Hey Martin, Shut the F*** Up!

Three days later and still Martin O’Neill’s insecurities are on view for everyone to see. He has blown way out of proportion, with the media’s help, a throw-away comment from Wenger after Wednesday’s match. Let’s look at what he has said:

It is interesting, the point he makes, that nobody can play football in the manner that they do. If he believes that, good luck to him.

Wenger never said anything of the sort. Now who is being “absurd” and “ridiculous?”

What we are doing here, and I don’t care what anybody says, we have flair players picking the ball up, attacking.

If you believe that, Martin, then good luck to you.

He has an opinion on everything. There is not a subject in this world at this minute, political, religious, anything, that he does not have an opinion on. I really don’t mind, I just don’t want it shoved down my throat.

I think most people have opinions on a lot of things. Otherwise, you are just a bore. Only rarely has Wenger ever made comments about politics and religion. So it would be hard for them to be “shoved down” your throat. O’Neill’s near-psychotic reaction is even more questionable than Wenger’s original comment about Villa’s tactics in a single match. The media sought to portray it as an evaluation of Villa’s overall style, which it was not.

When he talks about this particular Arsenal side, and teams going out deliberately to kick them, nobody does that. Manchester United wouldn’t do that.

Nobody goes out to kick Arsenal? Now who’s being an idiot. Perhaps he missed Fuller’s pre-match interview before the Stoke FA Cup tie. And anyone who saw Darren Fletcher’s performance at Old Trafford earlier the season can say that he did not go out there with the intent to physically disrupt Arsenal’s attack.

You can get carried away with your own importance, you really can. Sometimes he does. He has made a great contribution to the game here, but he is not on a different planet.

Who is getting carried away with their own importance? A man who simply gave a post-match interview or one who is still talking about one sentence from someone else’s post-match comments three days later? O’Neill’s protesting has the feeling about it of the teenager who feels the need to tell everyone he is not gay, because he is.

And as far as O’Neill is concerned, Wenger is on a different planet. How many trophies have you won in England, Martin? How many FA Cups? How many Doubles? How many times has your side gone unbeaten for an entire season? Or set any record at all? You’re biggest achievement in English football is finishing sixth. Like I said, a different planet.

He is a very skilful manager – well done him, but he has another record, like he has had something like 99 sendings-off this year, and 98 of them weren’t his fault. That is the problem.

That’s very interesting because Arsenal actually haven’t had one sending-off this season.

What he wants to do is try and point out to everyone who is under his spell that Arsenal are the only delightful team around. When you are looking for that, you can spot a weakness. You are trying to get an excuse ready if you cannot compete with Manchester United and Chelsea. That is the point.

“Under his spell?” O’Neill sounds like a bitter old man. Arsene has never said anything of the sort and has many times praised teams that have been beaten Arsenal by playing football. In fact, his comments about Villa were, I believe, meant to be praiseworthy in that they came out and executed an effective tactical plan.

The media have fueled this nonsense. The Daily Mail started an article by saying, “Martin O’Neill launched a furious tirade at Arsene Wenger on Friday as the row over Aston Villa’s tactics intensified.” What row? Arsene hasn’t said anything since the comment. It’s been Martin O’Neill having a conversation with himself, with the media cheering him on. Then the caption of a photo in the piece reads: “Unhappy: Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger complained about Villa’s tactic.” How ridiculous is that?

Personally, I think O’Neill’s reactions have shown him in a very bad light-far worse than anything Arsene said and the fact that he is still talking about it three days later reveal O’Neill’s insecurities about not being able to compete with United, Chelsea, or Arsenal over more than the first few months of a season. Get over yourself, Martin, or, at least, shut the fuck up.

The Date with United and O’Neill’s Problem

So, it’s finally here… the run we’ve all been waiting for since the fixture list came out. I still hold the draw at Villa Park was a decent result for us and now it’s United at home. Anything less than a win at home will have the pundits’ knives out again to cut Arsenal’s title chances to pieces.

Circumstances bode well ahead of the match. Arsenal have never lost to United in the league at the Emirates. United, despite their place in the table, are a shell of their former selves. Rooney’s emergence as one of the top 3 players in the Premier League has not offset the loss of Ronaldo. Also, one wonders how long Rooney can carry the entire club on his shoulders.

The fact is that United just do not inspire the same “fear factor” in the opposition as they have previously. We have another fantastic chance to make a statement about this title race, and we MUST take it. You can’t build confidence any better than capping a 10-match unbeaten run in the league with a win over United. And we will need that confidence when we come out onto the pitch at Stamford Bridge next weekend. With the upcoming matches being six-pointers, the two matches in the next 9 days can have the influence of 12 points in the League title race.

Song and Eboue return and are fit to play on Sunday. There is a “good chance” that Vermaelen won’t play and Diaby is definitely out. If Vermaelen is out, I would hope that Arsene would resist the temptation to play Song at CB and go with the same midfield as at Villa. If Song plays a bit deeper, with Sol back there, I think we can compensate. Song will be needed in the middle of the park and, should he get the call, Sol will have a golden opportunity to show that he can still be a Premier League center-half.

