Thursday, April 1, 2010

Yellow and red overlapping footballs - Ebren

There's something insidious about corporate boxes and sponsor tickets.

At one level, you know that the cash companies provide means more money for the clubs and - in theory - cheaper tickets for the fans. But it's not right. The FA Cup final filled with officials not fans. And a European Cup quarter final at the Emirates with a man from Little-Rock Arkansas sitting to my left, because he works for MasterCard.

I shouldn't really have been their either, to be fair, nor should the people to my right or the left of the MasterCard man. But put yourself in my place, would you say no to a free seat in the Emirates for Arsenal-Barcelona? Thought not.

But there were complications: explaining who was who was harsh: "That's Messi - he's probably the best player in the last 20 years; that's Alves - a pantomime villain but one of the most influential figures in the Barcelona team; Ibrahimovic - he's a lazy Swede; Xavi -won't misplace a pass; Fabregas - captain, watch the softness of his touch; oh, and that's Bendtner - he's not very good at football."

At so it began, Arsenal barely holding on, Almunia saving shots like a demon, Alves being booed and involved in almost every Barcelona move, Bendtner mis-conrolling like a pub player (to be fair there were one or two nice touches and he wasn't served well by Arsenal deciding now was the time to try hoofing it long to a big man with no support), yellow shirts swarming all over Arsenal then playing some of the best possession football I've seen.

But there was someone I'd forgotten to highlight in my one line player descriptions. Samir Nasri.

When Nasiri arrived in London in 2008 he was the latest in the line of "new Zidanes" (a title currently held by Gourcuff) and a YouTube search of his Marseille displays ahead of his arrival showed touch, pace and finishing - a real player then. But the boy who ran out in the iconic red-and-white shirt wasn't a new Zidane. He was peripheral, lightweight, behind the pace - and looked like he was more likely to turn into a new Hleb than a new Pires or Zizou.

But that wasn't the game he played last night. He was Arsenal's most (only?) effective outfield player, matching Alves for distance covered, tacking deep, and playing like an Arsenal player should - touch, speed, awareness, movement, intent.

It's no coincidence he was involved in Arsenal's best move of the first half, from the only period in the opening hour when they played like Arsenal should at home. (Okay, there was one nice move down the right and cross from Bendtner, but that was just to annoy me, I think).

As the game reached its pulsating conclusion, Walcott's pace and positioning stretching and worrying Barcelona in the way Alves did to Arsenal in the first half, the crowd roaring it's encouragement and swearing at the referee (and Alves) and Fabregas scoring the equaliser then waving away a stretcher and limping on to the end with a broken leg, my American host was cheering as loudly as anyone.

I might not agree with sponsors getting tickets to key games as point of principal, but by god I was glad to be there in the stands and watch Nasri emerge from the shadows to outshine Messi and Henri while Walcott and Almunia took on the best team in the world and proved their equals.


mimi said...

That match last night was incredible. Well done the Gooners to keep the tie alive. Some sublime football was played.

Now it's Mad Jaques's chance to kill of Ravi's lot.

Live cricket on the free telly - why aren't more people cheering this on?

munni said...

Nice report, absolutely unbelievable game. Lucky you to be there, and most admirable that you were able to explain things to the MasterCard man instead of shouting at him to shut up and let you watch.

On the Business of Football, I do agree with you in principle, but tickets for sponsors seems like a fairly harmless side effect to me. Those seats have been paid for, and someone is sitting in them and (hopefully) enjoying the game.

Also, I must defend poor Bendtner. If he played for any club but Arsenal, be'd be considered very useful.

Ebren said...

Cheers munni,

Corporate tickets help definitely financially, but on days where the stadium is sold out and real fans are unable to buy them it seems a little unfair to hand them to the likes of me (there were three people in my office that were seriously annoyed).

But they're probably better than a lot of money-making schemes (moving ad boards for one).

Bendtner isn't a bad player, he just stands out as not as skilled as the rest of the forward line (especially when Arsenal are playing Barcelona). He was working really hard, and did effectively set up goals. And wasn't helped by a lack of support on the night.

Thin is, it's easier to say "he's not very good at football" than explain that he'd be a useful player at Fulham, Birmingham or Wigan, but looks a little out of his depth here.

munni said...

Yeah, I just meant that Arsenal fans complained for years about lacking an ugly goalscorer, and now that we've got a big, direct, not-overly-technical striker, I think he should be appreciated a bit more for what he is.

And to be fair, if I were in your office I would have been seriously annoyed as well.

offsideintahiti said...

Ebren, send a round of emails when you post something! I'd nearly given up checking on the site. Cheers for the piece, nice one.

Don't you think Liverpool when a bit too far when reproducing the Master Card logo using a beach ball?

guitou said...

did I missed something? we're only april 25th, I thought we were closed for remodeling! how time goes by,this game seems to be forgotten already.

gg said...

you've had loads of ugly goalscorers - not to mention defenders like Keown.

I reckon Bendtner will turn out to be a swan, by the way.

I second Offie's plea - I'd hate this site to die the death.

Ebren said...

Anyone want to submit something... feel free. This site was always built on the community, not the editors.

Tweet it, digg it