Sunday 31 August 2008

Basic misunderstanding of tackling

Luckily Rob Styles' incompetence didn't end up having an impact on the result yesterday, however I'd still like to have a whinge at what I see as the consistently poor refereeing in the Premiership these days. In not wanting to be overly negative, I should quickly praise Mike Dean for correctly sending off Amdy Faye for a shocking tackle in the Stoke-Boro game.

Barton's tackle on Nasri yesterday is a perfect little case study. Kevin Keegan thought it was a good tackle and claimed Barton had done nothing wrong:

"Joey came on, got a good tackle in on Nasri...The fact is that Joey has done nothing wrong."

Even Arseblogger described the tackle as 'quite fair', while this Newcastle blog reckons it was a 'tough' tackle'. I disagree with both these stances and will argue that this tackle was certainly not 'fair', it was also more than just 'tough'.

Firstly Barton's studs were up, secondly he was out of control and had thrown himself into the tackle, and thirdly his leg was pretty much straight. These details make it completely irrelevant as to whether he won the ball or not, it was a dangerous and reckless tackle either way. For example Amdy Faye's tackle may have won the ball, however this doesn't change the fact that it was both dangerous and reckless.

It doesn't particularly matter whether tackles are two footed or not, what matters is the studs being up, the player being launched into the tackle out of control and the leg being straight; all these factors contribute to mean that there will be no give in the tackling player's leg, the give will either come from the tackled player's leg moving, or their bones and ligaments breaking. Hence when the tackled player's leg is fixed by the studs in the turf, this kind of tackle will end careers.

Nasri knew this and was consequently incensed by the malice in Barton's tackle, he did petulantly clip Barton's ankles, an act that was a yellow at worse and was never going to result in any serious damage to the ex-con. In the past Keegan has tried to defend nasty tackles, thus making his out of perspective rants on Nasri seem more than a little absurd. Barton's record speaks for itself, Keving Keegan has a long record of opening his mouth before engaging his brain, and he'd do well to remember that Barton has been given chance after chance after chance, it's not as simple as forgive and forget.

It amazes me that so many people, including so many so called expert TV pundits, seem to think that tackles like this are not fouls. I've seen several this season that referees have not even awarded as fouls which have been potentially career ending challenges, Wayne Rooney versus Newcastle is just one example. Luckily most of the victims of these tackles escape by jumping out of the way or with just a nasty bruise, however a few are not so lucky, Mr Eduardo a case in point. The most frustrating thing is that referees do not seem to be able to pick out the dangerous from the genuinely clumsy, meaning that these tackles are not being stamped out.

This leads to a ridiculous situation where the victim is more frequently punished for dissent or retaliation than their aggressor. It's not that long ago since Bolton unfairly dealt our title hopes a crucial blow at the Reebok, they crocked several of our players with dangerous tackles, none of which resulted in red cards. Anyway I digress, the point is that these kind of tackles are in no way fair, they are definite fouls, and it's about time some people realised this, including the referees. Until this happens, teams that tackle overly aggressively and dangerously will benefit from this poor interpretation of the rules, and that can't be good for football.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Black and white convicts dispatched

What a contrast to last Saturday's efforts or lack of them, a performance full of drive and motivation saw us overcome Newcastle comfortably 3-0. It could have been eight or nine, had our finishing been slightly more clinical; the most comforting thing was the increase in tempo and the way in which everyone worked hard off the ball, pressing and harrying the opposition at every opportunity. I'll try not to mention Rob Styles, he's just a brainless cretin.

Our first came from the spot, a clever piece of trickery from Ade saw him create space for a cross which N'Zogbia raised an arm towards, RVP dispatched the penalty. For the handball it was more a penalty than not, however in the context of Coloccini's clear foul from behind on RVP in the third minute that Styles missed, it definitely seemed fair enough. Eboue was looking lively and was strangely cunning in possession, while Denilson looked so much more comfortable with Cesc back in the mix. Nasri adds so much more than Hleb ever did, his directness and ability to go both ways, make him a great addition to the team. RVP and Ade's work rates were up on a week ago, you need everyone at the races week in week out.

The second came after some fantastic dribbling and then a great one two led by Emmanuel Eboue, we then teed up RVP with a perfectly weighted backheel, RVP couldn't miss and didn't. To be fair to the northerners, they had two decent chances, one scuffed by Owen and the other cleared by the crossbar. However to pretend Newcastle deserved anything out of this game would be foolish and something only done by rather inebriated geordies. Several cracking chances went begging in the second half, but a third was added by the deserving Denilson after some sterling unselfish setup play from Ade.

Despite constantly fouling us in a rather cynical fashion, Newcastle couldn't stop us, however that didn't stop them bringing on the half brained halfwit Joey Barton on for the final few minutes. He was greeted by a chorus of boos and did plenty to justify this vociferous reception. His appalling studs up lunge on Nasri was a disgrace and could easily have been a red card, had Styles not been a brainless cretin, deciding it was not even a foul.

The cheeky Nasri then innocuously clipped Barton's heel, and after much appealing from the horrendously ugly Nicky Butt (a man whose face even his mother cannot bear to look at apparently), Styles produced a yellow for Nasri, that's justice in the Premiership for you. Keegan's pathetic over reaction did him no favours after the final whistle, he should have a very hard look at the scum that his club employ before seeking to criticise the most minor of indiscretions in such a manner.

Today we saw a team performance and that was the deciding factor, there was more precision and less delaying in the final third as well, while Newcastle were not allowed to relax in possession for a second. This was not far off the same Newcastle side that fought for a deserved draw at Old Trafford a couple of weeks back. The defence and the lack of strength in depth in midfield are still areas of concern for me if we are to challenge on all fronts, however I never doubted the massive amount of talent in the players that we already had at the club. I think Emmanuel Eboue could become a rather popular figure if he continues to put in performances like he did today on a regular basis, well done Mr Eboue.

