Thursday, 28 May 2009
Positive Vibes and Player of the Season
1. Andrei Arshavin - What an amazing player he is. Its a long time since I saw a new signing and immediately said "wow". Possibly Reyes made a big impact in his first couple of games, but then faded. You probably have to go back to Vieira in 1996 for the last time someone looked this good straightaway. Arshavin just got better and better through February, March and to the end of the season. Wenger should build next years' side around Arshavin.
2. Alex Song - The beating this man took from most blogs until January was terrible. Not here though, since we've been banging this drum since day one. A powerful force in midfield and extremely adept at centre-back, Song is a real Wenger product of total football (although not great for 45 mins at right back against Everton). Alex Song is a terrific player and should play a major role next year.
3. A new system 4-3-3. Unless Wenger does something dramatic over the summer, then the chances of us playing 4-4-2 next year look remote. In fact, I don't remember the last time Wenger played a proper 4-4-2, and the 4-5-1 experiment has been a disaster. But something seemed different in the way Wenger lined the team up against Stoke - Diaby, Denilson and Fabregas were pretty tight in midfield, Arshavin given the freedom of the park on the left, Walcott on the right, RVP up top. It was pretty close to 4-3-3 and produced the first half blitz that we have not seen for years. With players like Walcott, Arshavin, Vela and Nasri at the club, we have the ideal candidates to play 4-3-3. RVP seems to excel playing right side for Holland's 4-3-3.
Its a bit thin really, but there you go. A fit Eduardo and Rosicky would help as well, but then an Arsenal season without a couple of major injuries is about as likely as Wenger signing Essien for £40m over the summer. Its just not going to happen. And so, swiftly moving on, where do we all stand on the player of the season? Its the blog-vote and the moment, but its worth some banter as well. The short-list is pitiful. Alex Song deserves a big mention, so does Kieran Gibbs, but no-one stands out at all. I can't point at a single player who regularly impressed the fans with their hard work, determination and desire to win, which are really the attributes fans usually recognise in player of the year awards. I have also decided that players signed in January do not contend for player of the season awards - sorry Andrei!
So my motley collection of awards go as follows:
The Lazarus Award - Emmanuel Eboue
Back from the dead with a vengeance. No-one does it quite like Eboue. He is the biggest cheating diver, possibly our greatest hacker, definitely one of the best crossers, best right-back worst midfielder at the Club. I have no idea what he will do next year, or even next game, but I am kind of looking forward to it.
The Try Hard Award - Denilson
Along with Alex Song, I have been saying all season that Denilson is not as bad as everyone says. Its just a shame that his name is not Claude Makele. Denilson had a bad patch in the New Year and played badly against Roma. But for the first half of the season, I thought the young Brazilian was carrying Fabregas through a lot of the games. And was making a half decent go of it. I am not going to predict great things for Denilson next season, but if his workrate and physical game continue to improve, he could be a very useful squad player for us. An unsung hero for the future.
Player of the Season - Manuel Almunia
There actually was no choice in the end. Almunia has also had some critics, but then some people are total idiots. Almunia has been the only Arsenal player to perform consistently well throughout the entire season. Although he wins the award by default, it should not be forgotten that he is one of the best keepers in the league. We all hurt a great deal when Ronaldo scored the second goal at the Emirates in the Champions League semi-final. The only reason we were still in the game is that Almunia had put in the performance of a lifetime at Old Trafford. If the gutter press has any sense, it will welcome Almunia in the England team without a second thought. He is England's No.1.
Let the banter commence.
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Barca power to victory
What a game, even if it was rather one sided with Manu only really threatening a makeshift Barca defence for the first ten minutes. Barca's lovely movement and slicky passing was joyful, especially when it made Manu look so very average for such long periods. Despite carrying ageing full backs, a central midfielder at centre back and a shadow-like Henry up front, Barca thoroughly deserved the win. Xavi and Iniesta were majestic, calm and elusive on the ball, at the centre of everything Barca did. Messi showed some glimpses of genius, Eto'o showed his athleticism and Valdes showed his speed.
Some of Manu's petulance in defeat was not in the spirit of the game. Ronaldo was the chief culprit with several barges, one thrown elbow and a rather dangerous jump tackle. Scholes' amazingly late tackle could well have been a red on another day. Having said that Ferguson was gracious in defeat and great credit to him for his hearty applause of Barca as they took their trophy at the end. Ronaldo looked like a toddler on the verge of tears because he hadn't got his favourite toy, his jeering by the Barca fans as he collected his medal did amuse.
Guardiola has stood out this season with his impeccable behaviour on the touchline, the likes of Mourinho could learn a lesson or two from watching him for a short period. He seems to remain calm whatever happens, dignified and polite to the extreme. Overall the reaction from both sets of players to each other after the game was very sporting, one just wonders if Manu would have been so graceful in victory.
A trophy at last and good luck Manu, don't break a leg
Anyone who's kept an eye on the media in recent weeks would have noticed what an utter moron Patrice Evra is, his latest comments only continue to enhance his reputation as one of Manu's biggest penises, no mean feat in itself:
Evra got a tiny little kick on the knee from Cesc, the yellow was given and the game went on, get on with it Evra you big jessie. Even the Mancs can see what a prized tool Evra is, no one can doubt his ability on the pitch, however the man needs to learn to engage his brain before he speaks, if he has one that is. Evra should be charged by the FA for his comments which make it quite clear that he is looking for revenge in a manner not allowed by the rules of the game. Luckily justice has a habit of dishing itself out quite fairly sometimes, one gets the feeling that Evra's reputation is going to precede him against teams other than Arsenal, hopefully the lippy toss pot will get the repeated kicking he deserves.
