"Is it a dive? Never in a million years. A dive is when you try to influence the referee, you throw your arms up and so on."
The quote above is what Tony Mowbray said following Aidan McGeady's yellow card for diving yesterday. I have a degree of sympathy with McGeady, we have seen in the past few days just how randomly the media can react to extremely similar incidents. After all what is a dive?
One can be clouted and then roll around and feign injury, even though there was a lot of contact this could be deemed diving. One can jump out of the way of a dangerous lunge in the box, there may be no contact but one may lose balance in trying to avoid the challenge, is this a dive? One may throw oneself to ground and in doing so mean that there is contact when there would have been none had one tried to stay on one's feet, is this a dive? Sometimes the referee won't give the free kick unless the player goes to ground, even if the foul is clear, so no wonder players make sure they hit the deck at times.
You get my point, there are shades of grey here, diving is no black and white thing most of the time. The strange thing for me is that the media ignore some of the blackest and clearest of dives from the likes of Owen, Gerrard, Ronaldo and Rooney, while much greyer cases like that of Eduardo are highlighted in the most unfair of manners. All we want is a bit of consistency and the media to show some brains, it isn't much to ask is it?
Go to the BBC I-Player link and listen from 23 minutes exactly, listen to the Arsenal caller who dares to politely suggest that Rooney may have taken a dive and won the penalty for Manu. Listen to the way in which Alan Green, an ugly version of Eamon Holmes if this is possible, is downright rude to 'Dominic' from London. Alan Green is not only biased, he is rude, offensive and brash when it is not at all appropriate or justifiable. He has a responsibility as a radio show host working for a public broadcaster to behave better than this. He behaves like a small child sticking their fingers in their ears when they hear something they don't want to hear, he just shouts and shouts and dismisses the caller by saying 'No, no, no, no, you are wrong, you are categorically wrong'.
If you like me think that Alan Green is a disgrace to journalism and was completely out of line with what he said to this caller, then please join me in complaining to the BBC here. A public sector broadcaster should not be able to get away with this kind of shoddy pap. Simply fill in the form and if you are feeling lazy then simply cut and paste this in as the complaint:
The way in which Alan Green spoke to the caller 'Dominic' at just after the 23 minute mark was completely unacceptable. He was rude, offensive and downright obnoxious. He didn't even allow the caller to politely make his point, whatever this was, he didn't even let him speak. He shouted him down as a small child would stick their fingers in their ears having been told not to do something naughty. Alan Green's rude manner and appalling behaviour also calls into question his claimed objectivity.
I feel Alan Green should be reprimanded by the BBC for his actions. It is not good enough that someone can be so very rude and offensive to someone who is ringing up to make a polite point, he is a license payer and as a public broadcaster the BBC should do much better than this. I am not impressed. Alan Green should apologise live on air to 'Dominic', whoever this is."
I was slightly surprised to see Bendtner left on the bench, Eboue retained his place after a fine performance in the week, while the midfield trio of Denilson, Diaby and Song played with Cesc missing out due to injury. Manu started with the lone striker Rooney flanked by the irritating Nani and the expensive Valencia. The game started as it continued with Arsenal domination.
United were poor, they could not retain the ball, but this was largely down to our excellent work of the ball, we pressed them high up the pitch, every single one of our eleven was defending for the team. Manu were allowed to get away with murder by the weak Dean. They committed several fouls early on, of particular note a nasty late kick to Eboue's knee by Carrick and an out of control late lunge by Evra, without any cards being dished out. Surprise surprise and Song got the first yellow of the game. Gallas was then handed a yellow when Evra dived into him on the edge of the box, while RVP picked up another yellow for a decent tackle. Evra did eventually get a yellow for his third foul, but Carrick and Fletcher were allowed to foul with impunity. Arshavin was denied the most clear of penalties later on in the half, as he teed himself up for a shot, Fletcher lunged in with a straight leg, he got none of the ball, took Arshavin out and then hand balled it for good measure, the wimp Dean waved play on.
There were not many chances in the first half, RVP had a decent effort deflected wide after a neat turn inside the box. From the subsequent corner Arshavin was only inches away from finding the top corner with a well controlled side footer. Arshavin's goal was awesome, just after he had been turned down a clear penalty, he picked it up thirty yards out and turned, a quickly lifted up his muscular hammer like right leg and let fly, giving Foster no chance from around twenty five yards out.
One nil ahead and it was well deserved Manu were simply not at the races. Diaby, Denilson and Song had done well in the middle, Eboue had also put in a good stint, my one criticism would be that we didn't quite turn our domination into as many chances as we could have. The second half saw a great early chance for us, Arshavin skinned defenders down the left and centred low for RVP who hit a neat low left footed effort at goal, Foster looked beaten, but somehow he stretched his left leg to it and kept it out. A big moment no doubt but not the turning point for me. Eboue also had a great chance as he stole in at the far post but miscontrolled when he should have tried a first time effort.
