Now the dust has settled, how do we really feel?

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So a week ago many people, myself included were thinking we could do it, we have a better team this season and we have learned from the bad decisions of last, …or have we?

There is no doubt we are better than last season, the team is playing better, the sad thing is certain players are not, I won’t name them, but they clearly aren’t playing better and for me should not be in this team. We could have replaced them but didn’t. We got serious injuries and should have addressed that in the window, but again, we didn’t, We are financially stable but we don’t go to the Grove to marvel at a balance sheet, we go to see our team win something.

Don’t we?

This time last season we fielded a weakened side and went out of the FA Cup, shortly after we got stuffed in the Champions league, so did we learn? Time will tell, and we’ll find out on Wednesday.

We didn’t lose on Saturday, we drew, so perspective people! But we drew because our finishing was shocking and we have a very poor keeper, those are the facts, they can’t be denied, but we still needed the mancs and the chavs to drop points in two games, we still do, so from that point of view, nothing has changed, someone or both will drop points this weekend, the best we can hope for is a draw. Then we need to whop Wolves. Really whop them.

The other two aren’t just winning, they are destroying, and that’s what we should be doing, if we want to win the league, we can’t say Birmingham did well against the other two, they are Birmingham and we are Arsenal, again please, perspective.

If we beat Barca convincingly and stuff Wolves, then it’s back on, if we don’t, then we have to once again do the unthinkable and look over our shoulders, it’s still possible to finish outside the top four, in fact it’s just as easy to do that as win the league.

Whatever happens, whatever the results, we still have had to rely on the two above us dropping a bunch of points, had we bought a few players in either window, we may have run away with it, we didn’t and that can’t be changed, we have to get behind the team, lift their spirits and go and thump Barcelona. We have a chance, Iniesta is missing and Thierry won’t have his heart in it…I hope!

As pedro said yesterday, it was fun while it lasted but we have merely papered over the cracks this season, as Arshavin said, we need some top players in there and we can afford them, yes I know he was guilty of some misses, but I would sooner have a team of Arshavin’s than a team of head spinning Denilson’s and butter fingered second division La Liga keepers, because my friends, that’s all he is.

As for Theo, what a huge disappointment he is, I thought he was the next great English hope, I wish someone would pay me £60k a week to be ordinary, come on Theo, you are better than your performances show, you are, it’s now time to deliver.

Cesc has yet again said that he is going nowhere, bless him, but Chamakh looks doubtful and if rumours are to be believed Carlton Cole is on the radar.

Now I think Cole is a good player, but he is as much of a crock as Djourou, Rosicky and Robin and we really should be setting our sights higher, we didn’t make the move from Highbury to have the worlds best set of accounts, we made the move to compete with the big boys, those are the words of Wenger, not me, so let’s start competing next year boss, let’s do what we need to win things again, let’s forget about carrying players because one day they will be good, if that’s the case, loan them out until they are. We are a football club, not an Academy!

I’m looking forward to the Barca game, because even if we don’t progress, I can say I saw their team, but I still have a sneaky feeling we’ll beat them, maybe I’m as delusional as someone else we all know and love, or maybe it’s because I am an Arsenal fan and will never give in until that fat ugly bitch sings, yes, she is clearing her throat, but it’s not over until it’s over.

Come on Arsenal!

Have a great day Grovers, two wins and one of them emphatic, and it’s all back on, but lets not blame the pitch, the referee or the tackles, if we don’t win, it’s down to us.


R.I.P Arsenal’s Premiership Challenge – It’s been fun.

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Well, currently I’m flatter than a warm bottle of half drunk coke. Being on the receiving end of a late goal is very painful. Watching Arsenal squander that many chances even more so. Watching Almunia cement his place in the worst Arsenal number 1 category was also pretty gutting, but not surprising.

You see, that’s the thing… poor players can only be hide their weaknesses for so long… then when you least expect it, with chip, a flap and a tap… you’re out of the Premiership. That Kevin Phillips goal didn’t deserve to be the goal that put us out of the race but it was.

