for his worst ever touch in a red shirt. A few minutes into the second half saw Percy’s departure for shooting at goal a whole second after the whistle had been blown. This is exactly the same trick that the likes of Blackburn and Bolton get away with every time with the score at 0-0 whenever they visit The Grove.

    Nearing the end of the game, whilst Barca were playing keep-ball, we had just one chance to score the goal which would have taken us through. Jack, who had yet another outstanding match for us, provided the opportunity for Barry who was in loads of space. Please, Barry, for the first time in your life, produce a decent first touch and make yourself the same hero that you say you are. We were off our feet in anticipation. And we all know what happened next. Barry’s first touch was as woeful as it has been all season.

    Despite being poor second-bests on the night, that was our big chance. Yet again, we fluffed it. It marked the exact moment when our ticket to Europe expired. We were architects of our own downfall.

  • terry

    Hey Walter- back to your usual magic bean spin eh? Mate you gotta win them games to be in for a shout at the title 😉

    The devils will put you to the sowrd on saturday then you can fully concentrate on the league and when that runs out you can all say it was a big improvement and you managed to finish second. haha – what a bunch of losers.

    Mark my words next season will be extra tough for you as the likes of chelsea, liverfools and Citeh will spend big and if you do decide to keep the Frog in charge then you can kiss goodbye to the top 4 finish. Oh and i see the shift in power in London is suddenly changing to the white corner of London. It just doesnt get any better for you does it?

  • Neven

    In addition to those pictures of Adriano & Abidal grabbing Nasri’s throat, here’s another one showing Victor Valdes shoving Nasri in the face:

    http://img638.imageshack.us/i/tumblrlhrm02eoet1qcimf9.gif/

    So make that 3 Barca players who should’ve been sent off before half-time, with the score at 0-0 and 2-1 to us. The worst thing is that the referee is standing right besides Valdes & co. when it happens. Selective blindness, perhaps?

    Also, one could argue that van Persie would not have gotten a yellow card at all, considering that the throat-grab and it not being punished is what made van Persie lose his concentration and earn him his first caution.

  • Neven

    *Oops, I meant Abidal grabbing Robin’s throat.

  • hainalt

    I would like to see Denilson, Diaby, Rosicky and Squillaci all leave no matter what. They’ll be replaced by Lansbury, Ramsey, Frimpong and Bartley.

    Then I would like Bendtner and Eboue sold. Backups would need to be bought for these two.

    So my shopping list would be:
    1 Young Right Back (to replace Bac in a few years)
    1 Quality Striker to lessen the load off RVP
    1 Quality Defensive Midfielder to give competition to Song and nurture Frimpong.

  • hainalt

    It’s curious that the fans of other teams often want us to keep Wenger. Is that because he’s not a threat; that he won’t be winning any silverware again?

  • hainalt

    It’s the same every year, we start well, ok over xmas and its falls apart in March/April. Why do we expect anything else? I had a dream yesterday we signed Cahill, Parker and Benzema!! We are only 3 major players away from success. I’m also throwing this out there, but I don’t believe Fabregas can be captain, I think he should be stripped of it asap. Two reasons, firstly he clearly doesn’t want to be at the might emirates anymore and secondly he had no authority on the pitch, he’s the one that needs a rocket after that dreadful backheel, who’s giving it to him? Scott Parker would have torn into him. He’s not fit to be captain and I’m sure Wenger did a ‘Thierry Henry’ and gave him the captaincy to keep him long-term. Wilshire would be a better fit in my book, he’s vocal and a spiky character, In a few years time (provided we can hold onto him) he’ll be the Arsenal captain…and a fine one at that. I never thought I’d say this but I would love it if Wenger sold Fabregas this summer to Real, despite Barcelona. Take 50m and re-invest in the squad, we’ve won naff all with Fabregas (bar 05 FA cup) so maybe it’s time for a shift in the squad, with the rise of Nasri and Wilshire and Fab’s poor form, why not? 50m would get us Parker, Cahill and Benzema. Denilson and Rosicky out the door as well.

  • hainalt

    I’ve wanted Wenger gone for years, – this latest season and its key defeats is just more predictable grist to the mill. we’ll never win the PL (let alone minor silverware) under AW again. The trouble is, he never REACTS to these defeats. Do you think there’ll be a massive clear-out of the dross in summer? Neither do I. Do you think he will bust a gut to bring in the experienced, top-class players we need? Neither do I. Will he suddenly be able to make changes in personnel and tactics when they’re needed during a game? Neither do I. These days he is as lazy as the squad he has assembled. And many fans have become lazy, too. They don’t really mind these defeats. They don’t really mind the fact that we finish empty-handed every year. But we need a manager who will shake things up and raise the bar once again. We need players with heart who aren’t in the comfort zone, we need a hunger for silverware rather than just the CL qualification cash, we need a board which will keep our manager on his toes. And we need fans who won’t just settle for second best all the time. Otherwise, we’ll just keep meandering on, making the same old mistakes every season and every transfer window.

