You might want to free up some time – this is a long one today.
What an absolutely crazy day yesterday was huh? It was, as I’m sure many have already said, a microcosm of Arsenal’s season – a goalkeeping injury (or just an injury), a rampant display, a failure to take chances, letting the opposition back in, then wobbling like a jellyfish on speed. Luckily, the ‘give a crap’ pills seemed to have been swallowed well in time for the match, and despite a nervy start, we got a grip well.
Pre-kick-off, all the talk had been about the dramatic late inclusion of Jens Lehmann in the starting line-up, Almunia having reportedly suffered a knee injury warming up. As Almunia had already been named in the starting line-up he was not allowed to be included on the bench (though we were still allowed to use three substitutes, a change clearly only being allowed to be made to the named line-up if a player is unfit to be involved at all.) This was very nearly costly as Jens could have seen red, but luckily, in a rush of blood to his head, Lee Mason decided to play a superb advantage, Blackpool scored, and the ‘goal scoring opportunity’ Jens had denied them was reinstated.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Prior to that, bar the first five or 10 minutes, Arsenal had been quite simply rampant. It would be a lie to say that had we entered the break at half-time six nil to the good you could argue. Diaby had one of those games which makes you realise what an immense talent he is, quickly followed by sadness in the realisation that he can never seem to stay fit long enough to get a proper run.
His goal was Vieira-esque – winning the ball in midfield before striding up the pitch busting his lungs to get in the box to be on the end of a pin-point Van Persie cross for an easy side-foot.
Then up popped Eboue, it was the day of the much-maligned, and his shot was hit so hard that even if Kingson had gotten all of his frame behind it he would have simply ended up in the back of the net with the ball. No tippy-tappy for Eboue. In the box? BANG!
From there it was a story of missed chances, tame finishing, and ‘ohh so close’. Closest of the lot was Samir’s delightful volley as the ball dropped over his shoulder. He was unlucky and struck the outside of the post – the 19th time Arsenal have managed to hit the woodwork this season (more than any other team – thanks @Orbinho.)
Half-time, the jokes were all about how many we would need before we could feel the points were safe. We knew we were dominant, we knew we were two up, but we also knew that failure to take chances has cost this Arsenal team regularly this season.
The second half started and Blackpool battered us. We wobbled, and then we cracked. 1-2. Then they should have had a penalty, no question, but somehow Lee Mason didn’t see Koscielny slide through the Blackpool player.
It was rocky for a while but we weathered the storm, thanks to a superb save from Lehmann who no doubt confused the Arsenal defence constantly shouting and organising them, (what is this madness?) and some last ditch tackling/heading. Gradually, we got a hold of the game and at 1-2 Arsenal fans knew that the next goal would probably be the most important of the entire season.
Theo had been brought on at 60 minutes (who says Arsene doesn’t make early changes) to exploit the unbelievable high line that Blackpool were still insisting on holding despite being caught time and time again. It didn’t take long to pay off.
A splendid tackle by Squillaci at the corner of our box saw the ball fall to Diaby who played keep-ball and somehow managed to actually keep it (not usual when an Arsenal player tries that near our own box, I know). He passed it forward to Cesc who deftly flicked it on to Theo and we were away. One touch cross in to the path of Van Persie who finished first time with the side of his foot 1-3, and there had been only two touches in the opposition half to put the game beyond Blackpool. Van Persie’s goal was his 12th of the season, his highest tally in the league since joining Arsenal (thanks @OptaJoe).
And that was that. It might only have been three points and it might only have been Blackpool, but the team needed to stand strong against a determined and passionate Blackpool side who didn’t know when they were beaten.
I really hope they stay up.
So now, suddenly, we are back in the title race. Personally, I never thought we were out of it – win our game in hand and beat United and we only need them to drop one point. That’s not impossible, it was never impossible.
The mood among fans lifted, they realised that they could watch highlights, MOTD2, read papers and listen to pods once again. It’s been so long since Monday did not hold the fear of ridicule from co-workers, but not this Monday.
But it didn’t stop there.
After the match, Cesc posted this on Twitter:
300 games for Arsenal today with a very important victory. I look back and I see so many great things. But I look at the future and I see…
…Even greater things. Thank you very much for making me feel so special all those years. Now I want more. Let’s fight untill the end!
Now I got very excited about that. At the time, there were strong rumours that Arsenal were about to be taken over (more on that in a bit) so the timing seemed strange. Look at the wording – Thank you for my memories and I want more. That is clearly an indication that he will be staying.
Am I reading too much in to it? Possibly, but I don’t really think so. In his Spanish and Catalan versions which he also posted, he left out the ‘Now I want more’ tweet. Some said it read like a goodbye, but why would the captain of Arsenal, with only eight games left and still with a shout for the title chose say goodbye? That doesn’t make sense.