Friday 29 August 2008

Recovery must continue tomorrow

It's been an eventful week, the performance against FC Twente was certainly an improvement, however given the weakness of the opposition it's hard to get carried away. I was quite amused by some banter from Mark Lawrenson on the box, he was ripping the piss out of Steve McLaren's new dutch accent and what he may have said to his depressed players at half time, whatever he said it certainly seemed doom to failure.

Our squad appears to have gathered a bit of strength since last weekend, with Cesc returning to contention, plus Alex Song should be fully recovered from his jet lag. I am sure we all have a different eleven in mind, there's an interesting choice to be made at the back as Djorou has made a reasonable case for inclusion, while the centre of midfield looks like to be another area of contention again.

I'd stick Alex Song in the holding role, with Cesc playing in his more offensive role, with Walcott and Nasri on the flanks. There is simply no one else who can do the defensive rock job, Denilson and Cesc would be far too lightweight, while we all know that Eboue is no centre mid. I'd also be strangely tempted to stick Bendtner and Adebayor up front together, RVP has been firing blanks and I think the two big lads might just keep the Toon defenders a bit more occupied.

I've lost hope of Arsene flashing the cash in the last few minutes of the transfer window, so that probably means he'll be bringing in someone we've never heard of. Newcastle will certainly be a much sterner test that Mclaren's minnows were, and personally I think some knives will be out if Arsene does not deliver three points onto the table, that's football for you these days. The old saying that you make a bit of your own luck is a very true one, as the thread bare nature of our squad in the centre of midfield makes clear.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Stop Press - Champions League Draw

Arsenal face Porto, Fenerbahce and Dynamo Kiev in the first round group stage.
I'm not sure which order the games are played in, but Match day one is 16/17 September.
For those who, like me, were mumbling through "We're on our way..." last night, the final is in Rome this year. Should make a nice trip.....

FC Twente - Done

Arsenal's 6-0 aggregate win looks great in the papers this morning, but lets not be fooled by it. They never posed a threat and in true Gordon Ramsay style, they were "blitzed" "griddled" and "done".
At 2-0 down from the first leg, and then conceding a goal to Nasri on 26 minutes, FC Twente basically were going out and had nothing to lose. So did Schteve Mschclaren let them off the leash? No they sat back in some form of damage limitation exercise and did absolutely nothing. What an idiot Schteve is.
So, what about Arsenal? Well, the goals were all quite good and there are some positives to take from the performance. First and foremost, we are twice the team with Cesc back. He is so involved in the game, so many nice touches that just keep things ticking over. Djourou also played well, but that was not hard given that he had nothing to do. I'm not sure if Kolo was injured, rested or dropped, but with Big Phil currently boarding his Ryanair flight to Milan, it looks like AW has backed Djourou to play a lot more this season.
Couple of talking points. First, Block 6 were on good form last night. The new chants for "You've only come to see Eboue", "Theo Walcott - The Englishman at Arsenal" and the "Eduardo" sea-shanty were top. However, its a shame that the other 50,000 thousand odd who turned up can't be bothered to sing. At all. Its an even bigger shame that so many people did not turn up in the first place. You are not customers, you are supporters. So support your team. The FC Twente fans put you to shame.
Secondly, and back to the action, Nikky Bendtner was not at his best. He scored a goal after a great back-heel by Denilson, but otherwise he was poor. The ball was not doing what he wanted last night but I'm not too worried about it. He is really our 4th choice striker behind RVP, Ade and Eduardo, assuming everyone is fit and available, and as a 4th choice striker he looks like someone with a lot of potential. He is clearly miles better that Aliadiere ever was.
Thirdly, I really quite liked the shape of the midfield in the second half. Theo switched to the left, Eboue came on the right, Alex Song and Denilson played the last 30 minutes in the middle. Now, bearing in mind that FC Twente were cack I'm not going to get carried away, but Theo has been poor down the right recently whereas playing down the left lets him cut in and shoot (and score a rather good goal). The much-maligned Eboue was actually quite effective. In fact, once you cut out all the play acting and diving, he is an extremely good footballer. Problem is, he is a play acting diver. But that's no excuse for booing him. To those that did - read point one above.
Fourthly, and that leaves Alex Song. He's big, strong and according to Theo, the thickest man at Arsenal. His 30 minutes did no harm whatsoever for his chances of being the enforcer to play behind Cesc.
Despite all the recent doom and gloom, a midfield of Nasri-Cesc-Song-Rosicky might just do something (especially when you consider that leaves Theo, Eboue, Denilson and Diaby as cover). Only problem is the only time you are likely to see it will be on your Playstations.
Lets hope we can carry some of last night's improved performance through to Saturday against the Toon.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Cracks in Arsene's foundations?

Life is certainly not black and white, and as I am becoming increasingly confused and bemused about goings on at Arsenal I am finding it impossible to see things with much clarity at the moment. Le Boss has been defending his captain:

"We did not play well as a team, everybody knows that and William is no more guilty than anybody else"

William is the club captain, I'd argue that he should be more responsible than any other player for the motivation of his troops. Le Boss has also been talking more about the defeat:

"When you have an away game, it can happen that you are caught for 20 or 30 minutes. But I know my squad is good, my team is good, our spirit is good. We are intelligent enough to know we did not play well , but we know as well we have the needed quality to respond."

“Your desire is to play well and win. No matter how much experience you have, if you don’t play well you have more chances to lose than to win.”

Arsene is a great manager, however some of these comments betray a slightly twisted perspective on events in my eyes. We were not caught for 20 or 30 minutes, we were poor for virtually the whole ninety. Experience can sometimes be very useful, obviously having a team of geriatrics is not a good idea, but having too many inexperienced kids without the old heads can sometimes reduce one's chances of getting the win.

I would have rubbished articles like this a few months ago, however having seen several experienced players leave without being replaced, I am starting to agree with certain strands of the logic used. I genuinely expected some experience to be brought in this summer and now it sadly looks as if it won't be happening.