  • terry

    Not that it’s any sort of badge of honour but I’m sure I pre-date you on here, walter. Anyway, you’re another one who is in denial and wants to move swiftly on rather than address the issues… just like some fans have been glossing over your shortcomings for the past six years because there’s always another match coming.

  • mehoot

    It’s amazing what people what to kid themselves on. The situation this season is no different to the previous 5. Wenger is wedded to certain players and a way of playing that may look pretty when we are beating Orient 5-0 but always comes short when it matters. It is time to have a clear out of some of the squad and get in some proven experienced talent but you and I know he wont do it. On the radio this morning a football journo from the Guardian and full blown Gooner was saying Wenger needs to let some new blood into the coaching team but only wants low profile yes men – there was a discussion about poor Pat Rice. Apparently, Steve Bould is being kept out of the first team set up cos Wenger thinks he will challenge him too much. At the end of the day Wenger is being indulged by a Board who are taking us for a ride. We have the 4th highest wage bill in the PL yet Wenger is doing no more than the minimum expected with the vast resources at his disposal. Losing to Barca is always on the cards for us but losing to the likes of Birmingham is a disgrace. It’s interesting that Pep Guardiola said there is no pressure for AFC to win things. The form of the team is poor at the moment yet all Wenger can blame is ref decisions for our plight like he did after the Sunderland game as well. We have to hope Manure go off the rails big time to have a chance of winning something but when will Wenger and the Board really start the need to change?

  • mehoot

    This was one of the most one-sided games I have seen for many years. How Wenger thought he could get a result by his negative tactics beggars belief. Arsenal showed almost no attacking ambition. Wenger’s menopausal-inspired antics are becoming an embarrassment.

    Wenger got the result that he deserved. He fielded an 11-man defence in a team with no attacking ambition or creative flair, in the hope that he could defend a one-goal advantage with heavy tackles, time-wasting and kicking the creative Barcelona players.

    It is frustrating to be totally outplayed by a team with superior skills, particularly when they show their contempt for your team by playing the whole game at a walking pace, but there is no excuse for Wenger’s behavior. He became an acute embarrassment years ago when he developed his early-onset menopause and his deepening paranoia. His astonishing performance last night, dancing along the touch-line like a demented stick insect wearing a water-proof sleeping bag, was farcical. His bleating about the red card is the latest example of his dishonesty. Van Persie was as active in time wasting during the first half as any other member of his team, particularly after the feigned injury to Wilshire. His excuse for the time-wasting offence that led to his dismissal lacks all credibility. He, and every other player on both sides, heard and responded to every other blast from the referee’s whistle. I watched the incident again this morning and it was blatant time wasting.

    Arsenal lost, not because they were punished for unsporting behavior, but because they were totally outplayed in all aspects of the game by a superior and talented team. Whatever tactics were used, Arsenal could never have prevented Barcelona from winning this game, but they could have tried to make a game of it. Not attempting one shot on goal was appalling, especially in the second half when, as Wenger claimed, “the game opened up”. The violence shown by Van Persie to Alves that led to his first caution may well have been directly inspired by Wenger’s irrational antics. His paranoia is deepening, made worse by the magical glasses with which he views his team’s performances.

    Wenger is now the problem. His antics are clearly affecting his team, responsible for the constant sense of injustice that permeates his team which leads to the physical aggression of his players, the yellow cards they are awarded, and the constant crowding around the referee to dispute every decision.

  • Sharky

    There have been a few responses to my initial comment yesterday which argues that other top four teams can be accused of bottling it in games they have lost. The thing is, thats irrelevent, the season is a long hard slog for any team that finishes in the top 4 and only one team can win it. As it currently stands, it looks like a two horse race going into he last third. Would anybody bet their last £5.00 on Arsenal going the distance to win it or Man Utd. The form book says Man Utd, not based on this moment in time but based on their experience of going the distance on numerous occasions in recent seasons. Whereas my experience of of Arsenal’s recent run ins leads me to think that it be another season where we just fade away with the winning tape in sight.

  • hainalt

    Now we all know how much our club love a pound note, and most of you probably aren’t supersticious, however these screenings really ARE cursed!!! Every single game there are one’s which we could/should win and something mental happens!!!

