The way I see it ? Arsenal v CSKA Moscow

Last updated : 01 November 2006 By Jason Hogan
My definition of bravery is when a certain party (individually or collectively) attempts to be positive or do something positive either in face of adversity, provocation or intimidation for the good of either themselves as an individual or others that they care about.

Now, I don't expect my own personal definition to ever make its way into any recognised English dictionary or thesaurus. And, I'm sure there are far more intellectual people than myself who will argue as to why I should expect anything different.

Still, whatever your own personal definition of bravery is and regardless of whether it happens to be right or wrong, fortune is meant to favour the brave so the story goes, isn't it? Well, for all the positive things that certain people have generally said about the Arsenal's way of playing football under Arsene in the last ten years or so, I certainly like to think that Arsenal, above all, have a brave approach to the way the game of football should be played at least 99.9% of the time.

Former Newcastle, Marseille, Spurs and Sheffield Wednesday winger Chris Waddle did an article last week which gained national press and media coverage last week and it definitely evoked a fair bit of debate, didn't it?

Amongst other things, Waddle said that Arsenal and ManUre were the only teams he would actually pay to watch. For the reasons mapped out in the above paragraph but one, I can understand where he was coming from.

I have been watching football long enough to appreciate that there is an art to defending and that every team has the right adopt their own different methods to getting results in the Premiership. I'll even go as far to agree that it would be boring if everyone played the same.

Nevertheless, the fact of the matter is you would struggle these days to count on one hand the amount of teams in the current Premiership that go out to with the genuine intention of winning matches each and every week without reservation whether they are home or away.

And, certainly if I was to look at the last ten years of the Premiership, the only two clubs who could possibly fall genuinely into that category as prime examples are ManUre and ourselves.

Yes folks, the amount of teams that demonstrate a genuine ambition to go out and win matches home and away week in and week out in the Premiership are virtually extinct. Last Saturday at The Grove was the latest in a long, long line of prime examples of that when we faced Everton.

It was a game that was so typical of hundreds we have played in under Wenger's stewardship over the last ten years. I don't need to tell any Arsenal fans much more than that because you should all know the kind of scenario I'm talking about all too bloody well.

I'm not saying that we did ourselves any favours though. Even I had the presence of mind to send out a warning to all of you, my fellow Gooners, in my preview of the Everton game, about the threat of Tim Cahill, particularly from corners and set pieces. It wasn't rocket science on my part – any fan with an ounce of knowledge about the Premiership in this day and age could have told you that.

Yet, in spite of this, Arsenal allowed Cahill to creep into the box undetected and unmarked to bundle in the opening goal of the game from a corner. That was a criminal mistake on our part and there is no getting away from that.

Everton probably couldn't have believed their luck. A goal within the first 15 minutes at The Grove totally against the run of play, was an absolutely gargantuan bonus and a moment such as that wouldn't have been in their script, never mind anyone else's.

And, as a result from that point onward, not only did they have something tangible to hold on to but also something they could gain confidence from. And, save for Robin Van Persie's equaliser from a free kick with just under 20 minutes to go, Everton would have sneaked away from The Grove with the unlikeliest of victories.

The fact that they came away with a draw was enough for the press and sections of the media to lavish the sort of praise on Everton that is only offered up normally for national heroes down the ages.

To be honest that didn't surprise me one bit. After all, the press and the media whipped themselves up into the same euphoric state when Villa and Middlesbrough came to The Grove earlier on in the season and achieved identical results on the back of very much the same, identical, negative approach.

But for me, it isn't the fact that Everton got a point this Saturday that really gets to me and it isn't the fact that euphoria swept through the press and media ranks when all of the aforementioned teams came to The Grove and blagged a point that got to me either. This sort of stuff is highly frustrating but it doesn't upset me.

What really upsets me is the knowledge that, regardless of whether Arsenal had a reputation for playing good football or not and regardless of whether we were considered to be title contenders or not, the press and members of the media (Ray Stubbs and Alan Hansen to name but two) would give us an absolute lynching if WE went up and down the country using the same sort of tactics employed by Villa, Boro or Everton in order to get results.

When we went to Old Trafford a few weeks ago, played ManUre off their own pitch and Adebayor scored to secure an undoubtedly deserved win, we did get a fair amount of praise, right? But, supposing we went up there, played negatively with ten men behind the ball all afternoon and Adebayor scored with the only chance or half chance we happened to create over the 90 minutes? What would the press and the media have said then?

I guarantee you all this. Nobody in the press and the media would have been hailing us as heroes and none of them would be using words such as "grit and determination" or "resilience" or "character" to describe Arsenal in those circumstances. Instead, they would have whipped out the old "Boring Arsenal" and "Lucky Arsenal" stereotype tags faster than Billy the Kid ever pulled out a pistol in a gunfight.