The key moment of the game was the 'penalty'. Of note the referee was miles away, at least twenty yards from the action, so how he can be sure of such a decision is beyond me. Giggs put a nice ball through for Rooney who got a yard on Gallas, the mistake Almunia made was deciding to come because Rooney was going nowhere. Rooney took a touch, in fact an awful touch that had pretty much gone out for a goal kick, Almunia slid through leading with his hands but did largely pull out of the challenge, all in all a very similar challenge to the Celtic keeper's in midweek. Rooney dived way before any contact was made, his knee was at the level of the grass before he was clipped by Almunia, it was a penalty of the softest variety.
When one sees it in the context of the Eduardo 'cheat' storm of the week then one can only conclude that there is an incredible amount of denial and bias around the English media. Rooney's record of diving is embarrassing, he has dived blatantly for penalties time, time, and time again. It's funny how those on Sky didn't even question Dean's decision, it was stonewall to them. I find it hard to find words to describe the lack of media objectivity in analysing these kind of decisions, the contrary reactions to the Eduardo and Rooney dives says more than I can. At least some papers are making it clear it was not a penalty, but this is far as it will go, we shall see none of the vitriol that we saw directed at Eduardo, after all Rooney is a fine upstanding Englishman, he has the pleasant hobbies of having sex with prostitutes and getting drunk.
Manu were not good enough to get a second goal themselves, so we did it for them courtesy of a truly awful Diaby own goal, I really don't know what he can have been thinking. Diaby had a very good game though and I hope that no one gets on his back for this poor error. He almost made amends with a powerful run, he broke through to the keeper but slightly miscued the shot and it flew agonisingly wide. It was hard to take being 2-1 down and this showed, I don't think we ever really showed enough composure having gone behind. Our build up play was rushed, we tried too hard and didn't show enough patience. Manu created their one shot on goal as Evra forced a good low save to Almunia's left. RVP hit a lovely free kick firmly against the cross bar with Foster nowhere. At the death Dean had time to rule out a goal for a Gallas offside. Gallas was just offside but he didn't header the ball down, it was a Manu player who got the touch before RVP finished, it was the right decision but if it had been Manu at the other end it wouldn't have surprised me if it had been given and then justified by the disgraceful retards on Sky.
"It will be a big difference tomorrow in the newspapers. I don’t know…I have not seen it, I do not want especially to see it. He kicked the ball to the corner flag, Rooney, and after - was he touched or not, was it a penalty or not – leave these decisions to the referee."
This NOTW article is a great example of the bias and rank stupidity on show in the English press. Neil 'illiterate' Ashton makes out that Arsene had launched a 'blistering' attack on Mike Dean, as one can see from the quote above it's hardly been blistering, apparently Arsene also accuses the ref of being 'intimated' by Old Trafford, I think the word you're looking for is intimidated Neil, if you are going to write in the national press at least get the basic write before you spin some bullshit for your masters.
Overall good performance and a very harsh result. Other than the error from Diaby we defended well, Vermaelen looked outstanding yet again, biting into challenge after challenge, while Sagna and Clichy have started the season much better than they finished the last. The midfielders won the battle, Denilson, Diaby and Song all had good games. Eboue had another good ninety, bar an awful dive that got a deserved yellow. We really deserved better from yesterday's game. I hope we can show our strength of character and bounce back next weekend, it will be tough but winning things is touch and this is what you have to do.
A final word should go to the pathetic Dean for did everything he could yesterday to swing the result in the Mancs favour and to the Manu fans at Old Trafford who largely showed themselves to be scum by chanting some utterly repugnant things at Arsene for the umpteenth time. The hypocrisy of this great club is there for all to see, they expect respect to be shown to them by other fans when it suits, however their mighty club has done nothing to stop utter filth being chanted at our manager for years and years on end. It is not just mild abuse that Arsene gets at Old Trafford, it is subhuman treatment, it is at least as bad as racist chanting, and I suspect it comes loudest from those who buy the News of the World and who do not know the difference between a paedophile and a paediatrician, cretins the lot of them.
I am fuming. I will keep this brief and come up with something more in depth tomorrow, but the manner of our defeat today was incredibly cruel. Watch the replays of the Rooney 'penalty', it's a very soft decision indeed, he has lost control of the ball, he throws himself down before contact is made, the contact is also not great, Almunia does largely pull out of the challenge. It can go down in the list of incredibly soft penalties we have conceded at Old Trafford in the last few years alongside the Rooney dive past Campbell's non-challenge and Gallas' inadvertent handball two years back. Just now on the Radio I heard an Arsenal fan being shouted down by the disgraceful Alan Green when he dared suggest that Rooney had won the penalty, Alan Green's behaviour was like that of a toddler 'No, no, no, you are wrong' and he then cut the caller off, that's good debate isn't it.
Rooney did not cheat, he did what all strikers would do, he made the most of not much, it was an incredibly soft penalty and it was not dramatically different to Eduardo's going to ground against Celtic the other night. The media's massively different reactions to the two incidents shows a lot. Dean's overall refereeing display today was also woeful. The rub of the green was with the Mancs, a clear penalty denied for an awful Fletcher lunge in the first half, Gallas booked when Evra threw himself at him, several other soft bookings while quite a few cynicalManc fouls were ignored. Either way I digress, we were very unfortunate today, we defended well other than the own goal, we created some great chances, with a bit of luck we would have won convincingly today, even without the luck but with a decent referee we would not have lost. The media reaction to the Rooney 'penalty' says more than I can.
