Thursday 25 August 2011

Szczeny's on fire - the new Arsenal anthem

Arsenal somehow got into today's Champions League draw and quite how they made it without Samir Nasri, who's joined Man City for £25m, I can only answer with 'Szczeny's on fire'. That will be the new anthem to replace 'Cesc is on fire', as if Fabregas still is, it will be Barca fans fanning the flames, of course.

Instead, we've got a team of spirited rookies, which arguably is better than a team of dispirited superstar wantaways, based on this showing against Udinese. Even Jenkinson rose to the challenge this time. Frimpong, meanwhile, was his normal self again as the kids showed the more experienced players how to walk the walk and the frame of our goal...erm...'wooded the work'...or something like that!

Yes, the woodwork helped us out until it decided to switch sides and deflected di Natale's looping header in to tie the scores on aggregate. Perhaps Djourou was at fault as he wasn't that close to his man.

Extra time was looming on the distant horizon as Arsenal trudged off at half time. If anyone says 'supersub' the last player I think of is Rosicky, but Rosick-Note showed his worth by tackling as hard as the man he replaced, Frimpong.

Gervinho had caused problems for Udinese all night and when his low cross was turned in by Robin Van Persie, Arsenal knew they were a two-goal cushion away from crashing out.

But when Vermaelen was harshly adjudged to have handballed it was Szczeny to the rescue as he acrobatically tipped over di Natale's penalty.

And to cap a night of high drama, Walcott raced away after a one-two with Sagna to add another goal. A win away can never be bad especially after the turmoil we suffered.Well done lads, I never knew you were this good. You rode your luck at times but you've shown great character. More of the same at Old Trafford please! And at Dortmund, Olympiakos and Marseilles.

When we drew Marseilles out of the hat in the Champions League, Dwight Yorke was saying something about Wenger having 'ties' with the French club r words to that effect. I think Yorke must have meant Monaco. It's like saying Yorke has ties with Liverpool because he used to play for Manchester United!

Talking of dumb, I feel pretty stupid after backing our team to get beaten by Udinese. I was sure we'd lose to Liverpool, but was too scared to gamble. This time, I thought I'd rather lose the money and see Arsenal in the group stages. Yes, I know it's stupid, but winning money can deaden the pain of defeat a little. Still I'm chuffed that we're through and I'm broke. It's better than the club being broke!

On the day of the match, my mood was terribly bleak. I wrote: 'There's an interesting photo of Wenger and Rice in today's Metro with the caption: "Glum and glummer". "Dumb and dumber" is the film, of course, from which this caption was adapted, but perhaps if that movie title was readapted to Arsenal's transfer policy it could be "Dumbest". Simply that. To sell your best player, albeit for £24m or so, to the team that finished just above you in the league is dumb in anyone's language. Yet to keep Nasri and lose him for nothing in less than 12 months is equally dumb. What makes Arsenal's policy the dumbest is selling before a crucial Champions League qualifier against Udinese. It seems almost suicidal given the injury problems and the club's failure to find replacements. That's despite selling Fabregas on the cheap for about £35m recently. So the club cash in to the tune of £49m and then crash out of the Champions League and lose £40m as a consequence. That puts us £9m up, so there's no financial risk involved then for the moneymen. However, there's a risk that they're downsizing the club, making crazy cuts just to ensure profitability. It's a short-term strategy which won't wash with the fans. Eventually, the club's top brass will feel the backlash and hopefully, by then, they'll be ready to prove they're not the dumbest directors in football. The reason I don't include Wenger in this criticism of the club is no one can ascertain exactly how much Le Prof is at fault here. I'd guess quite a lot, but clearly a lot is going on behind the scenes that none of us are privy to. It's strange when the club's press office are issuing denials to unofficial websites regarding the reasons behind Arsenal's transfer inactivity. It makes us think there's no smoke without fire. Once again, the word "dumbest" fits the club right now. Like waiting to sell Squilacci before trying again to sign Jagielka. The list of huge mistakes is endless.'

Thanks to Szczeny's heroics, I'll have to eat some of my words for now. But I think we all know Szczeny's papering over the cracks for now. Everyone and his dog knows we need to recruit. Even Van Persie went public on it. Wenger has to listen despite this win, doesn't he?

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