In fact, when I think about it, the press and the media applied that very same attitude to us not so long ago when we played in Europe last season. Look back to when we played Villarreal over in Spain in the Champions League semi-final last season.

Now, I will freely admit that over the years, there have been games where I have seen the Arsenal not play well and genuinely outplayed by their opponents at the same time. That night back in early May was definitely one of them.

Arsene deployed a 4-5-1 system that night but he didn't do that with the intention of going there to nick a draw. He had no reason to and why would he have done? After all, we had already been to the Bernabeu and the Stadio Delle Alpi by then, played positively and impressively at both of those venues using that system, hadn't we?

On the night however, we never ever really got going and the Spaniards had a couple of half chances, three or four cracking chances as well as THAT penalty chance right at the death which was of course saved by Lehmann in the end. In spite of all that, Villarreal, on that occasion, didn't get the result they wanted – just as we didn't get the results we wanted against Villa, Boro and Everton.

Yet, in spite of the fact that we had ensured that a Premiership side was on its way to the Champions League final, what did the papers say? Did they say that Arsenal had shown grit, character, dogged determination and resilience over in Spain? Bollocks did they!!

Instead, out came the same old stereotypical Lucky, lucky Arsenal tag and a sense of resentment fuelled by the feeling that the Spaniards were hard done by! If ManUre, the Phoney Russian Franchise or pretty much any other Premiership side had been in the same situation, they would have been hailed as heroes. We were just met with the same old tired, stereotyped reaction.

The same thing happened when we played in the 2005 FA Cup Final, didn't it? True, Arsene did admit afterwards that his team, for once, took a more cautious approach than normal to the game but even on that particular occasion, I don't think he expected us to voluntarily play exclusively on the back foot for two hours in the hope that we would win the game on penalties! Given the opposition we were playing that day, such a tactic would have been tantamount to lunacy!

In my opinion, it's closer to the truth to say that again, we didn't play well at all and that by virtue of the will and the skill of the opposition on the day, we were forced on the back foot by a team that genuinely outplayed us and to be fair, we would have taken a thumping on another day.

Of course, we all know what happened in the end, don't we? But again, what was the reaction in the media and what did the papers say? Did we see anyone commend us for showing character on the day? Did we see anyone say that we showed grit, determination and resilience? Course we bloody didn't! Once again, we got slaughtered and once again we were bombarded with the Lucky Arsenal tag.

In summary, the fact is, certainly as far as the press and the media go, there is no such thing as a two way street where the Arsenal are concerned. We are damned whatever we do. I appreciate and accept that the Everton's, the Aston Villa's and the Middlesbrough's of this world have their own agendas and are able to come to somewhere like The Grove, play negatively and nick results without any which way they want to, on any given day without any kind of reproach whatsoever from anyone.

Even so, as an Arsenal fan, experience has taught me not to be naïve enough to think that we would be treated the same whether our agenda, at any given time, happens to be same as clubs like those or not - and that above everything else, my fellow Gooners, is a fact that I find infinitely harder to either appreciate or accept and that is what really upsets me.

Now, it's time to look forward to our next Champions League fixture and the visit of Abramovich's other team, CSKA Moscow.

I don't mind admitting to you all that I'm still feeling a touch raw about what happened over in Moscow a fortnight or so ago. Henry's disallowed goal obviously left a nasty taste in the mouth but to be honest, it was our overall performance out there that still rankles with me more.

As I said after the game, we paid for the fact that we missed a trick in that we passed up an open opportunity to at least train on the pitch out there the night before the game and give ourselves a little bit of extra time to acclimatise not only to the pitch but to the cold and the time difference. Significantly, Arsene was quoted to have said in the Sunday press that anytime that Arsenal have to go to the Baltic in the future they would prepare differently.

Still, I spite of that, the general perception of those outside of Arsenal was that CSKA were some sort of pub team that could be rolled over without us breaking sweat.

Well, the fact of the matter is that CSKA possess seven current Russian internationals and three Brazilian internationals in their team. How on earth they could be described as pub team therefore, I don't know.

As things turned out, CSKA (2005 UEFA Cup winners lest we forget) proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they were far from a pub team and in the form of their Brazilians Dudu, Carvalho and Wagner Love, they had a trio of players that caused us problems all night long.

There are two big questions for me regarding this game and the first of them is will those three Brazilians bring their A games to London. The second is will they have Jo, another Brazilian whiz-kid (and CSKA's top marksman to boot) available.

Because, if all those factors all happen to come together on the night then the Arsenal are in for another genuinely tough time of it in Europe. Having said that, I have always found that the Arsenal are pretty good when it comes to being in the revenge business and settling old scores down the years.

I'm not usually the kind of guy that makes outright predictions as to whether the Arsenal will beat this team or that team. But, a couple of weeks ago, I said that we would beat the Russians when we got them back to The Grove – and, being a man of my word, I've got no intention of backing down now.