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'If It's Football, It's Vital'

Burnley Burn Out in Arsenal Victory

Far be it from me to suggest that the big clubs lack media coverage, however, F.A. Cup Third Round day is a rare event in the footballing calendar as much of the media gaze seems to be fixed firmly on the minnows. I've no doubt Burnley were excited about the prospect of a visit from the Premiership leaders. However, from the perspective of a travelling supporter, the Cup provides, in its early rounds, an opportunity for the big boys to experience something new and exciting. So it was with great relish I awoke at 4am to undertake the long sojourn to the sleepy Lancashire town of Burnley. This was my first visit to Turf Moor and the first time I have been able to visit a new ground in England in over two years (since we drew Doncaster Rovers in the League Cup). I must admit to having fallen out of love with the Cup in recent years, precisely because drawing the likes of Bolton and Blackburn every year has rendered the competition little more than a moderately attractive nuisance. In truth, I was beginning to prefer the Carling Cup.

But the chance for some tourism off the beaten track was most appreciated, as we met with some Burnley supporting acquaintances and had a nice lukewarm pint of Thwaites on the Burnley cricket ground, which overlooks Turf Moor. Entering the ground in good spirits amidst a sea of noisy Gooners, the concourse leading to our enclosure was dimly lit, with the roof arced miles above our head, it gave one of the feeling of being in a railway underpass. The dank smell of urine from the urinals (well, it was more of a trough actually) multiplied this aura, in fact, I was surprised not to see crude graffiti and gangs of hooded teenagers eyeing me suspiciously as I made my way towards my seat. The away end was incredibly steep and I even found myself indulging a kind of perverse aristocratic tourism by photographing my seat. The seats were crude wooden structures which, had any of the visiting support actually used them, may have left a few splintered rear ends come four p.m. The paint had long since peeled off the over arching stansions in the roof and a cancerous rust had taken them over. Far from dampen the enthusiasm, the primitive conditions really gave the away fans a sense of occasion and purpose, this is what the F.A. Cup is supposed to be about. Though I admit that I have never had any time for underdogs, rosy cheeked with their brand new rosettes pinned steadfastly to chests. Much is said about how much clubs like Arsenal destroy the soul of football, but the underdog brings out the worst kind of glory hunter. With smaller clubs on the brink of extinction, I have come to despise the way stay away fans raise themselves to attend the visit of a giant, but cannot wrest themselves from their armchairs to regularly watch their side and swell some coffers. The way smaller sides raise their games so gargantuanly has always troubled me, I often wonder how different fortunes would be if they managed to raise themselves in a similar manner in the mundane humdrum of league football. The atmosphere was louder and more raucuous than I have heard this season, one might attribute this to the greater numbers, as F.A. Cup games offer the chance for increased allocations. But I think the rustic surroundings and unglamorous opposition really added something. When you're used to being spoon fed caviar every week, occasionally, bangers and mash can really massage the taste buds.

As the match kicked off, I was struck by the tension from the home crowd, with Burnley's recent run of poor form, they appeared pensive, awaiting the worst. But after just four minutes they were ejected from their reverie when Philippe Senderos failed to deal with Alexander's ball down the line to Andy Gray, his right wing cross was met with a firm header by Kyle Lafftery which rattled the crossbar. Sensing some nerves in Senderos and Traore, Burnley would continue to attack our vulnerable left side all afternoon. But Arsenal got the message and assumed control of the game. Kolo Toure's long chip out of defence saw Eduardo find space betwixt the Burnley centre halves, the ball bobbled and took an age to come down, but Eduardo was troubled little as he composed himself in typical fashion before cooly slotting beyond Gabor 'Bananas in Pyjamas' Kiraly. Eduardo's current form should hopefully spell an end to the lone striker experiment in the absence of van Persie.