In my opinion our squad is most definitely not 'strong' in certain areas, bringing in Silvestre and getting rid of the dedicated big Phil seems to be something that is rather incomprehensible to many others as well as I. Arsene is no God, he's proven himself to be a rather handy manager over the years, so much so that his mistakes have been remarkably rare. However I can't help but notice that he's given us a few good reasons to begin to doubt him of late, the Gallas captaincy, our inability to defend simple aerial balls, our obvious weakness in the centre of midfield, Eboue as a first choice right midfielder, to name but a few.

I hope Arsene proves me wrong. It has also been pointed out to me that maybe our finances are not quite as solid as the club would have us believe, there is precious little evidence behind this rumour though. No matter how hard I try to ignore these doubts about Arsene, they simply will not go away. I have enormous respect for the principles that he adheres to, the beautiful football and fair play. However practically I just think we look too small and too weak to win the Premiership this time around, we can still out football anyone on our day, but do we really have the ability to keep clean sheets and grind out one nils on those bitterly cold November nights up North?

Monday 25 August 2008

Reading into the reaction

I'm not quite as angry as I was on Saturday, the rage has now become more a feeling of let down and disappointment, interestingly the Fulham goal has since been shown to have been offside. Some interesting words have been spoken since the Fulham game which do throw some light on what exactly went on. Emmanuel Adebayor had this to say:

"We saw that as soon as we don't play together, as soon as we don't put our spirit together, we can lose....We have to put more heart in, keep focused and play our football."

The question is why did we not play 'together', why was the spirit not there and why was there no heart in the performance? It was our second game of the season, there should not have been this obvious lack of motivation and desire. Losing is one thing, losing in that manner was not acceptable for many of us Arsenal fans. Even Arsene had to own up to the lacklustre nature of the team's performance, while he claimed that buying is not always the solution:

"I believe they wanted it a bit more than us in the first half, when you want to play at the top you must start the game with the right attitude and personality. Fulham started stronger and were sharper. The corner showed that we were not sharp enough. The mistake we made on the corner is not excusable."

“When you lose a game the solution is not always to buy”

As Goodplaya points out, we have a rather gaping chasm in the centre of our midfield, Flamini, Diarra and Gilberto have simply not been replaced. Buying is not always the solution, however in this situation it appears to be a very good solution.

This is most definitely the case if Song is to be deployed as a centre back, and not in centre midfield; personally I will be disappointed if this is the case, Song has the strength, drive and passing ability to be able to dominate games from the centre of midfield. I'm with Goodplaya who thinks that we need a more dominant and commanding centre back, someone who will take no prisoners, Gallas seems to be struggling at the moment.

Hopefully this defeat will be the kick up the arse that some of our players so badly needed, I hope we do not have to endure such a lacklustre performance again this season. It's easy to make the likes of Emmanuel Eboue the scapegoats, however in doing this we are simply living in denial, many of our bigger names were not at the races on Saturday, for example a certain Robin Van Persie. The summer has seen endless speculation about greedy footballers angling for pay rises, it's about bloody time that these men started to earn their salaries. I can take defeat, but I cannot take defeat without blood, sweat and tears.

PS it appears that big Phil Senderos is off to Milan for a year's loan, I can't help but feel sorry for big Phil who has been unfairly scapegoated at times; he's been a very consistent performer in my opinion, I certainly feel that many Gallas and Toure errors have been brushed under the carpet while big Phil has been relatively harshly treated. Is it really wise to be letting such a valuable squad player go with a gruelling season ahead, let's hope Silvestre can stay fit!

Sunday 24 August 2008

A systemic malaise?

Having had a few hours to nurse my sore head, I have had time to reflect upon yesterday's terribly limp performance at Fulham; sometimes defeats are unfortunate and undeserved, however yesterday's was most definitely not one of these. I agree with everything Ted said earlier today, while Arseblogger also makes many similar points. Even given the poor performance we could easily have salvaged something from the game, several good chances still went begging and Fulham were lucky to go in at half time with eleven men still on the field.

The fact is that the team were not motivated from the off, there was no tempo, the pace of the game was both pedestrian and lethargic, there was no hunger. As a fan you want to see your team attack the opposition from the first whistle, like a Lion tearing apart a gazelle with a flesh ripping aggression. Yesterday's Arsenal performance had the tempo that one would imagine Kanu has when strolling out for the paper on a Sunday morning having smoked his first reefer of the day, it wasn't just laid back, it was bloody well horizontal.

The blame must be shared between the manager, the club captain and the players. Some tried hard and performed better than others, for example Toure, Clichy and Sagna were relatively impressive. Denilson is a talented kid who's not ready to boss a Premiership game on his own, Nasri was playing only his second game in the league, while Walcott still looks a little lightweight. Emmanuel Eboue did try his hardest but is eminently not a central midfielder. Song did add some real tempo when he came on, he surely must start against Twente.

William Gallas, now here is a man who has no excuses, he is our captain, he's massively experienced, anything less than 100% fight and commitment from him is substandard, and yesterday his performance raised massive question marks about both his ability to captain the side and to defend to a high standard. Gallas was consistently off the pace, weak in the air and not tight enough to his man, summed up by the appalling defending for the Fulham goal. We have a major problem with Gallas, as our club captain doesn't seem up to his centre back duties, let alone his job of motivating the troops. One feels that unless a big decision is made, this systemic malaise may well persist until Gallas is relieved of his duties. Letting Djorou leave in this context appears stupid.

RVP and Adebayor didn't do enough to justify their reputations. Forget the missed chances, even the best have bad days in front of goal, it was the lack of work ethic that was the most worrying aspect of it for me. It was not long ago that Ade was not only a striker, but an extra defender, he would never stop harassing the opposition, he would press and harangue til the cows came home. One simply cannot afford to have two egotistical forwards who cannot be bothered to work hard for the team when they are not in possession of the football.

