Monday 28 September 2009

Luck, profits and balance needed

I can't be arsed to write a match report for the Fulham game. I though it would be wise to concentrate on analysing the interesting bits, rather than reproducing yet another description of a match that has been described many times elsewhere. So a 1-0 win, exactly the kind of juice we need, the slight problem I had with it was it was not a convincing grinding championship winning 1-0 win, it was more of a flukey riding one's luck 1-0.

Mannone had a stormer, there's no doubt about that, I have not been convinced by him in the past but against Fulham he showed real ability. The defense played pretty well, with Gallas and Vermaelen having good games. I think our main problem is that our defense does not get enough help from the rest of the team and this is something that was a big problem last year, as well as the year before that.

Fulham were always going to press and harry us, they were always going to keep the tempo high and try to rush into errors. By and large it worked, and frankly that is a bit of a concern because better teams than Fulham will do the same later in the season. Song is the one guy who helps out the back four, but one man is not enough. Cesc is a ball player, he's physically small and will never be a defensive rock, I would never expect to do that much but he could still do a bit more than he did against Fulham.

Diaby is an enigma, the boy blows hot and cold, more frequently cold. The frustrating thing with him is that he has so much ability, he can do the most amazing things, he can beat men at ease, he can score blinding goals, he can defend well when he chooses too. The problem is that he appears to have no natural instinct for where he should be and he sometimes lacks a direction, how much of this is down to the player and how much down to what he is told I do not know. What I do know is that he doesn't make as much of his ability as he should. His pace, strength, technique and skill are as good as Vieira in his prime, it's just what's between the ears that is lacking.

So when you combine a light three man midfield with only really Song getting stuck in with a three man forward line then you have a bit of a recipe for being overwhelmed in midfield. The combination and balance just didn't seem right to me, I would be interested to know what everyone else thought. It fits with our collapse at City, I just don't think we have the players to defend a lead, we can only try to score more, we cannot close up shop and hold onto a one goal lead if we wan't to. For this reason I cannot see us winning the league this year.

We have quite a few options in this area, it's a great shame that Denilson is out for two months as he provides an understated efficiency that contrasts with Diaby's erratic showmanship. Rosicky might me a good option as a wide man in the front three, Ramsey might deserve a few more starts in the midfield. Another problem with the 4-3-3 is that it does not get the best out of Bendtner, he is at home in the middle and is wasted out in wider areas. I just don't think we quite have the right balance of players in the squad, Arsene has tried to get around this by changing the formation, but this hasn't got rid of the original problem. We just don't have enough hard all round combative midfielders in the squad.

Meanwhile the club's holding company has reported record profits. The full report can be seen here at The return to fitness of the housing market which has resulted in more Highbury Square sales, however a large reason for the record profit and turnover has been the team's success. Runs in the CL and the FA cup combined with the increased gate receipts from a bigger more corporate stadium have seen the money flow in. If Arsene feels he needs some new players in January then these impressive financial results mean that money will not be a problem.

Saturday 26 September 2009

Pondering preview

Well, it's been a pretty hectic few weeks, the fixtures have been coming pretty thick and fast, whole there certainly hasn't been a lack of controversy. I have been away on holiday in France so have been catching up with things since my return, luckily or maybe not so luckily i did see our defeat to Man City while abroad and the utterly pathetic behaviour of Emmanuel Adebayor, what an arrogant fool this man is, everything that has gone on since has shown what a fantastic move it was to get rid of this greedy waste of space.

Man City were strong at home last year and with their reinforcements not many sides are going to go there are get results, in this context our performance wasn't awful by any means, probably whoever got that key second goal at 1-1 was going to go on to enjoy a lot of chances on the break, we just got stung when the game was reaching breaking point. Adebayor's stamp was vindictive and cowardly, arguably he deserves a far longer ban than the three matches for this, in rugby he may well have got months for being so malicious.

