Saturday, 31 January 2009

Blank drawn against Zola's hammers

The game is less than one hour gone and I've already heard some ridiculous comment from some rather foolish football pundits, I'm sure there will be plenty more strange perspectives on this goalless draw to come. It was extremely frustrating stuff and in the end I am left more worrying for Abou Diaby than over the dropped points, it would be a great shame if he were to be out of action for several weeks when he is just in the process of growing into a footballing beast who can dominate games.

The starting eleven was strange, how Eboue merited another start was beyond me again, while dropping RVP to the bench was another strange decision. We had complete control in the first half but we didn't really threaten enough, the tempo was lacking, and we were especially poor up front, in particular some loose touches from Bendtner would have even looked bad in the Blue Square Premier. Eboue picked up an injury and Vela came on, a blessing is disguise if ever there was, but we never came closer than from a near own goal from one corner than came fairly early on.

The second half performance was far far better, in particular I thought the midfield were completely on their game, West Ham could not get into the game, while we attached with a lot more vigour and tempo. Diaby was fantastic in the centre, Nasri bright, Vela dangerous and Denilson neat. Again Bendtner offered nothing, I feel he really needs to start doing more other there is little point keeping him at the club given his goalscoring record thus far.

At least Adebayor got in the positions to score, however he missed two exceptionally good clear cut chances to score. The first came on the counter, a lovely low Sagna centre found him with just the keeper to beat from five or six yards out, he somehow contrived to hit it wide at the near post. The second came from a great left flank cross, he headed it firmly but straight at the keeper, not as easy as the first chance, but he really should have done better. RVP's introduction came too late in the day as he replaced the ineffective Bendtner.

Steve Bennett deserves a mention for a few utterly awful decisions today, what a gigantic tool the man is. He let West Ham off several bookings for cynical deliberate fouls, Upson and Neill were particularly lucky on two occassions, while he booked Vela for diving in the second half when he was tugged back in the box and then had his ankles clipped. It would have been a soft penalty, but I've seen them given at Old Trafford, while he was definitely yanked back and then clipped, bad bad decision Mr Bennett.

West Ham are a solid side and did defend well, but we really should have won the game, you simply cannot afford to miss the kind of chances that we missed today if you are to win games like this. On the plus the defence kept a clean sheet, the midfield were outstanding, while on the negative we were again very sloppy in front of goal, while the late injury to Diaby is not good news, I really hope he makes a swift recovery. At least Villa dropped points at home to Wigan, while the spuds lost to Bolton, it still doesn't make up for a draw that really should have been a win though.

Friday, 30 January 2009

The Great Debate

Morning all. But frankly speaking, its not a good morning. Its bloody cold, again, and I am sick to death with all the anti-Arsenal bullshit in the papers and on a lot of websites. Arsene Wenger has given our Club riches and success beyond our dreams, but I think we are now seeing the second and third generation of fans who have joined the good cause in the Wenger years. Spoilt and over privileged children, drawn in by the glamour and success of 3 Premierleague trophies, 4 FA Cups and near misses in the Champions League and UEFA Cups, who now sit screaming outside the gates for more of the same like its their God given right. Well sometimes, you just can't have it.

There is a epidemic of derisory comments directed at the moment to Arsene Wenger and his team. Players like Song, Denilson, Diaby, Eboue have got it in spades this year. For the first time in my life, I was present to witness Arsenal fans booing one of their own players during a game. None of the players deserve it, not even Eboue, but for a large number of people, the Eboue incident did not go far enough it seems.

Now, to be clear, I don't think the current Arsenal team is up to much in terms of Wenger teams. But its actually not bad in the greater scheme of things and who knows, we may just fluke it in one of the Cup competitions this year.

But there is so much stupidity flying around in Wenger's direction. So lets get back to basics. There is money available at Arsenal to buy players. Maybe not Kaka, but most others you care to think of. However, the Club is quite rightly determined to run itself as a business and not expose itself to risk of financial collapse. A very good idea in these dark times. On top of that, Wenger has almost always adopted a policy on transfers that avoids spending big money on fashionable names that would please the tabloids. Indeed, he has a reputation for locating unknown gems.

I therefore have no doubts that if the right player was available at the right price, then Arsene would have signed them. He has always done it in the past. However, I see no reason whatsoever for him to start signing either the wrong player (at the right price) or spending the wrong price. We also have no idea whether Alonso was actually available (and I think he is crap anyway), or how much Arshavin actually wants to come to Arsenal. But these players are no saviours for our season. I honestly also believe that Denilson has the potential to be a great player. Song also has potential, but then I like the grafters. I am not going to say anything about Eboue.

Now, I can also understand that its frustrating that we are 5th at the moment and are not going to win the league. We are even going to face a battle for 4th place. But I am proud to support Arsenal in that fight and fully expect that we will do it. Chelsea and Liverpool are in a pit themselves. I don't think 2nd place is out of the question.

Anyone who doesn't want to support Arsenal to try and be as successful as possible this season can fuck off and do something else.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

A decent away point

Firstly forgive me I didn't watch the game, unfortunately I was working, however I did have time to catch the highlights and read a few of the match reports floating around the Internet. I always find myself agreeing with Goodplaya's post match verdicts, they always seem to ooze the perspective and common sense that so many other people so blatantly lack.