There is a weakness in the midfield, even a blind man could see that we are too lightweight and inexperienced in this department, however the most worrying aspect of this game was the apathetic level of the performance, these eleven men should still have done far better against such an average Fulham side. This was not solely a midfield issue, there is a problem in the heart of our defence, our captain has lost the faith of his troops, we did not play and fight as a team. Big decisions need to be made and if they are not, one feels that the cracks will only get bigger.

Bullard beats Arsenal

Arsenal lost 1-0 away to Fulham on Saturday afternoon's late kick-off. Arsenal were pretty dire. AW said after the game:
"When you want to play at the top you must start the game with the right attitude and personality. Thats what we didn't do and thats a good lesson. It was the kind of game where you could not afford a mistake at the back or at a set piece. I believe they wanted it a bit more than us in the first half..."

I find it quite amazing that the team is so low on desire and motivation already in the season. I said last week after the WBA game that Arsenal were collectively poor. Most people disagreed and preferred to praise WBA (who lost at home to Everton yesterday). Well this was the same level of Arsenal performance, just made away from home at a vocal Craven Cottage, against a side who man-for-man were far more committed to the job of winning the game of football. Fulham deserved it.

There are a number of ways of looking at the reason for failure yesterday. The absence of an experienced central midfielder is obviously a factor, but I don't think it should be overplayed. Sticking Alonso or Barry into the mix yesterday, I think we would still have lost. The reason is that apart from Cesc and Rosicky, this was virtually our strongest side yesterday. If the eleven players that started the game had been up for it, then they would have won. We had far more quality on paper, but Fulham out-passed us, were accurate and patient in possession, far more hungry for the ball, far quicker to close down and tackle. We lacked passion and commitment. And I find that very disappointing.

The lack of a central midfielder was compounded by Denilson having a shocker. But I would be hesitant to lay all the blame at his door. We made Bobby Zamora look a class act yesterday, just as we did to Ishmail Miller last week. I thought Gallas had a poor game again - he was basically just happy just to let Zamora win the ball in the air. He set a poor example and he was his lazy and uncommitted defending that allowed Fulham to score from a set piece.

Theo Walcott was poor. Nasri won the plaudits last week against WBA, perhaps a little generously I thought, he was ok against Fulham. But both these wide players offered very little defensive cover and frankly were hardly impressive going forwards. Fulham closed them down well and that was it. Its not rocket science  to say that they are no comparison to Pires and Llungberg in 2004. However, fact is they were also no comparison to Hleb and Eboue in 2007.

Up top, Adebayor and RVP had moments when they could have scored. We could even have robbed some points if they had taken their chances. However, apart from these scant moments, they simply were not involved in the game.

A bad result and a very bad performance. These problems run much deeper than needing a centre midfielder.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Slightly bemused

So England again failed to look anything near the sum of their parts, gaining a rather fortunate 2-2 draw against a distinctly average Czech side at Wembley. It could have been predicted from the team line up, how on earth Capello selected Beckham on the right and no proper left midfielder on the left was beyond me. This resulted in a starting side with no genuine pace or width in midfield, why on earth a David Bentley, Joe Cole or Ashley Young did not start was beyond me. Then again I don't really mind what happens to the national side, I just feel rather complete apathy when it comes to this bunch of underachieving primadonnas.

So as expected Mikael Silvestre has signed for Arsenal, many people (including myself) have been very surprised by this move, and some have been rather underwhelmed to say the least. My mind has yet to be made up, it will largely depend on Silvestre's fitness and how Arsene plans to use him. If he is to be used as cover for our centre backs and Gael Clichy then I think it's a shrewd move, he'll add an old head to the squad as well as his versatility. However if he is to be used as a first choice centre back, and Toure is to be moved into midfield then I will be more than a little disappointed. In reality I don't think really knows what Arsene has planned, we are just listening to idle speculation at the moment.

Some clues will come this weekend in the form of the line up for the Fulham game, Alex Song has returned after some promising work at the Olympics, while Traore has gone out on loan to Pompey for the season; Silvestre's arrival gives Traore a great chance to go out and get some experience in order to push on. There are so many ifs and buts at this stage that it's hard to get a solid feeling for the season ahead. 'If' the likes of Diaby can get fit and stay fit, while if our longer term injured such as Rosicky and Eduardo can do the same; we have a very strong squad indeed. However if they cannot get fit, and Cesc suffers a run of niggling injuries and our new man becomes a regular on the treatment table, then we are not looking particularly clever. Whatever happens, at least I won't have to watch England every weekend.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

An extra parking space?

The rumour that Mikael Silvestre is set to join us is fast gathering pace, and it's certainly a signing that has the potential to divide Gooner opinion. Silvestre has undoubtedly been a top defender for Manu, however a rather unfortunate run of injuries has seen him play very few first team games in the past couple of seasons, obviously Vidic's form has also been rather significant.

We've been linked to countless players this summer, plus Arsene has stated that he intends to bring in some more depth to the squad, while Silvestre is a very Arsene Wenger type signing. He doesn't like to pay huge amounts for the well known players on form, he likes to take a bit of a gamble on young players or those who have injury setbacks, remember Marc 'stumpy' Overmars whose cruciate injury had resulted in many writing his career off prematurely.

Personally I'm not sure about Silvestre, but that's partly down to not having the inside information about his actual fitness that I am sure Arsene must be privy to. If he is fully fit and if he still has some zip left in his old legs, then he may be a very astute purchase, given that he adds an old head as well as someone who can play at both centre and left back.

Alex Song is returning from the Olympics after some more outstanding performances, and if Silvestre signs, surely it is he who will be slotted into the defensive central midfield slot. Barazite, Nordtvelt, Traore and Gibbs are all off out on loan; so we certainly could do with some cover for Clichy. In this context the Silvestre signing does appear to make some sense.

He's also never been one of the Manu players that I've genuinely disliked, he's a pretty inoffensive and quiet chap on the pitch, apart from the odd head butt, unlike say a Gary 'Hitler moustache' Neville. Silvestre also comes with a hidden asset, that is his rather gaping and persistently open mouth. Not only can he scare strikers away by not brushing his teeth for several days, but as his connective tissues slacken with old age, his mouth can be used for a subtle ball carrying vehicle; all it will need is an accurate chip from Cesc and then Mikael can smuggle the ball over the goal line in one of the potentially most cunning set pieces ever.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Arsenal wrecking English football?