The celebration run to our section of supporters was beneath contempt. The reaction since from various players including RVP shows quite clearly that Adebayor was a malignant presence in our dressing room, the guy is a chump, a self obsessed greedy half wit who was dragging our morale to rock bottom, a man who believed he deserved love whatever lack of respect he showed to the fans, a man who put minimal effort into a lot of big games just because he was more obsessed with his own ego. The man is a fool and his behaviour has reinforced what I have suspected about him for a long time, he will always be trouble, things may look rosy for him at City now but it is only a matter of time before his true colours show, leopards cannot change their spots.

Onto more positive things, I saw Gael Clichy give a very composed interview to the beeb's Martin Keown on footy focus today, his maturity and composure is impressive and is such a contrast to the bloated primadonna like self indulgence of others. The team may not be quite right yet in terms of balance, experience and defensive strength, but I don't think many people would argue that we look more together as a unit both in terms of performance and spirit thus far. The squad is stronger, we have more options, while despite losing two games, the manner of these defeats has not concerned me as much as the manner of some of our defeats early last season.

Fulham will be a big test, as many of us have noticed the three points against the small teams is just as important as three points against the big boys, after all Manure have won the league on this basis alone in recent years despite a poor record against the top clubs in several championship seasons. Fulham will press and harry us high up the pitch, this will make it vital that we defend solidly and do not concede the first goal, we will need to maintain our composure and wear them down with patient football. It will be a decent test of our defense, we will have to defend set pieces well and if we can take a win at the cottage then four wins from six is not a bad start at all. I would be tempted to start the solid Szczesny in goal, I have never been convinced by Mannone, while the midfield pick will be tricky, given the importance of retaining possession i would be keen to see the cunning of both Rosicky and Arshavin from the start. Come on you Gunners.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

West Brom pushed aside

The youngsters lined up as follows: Szczesny, Gilbert, Senderos, Silvestre, Gibbs, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Traore, Sunu, Watt. Of note the absence of Fran Merida appeared strange, injury must have been the cause of this after his fine pre season form. The opposition were West Brom who have been on fine form of late, beating Boro 5-0 at the weekend and their starting eleven contained a lot of experienced talent. It was more of a 4-4-2 formation, with Coquelin holding, Ramsey alongside him, with Wilshere and Traore on the flanks.

In truth we we lucky not to be behind after the first quarter, Szczesny forced into a couple of fine saves, a solid keeper who seems to exude self belief. We did have some good chances at the other end as well, Watt finding a post with a poked effort from a Wilshere cross. Coquelin looked handy, putting in a few very decent tackles as he tried to halt the West Brom flow. Wilshere threatened with his pace and tricks, showing his ability to open up defences on his own with one great dribble and shot that flew just wide. We were handed a big advantage when Thomas was given a straight red for an elbow he threw at Wilshere. The game bustled towards half time, a penalty claim came and went, while Mikel Silvestre showed just why he is not on view on a more regular basis at the Emirates.

The second half began in a rather bitty manner, with Arsenal struggling to make the extra man count. Sunu was replaced by Vela and Coqeulin by Randall, the former added a bit of pace to our attacks. The atmosphere built slowly, a half chance here and there while the Baggies still carried a threat on the break, Mulumbu showed some talent having replaced Cox midway through the half. In the end the break came when Sanchez Watt's predatory instinct was rewarded after a great Kiely save from an excellent low Vela shot. Vela then capitalised on Randall's excellent chip which bounced back off the bar to leave a relatively simple finish. At the other end another excellent chance for West Brom went begging as Wood shot tamely wide.

Overall the game was turned by that moment of stupidity from Thomas. West Brom's poor finishing combined with Szczesny's excellence kept the sheet clean for our defence, while the game gradually swung in our favour as that extra man counted. Vela added a bit of spice to the attack, while Wilshere was a constant menace. It is amazing just how many talented youngsters we have at our disposal thanks to Arsene's attention to the youth policy, although few of them will make it as first team regulars, nights like this are great for a lot of supporters who cannot get tickets for other matches, while the experience gained by a few of them could prove invaluable in the long term. Well done Arsene and the lads, let's keep our fingers crossed for another home tie in the next round.

