Are Arsenal Just Destined To Fail?

Even the day after, the pain is still as strong as it was yesterday. The typical “Arsenal way” to cock things up is something all Arsenal fans can relate to and once we got to the last 10 minutes and it was still 1-1, we all knew something bad was going to happen.

But why isn’t it a surprise that we managed to cock things up in the most monumental fashion?

Hand on heart, you weren’t surprised something like this happened did you?

And why is this? I touched on it yesterday but the fact is Arsenal reward failure and have done for the last 7 seasons. There is no doubt that the team, in footballing terms at least, is supremely talented. That cannot be disputed and proof of this has come in many memorable victories, including those in Europe over Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, AC Milan, etc.

But over the last few seasons we’ve struggled domestically. Our record against the Top 4 is appalling and our ridiculous collapse against Tottenham at The Emirates sums up the mental fragility throughout the squad. Only recently, we unfathomably let slip a 4 goal lead against Newcastle United.

A 4 goal lead!

Now say that again to yourself.

A FOUR GOAL LEAD.

It was interesting to note from the comments yesterday that because I ridiculously criticised the team for their performance against Birmingham that somehow I was a Spurs supporter or a “fair weather fan”. That notion is preposterous and not that it matters, but I have supported Arsenal Football Club since I was 5 years old and they are firmly in my heart. When Arsenal lose it hurts me immensely, but when they lose in ridiculous fashion it hurts even more. Yesterday’s defeat is something which still hurts now and will do for the next few weeks.

Because we all knew it signified a new era for Arsenal, but instead it represented broken promises. They say it’s not the despair but the hope that kills you and for Arsenal fans this sums it all up. This Arsenal team does what no other top team does and capitulates when under any kind of sustained pressure. Without Fabregas we lacked any kind of cohesion and an in form Arsenal would have won comfortably. We’ve beat Birmingham twice already this season but yesterday Arsenal beat themselves. It wasn’t because Birmingham were the better team, it was because Arsenal couldn’t take that next step.

The first trophy is always the hardest and ironically this was the easiest to win. Arsenal were in a one-off game against a side that currently sit 16th in the Premier League. They have scored the least number of goals out of any of the 20 teams in the league and yet they scored twice yesterday and could have scored more in all honesty. Birmingham played well because we let them.

This Arsenal side cannot cope under pressure so the notion that they have “3 other competitions to fight for” is surely a million miles away. Yes we currently sit 2nd in the league but United have a team full of winners that can grind out results when they’re not playing well. Victory yesterday on the performance Arsenal put in would have been the blueprint for how resilient we were and proof that we can win ugly when it mattered. The last significant game where Arsenal ground out a result was in the FA Cup Final in 2005.

This Arsenal Team Will Never Win Anything (w/ Player Ratings)

Arsenal (1) – (2) Birmingham City
van Persie (39′)
Wembley Stadium, London

What a f*cking joke of a final.

How do you put that into words?

For weeks now Arsenal have been telling us that the Carling Cup will be the first major step to bigger things. And what happens, we f*ck it up.

As it stands now, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that losing the Carling Cup Final could be the turning point of our season where we collapse and go into free-fall.

The problem is the final today didn’t just represent a trophy for Arsenal. Winning the cup would (to a certain degree) justify Arsene’s whole ethos on football which is based on youth and a beautiful style of football. This was the first stepping stone of honours after 7 baron years at the club. It represented the faith Arsene had in his players and most importantly would have given the fans what they had been yearning for over the last 7 seasons – winning something.

But all that was literally tossed away in a performance which will leave the vast majority of Arsenal fans feeling angry, confused, disappointed and if you’re like me, in a state of despair.

You can talk about mistakes and blame but the bottom line is football is team game and collectively, Arsenal were not good enough and I hate to say it, but Birmingham were worthy winners. With all due respect to Birmingham, on paper we should have lifted the Carling Cup but the fact was they had more desire, discipline and intelligence in their play.

We lost the contest, and therefore the final, in every department. The facts are that:

  • Without Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal are useless.
  • Jack Wilshere, a player that has only just turned 19, is our best player and has been carrying the team recently.
  • Andrei Arshavin should have never started ahead of Bendtner.
  • Arsenal bottled it. The pressure of winning their first trophy got to the players and they performed well below par.
  • This Arsenal team is full of losers. The players are rewarded for failure and they don’t know how to win. New and improved contracts year after year for not actually delivering trophies.
  • Samir Nasri is wasted wide and should have played in the Fabregas position.
  • Arsene Wenger should have “bollocked” the players a la Anfield but obviously never did.
  • Birmingham never had to play well to beat us.

The players performed like they were scared. In the big games, Arsenal blow it, and that’s why they’ve been trophy-less for the last 7 seasons. In the Carling Cup Final, a competition that you would refer to as the least prestigious they couldn’t get the job done. You seriously have to ask whether a team with this kind of mental fragility can really win any of the major honours. If this Arsenal team can’t beat Birmingham to win the Carling Cup, do you honestly believe that they have the balls to win a Champions League Final? Or that they can win on a cold Saturday afternoon and pick up the vital 3 points they need to seal the Premiership? When the pressure is on, this Arsenal team bottle it.