Onto tonight's final in Rome, it's not as if one can escape the endless pro-Manure propaganda on the TV and radio. Strangely I sometimes find my dislike for Manu waning, but it never takes long for their arrogance and cockiness to rekindle my fire of discontent. Not only is Evra behaving like a cocky brat, but virtually every pundit and expert is talking up just how brilliant this Manure side is, thus writing off Barca's chances of victory. Firstly this Manu side is not a brilliant side, they are a solid team who are very good at beating the lesser sides, but their record against the bigger teams is actually rather average. They admit that their own players cheat, at least even Evra occasionally gets it right.
They are the masters of grinding out boring 1-0 victories, they are not the flowing 'joy to watch' which the media pretend they are. Also their manager Alex Ferguson, despite mellowing in recent years, is still a rather repugnant individual. In reality he only gets such good coverage in the media because journalists have learnt that asking him hard questions or not bending over for a standard Fergie delivery will not be good for their career prospects. His bullying arrogance deserves contempt, not the respect that the cowardly media afford him.
The media has gone into super sycophantic overdrive for this final, I even heard Manure fans referred to as a lovely bunch on the BBC the other day, strange comment given their large hooligan following and generally nasty nature. I was somewhat comforted by the fact that the Manu players' wives are generally not the fittest considering the players' riches. Obviously I am otherwise a huge fan of Manu, but I will not be supporting them tonight, strange that. Come on you Barca, even though they have big defensive problems for tonight, they still have a good chance of embarrassing those obnoxious men from Manchester. Barca have nothing to lose given how over-hyped and over-fancied Manure have become, a Manu win is expected while a Barca win would be a brilliant egg-on-face special. Mind you if Manu win, I may indulge myself by using that Sun centre page victory pull out as bog roll for a day or two.
Monday, 25 May 2009
Over and out, mental season commences
It was great to see the season finish with both a win and a show of support for the boss, who has not deserved to be criticised in the manner in which he has been criticised for the last few months by the media and certain sections of our own support. The four numbers above though show that we have been significantly off the pace in the league, United's points tally is very impressive, but our drop from our points tally of a year previously is surely evidence that we have had big problems in a number of areas. Many of us agree on where the weaknesses are and these need to be addressed in the summer.
We do need to retain a sensible perspective on how far we have come under Arsene's supreme reign. The flamboyant football, the young talent, the infrastructure of our new superclub and the yearly champions league football: these are all things we now take for granted. One must remember that not long before Wenger took over we were not too far off the relegation zone, needing some crucial goals from a rather powerful Welsh ginger to ensure our top flight status.
It is worth considering just how far clubs can fall in short spaces of time, Newcastle have been relegated and they were close to being Champions in the relatively recent past. The Toon Army's failure is great example of how a big club can sink as a direct result of recurrent stupid knee jerk decisions from the management. They now have a wage bill of over 70 million and are in the Championship, they are in danger of going into free fall. In this context our manager and board's pragmatic work of recent years looks very very clever indeed, some fans need to be very careful in what they wish for and the management often need to ignore the nosiest fans in order to act in the best interests of the their club.
In order to challenge for the title next year we need to secure our best players' futures at the club, get rid of some of our dead wood and bring in some quality and experience where we lack it. It is essential that RVP is tied down to a new long term deal, while I don't think many people would argue that Bendtner has shown enough determination and ability to be considered a player well worth keeping at the club for a good while longer.
We all have out own opinions about the dead wood, but few would argue that Adebayor's time is up, I would imagine that the same is the case for Mikel Silvestre. Other players' cases are less clear cut, I would like to see Eboue stay, he is an excellent full back to have in the squad, while whether Diaby deserves another season is something that is very much open to debate in my opinion. The type of player I would love us to sign is in the Mascherano mould, we don't need any more technical ball players, we need more grit, more destructive power and more filth.
One thing is sure, there will be plenty of time for debating all these issues over the coming months, personally I would prefer the banter to be concentrated upon real issues rather than being wild conjecture about potential signings. I am realistic enough to appreciate that certain people cannot resist indulging themselves in this regard, but I would just ask as many as people as possible to try to rise above this kind of tabloid hacking.
From a perspective point of view, I'd just like to finish by taking a minute to think of the three relegated clubs. West Brom have covered themselves in glory this year, they play nice football and their manager is a top bloke, the same goes for Boro and they probably would not have gone down if they could have converted their early season performances into points. I have already mentioned Newcastle, they are the 'Christmas Carol' club of the Premiership, some our own overly demanding fans would do well to think for a second why they have fallen from grace so very spectacularly, if one ignores the tales from the ghosts of the past it does not bode well for one's future.
Saturday, 23 May 2009
Dust settles and trophy near
The lack of respect for a man who has worked so hard and so very successfully for our football club is utterly unacceptable, Arsene makes this point very clearly and I agree 100%:
This was not an isolated incident, it has been a gradual creep over recent years, it appears that some people have very few manners and minimal brain capacity, they say things and write without thinking, and sometimes the end product is offensive bile. Even if there is a point beneath the bile, it is completely lost when the criticism is delivered with such a crushing lack of manners. There is an element of deliberate sensationalism about it too, attracting readers by being more extreme a la Sun is the way some people work.
Arsene deserves some criticism for this seasonś efforts no doubt, but I think there is a way of delivering the criticism without offending anyone. Anyway enough of the boring moralistic ranting, the youth team are on the verge of a great achievement, they won the first leg of the Youth cup against the scousers 4-1 yesterday, so maybe we´ll have a trophy after all. It should certainly not be forgotten what miracles Arsene has worked with out youth system, we now have a conveyor belt of talent in place for years to come that is the envy of many other clubs. Great work Arsene.
