Thursday, 31 May 2012

Close season musings and shut up doomers!

The close season is a strange beast, one would think that people would chatter less as so little happens, but in fact the reverse seems to be true, there is more chatter because so little is actually happening.  The great problem with this of course, is that people get very over excited by the most flimsy of rumours and I have to say a lot of it is extremely tedious.

Hence the massive over excitement over Eden Hazard's transfer, he is a fantastic talent, but he is just that, he is unproven at the international level, he is unproven in the Champions League, he has been outstanding in Ligue 1 only.  Many greater players than Hazard have moved leagues and failed to adapt, despite being excellent players with proven track records in better leagues and with top international sides.  I think sometimes people are a little bit quick to get excited, a bit of perspective please people.  Over £30million quid seems a lot of money for such a player, but such is life in a football world run by the arrogant unsustainable bully boy spending of Chelsea and Man City, the clubs that are extracting football's soul at pace.

The Arsenal rumours continue.  The M'Vila deal is off, done or on/off depending on whose rumour you read, countless other players are being linked, many of whom have probably been seen on Arsene's copy of Championship Manager and nothing else.  The fact remains that it is early early days and very few deals have been done by anyone, we must remain patient and remember that we have already done one fantastic piece of business in landing Podolski for a decent fee.  Ignore the crap that journalists peddle in order to sell papers when there is no decent news around, rise above it and turn the other cheek.

One thing I must mention and it may not be popular in all quarters, is the fact that a certain repugnant breed of Arsenal 'fan' is already writing off the club's activity as a gross failure, despite the fact that the window hasn't even opened in a lot of mainland Europe!  It really infuriates me and it is utterly pathetic that some of our so called 'supporters' are so keen to see the glass as eternally half empty, I think some people need to grow up and join the real world.  Get a grip you negative dooming whingers.

Onto the England side, well isn't the squad and eleven just a tad average?  In my opinion the style of the Premier League is not conducive to England developing the right type of players to be successful at the international level.  The PL is rapid, breakneck and physical, possession is nowhere near as vital, it can be more like pinball than a game of chess, it is so different to the international game.  We lack players, especially in midfield, with the right touch, technique and class on the ball to retain possession and play the kind of game needed to win a big tournament.

Players like Gerrard, Lampard, Parker, Milner, Barry, Downing et al are all just not good enough or they are too Premier League typed, they lack the necessary craft and technique to keep the ball and play a patient game of high possession footballing chess as some top international sides can.  Despite this, it is strange that the media often chooses to pull up Arsenal as being the root cause of England's failings, why is a club that does actually produce some good technical players blamed?  Especially when there are managers around like Pulis and Allardyce, they are not going to help create a new generation of top technical talent, are they?  Let's all blame the easy option, Arsene Wenger, because he's French, what pathetic lazy thinking....

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Deceptive statistics, Szczesny, apples and pears

Statistics is not a simple subject and understanding the validity of rating players based on simple footballing statistics is also a highly complex matter.  In fact I would go as far as saying that most footballing statistics are not really that useful in rating players, some are helpful but many are highly misleading and far more likely to result in fans confusing themselves.

A classic case has always been goalkeeping statistics, anyone who has looked into the subject would have realised that many of the so called best goalkeepers have not had the best statistics, the classic example of this is the '% shots saved' statistic.  How can this be, surely the best goalkeepers will have the best shots saved %? Unfortunately life and football is far far more complex that this, there are numerous confounding factors that make this statistic highly unreliable and not a valid measure of comparing goalkeeper performance.

The way a team defends makes a huge difference, for example teams that defend deep and with numbers will tend to concede more shots from distance, which will help a goalkeeper's stats.  Teams that have a lot of possession with tend to concede fewer shots, but if they defend with a high line and get hit on the counter many of the shots conceded will be extremely good clear cut chances, this will make their goalkeeper's statistics look poor.

Goalkeepers who save lots of shots that are going just wide will improve their statistics by doing this, even though this is technically not good goalkeeping.  Making errors that do not result in goals is often ignored by the statistics charts, so it may just come down to luck as to whether the opponent actually takes advantage of the error, part of this is also related to how good the defence is at helping out the goalkeeper.  I could go on and on and on.  The point is that many of these hard statistics are not a very valid way of measuring goalkeeper performance, it is the classic comparing 'apples and pears' argument.  This is very relevant for Szczesny's statistics, he has been excellent this season, of course he has made a few errors, but 

The same is true for statistics like shooting accuracy and goals/shots ratios, it all depends on where the player tends to shoot from.  One could have a great shooting accuracy and never score, one can also have a mediocre goals/shots ratio because a lot of the shots are long range.  Another classic case is the pass completion rate, for example we all know that the unambitious midfielder who never tried anything risky or attacking can have a great pass completion rate, doesn't make them a great passer though, it may just mean that they are a very cautious player who continually slows attacks down.  

