And so England vs Croatia comes to its conclusion; a match which saw the experience of David James or Paul Robinson jettisoned for the debutant Scott Carson, a crunch-decider which saw Beckham benched and a match which showed the technical brilliance of ‘lesser team’ Croatia over the overhyped, overpaid English side.
After all the drama that comes with Croatia going 2-0 up at Wembley, England equalising at 2-2 late on, and then a screamer from Petric to win it for Croatia, you would have thought that, in spite of England getting knocked out, it was the drama befitting of ‘best stadium in the world’. Drama? Sure, plenty. Best Stadium in the World? Coulda woulda shoulda.
With huge puddles collecting in the corners of the ground in heavy rain, Mighty Wembley was a disgrace to England’s heritage. I may come across incredibly anti-England in this blog, but it’s all really directed at the English FA. England has a proud heritage in football (they are the founders of the modern game, afterall), but there are many aspects of the English media and the Football Association that will probably never go down well with me.
Where did all these puddles come from, you ask? In a world where even Stamford Bridge has realized you need proper draining to have a world-class pitch, the state of Wembley’s was an embarrassment; caused by the FA’s money-grabbing attempt at selling America’s pitiful excuse for a sport – NFL. Giant Football-helmets and a million players all weighing in the 17-stone categories prancing around your pitch, wrecking it with heavy studs and rediculous excuses for ‘tactics’ (read: charge around hitting people while one guy throws a ball and another catches it) – what did you expect to happen? Maybe at The Dell or Dean Park, but not Wembley, gents.
But always looking for glamour, money, and glitz over substance – the FA let their team take to Wembley for the showdown against a team filled with players who have done the hard yards, who use their minds as well as their gumption, and who went 2-0 ahead in 15 minutes at ‘Mighty Mighty Wembley’.
Contrast this with what goes on behind the scenes of the Emirates Stadium – built from the club’s own resources, who have not spent big on glamour signings in years (Reyes and Wiltord remain record signings), and have relied on the modest, grassroots development of youngsters, moulding them into a particular playing style to adapt to particular purposes.
That’s not throwing big names who get booed (Lampard) and one-dimensional strikers made of glass (Owen) into the mix, shaking your fists shouting ‘Come on, Lads!’ and hoping for the best. The only way you’d see NFL giants on the Emirates’ lawn is if Bill Gates took over all the franchises, offered Wenger a seat on Microsoft’s board, and said ‘We’ll fly in a new pitch in a weeks time’.
Sensibilities have dictated that teams like Arsenal have prospered while Chelsea and Manchester United look uneasily at transfer outflows. Watching Eduardo pile on with the other Croat players (above) was satisfying to watch – all I could think of was the media backlash aimed firstly at McClaren, and then inevitably saying ‘we could have equalised’ had Arsenal fielded 3 more English players. It’s as magical as that.
We’re going to move away from the demagoguery of the English team by focusing on Arsenal news, of course. The last thing any of us want is another Myles Palmer.
Manuel Almunia believes he is in his best career form presently, but makes sure to note that the defensive solidity in front of him has helped him no end. Manuel says:
“I am in a privileged position to be in a team which is playing the best football in Europe at the moment. It is unbelievable sometimes when we score goals and the defenders come back to take up their positions again – I say to Kolo (Toure), ‘how on Earth did we do that?’ I just know I have to play well in each game and do not like to look into the future too much.“
He’s being careful to voice his belief in himself in the continued calls of duress from Jens Lehmann, who hasnt had this kind of feud since a year or two ago with Olivier Khan. Not a bad comparison for Manuel, eh? Lehmann has said to the press:
“I have more experience than Almunia, I can cope better with pressure situations and I’m still at the peak of my powers.“
Which all immediately sounds, word for word, like something he would have directly said to Wenger. The only conclusion that can lead to is that he has not found a manager who shares that belief (that Lehmann can play better than Almunia), and is desperately seeking someone in the press or the public to stand by him.
I love Jens Lehmann. His heroics against Villareal, against Real Madrid, against Liverpool (even though we lost that game 1-0, way back when), and against Manchester United at Old Trafford last season and the FA Cup before, will always be remembered.
But his time, injuries aside, is up, I’m afraid. His confidence sounds shaken by these comments, his aura is gone, and any ‘powers’ that he speaks of must be crystal-ball gazing, as David Dunn can attest to.
Other than that, bugger all to report on. Injury news should be forthcoming tomorrow, I hope. Bring on Saturday, Bring on Wigan, Bring on the Red and White. Until next time.