Secondly this concept of 'luck' and 'deserving results'. We have a handy knack of scoring late goals and this is no new thing, I suspect there is much more to this than just 'luck', it's probably down to fitness and a bit of a never say die attitude. Yesterday we matched Everton on their home turf, in fact we arguably had the better chances in the game, other than the goal Everton didn't really have anything other than a half chance. The stats back this up, on the balance of play a draw seems a very fair result in the end.

Everton are a good side, they also played with a very defensive formation with a lot of men behind the ball and just Cahill up front on his own, anyone thinking we should go there and bang in three or four goals is frankly just plain naive. Everton went to Anfield last weekend and restricted Liverpool to only a couple of decent chances, they are a very solid side. It is not only naive to assume we should go there are pick up three points at a canter, but it is also arrogant and disrespectful to a good Everton side.

I know we are not going to win the league this year and I don't expect a medal for my remarkable foresight. On the negative last night Adebayor continued his run of poor form and seems worryingly unmotivated, while Denilson was played out of position at right midfield, probably a better option that persisting with Eboue though. On the plus the defense is looking much more solid with Johan Djourou cementing his place in the side, it did take an excellent Cahill header to break the deadlock, while RVP is really looking like a top player as a result of his continued injury free run in the side.

Some of the stuff I've read from Arsenal fans after this away point at Goodison beggars belief. I've even seen the performance described as 'dogsh*t' in some quarters. We have not had the season we all hoped for but results like this point away to Everton have not lost us the title, it is our sloppy defeats to sides like Stoke and Fulham earlier in the season that cost us so dearly. I fear that there is a lot of rage and aggression being inappropriately and unfairly vented at the moment. For example why is Cesc's absence suddenly seen as the root of all of our woes, I seem to remember him playing when we dropped so many points so lazily and his form had been well below par this season. Why can't we take some heart from a decent away point and a simply majestic late goal?

No-one said it was easy

In the cold light of day, what do you do when you know your team is not good enough? As a fan the options seem to be to either rage furiously against everything about the club you love, or to plead patience and claim there is more to being a Gooner than trophies.

As a player, you either let your morale drop and don’t show the fight that is needed, or you up your game and fight for everything until the very last minute.

And as a manager you either bury your head in the sand and stick to your masterplan, or you admit mistakes and make changes.

For the fans, the performance last night seems to have caused more and more to take the first option. For varying reasons Gooners have come to expect a better set of players on the pitch, and have grown accustomed to the fact that better players has brought success. It is hard to persuade them otherwise, as it is undeniable that Arsenal means a lot to them.

The players seem to be polarising as well. Van Persie is fighting for all he is worth (a cynic may say this is to do with a new contract he is playing for). Song/Denilson (for all there failings) continually stand up to be counted. Then Adebayor/Diaby and many others just seem to not care. I know that others will disagree, but it is the consistent poor level of performance from players that concerns and maddens me most.

And Wenger has made his position clear. He will not change anything about his team. We arguably have some solutions within our squad (Vela and Wilshere for the wide positions – how much more screaming do fans need for these to do be put in ahead of Eboue in a position he clearly hates playing in). But Wenger won’t use them. There ARE options in the transfer market. Wenger chose not to make the move in the Summer when the options were more plentiful and cheaper, so he has to live with the fact that he has made his bed. But he is refusing to lie in it. If Bolton can talk to Veloso for £12m is it not worth us at least trying this?

I am not saying that transfers will guarantee us anything. But it at least shows a realisation within the club that the status quo is not good enough.

Some stats I have been peddling on the comments board show that we have cut our seasonal net spend from £4.9m in the 12 seasons to 2004 to £0.5m since then. To me this is a symptom of a commercial decision within the club not to spend money. This is at odds with the continual PR releases from Hill-Wood and the rest that we have money to spend. SO either they are lying, or Wenger has made this decision himself. I hope that it is not the latter, as I have too much respect for Wenger. And if it is the former, then I do question the ability of the current board to run Arsenal.

The other solution, is that perhaps we are simply the only club in England to believe that the recession will have an impact and are cash-hoarding for the future to create a position of strength. Sky’s 31% increase in profit probably guarantees at least one more batch of sky-high TV money for clubs. Funding issues are becoming more and more public for Liverpool, and to some extent Chelsea, and there is a possibility a club in the premiership will go bust.

Until they do, the Arsenal plan of frugality will simply appear overly cautious, and it is a sad situation if we simply have to sit and hope another club goes bust to justify our current frustration.

Not sure this makes any coherent argument, but there you go. Ultimately large mistakes have been made in the Summer, and so far again in January. These decisions have not yet justified themselves, and are unlikely to this season. Will anyone have the courage to accept they were wrong, and how much will Arsenal suffer before that happens?

Answers on a postcard. Or the comment section would be cheaper – that’s certainly the Arsenal way………….

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Arshavin, the facts

A lot has been said over recent weeks on the topic of this expert Russian player, in fact lots of Gooners have been getting rather frustrated and angry over events, I have not, I just though I'd explain my philosophy on this.

Arshavin is a great player, if he signs great, if he doesn't we'll make do with what we've got, either way I'm not going to start throwing tantrums if a transfer falls through for whatever reason.

There has been a lot of bull peddled in the media on this matter, that's hardly a surprise is it. Arsenal wants Arshavin at as low a price as possible, Zenit want as much money as possible, while Arshavin wants as much money as he can get and doesn't care about the transfer fee, throw into this a bit of Russian and English stubbornness then you have a recipe for a protracted saga.

