As much to report about today as there were people watching Saturday’s match. More on that later.
Cesc Fabregas has spoken gleefully about the attitude that presides throughout the Arsenal team, evidenced by their coming back twice to level with Manchester United. The young Catalan midfielder says:
“Everyone could see that we are a team which fights until the last second. Even if they score, we have to show our qualities, which are to play football, try to create chances and that’s what we did until the last second. We don’t give up and we are very strong physically. We can run until the last second of the game.“
Fabregas also spoke about the new Captain-Fantastic Gallas, saying it’s his Chelsea-like will-to-win that makes him perfect captain material. Fabregas says of Gallas:
“William is a strong guy. He has shown at Chelsea and in the French national team as well as here that he is a big character. We respect him a lot. He is helping as captain, but everybody is a leader and that’s the most important thing.“
Speaking of strong guys – to put up with a mad German with a vendetta to match all the world’s vendettas, all channeled at you – Manuel Almunia now has the reprieve of Arsene Wenger standing up for him. Arsene, happy with Almunia’s performances but still weary of some of his mistakes, says:
“Lehmann was injured and Almunia has done extremely well since, 10 games on the trot. I didn’t want to disturb the side. Until now, he has done very well. I believe in sticking with one goalkeeper. You cannot tell him, ‘No matter how many mistakes you make, you’ll always be my goalkeeper’. But you have to give him at least two games.“
Almunia has made some Arsenal ‘fans’ cry out for a new ‘world class goalkeeper’, with criticism from pundit Patrick Barclay saying:
“…it is difficult to envisage their regaining the Premier League title this season. Not with this back five. Manuel Almunia is hardly the calibre of goalkeeper you need at the top level and the rest of the rearguard, while good to excellent individually, have yet to knit. Nor are the central pair of Kolo Toure and William Gallas particularly well equipped for an aerial battle.“
Firstly – sure, Almunia has not actually won a Premiership, yet. But out of the Top Four clubs, who can you say actually has a world class keeper? van der Sar? Don’t make me laugh. Reina? On his day, can be good – but far too inconsistent and never a ‘Dream Team’ entry. Petr Cech? The one and only candidate, you would say. Jens Lehmann used to be one of these. You certainly wouldn’t have that to say of him now. Almunia is a fine entry – with an authoritive showing against Liverpool – and his form is good, at the moment.
As for the defence, the aerial-argument is a very dated one, mired in the days of the 04/05 season. God, I’m sounding like Francis Fukuyama. (Here at Third-Gen, we provide football news and Arts degrees, all free of charge). Perhaps some of you will remember when our 49-match unbeaten run was on its last legs (the 46th or 47th match, against Bolton…) – it ended in a 2-2 draw, and our defence (including Sol Campbell) was becoming horendous against set-pieces and aerial attacks.
This doesn’t happen nearly as much anymore. Yes, I still get frantically nervous at watching the team defend corners, but I cannot remember the last time I did not feel that way – not since Adams and Keown left, anyway. It’s a dated argument that does not hold nearly as much credence as Barclay would have us think. Staying with Barclay, though – he has called for the FA to throw the book at Ferguson after his heavy cheese and whine binge yesterday. You win some and lose some, with some people.
Arsenal continue to be written off (how moods change so quickly) after their draw on Saturday, this time by Ryan Babel – supposed target of Arsenal and now Liverpool winger. Ryan Babel, at the ripe old age of 20, says:
“People are saying Arsenal are the biggest rivals for the title but we’ll see. They have started well, we we’ll see if they can keep it. I’m not sure. They have a lot of players and normally young players they can’t hold their form very long.“
Don’t get me wrong, I respect Liverpool immensely – worthy opponents, not too much bitterness as compared to other rivals, etc etc. And while I acknowledge that young players like Fabregas are as impetuous as they get in their opinions, the young Spaniard has done everything to earn it. Babel on the other hand – look at your own team. Stop dropping points against the likes of Birmingham while hyping yourself up against the likes of Derby. And don’t sit back and defend against these ‘young players’ in your own backyard, for once. The tide of hype is now firmly running away from Arsenal (it’s just hype, people), with the bookies now planting Manchester United as the firm favourites to regain the title come May. Glory be.
A quick throwback to Arsene Wenger: A fanciful headline in an article here dealing with Arsene’s congratulations to the linesman Darren Cann – the man he infamously accused of lying in the Carling Cup final against Chelsea last year. While it was down to Arsenal to actually score the last minute equaliser, I did mention yesterday that we have had line calls disallowed against our favour before. In a way, ‘the ref saving us’, while exaggerated, has a speck of truth in it, from an escewed point of view. Some may be calling for Wenger to give a heartier apology to the man, but that would be as inconsistent as it would be empty.
Team news sees Eduardo da Silva wanting to ‘join the goalfest‘ against Slavia Prague in the Champions League this Wednesday. I certainly think Adebayor should get a rest which would leave Eduardo and Walcott champing at the bit for a start against a side they humiliated a week or so ago. A word of caution, of course: it will not be the same 7-0 thrashing as we saw at the Emirates. A mix of less motivation and it being an away game will maybe only see anything from a 1-0 to a 6-0 win. But not 7-0! Let’s just be specific about that.
Otherwise, Ray Parlour has likened Matthieu Flamini, a player of increasing recognition, to himself.
Finally, onto the headline of this piece. Sky Sports estimated over a billion people watched the Manchester United/Arsenal game on Saturday around the world – and the obvious line of thinking is that the majority of the viewers are from East Asia. A lot of schlep is going to be thrown that way with regards to inconveniant noon-time starts for ‘the big matches’ (read: Liverpool vs Chelsea 1-1 draws) so that Asian viewers can watch at appropriate times.
This is where I, the plastic foreigner, finally can come in upon that mantle. There are a number of sides to be taken on this issue. Outside of the blatant inconvenience to British fans in their own backyard, the globalised portion of the game can be cast into two areas:
- One: Convenience for the Asian market: The fact that ‘we have work to get to tomorrow morning, so let us consume conveniently’ is a lovely sentiment that will irk many neo-marxists out there (keep churning out those Arts Degrees…). It’s a matter of money for the Premier League, and will rattle the ire of many locals in the United Kingdom that their games are being distorted by people (a lot of them, mind you) miles away. There is a distinct, perverted democracy to it all.
- Two: Overseas traditions are also being hampered: Here in Australia, those who have been truly dedicated to their teams in Britain and/or Europe, have had to get at ungodly hours to watch their beloved clubs. In some ways, I was relieved at having to ‘not have to stay up’ to watch the match on saturday – it was still at 11pm local time. Usually it’s a 2am or 4am start here, but arrangements are always made to catch the game, bleary eyed as one may be. To cater for the ‘Johnny-come-lately’s of China, Thailand and Japan is insulting to those who have taken the game seriously as well.
Sure, as already said, the conveniance is enjoyed – but it’s a fake conveniance for fake Beckham-chanting fans. Globalization is such a wierd thing that a South African-migrant living in Australia would get patriotic on Britain’s behalf. Whacked, I tell ye.
And that’s me, for today. You people enjoy your green tea and other pretentious beverages…