The uneven surface was proving to be something of a leveller, as Arsenal could not get the ball under their spell. Gilberto showed some ring rustiness early on with some stray passes (which he rectified gradually as the game went on), whilst Traore appeared uncharacteristically reluctant to get forward. Arsenal might have extended their lead on 20 minutes, the impressive Denilson floated over a right wing corner, which Gilberto headed goalwards only to see Graham Alexander clear off the line. The Gunners troublingly slipped back into first gear thereafter, succumbing to a complacent malaise which allowed Burnley back into the game. Firstly, Gray blasted a long shot over and when Armand Traore dallied over a clearance near his own goal line, Wade Elliott dispossessed him and pulled back for McCann, but he leant back and blasted over too. A smart Nicklas Bendtner bicycle kick was the visitors only other real forray on goal as half time arrived. A fifteen minute rendition of 'Arsene Wenger's red army' was really the only other highlight of a quite subdued performance.

Arsenal had the opportunity to put the game beyond Burnley in the opening minutes of the half. Bendtner played a swift one two with Eduardo which left the Crozilian through on goal. 'Two nil' I exclaimed as he bore down on Kiraly, but inexplicably he put the ball wide. In fact, the goal below me was partially obscured and I must confess I even celebrated as he slotted the ball past Kirlay and the Hungarian 'keeper stood statuesque, until I saw the expression of shock on Eduardo's face. Eduardo missing in that situation was yet another first for the visiting support in a day of discovery. I guess the sun shines on a dog's arse at least once a day. Arsenal looked relatively comfortable, though Burnley's tenacity made it impossible to adopt any rhythm. Thankfully, Sagna and Toure were on their usual flawless form, while Senderos appeared to have a word with himself at half time after a frankly woeful first half display from the young Swiss. Traore still looked ill at ease and was withdrawn for for young German full back Jurgen Hoyte.

Burnley had a real chcne to equalise when Robbie Blake's free kick found McCann unmarked from close range, but he once again misjudged basic metrics as he ehaded over. Soon after, the home side were reduced to ten men after a rash challenge from Kyle Lafferty on Gilberto. I would have to see it again to produce a firm conclusion, but I felt it was a tad harsh, more an act of frustration than one of violence. But with the speed of play so frantic, I cannot remember how far above the ball Lafferty lunged. I was mindful though of another questionable challenge from Denilson in the first period. The young Brazilian came away with the ball, but again appeared to lunge in a similar manner to his indiscretion in nearby Blackburn.

Burnley briefly rallied, buoyed by a sense of injustice. But the Gunners put the game to bed with fifteen minutes remaining. Eduardo picked out Bendtner with a cute slide rule pass and the Dane rounded Kiraly before slotting Arsenal into a two goal lead. The remainder of the game was played out in a perfunctory manner, with Arsenal playing keep ball and Burnley all out of juice. An Eduardo shot stung the paws of Kiraly, but otherwise the dying embers of the game were a mere gesture. It was hardly the most convincing display from Arsenal, complacency, conditions and a resolute home side were all contributing factors. But we were clinical with our chances and, really, did the bare minimum to achieve a result. Now for the Fourth Round draw as we await a trip to somewhere horrible and boring. Boro or somwhere like that.LD.

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The Journalist

Writer: Tim Stillman Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Monday January 7 2008

