Eduardo: Arsenal appeal, of course

So what’s going on? Well predictably, Arsenal have appealed against the Eduardo ban. And they haven’t minced their words with their response to Uefa:

The Club is in receipt of Uefa’s reasoned decision in relation to the charge against Eduardo. We strongly believe that the decision taken is deeply flawed and not based on any forensic review of the video evidence available. There are obvious errors and inconsistencies in Uefa’s judgment and we intend to appeal.

Ouch – no doubt this one will run and run, and Uefa are probably in something of a pickle now. I really enjoyed The Times’ Patrick Barclay’s piece here, in which he describes the case as “the worst case of disciplinary bungling I can remember in football”.

Elsewhere, some traction on the chanting that went on (again) over the weekend, aimed at Wenger. Highlighted by many Arsenal blogs and on Twitter, the issue is picking up weight in the mainstream media. For those who didn’t hear fellow blogger GilbertoSilver from Gunnerblog on Radio 5live this morning, you can hear him talk about it here, 47 minutes in. Well worth a listen (only available to those in the UK).

Update: I’ve just read this in the Guardian. Looks as if, following complaints from “an Arsenal supporters’ group” United will look again at ways of stopping it and are deeply embarrassed. Fair play to them for the response. And all power to whoever raised this with them.

Other things

So, what with it being the middle of the lull, I took in a few films this week. One, The Gooner Review, a no-holds-barred season review featuring interviews with what seemed like dozens of celebrity gooners, and the other a remake of the 80s movie The Firm.

The Gooner Review

OK, so we’re already diving headlong into the season, but this 08-09 season review is well worth a punt. Not just because 100% of all profits go to Bob Wilson’s Willow Foundation – a good enough reason to pick it up in its own right. Mainly though, because it’s an honest and candid appraisal of the season from people who wear the Arsenal on their sleeves. The DVD is dripping with well-known gooners – it’s fronted by Paul Kaye, and features interviews with Bob Wilson, Tom Watt, Nick Hornby, David Soul, Shovell – and loads more. And despite not securing the rights to any of the footage (they tried), it’s good to see other Arsenal fans moaning about the same things we all moaned about last season and praising all the good bits too. I totally enjoyed it.

The Firm

I got to see a pre-launch screening of this, a remake of Alan Clarke’s controversial 80s film about West Ham and Millwall hooligan firms (trailer here). Given what happened last week, it’s coming out at an interesting time to say the least. As a film, it’s well shot – the soundtrack and casual clobber take me back more than a few years, but while the clothes, the cameraderie and the adrenalin are appealing (to the principle character) at first, by the end, the pointlessness of the increasing brutality is clear.

Did it take me back to my years watching the Arsenal in the 80s? Hehe – no, in a word. I did experience a few hairy moments from my North Bank vantage point, but as I recall, I spent most of the terrace-based 80s looking at the back of someone else’s head. It used to happen every bloody game – get there early, get a good spot, then 5 minutes before kick-off the tallest man in the world would squeeze in right in front. The singing was good though…

Motivated to the max

It might strike some people as surprising that, whilst on a football pitch career-threatening tackles still happen, players needle one another constantly and bully referees, there remain some things that are considered extremely bad form. For example, to showboat when you are winning comfortably is considered arrogant and to humiliate an opponent in this way wrong.

Similarly, you’ll never hear players say “They were absolutely rubbish – a pub team” or “Of course I won the midfield battle, John Smith opposite me has two left legs”.

Perhaps it’s because of this that Evra’s comments last season – describing the semi-final of the European Cup as ‘men against children’ – were taken so badly by the Arsenal players. Never mind that anyone sitting in the Grove that night would have agreed. The fact is, he said it and the Arsenal players haven’t forgotten this sleight.

It’s had an effect he probably didn’t consider when he made the comments in the first place. To find out what, just read Alex Song’s comments in this excellent Telegraph column:

“We will never forget that. It was very difficult to lose the game but, when you wake up in the morning, you see the newspaper and you see someone saying they played against 11 kids. That, for me, is not respect. You cannot say that. Barcelona won everything last year and they didn’t say things like that. When we go there, everyone wants to show him we are not kids. We will see, but we are confident.”

It acted as a big motivator for the league game – which if I recall was a bit tetchy and ended 0-0 – and it’s still acting as a big motivator. Couple that with Eduardo’s Uefa charge – a “witch-hunt” and a “complete disgrace” says Wenger – and the Arsenal players will have no problem getting up for this afternoon’s match.

The media coverage of Eduardo’s dive has been unbelievable. All I will say further is that a) Uefa will find it hard to prove that Eduardo intentionally deceived the referee, even if it was a dive and b) Uefa have opened an enormous can of worms and face an anti-dive workload that could overwhelm them, assuming they choose to be equitable and go after all miscreants with as much vigour.

Onto this evening, and I must say I’m confident we can put in a good showing. Of course it’s a very tough place to come away from with a result. But our form is good, the children will be keen to put in a good performance against the men, and Utd have injury problems as we do. It’s a big test for our 4-3-3 as much as anything, but it’s a big test for both teams, both of whom have different points to prove. Are the champions as good this season despite two key departures? And are Arsenal ready, and strong enough, to mount a title challenge?

I’m massively looking forward to it.

Post-dive pre-match Friday round-up

Champions League draw – Olympiakos, Standard Liege, AZ Alkmaar

I was going to header this morning’s post with a suitably daft play on words such as Eduardo the Confessor or Much Edu About Nothing, but seeing as we’ve yet to hear a peep from our number nine and the issue of diving is not really trivial, I didn’t.

But pah – what a storm. Eduardo deserves opprobrium for his ‘deception’, pretty much all Arsenal fans accept that it was wrong, but judging by the reaction in the press – and Uefa have had a say too – you’d think he was the first footballer ever to dive.

Doesn’t make it right, of course, and I’d support retrospective punishment for diving should it be introduced across the board, and for every blatant tumble, but would it? Interestingly, there is Uefa precedence for punishing divers after the event, following a dive by a Lithuanian in a European Championship qualifying game, and the SFA too have punished a player for diving in recent times.

So I think the chief executive of the SFA is right to ask for a decent discussion about diving to take place. I’d support a European-wide ruling on this, I tentatively support more referees (Platini’s grand plan) and I think video technology should be looked at too.

But quite why Eduardo is the player to have triggered this reaction, not all those who have gone before him, well who knows. I’ll leave the last word(s) to the Telegraph’s Rob Kelly, one of the few in the press to have sniffed the hypocrisy of slamming down Eduardo and ignoring the lightness of foot of some English players.

Onto tomorrow, and Utd away is undoubtedly the sternest test of any season. This year, with our new formation, early season form and the usual batch of injured absentees forcing player shuffling, it’s going to be a particularly interesting game.

Can we persuade Fabregas’s hamstring to take part? Is Rosicky really fit? And what news of Walcott, Ramsey, Diaby. Wenger should reveal all later.

Right, I must away. More from me on the Eduardo issue and more in this morning’s Arsecast. I have a feeling I almost certainly talk as little sense on it as I usually do.

And hopefully, more still over the weekend from me. For all of those of you lucky enough to be celebrating the fact that banks require holidays, have a nice long weekend. For the rest of you – well you’re probably already all lucky enough to be living in hot countries with palm trees and blue skies and things.