Everyone has their own vested interests as to what is leaked in the media, so please don't get surprised when the stories do not all add up, also don't blow a gasket, the different stories are designed in order to get different people what they want, the question is can they all meet in the middle before the transfer window shuts? The only way to find out is to wait to see if he does sign, so ignore the speculation, relax, and let's see, it's really not worth losing any energy in the process.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Huff, puff but no end product

Maybe the stuttering poor reception that I had with Setanta gave me a false impression of the game, maybe not, but I really don't think it was a poor performance yesterday. There was definitely a lack of sharpness and quality in the final third, while Cardiff certainly came close in the first quarter of the game as the adrenaline pushed them on, however as the game went on there was only one team that looked like winning, it was not Cardiff, and with a little more precision a one nil victory should have been taken as Cardiff flagged, never mind though, we can take them home and teach them a lesson in footballing terms.

Cardiff were quick out the blocks, biting into the challenges, and they did put together a couple of decent moves, however they did mainly create half chances that looked a bit more dangerous than they actually were. In the first half we looked dangerous on the break, one Nasri effort and a Bendtner break just before half time gave Cardiff a reminder that they had to be careful. I though Gibbs did well at left back, Ramsey was caught in possession too frequently, while Song looked a little rusty even though he did reasonably well overall. Of note Eboue received a ridiculous booking for diving when he was clipped twice in the box, it was too soft for a penalty, but to book him for a dive was really pretty poor refereeing.

Cardiff appeared to wilt and wither as the game went on, we kept coming back at them with wave after wave of attack, a combination of poor crossing, sloppy touches around the box and poor finishing meant that the scoreline remained nil nil, really the game was there for the taking as Cardiff died on their feet after their first half's efforts. Adebayor missed a great chance, however it would not be fair to blame just him, several other great openings were wasted with sloppy passes or loose bits of control around and about the penalty box.

Being a strange kind of optimist I was strangely encouraged by yesterday's game, this was because despite the sloppiness and missed openings, the heart and the effort was there, if not the quality. Even Nic Bendtner was rushing around closing down the opposition and getting stuck in, we might not have been at our best, but we looked like a team that played and battled together, we did not look like the apathetic collection of individuals that we have done at earlier points this season, and for that reason I am encouraged. I don't expect everyone to agree with me on this but when does that happen?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Cardiff Banana Skin

Morning all. Its been a crazy week in football, yet again. Mega million pound deals are being talked up by the papers every day, but very little has actually happened. The cash cow of Shite Hart Lane went down 3-0 against a motivated and organised Burnley side and should have gone out on the away goals rule. Instead, the rules are different for the Carling Cup and Lucky 'Arry Rednapp survived into extra-time to snatch a winner at the end. Well played Burnley, I feel very sorry for them.

This weekend ahead is quite interesting, in that the 4th round of the FA Cup poses some options that are not available for Premier League games, such as rotating the squad and resting players.

With a game at Everton away next Wednesday, I can see the logic in resting players against Cardiff. But I think its a dangerous tactic and might back-fire. There are several arguments in favour of resting players. For instance, beyond merely giving some of the first XI a rest, you give the fringe players a chance to prove themselves and gain some experience for when they are actually needed in the first XI. Football is a squad game now and players cannot play 55 or 60 games a season like they used to.

Thats a good point, but its dangerous to put out a side that does not stand a good chance of beating Cardiff. Lets not forget that Cardiff are on a bit of form at the moment and are unbeaten since 22 November, having won 5 and drawn 5 since then. Ninian Park is going to be completely up for this as well. Having made the FA Cup final last year, their fans will be delighted at the prospect of taking a big scalp.

On paper, Arsenal should win, but football is rarely that simple. Should we lose, then we go into the Everton match having lost all momentum. I really think getting stuffed 4-0 by ManUre in the 5th round last year was a factor in the collapse of our league form. If we draw, then we create fixture congestion, and the additional game defeats the point of resting players on Sunday.

In my view, you either decide that the competition is not worth the hassle and put the kids out as Arsenal do in the Carling Cup, or you want to win the FA Cup and you put out the strongest XI you can, perhaps with the aim of having the game sown up after 60 mins so that you can bring on 3 subs.

The kids have done great this season, and whilst I have a lot of confidence in players like Vela, Ramsey and Wilshere, I worry that an off-day for Randall, Merida et al will see us crash out the FA Cup.

Given that we desparately need some silverware this season, my vote is that we have to play the strongest team we can. Lets try and smash Cardiff to bits and then take some momentum into a crucial game against Everton. A cold January afternoon in Cardiff is not the time to put players like Vela and Wilshere to the test. If they fail, it could really hurt them. And probably end our chances of silverware this season.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Avoid the Circus

There are some Arsenal fans who have expressed the view that we will not become successful again until Arsene gets his chequebook out again and spends big. Some blogs believe its as simple as 2+2=4 and find it hard to believe that Arsene won't do it.

Whilst it is just about possible to buy your way to success, it took Chelsea about £400m of Abramovich's money to do it, the suggestion that splashing the cash on about £50m worth of players is going to make any differenbce whatsoever, is stupidity of the highest order.

As an example, lets take the complete circus that has been in progress with our dear friends at Shite Hart Lane. Big fat Martin Jol's Spudders finished 5th in 2005/06, having had a Champions League spot nicked from them on the last day of the season after the famous lasagne incident. Ha Ha.

