Ban Him, Officially Speaking And Barcelona’s Nearly Here
Arsenal head to certain Champions League defeat (©goodnewsdoesntsellpapers plc) in the Camp Nou bouyed by the return to fitness of Cesc Fàbregas and Jack Wilshere declaring himself fit and ready for action. It now leaves Alex Song to do likewise and Arsenal will be at as full strength as they can possibly be.
Of course the defeat of Manchester United at Anfield has improved everyone’s mood, much like that suffered by the current league leaders at Stamford Bridge last week.
However a cautionary note needs to be applied as Arsenal must take advantage of these slips, the trip to The Emirates and a home clash with Chelsea are the only two difficult games they have left; the remainder are emminently winnable.
Sir Alex Ferguson might not be present for any of them, seemingly intent on increasing his two match ban with a spurious appeal against his FA charge for abusing officials. With a two match suspended sentence set to be activated, Ferguson might be missing for both of those clashes as the FA can increase his ban due to the appeal.
And an example needs to be set.
It is patently obvious that Ferguson believes himself to be above any footballing regulation. Any other manager would be receiving hospital treatment at this moment due to the weight and force of the FA Rulebook which would have hit them.
Refusing to speak with the media is childish and petulant. Yet he has been ignoring the BBC and not been fined. The EPL board regualrly have this as an item on their agenda and regularly gloss over the issue, preferring mediation as a dispute resolution.
Mediate Ferguson’s pay-packet out of existence for several weeks and as rich as he is, the Scot will kowtow to the footballing rules. Ban him from a stadium on match day and you will find out just how genial he can be. It would be no surprise if he turned up in a snood for the cup tie this weekend.
But it is part of a wider issue.
Officials need to come out and explain decisions to curtail the criticism. At the moment, abuse is ill-informed because of a wall of silence from the men in black, yellow, red, white or puce not justifying their actions. The FA have been left out to dry over Rooney by Fifa, their feebleness exposed. United might well rue Blatter’s intervention as a strong disciplinary typhoon rasps through English football.
Seemingly this season has seen more contentious decisions than before; whether that is true or not matters little, the perception rules in this instance. And it is not good for referees. They are not helped by Fifa’s insistence that technology must be infallible – it will never be so but neither will the human eye; you only have to look at the varied opinions of players for proof of that.
Steps in the right direction are happening. Titus Bramble would have been cast as a villain on Saturday if the fourth official could have rightly called the foul. Would Arshavin’s goal have been disallowed if the same call was made to overrule the linesman? At the moment, such retrospective action is not on the agenda, ball over the line issues only. How long that remains the case will become apparent in due course.
Nou Camp Bound
It would not be a big game for Arsenal if there were not key players out injured. Last season Theo Walcott’ pace was identified as frightening by Guardiola and Alves. But moving Nasri to the right and Arshavin on the left gives Barcelona a different set of problems. Any boost from the news that Puyol and Pique will both be missing for the Catalans is quickly neutered by the hazy recollection that they missed the trouncing last season.
Much attacking weight falls on the shoulders of Nicklas Bendtner. His inclusion in the starting line-up on Saturday means he is likely to be Arsène’s striker of choice tomorrow, although this is by no means certain.
In the Camp Nou last season Bendtner had a mixed evening; one goal whilst one dubious offside and the woodwork denied Arsenal a closer than deserved scoreline. This time around, Fàbregas’ return will provide more prompting.
Yet there will be much defensive work to be done and the fitness gap evident in the first leg might yet prove decisive. Barcelona might retain a lot of possession and have an atmosphere which brings forth a more beneficial and lenient interpretation of the laws from the officials but they were visibly more tired than Arsenal at the end of the first leg.
Arsène has noted that Arsenal will not set out to defend; for periods of time, they will not have any choice. Equally though the first leg gave Barcelona a warning. Theo Walcott may have frightened them with his pace but both of the Arsenal goals came when he had left the field; both showed that Arsenal are quicker than Barcelona over the ground and that will make them wary.
Indeed cod psychology is coming into play, childlike in its simplicity with Javier Mascherano claiming that Messi could score five, a hugely unlikely scenario. A repeat of last season is equally as unlikely and comments like that are designed to get into the heads of the Arsenal players. Except they make the Catalans seem to be scared, or lacking belief in their ability to progress through to the next round.
Arsenal will benefit from this especially if a clean sheet can be kept or failing that a goal not conceded until the second half. Two in the Barcelona net by that stage would be delightful.
We can dream, can’t we?
This evening I will chatting online at Real Social Dad‘s gaff. Feel free to drop by.