The way I see it - Slavia Prague v Arsenal

Last updated : 06 November 2007 By Jason Hogan
He has been tagged as "Arsene Whinger" or "Mr Myopia" amongst other things for as long as I can remember and to be fair there have been times when even I have to admit that those tags have sometimes been justified.

The trouble is that in this country Arsene is invariably singled out exclusively as being the finest exponent there is when it comes to the art of playing The Whinging Game. What are the fundamental reasons for this? Is that because he is a foreigner? Is it because he happens to be manager of Arsenal? I would say a little bit of both.

Nevertheless, whenever Arsene has been deemed to have overstepped the mark, he has been invariably summoned to FA headquarters faster than anyone can say his name and as a result it's not difficult for anyone to draw up a tangible rap sheet of his apparent misdemeanours.

The sad pathetic reality, as all Arsenal fans know all too well, is that Arsene is far from being the only manger in the Premier League that has reputation for whinging incessantly. In spite of this, we have seen other managers like Sam Allardyce and the recently departed Jose Mourinho for example belittling officials or making personal attacks on other clubs, other managers or even other players with impunity.

But of course there are times in life when you should leave the best to last and when talking about whinging football managers, it's only right to do just that in this case. He's a man that is well known to be very friendly with both Allardyce and Mourinho as it happens. My Lords, ladies and gentlemen; I give you Old Purple Nose himself, Sir Alex Ferguson.

Ferguson will be celebrating 21 years at the helm as manager with ManUre this week and as we all know, he has spent most of that time hitting out at referees, other managers, other clubs (not least our own) and just about everything else he happens to dislike in the football world without reservation and with considerable regularity.

But when it comes to putting this bastard's arse in the dock and throwing the book at him with any regularity, the FA, have certainly struggled for some strange reason to find the key to the door if you catch my drift. And though I not a genuine betting man, I'm fairly confident that Ferguson's latest bout of derogatory musings after Saturday's match will be, true to form, swept under the carpet by the FA as well.

Mind you, when you look at some of things the doddery old bastard said, they do genuinely evoke some amusement. The things he said about the referee Howard Webb favouring Arsenal over the course of the game were not even the half of it.

When Ferguson talked about the level of security at The Grove and the abuse both he and his staff got from Arsenal fans, I really couldn't work out whether he was actually being narcissistic, delusional or both.

I mean, in all the years he has been the boss at Old Trafford, he will have sat many times in dugouts in close proximity to opposing fans at places like Anfield, Elland Road, Goodison Park, Maine Road, Eastlands and many others. Was he actually trying to tell the world that he and his staff got greeted by those fans at those grounds with welcoming open arms down the years? Was he trying to insinuate that those fans, God Bless 'em, actually loved and respected him right down to his old bones? Somehow, I don't think so.

But the bit I really liked was when Ferguson referred to the goals Arsenal got on Saturday as being scrappy and "not like Arsenal". That, my fellow Gooners was something I took as a complement. After all, the Arsenal have been criticised for their inability to score scrappy goals or ugly goals for years, haven't they?

So now the press and the media have tangible proof from none other than Mr Untouchable himself that Arsenal can actually score scrappy goals. Who would have thought it? Ferguson gives Arsenal a backhanded compliment in the midst of what was meant to be a damning harangue and the best bit is that it wasn't even by design! In my book, that's a bit of a result.

In fact, if I was to sum up the game itself as a whole on Saturday, I would say that it was a big result for us in the end. Without meaning to sound like a broken record, let's have this right. When the season started ManUre had title credentials which were beyond question or argument from anyone whereas the Arsenal were perceived as having NO title credentials whatsoever.

And, long before last Saturday's game came around, Arsenal were being effectively portrayed to the whole nation as a bunch of impostors who were topping the table thanks to a favourable set of fixtures and as a team destined to get their comeuppance as soon as they came up against the "somebodies" like Liverpool and ManUre.