I guess we won’t really know until the summer, but I’m thinking he will stay after a season of thinking he would probably go. I was right last season, let’s hope I’m right this.
At the same time, as I’ve mentioned, it was emerging that Arsenal would be subjected to a take-over by American Billionaire, Stan Kroenke. Some thought this would mean we would suddenly splash the cash, some were concerned that the club would be saddled with debt like United and Liverpool (this isn’t Stan’s way) and I guess we won’t know until it happens. The announcement is meant to take place in the next couple of days, so in the meantime, here is one fan’s view of Stan Kroenke to give you a better idea what we will be getting:
Stan Kroenke – A Fan’s View
by Pete Johns
As a fan of both Arsenal FC and The NFL I’ve come to learn more and more about Stan Kroenke over the last few of years. I’ve been an Arsenal fan all my life, but this story starts on the other side of the Atlantic. I’ve been an NFL fan since 1997, the first team I ever saw play were the St. Louis Rams, and before you go calling me any kind of glory hunter, they lost… I guess I was drawn to them as underdog’s, they had a new coach in Dick Vermeil, and little did I know, a part owner called Stan Kroenke, but I wouldn’t learn much more about him for a good few years.
In 1997 the Rams finished their 16 game season with a record of 5-11 and followed that up with just 4 wins (finishing 4-12) in 1998. Everything changed for them in 1999 when they finished 13-3 and went to the playoffs, They didn’t leave it there though, going on to win the Superbowl with a 23-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans, Two years later the Rams made it back to the Superbowl, this time losing 20-17 to the New England Patriots. From this point onwards the team would gradually fall away from the limelight.
In 2008, Rams owner Georgia Frontiere passed away, after losing her battle with breast cancer, and the team finished just 2-14. Ownership of the Rams passed on to her children Chip and Lucia. Georgia had owned 60% of the Rams, She’d previously sold 40% of the team to Stan Kroenke when the Rams moved from LA to St. Louis in 1995. Kroenke also had the right of first refusal against any offer for the remaining 60% of the Rams. With Georgia’s passing her children would look to sell the team.
Kroenke who owned 40% of the Rams, is well known in the US as a sports mogul, his company Kroenke Sports Enterprises at the time owned 40% of the St. Louis Rams, along with the Denver Nuggets NBA Franchise, the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche, MLS side the Colorado Rapids, while also owing a Lacrosse team and part owing Arena Football League side Colorado Crush, and in 2007 acquired a 9.9% share in Arsenal FC, This share would continue to grow to the 29.9% he owns today, with Stan joining the board of directors at Arsenal in September 2008.
In 2010, Kroenke exercised his right of first refusal to buy the remaining 60% of the St. Louis Rams, a deal that required him to give up ownership of his NHL and NBA franchises in order to comply with the NFL’s cross ownership rules (The NFL does not allow its owners to hold majority control of major league teams in cities with have an NFL franchise). Control of those teams was passed on to his son Josh at the end of 2010.
Since taking over the St. Louis Rams in 2010, a Franchise that had gone just 6-42 the past 3 years, Stan has helped to begin the teams turn around, He’s shown willing with all his sports teams to hire people who knowledgeable of the sports and allow them to run the teams with little interference, He’s shown willingness to go and sign big named star’s if that’s what his managers and coaches want. This is a man who likes to see his sports teams win. In 2010 his MLS side the Colorado Rapid’s became MLS Cup Champions for the first time, while his NBA side the Nuggets won their division in both 2009 and 2010.
That brings us to today, Sunday April 10th 2011, The day which saw Jens Lehmann return to Arsenal’s goal as they beat Blackpool 3-1. And then Sky News report that Stan Kroenke was making a move to take control of Arsenal. If this deal is completed he would own both my beloved Arsenal FC and the NFL side I support the St. Louis Rams.
I have confidence that, should Stan Kroenke complete his takeover at Arsenal, he would back Arsene Wenger fully, providing him with whatever he needs to get the job done. The money would be provided to purchase any players Arsene sees fit, and players would not be forced upon the manager, unlike some other sides.
This is just one fan’s view, but hopefully it gives you some insight into Stan, and why I am hopeful that this will see Arsenal continue to prosper and move onto new highs!
Follow Pete on Twitter @KiloFourSeven
With some people on Twitter saying Kroenke likes to build his team around a star, could Cesc be that star?
Only time will tell, but personally, I don’t believe in coincidences – everything is connected.
Wait and see.
Former Arsenal and Scotland goalkeeper and TV presenter, Bob Wilson will be taking on the greatest challenge of his life this month. Bob will cycle more than 500 miles via every Premier League Club in England and Hampden Park in his homeland of Scotland in a bid to raise money for the Willow Foundation which helps improve the lives of seriously ill 16 to 40 year olds.
Bob gets underway on Monday April 18th so make sure you head to his official website and give what you can – Bob Wilson Soccer Cycle 2011 Official Website.