There is a great danger in reading too much into these kind of statistics, Szczesny's statistics being a great example of this, there is very little correlation between certain numbers and performance, this little table demonstrates this perfectly.  I would take Szczesny over De Gea every single day of the week and I suspect many Manchester United fans would too.  The moral of the story is that statistics must be interpreted with great caution, confounding factors are the name of the game.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Transfer alert - danger hot air!

I have no insider information and this summer I shall simply be waiting for official news from on any transfers.  Life is too short to waste one's time reading manufactured rubbish in the papers, or incessant rumour on sports news channels, we should be wise enough to ignore these lame journalists whose job involves filling column inches and tv screens with their made up bollocks.

I would urge all my fellow Gooners to do the same, do not pay any attention to the rumour, it is a waste of your valuable time, get a life and wait for something to actually happen.  There is more to life that football, so enjoy a few weeks without Arsenal losing and appreciate what else life has to offer.

Anyway one thing to do when there is no quality football to watch is to laugh at Chelsea fans, they really aren't the brightest bunch.  This excellent piece in the Guardian demonstrated just what I have been banging on about, Chelsea and Man City are a joke, they are losing almost 300 million between them a year, they are massive failures.  It is no surprise that they will win a few trophies given the amount their are unsustainably throwing away in transfers and wages, and in the context of their record breaking losses and financial failure their achievements are really unimpressive.

It is utterly pathetic that the Premier League's boss, Richard Scudamore, is refusing to introduce any financial fair play rules in the Premier League.  The Premier League should have acted long ago, the ridiculous spending funded by rich individuals is creating a deeply unhealthy and uncompetitive environment in football in this country, there have already been many casualties in the form of clubs driven under by trying to compete with these clubs of infinite funds.  Shame on the Premier League and Scudamore, what a corrupt bunch of self interested arseholes who care nothing for the beautiful game and sport in general.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Congratulations Chelsea Football Club

I may have been a little hasty to dare criticise Chelsea's Champions League triumph and the quite delectable way in which this fine football club has been managed under the fine and principled leadership of the most benevolent of dictators, Roman Abrahmovich.  I have to say that my original article was just a sarcastic piece, intended to whip up anger in all those idiots who would dare to criticise this fine model of a modern football club.  I have now decided to write this tribute to Chelsea and apologise for my vile words.

This was no dark day for football, it was a victory for free flowing attacking football created in a sustainable manner on a limited budget.  Chelsea's football was masterful, the use of the cross bar and post was majestic in both the semi-final and final, the passing to the opposition was breath taking, the honesty from the likes of Didier Drogba a great example to young children watching, and above all, the behaviour and discipline of their club captain John Terry defined the greatness of the club.

It would be irresponsible, bitter and small minded to point out that this football club has a wage bill of almost £200 million pounds and that they are losing almost £100 million a year despite increasing revenues.  It would also be unfair and spiteful to mention that this club struggles to fill its moderately sized stadium for Champions League games.  It is also deeply flawed and pathetic to point out how many hundred million have been invested in this club and where this money may have come from, this is simply beside the point.

Chelsea are a great model for us all in so many ways, we should all be encouraged to spend responsibly in order to achieve the most beautiful and elegant of victories as this noble football club have done.  In contrast it is quite despicable and disgusting that the similarly lovely football club PSG failed to win the French league title yesterday, they were cheated out of it by the paupers of Montpellier, a disgrace and what a dark day for football this was, if there was ever a lesson that we should teach our children, it is that spending more money aggressively and obnoxiously should be rewarded with such fine satisfying victories like Chelsea's on saturday.