I happened to have the misfortune to listen to a few minutes of David Frost's interview with Alex Ferguson on Sky the other night; on the rare occasion that Sir David wasn't drooling over the might Sir Alex's CV, he gave him rather too many opportunities to have a sly dig at his enemies. The BBC came in for a lot of stick, I mean how dare they not portray everything fergie related as residing within a golden halo? Fergie couldn't resist the odd dig at Arsenal too, and he seemed rather keen to mention our lack of English players.

It is upon this topic that I wish to vent my spleen, as it's also a common platform of attack for many illiterate tabloid hack and anti-Arsenal pundit. There's a major problem with their argument in my opinion, they think that Arsenal's lack of English players in the first team must mean that Arsenal Football Club are having a negative impact upon the quality of the English national side. I say both tottenham turkey and tripe to this argument.

James Harper, Justin Hoyte, Fabrice Muamba, Steven Sidwell, David Bentley and Ashley Cole are just six relatively recent English products of the Arsenal youth system; two of these players are regular England squad players, one has been in and out of the squad, and the others are top class players. Of the big clubs, Arsenal have arguably produced the most top quality youngsters in recent years. Only Ashley Cole was good enough to be an Arsenal regular, so just because these players no longer play for the club it does not mean Arsenal's role in developing the best in English talent can be cast aside.

For example let's look at Chelsea and Manu's contribution to developing English talent of their own in recent years. Interestingly in the current England sqaud, only Terry from Chelsea and Brown/Beckham from Manu came from their own clubs youth systems, and these players are hardly spring chickens. In fact it's remarkably hard to think of any decent English players that Manu and Chelsea have produced in the last few years; err Kieran Richardson, I'm struggling already. Fergie inherited a golden generation of talent which now appears to have dried up, while Chelsea have been dry for years.

Fergie has no right to moralise on this issue, recently both Manu and Chelsea have purchased the vast majority of the quality English players on their books, for example Cole X2, Lampard, Rooney, Ferdinand, Carrick, Hargreaves, Bridge et cetera. I fail to see how buying in the ready made English product at a huge cost does anything to help develop more high quality future England players, these players are already the developed end product, if Arsene were to go out and spend 20 million on Barry tomorrow then how would he be helping the English game?

I don't know if fergie is xenophobic or just plain stupid, what I do know is that his argument does not cut the mustard. I also find it hard to stomach the same weak argument being used by various Anti-Arsenal components in the media. The facts speak for themselves, and with the likes of Wilshere, Gibbs, Simpson, Hoyte, Randall and Lansbury coming through, I find it perverse that Arsenal continue to be accused of wrecking the English game when they continue to produce some of the best English talent around.

True, few of our English talents will be good enough for our first team, but that's because we've one of the best sides in Europe. Our critics should sort their own houses out before they start to throw around their misguided comments, or maybe they'd prefer a Premier League full of average technically incompetent Englishmen and no foreigners. Personally I don't think many people would be watching. It is also strange that so many English players took part in the Champions league final last year, is this a sign of a the very same dearth of talent?

Monday 18 August 2008

Sorry Piers but you're a c***

There are some people I respect, some people I don't, and then there are some who are even lower than the latter group, as they fit into the subhuman beneath contempt category. Moving on, Piers Morgan writes in the Daily Wail about Arsenal's chances this season:

"My name is Piers. I'm an Arsenal season-ticket holder and I'm officially depressed. What the hell is happening to my club?"

Well done Piers, you got your name right, that's a start at least. So you're depressed? Well that doesn't bother me, I can't really feel empathy towards someone who has so callously destroyed so many lives in his own psychopathic pursuit of fame and riches. Also Arsenal is not 'your' club, you are but one supporter of a football club that is not actually owned by the fans.

"I watched us struggling to beat the staggeringly ordinary FC Twente on Wednesday night and felt so frustrated I nearly switched over to Big Brother."

I always had you down as a Big Brother viewer, it's about your level isn't it really? I know you went to a rather low quality school in the North London ghetto, so that's probably why you felt the need to sell your soul to Mr Murdoch at such a young age. Even the Big Brother contestants do not have quite as gaping a chasm present where their soul should reside.

There is strangely a small amount of sense in your piece, however this sense is lost amongst the arrogant self copulating drivel that you pass off as journalism. It's commonly recognised that our squad is a bit short as things currently stand, however to write off our chances before the transfer window has even closed in such disrespectful fashion is well below the belt.

Your self congratulatory tone is almost vomit inducing, while the insulting words for the young and promising Walcott are just plain unfair. I also find it rather amusing that you think that we just need an 'Ian Wright' 'no nonsense' type forward, you mean someone who contributes very little in terms of all round team play, and arguably whose injury did more to help us win the league in his only title winning season (Wright only scored 10 league goals in 24 games in 1997/8) and not forgetting his indiscipline and disruptive influence off the pitch.

Sorry Piers, but you're a c***, and no matter what you say I'd rather we were one Arsenal fan down than having to endure repulsive cretins like you supporting our club. You'd probably sell your own mother at the right price, not that anyone would be willing to pay much for someone who shared half your genetic material. I've met garden slugs with more moral fibre than yourself, your current job as a galavanting media whore has you endlessly giving your opinion on other people's lives and talents; however why would anyone take notice of the opinion of someone who is so very untalented and who is only known because he is known. As Ian Hislop said 'no one likes you'; as your writing demonstrates, there is a very good reason for this.

Sunday 17 August 2008

Respect from Rooney and reluctance from Riley

Some things never change, despite all the media chatter about a new level of 'respect' that is to be shown by players towards officials; Wayne Rooney was back to his best at Old Trafford today, demonstrating just why the despicable chav is about as admired as a piece of globular green sputum outside of Manchester United supporting circles.