Since then, I am aware of the following "major" signings (all figures press related approx):

Woodgate - £8m
Kaboul - £8.2m
Zakora - £8.2m
Corluka - £8.5
Dos Santos - £8.6m
Hutton - £9m
Bale - £10m
Pavlychenko - £14m
Valencia (tbc) - £14m
Modric - £16.5m
Bent - £16.5m
Bentley - £17m
Total - £138m

Now, to be fair to Spurs, they have lost Berbatov, Carrick, Keane and a couple of others in the meantime, but the net spend is still about £80m. Yet, since 2006 Spurs have gone backwards very fast in terms of their Premierleague positions. Yes, they won the Carling Cup last year, but big deal - my 10m swimming badge is at home somewhere.

Obsinho, our resident corporate analyst, has found Spurs' finances difficult to fathom. Where is this money coming from and how much more is there in the pot? These are tough questions to answer and its quite possible that even members of the Spurs board do not know the full answers. Much of the problem with modern financing is that there is so many smoke and mirrors, securitised and factored, that often no-one knows what the real situation is.

Now, in any event, if the theory that spending lots of money improves a team, then a net spend of £50m on 5th place Spurs must have propelled them into the top 4, right? Of course not.

The message is that the ability of a footballer is not measured as simply as his transfer price. I have absolutely no idea how the directors of Spurs justify this kind of spending to their shareholders, but there is absolutely no quality control on their cheque book. It should also be remembered that this massive spending has not led to a single player staying loyal to Spurs when a big club comes knocking - Spurs put up a brief fight over Berbatov, Keane and Carrick, but they ultimately took the money. And wasted it on Darren Bent and David Bentley.

Arsene Wenger refuses to play this game and he is damn right to do so. Some people have mentioned that we should have cashed in on Adebayor. Well the popular replacement was Roque Santa Cruz, who has been crap all season, and Blackburn now want £40m for him. That is idiocy.

There are other managers quietly doing a good job on a shoestring, such as Martin O'Neill and David Moyes, who understand how to motivate players and build a team, rather than reaching for the cheque book whenever anything goes wrong. But make no mistake, the ability of these managers is to take players from the sidelines of obscurity, like Arteta or Young, and make them look world class. They are following in Wenger's footsteps.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Hull Highlights

Just quickly to let people know that you can watch the highlights of the Hull game, and all the other Premiership games at the Virgin site. I do kind of resent linking to something owned by the evil Bearded one, however the balance of good means that a few Gooners will be made happier, so I think it's just about worth it.

Not wanting to tempt fate but it appears that a certain Russian is rather close to moving to the Emirates. We really do have an abundance of attacking players at the club at the moment with a fit RVP, Ade, Bendtner, Simpson on loan at WBA, Vela, Walcott to return from injury shortly, Nasri hitting fine form, as well as any extras on top of this. I guess we won't need to worry about clean sheets with this many goals in the side!

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Kaka keen on Arsenal

Three points against the mighty Hull, and the transfer rumour mill rolls on. I particularly enjoyed a couple of recent Kaka quotes that I thought I'd share with you. The most recent quotes reveal Kaka's admiration for Arsenal and Manu:

“Arsenal and Manchester United are different from the other English teams. They play a bit more and are more open. "

One has to say that moving to Man City for money would be a foolish move for Kaka to make. The remarkable change of morals of Man City fans is also something that amuses me, one minute they were criticising Manu for buying success, not they claim everyone is just jealous of their newly found wealth, you can't have it both ways City fans. The other great quote concerns the mercenary Robinho:

"Ricky [i.e. Kaka] would like a strong side. He would never do something like Robinho, who, just to earn more, contented himself with a solution that was not a winning one."

This one came from Kaka's agent and fair play to him for it. I really think that it nicely demonstrates the problems football clubs can come into if they start throwing the cash around willy nilly. The best players who are motivated by more than money are hard to attract, however the money grabbing mercenaries will be drawn to you as bears to honey. It is therefore very easily to fill one's side with lazy unmotivated mercenaries who will not win you a thing.

Hence the moral of the story is beware of splashing the cash, never let people know if you have money to spend, while if you are prepared to miss out on the occasional signing for financial reasons then it may well serve you well in the long term as you will avoid the money grabbing mercenaries.

Revenge of the Arse & Sunday guff

I'm going to break with blog protocol and admit upfront that this whole post is based entirely on hearsay, speculation, opinion and MoTD highlights watched at 2 o'clock this morning.

So we won, thanks mainly to another display of what a fit RVP can bring to a game. His quality, aggression and vision created all 3 goals for Adebayor, Nasri and Bendtner. I particulalrly liked Nasri's goal - good pas from deep into RvP's feet, quick swivel onto his left peg from his improving chocolate leg, delayed ball out to Nasri on the left corner of the box, one touch, knocked back across the keeper into the bottom corner. There were shades of Vieire, Pires and Henry in there.

As expected Hull put up a fight, but on a day when Utd & Chelsea won it at the death against "weak" opposition, and Martin O'Neill's deal with the devil bought Villa some more luck, I don't think there is any disgrace in a well-gought 3-1 win.

It seems Eboue again offered very little out wide. Methinks Arshavin could slot in there nicely? Or we see if City want to spunk £100m on Fabregas stick Nasri in the middle, the Russian on the left, Theo on the right and let slip the dogs of war on the Prem.