Saturday 19 September 2009

Easy 4 the Gunners in the Sun

The warm september sun bore down in Islington this afternoon, and the 59 odd thousand Gooners in the Emirates were treated to something of an exhibition of football from an Arsenal team that looked to have recovered well from the trials of a mid-week game away in Belgium.

Vito Mannone retained his place in goal as Almunia remained in the sick bay, Rosicky dropped to the bench, Eboue came in to the advanced wide right position in the 4-3-3 alongside RVP and Eduardo, with Diaby/Cesc/Song in midfield. I said on Friday that i wanted to see an improvement from Arsenal, and Clichy and Cesc in particular. And 2 out of 3 was not a bad return by any means.

However, I will start briefly with the negatives, which for me was the somewhat lacklustre 90 mins put it by our captain Cesc Fabregas. I don't want to dwell on it on an afternoon when we won 4-0, but I was unimpressed, again, by the lack of workrate from Cesc. I think you could count the number of tackles and headers he won on one hand. Yes, he is a nice player in possession and scored a goal, but he is no Rosicky.

Anyway, moving on to the game itself, the first 45 mins was a slow builder. A lot of toil and possession but a shortage of clear chances. Clichy played with composure down the left, Diaby meandered around a bit, RVP and Eduardo looked productive, and the Eboue tried the worst Hand-of-God impression I have ever seen when he could not quite reach a good cross from Eduardo. It was truly embarrassing.

Thankfully, man of the match Thomas Vermaelen trotted up for a corner about 10 minutes later and thundered the ball into the back of the net. He scored an absolute belter in the second half with his left foot. In fact, it was so good that I assumed RVP had hit it at first. Plus this guy was excellent defensively all match. He attacks the ball in the air, heads it with ease, is good on the deck, looks quick to recover from any minor mistakes he makes. He looks proper.

So 1-0 at half time and in theory in the game was still in the balance. Wigan had done very little indeed, but there is always the feeling that this Arsenal side will concede, so we needed a bright start to the second half.

In some ways we got it, but the second goal took a bit more time that I would have liked. However, when Vermaelen continued to join the attack and drifted to the edge of the box, I had no idea that he was about to unleash the ball into the top left corner. He is our top scorer this season and has been a rock at the back so far.

The third goal was an Eduardo show. He volleyed against the post, the rebound worked back into the box and eventually fell to his right foot, but Eboue got a good touch on the shot to claim the goal, but Eduardo deserves a lot of credit. The 4th came late on to add a nice gloss, a good cross from Bennndtner squeezed in by Cesc. Alex Song also deserves a mention after a good second half, Clichy was much improved, and Rosicky looked a class act again in his 25 min appearance as a sub.

So an easy three points in the sun for the Gooners, and 9 points from 5 games now begins to move us back in the right direction. This was a nice one and hopefully we can build on it. There is a lot of potential in this team and we are now beginning to play some football AND get the results. Sometimes.

Friday 18 September 2009

Wigan Preview

Tomorrow afternoon's game at the Emirates against Wigan should, on paper, be a stroll in the park if Arsenal turn up mentally and physically prepared. However, its been a funny start to the season so far and things are rarely as predictable as we would like them to be.

Over recent years, Arsenal have had a habit of drawing games at home that we should really win 95% of the time. You can never expect a perfect record at home, but those draws mean a lot of dropped points over the course of the season.

Almunia and RVP are tipped to be available again for the match against Wigan and I would expect them both to start. Since Arshavin is injured, then the tasty prospect arises that Wenger might play Eduardo, Bennnndtner and RVP from the off. However, I would be surprised if Wenger does that and the mystery that is Abou Diaby is almost certain to play in that advanced role.

I would also like to see a better performance from Cesc and Clichy tomorrow than was provided to the moule-frite brigade on Wednesday. Both had poor games, by their standards, but but are extraordinarily talented footballers and we need them to get back on track.

Clichy could certainly do with more protection from the midfield, where Abou Diaby often leaves him very exposed, but Gael's over eagerness to nick the ball from the toes of his opposite man sometimes means he dives in to tackle, misses, and gives their winger a clear run in. Its an odd one because Gael has the pace to stick with anyone so doesn't need to dive in. Instead, it seems his ambition to have a stormer means that mistakes can result. Unfortunately for the team though, we look defensively weak down the left side at the moment.

