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All Things Footie | Monday, April 5 | Jordan

20/20 Foresight

That’s it. It’s over. Despite being top of the league by four clear points with a game in hand, and depite eight months of wonderful football, holding a new record for an unbeaten start to the season, and being in the quarter finals of the Champions League, the season is over for Arsenal football club. The greatest and most glorious victory in the long history of Manchester United football club at lunchtime on Saturday, confirmed them as finalists in the most important competition for any club this season. I’m certain Real Madrid and AC Milan would swap their European Cups for a shot at Millwall, and it’s a given that Arsenal would trade in their unbeaten streak and Champions League Quarter Final place if only they could have won on Saturday. It was a sad, sad day for Arsenal, and one that proves once and for all that United are obviously the better team, and always will be. Accusations that United can only beat good teams by kicking the hell out of their best players remain totally unfounded; they are not the new Wimbledon, honest.

And for those Arsenal ‘fans’ that seem to liken the concept of losing a football match with losing a relative to a horrific car accident—grow up, and go away. Every team loses, every defeat hurts (some more than others). I read in the paper on Sunday that Arsenal are being made to eat their words about going the season unbeaten, and being arrogant about their winning streak—as I recall, it has been those very newspapers that have been talking Arsenal up over the last six months. Everyone but the Arsenal players and staff have been talking the team up, and predicting success across the board. It wasn’t Arsenal fooball club that offered a ridiculously short 6-1 on the treble the other day.

On a serious note: on one hand, I want to applaud the Manchester United fans’ unflinching support of their team, and give credit to their input on Saturday—they really were a twelfth man for United. On the other hand, I want to see every last one of them banned from attending all games, for being the only bunch of mindless hooligans in the country that can throw coins at opposition benches and sing ‘that’ disgraceful song without censure or punishment. Banter is banter, taking the mickey is taking the mickey, but singing ‘sit down you paedophile’ is no better than singing ‘sit down you black b*stard’. I suppose you expect it from the kind of xenophobic low-browed northern monkeys of the stereotype, but not in real life.

Mick McCarthy must be gutted. Apart from the obvious glory of taking Sunderland to an FA Cup Final, I think he’d have liked a chance in Cardiff to square up against his nemisis; Royston Keane. I didn’t manage to see Sunday’s semi-final, but it sounded as nervy as Saturday’s, and it’s borderline who’s the dirtier team between Millwall and United. From what I hear, Sunderland can consider themselves a little unlucky, but if you can’t score then you can’t expect to win. Credit to Millwall, and here’s rooting (along with most of the rest of the country) for an upset in the final.

It’s easy to forget that there were a few more games this weekend. Chelsea kept up the pressure on Arsenal with a win at White Hart Lane—not that difficult a thing to acheive these days, and David Pleat had his usual excuses at the ready; he’s as bad as Houllier. It was the ref, bad luck, injuries, the players … never his fault. Claudio Ranieri’s Chelsea meanwhile, are doing everything right, and promising a more exciting run-in than seemed likely a few weeks ago.

Liverpool surprised everyone by winning by a few goals against Blackburn yesterday, and Wolves surprised no-one by getting a roasting from a fired up Southampton side. Paul Sturrock has impressed me so far, not just because of the good record his team has under him, but because of the attitude he’s approached the club with. Many new managers going into a dressing room of ‘big’ players who are for the most part playing well—and doing well in the league—might begin his career at the club a little sheepishly. Sturrock however, has really taken the players to task about their weaknesses, and is effectively taking over from where Gordon Strachan left off (another who wasn’t afraid to speak his mind). Hats off to Rupert Lowe for his excellent choice of helmsman.

The big ‘six pointer’ tonight between Leeds and Leicester should be interesting, though I’ll always be reminded of Gordon Strachan’s comments on these kind of games:

“Six points? Really? I thought we’d just get the usual three, but if we get six that’ll take us well out of the danger area. I must have missed the memo.”

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