On the Russian, there are more nises that an Usminov brokere deal will complete this week - so I guess we owe the fat Russian pig-man a modicum of gratitude. He's still an odious creature though. Kaka may still or still not be coming to help City win the Championship - good luck to them all. In this day and age what the world really wants to do is watch rich people pissing there money up the wall, then feel grateful to be allowed to drink from the piss-puddle as it trickles into the sewer.

That's it really. Two points of note for the day - 1.) we have hit the woodwork 12 times this season, more than any other team. If they had gone in, I wonder where we would be in the table? 2.) Either way it would certainly be higher than the Spuds - who ARE BOTTOM OF THE PREM. Harry Redknapp can kiss my arse.

Friday, 16 January 2009

What a pile of Kaka

So then, its 16 and a bit days into the January transfer window and there is very little to report, for Arsenal and most other clubs, not that you would believe it based on the amount of smoke, piffle and downright tosh thats in the papers at the moment.

However, if there is one talking point that really does catch the imagination, its the suppoosed Kaka deal to Man City. I thought the Ronaldo non-deal to Real Madrid in the Summer was taking the proverbial at an £80m transfer fee and wages of over £250k per week, but that looks small fry compared to the money that Man City are rumoured to have put on the table - an astonishing £107m fee and wages of £500k per week.

From one perspective, these figures are so enormous that Milan might be considered foolish not to accept them. However, from Senor Kaka's perspective, I would hope he would be following the example set by Casillas, Trezeguet and any number of other lesser players by telling Man City to forget it.

Kaka has been one of the best paid players in football for years. He could retire already and live like a king for the rest of his life in Brazil. He is also an extremely religious man who has said he wants to become a priest once he finishes with football. I guess it takes all sorts.

I would therefore be extremely disappointed if Kaka takes the money and goes to Man City. It would be pure greed - Man City are not going to become a top club for years, if at all, whilst Mark Hughes is the manager. They have gone a long way backwards since they sacked Sven.

I would also never want to see Arsenal become like Man City. Its just not real. Supporters want to feel a connection to their club. The Kaka deal is taking things to a level which simply cannot be imagined. For those on an average wage in the UK, Kaka would earn more in a week then Mr Average will in 10 years.

However, the fact that City are in the market will also make it very difficult for clubs like Arsenal to do business. Andrei Arshavin seems a good player, and must be on City's radar. Zenit will know that as well, and will not want to sell to Arsenal for any amount of money until the deadline is imminent and City have not come in.

Chelsea were doing this a few years ago. It is widely rumoured that Shaun Wright-Philips was as good as signed to Arsenal until at the 11th hour, Chelsea picked up the phone to Man City (amusingly, with hindsight) and said, "whatever Arsenal are paying, we will double it".

Who knows if that story is true, but the moral is that SWP was expensive for us at £12m and Chelsea were idiots to spend £24m on him. Now back at City, SWP is not the player he was, but thats what a few years at Chinawhites will do to you.

If we get Arshavin, then it will be for the right reasons - good player at a good price. Likewise, if we don't get him, then it will also be for the right reasons - either he or Zenit will have been greedy. In the meantime, City can try and work out how to play Kaka, Benjani, Jo, Robinho, SWP etc. Good luck to them.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Wenger's Gambles at Half Term

These comments have appeared in today's press as direct quotes from Andrei Arshavin:

"In some games last season, we played football which was very similar to that of Arsenal," he then adds "I would prefer my present No 10 but in the team where I hope to move it's not vacant. So I'm ready for any number they are going to offer me."

Whilst that seems the strongest indicator yet that Arshavin thinks he is heading to Arsenal, it should be remembered that whilst we may want to read the two sentences together and think - "why the hell is Gallas our no.10 anyway?", we should keep in mind that every single club in the entire world already has someone with the no.10 shirt, so its not a done deal yet.

Anyway, I am not that bothered about new signings at the moment. Instead, I thought its about time (in fact its late) for some half-term reports. These will be quite short as having given it a great deal of thought, its been something of a nothing season so far. An enormous amount of unrealistic expectation, an enormous amount of criticism of some half-decent players, a couple of good results, but overall more bad ones. So here
we go.

On the positive side, I continue to think we have the two best full backs in the country. Neither Sagna nor Clichy have been faultless, and it appears that they have been concentrating on their defending recently more than getting forwards, but both of them are class acts. Johan Djourou is coming through and whilst there are some crazed fanatics in his fan club (K-Man), he is not the finished article yet so lets not get too carried away. Nasri is showing a bit of consistency at the moment, and Walcott was just coming into some real form before busting a shoulder away on international duty. RVP is now looking like he is getting back to his best, and whilst Adebayor doesn't like it when its cold, he has just about scored enough goals so far.

So its not all bad. And thats really the point. Its damn easy to vent an enormous of spleen about how bad Eboue is, or Bendtner, or Denilson, or anyone else, but they are not usually half as bad as people make out.

However, I said on this site before the start of the season that Wenger's big gamble was on Gilberto and Rosicky. In Gilblet's case, I thought it was foolish to let him go having also lost Flamini in the Summer. Whatever the views on Denilson, Song and Diaby etc, those guys were second or third fiddle last year when Giblet and Flamini were around and its been a big step up for them this season.