Friday, 22 May 2009
Hull chatting breeze, who would have thought
Brian Horton appears nothing more than a foul mouthed vindictive loser given his appalling behaviour on the touchline against Arsenal and in subsequent games for Hull. There are rumours circulating that the 4th official on the night was a close friend of Horton´s, so even with this in Hull´s favour they couldn´t come close to proving their wild conjecture. Phil Brown´s conduct was a disgrace in itself and it would be no suprise if he is punished by the FA for his abusive comments aimed at the referee, in reality he is fortunate that he is not facing further charges for his attempts at pinning blame away from his own dirty doorstep. Anyway I shall hold no grudges, we should rise above these loose cannons and prove we are a class above the likes of Hull. Come on you Gunners.
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
As I have expertise in this area I can say that this surgery is virtually guaranteed to be the routine removal of his ankle metalwork, meaning it is not anything at all of concern, it is definitely not a 'new injury'. Given that he was injured anyway, it was obviously a sensible time to get this routine work done, there is minimal risk associated with this surgery and given his excellent recovery from the serious injury in the first place this will not further limit his recovery.
Tuesday, 19 May 2009
The Wenger Boy
As with the rest of the trash-stories that will be in the papers over the summer, we all have to remember that whilst we love Arsenal football club with an obsession bordering on delusion. Most of the "professionals" who are employed by the club do not see things exactly the same way we do. They are employees first and foremost, and if someone offered them twice the cash to work somewhere else, you would be a prize idiot if you did not give the offer some consideration. The players (and managers) get the abuse for being paid so much money, but its not their decision. The people who should be questioned are the finance directors who sanction the spending in the first place.
Anyway, I digress. The point I wish to make this morning is that for the first time since Wenger took over at Arsenal, I do not think it would be a crushing disaster for us if he left. That is not to say that I think Wenger should go, which I do not. He is a world class manager and an Arsenal legend. But there comes a point when its hard to see the wood from the trees, and with Wenger that point is not far away.
For instance, the opaque debate that has been plaguing us for several seasons is why Wenger doesn't spend the money that, apparently, has been available for transfers at all times. The stories from one camp, including Hill-Wood and Fitzman, have always been "the money is there", whilst at the same time the press loves to put around stories that Arsenal have a miserly transfer budget and there isn't any money to spend.
But the debate crystallises the issue on Wenger. If the man is reluctant to spend money, then maybe he has made mistakes in his transfer policy in the past. Alternatively, if there actually hasn't been any money to spend, then its no suprisen that Wenger would be tempted by 12 months with an endless chequebook at Real Madrid.
So I am leaving the transfer budget issue to one side. We don't know the truth of the story so we cannot make any judgements based on it. But there are one or two things that really trouble me about Wenger that are genuine managerial issues. Here are the top 5:
1. Playing 4-5-1. I just don't get it. Its a bad system that no-one makes work and I have no idea why Wenger now uses it. Its been his formation of choice since the Champions League run in 2006, when Reyes was given a free role down the left instead of playing as a second striker with Henry. However, its debatable whether the 2006 formation was a proper 4-5-1, since it used two strikers, just with one playing wide left. We now play a proper 4-5-1, with 5 midfielders. We don't score many using it, whilst it was useless defensively against Chelsea and Manure in recent weeks (last Saturday excepted).
2. Over 30's Policy. What would we have given in the last 18 months when things got tough to turn to someone like Pires or Gilberto? Big players for big matches. Instead, we shipped them off into the sunset on their 30th birthdays for next to nothing in transfer fees and Diaby gets to play against Manure and Chelsea. Plain stupid.
3. Man Management. I used to think Wenger was a genious at man management, but now I am not so sure. Most of our players seem to have gone soft in the head. Fabregas and Adebayor would not be allowed to play this badly at Old Traffortd - just ask Berbatov. Dressing room spats between team mates, the bizarre behaviour of William Gallas, the Bendnter/Adebayor ruckus, Kolo Toure handing in a transfer request for personal reasons, the failure to convince Hleb and Flamini to stay. These are all man management issues that Wenger seems to have got wrong in the last two years.
4. Not taking the Cups seriously. The decision to play the kids in the Carling Cup is one issue, but Wenger also has a history of choking it in the FA Cup and resting big players. The team selection against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final remains a mystery, but Wenger has been pulling stunts like this for years. Aliadiere was bizarrely selected for the semi-final in 2004 against Manure, played badly, we lost and the Invincibles were denied their double. Manure also play risky teams in the cups, but then they have won three league titles in a row.
5. Tactics. This could be the same as playing 4-5-1, but so many crimes have been committed that it deserves its own mention. So here we go. We play beautiful football in midfield have no idea what to do in the last third of the pitch. Wenger is useless at substitutions. The Eboue in midfield experiment was a disaster. Playing countless other players out of position has been a disaster. Cesc is not Steven Gerrard and cannot play in the hole. Nasri is not a centre midfielder. I have no idea what Theo Walcott is or where he should play. Neither does Theo. Why is Diaby on the pitch? Why do we play possession football that only results in crap lofted crosses to an empty box? Why won't our central midfielders shoot? Why don't we defend as a team? Why are we useless at corners (at both ends)? I could go on...
Its not enough for me to say "Wenger out", but i can completely understand why he got a roasting at the Q+A session last week. What's worrying is that Wenger seems to think he deserved another standing ovation.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
A clean sheet away to the Champions
Part of the reason for our improvement was Alex Song's excellent display at centre back, because he has pace he was able to be much more aggressive and attacking in his defending, frequently nipping in to intercept balls that other more 'geriatric' defenders would have steered back from. The rest of the back four played well, Gibbs in particular excelled for me, Clichy may have real trouble getting back in the side if young Gibbs can keep this up. In front the the back four, Denilson had a very steady game, making several key interceptions and using the ball simply and efficiently. We didn't quite make the most of our domination, RVP missed a great chance with a first half header and also might have been luckier when trying to divert a Nasri effort into the goal in the second half, Cesc probably had our best chance which he smashed hard at Van der Saar's near post, Van der Saar tipped it wide.