I hope we can bounce back swiftly from this injustice. We were excellent today, we outplayed the opposition for long spells, they barely tested Manuel over the ninety minutes, Manu were average at best and deserved nothing from the game, we now need to show that we can bounce back from adversity and this will be a real test of our young side.
It is at times like these that one gets a real handle on the complete lack of objectivity in the media, they love telling people what they want to hear and care little for the truth. Whether it be the Sun blaming immigrants for all our problems or insulting foreign footballers because they are an easy non-English target, it's the same lame pathetic stuff that we've become sadly used to putting up with. Have a look at these two blatant dives from lovely English players and note just how little media reaction there was to these:
There is no other explanation than that the media is completely biased and that our footballing governing bodies are also completely inconsistent in dealing with any disciplinary offences. It is a Kangeroo system. Eduardo's was also not a clear cut dive, it was debatable and most would say it was not a penalty, but in the context of what we see week in week out it was nothing, the media reaction tells us more about the media than anything else.
The media reaction to Eduardo's dive last night has been completely out of proportion to the crime, if ever there was an example of just how inconsistent their reactions are then this is it. It was a very soft penalty, it was a 1% penalty, we were indeed lucky, however it clearly did not affect the result, Celtic are mediocre and offer a similar threat to Hull City in the attacking department. Eduardo saw the Celtic keeper lunge and dived out the way, the keeper pulled out of the challenge and clipped Eduardo with the slightest of touches, to me it was not cheating, it was also not a penalty, Eduardo had to dive, if he had not dived and the Celtic keeper had not pulled out, then he may well have taken a nasty knock.
Either way that's all just nitpicking, the media reaction since has been way way over the top. Every tom, dick and numpty has been having their say on the TV, on the radio and in the papers; Eduardo is cheating scum, the moronic fools have had their cake, eaten it and excreted it into the media. I would like to tell them to f*ck off. This talk of a retrospective ban is also rubbish, either organisations like UEFA, FIFA and the FA start acting consistently and banning all divers consistently, or they can bugger off. Any disciplinary process must be consistent, it must be fair, it should not be subject to the whims of the likes of Andy Gray and Richard Keys. On ITV last night I was rather impressed by the nonchalant pragmatism of Kenny Dalglish who refused to slag Eduardo off and just said it how it was without letting sensationalism intervene. Unfortunately Dalglish has been an exception to the rule, most people have been jumping on the moral bandwagon that seems to be enjoying this Eduardo bashing frenzy.
As Arseblogger points out, when Owen dives it's clever, when Rooney dives it's just him losing balance, when Ronaldo dives it's just his nature, when Gerrard dives it never happened m'lud, when Gerrard attacks with two fists it also never happened m'lud, when Lampard dives he's searching for a new variety of pastry, when Drogba dives it's more of an Eduardo like reaction, anyway I'm ranting, the point is that the media love to criticise people they dislike while they love to ignore the blatant crimes of the scum they love, what a moronic bunch they are. Lay off Eduardo. I'm all for some consistent disciplinary procedure, but all we seem to get is these pathetic media witch hunts that nail a few unfortunate individuals, it's just not good enough.
Anyway the Champions League draw isn't bad, we've got Liege, Alkmaar and Olympiakos. On the way home from work yet another moronic BBC sports correspondent wound me up by hyping up just how hard our group is, utter rubbish. Liege are solid enough but there is no team there that we should fear, on our day we should go through if we play to our potential, gone our the days of worrying about the draw, we just need to concentrate on our own game and ignore the opposition. Strange how that thick twat from the BBC didn't think Liverpool having Fiorentina and Lyon and Chelsea having Atletico and Porto was a bit more significant than us having the mighty Liege. In reality all the English clubs will nbe feared by their opponents, our league is just so strong these days, the media seem to want to make stories out of nothing, how very tedious. There also the small matter of a game in Manchester this weekend, can't quite remember who it's against, come on you Gunners.
Celtic were outclassed in both games, whatever the ins and outs of both games, whatever the excuses, whatever the pundits say, they were simply not good enough to threaten our passage to the Champions League group stages. Part of this was down to Celtic's lack of quality, but a decent chunk of it was because of several improvements Arsene has made to the side and setup since last year.
The whole team are playing for each other, we are pressing higher up the field and defending from the front, this means we are hard to break down, we are fighting for every ball again, we are no push over. Gallas and Vermaelen just works, Gallas is at home on the right and looks dominant again, while Vermaelen compliments him superbly, biting into challenge after challenge, eager to fight for every little loose crumb. Song is a rock, Denilson looks a year wiser, Diaby played with strength and discipline, and tonight Eboue was superb. Bendtner is a rough diamond who will continue to improve, Eduardo has the natural instinct of a hunter.
As you can tell I'm not getting carried away. The next couple of games in Manchester will be more of a test of our metal, however there's no doubt that the signs are very encouraging. The penalty was never a penalty, I felt very little sympathy for the chav that Celtic employed between the sticks though, Eduardo was felled by the slightest of clips and the referee was feeling generous. The later goals just seemed inevitable, Eboue's majestic second was sweet for a man who never deserved the abuse that he received from some brain dead morons last year, while Arshavin didn't take long to neatly slot home after cunning turn in the box.
