Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Check, Please

If Arsenal were a restaurant it would be a Cafe.
At Arsenal Cafe the menu looks delicious:
Jamon serrano croque monsieur
Bouillabasse with mustard seed toast
Vegetarian paella for two
10oz ribeye with patatas bravas
Lamb schnitzel - (sorry, temporarily unavailable)
Today's Special - Pan-seared Chilean sea bass with a lemon shallot butter

The reviews would be something like this:
5/5 stars - "Great place!  Get the sea bass special... omg, so good.  I can't believe this place has been down the block this whole time!  I can't wait to go back."  - Jenn

5/5 stars - "Seriously get the fish special, unforgettable!!  Great place for a date, quiet chic atmosphere and reasonably priced!!"  - Brit

4/5 stars - "Fantastic noms.  4 stars only because we waited an hour for the paella and when it was being brought out the waiter tripped and dropped it on the floor!  I heard its good though lol.  They were super nice about it and gave us free dessert.  Cash only. - Bryan

2/5 stars - "Lamb schnitzel is super overrated." - Frank

1/5 stars - "Schnitzel not that great - not worth it for that price"  - Bill

5/5 stars - "Sooooo good!  Apparently this place was a dump way back but my dad said they changed management and now it's great! I had the sea bass (of course! Lol) and my boyfriend seemed to really appreciate the schnitzel, said he couldn't believe all the criticism."  - Franny

0/5 stars - "Worst place ever.  My friend used to work there and said he couldn't wait to get out, they make no money and the staff is always changing and it shows.  Also what is up with cash only?  I asked the owner and he was super rude about it and said he'd never change the policy."  - Wayne

1/5 stars - "The food is ok but they ran out of silverware and the owner just told us to eat with our hands.  wtf?!  Just go buy some silverware bro... owner is crazy, the waiters said they've known about this for months.  Nachos for dessert...not going back"  - Tom

4/5 stars - "The sea bass, I mean WOW.  My friends got the paella but it was weird because the serving tray it was on right when they were going to eat it just randomly exploded and paella went everywhere."  - Ashley

3/5 stars - "My boyfriend drags me to this place at least once a week and promised me things would be different this year.  The sea bass was obviously great but I can't get that every single time.  He was bummed about the schnitzel not being available, said he was worried about that since restaurant week is coming up (newsflash, they're not beating Gordon Ramsays place, again #smh).  It's a good restaurant, don't get me wrong.  Every now and then the service is great, the food is delicious, and the atmosphere is perfect.  I just don't get how he gets so excited for this every time."  - Melissa

2/5 stars - "What is with the paella though?  Right as I'm about to take my first bite the light fell from the ceiling and knocked the fork out of my hand and splattered the food everywhere."  - AW

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Arsenal and Arsene Wenger Ruin a Lovely Game of Football

I enjoyed this game for about 72 minutes.  Until that point, Alexis Sanchez was doing unspeakable things to the Anderlecht defense, running at them, twisting and turning like a live eel, and generally being the wonderful player that he has been since his arrival.  "A more mentally stable Luis Suarez," as I like to say, or "Nicki Minaj in Clappers," as Juan put it last week.  His first major contribution was to open the defense like a can opener with a perfectly weighted pass for Welbeck, who was promptly hacked down in the area.  Arteta half-panenka'ed the pen.  One nil to the Arsenal.  Then, Sanchez scored a goal that deserves to be remembered as more than a footnote to another entry in the "Arsenal Choke Away Big Lead" storybook (BUT NOW IT WON'T BE - THANKS, ARSENAL).  Alexis had turned on the afterburners, running away from Anderlecht midfield and defense and finally forcing them to foul him on the edge of the area.  And when he dusted himself off and took the resulting free kick, it went straight into the wall.  BUT, Alexis followed the rebound and smashed a first-time volley into the bottom corner.  2-0, sheer class, Arsenal cruising.

The second half was more of the same, with the indefatigable Alexis harrying Anderlecht in their own half and winning a tackle that allowed the Ox to run onto the ball and slot home coolly.  3-0  Game over.  Then, something really funny happened when Anderlecht were able to score a goal that was miles offside.  Hilariously offside.  Not even close offside.  But I wasn't even annoyed at that point, mostly just amused.  It was too bad to lose the clean sheet, but 3-1 at home with the way we had been playing seemed pretty secure.