Manu had a few half chances, Rooney headed wide in the first half, Tevez turned Toure and was only thwarted by an excellent challenge by the onrushing Fabianski, there were a few close efforts from soft free kicks given by the weak referee Mike Dean. Amazingly he awarded five yellow cards to our players and none to Manu, in truth only one of these was deserved, Cesc's studs on Evra's knee merited a caution, however the others were extremely soft indeed. Strangely Dean completely ignored a clear trip by Vidic on RVP in the first half and a rugby tackle by the same man in the second half, again on RVP, of note both of these were in the penalty box.
Overall though it was progress, we didn't roll over as it would have been easy to do. I was not convinced by Arsene's substitutions, Walcott on the left flank and Bendtner on the right flank was not the stuff of legend. RVP never looks the most comfortable playing in the 4-5-1 formation but he did ok and tried hard. Having said that Manu did seem rather happy for the draw and had they needed three points it may have been a bit more of a test for our makeshift defence.
Apologies for the general tedious nature of this posting, my head is sore and I am not looking forward to Monday morning, this combined with seeing Manu celebrate their league triumph has not left me in the most ecstatic of moods. It looks like Emmanuel Adebayor is off, and frankly good riddance, the man insults our intelligence with his pathetic attempts to justify himself, he does not convince me with his words, the talk is hollow given his actions in recent months.
Arseblogger sums it up nicely as always, by the way I've yet to see any credible evidence which suggests that Garth Crooks' cranial vault is full of anything else other than a vacuum. I agree with Arsene that our failure has to be seen in perspective, but I also feel that some of the criticism has been extremely valid and necessary; after all seeing the last couple of years as a failure seems like progress to me, one can only move on and improve once one has first acknowledged one's failings and errors. There is a lot of horse manure in the papers today, the Mail has invented the fact that our transfer kitty for the summer is 13 million, they don't even mention a source! The Screws of the World don't even deserve a mention, they are beneath my contempt. Another season is almost gone, let's hope we can finish it on a high next weekend.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
Old Trafford again, business and ten things
At least the boss can see our defence is so very weak, but as well know you defend as a team and it's not as simple as buying one defender, if only it were. Many other bloggers have commented on the sensible comments that we've recently heard from our new CEO Ivan Gazidis, he certainly talks a good game, let's hope the rest of his skills are up to scratch. Arsene certainly felt the heat as he was given a good grilling by shareholders yesterday; although there was possibly a lack of respect shown at times, for example when Silvestre was labelled 'geriatric' by one shareholder, you can't help but feel that Arsene must realise that these people have a point, even if they could express themselves a bit more eloquently at times. The truth is often somewhere in between, some excellent analysise from Arseblogger.
On the transfer front I particularly liked ACLF's take on some of the lazy media banter we've been witness to in recent weeks, unfortunately this appears on the tip of the iceberg, we've a whole summer of it to look forward to. I have to say I disagree strongly with ACLF's defense of Adebayor:
I don't expect to like all Arsenal players as people and I can freely admit that even if Ade had banged in thirty this season, I would still think that he's a wanker, that's just the person he is. It's nothing to do with 'cultural differences' or 'poverty', he's just a wanker, plus this season he's shown himself to be a bit of a lazy wanker at times too. If he was doing the business on the pitch and putting the effort in, then I'd be happy to have him being a wanker in an Arsenal shirt, as it is I'd rather he buggered off elsewhere to languidly stroll around the pitch for his few hundred grand a week. Anyway I'd just thought I'd finish with a list of ten things to do before you become tempted to start speculating about Arsenal transfer targets:
1. Laugh at Tottenham.
2. Laugh at Harry Redknapp's twitch (often a pre-recorded clip on the VCR helps).
3. Tell the Mrs to shut up and stop watching Friends on the TV.
4. Watch a rerun of an old Arsenal victory and pretend the last couple of weeks never happened.
5. Pick out your nasal hair with tweezers.
6. Have a proper beer, none of that fizzy lager piss.
7. Shout some incoherent abuse at the TV.
8. Repeat 6 and then 7 until sufficiently inebriated.
9. Pass out gently on the sofa and dream of title success next season.
10. Wake up with a cracking headache and realise that you cannot quite remember if Arsenal have won a trophy this season, wait a few minutes for the headache to worsen and for the grim reality of our season to hit you hard in the face, now you can consider speculating on future Arsenal transfer targets.
Book review: Love, Death and Football
The narrative spans a time frame from the author's youth in the seventies to the riches of the current Premier League in the current day. As a result the book never gets bogged down in itself, it does flow nicely; but at the same time on just wonders whether it is trying to cover a bit too much ground at times, and in so doing it fails to comprehensively nail down some of the points it tries to make.
There is certainly a lot of left wing romanticism in the book, if one is being critical one could argue that some things have been seen with rather rose tinted spectacles. For example the tragedy of Hillsborough and its aftermath is told expertly, one really gets a feel of the impact these events had on Liverpool's season, their players and their supporters. However the other side of the coin is glossed over, for example the Heysel disaster is barely mentioned, while the rampant violence associated with football hooliganism in the eighties is glossed over and almost glamorised at times.
After all the dramatic changes in society and football over the last twenty years, the author acknowledges at the end of the book that life must move on, but there is something rather grudging about this acknowledgement though. The author almost appears to crave a return to the eighties, he wants more passion in the game and players that are less detached from the fans; as with all things in life we see the past with those rose tinted specs, the good is remembered fondly while the bad is brushed under the carpet.