Talking of world class players, there is a clip from Ajax on Youtube where the one and only Dennis Bergkamp scores a magnificent goal in some kick-a-round game. Watching the clip brings a shiver down the spine just to remember how good a player Dennis was. Indeed, he still is.

We will always miss a player of the quality that Bergkamp possessed, but there are a couple of players in the current team who have the potential to go to that level. After the trials of the last two games in Manchester, and the choas of Wednesday in Belgium, it would be nice to think that Cesc Fabregas will use a nice afternoon against Wigan to remind the world just how good he is.

Come on you Gunners.

Thursday 17 September 2009

The Liege Stadium Mystery

Well, where to start on the shambolic performance last night against Standard Liege? Was that 3-points and move on? Or a disastrous reflection of the weaknesses of our squad?

I'm not sure on the answer just yet, but it really was an exercise in bizarre football. The first 5 minutes was just a shocker. No complaints about their first goal - a stupid mistake by Eduardo and then a good finish. However, I wouldn't have given the penalty - at the time it looked like no contact was made and despite countless replays, I still couldn't see it. Still, I guess we had it coming after Eduardo's dubious penalty against Celtic.

That said, I almost broke the TV at half time listening to Jamie Rednapp's 'punditry'. The man who never won anything reckoned that it was a stonewall penalty and that he had no doubts whatsoever. For once, I found myself warming to John Collins, who clearly thinks Rednapp is a prick, and Graeme Souness, who thought Arsenal would go on and win second half.

I really don't know why Sky employ Jamie Rednapp. He played for Bournemouth (for his dad), Liverpool (where he won the League Cup in 1995), Spurs (nuff said), and Southampton (for his dad). He somehow managed 17 caps for England, but thats it.

Now, I am not saying that John Collins is a legend, but he won the French league with Monaco, played in a semi-final of the Champions League for them, and has made a start at being a professional manager for Hibs. Plus, he doesn't just shoot his mouth off every five seconds and actually has something interesting to say.

Graeme Souness is a legend. And I bet he would love to smash Jamie Rednapp's face in. Because Graeme thinks he is a cunt.

Anyway, I digress.

I sat dumb-founded through most of the first half, wandering just what Abou Diaby and Gael Clichy were doing. We could not string two passes together. Eventually, after about 25 minutes, we had a shot at their goal. Unfortunately, the player who took it was Diaby with his left foot and it was a weak, feeble effort that missed by miles.

However, we seemed to grow a bit more confidence as the half drew on, Tomas Rosicky looked better and better and eventually Diaby slotted a nice ball to Bennnnnndnter, who actually had made a run towards goal for a change, and finished beautifully. 2-1 at half time and we looked all right. I have already told you about half time.

The second half was a continuation of the same. Cesc continued to play as if he was stuck in treacle, Clichy continued to dive in and miss the ball, but Diaby looked less shite and most of the good stuff we did continued to come from Rosicky.

I don't really remember us having many shots before we scored the equaliser. A couple of lame long rangers from Cesc was about it. But we had tons of possession. That said, Eboue had to make an outrageous clearance virtually a yard out of the goal to stop Liege going 3-1 up. It was about the best thing he did all night.

And then is all happened in the last 10 minutes. Our equaliser was a shocker. Song and Vermaelen might have been offside, Song definitely hand-balled it, but the goal stood. Absolutely shocking from the ref and linesman.

And before the dust had even settled, we almost scored again from a corner, an outrageous back-heel by Vermaelen, and then we did score from a corner when Eduardo kneed it in in a shambolic goal mouth scramble.

So, 3 points it was. I still don't know what to make of it.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Liege Preview

Pre-match posts are almost pointless given that we all kind of expect to beat Liege tonight, we know very little about our opposition, and the overriding feeling is that things are still a bit low in the Arsenal camp following consequtive defeats in Manchester.