A great victory for football, Chelsea FC, Roman the great and the ever classy John Terry.  Money is making the game great again, let us all enjoy this great moment, nip down the supermarket for a quick bit of shop lifting and then indulge ourselves in a mobile phone involving orgy fuelled by cocaine supplied by John Terry's dad.  Blue is the colour, class and morals are our game, while winning at any cost is a fine principle with which to live one's life!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

A dark day for football

Money can certainly buy trophies, but can it buy you class, respect and dignity?  Not judging from Chelsea's performance tonight.  Another extremely lucky result from a side that played some of the most dire and defensive football possible, and it must be remembered that Roman Abrahmovich has had to manipulate billions to finance this pathetic little racket.

Roman Abrahmovich sums Chelsea Football Club up.  Here is a man who has made billions as a result of theft from his own people, he now throws around his money in a wanton fashion, he spends unsustainably and arrogantly, Chelsea are losing almost 100million a season at the moment, and then he achieves the most pathetic and hollow of victories.  This is a man who no one likes, people only feign an interest in him because of his money, I am sure the same can be said for the whores in his life too, and that includes his ex wife.

Football is in a very sorry state at the moment, there is no level playing field, Munich are a great club that is run in a healthy sustainable fashion, the very opposite of Chelsea, Manchester City are just like Chelsea expect they are losing even more money a year, about 200 million a year for City.

This is not sport, this is not competition, this is an unfair game where those with the most ill gotten gains are guaranteed success, while the honest clubs who break even are given no chance in such an unpleasant environment of unsustainable greed.  The honest viable clubs are being driven under by the likes of Chelsea and this is an utter disgrace.

Strangely I have sympathy with Tottenham fans, they have now been bumped out of the Champions League by Roman's classless chavs, and this is despite the fact that Tottenham are a club that has been managed responsibly and sustainably, just exactly the opposite of the shameful Chelsea Football Club.  Chelsea deserve no credit for their success, they have spent many hundreds of millions that has been stolen from the Russian people and that has not been earnt, they are a disgrace to football and sport in general.  Shame on Chelsea on this dark dark day for football.

Friday, 18 May 2012

RVP, our scum support and eleven Yossis

I have been away and unable to blog for the last week, and I must say that I enjoyed my holiday considerably more after we had managed to secure 3rd spot by squeezing past West Brom by the narrowest of margins.  It wasn't brilliant any means, but the bottom line is it was enough and qualifying automatically for the Champions League means that we can now hopefully set about properly strengthening our squad for next season.

The three big players with just a year left on their current contracts are RVP, Song and Walcott.  Talks have begun with RVP and the truth is that no one really knows what is going to happen, much of the speculation has been based on nothing but gossip or a rumour, it is best ignored.  The fact that some moronic fans have decided to abuse RVP and his wife on Twitter, I truly despair at the ignorance and stupidity of these cretinous wastes of space, does sum up just how pathetic and aggressive this loud minority of our support is.  I wish they would leave our club alone, they do nothing of help, they often unsettle the players by propagating their small minded negative hatred at games.  Scum the lot of them in my humble opinion.  It is worth remembering that a significant element of the abuse may well be coming from fake accounts, sadly I doubt we can entirely blame the abuse on others.

Whether this trio sign on or not, the club can and will go on without them, football is a team game and it is vital that we build on the team spirit that we saw at times last season, and to do this we need eleven fully committed players on the field at all times.  Hence if any of these three do not sign on then they simply must be sold and replaced as best as possible.

One man that showed just how important attitude and commitment are is Yossi Benayoun,  I would like to pay a special tribute to him for his highly professional contribution to our cause.  He could have sulked, he didn't get many games early in the season, he didn't, he kept working hard and eventually he got his chance, he then took it and in every game I saw him play, he gave his all for the Arsenal shirt, he ran non stop, he chased and defended every ball, and his two vital goals against Norwich and WBA may well end up being absolutely massive in the club's history when we look back on them in a few years time.

Yossi Benayoun is the kind of character that we need at the club and he is a great example of what you can achieve if you have the right attitude.  No matter how talented a player, if they are not fully committed to the cause then we should move them on, the impact of having eleven players as committed and determined as Yossi on the field at all times cannot be underestimated.  I would like to wish Yossi well wherever he ends up next season, he is a truly class act, there are not many like him in the modern game, a true professional and a real gent.  We need more Yossi types for next season.

Friday, 11 May 2012

One thing on my mind

I do not care for transfer gossip, I prefer to concentrate on the here and now, and that is why 3 points this weekend is absolutely massive in many ways for the club.

The game needs no hype, holding on to third spot is essential for the club to build a challenge for next season.  We need to show our true colours, we need a committed, a solid defensive and a disciplined performance this weekend.