Then Nacho gave away the penalty, and I stopped laughing.  Was it a dive?  Possibly, probably, who knows, but when you're the wrong side of your man like that, it's hard for the ref not to call it.  So then it was 3-2, and I got that feeling, the one I had against Newcastle, the one I had against Spurs that one time.  That feeling of inevitability.  Helplessness.  Arsenal were absolutely going to cough this one up.  And when they did, it was almost a relief.

I say "almost," because it wasn't actually a relief, it was extremely annoying.  It ruined our chances of topping the group.  It ruined the good feeling and the confidence that had been building in the club's supporters over the past fortnight.  It ruined a wonderful performance by Alexis Sanchez, who must be wondering how many he'll have to score and/or assist before Arsenal can safely see out a game.  (In case he ever reads this: it's five, Alexis.  The answer is five.  We've never pissed away a lead that big before, as far as I can recall, so five should be enough.  Watch us do it this season, though.)  And on a personal and petty note, it ruined my ability to gleefully watch the first half highlights and remember this game fondly and talk about how things are looking up with Juan and Adam, which is what I was most looking forward to at the 72nd minute.

One can rage against the refereeing crew all day, but this one is on Arsenal, and most of all, it's on Arsene Wenger.  You could blame Monreal for being wrong side of his man, but HE. IS. NOT. A. CENTERBACK.  He's just not.  Frankly, I think he's been doing a pretty good job there all things considered.  Yes, this time, he got beat (and maybe the ref got conned).  But the fact that he was even playing there is (1) a result of our failure to get more depth and defensive cover (yes, it's the brokenest of broken records), and (2) a reflection of Wenger's unwillingness to trust Hector Bellerin or even Flamini at right back so that Chambers can play in the center, which, you know, he can actually do.  And it's also on Arsene for not changing things up sooner when it was clear his team were about to crap the bed.  Could Theo Walcott, who looked so lively during his cameo against Burnley, not have come on and helped provide an outlet against a team that were pressing for an equalizer?  We'll never know.

It's going to be a long week now since Arsenal don't play until Sunday.  Every sports journalist in the UK is going to have a field day with this one.  Thanks to this game and certain likely political outcomes, I plan on being one very poorly-informed individual until next week.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alexis is Nicki Minaj in Clappers

There are two contributors to this blog, and I'm the wrong person to write this, but hear me out.

The Arsenal is the song, and Alexis Sanchez is Nicki Minaj.  (That makes Wenger Wale, and Juicy J Aaron Ramsey.)

It's a solid song, a fine song; catchy, unique, well budgeted in a world where some videos are funded by Arab sheiks or Russian oligarchs.

But where would Clappers be without Nicki.  The song fits her, and she fits the song perfectly.  Nicki is a force to be reckoned with, extremely talented, physically gifted, yet somehow underrated.  Do people realize how incredible Minaj is?  Has she had a bad verse, or even a bad cameo?  And in case it isn't clear, she beat Yonce.

She enters the video at 2:45, gulp.  She literally fixes her hair at 3:15 and struts around- that was the transfer.  From 3:15 to 3:28 she gets to know the team, what she'll be working with.  And then the video counts her in - 3, 2, 1 - that's the kickoff.  From there, hold on to your hats.

Alexis Sanchez is to Arsenal what Nicki Minaj is to Clappers, ohh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Counterpoint: Why You Should Definitely Boo Cesc Fabregas

Yesterday, Juan wrote a post on why you should boo Cesc Fabregas.  Today, I'd like to take issue with that post and explain why you should absolutely, definitely boo Cesc Fabregas.

1. He's an extremely good player.  Probably one of the five best central midfielders in the world.  People who aren't Arsenal fans never really understood this completely.  The subject of Fabregas would come up with fans of other teams, and I would repeatedly insist: "no, he is a truly special world-class player," and then they'd say "hmm sure alright" and then add something nonsensical about Lampard or, even worse, Michael Carrick, and I'd shake my head and say: "no, you don't understand," and then we'd get frustrated with each other.  (And I mean no disrespect to Lampard, who was brilliant and still is sometimes brilliant, especially when he scores against Chelsea because that ish is hilarious.)

