UEFA Steps Up and Kolo Falls Down

Eduardo penalty

So what really happened here? Along with their rescinding of Eduardo’s two-match ban, UEFA released this brief statement:

The UEFA Appeals Body today accepted the appeal lodged by Arsenal FC against the two-match suspension handed to striker Eduardo.

Following examination of all the evidence, notably the declarations of both the referee and the referees’ assessor, as well as the various video footage, it was not established to the panel’s satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty.

Therefore, the decision of the UEFA Control and Disciplinary Body of 1 September, in which the player was suspended for two UEFA club competition matches, is annulled.

Good news for Arsenal… but better news for UEFA. They have obviously taken all the talk about precedence, not the least from Wenger himself, very seriously. What would it have meant for UEFA to institute post-facto reviews and punishments? For one, it would mean a lot of money. It would take a multi-person committee working double-time to review all possible incidents on a weekly basis. It would mean money would need to be spent to house and support this new body with the technology necessary to do the job right. Also, it would open UEFA up to criticism on individual incidents on a weekly basis from dozens of nations.

EduardoA final consideration for UEFA would have been that instituting the use of video like this, in any but the most exceptional and extraordinary incidents, would only pave the way more quickly for the use of video on the pitch, which UEFA diametrically oppose. The argument would be, if you can use video AFTER every match, why not just save the money spent on the committee and just use it during the match. Not that they might be pressured into it from outside but that it might become too easy for them to just finally give in on the video issue.

It also seems that Arsenal’s claim of having video evidence that Eduardo was indeed touched by Boruc has stood up. And none of this even addresses the absolute ridiculousness of awarding a player a two-match ban for an offense that is only worth a yellow card in the match. If UEFA really wanted to save face, they could have just issued Eduardo a yellow card.

We Expect Better From You, Kolo

Inevitably, the Adebayor issue drags on as the FA is expected to make a decision today. But even more disappointing is the fact that Kolo Toure has jumped into the fray now claiming:

Even though he was the first to go and salute them in the tunnel, even those who had an affinity with him didn’t want to shake his hand. For me that is unacceptable.

He is saying that the Arsenal players refused to shake Adebayor’s hand in the tunnel. This doesn’t seem to make sense considering everyone saw each player on the team shake his hand on the pitch after the lineups and some even hugged him. The culture and atmosphere at City is so corrupt that it has even turned Kolo Toure into a liar. Now, that is depressing.

Kolo also claims,

At the start of the game they were whistling at him as if he never brought anything to the club.

No, Kolo. They were whistling at him as if he had just insulted them all the day before in the national media. Adebayor deserves everything he koloade.jpggets and while I would hate to see Toure’s involvement in this case affect the reception he might get from Arsenal supporters at the Emirates, I can’t say he wouldn’t deserve it.

Even if it were true that the Arsenal players snubbed Adebayor, that is no excuse for his stomps on Fabregas’s ankle or van Persie’s face or even his kick out at Alex Song. And that is exactly what Kolo is saying here. He’s trying to justify Adebayor’s actions and that is even more despicable for him to do than Hughes.

The story has taken a turn where despite reprimands from Richard Scudamore and the Greater Manchester Police, some newspapers, including Martin Samuel at his rag, want to now put all the blame on the Arsenal supporters.

After Adebayor’s behavior throughout the match, I think he is lucky there wasn’t a bigger disturbance. He chose to antagonize the supporters because he knew he was in no personal harm and didn’t care if his actions put a few dozen under-paid stewards in danger.

Then Kolo goes on to comment on the circumstances regarding Adebayor’s departure from Arsenal:

Certain people want others to believe he left for the money but we know he was pushed to leave. I know it because I was present. I firmly believe he left to bring money to the club.

Well, which is it, Kolo? Do you “know” he was pushed to leave or do you “believe” it? Those are two different things. One implies fact and the other implies assumption. I highly doubt that the Board was keeping Kolo Toure abreast of either the club’s financial situation or their dealings with Man City regarding Adebayor. ‘

Kolo Toure was a faithful servant of the club for almost 10 years and won everything there was to win except the Champions League with Arsenal. However, in a few short weeks he has done damage to the great reputation and rapport he had built up in 7 years with Arsenal supporters. Kolo could have, in fact, would have been, one of those former players who were applauded upon their returns to North London. Whether that will now be the case is uncertain.

CL Preview: Getting To Know Group H

uefa_champions_leagueTed Harwood is a regular guest contributor to Arsenal Station. He lives in Chicago, IL, and has been an Arsenal supporter for the better part of a decade. He also writes about movies, music, and other cultural artifacts on his blog, Running Downhill.