I hope that Arsene lines up with Coquelin and Song in the midfield three alongside Rosicky, I think Ramsey needs a break, his form has been poor, this would leave room for Jenkinson to come in a right back.  It would also be good to see the Ox start with Benayoun's work rate also in the front three alongside the lethal RVP.

Three points are a must, come on you Gunners!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The simple analysis - repeated naive errors

I do not want to get carried away with the doom and negativity.  Our recent dropped points must be seen in context of some excellent results earlier in the year, while the deep problems in our squad are not something that can be quickly remedied overnight, failing players on big long term contracts cannot be moved on easily overnight.  I have summed up our failings, demonstrated particularly against Norwich and Wigan, and this is where I feel we need proper meaningful action:

Defending as a team: The problem here is related to the manager, coaching and the players.  Without having inside knowledge, it is hard to know exactly how to apportion this blame.  It is clear that our team does not have the right defensive balance, the midfield are not helping the back 4 out enough, the whole team is not defending in a coordinated disciplined fashion, some defenders are playing with far too much reckless abandon at times in bombing forward.  In particular without Arteta's disciplined defending in front of the defense, the midfield three of Song-Ramsey-Rosicky did not do anything like enough defending and did not shield the back four well.  The communication between the players on the pitch has to be questioned, if a defender bombs forward then they must be covered, big gaps cannot simply be left for the taking.

Depth in squad in terms of midfielders who can defend: Overall this problem is extremely complex, it is to do with not having sufficient depth in our squad in terms of combative midfield players, it is to do with the manager arguably not selecting a solid enough blend to start the game with, it is also to do with the instructions and advice that the players on the field are given by the management.  Song looks exhausted, Ramsey adds very little defensively and there is not enough strength in depth.  In conclusion we are so vulnerable to the counter attack it is untrue, and our opponents have learnt about this Achilles heel, it is now being viciously exploited in game after game.

There are many other issues, including the massive amount of squad dross that we have accumulated on big wages (Denilson/Almunia/Bendtner/Squillaci etc), and our lack of backup for RVP which has been partially addressed by the early purchase of Podolski, a good move for sure.  The big concern is that we could lose several big players this summer, Theo/Song/RVP all have one year to run on their deals and should be sold if they will not sign up.  They must all be replaced, if they leave, and we need to strengthen on top of this.

Personally I think some of these issues go hand in hand, it appears that the whole squad needs a generic kick up the backside.  There has been a worrying level of complacency and arrogance present in too many of our performances against the smaller sides this season.  I think several of our squad need a good old fashioned rollicking and brutally clearing out a few of the wasters in our squad should help reinforce a basic message to the players.  Nothing less than a hundred percent commitment is acceptable if you are to be an Arsenal player, no matter how talented you may be, if you pull on the Arsenal shirt you must give your all in every game, as this is the thing that has been frustrating many of us fans so much of late, we want a fully committed Arsenal XI in every game.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Complacent and arrogant? Again and again

I have lost count of the number of times that we have come unstuck against the weaker sides this season, it is staggeringly frustrating.  We have beaten all the top sides other than ManU but we keep making the same mistake, that mistake being that we assumed that all we need to do against the smaller sides is turn up and we will win, how many f*cking times do we have to make this mistake?

Blackburn 3-4, Fulham 2 -1, Swansea 3-2, QPR 2-1, Wigan 2-1 and then today.  The words of the manager are damning enough:

"....but maybe subconsciously [we thought] we would win it........We lost too many challenges and it is surprising because recently we were quite good, but today I feel that defensively the whole team was very poor."

It has happened too many times, we have been complacent and arrogant against too many sides this season, and it is costing us dear.  The words of Norwich player Steven Morison are even more damning:

"I think Arsenal thought we were going to be a pushover today."

I do not expect to win every game against the weaker sides, but I cannot accept the levels of performance and complacency that we have seen against some of the lesser sides this season.  If we had treated all our games equally and shown more respect, pressed harder and worked harder against these lesser sides, then I do not think we would have dropped so many points so lazily.

The manager knows which players are complacent and arrogant, and I suggest that he moves them all on in the summer, I only want players who are prepared to put in their all in every single game they pull on an Arsenal shirt.  I can take losing if we give everything, however I cannot accept the complacent dross that we have seen at times this season.  I haven't even started on the schoolboy defending.....