    I went to every one of these except the Barca game two days ago (need I say anything about that result and the way it happened)! The last one I went to was Newcastle 4-4…we all know what happened then! Prior to that it was Birmingham, you know the one: PHILLIPS when we lost the league effectively and Manuel threw it into his net?? Ah then prior to that it was Villa away. The game that was stuck in the week of death for us (manure, chavs and mickey mousers all in one week). Game ended 0-0 Rosicky hit the bar, we hit the post, open goals, peno decisions the lot. Before that it was Sunderland, when Bent scored the winner when we dominated, and to top it off the first one we had…..drumroll…..manure, champs league 1st leg!

    Even Charlie George, who compares most of these said as a joke at the Newcastle game at half time when we were 4-0 up: “I’ve been to every one of these and NEVER seen an Arsenal win. If we don’t win today, I’m going to quit my job here”

    If we don’t win the WBA game (which i fully expect us not to, and bet it’s under mad circumstances like they score 2 goals at the end, and get a peno in 5 mins past extra time) I really think we need a petition or something to stop these needless money spins!!! Cursed, paranoid, coincidental?? Discuss…

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some right idiots on here today

  • WalterBroeckx

    at Pete,

    the problem for me as a ref is that when I have a player on my field doing this I send him off. Only 3 weeks ago I had such an incident.

    But when I have this next saturday people will point at Barcelona and say: why do you send people off for this, it is legal as Barcelona did it.

    I will not back off and send them off but the refs who do their games carry a lot of responsability and I don’t know if they realize it that by their bad behaviour they make life difficult for some 100.000 refs over the world who want to do a proper job.

  • WalterBroeckx

    They must grab any opportunity they can get, Mandy…

  • mehoot

    Idiots? I think you are the Idiot Mandy – Ohhh no one dare qestion Lord wenger oohhhh. seems like we have bred fans who too are happy to win nothing every year and settle for a top 4 place.

  • Scotty RSA

    why do i get to this article when i clicked on the ref index?

  • anthony

    Wow the wenger out brigade are out in force I think the ref was appaling and should have red carded Abidal. However, we were getting hammered and only inspired performances from Djourou and Almunia saved us from a mauling. So a terrible Carling Cup performance, mediocre PL performances and now the Barca game. Yes Barca are fantastic but look closely at what they are good at – athleticism, nous and superb defending. They just never let us keep the ball cos they dont give time to the opposition. These factors are down to the coaching and spirit of the their team. Barca know how to win clever – yes cheat. We have our captain trying a backheel in the middle of a battlefield, we have Diaby and Rosicky looking like by-standers. Why do our players act in such a way? So what will Wenger do? The mentality of the team stinks but its not their fault. The manager and the Board refuses to buy experience and quality and raise the bar in th team. Wenger is going round in circles and we are a laughing stock. There is no effective competition in the team. Wenger needs to stop insulting us by saying this team are winners. So on to Manure on Saturday. We need to win.

  • hainalt

    @walter – get any opportunity? We’ve had plenty of those in the past 6 years mate – it seems we will be having plenty more with this joker in charge

  • Mandy Dodd

    Mehoot et al, – you sound like a fan who has been living in a shadow for quite a few years – and Wenger has played a large part of keeping your team in such a shadow. Just as long as you understand that?
    Still, your desire to have the club rid of Wenger shows how highly you actually rate him, and for that I commend you

  • pires

    How comes Mehoot and Terry come on to only indulge us in your insightful posts (he’s rubbish, that’s rubbish, everything’s rubbish) on rare occasions, normally after a defeat. Yet, since Shifty was jogged on, almost to the day….you’ve been all over this forum like a rash. The only other person I remember having such an unhealthy interest in responding to every positive/constructive post.

  • pires

    Just watched on ATVO! I tell you what, whatever people say about him not buying this that and the other, I am so proud with the way he acts and talks about us! Absolute model professional, and stands up and protects his players at every single turn!!! He’s had a right go at UEFA! Then you look at y*ds and manure manager. One swears on live telly and is a ‘right old’ wheeler dealer, and the other publicly comes out to beg shrek to stay, sayin he wants away, and kicks boots in his players heads if they lose! Embarrisment!!

    Big up AW

  • harrish

    I think pple need to give our manager credit for building this squad. Just look at city folks. Money doesn’t buy victory. Two nil loss to the mighty kiev

  • Neven

    Walter,

    “But when I have this next saturday people will point at Barcelona and say: why do you send people off for this, it is legal as Barcelona did it.”

    Sadly, it has already begun; a Liverpool fan I was engaged in a debate with believes the throat-clutching is “not a sending-off offence, maybe a yellow at most”.

    Of course, he thinks RvP’s push on Alves was a “rough challenge” and “possibly worthy of a red”, so that shows what he knows.

  • adam

    Blimey, Glad I don’t support Man City. All that money and nothing to show for it! Within the next five years, this club will be so profitable after settling all its debts and renegotiating its sponsorship with Nike and Emirates. The youth option was brought in for the stadium move, the club has a great future.