Arsenal kick off their 2009-10 UEFA Champions League group stage matches on Wednesday evening with a trip to Standard Liège.  After the events of the weekend, this hop across the Channel could not be more welcome.  One of the benefits of having one’s team in the Champions League is that it allows the players, the fans, and the media to shift focus and recharge the batteries, and after Saturday, it will be good to put the Premier League out of everyones’ minds for a moment.  The group H table presents the players with another fresh slate, and I’m sure they will greet the opportunity to focus on starting their 2009-10 Champions League Group Stage campaign with three points.

With that said, let’s turn our attention to Arsenal’s group H opponents for the coming group stages:

Royal Standard de Liège (Les Rouches)

Arsenal’s first opponents in group H are the defending Belgian champions.  They have won the Belgian top flight ten times since their first win in 1957 and have hoisted the Belgian cup five times.  They have historically not had much success in Europe, featuring in the Champions League or European cup on eleven occasions, but never leaving the group stages.  Nonetheless, they feature a decent record of 23 wins, 5 draws, and 16 losses in those group stages.  Their best European result was losing the 1982 Cup Winners’ Cup final to Barcelona.

Liège play in Le Stade Maurice Dufrasne, which while being small (26,000 for all-seater events), has a fearsome reputation (it’s nicknames are either Hell or The Cauldron, depending on who you talk to).  Arsenal’s trip to Belgium will not be an easy one, but one thing that will help is that Standard’s influential midfield captain Steven Defour is out for three months with an injury.  Even so, forwards Dieumerci Mbokani and Milan Jovanovic will present a threat to Arsenal’s suddenly, shall we say…wobbly…defense.  However, this is the type of match that Arsenal should be winning easily.  Plus, Standard’s manager is Romanian Laszlo Boloni, which (ahem) hopefully sums up Liège’s game on Wednesday.

Alkmaar Zaanstreek (AZ Alkmaar)

AZ represent the biggest threat to Arsenal taking the top spot in group H.  Playing against the reigning Dutch Eredivisie champions is never easy (see Arsenal’s 2006-07 round of 16 exit at the hands of PSV for an example), and AZ played exceptionally well last year, conceding only 22 goals in 34 matches to beat Steve McLaren’s FC Twente to the crown by 11 points.  AZ also became the first team to break the big three’s (Ajax, PSV, and Feyenoord’s) hold on the top spot since 1981, when…AZ did it.  So they are serious.  And it’s not just their defenders that do the dirt; their strike partnership of the Brazilian, Ari, and the Moroccan, Mounir el Hamdaoui (the Eredivisie’s leading scorer last year), present a potent attack as well.  AZ are only 2-1-1 all time in Europe’s top competition, though, so perhaps their lack of experience at this stage will hurt them.

One other factor helping Arsenal’s case vs. AZ this year is the recent departure of manager Louis van Gaal for the towering heights of Bayern (heights he’s not unfamiliar with, having won La Liga with Barcelona a couple of times, among other plaudits).  AZ’s new manager, Ronald Koeman, is no slouch, though, having managed Ajax, PSV, and Valencia in recent years.  One can hope that the new manager will not have had a lot of time to gel with the squad, but by the time October 20th rolls around, that will probably be a moot issue.  AZ appear to be the team in group H to challenge Arsenal for the top spot.

Olympiacos Piraeus (The Reds or The Legend – how great is that?)

Olympiacos are the reigning Greek champions, something they are just a bit used to.  They are the 37-time Greek champions, have won the Greek cup 24 times, and have won the double a shocking 14 times.  They do not have a tremendous European pedigree to match their domestic dominance (what’s beyond dominance?), but they do have experience at this level, having played 108 matches with a slouchy record of 34-25-49 all-time.  Their best finish was in 1998-99, when they reached the last eight in Europe, losing out to Juventus 3-2 on aggregate.

The Reds are likely to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation, with striker Konstantinos Mitroglou leading the attack.  Olof Mellberg, familiar to Arsenal fans from his eight seasons of work at Aston Villa, plays in the center of defense, behind Argentine journeyman midfielder Cristian Ledesma.  As always in Europe, things may get a little tricky away in the port of Athens, but Arsenal really should have no difficulty taking six points from Olympiacos when all is said and done.

Unlike previous seasons, overall, the draw for Arsenal doesn’t feature a team that has done well in recent European contests.  There is no Sevilla or Inter to deal with this year, and Wenger and the squad will surely be looking to wrap up the top spot in the group.  Finshing second hasn’t necessarily hurt Arsenal in recent times as reaching a final, the quarters, and the semis in three of the past four years is a record most teams in Europe would slobber over. Not to mention that this is our 12th consecutive year in the Group Stage. Still, every advantage must be sought out.

UEFA’s smart, or sheepish, lifting of the ban on Eduardo will make things easier in the group. Though Arsenal aren’t exactly lacking for strikers, with Vela likely to feature in the first team sooner rather than later along with probable heavy doses of Ramsey and Gibbs and maybe a dash of Wilshere and Hoyte.  Gooners should be feeling bullish about Arsenal’s chances in Europe once again.  Bring on Liège.