Frustrated, gutted and defensively not good enough

Today's game summed up our season.  There was some incisive attacking football, we could have scored way more than the 3 goals we ended up with.  There was also some terrible defending as a unit.  Typically there was some absolutely awful refereeing.  We so nearly escaped with all three points but couldn't hold out, I just wish I didn't care, but sadly I do and it is hard to find words appropriate to sum up my dismal frustration.

Firstly immense credit to Norwich, they were excellent on the counter attack, the problem was that, much like in the Wigan game, we set ourselves up so naively and so open to the simply fast counter attack.  Norwich could have had more than the three goals they had too, our midfield just didn't shield the defence and play with enough discipline, the defence also made big errors of their own, notably Szczesny's poor mistake for the opener and Vermaelen's poor positioning for their third.  Again it was no naive, so predictable and so frustrating.

The set-up of the team was all wrong for me in terms of a defensive strategy.  Song and Ramsey didn't do enough to help out the back four, while the 4-3-3 formation did leave the back four incredibly open to the counter.  The problem was that this has happened in so many games this season, notably the Wigan home game, we simply have to be more organised and more disciplined as a team.  Arteta's absence seems to have coincided with this run and this is no coincidence.  I would have been tempted to start Coquelin in the holding role today.  Both the manager and the players must take their share of the blame for our defensive woes.

An amazing statistic is the fact that we have not had a single penalty at home all season in the Premier League, make of it what you will but the chances that this is down to bad luck are extremely slim.  We are one of the most attacking sides around and we are a top side, these both contribute to making this an incredible statistic, one that is rather damning in terms of casting doubt on the neutrality of referees in this league.  Again we had a stonewall penalty turned down at the end of the game as RVP was cynically fouled when about to tap the ball home.  The Norwich shouts in the first half were weak in my eyes, Coquelin won the ball for one and the other was just a two sided tussle.

Overall it summed up our season, fundamentally we simply have to blame ourselves because our defending was simply not good enough in so many ways.  We were naive, indisciplined and too open on numerous occasions. We now have to rely on Newcastle and Tottenham slipping up.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Gary Lineker is a weak coward who cannot bear to apologise

Firstly I would just like to keep this all in an appropriate context, Gary Lineker's pathetic attempts at mocking Arsene Wenger are not a massive deal, but they are certainly something that should not be ignored and for this reason I just want to ramble on briefly about the aftermath of Lineker's foolish outburst.

There was no doubt Lineker's actions were a tasteless and poorly executed joke at best, at worst they were a rather unpleasant piece of small minded bullying tinged with a bit of xenophobia, you can make up your own minds.  There is also no doubt that no other manager has been targeted like that in the past on a serious sports program, it would be a different thing entirely on a satirical show or a comedy program.  The point is that people like Lineker have to be seen to be vaguely impartial and objective, the BBC is funded by us, the tax payer, and has responsibilities that come with being a public sector broadcaster.

The Mail quite rightly followed this story and it was interesting that Lineker was largely condemned by most fans, whether Arsenal fans or not.  John Cross was quite right with his excellent Mirror piece, correctly pointing out that Lineker's joke has back fired and that it bordered on xenophobia.  In fact the worst thing about the BBC's coverage was largely ignored by the media, Arsene Wenger took a lot of racist abuse from Stoke fans last weekend being called a 'french ****' and the BBC chose to portray the Stoke fans as having a great sense of humour, hardly glowing objective coverage on their part.

Gary Lineker has felt the need to come out to speak on the matter and has again failed to cover himself in glory.  He has failed to apologise, merely stating that he would never intend to offend Arsene Wenger, a bit of a Shawcross defence really, intent doesn't really matter, it's the offensive end product that counts in my opinion.  Gary would have done much better to come out and say sorry, by not apologising he just makes himself look like a small cowardly weasel.  The BBC have handled this whole affair very very badly, a quick apology would have killed the whole thing, instead they have defended the indefensible and covered themselves in shame.

Apparently it is just a few Arsenal fans being angry with Gary because he played for Tottenham!  Frankly I don't care who you played for Gary, I just think your behaviour was utterly pathetic and not fitting for a BBC sports presenter.  Mind you compared to Robbie Savage's mere presence, it wasn't that offensive in the grand scheme of things, how the BBC's standards are slipping!  Apparently this is all now 'boring' to Gary, well maybe he should have considered this before his tasteless outburst?  Why not just own up to your mistake and apologise?  Only a proper man would do this though.