Arsenal are full of bottlers and losers. They will play pretty football but in the end lose spectacularly. The know how to play good football and score goals, but ask them to get a job done and they can’t. Wenger doesn’t lay into his players and they don’t care if they lose. Losing is acceptable at Arsenal and it’s their culture. People compare us to Barcelona but that team is full of players that know how to win. That’s the biggest difference – we have no winning mentality.

Arsene always talks about mental strength but no-one apart from Cesc and van Persie have it. They are born winners in a squad full of losers. I’ve said before that Manchester United have an uninspiring squad but the fact is that although they probably have the weakest squad they’ve ever had under Alex Ferguson, they’re all winners. From the stars to the regulars, all the way to the reserves, they are mentally all winners. And that is instilled by the manager. You know Fergie wouldn’t think twice about bollocking his players and that’s what these overpaid footballers need from time to time. At Arsenal though, the players are mollycoddled and pampered like little children.

Something major needs to change if Arsenal are ever going to add to their trophy collection.

Player Ratings

Wojciech Szczesny: 5/10
Could have done better on the first goal and the less said about the second the better.

Bacary Sagna: 6/10
Made a sloppy pass which lead to Birmingham hitting the post but was up and down the right hand side throughout the game.

Johan Djourou: 6/10
Defended well at times but was bullied by Zigic throughout.

Laurent Koscielny: 5/10
Should have put his foot right through that ball. But collectively the team played poorly so I’m not going to single him out for any specific criticism.

Gael Clichy: 6/10
Got done by Stephen Carr and Sebastian Larsson far too many times.

Alexandre Song: 5/10
Largely ineffective and found it hard to stop the numerous Birmingham attacks.

Jack Wilshere: 8/10
Kept the team ticking and tried to get Arsenal to play. Unlucky with a decent shot from distance but was relied on far too much.

Tomas Rosicky: 5/10
I love Tomas but he was awful today, even worse than Arshavin which is saying something.

Samir Nasri: 7/10
Completely wasted out wide and played like he was out of position. Had glimpses of creativity and was Arsenal’s biggest threat.

Andrei Arshavin: 5/10
Honestly, does he give a shit?

Robin van Persie: 7/10
Great equaliser but had no service.

Nicklas Bendtner (replaced van Persie 69′): 6/10
Looked bright when he came on, and gave Foster a couple of saves to make. Should have started.

Marouane Chamakh (replaced Arshavin 77′): 6/10
Tried to make a difference but didn’t have a chance to impose himself.

Wilshire & Koscielny = Flawless (w/ Player Ratings)

Arsenal (2) – (1) Barcelona
van Persie (78′), Arshavin (83′)
The Emirates Stadium, London

Before the game, I said that my head said 3-1 Barcelona but my heart said 2-1 Arsenal.

They say you should always follow your heart!

But what a game! There’s always the threat that a game doesn’t live up to the hype but the game tonight was fantastic entertainment.

As usual, Barcelona were mesmeric at times but Arsenal were always a threat. And Arsene Wenger’s substitutions actually made a difference. A great night all round!

Of course, there is still a long way to go in this tie but a 2-1 is an excellent result against a side like Barcelona who many consider untouchable. Before the game people questioned Arsenal’s chances, with some people saying that if the “great” Jose Mourinho lost 5-0 to Barcelona then Arsenal would get absolutely tanked.

I couldn’t tell you how many times people have Tweeted and texted saying Arsenal were going to get battered tonight. But as usual, I kept the faith and I always believe Arsenal are capable of beating anyone on their day.

But Arsenal proved tonight they had learnt their lessons from last season.

Barcelona were undoubtedly stronger than last year, swapping Ibrahimovic for David Villa and it was the Spaniard who opened the scoring after 26 minutes. Arsenal had spurned a chance moments earlier when Fabregas wasted a golden opportunity and Arsenal were made to pay seconds later. Valdes went to ground when Fabregas crossed for van Persie so I didn’t understand why he didn’t just shoot. The ball from Walcott was slightly wide but he could have still pulled the trigger.

Arsenal started the game well but once Villa opened the scoring it looked like Barcelona would get the second and third goals. Their tails were up and they played some breathtaking football, and Arsenal were on the ropes. But the lads defended well and Szczesny in goal looked solid and assured.

In the second half, Arsenal looked to be more positive and Barcelona dropped off as time ticked on. Arsene brought on Bendtner and Arshavin for Walcott and Song and it made all the difference. van Persie scored a stunning goal (does he score anything else) after being played in by Gael Clichy of all people, with his weaker right foot! van Persie looked up and lashed in a brilliant goal in at the near post. Then it was game on.

Now it was Barcelona that looked edgy and a wonderful counter attack launched by Fabregas gave Nasri time and space to pick out Arshavin who continued his unfathomable enigma and coolly slotted the ball home.

Arsenal had somehow comeback against the mighty Barcelona!