Rooney had no right to abuse Riley, as the gaunt and morally weak referee had tried his best to ease Manchester United towards victory; he ignored a cynical Vidic foul in the first half that could well have been a red card as he was the last man, he ignored an appalling straight legged lunge from Rooney on Coloccini not even getting a yellow out, he ignored several Rooney rants at both himself and the linesman, and he awarded the most contentious of free kicks to Man U in the dying seconds as Rafael hurled himself to ground after minimal contact.

Eventually Riley got his yellow card out for Rooney's abuse, showing just how pathetic this gimmicky 'respect' campaign is from the FA. The FA can ramble on endlessly, but if they continue to let serious foul play and dissent go unpunished then it will continue to flourish. The likes of Terry and Rooney actually gain big advantages from intimidating officials with their disrespectful tones, the only language these scum will understand is that of a swift red card. Unfortunately for football our weasel like officials are more likely to show a red card to a Frenchman for politely asking why a free kick was given, than they are to show a red for Rooney or Terry describing what they intend to do to the referee's mother in scatalogical terms.

Having said that, United were remarkably poor and lacking sparkle in the wide areas without their spotty Portugese show pony. Giggs and Scholes are running out of time, while their lack of forwards could be a real problem if they do not strengthen. This was in stark contrast to Chavski, who as a result of their ridiculous financial set up and record yearly losses can afford to pay over a hundred million for just the contents of their bench, meaning that they have a completely financially unsustainable strength in depth. Really anything less than victory for Chelsea should be seen as a failure for them, and frankly even if they win it's not much of an achievement given their resources.

Chelsea remind me of an overly competitive father who gets immense satisfaction from blasting shots past his tiny three year old son in the park, what a bunch of sad bastards they are. They did look good today though, against a very poor Portsmouth side who lacked any real width and who look to have wasted a rather handsome sum on that cumbersome beanpole Peter Crouch. Chelsea's midfield ran Pompey ragged and despite their third being a dubious penalty, the destination of the points was never in doubt. I just hope I live to see the day that Roman gets bored with his little toy, maybe it will never happen, I can but dream I suppose.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Nasri sparkles and thee points in the bag

I'd have gladly taken a one nil win had someone offered it to me on a plate before the game, getting three points under our belts was all important at this early stage. The icing on the cake was Tottenham's defeat to Boro at the Rivserside, top four my arse, some people never learn do they? Forty million on new players and null points, spending does not appear to guarantee glory.

The goal came early, Denilson bursting through and cutting back for Nasri to cleverly stab the ball low beyond Carson. After this swift stike many would have expected us to go on and win the game in convincing fashion, this didn't happen unfortunately.

Immense credit must go to the Baggies, who worked very hard to stay in the game and gave us a couple of rather hairy moments at the other end; Kim forced an excellent save from Almunia in the first half and the impressive tank-like Miller caused us problems while he was on the pitch, one blocked shot of his led to further goal bound effort that Djorou magnificently hacked off the goal line.

Having given credit to the opposition, we must take a fair share of the blame ourselves for some rather sloppy shooting and slack play in the final third. Eboue, who had a surprisingly good game in centre midfield, was the chief culprit on the profligate shooting front; while Adebayor should have made much more of several very good opportunities.

West Brom did ride their luck somewhat, we could have easily had a penalty for Walcott's goal bound header that was blocked by an arm, there were two almost own goals and several efforts flashed very narrowly wide (Gallas' rasping thirty yarder, Bendtner's powerful header and RVP's toed prod).

Nasri looked a breath of fresh air, he has that rare quality on the ball that enables him to jink back and forth, with the defender not knowing which way to turn, while he is a master at creating chances for this team mates with incisive through balls. He is two footed, direct and strong on the ball. If he continues to play like this then Hleb will be long long forgotten. Denilson had a solid game in midfield. Djorou again defended well, other than one lapse for which he made amends with his goal line clearance; he just needs to be a bit more aggressive at times and take no prisoners.

The one obvious gap in our side was still in the heart of the midfield. Although West Brom were not good enough to maintain much possession in our half of the field, there were a couple of moments in the second half when their players breezed through our central midfield area without being challenged, fortunately they were not good enough to exploit this, however other teams will not be so kind. It's early days and we will get much sharper, but you get the feeling that with a brick wall of a centre midfielder stuck in there, we could be a match for anyone.

Friday 15 August 2008

All gooners together

There has been far more chatter than action this close season. I can't say I'm particulartly happy or dissappointed at what has happened over the last few months. Exchanging the unproductive Hleb for the promising Nasri was a great piece of business. However losing Flamini, letting Gilberto go and having no real experienced back up in the centre of the park has not filled me with glee.

Emmanuel Eboue still looks like playing quite a few games in our midfield despite his remarkable lack of awareness, brilliantly summed up by Goodplaya here. Several young gems look like breaking through this year, Walcott has been brewing for a while, and others like Denilson, Ramsey, Wilshere, Bendtner, Vela and Song appear on the verge.

The season promises much, Arseblogger and Goodplaya have their own ideas of what is to come, while ACLF touches on something that I think will be rather crucial, we need to be able to win dirty.

If our whole first team sustain unfortunate ankle fracture dislocations then there is simply not much we can do about it, sometimes one is kippered by the Gods. However you do make a certain percentage of your own luck, and if we do our best in this regard then this may just be our season.

Winning dirty means keeping clean sheets when the football isn't flowing, it means not conceding sloppy opening goals to the weaker sides in the division, it means grinding out three points on a bog of a pitch somewhere up north where the Queen's english is not understood by the natives.