It's no doubt true that the modern game is awash with money and greed, but there are many more positive than negatives which the author fails to mention. Racism continues to be on the decrease, football is now appealing to more sub sections of the community and above all one can attend games without fearing for one's life. The best football in the world is now on show every week in England thanks to this new global market, this was never the case in the eighties. Perhaps there is an element of not disturbing the memory of his father by seeing the past as being better than it was, who knows, ironically it seems that the author's father was himself switched off by football as he grew older and perhaps realised its insignificance in comparison to more important matters such as life and death.
There are a lot of other interesting bits in the book, ranging from stories about George Graham and his management style to tales of what has happened to those who played in that great game at Anfield in 1989, players such as Michael Thomas, David Rocastle (RIP) and Alan Smith. One thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that Liverpool supporters gave our Arsenal team a standing ovation when they won the title at Anfield in 1989, what a gesture, it's something that many of today's overly demanding glory seeking fans would do well to note.
Overall a thoroughly enjoying read, and despite my criticisms I wouldn't want this book to become an objective documentary of the recent changes in football culture, it would then be just a tedious series of facts. This book contains a very human tale of warped perspectives that is blinded by emotion, and this is what makes it a fairly engrossing read. Things change over time, some for the better and some for the worse, but certainly the modern fan would do well to realise that there is a lot more to life and football than simply winning. One must be able to enjoy the journey, otherwise the end product will invariably be a massive let down.
The book's publishers 'Simon & Schuster' have kindly sent me a couple of copies to give away, so if anyone fancies a copy then please send me an email at email@example.com and I shall randomly choose a couple of people from whoever responds.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
A new Arsenal XI
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Smudger's spine surgery would result in a paraplegic Arsenal team
It's very easy to claim it's all down to a team's 'spine' and then list a few random players who'd have reasonable seasons, thus suggesting them as transfer targets, this is precisely what Alan Smith has done. Great player that 'smudger' was, he is one bloody awful pundit, combine his rather annoying midlands drone with the inane content and you have a recipe for tedium, added to this he is also frequently invested a long way up Sky's filthy ring piece. I'd take Dixon, Keown, Parlour or even the Merse over smudger any day.
Firstly he mentions Shawcross and Hangeland as potential targets, not awful suggestions by any means, I haven't seen enough of Shawcross to comment, while Hangeland doesn't convince me that he'd cut it at the highest level. It's one thing looking good for a mid table side, it's another to become a first choice player in a title winning side.
After a reasonable start Smith then rapidly loses the plot, he next suggests replacing Almunia with Green or Kirkland! Almunia has been absolutely brilliant this season and doesn't even need replacing in my opinion. Green is far more erratic and error prone than Almunia, plus he lacks the aerial power, while Kirkland has never been the player he once was thanks to a incredible run of injuries, the last thing we need is another injury prone player.
In midfield he suggest Marcos Senna, who at 33 would really struggle to adapt to a new and faster league, while the likelihood of him staying fit at that age would be rather slim. Then the name 'Scott Parker' is mentioned, firstly he is not a defensive midfielder, secondly he is small, and thirdly he is not good enough as he proved at Chelsea, how many reasons do you want? Finally Santa Cruz is mentioned, not a bad idea, as if we lost Ade then we would need another striker who could lead the line.
Smudger's piece just goes to show how very easy it is to sit on the sidelines and talk a good game, it's easy to sound clever as one's ideas are never put into practice, so people will only remember your good points, while your rubbish is quickly forgotten. In the world of football management your rubbish can result in millions being wasted on a player who can't even cut it in the Championship, no offence Franny Jeffers. The point is that you cannot hide from your mistakes, they will be there for all to see, they will turn up to training every day, embarrass you on match days and never go away like Mikel Silvestre for example.
The balance of our team is wrong, Manu Petit has commented on this fact recently, and this needs to change in the summer. As Stan Kroenke accumulates shares, the expectations of the board and fans will continue to rise, and signings will have to be made. As fans we must be patient and not start calling for cash splashing simply for the sake of it, the quality of player that will actually improve our side is not abundant. After all you have to very careful for what you ask for, Tottenham haven't shied away from cash splashing in recent seasons and look where it's got them? Precisely.
Monday, 11 May 2009
Reflecting on the porous leakage
This defeat was a very different beast to Tuesday's Manu loss, we were the better side against Chelsea for long periods, we were winning the midfield battle, we created numerous excellent chances, the common theme was the ease with which the opposition cut through our soft centre. The reason for our defensive frailty is complex, Arsene feels it is more a case of defensive balance than the quality of our defenders:
I agree to an extent, but there is also an obvious lack of quality defenders at the club. Over the season Almunia has been our one shining light, without him things could have been far worse. Fabianski does not convince me, especially in dealing with aerial balls. In truth none of our centre backs have performed consistently well, I include Gallas, Toure, Silvestre and Djourou when I say this. The close season saw the popular Phil Senderos depart on loan to Milan, how many people now think that Big Phil wouldn't have added some of the ingredients we've so obviously lacked at the back this year. Sagna and Clichy have not quite lived up to their past records and reputations. Strangely Emmanuel Eboue has looked outstanding when playing at right back recently and Kieran Gibbs has done brilliantly for an inexperienced youngster who has been thrown in at the deep end.
Then to Arsene's point, the defensive balance of the team is not right, the blame lies here with our overly attacking midfield and a lack of defending from the front from certain players. We all noted Manu's outstanding discipline in terms of work rate and defending from the front when they destroyed us over two legs in the Champions League, Ferguson would not stand for Adebayor's pathetic work rate, whilst at times the way in which our midfield let the opposition pass them without even a whiff of effort is simply not good enough, for example Walcott just let Cole go for Chelsea's third yesterday.