Objectively, the team news is not good. Almunia, RVP, Denilson, Arshavin, Nasri, Walcott, Fabianski, Djourou, Vela are all out. Its not great to go into a Champs League away game with a third choice keeper playing, but otherwise we have enough strength in the squad to find a decent XI. It would seem nailed-on that Bennnnnndtner and Eduardo will play up front, maybe with Diaby, or maybe we revert back to 4-4-2. I am frankly surprised that Rosicky made the trip but then I guess we are down to the bare bones.

More subjectively, the Belgian league is shite and Standard Liege are now a pale imitation of the team that pushed Liverpool close in the qualifiers last year. But as I said, that simply the view of an optimist who thinks we should be too good on the night for the moule-frite brigade.

The availability of Eboue to play wide right, perhaps Diaby on the left, with Cesc and Song in the middle, would pose a nice return to a four man midfield. However, I would not be surprised to see us lining up with a 5 man midfield tonight, maybe with Bennnndtner dropping to a wing, in the usual half-arsed somewhat chaotic approach that we take to European away leags.

Chelsea and ManUre squeezed narrow victories last night in games that they barely deserved to win. It would be nice to think that Arsenal can do the same tonight. That said, I think a 3-3 thriller is more likely with our lot.

Come on you Gunners!

Tuesday 15 September 2009

The winning attitude

As the dust begins to settle on the events over the weekend at the Eastlands, its fitting to remind ourselves just how fickle the game of football is.

Yesterday's arch villain, Eduardo, is a forgiven man and I have not seen an ounce in this mornings papers to suggest that UEFA was not correct to over turn the two match ban. Yet, if that is right, then 99% of the press was wrong to criticise Eduardo in the first place. But lets not let consistency get in the way of a good story.

And this week's story is all about Adebayor. Still, I guess he deserves it. And that seems to be the fuel that is feeding this one. Man Citeh have managed in impressive speed to lose their status as the well liked counsins to ManUre, who struggling to live in the shadows of the United machine. Everyone liken to say that real Mancs support Citeh. Yet, £250m quid later, they have become public enemy number one, hated by Arsenal fans, Aston Villa, Everton, not to mention United. And that gives a lot of disgruntled fans and a lot of journalists all the ammunition they need.

I would rather Arsenal finished 6th this year than become like Citeh.

And that leads me to the point of this little wandering amble. And that is we need to see how things pan out a bit more before making any judgments on this team, transfers etc.

Arsenal have lost 2 of their first 4 games and having played some nice football, there are some cracks showing. 6 points from 4 games is not that good, but its not terrible considering we have played 3 away games. What we need to do is try to only lose 2 or 3 more times before Christmas, which is very do-able.

Plus, we haven't drawn any games yet, which seems slightly odd, but then few Premiership games seem to be draws at the moment, which is perhaps an indication of the gung-ho attitude of the early season.

The temptation to settle for draws can be very strong, but ManUre have shown time and time again that losing doesn't matter in the long run, so long as you win more games than your rivals. Its an attitude to draw games that kills you. The teams that win twenty to twenty-five games a season will get the points to challenge at the top of the table. Whereas if you manage 15 draws in a season, unless you are unbeaten then mid-table is where you'll be.

And that is why we should remain positive. Yes, we lost like idiots at Old Trafford and at Eastlands, but we went down fighting and looking to take 3 points on each occasion. This Arsenal team remains in transition, and we still have not seen what it will look like with a fit Rosicky, Walcott and Arshavin. But it smells of goals, goals, goals......

Sunday 13 September 2009

Naive Arsenal pay the price

The last twenty minutes against Man City at the Eastlands was a terrible repeat episode of what we perhaps had too quickly thought was last season's weaknesses. Whilst I strongly applaud the sensible comments that are doing the rounds on the decent blogs this Sunday, there is no escaping the fact that shipping 4 goals against Man City is a shite result, albeit coming from a performance that was better than the scoreline might have suggested.

However, I cannot help thinking today that despite the change in formation to 4-3-3 this season, there are certain key factors that are letting us down. I make no particular attempt to point the finger of blame, but Abou Diaby remains a mystery of a player to me and a real Albatross around our necks. I simply don't think that Diaby deserves the number of chances he is getting and can't imagine that he would make it into any other squads in the top 6 teams. Gael Clichy and Manuel Almunia also continue to look error prone this season, whilst Sagna is also not yet back to his best. But i don't think wholesale changes in personnel are required. The whole team just needs to work harder. We let Adebayor make his point yesterday.