Rosicky might be the even bigger gamble. With Hleb gone to Barca, Rosicky was the only remaining established wide player left at the club. Yes, prospects like Walcott were coming through, and Nasri was signed in the Summer, but they are both very young and relatively inexperienced compared to Hleb and Rosicky. I have no idea what the medical advice on Rosicky was during the Summer, but I honestly believe that he was expected to be playing football again within 2008. He is a massive loss to us.

So, in conclusion, Wenger's half-term report is not looking good. It was Arsene who took those gambles and neither has paid off. For what its worth, I think we could have got away with one of them, but not both. Lastly, and going back to the start of this post, the Arshavin signing (if it happens) looks to me like a replacement for Rosicky.

Arshavin may not get the no. 10 shirt, but I would not be surprised if he is not wearing the no. 7 by next season.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Kevin Davies - not the sharpest tool in any box

Oh dear, Kevin really should have engaged his brain before speaking out, but on second thoughts that probably wouldn't have helped a great deal given his limited grey cell capacity, you can't hold that against him though, he probably inherited the cranial vacuum from his parents, plus a little bit of Sam Allardyce's vacuum probably rubbed off on him too.

For those of you that missed it, Kevin Davies has had the nerve to speak out after Arsenal beat Bolton yet again and he's now accusing Arsenal players of trying to get Bolton players booked:

"A few of them let out a big scream, which is a bit embarrassing really because it is a man's game."

I think Kevin needs to be reminded of a few facts.

Firstly Kevin committed numerous clumsy fouls at the weekend and escaped a caution, while Arsenal players were booked for much less than he got away with, so this makes his comments all the more rich.

Secondly Kevin has committed more fouls than any other premiership player this season, and he's been near the top of the fouling charts every year he's played in the premiership, is this just bad luck or is Kevin a dirty thug? The facts speak for themselves really, he's also been guilty of some appalling elbowing of people's heads and reckless stud up lunges.

Well I'm sorry if our players scream as you lunge in with the tact and skill of a lumbering carthorse with your studs and teeth bared, but that's a normal enough reaction to an elbow or a tackle that has the capacity to break bone. I think merely seeing your face may be enough for some people to scream out for help, that's just a normal human reaction I'm afraid, I know it's hard for you that the ladies do it to you too when you stray out of Bolton, that's just the hand you've been dealt I'm afraid. It may be a man's game, aside from the fact that football is also now a woman's game- Arsenal are quite a bit better than Bolton in this branch too, however this doesn't justify leg breaking challenges or the reckless use of the elbow.

There are rules to this game called football, you and your thuggish Bolton colleagues seem to break these rules on a rather frequent basis, just because you call it a man's game doesn't mean you can break the rules as you see fit. Flying into tackles when off the ground and out of control with your studs up is a foul even if you happen to win the ball on the way through, you may wish to read the rule book at some point. Interestingly on the many occasions that I've watched Arsenal Bolton games in the past, the Bolton players have been by far the quickest to hit the deck with the most minimal of contact.

In fact I have seen the mighty tough 'man' Kevin Davies dive to ground when not even touched on several occasions, not to mention your current and ex colleagues such as El Hadj Diouf, Nolan, Giannakopoulos et al. It is strange that you are such 'men' on one hand when deliberately trying to wound your fellow pros with dangerous play, but you are such cheating 'women' at the other end of the pitch when trying to win a free kick.

I think this little outburst is a bit of a side show, isn't it Kevin? You are trying to move attention away from your average dirty Bolton side that has managed to get results over the years with these underhand tactics of fouling at one end and diving at the other. You are also deflecting attention away from your woeful finishing, as you nicely demonstrated on Saturday, and poor goal scoring record, plus the fact that your lovely Bolton side is sailing down the table at an alarming rate of knots.

You probably also hope that you can put pressure on future referees with your silly words, you learnt that from fat Sam didn't you, my how brainy of you. Finally it's amusing that your words come after a defeat, you couldn't be a sore loser who is having a little strop like a spoilt toddler could you? That's not very manly is it.

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Random Gooner thoughts

There was some cheer today when Wigan struck late to defeat Tottenham by a single goal that keeps the spuds rooted in the relegation zone, my fingers remain crossed. Elsewhere Manu beat Chelsea by three goals, again Rooney was allowed to get away with murder, it really is pathetic how the despicable chav is allowed to get away with this kind of deplorable behaviour on a weekly basis. A draw would have suited us better, we now sit only four points off Chelsea whose recent form must be alarming their fans.

Reflecting on yesterday's win, it was undoubtedly deserved, however I reckon if we'd have started with Vela and Nasri on the flanks then it may well have been a lot more comfortable that it ended up being. I don't dislike Emmanuel Eboue, he's a decent right back, however (for the zillionth bloody time) the man is not a midfielder and he is showing no sign of improving in this regard. I cannot see why Arsene persists with him at right midfield, there are also other options open to Arsene, he could sling in young Jack Wilshere, he could stick Diaby left side and bring Ramsey into the middle with Nasri switching to the right; all of the alternatives would be better than persisting with Eboue in my opinion. Possibly Arsene should concentrate on getting our team up to it's incisive best rather than claiming it's the league's fault, I don't think Eboue would have been incisive in 1996 and he isn't incisive today either.