2. He wears a blue shirt when he plays home games.

3. He does not wear a red and white shirt when he plays home games.

4. He intentionally passes the ball to this old man who was recently spotted on a bus, and the old man then uses his devil magic skills to magic the ball into the other team's goal.  (Sometimes the other team is wearing red and white.)

5. He was so good and he was the captain and then he said he wanted to go home and he said that it was all he ever wanted and he had Barca DNA and Pepe Reina put that shirt on him and then he went home and OK that's fine it's just like Henry but then three years later he is not at home but instead playing for a terrible man who is completely without honor and class and who would definitely, definitely lose to Arsene Wenger in a fistfight and he is being paid with money that is dripping with the sweat and blood of the Russian people who were swindled and I hate him and I love him and I hate him

(deep breath)


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why You Should Boo Cesc Fabregas

It's been over 3 years since Cesc Fabregas played his last game for Arsenal; it was a 2-1 loss to Bolton.  He left for his hometown of Barcelona, where, before anyone cared where he played soccer, he was just a kid.  In Northeast Spain, nothing is given.  Everything is earned.  Or something like that.

He wanted to win we were told.
But he won't play! We responded (correctly).
He'll fit in perfectly they said.
But where exactly? We exclaimed (correctly).
The weather, the tabloids, the women, the food, the culture - they're are all better in Spain!
But... but...yeah ok fine.

In between watching perhaps the best team I will see in my lifetime I watched him on the bench, desperate for a frown, a twitch, something that I could point to.  Something that would let me know that maybe he regretted his decision.  That's all I really wanted.

I know, I thought, he won't play in El Clasico, and that's when I can move on.  He came on in the 80th minute, Barcelona lost 2-1.

But then he started playing, and then he scored a few goals, and then they won the league, and then they won everything.  He looked happy.  Ouch.

Time will fix this, and it did.  I was happy for him.  He was right, Arsenal was a sinking ship.  He'll always be a gooner.

Until he wasn't.

What in the holy christ fuck is he doing back in England and with goddamn Chelsea with goddamn Mourinho and Drogba, and, jesus!  And don't come at me with this, "Arsenal didn't want him" bullshit.  First of all Arsenal have a right to pass on him, I'm glad they did (no I'm not), and that's not what happened anyway.  If he's capable of forcing himself onto Barcelona, and he'll take a pay cut to do it, and he'll swim the Mediterranean just to get there, then if he really wanted to come back he would have.  It wasn't about competitiveness when he left because athletes in their prime want to contribute - he was the captain of a Champions League team in Englad at 24!  His first games were with an Arsenal team that went undefeated in the league!  It turns out we were right, he was wrong.
And that's why you should boo him.  Because with this it's not often you're right, but this time you were.
So let him cross it to an offside John Terry, which of course won't be flagged, of course, it's Chelsea.  And let him hug all up on Willian, and Terry, and let Mourinho keep trolling Arsenal fans since he's still mad that Pellegrini trolled him with Lampard earlier in the year - thanks for that by the way - and hopefully Fabs has some advice for Costa and his Van-Persie-hamstrings.  To hell with it all.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Manchester United Are Must-See TV

One season of football can really change the way you feel about a club.  As long as I've been watching, Manchester United have been Public Enemy No. 1.  A team to be hated and feared.  Respected and admired, certainly.  But mostly hated and feared.  And ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left, United have never been at the top of my non-Arsenal soccer viewing.  Even when they were putting out title-winning sides, I took no particular enjoyment in watching them play.

Until now, that is.  United's utter ineptitude last season laid the groundwork by removing most of the fear and loathing and replacing it with grateful, long-awaited feelings of schadenfreude.  And this season, they are probably the most entertaining side for a neutral viewer.  Their attacking options are like something that was dreamed up by Roman Abramovich after a few lines of fine Colombian (not talking about Falcao) a few years ago, who then shook his head and laughed at his own silliness.  Meanwhile, their defense is playing like someone told them that the FA has changed the offside rule to five yards behind the last man.  And that the ball is made of hot lava.  Basically, it means that the viewer is guaranteed a minimum of four goals per game, and it's not entirely clear which side is going to score them.