The formation 4-3-3 appears to be working, but I think the key thing is that the team is playing as a team and working very hard, the spirit seems better and the drive is there, whatever formation we play if you lose that determination and desire then you will be in trouble. Some of the negative vibes from certain sections of the Gooner community are beyond stupidity, some people just want to see Arsene fail, they seem to relish criticising the current setup and will not be happy until millions of pounds are frittered away just for the sake of it, some even seem to just enjoy pretending to be Professors of football when they really are rank ignorami. I would love to see these doubters proven wrong, come on you Gunners, let's keep that fight going, let's keep working hard for each other and let's keep biting into those fifty fifty challenges as if there were no tomorrow.
The squad was rotated as many of us had expected, the 4-3-3 formation showed it's considerable versatility as Eboue, Diaby, Gibbs and Eduardo slotted into the side. The beauty of the 4-3-3 is that when it is going well and the players are moving for each other, it is so hard to defend against as players can roam around and pop up where you least expect them, midfielders can join the attack easily and it can look very fluid. I won't get started on when it goes wrong but if the team stops working hard in terms of movement and defending as a unit, then it can look very bad.
Overall I'd find it hard that anyone could believe that Pompey deserved to take anything away from this game, other than the stupid deluded Pompey manager Paul Hart. They were second best throughout, two Diaby goals looked to have the game wrapped up in the first half, however a rather contentious goal from the grotesque Kaboul gave Pompey hope where there should have been none. I have to say that having studied replays it appears to be a foul on Almunia, Kaboul makes a lot of contact with the keeper before he headers the ball, his knee goes rather firmly into Manuel's chest before contact with the ball, I think most referees would have disallowed that. Almunia should have attached the ball a bit more aggresively,but it is hard to do this when you have a huge cretinous lump of turd tried to break your rib cage with his spastic limbs.
Either way in the second half the great claims Pompey had for a Gallas red card were nothing more than utterly pathetic. Utaka was running alongside Gallas, who did everything right, Utaka tripped over his own feet and then the moronic Pompey appeals started. If that's a red card David Bentley isn't a rat faced tosser and we all know he is. Hart's pathetic rant after the game smacked somewhat of a manager in denial, he'd rather blame the officials than admit his side were completely outplayed. Gallas had time to rub salt into the stinging Pompey wounds with an inelegant third, while Ramsey slotted home calmly for the fourth.
Overall job done again. The 4-3-3 has worked so far but it will be interesting to see how it goes in the tougher games, we won't have to wait long for this with Manure being our opponents next weekend. The strength of our squad was obvious, while it was good to see the erratic Diaby playing some good stuff. I know it's a big if, but if he can stay fit then I am sure he will find a bit more consistency and he can then be a big player for us; Arsene said as much in the press conference after the game. Who knows if any more signings will come, Andrei Arshavin is clearly keen for them but a lot may depend on the movements of other players and whether this sets off a bit of a transfer merry-go-round. It's a good start for sure but there is still a very long way to go.
A lot has been said by various pundits about lucky Arsenal's win against Celtic, I would suggest that these idiots listen to what Pat Nevin had to say on events, he clearly wanted Celtic to win but was freely able to admit that Celtic had been utterly outclassed and that Arsenal thoroughly deserved their victory. There's not much more to say than that really, we didn't need to climb through all our gears, Celtic were dead on their legs by the end of the game, they had been chasing shadows for so long that their fuel supplies had almost run out. Song was simply awesome, strangely those who criticised him so harshly in recent years have become rather quiet. Vermaelen is settling in quickly, seemingly adding leadership and organisation where there was not much.
This still hasn't stopped certain people from indulging in some rather pathetic negative ranting. Old Leopold Mendacious has been as unhinged as always, what an immense tool this man is, he spoke sensationally of the Celtic game as if our whole world would end if we didn't win, he then wrote an incredibly sarcastic and offensive piece reviewing the win against Celtic. He is clearly in trouble, reader numbers are dwindling, his numerous plugs for his super average book continue to send people to sleep, while he appears more obsessed with his own ego that anything Arsenal related. The man should hang up his boots, personally I am fed up with people who appear to want to see Arsene fail just so they can say "There, I told you so". We could do without Gooners like you, in fact you don't deserve to be called Gooners.
The impressive Sczcesny looks set to get a few Carling cup games this year, I must say I have been much more impressed with his goalkeeping than that of the dodgy Mannone, he commands and looks solid, maybe these will be famous last words, but he just looks a natural. It will be very interesting to see how Arsene juggles the pack over the next week or so. Not only do we play Celtic next week, but we also travel to Old Trafford to face Manure. I am sure we shall see the likes of Eduardo, Diaby, Eboue, Ramsey and Gibbs come into the action as the squad is rotated. I would be surprised if we see quite a few changes for the Pompey game, as even though we are 2-0 against Celtic it would be foolish to take any chances when so much is at stake.