The Arshavin saga runs on, no prizes for predicting that it will run and run and run. Apparently Zenit have turned down out opening bid of 10 million, it is also rumoured that we are to tease the Russians by upping this to 12 million shortly. Man City are rumoured to be entering the race and I felt like having my say in this regard. If Arshavin fancies going for more money to City then they are welcome to him, we do not need another player who is focused upon money and not success on the pitch. However if he wants to develop himself as a player under one of the greatest coaches in the game and if he would prioritise his playing success over money then he will choose Arsenal every time ahead of the likes of City. Therefore if he comes we want him, if he doesn't then we don't, that's self justifying logic at its best for you! Come on you Gunners.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Unlucky Bolton - my heart bleeds

The starting eleven was as expected, I had hoped to see Vela starting but as usual Emmanuel Eboue kept his place on the right side of midfield with Nasri kept on the left. The first half was not inspiring, RVP shooting over was the closest we came, the continual niggling Bolton fouling from Davies in particular was not unexpected.

The second half was one way traffic. Good chances came and went. RVP struck the foot of a post with a good effort as he lost his balance in the box, Bendtner came on for Eboue and really should have done better with his first touch as he headed straight at Jaaskelainen from a well delivered free kick. In the meantime Vela had come on for Diaby.

Bendtner had another good chance when his low shot was blocked, Toure had a good drill from distance that was well saved. Then the break through. Van Persie found space in the inside left position, his delightfully flighted cross was met perfectly by Bendtner at the back stick with his right boot, one nil to the Arsenal and thank the lord for that.

Then another extremely enjoyable moment, Davies found some space in the Arsenal box and it was laid back to him only ten yards from goal, he took aim and fired a tame shot that was easy for Almunia to save. I really enjoyed that miss, Davies sums up the filth that Bolton are, limited in talent and only gifted with an ability to foul, cheat and deliberately injure the opposition, what a great shame he will be thinking of that miss tonight on his way up to grim Bolton.

Some things are just plain obvious. Bolton deserved nothing for their defensive clogging and it was incredibly satisfying to beat them, even if it was only by the single goal. Carlos Vela must start on the left of midfield with Nasri on the right, Eboue is not good enough and Vela gives as some genuine width and directness that we often lack. The three points were much the needed, have that Megson, Davies et al, I hope you have a long painful journey back north tonight.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Bolton preview

So we continue to be linked to players that I've never even heard of, that's not saying much given that I've not a student loafer who can spend all the hours of the day watching obscure foreign leagues on the box anymore, and Andre Arshavin. There have also been some rather cryptic hints on the Arsenal website, for example on Upson:
“I like personally Matthew Upson, but there again I would not like to come out on that. "

If he didn't want to stir at all then he wouldn't have released this little juicy bit onto the site, would he? He's also staying quiet on the Arshavin front;

“The situation from Arsenal's perspective is to keep everything quiet and secret and not to talk too much”

And once again he promises some intelligent action on the transfer front, as opposed to some stupid action like Tottenham? Basically what he's saying is that he will bring in some real quality if he can get it at the right price, what a breath taking surprise that is.

Both William Gallas and Mikel Silvestre are out of the Bolton game, leaving room for Mr Kolo Toure to return alongside Johan Djourou at centre back. Maybe this is the chance Kolo needs to prove he can recover some kind of decent form. I really hope Vela starts on the left with Nasri on the right, but I'd put more money on Eboue continuing his mediocre performances on the wing (cue a goal please Emmanuel).

It's good to see that Arseblogger has rediscovered his sense of humour, the past few weeks haven't been the most uplifting to be an Arsenal fan but we should remember that there have been many worse in days gone by. I would like to second him by describing Megson, Davies, Nolan and all of Bolton FC as being a despicable bunch c*nts. If Kevin Davies elbows his children, I'd hate to think what Kevin Nolan gets up to, it really couldn't be written on these pages without myself facing some rather annoying legal action, but you know what I mean, the man is not pleasant. The perfect day would see twelve reds for Bolton, eleven for the outfield players and one for Megson, maybe 145-0 to Arsenal and maybe one goal for Arsene just to help him fight off a bit of the media criticism. Come on you Gunners!

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Coming home to roost?

The mill continues to turn, will he, won't he? I don't know, I care, but I'll wait to see what happens before I start getting all over excited and sweaty like a paedophile at school sports day. The Arshavin rumours continue, will Zenit budge on their asking price, only time will tell I suspect. Kolo is still at the club, was their any truth in the locker clearing stories, maybe he just moved lockers?

Following a little bit of discussion on this blog, I've suddenly realised that the Sky TV deal is up for renegotiation again this year. This is important, just think of the impact that the global credit crunch and recession could have on this process:

"Nevertheless, the broker expects the deterioration in consumer confidence will continue to weigh on BSkyB’s share price, as will concerns over regulatory issues. The renegotiation of the Premier League football contract in 2009 is also a concern. "

Consumer confidence will continue to fall and this could significantly impact upon Sky's projected revenues, so given that Sky's efforts contributed 1.3billion of a total of 1.9billion pounds last time around, are we likely to see Sky's money continue to rise as it has done in the past? I think not this time.

Liverpool's current plight puts a lot into context. They may have hit the pause button for six months, but if things are even worse in July then they could be in real trouble if they have to refinance their package in the middle of a recession, they certainly won't be able to pay off 350 million anytime soon. I wonder how Manu's situation is in comparison.