Time: 1:22PM

Your Comments

Newcastle or Stoke at home. BOOOOOOOORING!
Little Dutch
Shocking draw, gutted tbh, would've loved Stoke away or even Newcastle away on a SATURDAY. Great turn out yesterday though, thought our support was effin superb. Great to hear some renditions of the old numbers 'n all. Quite a few old heads were there.
Newcastle away on a Saturday? I think there must have been some law passed to prevent that. I think I even heard a rendition of the "********* to the front" chant, which I hadn't heard since I was about nine.
Little Dutch
Seems strange to sing "She wore a yellow ribbon" again.
Eyes right, ****s tight...
'we're the boys who make more noise....' was great, was just gutted it weren't on a Sat. A pint in the Yates in town was 1.60 = now that's living!
Hope it's stoke, bloody well should've been based on Yesterdays performance, they were all over the barcodes, regarding Burnley up until Bendtners goal they showed great fight and gave us a good game.
since when has f.o.r.e s.k.i.n been swearing?
You shoulda seen the amount of old bill at a service station just outside Blackburn - i even got pictured ffs.
eh? It's eyes right skinback tight, b0llox to the front.
I have no problems with Bendtner, Traore, Gilberto, Diaby or Eboue having off days, it's to be expected, but Senderos is really troubling me. With Kolo Toure about to depart we're stuck with him as first choice centre back (god forbid Billy G gets injured). He just doesn't seem like he can play anymore. He's slow, he gets caught out of position, his clearing of the ball is woeful considering putting you foot through the ball is a skill even I have mastered, and even his best attribute of heading the ball seems to have left him. It's really starting to scare me.
Hope it's Stoke as long as there isn't a replay. I still have nightmares about that place.
And does anyone have any idea what is their connection to Tom Jones and Delilah?
I have to say I agree. In the past I have refused to believe that it was anything other than form with Phil, he had two awesome spells in the first team. But with every game that passes I lose a little lore faith. To be fair, he was much better in the second half, but with all due respect, we'll play better teams than Burnleyand it should be expected for him to look comfortable at that level, not a relief.
Little Dutch
LD - Please tell me that Kolo will be back for AC Milan. Phil got away with a few things against Lafferty and co, but if we think that Kaka and friends will be so forgiving....we would be wrong.
The Delilah song is just a random one that caught on, a bit like the mickeys with 'Ring of Fire.' Or Spurs with 'Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur', where's the connection there?
Little Dutch
Yeah, he'll be back. Even FIFA aren't stupid enough to have an international tournament that clashes with the CL. Anyone who fancies a good vomit, check this link
Little Dutch
I couldn't even bring myself to finish reading that LD - what an odious **** that man really is. I can't even be arsed to crack open my "Arsene has done more for English football than any other living person" argument, nobody outside our club is willing to listen anyway.
I'm bored of arguing that with other supporters, totally. Butt this man is responsible for running the game of football. Why are the ****s always in charge?
Little Dutch
Thanks LD, you have just consigned my good mood at Spuds getting Man Yoo to the history pile.
I'll have to ask my boss LD.:)
I wonder why Blatter the head of FIFA want people to put more emphasis on football at the international level rather than the club level? Could it be because of the crap football we had to witness in the last world cup compared to the high standard we witness every year in the Cl.
I watched the game for 65 minutes yesterday and i have to say I didn't see Senderos doing so badly. I certainly did not feel his performance was woeful. But I thought Traore was pretty poor maybe because of nerves/ he is young I don't know but he never put the performance he put against Chelsea at Cardiff again. And what he performance by Diaby! Absolutely woeful. He was lazy and kept the ball for too long I'm afraid. Denilson i thought was good but I thought Eboue was awful too. Too many below par performances yesterday I'm afraid. We need to improve.
I have a question- With Eduardo and Adebayor in red hot form and Bendtner not playing badly either, what will this mean for RvP when he's fit? Will the boss drop one the in-form players or will RvP be happy to wait for his chance on the bench? We could potentially head into a Flamini-Gilberto situation I'm afraid.
Good Read LD thanks, but i could not bring myself to read any of the other article when I saw who it was by, everytime he opens his gob its to do with 'the state' of english football! pr1ck!
Wouldyoubelieveit? There's nothing unfortunate about it, as I've said time and again, competition brings out the best in everyone and we have a great situation upfront now where all four of our players can be trusted to do a good job. Whether it be from the start or from the bench. I agree that Denilson was our best player, possibly apart from Eduardo.
Little Dutch