Adebayor must either work harder or be sold, we cannot carry dead weights, I understand the frustration of supporters with his woeful work ethic but to accuse him of two dives yesterday is rubbish. The first 'dive' involved Bosingwa taking a massive yank at his shirt and then clipping him from behind, while the second involved him jumping out the way of a Cech lunge, maybe the second would have been a soft penalty, however anyone who has ever played the game would realise this was no 'dive' in the cynical sense of the word, even a certain Sky pundit thought he had a case for a penalty for God's sake.
Another reason for our defensive frailty is down to Arsene's bizarre tactical ideas. The decision to play Nasri deep and Fabregas behind a striker is frankly utter gash. Nasri does not appear a natural defensive player and even if he was, he is not physically cut out for that particular role. Cesc is more effective offensively from deep, plus he is quite decent at getting stuck in and breaking up attacks when he needs to, he needs to play deeper. Then to Diaby, he's played a few good games when playing a more disciplined role in central midfield, for example at home against West Ham, but he looks lost out on the left flank. Diaby should either be played in the middle or sold. Song has been a shining light of late, however one good defensive midfielder cannot save a team with so many other defensive failings. I am perplexed as to why no journalist has questioned Arsene on these tactical decisions?
The 4-1 defeat to Chelsea may well turn out to be a cloud with a silver lining as Arsene cannot now hide behind our recent unbeaten run, he has to acknowledge our glaring failings and address them before next season. What we need is obvious, even Arsene admitted that we were 'unstable defensively' yesterday, just looking at the goals conceded this season in the League tells the story: Manu = 23, Liverpool = 26, Chelsea = 22, Arsenal = 36, Fulham = 32, Everton = 36. We've actually scored as many goals as the other top sides despite none of our strikers really hitting a purple patch. We need to rediscover our ability to defend if we are to start winning things again, otherwise our excellent attacking play and flair will continue to go to waste.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
The cheating chavs expose our dodgy defence
Chelsea were up against the Emirates walls early on, Walcott saw several half chances come and go, Diaby missed a sitter after a fantastic square ball from Cesc, Walcott then narrowly missed the top corner with a nicely cushioned side foot effort from the edge of the box. Despite looking poor, Chelsea created a great chance which Malouda contrived to stub into Fabianski's arms from eight yards out, a warning shot across the bow. Drogba then cheated as only he can, for the supra-six foot musclebound monster he is, he doesn't half go down like a geriatric without their zimmer-frame, Cesc brushed his heel and he took another step before faking the extent of the contact. Alex scored with a mighty header from the subsequent free kick, Silvestre didn't do enough to put him off. The second goal came after Nasri was turned far too easily in the centre of the pitch by Anelka, Anelka then dribbled on, Silvestre back off and watched, Anelka scored. So we were two down despite our territorial domination, emphasising just where out team is weak, our softness in the centre of our midfield and in the centre of our defence was there for all to see again.
The second half saw one of the most incompetent refereeing performances of the season from Phil 'fat twat' Dowd. Early in the half yet another extremely soft free kick for bugger all saw Chelsea score, Toure was very unlucky to see his attempted clearance stroll in off the post. More excellent chances came and went, RVP took too much time when pretty much clear and Cech saved, Walcott missed a simply one on one opportunity, Cesc almost connected with an excellent Walcott back stick cross. We finally converted to make it 3-1, a lovely Sagna cross was brilliantly headed into the bottom corner by Bendtner, fantastic goal. In this time Dowd had continued to award non existent free kicks for blatant Drogba backing in and obvious Malouda diving, even on perfectly clean Toure tackle resulted in a Chelsea free kick.
We also had two excellent shouts for a penalty, I somehow think Chelsea won't be getting quite so worked up over these missed penalty calls. For the first Ade had his shirt blatantly yanked as he went onto a through ball in the box, Dowd had a good view, took a another bite of his pie, scratched his hairy fat arse, farted, itched his armpit, climbed a tree and waved play on, fat twat. The second shout came when Ade beat Cech when clean through, Cech slid in, got nothing on the ball, put Ade off balance as he had to hurdle the challenge, and clipped him, Dowd had another great view, walked off to buy another pie, belched and again waved play on. This second penalty would have been soft, but I have seen many of this appealed for at the Bridge and many given at Old Trafford. Chelsea then walked up the other end and scored a goal than was about 2 metres offside.
I'm not an sad neanderthal Chelsea fan so I won't be sending Phil Dowd death threats sealed in an envelope of chav encrusted hate, I may consider sending him a couple of Slimfast shakes however. The main reason we lost the game today was our failure to take our chances and our soft centre at the back. We are simply not good enough defensively to deserve a higher finish than fourth spot. Although Toure got the own goal I thought he played well, Silvestre did not, while when deployed in a more defensive role Nasri does not provide enough solidity to break up attacks. There was also not enough defending from the front from certain players, Bendtner did this terribly well when he came on, Theo should take note, you simply cannot afford to allow your man a free run at this level. So overall our obvious weaknesses were exposed, we were a bit unlucky and Phil Dowd is a fat twat. Hopefully we can put the first two of those three right next season, I don't think the third one is likely to change.
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Still laughing, the gulf, arrivals and departures
Arsene spoke after the game and rightly didn't want to blame individuals. He has commented on the gap between ourselves and the mancs, while he has openly stated his support for our young internationals such as Diaby, Bendtner and Walcott; his comments on the summer transfer situation indicate that it will be experience coming in, hallelujah. On a tangent Mr Bendtner has been fined for being out late, not for exposing his rather fashionable pants apparently. Certainly 'magic money' is no miracle cure. It remains obvious to many of us though that we need more experience, more power and more aggression in certain areas of the pitch.
