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.

Big 6? More Like “Big 3”

So we are just shy of being one-third of the way through the season and we’re already at our third (!) interlull. When we return, it will be crunch time with 11 matches in the next 42 days, including Chelsea at home, Liverpool away, the final CL group stage fixtures, and, of course, City away in the Carling Cup quarterfinals. While most Arsenal bloggers are taking this opportunity to look back at Arsenal’s season-so-far, and Arsenal Station will likely do that as well over this break, I’d like to say a few brief words about the Premier-League-so-far.

Big spending by City and Tottenham, £150m in 16 months, had the pundits predicting that the Big 4 would now begin turning into a Big 6. Not quite. Rather than having seen the competition at the very top open up, the opposite has happened. Instead of a Big 5 or 6 or 7, we appear to have a Big 3. Now, I know it’s not early in the season, but a “season-so-far-review” can only take into account what has happened “so far.”

Arsenal have confounded the critics with their performances so far this season. So have Liverpool, but in a different way. Chelsea appear to be very strong, but hardly invincible having lost the same amount of matches as us. United are somehow level on points with us, mostly thanks to their most important player this season, Lucky McLuck. But for a few slightly different bounces, they could be fighting with Liverpool for 7th place right now.

Nicklas BendtnerChelsea are easily the favorites at this point. They have squad depth, though that will be seriously tested in January when they lose Drogba, Essien, Kalou, and Obi Mikel to the African Cup of Nations. Though the temporary suspension of their transfer ban means that Chelsea can now buy in the next transfer window. A perceptive comment was made by one of the writers on Sunday Supplement last week, he said something to the effect of, “Chelsea are right now playing to their maximum potential, but Arsenal, despite their fantastic form and results, have not even come close to their potential.”

Rather than opening up the very top, a second Big 4 seems to have come together beneath Chelsea, Arsenal, and United. Tottenham, City, Liverpool, and Aston Villa sit between 8 and 11 points off the pace already and it is hard to imagine any of those four sides making up such a big deficit.

City are lucky to only be 10 points behind Chelsea with a game-in-hand considering their run of 5 consecutive draws in the league. That’s 10 points dropped in 5 matches… the points-equivalent of having won 1, drawn 2, and lost 3. And it wasn’t an especially hard part of their fixture list, including the most uninspiring draws with Birmingham, Fulham, Wigan, and Burnley. The novelty has worn off and City fans are now looking down the barrel at a diabolically shambolic defense which cost almost as much as Arsenal’s starting XI, not including Arshavin and Vermaelen.

When it comes to Liverpool, only two words suffice: Gerrard and Torres. And that’s it. Criticisms of Benitez, I feel , have been totally justified. The man has had five years to build a side, brought in over 50 players in that time, and still has a two-man team. Carragher has lost a step and a half and the entire club, especially Mascherano, has not been able to deal with the loss of Alonso. With no bench as well, and very few youth prospects, Liverpool supporters are in for huge reality check this season as the side appears to be in need of massive rebuilding, something neither Torres, nor Gerrard, nor even Benitez may stick around for, and something that the owners can’t afford.

In Arsenal news, Jamie at Young Guns is reporting that negotiations have concluded on a new contract for Carlos Vela and only the John Carlos VelaHancock-ing remains to be done. That is fantastic news considering all the ridiculous rumours of lower-level Spanish clubs deluding themselves into thinking he was even the slightest bit available.

Yaya Toure rumours have cropped up once again, but they are even more ridiculous this time around. His agent has asked why Barca gave him a new contract, “just to sit on the bench?” Well then, why would he come to Arsenal where he obviously would not walk into the first team ahead of Alex Song? Nicklas Bendtner will be out for 6 weeks or so after his groin surgery, likely much to the chagrin of his 34 year-old baroness girlfriend. Also, Gilles Sunu’s desire to go out on loan to the Championship is being stifled by Arsene until the youngster signs a new deal with the club.

Right, so that is my take on the Premier League season so far. On Arsenal Station over the break we will have a look at Arsenal’s season-so-far as well as a guest piece from Ted Harwood on Alex Song and possibly another from Comrade.