But you guys know all this already… I did just want to briefly talk about the hoopla surrounding Arsene’s comments about Villa and O’Neill’s reaction. Here is what Arsene said:

They stopped us from playing when we had the ball and when they had the ball. They played a very long ball game, closed us down and it was very difficult for us.

And here was O’Neill’s response:

If that is what he (Wenger) saw tonight, that is as ridiculous a statement as I’ve heard. He has made a few ridiculous statements in his time here and that is probably as good as any. That is only an annoyance at the end of it all. Anyone who saw the game wouldn’t take that viewpoint. But it is an appalling insult.

An “appalling insult!?!?” Are you serious. Perhaps O’Neill forgot to fill his valium prescription this month. Can anyone really deny that at least half of Villa’s gameplan was to pump long balls up to Heskey to try to take advantage of Arsenal’s weakness in aerial defending. The other half was crosses from wide areas. So I don’t really see how O’Neill can argue with Wenger’s assessment.

In fact, I would think O’Neill a lesser manager had he not gone with that gameplan and tried to expose his opposition’s most glaring weakness. The absurd reaction by the Villa manager is quite revealing of the insecurity attached to a team that is trying to achieve a Champions League place.

Though possibly a bit veiled, I believe Arsene’s comments were a form of praise. Everyone knows that to stifle Arsenal you have to close them down in the midfield and that we are weakest when defending in the air. Those are proper tactics to try to get a result from a match with us. Villa executed both of those tactics well, though Arsenal did end up with better chances and deserved a victory more than Villa.

Villa are a quick young side with some power, but if O’Neill thinks he has an English version of Barcelona on his hands and that Villa are a pure footballing side, then he is the “ridiculous” one. Get over yourself, Martin.

Some Thoughts on our Draw with Bolton… I mean, Villa

Since we find ourselves engaged in a 3-way title race at the end of February, from here on out, every draw will have us considering one of football’s most philosophical questions: Was it two points lost, or a point gained?

I know. I did it after the Everton match. While many disagreed with me, though not most according to our poll, I believed we had gained a point on that day. The same goes for yesterday. Chelsea lost at Villa Park while City and Spurs drew there. A draw at Villa Park is not going to lose anyone the title. In the club-by-club table, we actually picked up a point on Chelsea.

But, yesterday’s point may have come at the cost of points down the road as the entire Arsenal global community waits with bated breath for news on Thomas Vermaelen’s injury. We have also lost Eduardo for Sunday’s crucial fixture home to United. Sad to say, but that might not be a bad thing. Bendtner’s return could not have come sooner. He gave us an extra dimension that we have looked towards the front of our attack for some time. He was able to win headers and hold the ball up, something we have been sorely lacking.

There’s usually not much to say about a nil-nil draw, but it was a hard-fought point. Let’s be honest. We were shit for much of the first half and at 35 minutes I was thinking, “Let’s just get into the break even.” We looked better in the second half and hit two posts on the night. On another night, we might have won 2-nil.

As for Martin O’Neill’s reaction to Arsene’s comments, I don’t see how he can argue. with the Boss’s assessment and his being insulted is hysterical. How sensitive is O’Neill? Villa were, without a doubt, hoofing the ball up throughout the match. If I didn’t have a life and some admiration for what O’Neill’s done in the Midlands,  I would go back and watch the match again counting how many times they hoofed the ball up trying to take advantage of Sol and Gallas. Yes, they played some football too-mostly Young and Milner.

Most importantly, they closed us down in the midfield and created space by getting the ball wide in attack, when they weren’t lumping it forward. The return of Alex Song is greatly awaited as Denilson left a little to be desired. Rosicky continues to take steps towards getting back to his best form and his return has been really impressive considering the length of time he was out and that many of us thought that even if he did come back, he wouldn’t be the same player.

We learned that Clichy is nowhere near his best yet. He really struggled to contain Young for much of the match though he did win a few important battles. One can only imagine how bad Traore would have been embarrassed by Young last night had he been in the left-back spot.

Sol Campbell also deserves a mention. When the trainer went out to check on Vermaelen, you could see little gash in his shin. I didn’t think he’d be coming off. And I have to admit that considering how shaky we had looked defensively in the first half-hour, I was more than concerned when Sol came on. It looked a perfect opportunity for Agbonlahor to use his speed against the slower veteran. But Sol looked as solid as you could hope from what is essentially our #4 center-back overall (if you consider Djourou ahead of him when fit). He won headers, and though he was beaten for pace once or twice, he used his experience and his ability to read the game to compensate, like a veteran should.

I think I also learned, or came to accept, that Eduardo doesn’t look likely to ever again even approach his pre-injury level. He used to make up for a little lack of pace with his top-class finishing, but when that is there, he looks a very ordinary player. It pains me to say that because for over a month I’ve been saying it he just needed a run of games, but it’s starting to look as though that’s not the case and I think Arsenal would benefit more by giving some of those minutes to Vela, who has tons of potential and needs to play.

Anyway, I originally thought that we needed 7 points from these 4 matches to remain in fairly close contention, especially now considering Chelsea beat Birmingham quite easily. I think we must beat United and at least get a draw at the Bridge to remain in a firm position. How often are you involved in a three-team race for the League and play the other two teams consecutively. This is a rare opportunity for us. We can make a statement even bigger than the 10-match unbeaten run that put us on top last week. On to Sunday…