Whatever happens this season, we should all get behind our players and manager, and give them our backing so that they can have as good a chance possible of pipping the Chavs and the Mancs to the title. Adebayor may not be the most loved Arsenal player at the moment, however he'd have to be caught cottaging in a Tottenham shirt for his slurried reputation to be anyway near that of an Ashley Cole or Wayne Rooney. There are idiots and there are c*nts after all. Come on you gunners.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Letter to Ade and more

A great result last night, even if the performance was not particularly convincing and some rather interesting post match comment. Given that we had seven first teamers out, I think some of our strength in depth was demonstrated, after all if Man U had seven out I wonder how strong their line up would be? Another one of our squad players, Justin Hoyte, looks set to join Boro for about 3.5 million, not a bad piece of business. Click on the McLaren photo to listen to his great new dutch accent, what a chump.

There's certainly a weakness in the centre of midfield which Arsene seems certain to remedy. It was certainly a match with significant consequences though, as failing to reach the Champions League could have dire consequences in the current financial climate. The loss of Cesc was only the tip of the iceberg, Twente lead by McLaren exploited a long standing Arsenal weakness, that being that we get a bit rattled when a team packs their midfield with five men and presses in a very committed fashion. Even Cesc and Diaby would have struggled in this context, so all in all I don't think Ramsey and Denilson did that badly.

I have now sent the following letter to Emmanuel Adebayor, in the end it was signed by around 100 gooners. I doubt he'll respond but I shall certainly keep you informed of any updates on this.

"Dear Emmanuel,

I am writing on behalf of myself, a loyal Arsenal supporter and the other loyal Arsenal supporters named at the end of this letter. We would very much appreciate it if you could take the time to read this letter and reply in person.

We have been very disappointed by you and your agent's behaviour this summer. We appreciate that you had a good season for us last year, but you are under contract to Arsenal and should have shown more respect to your contract. You could have gone about gaining a pay rise in a more respectful and professional manner by speaking directly to the club and not by leaking quotes and stories to the media.

We are happy to forgive and forget your behaviour on one condition, that condition being that you issue a formal apology to the club, your fellow Arsenal players and the fans for your behaviour this summer. If you do not apologise then I will not jeer or boo you, however I will not be able to support with the same passion that I once did having observed your behaviour this summer,

Yours sincerely"

Has Wenger learned anything new?

A result in itself tells you little about a game. We won 2-0 and by all accounts were not the better team. Liverpool drew 0-0 against Liege and by all accounts were both lucky and God Awful. But whose prospects look brighter after this first big test? My gut feeling is that Liverpool blogs are probably a happier place to be this morning.

Our performance last night was professional, and was a testament to the fitness and mental strength of the players. A few players stood out;

Ramsey - Although at times he looked like a little boy lost (and Twente targeted him with some very dubious challenges), Ramsey did not shy away from the challenge nor the ball at any point.

Denilson - likewise kept his chin up, and showed clear improvement during the game. He is good enough to play for the Arsenal. I just don't think it is as first choice next to Cesc, but as first choice replacement for Cesc.

Almunia - he is a good keeper. People often attack him for not winning us games and points, in the way that Cech and Van Der Sar seem to. He did that last night. He was composed and calm and solid, and I think the clean sheet is largely due to him.

Djourou - If it wasn't for Billy's goal scoring penis, then Johan should have got the headlines and the back page picture. He looked a better defender than his captain, and showed composure even after Denneboom (great name) tried to invert his nose with his elbow.

However, although it was good to learn that the players above do look like they will one-day be good enough, we also learned that the team that played last night is not good enough now. I know there are injuries but this is likely to be the team we start the league campaign with, and WBA will give a more stern test.

We need better options than Eboue and we need more guile and experience in the middle of the park. Vela can come in, but he is both young and new to the league, and likewise Nasri. Diaby is an option, but in my view that is it - an option. I think the back 5 look fine, especially when we have King Kolo and Big Phil to come in. And up-front we should be solid, especially when Eduardo returns.

If you take out Cesc from our team though, it loses 70% of what makes it great. And that is Wenger's gamble. He is not giving Cesc the protection needed to play every game, as we have no-one we can actually RELY on to deliver if he is having a quiet game or needs a break. Can we honestly expect to compete for both the league and in Europe with the knowledge that if we lose Cesc we lose more than a player, we lose the very heart of the team?

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Bad luck and bad planning

The squad is looking more than thread bare for tomorrow's trip to Holland; injuries to Toure, Diaby, Nasri, Senderos and Fabregas have left us rather exposed to failing to qualify for the Champions League next season. Add this list to Rosicky and Eduardo and we're not far from having a whole quality side out resting on the treatment table.

The injuries at the back are unlucky, leaving us with a likely partnership of Djorou and Gallas which should suffice. However a midfield of Denilson and Ramsey centrally is not strong enough in my opinion. Ramsey is a talent, but has looked as if he's not quite ready for the first team as yet, both physically and experience wise. Any more injuries in these areas could leave us utterly shafted for our opening league game on Saturday.

Imagine we pick up an injuries to Gallas and Denilson, while Toure, Fabregas and Senderos remain unfit. We will be horrifically short in the middle of the park in the key spine of our team. There's obviously an element of bad luck to this, however one should be reasonably prepared for injuries and we are clearly too weak in terms of depth in the centre of our midfield.

We should not have let Gilberto go before having a replacement lined up, this situation really should not have been allowed to happen. The financial implications for failing to qualify for the Champions League do not fill me with joy, to say the least. Maybe the kids will prove me wrong and we'll steamroller past FC Twente, hopefully that'll be the case. I don't know much about the opposition to be honest, I just know that we should not have let our squad become so depleted before such a key series of games.

Wenger's Big Gamble

It looks increasingly likely that AW is going to back Denilson to partner Cesc in midfield against FC Twente on Wednesday. With Diaby out injured and Song at the Olympics, the only other choices for the central role would seem to be Eboue or Ramsey, judging by AW's pre-season selections.

The consensus is that the Cesc/Denilson pairing is not likely to work as they are too similar in their playing style. I'm not sure that is right as Denilson seems to have developed some discipline in his game that was previously lacking. If he can keep things solid and simple, he could do very well behind Cesc, with the ability to to join the attack more than Flamini could.

However, with Cesc just back from his holidays, I'm sure that AW would like to limit Cesc's involvement in the FC Twente game. The absence of Rosicky, who could probably play in the middle as cover, is therefore another reason to worry.