As usual I got things horribly wrong. An expected battle turned into a veritable stroll in the park, a lot of credit must go to Arsene and the players for dismantling a very decent Everton side so comprehensively. We saw pretty much the eleven we expected, Diaby's injury resulted in Denilson's start, while the tough decision was which two of three to start out of RVP/Eduardo and Bendtner. RVP and Bendtner got the nod, it's such a luxury to have a player as good as Eduardo on the bench, very sensible of Arsene not to rush him back to a starting spot straight away.
We had the edge early on, competitive in the fifty fifty challenges, something that frequently hadn't happened last season. As the half wore on we looked the more and more likely to win it. The first goal came after some excellent trickery and strength from Bendtner on the right flank, he fed Cesc who teed up Denilson, the powerful curler that hugged the top corner of the net was simply sublime, awesome hit and one nil.
The next couple of goals both came from free kicks, Everton were losing the midfield battle, second to everything, and this meant that they were giving away sloppy free kicks with their late lunges. Vermaelen powered an excellent back stick header past Howard for the second goal, and Gallas rose unmarked for the third. The Everton defence in all truth was all over the place, obviously this must have something to do with the want awayLescott and absent Jagielka, but the fact that Everton were under siege because they were losing the midfield battle was also rather salient.
The fourth goal came early in the second half when Cesc neatly finished off a classic counter attacking move, Arshavin had strongly held onto possession in the midfield, he then fed RVP who slotted in Cesc who did the rest. Cesc scored a solo fifth, fed by Almunia from a long throw, he ran unchallenged and fired home hard and low from near the edge of the box, appalling defending from Everton again. The sixth was a simple tap in, a slightly bungled Arshavin shot bobbled off the post and left Eduardo with a simple finish, a lot of credit must go to the striker for his instinct and hunger to be in the right place at the right time. It's the kind of chance that Adebayor would not have been anyway near last season, probably sitting down on the penalty spot waiting for the silver service like the lazy moron he is.
Overall a spot on performance and just what we needed. I've included Sky's promotional 'top four' photo as a motivational aid and maybe Arsene should put this poster up in the changing room in order to sput us on to the title. I know Everton were not at their best and inevitably this is the thing that the media will focus on, but in my opinion it was as much, if not more, about how good we were yesterday. It is early days and I don't want to get carried away, but we showed some signs that we have learnt a lot from last season's failure.
Vermaelen was outstanding at the back, he is a competitive and combative centre back who does not roll over for anyone, he lead the line well and our defence looked solid as a unit for once, catching Everton offside on several occasions with a well rehearsed stepping up. Song was as solid as a rock, hoovering up the loose bits in the midfield and protecting the defence well. Denilson put in a very good showing, doing a bit of everything well, while Cesc delivered playing in his proper position. Arshavin was quiet but he is like a sniper, hiding in the shadows and always ready to deliver a lethal hammer blow. Bendtner and RVP worked hard for the team as well as doing what they do best in attacking areas. Ramsey came on late and impressed. We looked like a proper team again. If we can maintain this kind of teamwork and work ethic then you never know what might happen come May, I hope we can ram that Sky picture up Andy Gray's obnoxious derriere.
There are blogs and there are blogs, undoubtedly one of my favourite reads is Goodplaya and he has just recently revamped his site, it looks rather impressive and I suggest anyone who hasn't checked it out does so. There is so much dross out there, so many people just repeating the same old tired rumours and made up stories, that's why I think I find Goodplaya so refreshing. He offers balance, insight and logic in a climate of so much frenetic and thoughtless rambling. Keep up the good work Goodplaya.
Here at anotherarsenalblog we try to refrain from becoming yet another clone of the rather shouty and brainless sites out there. I am sure we fail miserably at times, but we do our best and are always open to comment, unlike some who seem rather resistant to any feedback at all.
It's quite amazing just how many sites have emerged in recent years, I remember the old days when there was just Arsweb, that was my bible for quite a while. There was another site written by a rather snobby music critic that I read from time to time, but over time I realised that this chap seemed more obsessed with himself than the Arsenal and I lost interest over time. As more sites flourished some of the old ones including the music critic's slowly died. I then became more of an Arseblog man.
One can even make a living blogging these days, a lot of income can be generated by advertising. Even anotherarsenalblog has had several offers of cash for advertising, I'd prefer to keep the blog looking smart and tidy with no adverts in site. Maybe I'll change my tune should any offers above £1.50 come in. The number of sites around these days is unbelievable, in fact there are many excellent Arsenal related sites, I would say that the more commercial sites tend to be of lower quality, merely designed to get hits and generate revenue via traffic.
Anyway enough rambling from me. The England game was pretty decent last night, it's rare I say that, but Capello really has sorted things out. England were by far the better footballing side, 2-2 flattered the Dutch in my opinion. Strange how much better the England side is now that ten years ago, all those foreigners in the Premiership don't appear to have reduced the quality of talent at the top at all, the reverse may well be true. Fabio Capello has made a massive difference, a man with tactical skill and discipline that was so badly needed to take control of team England.
The banter here on the squad and the formation over the last few days has been interested, however I don't think any definitive conclusions have been reached other than why on earth did we buy Silvestre? This question seems to recur rather frequently. Overall I think people are more confident than last season but most of us can see who tough it will be to improve upon 4th spot. The addition of Vermaelen is positive, Arshavin starts his first season and Eduardo is back, while many of the younger lads are a year more experienced and stronger. Ade will not be missed either.