Although Arsene thinks we are well off as regards strikers, I hope that a certain Emmanuel Adebayor f*cks off this summer. This is no knee jerk comment. His behaviour in the summer was a disgrace, while he continues to pimp himself openly in the media. He seems to have a rather high opinion of himself, calling himself one of the 'biggest strikers' in the world. Certainly he is large, so is Peter Crouch, but objectively he's had one good season in his career and that does not make one a 'great striker'. His goal scoring record other than last season is nothing more than mediocre. The point I'm trying to make is that you cannot be successful without every single one of your players being 100% committed to the cause, otherwise a rot sets in, for this reason anyone who frequently can't be arsed to put the effort in, no matter how talented, can f*ck off elsewhere to ply their trade.
It's great news that Theo has signed a new four year deal, he was a tad anonymous against United but you can't fault his desire or commitment, I'm very glad he's going to be with us for the next few years. I'm sure there will be plenty more debate over the next few weeks about who should come and who should go, irrelevant to this it will be vitally important to retain our best players, RVP is one of these and he always puts in his all, we really need to secure his future at the club this summer.
I still can't help laughing at Chelsea, Wednesday's events just summed up what a disgrace they are as a club and as a group of supporters. The players were bad enough, however combine that with the death threats from the Chelsea fans and the way in which the club sank to the level of a biased tabloid newspaper in its reaction, then you have a case study of the completely class-less football club. Amazingly Chelsea won't be disciplining Drogba for his post match antics, what a fine example they set, an apology is apparently enough for this sad excuse for a football club. It's rather poetic that part of the reason for Chelsea's failure has been Drogba's correct reputation for being a cheat, he makes Adebayor look like a model pro, mind you at least he appears to care whether he wins or loses.
Our chances of catching Chelsea are slim, but I feel we have something to prove on Sunday, we need to show that we are not that far off the pace, another limp performance is not what the doctor orders. Arshavin is a doubt with the flu, hopefully it's that mild swine variety and not something more serious like a blocked nose. Hopefully Ade will get a rest and we'll have a bit of effort and movement up front, I wonder whether the Nasri holdin role experiment will continue, hopefully not. Either way let's give Didier a warm welcome on Sunday, here's a quick Chelsea gag for you:
Friday, 8 May 2009
The starting point is to look back to where we were in January. I think if we had been offered 4th place sewn up with games to spare, and a tilt against Chelsea and Manure in two semi-finals, then I would expect 99% of Arsenal fans would have taken it.
Liverpool, the eternal media-love-in English team, did not reach either semi-final. Yet I guarantee you that the press write ups over the summer will bathe Liverpool's achievements this season in a warm light and provide ambitious predictions that next year is the one for the Scousers. We will get the opposite treatment. Our squad is too thin, too young and too inexperienced. We will be told that Wenger must go out buy, and buy big over the summer, or we will not win anything next year.
My tuppence is that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I think there is no escaping that Arsenal were caught short in the big semi-final games. We simply did not have the weapons to beat Chelsea and Manure when the going got tough. However, before I chuck some mud at a couple of players, its worth pointing a few things out:
Arshavin did not play in any of the semi-finals. At the moment, he is the star man in our squad. He will be available next year. I also cannot help feeling that Wenger was an idiot for not playing Arshavin against Chelsea.
I don't want to bleat, but our injury record is, yet again, appalling. We went into these big games without proven internationals like Gallas, Clichy, Eduardo (and Rosicky). RVP is also constantly plagued by niggling injuries. I have said before that there appears to be a sick-note culture at Arsenal, which I think reflects in the style of players we have.
That said, the mighty Arsenal teams of previous years only made the Champs League semi-finals once before. Vieira never played in one for us. It is a good achievement that our young kids have got this far and I have no doubt that many of them will pick up medals in the future. If we have patience, then it will be in an Arsenal shirt.
However, the conclusion that I have reached so far, and this echoes 1979's thoughts, is that our midfield lacks the right blend of players. Apart from Song, they are all ball-players. Gifted footballers, but very polite and sophisticated in their style of play.
Manure dominated the midfield in both games because Fergie deployed his workhorses of Fletcher and Andersen at home, and added Park away. Players who fight for every ball, every square inch of turf and who never give up. Perhaps Nasri does not deserve too much of a bollocking, but I was immensely disappointed with Cesc and Theo over the two legs.
Alex Song was almost certainly the best Arsenal player in both semi-finals. Nasri worked his socks off but had too much to cover. I don't recall Cesc doing a single thing in either game that made Arsenal fans shout his name in joy. He had a shocker. In fact, I think he has had a bad season overall.
But I am not condemning him. Cesc has had an amazing start to his career, took Vieira's shirt at Arsenal, played in the Champions League final in 2006, had a real shout at being the best midfielder in the Prem in 2007 and then played an instrumental role in Spain's winning team at the Euro's. That is the sort of stuff that dreams are made of. But for my money, its gone wrong a bit this season for him. Next season he could easily be back to his world beating best - I certainly hope so.
The balance of the midfield is wrong. I continue to think that Walcott is not a right midfielder. Theo is a real talent but the graft of midfield is not suited to him. Hleb was not everyone's cup of tea, but he knew how to play the wide midfield role. Its not Theo's fault that he is being played at right midfield, and he usually tries his very best, but we just don't see the best of him in that position. And this poses Wenger with a massive headache.
Manure came and thrashed us at the Emirates without a recognised centre-forward (Rooney plays in the hole), and with a work-horse midfield. Park gets forward a bit, but Ronaldo was their main outlet and generates space to move in because there are no other Manure players in his way. Thats only two, or maybe three, attacking players in the entire team.