Bendntner is wasted on the wing, our midfield plays at a pedestrian pace most of the time and we lack an air of professionalism to close matches out that we should win. I find it disappointing that the recognised mercenaries of Citeh's ranks play with determination and passion that we cannot muster.

That said, i think we have played well enough this season to think that zero points from 2 matches in Manchester was harsh on us. But having got back into the game at 1-1 yesterday, my sense is that we naively pushed on for the winner too quickly, whereas we had some more time and things might have developed for us. Just as ManUre had to do very little to get the winner against us at Old Trafford. Instead, we flooded forwards against Citeh and got caught. Its the sort of gift that we do not receive very often and teams know better than to over-commit against us. We really need to stop being so generous.

Its a bad two results at Manchester, but we shouldn't overeact at that this stage. But next week's games now take on a new light. We need to put this episode behind us and get back on with it against Wigan.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Pre city thoughts

The last post on the Kakuta story and the general topic of the transfer of young players provoked a lot of good banter, thank you one and all. It is clearly one very complex area and it seems that most people agree that blanket bans on the transfer of young players is not a clever way to solve the problem. As always FIFA and UEFA are rushing to bring in new rules and regulations before engaging their small brains, not good for football me thinks. Arsene has had some sensible things to say:

"If you have a child who is a good musician, what is your first reaction? It is to put it into a good music school, not in an average one, so why should that not happen in football?"

Spot on, this is a point I made as well, if you stop the best youngsters getting the best coaching and all round training then you will not be improving football. It is strange that FIFA want to introduce this blanket ban when they openly allow the likes of Madrid, the Milans and Barca to tap up adults who are under contract in clear contravention of rules that already exist. FIFA need to work out which rules they actually want to bother enforcing or are they just more concerned by keeping certain people happy?

The only bad news on top of the Djourou blow is that Andrei Arshavin is out for a week or so after the damn Russians played him when not fully fit. I was just having a quick think about points in the league and winning the title, it is clear that we'll need at least two points in three to be near the action, this means that losing a game means we need to win the next two. Overall our start of six points from three games is decent, especially given the three points away to Everton and the performances so far. It's just annoying we don't have nine as we should have beaten the Mancs, if it wasn't for Mike Dean we might well have had the full compliment.

Not wanting to gaze too far into the distance, we have City away, then Wigan at home, then Fulham away. Realistically we need to pick up a minimum of six points from these three games to keep things rolling along. Gareth Barry is a very handy player, he put in yet another solid performance for England in the week without getting that much recognition, and it will be important that we don't let him dictate things on Saturday, we'll need our midfield and strikers to hassle him and give him no time or space with which to run the show. Ireland is another one to watch, his late runs from midfield can be tricky to defend against. Hopefully Diaby, Denilson and Fabregas will start in the midfield, while I would be keen to see Eduardo get a start, he is looking rather sharp. Come on you Gunners.

Tuesday 8 September 2009

A hypocritical rethink - Kakuta and slavery

I am no Chelsea fan, also the full facts are not yet out, but having collected my thoughts it does appear that they may have been rather harshly treated by FIFA. Tapping up adult players under contract is something that should be punished severely, but time and time again UEFA and FIFA have ignored the big Spanish and Italian clubs of doing this, what Chelsea have been banned for this time around is rather different. The Kakuta sage will run and run, Platini always seems to have an opinion where English clubs are concerned and he thinks 'child trafficking' has been going on. The reality is a lot more complex than this FIFA and UEFA spin.

There are plans afoot to ban the movement of under-18 players entirely. I have to say that as often is the case with FIFA and UEFA new rules rushed through in a short sighted and politically motivated manner have the potential to do a lot more harm than good. Martin Samuel argues as much in this excellent article, the case of ASPTT Marsielle is a great example of this bizarre new idea, blanket rules could be very bad for football as a whole.