Anyway, if this doesn't convince you, watch and admire at Rafael screaming in desperation at Saido Berahino as he peels away, trying to put him off scoring the way your annoying friend yells right before your shot in a game of H-O-R-S-E.  (Note: it didn't work.  At all.)  Good stuff.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


I started writing this post when Arsenal were 2-1 down to Hull. The game finished 2-2 so Huzzah, I guess.

I don’t know what makes a great soccer team great.  I mean, I have a rudimentary understanding of what is required, and I can certainly recognize greatness when I see it.  But what I cannot do is say: "if you buy X player and Y player and hire Z manager, you will have a great team" and know that I will be right.  (Well, maybe if variables X, Y, and Z are Messi, Ronaldo, and Jurgen Klopp, respectively.  I would feel pretty confident about that.  But even then, who knows?)  Of course, this has never stopped me from making these sorts of predictions and tricking myself into believing them.

Which brings me to Arsenal.  Last year, Arsenal broke its nine-season trophy drought by winning the FA Cup against Hull City.  It was glorious and well-deserved.  If Juan and I were not deadbeat absentee parents of this blog, there certainly would have been celebratory posts and pictures and champagne for all.

What made the FA Cup win so wonderful was not just that Arsenal had a trophy to throw in the faces of its critics (albeit only the third-most prestigious trophy one can win in English football these days), but that it seemed to be the first marker on a road to continued success.  For nine years, Arsenal and its fans had wandered in the desert, watching teams built on youth and the glittering jewel in the crown, Cesc Fabregas, show great promise (2007-08, 2010-11) and then ultimately crash and burn down the stretch.  During these years of debt and thrift and injury (always injury), Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.  Arsenal fans would spend the summer wondering which one of their stars would get picked off by a bigger club.  Instead of being used to buy suitable replacements, the proceeds would immediately be sent to the bank to pay for the Emirates Stadium.

Anyway, all of this has been beaten to death, so I'll get to the point, which is this: those years of fruitless frustration are supposed to be over.  The stadium is paid off.  There is a new kit deal.  The naming rights to the Stadium have been renewed.  The club is flush with cash.  Arsenal spent an extended period of time at the top of the table last year.  There is a shiny new trophy in the cabinet.  And the last two summers have seen the arrival of two of the most exciting attacking players in world football: Mesut Ozil and Cesc Fabregas Alexis Sanchez.

Even without the arrival of a defensive midfielder and greater defensive cover following the departure of Thomas Vermaelen (two subjects that deserve, and have received, gallons of ink already), I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that Arsenal fans felt their team would be truly competitive this season.  Ozil and Sanchez would be the missing variables to get our once-exciting offense back on track.  Welbeck could be the finisher that we've missed since RVP.  Things would CLICK.  Maybe we would ultimately fall short in the League to the depth of Chelsea or Citeh, but we would be in the fight to the end!  We would be outside challengers for the Champions League!  We would put up a staunch defense of the FA Cup!  Some of us even exchanged texts about the treble being in play.  (Full disclosure: some of us are silly.)

As of this moment, Arsenal sit sixth in the table, and they will probably be lower than that by the time the weekend is over.  Chelsea are in the lead with twice (twice!) as many points.  Ozil is injured.  Koscielny is injured. Giroud is injured.  Debuchy is injured.  Wilshere is (almost certainly) injured.  Rosicky and Ramsey have struggled with injuries at various points already.  Walcott has not yet returned.  This is all very bad luck (or something worse and systemic), but Arsenal have still put out sides that, on paper, ought to be have won against opponents like Hull, Tottenham, Leicester, and Everton.  These games have all been draws, some, like today, by the skin of their teeth.  We have looked very, very mediocre.

This team is not great.  It is not even very good.  I don't think it's just the injuries, either.  Something is not right.  There is a faint whiff of rottenness at the core.  The hope provided by that FA Cup victory is long gone.  The lack of good defensive depth and cover has been incredibly obvious.  And the resignation is setting in that this will be yet another season where we exit the Champions League at the round of sixteen.  A season where the FA Cup holds the slim possibility of another trophy and, more likely, the threat of embarrassing ourselves against lower league opposition.  A season where the league is far beyond us by Christmas (or, um, today) and we will struggle for the Top 4 Trophy and the lifeblood of Champions League football.

(Still gonna watch, though.)