Ah the joys of football. A year ago, after seeing off the club curiously known as Steve Umbrella and having won 2 and lost 1 in the EPL we were written off. A top four finish was not possible. The end was nigh. Mid-table beckoned. Aston “Hold Your Head” would overtake us.
And you know what? Not a single one of the journalists who predicted that has apologised. Still its fun to listen to Liverpudlian whines.
So, looking back a year, the second qualifying game of the Euro Cuppy Wuppy was against FC Twenty-two-and-a-half and we put out this team…
Sagna, Gallas, Djourou, Clichy
Walcott, Fabregas (Song), Denilson, Nasri (Eboue)
Van Persie (Adebayor), Bendtner
Nasri, Gallas, Walcott and Bendtner scored.
From that starting line up we have lost Djourou, Walcott, Fabregas, Nasri.
We have gained Song (in the sense he is twice the player he was when he came on as a sub a year ago), Ramsey (ditto Song, although he didn’t get a game this time around), Diaby, Vermaelin, Arshavin, Wilshere, Merida, Gibbs, Silvestre.
(Vela is out for a month, Fabregas for ? just this game, Djourou for another 3 weeks, Nasri for another 5 weeks, and Walcott for another two weeks. These figures are of course estimates – no one knows really, so actually as a paragraph this is actually not very helpful. On the other hand Rosicky is back in training.)
Anyway, compared with a year back we have much tougher opposition, four players out and five in contention. Plus the increased flexibility of the midfield, and the growth in ability of certain players.
I suspect that our forward three will see this as the chance to get going after a duff start (in terms of goals, not in terms of performance). So that’s three goals. A fourth from Denilson, and that gives us 4-0. Gallas, deeply frustrated that he has not been able to score with his bottom will get caught upfield and out of position. 4-1. Diaby will want to show this was no one-off performance (after being compared by Wenger to Vieira) and will score. 5-1 to the Arsenal. Wave your scarf around a lot as per instructions. Arshavin will then fancy two more for his hat-trick but the Lord Wenger will suggest that it is not a good idea to rub it in, so that will be that.
Meanwhile in other news the airwaves have been full of pundits strutting their stuff vis a vis Millwall and West Iceland. One ex-copper came on and said that it wasn’t the police’s fault last night, because they were caught unawares. If that was so, they were the only people in London who didn’t know.
The Millwall manager came on and said, quite truthfully, that there was not one Millwall supporter on the pitch, and then a West Iceland steward came on and said Millwall were not blameless, because they were goading the Iceland supporters. Ah well, they are to blame then. Taunting indeed. Whatever next.
Meanwhile the Radio 5 “experts” (I don’t use the word in its dictionary sense) said that the FA will come down heavily on West Iceland and the police would take action against the supporters.
That would be the same use of “heavily” as seen in the Portsmouth v Tottenham game, when over 1000 Tiny Totts hurled homophobic abuse at Sol for 90 minutes, were filmed doing so, were watched by the police, were not arrested, and then, oh yes, four of them were put on trial. I think we know what will happen next. WHU get a warning, six fans will be banned for life.
What should happen, and it is only my opinion of course, is that West Iceland should be thrown out of the Little Cup, just as the Tiny Totts should have had 3 points removed for their fans behaviour at Portsmouth. Just as the manager of Spain should have been kicked out for his racism against Henry. Just as Serbia should not have been fined £16,000 for the disgusting racism of its fans, but should have been thrown out of the European and World cups for four years.
But of course none of this happens. Life isn’t like that. The authorities speak a good fight, and then effectively tolerate violence, racism and homophobia.
Even better for those in power, the event helps gloss over the very serious allegations being made against the police over their action against Sunderland supporters at Newcastle station at the start of the month, when police with batons and dogs are accused of attacking supporters. They used a tactic that anyone who has been on a demonstration will have seen – a line of police in front of you, and a line behind and the two move together. Two supporters received serious head wounds.
The police deny excessive violence, and their account is utterly different from that of supporters who have made numerous independent written statements.
One written statement, published in the Guardian, says, “The police, for reasons best known to themselves, launched a vicious assault on some of our fans with their batons and let their dogs repeatedly bite some of the fans who had already received severe head wounds or were already lying prone on the ground as a result of being caught up in the melee the police had created.”
The Independent Police Complaints Commissioner claims to have seen CCTV footage, which clears the police of wrongdoing, and instead they have praised the police’s courage. However the Commissioner has refused to release the CCTV film (for operational reasons), and having been cleared the police have now put out press releases saying that four police dogs were attacked by fans. The only CCTV that has been released shows fans waiting for trains – there is no sign of any violence.
Of course I wasn’t there – any more than I was at West Iceland, but I’ve been an away supporter enough to know what a mess most police operations are at football games. But to be clear, I am not saying that the police are to blame. Of course not – they didn’t invade the pitch last night (although reading the Sunderland reports I start to wonder if they didn’t start the fight in Newcastle).
What I am saying is that in my very personal opinion after a lifetime of football, and some years of political demonstrating in my youth, the police (at the events I have been at) are often woefully inadequately prepared and trained. You only had to be at the Cardiff away game last season and walk out of the ground to witness that. “C Division Close Up” screamed a Sargent. “What’s that mean?” said the officer standing next to me to his mate. That’s how it goes.
Meanwhile, to finish on happier news, Untold Arsenal has signed a deal for our bloggy things to be translated into Russian. See this site, if you speak Russian that is.
And that’s about it. Hardly worth going to the match tonight now you know the score. Although since I have my ticket, and since Ian is driving, I guess I might as well toddle along. I’ve got every result right so far, even if the scores have occasionally been marginally out.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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