After all if no one under the age of 18 could move clubs then everyone would continue to play for their local village sides if this was taken to an extreme, the best kids would not get better coaching and would not get to play against the better kids, it would result in an awful system in which talent would perish. Surely kids should be able to move to better clubs that allow them to develop? Just look at the UK rule which means that kids cannot join clubs outside of their 'catchment zone', it means if you are unlucky enough to live a good distance from a decent club then you will be punished and this system has led to the bigger clubs going abroad more often than they otherwise may have done.

If under 18 players had to stay with the same club until they were eighteen, then surely this would give the clubs a massive amount of power over the players, they could effectively enslave them, there would be no incentive to treat them well, is this really in the interests of the young players. It must be remembered that Gael Kakuta and his family have done very well for themselves thus far, they now live in a nice bit of England, not a sh*t hole in France, they are now financially more sorted and he has been given an opportunity to play with some great players in order to develop his talents.

I am no Chelsea fan, but this rush to persecute seems a tad foolish to me. The french pre contract which is signed for players when they are under the age of 16 cannot count legally, and it appears that FIFA's judgement must assume that it does, is something fishy going on here? There is already a loophole that allows 16 and 17 year olds to move as free agents in the EU, and apparently this may be closed fairly soon. I do think that rules are needed to clamp down on just how much can be offered to young players and their families to encourage them to move at so young an age.

If FIFA and UEFA have their way then young players will be tied to their first club, with this system there is a massive potential for dodgy agents and clubs to take advantage by ensnaring youngsters in a completely legal manner and then cashing in when they try to move away. This new system would have much more of a capacity for enslaving children, the current one certainly does not enslave, it may well lead to clubs being unrewarded for their youth products, but these young players are the complete opposite of slaves. A better way to go would be to ensure that the compensation for poaching young talent is much fairer and that the finances of such deals are properly regulated, I am very sure that restricting the movement of young players in such blanket fashion will not be good for either the young players or the game of football.

Monday 7 September 2009

Good taste in chanting? Never going to happen.

The recent success of the informal campaign to bring the deeply unpleasant nature of Man United's fans chanting against Arsene Wenger to the wider attention of the public is to be applauded. Led by Arseblogger, the issue made it to the wider press last week, at long last, and led to widespread condemnation against Man United, and also against Amazon and Play whose website carried a CD including a no-doubt charming rendition of the "Sit Down You Peadophile" chant.

The sustained level of abuse directed at Wenger by United fans for singing that chant for around the last 10 years probably puts the incident in a minority of cases. Wenger is in that unusual position, along with Ferguson, of having enjoyed a long career in the Premierleague. Whereas the same cannot (yet) be said of Phil Brown.

However, I have no doubt that Phil Brown, given his nature, will also be subjected to regular abuse by opponents fans. But is that abuse as "appalling" as the abuse given to Wenger? Maybe it is? Maybe not. I guess it will depend on what is said. But I think the question poses something of a problem for those who want to see anything wider done by the FA, or even the Police, about the treatment that United fans give Wenger.

The Man United chant against Wenger is factually incorrect and rude to an extreme degree. It is abusive chanting in the proper sense of the word "abuse". However, it is not racist, homophobic, sexist or any of the other trigger events that get the police interested under discrimination or race relations legislation.

Instead, the police have to look at the Football (Offences) Act 1991, section 3 of which makes it an offence to:

"(1) ......engage or take part in chanting of an indecent or racialist nature at a designated football match.
(2) For this purpose—
(a) “chanting” means the repeated uttering of any words or sounds [(whether alone or in concert with one or more others)] ; and
(b) “of a racialist nature” means consisting of or including matter which is threatening, abusive or insulting to a person by reason of his colour, race, nationality (including citizenship) or ethnic or national origins."

Now, whilst the Police were able to prosecute several Spurs fans for racist chanting against Sol Campbell last season, the Man United chant could only fall within the area of "indecent chanting".

Its a typically vague and somehow appropriately English notion to describe the offence as "indecency", which is a subjective test and hard to quantify.