I said months ago to much criticism I feared something along today’s lines. I wondered whether something major would have to occur to see him dropped and it turned out something very major happened… killing 8 months of hard work and millions of fans dreams. Still… Arsene knows. If only someone had warned him his keeper was a liability.

The game started off at a high tempo, Diaby going close early on.

Howard Webb was doing a great job of hashing up a good game of football. I have a theory… he is in place because he looks like Colina. It’s the only excuse I can think of because he’s not there on refereeing merits.

Birmingham played with a disciplined line of 8 players in front of their 18 yard box. They geared themselves up for the quick counter attack should they get the chance.

Sol Campbell allowed Jerome to get goals side of him and was very lucky he didn’t play for the penalty, instead, opting to have a crack. Luckily for Sol, tame enough for Almunia to gather easily.

Arsenal looked out of ideas. Birmingham were defending resolutely and with discipline.

Half time came, Arsenal had disappointed especially considering wha was at stake. The second half was going to need a step change in attitude and fight. 2 shots wasn’t acceptable.

Birmingham hit a cross into the box, it was looped to the back post which it hit, then Dann missed from a yard out! Shocking!

Almunia seemed particularly slow off his line today which was causing confusion at the back.

Nasri and Arshavin were called to the rescue. Not a bad pair of players to bring off the bench!

Bendtner failed to anticipate a miscued header from Birmingham allowing the ball to whizz past his face. Very poor if I’m honest, a striker should always assume a f*ck up is in the offing.

Some good work by Arshavin and Nasri nearly put Arsenal one up. You felt there was a bit more spice about the team at this point.

Watching Clichy cross so far past the back post Sagna picked it up was ridiculous, watching Sagna do the same with his return cross summed up the pair from a crossing point of view. It’s amazing how bad their crossing is. It’s like they don’t practice.

Our opening looked like it had arrived when Diaby out muscled Bowyer, turned and fired the ball past Hart. Howard Webb blew for the foul. He really does love to ruin a game, doesn’t he? A terrible decision!

At this point my stream went down.

We needed a goal, things were looking good…

What did I need to hear? The muffled nerdy roar from Le Tis screaming Sammy boys name! We were back in the hunt again and keeping pace with the rampant Chelsea.

What was the last thing I wanted to see when my stream returned? Almunia rampaging off his line past his penalty spot to tamely punch a high ball. A sign of things to come.

Rosicky forced a good save from Hart, Bendtner did well to work his way back into the box, he laid off Arshavin who screwed his simple shot wide.

Nasri did well to get on the end of a Cesc pass, all he needed to do was shoot early, instead he opted for the cut back to no one!

Down the other end we paid, Phillips got on the end of a high ball into the box, Almunia tipped it over his head, Phillips finished.

Shocking, devastating… predictable.

You put a ticking time bomb between the sticks, don’t be surprised when it blows up in your face. Gutting…

Mathematically, we’re not out of it. We could still get back in. The odds are slim though. We’ve been let back in too many times this year to keep expecting favours.

We knew that today was going to be a tough game. No one in the top 6 has won their this season. So it is quite amazing that we didn’t field our strongest 11. Arshavin and Nasri should have started in my opinion. Saving them for the champions league is a waste, we could go out with a hammering next week, then we’d have no trophies to go for. However, it wasn’t like we stuck two unknowns in there place.

£60k a week, saviour of English football, Theo Walcott should be able to create some chances and he didn’t . It hurts to say, but I am amazed Eboue wasn’t started ahead of him today. He’s a much better player and in better form.

Thomas Rosicky is pretty much a first teamer when fit and he should have done better.

Shocking finishing is also to blame. It all got a little lax when we went 1-0 up. Arshavin’s finishing was atrocious, as was the finishing of a number of others. You need to be clinical at this level, like United and Chelsea we were in their respective games.

Howard Webb also did his level best to maintain his poor reputation among football fans. He disallowed a perfectly good goal which was unforgivable.

Still, lets not start the blame game. Lets not talk about injuries, the media conspiracy or the refs. The cold hard facts are that we weren’t good enough today and we were punished.

It’s as simple as that.