The storm comes this weekend with a trip to Goodison. It seems our injury curse has struck again, we have already lost Nasri, Rosicky, Fabiansk and Djourou, it now appears that Diaby is touch and go with a groin niggle. Lescott is still at Everton despite having handed in a transfer request, so times are rather uncertain for the hosts. It will still be a very tough place to go and get a result, here's hoping, come on you Gunners.
Post scriptum, this would be my line up for Goodison:
So we lost 2-0 away to Valencia in our final pre season game, the result matters little, and there were some definite positives as well as negatives to take from the game. Our first half side looked solid enough, while the second half eleven did not look as handy, the most interesting thing we've seen in the pre season has been Arsene's deployment of the 4-3-3 formation.
I am in two minds over this formation. It is a good thing in the way in which it allows us to be a bit more solid in central midfield by playing Song and Diaby for example, as well as Cesc. Certain players are also well suited to the wide roles in the front three, Arshavin and Walcott being two very effective inside forwards.
One problem I see with it is that we have three excellent strikers in RVP, Bendtner and Eduardo and they all perform much better centrally, so with a 4-3-3 there is not much room to get the best out of two of them in a game. There is also the other problem with the 4-3-3 formation, this being that it can become a bit negative if you get pushed onto the back foot and then resemble a 4-5-1 formation.
I don't think we are very good at sitting back and defending, we need to stay on the front foot and attack is the best form of defence for us. Arsene needs to be very careful that we don't become too negative as we did against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi, we cannot win games playing on the back foot like that, we are not equipped for that kind of football. We cannot play with passengers like Adebayor, we need all of our ten outfield players to be pressing high up the pitch a la Barca, sitting back and trying to defend deep is just not something we can be good at with our current personnel.
You may have noticed the recent Poll on our blog, and it seems that a majority of people think that big Phil has been harshly treated by the boss in the last couple of years. The fact that the boss has brought in Mikel Silvestre in the same season that he left big Phil go on loan to Milan makes his treatment look ridiculously harsh.
Maybe big Phil would not be happy as a fourth choice player in the pecking order and that's why he left, the problem for me is that Arsene should have realised that Gallas and Toure could not play together, their styles are not complimentary, he needed to play big Phil or Djourou with one of these two. Silvestre adds nothing, he is slow, not commanding at all, and overall just not very good. I just cannot understand what's been going on with out centre backs over the last few years, and for me it's one of the big reasons for our lack of success.
I know I'm tedious but it's blood obvious why we have not done it in the last few years. We have been to weak physically in defense and midfield. All the great title winning sides have needed a few big beasts in there, we had Vieira/Petit/Campbell/Gilberto etal, Manu have had Keane/Vidic/Ferdinand/Carricketal, Chelsea have had Terry/Carvalho/Makeleleetal.
Maybe Arsene became too obsessed with the beauty of the game, but now he seems to have seen the error of his ways, playing Song and Diaby in a 4-3-3 gives us more strength in the middle, while the addition of Vermaelen may bring a bit more solidity to us at the back. Arsene remains quiet when asked about signings, I just hope he can add one or two more players to our squad that will give us a bit more strength in this department. It is strange but the unsung grinders can often be critical in winning the titles, the likes of Fletcher, Mikel, Parlour, Mascherano and their ilk may not win all the plaudits but they are often the most important cogs in the machine.
So it's Celtic, it could have been better and it could have been worse. Under Mowbray you can guarantee that Celtic will play football the right way and that will be to our liking. Undoubtedly the away game on the 18th of August will be the tougher of the two fixtures, especially given as it comes just three days after our away game at Goodison Park. On the rare occassions that I have watched Celtic McGeady always strikes me as a bit of a threat with his jinking trickery. On an unrelated issue I thought this little piece on our slight lack of recent commercial success relative to other big clubs is well worth reading, hopefully Ivan Gazidis can address some of these issues.
The sounds emerging from the Emirates seem to hint that Arsene may leave things late before making any definitive moves in the transfer market. He is looking to bring in one or two more players, while if big Phil leaves for Everton that he will look to replace him on top of that. Rumours around Hangeland are gathering pace, it seems to me that if we move for him then he will come. I am not convinced he offers us anything more than big Phil is capable of, but I shall have an open mind if things happen.
Bordeaux are clearly a bunch of greedy pro-manu tossers, old Laurent Blanc must still be bitter at being skinned so frequently by Arsenal players when he came over to England for the final installments of his pension. They are trying to squeeze as much money out of us for Chamakh as they can get, however they would do well to realise that we will not be bullied, the player has one year left on his current deal and he has also made repeated sounds that he wants out. Damien Comollihas spoken, so once again no one has listened to this insignificant and rather annoying little man.
Harvard Nordtveit has joined the Bundesliga side FCNurnberg for a year, this will be a great opportunity for the young lad to show if he has what it takes by proving himself in a very decent division. Meanwhile I am slightly surprised that Fran Merida appears to be joining Spanish second division side Levante on loan, he showed some great promise in recent friendlies and I thought he may have been better off staying here and fighting for a game, either that or maybe going on loan somewhere in England to adjust to the more physical football on offer here. Maybe I'm wrong but to me it does appear that Arsene has his favourites and that some guys never seem to get a chance no matter how well they do when given a chance to shine.