Contrast Arsenal, who started both legs with a funny 4-5-1 formation, but with a plethora of attacking players. Apart from Song, I would put our entire midfield in the "attacking" bracket of style. I just don't see how we can blend Ade, RVP, Bendtner, Eduardo, Vela, Arshavin, Theo, Nasri and Cesc into a cohesive and powerful team. That's 9 good attacking players looking to get regular football - it just doesn't work. Wenger has amassed the Harlem Globetrotters of football.
We can have a long and healthy debate some other time about which of the 9 above players are worth keeping, but my point is that our so-called defensive or work-horse midfielders are Song, Denilson and Diaby. Maybe Ramsey as well. The truth, as we have all known all season, is that Wenger made a big mistake when he let Gilberto and Flamini go and didn't replace them. A good midfield works hard to break the opposition down and to create chances for our attacking players. We didn't create a single good chance against Manure.
In my book, the only solution is to push Theo forwards and free-up another space in midfield for a work horse. It would have to be a 4-3-3 system. You play a tight three in midfield of Song / Cesc and someone else (Denilson/Ramsey/Barry?), and leave space for an advanced three ahead and wide of them. Think how Mourinho used to play Drogba, Robben and Duff.
I just have no idea who our advanced three would be.
Thursday, 7 May 2009
Let's all laugh at Chelsea!
I haven't laughed so much in quite a while, what a fantastic finish to the Chelsea Barca game last night, I can't stop smiling this morning, thank you very much Mr Iniesta!
As you may have gathered I am not a big Chelsea fan and last night showed precisely why. Of note in the first leg Barca had a genuine 'stonewall' penalty not given, while Ballack should have been sent off for a second yellow when he cynically chopped down a Barca player in a very dangerous position. The Barca players didn't lose their rag, they didn't feel the need to surround and swear at the referee.
In the second leg Chelsea were a bit unfortunate with the odd decision, however virtually all of their penalty appeals were for non penalties. The Drogba dive was no penatly, the Eto'o handball was clearly not intentional, their best case for a penatly was the Pique handball but even that was debatable. It must also be remembered that the Abidal sending off was clearly an error, Anelka tripped over his own feet.
Luckily football won the day, Chelsea did defend well, however the side that tried to play the football has triumphed and that is a good thing. Ballack's barracking and almost rugby tackling of the referee was an absolute disgrace on its own, he should have seen red. The behaviour that followed from Drogba, Terry et al was amongst the worst behaviour I have ever seen from footballers on the football field. Drogba's pathetic performance can be viewed here, Terry was aggressive as always and the poor ref apparently needed a police escort out of the country in the early hours of the morning, Chelsea fans are such lovely mild mannered people aren't they.
One of the most amusing parts of this whole episode is that quite a few Chelsea fans are so deluded that they believe other supporters feel empathy for their position. I feel no empathy for these pathetic morons. The club should have the book thrown at them by UEFA, they should be banned from Europe for a season, they have already been warned repeatedly by the FA as regards their intimidation of officials, this is a new low even for them and that's saying something. Losing with dignity is not something Chelsea are capable of, their club has very little class, just because they can throw around blank cheques they think they can bully people and demand exactly what they want. Chelsea are the epitomy of the lack of class and sportsmanship, and the greed that we need to stamp out of the modern game. My heart bleeds, it really does.
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
We paid the price for sitting back at Old Trafford and not even trying to score an away goal. This left United in pole position, there are a side that loves to play on the counter, coming to the Emirates with a one goal advantage knowing they could play on the break was their dream ticket. Maybe if we had attacked them more at Old Trafford we would have lost by more, but you don't get to semis just to keep the score down, I think we paid for a tragic lack of ambition and desire with our tactics on that night.
Having said that United showed they are the far superior side at the moment. They have a great centre back pairing in Vidic and Ferdinand that is always tough to break down. They had more attacking threat with the pace and skill of Rooney and Ronaldo in particular. This was in stark contrast to our striker Emmanuel Adebayor who looked lethargic and average in both games, he did very little to justify his reputation as a top centre forward. Adebayor was not our only big name not to have delivered, a certain young Spaniard has done very little to justify his huge reputation in these two games.
Some of our players can hold their heads higher than others. Over the two legs Almunia and Song have both performed admirably in my opinion. Nasri showed a real desire to be on the ball in the second leg, while RVP fought hard for the team. Anyway this isn't about blame, over the two legs we were simply beaten by the better side, a side with more experience, more power and more solidity at the back. It bloody well hurts to lose to the mancs like this, but we might as well take a long hard look at ourselves in the mirror and learn from it.
Andrei Arshavin would probably not have won us the tie, however his presence has certainly dynamised the side of late, surely this has been a great example of how that extra bit of experience and class can make a massive difference. It is obvious that for us to compete with the likes of Manu and Chelsea next season we need to invest in at least a couple of top drawer talents, of note our starting eleven cost not much different to Dimitar Berbatov, this starkly demonstrates our relative lack of spending.
Just to finish on some positive stuff, our young players have done remarkably this season to achieve what they have done, getting to the semis of the Champions League is not easy by any means. I also would rather see Arsenal end up in the mighty Blue Square Premiership than become like Manchester United. They really are a bunch of arrogant obnoxious chavs, this is perfectly epitomised by Cristiano Ronaldo. No one can doubt his ability, but his behaviour is embarrassing, I'd be ashamed of my 3 year old son if he behaved like Ronaldo does at times. At least we don't have players who look like Shrek that shag middle aged scouse prostitutes. I am very glad that our manager doesn't chew gum with his mouth open and support Gordon Brown's Labour party. I'm still proud to be a Gunner. The one hope left for this season is that we can muster something to derail the mancs title bid at Old Trafford, I won't hold my breath.