Whatever happens this transfer window, I certainly won't be calling for the cash to be splashed irrelevant of the long term consequences. Stupid moves now could result in the club going out of existence in the not too distant future, and I am not being melodramatic, mark my words.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Ho hum - transfer window not fun

I am already amazingly bored of the transfer rumours, this transfer window thing is not a good idea, personally I'd go straight back to the old system where transfers could be carried out all the way through the season. One day it's some useless player who can't even get into a mid table premiership club's side, the next it's a player who would never be leaving their club for a number of solid reasons.

It's all about as exciting as being locked in a room with a compulsive liar for weeks on end, even the compulsive liar will guess something correctly by pure chance every now and again, this doesn't prove their mercurial talents. I reckon we'll sign Franny Jeffers, seeing as the spuds are signing one of their failures for big money, why not slap in a big money offer they can't refuse for Franny? There I've said it, unfortunately making up bizarre rumours of swaps and transfers doesn't do it for me I'm afraid.

In the 'actual' news department, the good news is that Jack Wilshere has signed a long term deal with the club, there's no doubt he has the ability, he just needs time and patience. There are rumours that Kolo is on his way out, I must stress they are but rumours at this stage, however although I'll be sad if he does leave, his performances in recent seasons will not be the reason for my sadness. Emmanuel Eboue's contract is up this summer, so could well be on his way out, it would be a little sad to see him go on a free, he is a pretty handy right back as things go and that would not appear good business to me. I have to admit this did cheer me up amid the tedious speculation.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Through and tricky trip to the valleys

It was a satisfactory performance and result against Plymouth, who did try hard to their credit but never looked like causing an upset, however the same question marks remain. The 4th round sees us travel to Cardiff which is not an easy place to go, especially given the feral nature of their support who must surely be the closest sub-species of football fan to our evolutionary ancestors. At least either the spuds or manure will be exiting the competition at the 4th round stage.

I thought there were definitely areas of promise against Plymouth which certainly would not have been predictable a few months back. For example Nasri seems to be finding a bit of form and a bit more drive, while Diaby is starting to perform at a more consistent level and finally showing some discipline. Ramsey is a great talent and will improve the more he plays, while Carlos Vela looks a great prospect, personally I find it hard to see how Vela didn't start. Gibbs showed some nice touches and is developing well, after he came on for the crocked Silvestre who is out for around 3 weeks.

As always it was not all positive by any means. Bendtner has ability, however is worrying lack of work rate would not be acceptable in an experienced proven club legend, so it's even less acceptable in an arrogant young upstart, especially when he's hardly on his game at the moment. Eboue is simply not the answer at right midfield, maybe switching Nasri to the right and starting Vela on the left would have been the better option. The defense looked comfortable other than the lapse which led to the goal, however we really need to stop leaking goals if we are to climb up that league table.

The boring transfer rumours continue, but in certain areas it is clear that we have the options within the club staring us right in the face, Carlos Vela for example. There are also interesting developments in the reserves, seeing one big player returning from injury and another youngster back from Spain. There's been some typical rumour mongering from Theo Walcott's agents that must have been conveniently fed to the Screws of the World, the low life that are football agents love boring us with this kind of rubbish. Elsewhere it will be interesting to see how Gavin Hoyte gets on at Watford and how Jay Simpson gets on at West Brom. Next up it's Bolton at home, three points are much needed as always.

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Silly season

It hasn't taken long for the bizarre transfer rumours to get into full swing, in fact it was exciting for the first three hours or so, but now it's just very very tedious indeed. It's hardly as if Arsene has told us anything we didn't know beforehand, he'll spend sensibly if he can get the right players at the right price, however he's not going to get carried away and fritter away stupid money on average dross just for the sake of it, especially in the current financial climate, something that Peter Hill-Wood has reiterated.

The Kolo Toure transfer request is certainly intriguing, the exact reasons behind it are yet to be revealed while there may well be a bit more to come on this one. There are various theories on why he handed in the request, maybe he doesn't like Gallas, maybe he's unhappy not playing every game, or maybe he'd been approached by the blue of Manchester. He has apparently withdrawn that request and Arsene has finally admitted that Gallas and Toure are not suited to playing together, due to their size and the similarity of their games:

“It is that the two together are a bit short in the air. We needed to add some size centrally."

The question is, why has Toure reversed this decision? I wonder has he been told that Gallas is on his way out and that he only need bide his time for his first team spot back partnering Johan Djourou. For me there's no doubt that Toure looks a different player when playing with a big dominant centre half, he is very capable of mopping up on the deck and using his mobility to good effect, however pair him with a similar player like Gallas and you will most definitely not get the best out of him.

Elsewhere the Given rumours were just plain nonsense, why replace one of our best players this season with a 32 year old who has never done it for a big club. The Arshavin rumours will not go away but his wage demands are likely to make any transfer tricky. Realistically there are actually a lot of internal solutions to our problems.

The FA Cup demonstrates this perfectly. With Cesc and Denilson out, we can see how the fast improving Ramsey and Diaby get on. Also Carlos Vela must be given a start at the left of midfield in my opinion, then Eboue can be dropped for Nasri to switch to the right flank. Up front I hope we see no Bendtner. Apparently Plymouth will play a packed midfield in a 4-5-1 formation, I really hope we stick to a 4-4-2 as it never works when we revert to a 4-5-1 system to combat defensive opponents. Come on you Gunners, today will be tricky if we become complacent, it will need a hard committed performance from the start.