Since the summer, everyone without an affinity towards the Arsenal has gone out of their way to highlight the shortcomings that the Arsenal supposedly have. We were written off and slagged off before the season started and even now, despite the fact that we are top of league having played actually played "somebodies" like Liverpool and ManUre, we are still being patronised and discredited.

Don't misunderstand me here, however. Being aware of how people perceive you doesn't mean that you have to be consumed by it. All along I have been saying that this season has been about settling scores and proving people wrong one by one. We as Arsenal fans shouldn't treat this as a burden on our shoulders or something to be unduly resentful about; we should use this as an incentive.

It's for that very reason why I don't care anymore if people continue to discredit us. Because the more they knock us, the more incentive we gain. If there are people want to use the fact that Arsenal failed to beat Liverpool and ManUre as some sort of argumentative tool against us then let them. As far as I am concerned, that is a seriously obtuse way of looking at things.

Because when it came to the crunch and in spite of their solid and supposedly unquestionable title credentials, the fact is neither Liverpool nor in particular ManUre managed to do what most people, secretly or otherwise, expected them to do and beat Arsenal either.

I said a couple of weeks ago that I didn't know whether Arsenal would win the league this year and I still don't. But I also said that we will pose a threat to any team that eventually does win it.

Arsenal may not have flashy names that leap off the page at you in the way that some others players do at some other clubs. But from what I've seen so far this season, Arsenal have a team that have demonstrated that they have a bit of bottle, demonstrated that they have a will to go with all their skill and they have also demonstrated the ability to find that little bit extra from all quarters to either turn draws into wins or as was the case on Saturday, get a point when staring in the face of defeat at the hands of the one team on earth we would have been loathe to lose to above all others.

The Arsenal fans have been ridiculed in some quarters not least by those idiots from just up the Seven Sisters Road for the euphoric celebrations that took place on and off the pitch at the final whistle. Well, it's one thing to celebrate salvaging a point as the Spuds did in a relatively meaningless game at the end of the season.

But it's another thing to celebrate the fact that a last minute eqauliser happened to preserve what is now a club record of 25 games unbeaten in all competitions, an unbeaten home record in all competitions this season AND our place at the top of the league.

I can't speak for every Gooner but from a personal point of view, taking into account and what happened at Old Trafford in 2005 when we were last on a record breaking unbeaten run and the fact that those bastards are reigning champions, preserving those things in spite of them was huge and the post match reaction both from the players and my fellow fans was highly understandable.

It's these points of fact that have provided Arsenal with a base to work from this season and these are the things that encourage me as an Arsenal fan to have belief going forward - and there is not a damn thing anyone on this planet can do or say to take those beliefs away from me right now.

Now it's time for me to look forward to our trip to Prague in the Champions League for the return fixture against Slavia.

It's no fun to be miles away from home and suffering. For example, I remember how soul destroying it was for Arsenal to come back from a trip to Moscow having been beaten 4-1 by Spartak in the Champions League a few years ago.

So it wouldn't be hard to imagine how Slavia felt after coming to The Grove and getting the spanking they received from us. It would have hurt their fans an awful lot despite the admirably defiant pride they showed in the face of it all at The Grove. They were still singing their heads off when they were 7-0 down.

And you can bet that the Slavia player's professional pride would have been wounded deeply by the events at The Grove as well and they will be chomping at the bit to try and put the record straight against us in their own back yard.

I was genuinely surprised we disposed of the Czechs so easily in our first meeting. I don't think this lot are half as bad as they have been painted and in their back yard in front of what is destined be a large baying, hostile, vociferous crowd, the Arsenal will have to dredge up every ounce of professionalism they have in order to seal qualification. What happened at The Grove will not matter a jot to the Czechs. They will mentally go into this game with a clean slate and smelling revenge.

There are likely to be changes to Arsenal line up from Saturday's game I reckon. But whoever steps into the side has to be ready for what is going to be another very testing assignment in my book and one which won't be overcome with half measures.