I have been a stalwart of the "we don't need to sign anyone" camp for most of the summer, which was largely based on my expectation that Gilberto would start the season as first choice alongside Cesc. The kids would then fight it out with him to claim the starting shirt based on merit. It all looked good. However, the fact that Gilberto has gone means I am now rapidly changing my tune. I think we are going to miss Gilberto a great deal and its hard to understand why he was allowed to leave.

AW has effectively now gambled everything on Denilson. If the young Brazilian underperforms or gets injured in August, our season might be over before it even starts. And so might AW's. A bad start will see the press pointing the finger in one direction and the calls for Wenger's head will be made loudly. Every dropped point will be seen as the title being lost and if we drop enough points, then who knows what will happen.

Well sod it. It takes balls to decide to back Denilson to perform rather than spending £15m on a Barry or Alonso, with no guarantee that either of them will ensure a flying start to the campaign. Spending money is the easy option. Backing young talent within the squad is far harder. Wenger has done this many times before - refusing to sign a striker when Anelka left, refusing to sign a midfielder when Petit or subsequently Vieira left, or when Ashley Cole left.

Its just not how he does things. In fact, Wenger's "big signings" have almost all been failures - Wiltord, Jeffers, Reyes, possibly Hleb. In fact, Henry is one of the only big money signings that has done really well. And he didn't cost a fortune. Still, most Gooners want AW to get the cheque book out again now big time. I don't think he will, or if he does, I don't expect him to go beyond the £10m mark.

Some thoughts to end with. Firstly, if we are out of the chase for the league before Christmas, Wenger knows the knives will be out. Secondly, Wenger knows exactly what he is doing and the risks we face. Lastly, blind optimism never fails. Trust Wenger.

Its going to be one hell of a season.

Sunday 10 August 2008

Kids impress against gravity compliant Sevilla

A very creditable 1-1 draw against a strong Sevilla side gave us a 'trophy' of sorts yesterday, amazingly the starting eleven was not even as strong as our full reserve side. Injuries to Nasri and Diaby resulted in the squad appearing more thread bare than it actually is, having said that if we are to fight for silverware on several fronts we will have to bring in at least one more player. The game was made somewhat easier for Sevilla by a very poor referee who seemed keen to award free kicks for numerous theatrical dives, the gravity compliant Capel and Navas were two of the worst offenders for Sevilla.

Fabianski was man of the match, making several outstanding stops and commanding his box throughout. Djorou and Senderos did very well, given that they had their backs to the wall for most of the game, they defended solidly against some pacey and skillful forwards. Hoyte never looks good enough, while Jay Emmanuel-Thomas is clearly not a full back and struggled defensively.

Randall and Ramsey worked hard, but looked a little lightweight at times and the latter gave the ball away in some rather key areas as he tired in the second half. Wilshere and Gibbs tried hard, but really our youngsters were up against a very strong and much more experienced Sevilla side, they worked so hard to contain Sevilla in the first half and then simply ran out of steam in the second half, resulting in wave after wave of Sevilla attacks.

Vela and Bendtner were two of our most experienced players, however as strikers they were rather isolated and as the midfield tired in the second half, it became harder and harder for them to impact upon the game. Vela's strength and finishing ability were nicely demonstrated by his early goal, while Bendtner showed some nice touches and held the ball up pretty well.

Overall to salvage a draw against such a strong and experienced Sevilla side was a great result and will do these young players no end of good, however it did rather bring home the fact that some of these lads are not quite ready to be playing regularly at first team level as yet. Of the starting eleven, I'd say only Fabianski, the centre backs, Vela and Bendtner look really ready for first team action. The others need a bit more playing time under their belts and a bit more time to develop a bit more physical strength.

This leaves our sqaud looking precariously thin in my opinion, given that we may well be playing twice a week for significant chunks of the season. Obviously a lot depends on whether Diaby can actually get fit and stay fit, and the same for Rosicky, plus Alexandre Song must not be forgotten assuming he does find his way back from China. One starts to worry a bit though when injuries keep recurring so frequently. Just as food for thought, here's my summary of the squad for the season ahead:

Goalkeepers: Almunia, Fabianski, Szczensy.

Verdict: Two excellent keepers should be good enough.

Full backs: Sagna, Clichy, Traore, Hoyte, Gibbs.

Verdict: Great first choice, decent back up at left back but a Sagna injury would be very bad news.

Centre backs: Gallas, Toure, Senderos, Djorou, Song?

Verdict: I'm not convinced by Gallas and Toure as a partnership, but we have good strength in depth in this position.

Centre midfield: Fabregas, Denilson, Diaby, Ramsey, ?Song

Verdict: Fabregas plays, Denilson has looked great, but with Diaby's never ending injuries, we look weak depth wise in this position. Will Song be playing in this position on his return?

Wings: Walcott, Nasri, Eboue, Rosicky, Wilshere, ?Traore and Vela?

Verdict: Walcott and Nasri must start for me, while we have some reasonable cover especially if Rosicky can recover his fitness, while Vela and Traore can cover if needs be.

Strikers: Adebayor, RVP, Bendtner, Vela, Eduardo

Verdict: No doubt that we are strong in this regard, with Eduardo coming back hopefully before Christmas I see no weakness here.

Overall verdict: A lot may depend on where Alexandre Song's future lies and Arsene seems to think this may well be at centre back:

"When I put a player somewhere, I know why I do. If I play Song at centre back it is because I believe he will be a great centre back for Arsenal Football Club.

"In Song's case, he can play in central midfield. But can he play 60 games there? I am not convinced."

This then leaves us very short in the centre of midfield. Denilson is an outstanding prospect, but with Diaby's perpetual injuries and Ramsey's inexperience, we surely need to bring in someone here. If we do not, then our season could be completely decimated by a couple of injuries in this position. Having four central midfielders out injured would be bad luck, having two down and not having the cover, would just be plain stupid.