I agree competition brings out the best in everyone LD, but the players should be willing to fight. They shouldn't be like Diarra where they're giving up without fighting for their place. Bendtner, for example, said he might leave in the start of the season when he wasn't getting opportunities. My point is that players should be willing to fight and I hope Bendtner etc will do that.
I think it's fair to say that competition did'nt bring out the best in Lehmann LD lol.
Nor Diarra
Nor Senderos
Denilson was shocking yesterday imo, he couldn't string a pass together and looked completely out of sync with the team and the game, maybe it was down to his absence from the team since his suspension but I really thought it was on of his poorer games. Diaby was just as bad and am I the only one thinking he has no future here, he never gets played in the center so Arsene obviously doesn't like him there. I'm sick of his two great games and 5 ***** ones patterns tbh. Eduardo was man of the match for me by some distance, closely followed by king kolo.
That's just it though, if they can't fight, then they're not good enough. Competition sorts out the wheat from the chaff.
Little Dutch
On the side issue of Blatters latest promotion of international football against club football he has probably seen the latest figures which show that last season 2.9 billion people around the world watched Premiership matches on television in 203 territories. Therein is his problem - club football ain't local anymore and by and large football fans prefer to watch club football rather than international football. All FIFA's, Blatter's and Platini's politicking is a Canute like attempt to stop the tide.
But Niko, Senderos has never complained about lack of playing time. In fact, I remember him coming out and saying that he'll want to snatch the opportunity given to him when Kolo leaves. But he does look shaky whenever he's under pressure.
Noone can argue that Diarra is'nt good enough and if he does'nt have the desire to sit on a bench for the best years of his career I can understand that, regarding Senderos he is still there fighting but if he had ****ed up as much as Eboue yesterday we would've been 6-2 down, people get on the blokes back and he has been woefully short of form and confidence for aeons but the cause of this? the arrival of Billy, - yes it was a great move by Wenger but it's all cause and effect and the effect was that we effectively lost Senderos that day.
WYBI Im not denying Senderos looks like he could cost us a game at any moment, had he complained about lack of playing time what would our response have been? exactly we'dve laughed, told him to shut up or move on. CBs need to play week in week out its the one position where lack of match practice can REALLY show, people will forget/forgive a missed strike or midfield pass but not a defensive slip leading to a goal.
I also thought Senderos had a decent game overall, just the kind of game to restore his confidence a bit. The problems are clearly in his head and a clean sheet would have gone some way in restoring some of that. Denilson had a good game too, but it was a below par performance from some players - Diaby, Traore, Bendtner (who made up partly with that goal) and some decent performances - Sagna, Gilberto, Eboue. Its good that Arsenal are winning their games by not playing well, but that run can only last a certain time. The team needs to up their performances soon.
Senderos has always been the type to need a run of games, I hope the run he's about to get sorts it. Diarra has the quality, but if he doesn't want to sit on the bench at Arsenal, but believes he should be playing, he has one course of action. Prove himself, fight his way into the team a la Flamini. If he isn't prepared to even try, then he hasn't got the mental quality to play for Arsenal. It's not like he's been around for years. He has played well when he's come in, but he needs to really fight his way past Flamini, if he doesn't want to try, he belongs at a club like Villa or Spurs.
Little Dutch
prits - you thought Gilberto and Eboue played well? I thought they were (along with Traore) the worst performers on the pitch....Eboue having easily the worst game by an Arsenal player for quite sometime!!! Just mho!!
Bring on the Bar-Codes.
i would like to play stoke. there is a good athmosphere against lower league teams. and never when we play newcastle. we just dont seem to make particuarly interesting games against them.and of course they dont against us..
Oh my god! It's b@stard like you who ruin the game. Football is about talent and not race/caste/creed/colour. Pis$ of you scum. You aren't welcome here. B@stard
Rocky - they didnt have 'good' games but there were certain moments where they played well, interspersed with moments of poor play. Overall, they were ok. Eboue created some chances but his shooting let him down, and thats something he needs to work on. He gets into a good position to shoot but fires it wide far too often. Gilberto didnt start too well, but as the game went on, I thought the defensive performance became a bit better and Gilberto certainly contributed to that.
We had a go, but in the end that extra class that your boys possess shone through! Like it isn't difficult playing your lot anyway we had to go and lose a Lafferty and play with 10 men for half an hour! Anyway a good day was had, now go and win the F.A Cup so we don't feel to hard done by!
Will surely do that AccyClaret..just for you ;)

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