I wanted to mention the triumphant attitude of a lot of blogs recently, you’d have thought the league was sewn up reading through the amount of ‘I told you so’ posts. Key lesson here? Don’t bust out the party poppers until the trophy is in the cabinet, otherwise you end up making yourself look like a tit.

It’s key to have a little bit a realism in your assessments whether they are positive or negative. We’ve made the league a hell of a lot harder, it’s Chelsea and Man United’s to lose now, not ours to win. That doesn’t mean we’re out of it, it doesn’t mean our season is a failure, it just means we’ve got to focus till the end and win all our games.

In your heart of hearts though, how many truly believed this squad was deserving of a Premiership trophy this year let alone capable of driving out 14 straight wins? For all the progress we’ve made, I think it’s key to understand that plenty of other teams have taken massive strides. If we drop points to City and Spurs, we could take third by about 5 points. That’s frightening. Still and achievement compared to seasons past, but a very real reminder that we need to address our weaknesses this summer because the traditional top 4 dominance looks like it’s coming to an end as we know it.

I hope we beat Barcelona next week, but even if we do, it still wouldn’t be worth sacrificing the league. I think Wenger dropped a clanger today and I’m worried because the cost dropping out the title race is two fold:

1) It puts more pressure on the team against Barca.

2) If we lose heavily, we’re out of everything.

For me, during the action end of the season, you should be fielding your best team in every game because the cost of 2 dropped points can be devastating. Poor decision making with team selection has cost us numerous times over the last few years. Chelsea in the semi final, United in the FA Cup. I just hope yesterday hasn’t cost us two trophies…

Still, we’ll have to dust ourselves down and get behind the team for next week. It could be one of the greatest moments for the club post Highbury.

Keep em’ crossed Vic Akers finds the teams shooting boots.

Ratings

Almunia: Late coming off his line, weak with his distribution and flappier than a seagull whose just spied a chip on the pavement. He’s been a liability since our tour of Hungary and today, Arsene’s faith was repaid by a blunder that pretty much killed out title dreams. I don’t care how nice to be around, he needs to be removed from the squad. He’s cost us goals all season. Bar a few penalty saves, his keeping has been unacceptable. 1

Clichy: Defended well, but against weaker opposition his job is to deliver decent crosses into the box. The amount of times he missed the box was pathetic. The only thing that upstages his crossing is his poor technique for delivering them. What happened to wrapping your foot around the ball? He balloons them in like he’s shelling an enemy with mortar rockets. 6

Sagna: I find his crossing marginally better than Clichy’s, but weak all the same. Having fast full backs who can’t cross is like having a crap goalkeeper. Pointless. 6.5

Campbell: He played really well today and supported the inexperienced Song powerfully. A great player. 8

Song: Super game at the back. Because of his experience playing in the midfield, he looks like a centre back in the mould of Rio Ferdinand. If he improves at the back, he could be a major asset for us. 8

Denilson: I think fans hit the auto-slag button when it come to the Brazilian. Ok, he wasn’t the best yesterday, but he was far from the worst. He didn’t make too many errors from where I was sitting and he covered the midfield well. All he’s there to do is protect the back 4 and play simple passes. Not to inspire the rest of our true creatives. 7

Cesc: Took a very long time to get into the game. He was roughed up from the start and nearly went off injured. In the second half he was much better, laying on many chances. Shame it didn’t work out today. 6

Diaby: Becoming one of my favourite players to watch. Powerful, crisp in the pass combined with the ability to bring the best out of others. He was very good today and had a perfectly good goal disallowed. 8

Bendtner: Didn’t get the service he needed but at the same time, didn’t utilise it when he got it. He needs to show more instinct in front of goal and occasionally snap at a shot instead of passing it back out of the penalty box. Poor game when we needed more. 4

Theo: Sorry, I can only report on what I see. He wasn’t in the game today bar a few mazy runs that amounted to nothing. He’s had plenty of games now and we’ve read plenty of chat. Where’s the product Theo? We needed it yesterday and we didn’t get it. Eboue should have played instead, he’s a far more accomplished player. 4

Rosicky: He had a few shots and worked some nice interplay. The trouble is, he’s very similar to a lot of other players we have. When they’re all trying the same things it seems to nullify their powers. 6

Subs:

Arshavin: Came on an immediately sparked the team into action. The Russian isn’t really an impact player and it showed with his terrible finishing. Should have been on from the start in my opinion. However, his fitness is terrible so I can understand why he wasn’t if Wenger had Barca in mind. 6

Nasri: Came on, created, scored a goal and squandered a chance. Should have been on from the start as well. 7

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Today I want to propose a new legend. Our very own man of steel.