So it's almost underway, and an early pivotal moment tomorrow is the Champions League draw. We are in the 'non champions' path and will play one of five unseeded sides, as we are seeded. The teams we may face include:
There's not much doubt that the top two of these five would be the toughest, Celtic would be in the middle and the bottom two sides are the easier ties. Mind you, none of the games are easy, but on our day we really should win against any of those five sides given our record in Europe. However it is rather annoying to see the lack of quality in the 'champions path', there really are some very average sides there. UEFA should make up their mind as to what they want, do they want a true 'champions' league, in which case go back to the old format of just champions. Or do they want a competition with the best sides, in which case they should not bias things in favour of the weaker countries as they have blatantly done this year.
Elsewhere news is slow, it is all quiet on the transfer front, the stories involving Big Phil, PV4 and Chamakh have tailed off somewhat. Rather amusingly the same old lame chorus can be heard emerging from the ever faeculent shite hart lane, apparently the lanky one thinks Tottenham have as good a chance as anyone of breaking the top four this season. Crouch demonstrates what it takes to sign for Tottenham, you must be dumb enough to believe what the dodgy twitcher 'Arry tells you.
Given that the spuds were battling relegation last season, I fail to see what they have done to transform themselves into a side that is capable of breaking the top four. They have managed to get a few more centre backs injured and exchanged one average striker for another, hardly the stuff of dramatic improvements I feel. What a bunch of numpties the spuds are, I'm sure their moronic and arrogant fans will still be convinced that this is 'their year', well maybe it is, as long as 'their year' means another year of watching average football played by average players and getting terribly disappointed that the end product and results are unsurprisingly rather average, yet again.
I have always like big Phil Senderos. It therefore saddens me to hear that he is on the verge of joining Everton. Everton have today confirmed that the two clubs are locked in negotiations. Obviously big Phil has only a year left on his contract and is not a first choice player, so the money makes definite business sense. Football is not just a business, it is more than that to us the fans, I am a little sad to see big Phil go.
Big Phil wore his heart on his sleeve. He was one of a rare breed. I remember one particular moment the season before last when he had been harshly sent off when virtually no contact had been made with the diving opposition striker, he took the poor refereeing decision on the chin like a true sportsman, he left the field with his head bowed, almost in tears at the fact that he had let the team down, mopping his brow with his shirt in a way that was designed to hide the immense upset that he felt.
Whatever his critics may say, big Phil was one damn good defender, of course he wasn't perfect but he did have some excellent runs in the side, the best of these being the Champions League run in 2005-6. Big Phil and Kolo formed the centre back pairing that kept a record ten clean sheets, unfortunately big Phil missed the final against Barca due to injury. Ironically he became a scapegoat for our defensive frailty when we lost the second leg of the Champions League semi final to Liverpool at Anfield in 2008. Phil was turned rather easily by Fernando Torres for one of the Liverpool goals, however how many of the best have been mocked by Torres in recent months?
Big Phil is a strong honest defender but is not the quickest on the turn, I still think that with just a little bit more luck he could have become a true Arsenal legend, sometimes an injury here and a bit of luck there can be the difference between making it and becoming a bit part player. That's life I suppose. I'm personally still a big Phil fan and wish him all the best wherever he ends up. It is strange that we are letting such a dominant player go when the thing our current side lacks is the power and the strength to defend aerial balls.
Our current squad does not lack attacking flair, we have several excellent strikers (RVP, Bendtner, Eduardo, Vela) and several very adaptable attacking players (Arshavin, Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri, Diaby, Wilshere, Merida). It appears the Chamakh will not be coming as Bordeaux are being too greedy and holding out for a large fee when the player only has a year left on his contract.
The thing we lack is obvious when you compare our current crop to our recent title winning sides. How many players in the current squad are strong in the air defensively? I would argue that only out field players with this strength are Song and Djourou, Vermaelen possibly but I have not seen enough of him to comment. In days of old we had the likes of Adams, Keown, Bould, Campbell, Vieira, Petit, Edu, Gilberto who gave us that power to repel the aerial threat from corners, set pieces and hopeful long balls. If Arsene buys anyone before the season starts then I hope they can add to our ability to defend the aerial ball.
In many ways 1979's short summary of the Emirates Cup is all that need to be said about the pre-season friendly tournament, in which we used 21 players I think. Its a nice little run-out for the players and the fact that 110,000 tickets were sold over the two days is a nice little earner for the clubs involved.
But its bad measure to try and guage how the squad is looking. The biggest surprise, for me, was the inclusion of Eboue in the squad on both days, as his transfer to Fiorentina looked a done deal last week. Clearly not. Similarly, the absence of Senderos looks telling and the ink will soon be dry on his move to Everton.
And that does put a slight change of perspective on things. Last week's squad looked relatively strong, but on the assumption that Eboue was off, we look a bit light of cover at right back. In contrast, we have an abundance of lefties at the club now. That said, Gibbs did not play at all over the weekend, whereas Traore played in both games and did quite well. Now, if we were going to let Traore go out on loan again this season, why not give Gibbs some more match practice and let Traore sit on the bench? So maybe Traore isn't going anywhere...