Once van Persie equalised I was in dream land but with the Arshavin goal I was delirious. Arsenal showed great commitment, desire and determination and overcame the odds to beat simply the best team in the world.

And that should not be underestimated.

Player Ratings:

Wojciech Szczesny: 9/10
Excellent game from the young lad. Solid, confident and did extremely well on the Messi chance early on in the game. Most people will say Messi missed but Szczesny stood tall and made himself big. Did well when called upon and for me, the best goalkeeper Arsenal have in their ranks. Arsene should back this horse for the next 10 years.

Emmanuel Eboue: 8/10
Did well for most of the game and kept David Villa quiet for most of the game, although he only needs one chance. Supported the attacks well and was solid at the back. An excellent performance from Eboue tonight.

Johan Djourou: 8/10
Did well alongside Koscielny and despite being up against the likes of Messi, Villa, Pedro and Xavi (who were mesmeric at times) did well to keep the Barcelona attack relatively quiet. Certainly the best partner for Koscielny and clearly there is a good understanding between the two central defenders.

Laurent Koscielny: 10/10
Along with Wilshire, a Man of the Match candidate. His best game in an Arsenal shirt by far. He was immense. Always in the right place at the right time, made some vital tackles and interceptions and was overall, fantastic. I would say his performance was flawless.

Gael Clichy: 8/10
Had to defend the left hand side single-handedly at times but did well. Dani Alves was always a threat and he was dealt with well. Made some vital last-ditch tackles and was solid overall. Beautiful through ball for van Persie’s equalising goal.

Alexandre Song: 8/10
Certainly got into Barcelona and was unlucky to get booked after only 6 minutes. Was walking a tight-rope since then though and made a lot of tackles which resulted in fouls. However, he made some excellent interceptions and kept the midfield together.

Jack Wilshire: 10/10
It’s easy to get carried away but Wilshire was ridiculously good, and along with Koscielny was Man of the Match. Composed, direct and effective, Wilshire was stunningly good. He never lost the ball, held onto possession well and was mesmerising in the middle of the park. The way he moved away from Xavi, Iniesta and the rest of the Barcelona midfield with ease, his touch was outstanding. Breathtaking performance.

Cesc Fabregas (Captain): 6/10
Very disappointing for me, and looked out of sorts all game. Lost the ball far too often and didn’t look up for taking on his Barcelona mates. Disappointed at key moments and was clearly intimidated.

Samir Nasri: 7/10
First game back from his hamstring injury and it looked like his first game back. Not as influential as in previous games this season and it would be naive to expect that. Looked bright at times though and laid off a lovely pass for Arshavin to slot home the winner.

Theo Walcott: 7/10
Threatened early on but didn’t get enough of the ball throughout the game. Didn’t vary his game enough and his runs, in the end, became too predictable. Arsene might use him in the second leg as an impact substitute.

Robin van Persie: 7/10
What can you say about van Persie? He infuriates for long periods and pulls out a stunning goal like that. Nothing was working for him for most of the game but when it mattered he did the business. Vital goal at a vital time, and made all the difference to the result. Took the goal extremely well and that’s what he’s in the team for, for those impact moments.

Andrei Arshavin (replaced Song 68′): 7/10
Came on for the last 20 minutes or so and as usual things weren’t really happening for him. So as you would expect, he ended up popping up with the winner! Almost pressed the self destruct button with a crazy back header to Szczesny in the final moments but fortunately it didn’t change the result.

Nicklas Bendtner (replaced Walcott 77′): 6/10
Not really enough time to make a difference but must have done something right as his introduction to the game saw Arsenal score twice in quick succession! Gave the Barcelona defence something else to think about.

The Real Ronaldo: One Of The Greatest Ever

Without a doubt, the “real” Ronaldo (Luis Nazario de Lima) is one of my all time favourite players. For me when I was growing up and learning about football, this was the guy who pushed all the boundaries. He was the complete striker and it was a joy to watch him play.

For me, the greatest player of my generation.

You could make a film about this guys career, and I’m sure there’s something in the pipeline as we speak. Whatever you want to say about Ronaldo, the fact was that he had three career threatening injuries but had the belief and determination to come back every time. For me, along with all his achievements makes him of the of the greatest players to grace the game.

And just for the conspiracy theorists, his career also has that infamous World Cup Final story where he reportedly had fits in the early hours before the game. And depending on who you believe, there are several theories behind why he didn’t perform in that final.

So what about highlights of his career? Well he had a phenomenal season at Barcelona in 1996/1997 and the “redemption” World Cup in 2002, where he vanquished the demons of 1998 and scored twice in the final.

When I think about everything that Ronaldo has achieved and done in football, it is ridiculous to think “what if”. Because despite the fact he was simply awesome throughout his career, you have a feeling that without the problems in France 98 and the terrible injuries he had to endure, that he could have easily been the greatest player to play the game by a country mile. As it stands he is one of the greatest, that’s beyond question, but with a bit more luck he could have been the greatest.

Anyway, here’s a video tribute I found on YouTube. I’m sure there will be a lot of these coming up in the coming weeks and months. Credit: Patrick4HD.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeNFhNMA8AU[/youtube]