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Today we go back to our ground zero, the scene of our devastation two years ago, the game that had we won, would have sent us 8 points clear in the EPL, then we got the bad breaks, Eduardo was one and the penalty that wasn’t, the other.

Gallas showed us why he wasn’t a good captain and Arsene showed us why he lacked judgement by leaving him as captain for the rest of the season.

I think we just collapsed from that point on and the season ended, and with it any chance of silverware.

Two years on and the same thing happens at Stoke, another poor boy who picks wild flowers for his mother, goes to church every Sunday and wears a hair shirt if he thinks about naked girls is the victim, this time his name was Ryan Shawcross, the Brittania beast.

Only this time they faced a different Arsenal, this time no sulky brat for a captain, this time we had a monster of our own at the back, this time we had Sol Campbell, his reaction was not just one of horror, but one of anger, this was the reaction this team needed, this time the captain was a lion (Cesc Fabregas) not a pussy, this time we fought back and have been fighting ever since.

Now we return to where it all started, to where the world said Arsenal can be bullied, this time though it will be different, this time it’s personal.

I now want to spend sometime talking about Arsenal legends, this last 40 years has thrown out a few, Charlie George, Frank McLintock, George Graham, Tony Adams, Lee Dixon, Steve Bould, Martin Keown, Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Paddy Vieira and more recently Cesc Fabregas, I would now like to nominate Sol Campbell.

He joined us from the Spuds at Shite Hart Lane where he was their captain, he joined a team where he was neither captain nor vice captain, he won the league, the FA cup and did something that only one team in football has ever done, went a season unbeaten, he went on to score against Barcelona in the Champions league final when we only had 10 men, and shortly after that he left, he was seemingly finished.

Then, when we were 11 points behind the leaders and he was 35 years old, he came back, one of only 4 players ever to return, Keown was another, he came back and now we are within two points of the summit, much of that is down to him, not only for his ability, but for the grit, determination and experience he is bringing to this young team, he’s not first choice but up he steps, I would like to elevate him to legendary status. Sol in my eyes you will always be a gooner!

I left out Ian Wright for all the crap he spouts about us on Talk Shite, for me he lost that privilege.

I’m expecting a win today and a good one, for 3 reasons, one to up our goal difference, two to send a message and finally three to avenge our fallen, and he will put the cherry on the cake, yes I’m backing Eduardo to show us what he still is, a goalscorer, and at the scene of his worst day in football.

Today from now will be known as ‘Eduardo’s revenge at St Andrews day’ today will be our day.

On a personal note much has been written about the different styles of writing you see here on Le Grove, occasionally you’ll see the vibrant penmanship of the modern man Pedro, (who buys his love with T shirts) mostly you will see the guile and wit of the stylish ME. I think I should be awarded the Pulitzer prize for journalism at the coal face, for bringing you the facts day in, day out, but I can’t nominate myself, that would be a little conceited, a little up myself and enough blogs think I am that already, though I can’t see why.

So if you all agree that my writing style and bravery deserves a Pulitzer prize, please write into Mr Pulitzer, and tell him, but don’t say I asked you too or it won’t happen, seriously, do it discretely.

Mr Pulitzer, The Daily Planet, Metropolis, America.

Finally my team for today, if fit.

Almunia

Eboue Campbell Song Clichy

Nasri Cesc Diaby

Walcott Bendtner Eduardo

Subs Rosicky Arshavin Denilson Silvestre Fabianski

Enjoy it Grovers, I have a feeling we’ll see a sign of the week to come, next up Barca.