The absence of Big Phil also means we will shift from having 4 decent (Gallas, Vermaelen, Djourou + Big Phil) centre backs (plus Sylvestre), to 3 plus Sylvestre. And thats a much more flimsy prospect. Its not that if Gallas and Vermaelen were both injured we would be saying, "well thank the lord, cos Big Phil will now be able to play and he's amazing". Its just that Big Phil has a bit of experience and so long as he was not facing Drogba often did ok. That said, its more than understandable from his perspective to want first team football and I will him all the best at Everton.
The idea of replacing Big Phil with another centre back is also unlikely, in my book. The job description at the Footballers JobCentre would read: "Wanted - 4th choice centre back to play occassionnally for top 4 Premier league club. Must be quite ugly and slow. Ideal applicant will understand that the manager will prefer to play an uglier, older frenchman who looks like a fish. Salary outrageous given that you will play 15 matches a year".
It has been suggested that signing someone like David Wheater might make sense, and he certainly fits the bill of being a Big Phil clone, which rather begs the question of whether David Wheater is a better Big Phil than Big Phil? If not, then why get someone who is worse at being Big Phil than Big Phil? I would prefer to simply stick with the Big Phil we have. He seemed pretty good at being Big Phil. I also think David Wheater is shite.
But, the inevitable conclusion of all this drivel is probably that Alex Song will continue to be used as a makeshift centre back if needed. There is a well trodden path here and Wenger often played Gilberto at centre back in European games, where the aerial threat is far less deployed, as is the neanderthal midfieder like Sean Davies, Joey Barton or Kevin Nolan.
If we are in the situation where Gallas and Vermaelen are both injured for a considerable period of time, then we are in a world of problems anyway. I see no absolute reason why Djourou and Syvestre could not play if needed on the rare occassion, and if absolutely required, then Song can obviously play there too.
So I don't think that the departure of Big Phil means we are now short at centre back. Or not short enough to go and waste some money on a new 4th choice.
But having reflected on it over the weekend, I have decided to through my hat in the ring and join the chorus of approval for the idea of re-signing Patrick Vieira.
To my mind, it makes virtually no sense for us from a footballing perspective. He is 33 years old, almost permanently injured and his best years are way behind him. But if we can pick him up on a free transfer, then the £6m quid or so a year he would demand in wages would seem chump change when you consider the possibility of Patrick Vieira walking in an Arsenal shirt out to face ManUre at Old Trafford on 29 August.
Paddy would obviously refuse to wear any of the current away strips, which are all truly awful, so we would have to wear the gold shirts of circa 2002 to mark the occassion.
The fans would love it, the press would love it, I expect even most of the players would love it. So go on Arsene. Just do it.
Unfortunately I didn't get to watch the whole of the Rangers game yesterday, some of us only managed bits of the game and were interrupted by pesky work related problems, damn it. I happened to stumble upon Goodplaya's review of the Emirates Cup and agreed with most of what he said. As I'm exhausted having worked all weekend I'm going to sum up my thoughts in lazy bullet points, please feel free to add your own in the comments section, humour is not tolerated by the way:
- Andrei Arshavin is awesome
- Mikel Silvestre is not
- Jack Wilshere has immense potential
- Cesc plays much better in his normal deeper midfield role
- Eduardo is the best finisher in the land
- Our only physical presence was in the form of Song and Djourou, this is not enough for cold rainy away days up north when being assaulted by uneducated primitive northerners
- Ramsey, Merida (especially so) and Watt all showed some brightness
- Denilson is decent but is he anything more than that?
- Mannone looks dodgy and has no natural presence
- Rangers are even worse than Tottenham
- Would it be worth trying to repackage Mikel Silvestre as a striker and selling him to Harry 'the twitch' Redknapp?
- The poll has concluded that Ashley Cole is a c*nt, so who am I to argue with this
Two fine Andrei Arshavin goals capped an exciting afternoon's activity at the Emirates, we also got a few hints as to how the boss is seeing things for the season ahead. Wilshere was the stand out player for me, jinking past defenders with ease and showing a maturity beyond his years. Djourou got the nod at centre back, as Thomas Vermaelen was nursing something minor, and looked solid enough. Ramsey and Merida also showed their promise, while it was good to see Gael Clichy fit once again.
This little piece in the Guardian happened to catch my interest and I think a lot of it rings true. I am not close enough to any insider information but it is undeniable that there have been big big issues with our squad morale in the last couple of years, Gallas-Toure and Adebayor-Bendtner to name just two clashes of personality/opinion/fists. I hope Arsene has looked to nail these problems with these sales and it looks like our balance will have been done no harm in the process.
Arshavin is a star in the making, Wilshere is now ready to make an impact, Rosicky is fit (touch wood), offensively we are looking in excellent shape. Arsene acknowledged that it will be tough to find the balance with the number of attacking players we have, I agree with him here, this will be a big challenge and I think any late moves in the transfer market will look to address this imbalance. As Arsene closes 'if we can add one or two more players then we will do it', so I will be surprised if nothing happens in the next few days.