However, I am sure that there are chants at the Emirates almost every match which could be described as "indecent" - it perhaps depends on your expectations of the atmosphere, your sense of humour and the thickness of your skin. I also say this against the background that the general level of Arsenal fans behaviour is impeccable compared to most other grounds.

However, there can be no doubt that chants occur at the Emirates that are offensive towards Jews, for instance, which would also potentially fall within the racist or indecent offense chanting described above.

Now, my question is, what are we to do about that? And where should we draw the line?

Clearly, you cannot defend anti-Jewish chanting. It is abusive and I would urge all Arsenal fans not to join in and to do their best to stamp it out. However, to take a slightly more extreme example at the other end of the sclale of what I am talking about, there are quite a lot of people who really don't like referees. I mean, really, really, don't like referees, to the extent that 99% of the time the referee is a disgrace for not having perfect vision and getting every decision correct. And those sorts of people call the referee lots of very naughty and offensive words, as loudly and as often as they can.

Now, if you are going to be puritan about it, chanting that Graham Poll is a fucking arsehole over and over again is clearly offensive and possibly indecent. It may also be factually incorrect.

Similarly, the repetitive suggestion that Scousers are all jobless scroungers who should sign on the dole, with a pen, in their hand, might be thought as being less offensive, and probably not indecent, but gets closer to an insult by reason of someone's origin. And we all know how much Scousers like to whinge (just ask Boris Johnson).

So its not inconceivable that Arsenal fans could end up in the dock for signing the Spurs chants (and rightly so). But the charmers at the FA could also lead a campaign to punish any fans who chant offense about the ref, which is an entirely different prospect. Or the whinge-ridden scousers could use the Wenger situation as a platform for their own campaign to clampdown on the "sign-on" chant.

And if that sounds unbelievable, then the recent experiences of the Eduardo 'divegate' scandal should show that anyone who has expectations of universal fairness and consistency within the system will be sorely disappointed.

I guess the point is that if the United chant was an isolated incident, its hard to say the Man United chant against Wenger goes beyond what might be expected at a football match. What makes it different, in my book, was its sustained nature over many years and it was great news that something will be done about it. But its not easy to see where the lines should be drawn for "indecent" chanting and these things might well be better dealt with along these informal lines, using pressure via the media, rather than police involvement.

Sunday 6 September 2009

Djourou shocker, honest Wayne and BBC inadequacy

The bad news about Johan Djourou's knee means that he is going to be out of action for around 6 months. I suspect the problem with Johan's knee is an osteochondral defect, I shall try to explain this to those of you without the medical knowledge. An osteochondral defect means an area where the smooth joint lining, the cartilage, has been damaged, this is different to the meniscus of the knee which is the cup shaped bits which are made of fibrocartilage.
If Johan had torn his meniscus then one would expect him to have it tidied up with key hole surgery and he'd be back relatively quickly. Either he is having a repair to his meniscus which would take a lot longer to get back to football from, or he has an area of damaged cartilage, an osteochondral defect. There are different treatments for osteochondral defects and none of them are perfect by any means. One can try to regrow a sort of cartilage in the hole by 'microfracture' treatment, one can transplant cartilage from the patient or from elsewhere, plus there are some emerging stem cell treatments. All require a substantial period of rehabilitation to allow the new cartilage to bed down as it were. Good luck and a speedy recovery Johan, it's a shame to lose such a talented young player when he was showing such signs of developing into a very solid centre back.
Who watched Wayne 'honest' Rooney win the penalty for England against Slovenia last night? The media's silence since speaks volume for the inconsistent way in which they deal with these kind of incidents. Rooney and the defender yanked at each other's shirts, Rooney then kicked the defender, not only that but Rooney appealed for a penalty when he clearly knew that he had done more fouling then being fouled, the referee obliged. Rooney quite clearly and dishonestly conned the referee, could this be cheating? Could it heck. Mr Bendtner scored a cracker for Denmark yesterday and for me he looks like a natural central striker, playing him wide is not really making the best use of his abilities is it?
The BBC have responded to a number of our complaints about the rude and abrupt manner of Alan Green as he shouted and cut off a polite and reasonable caller the other day who had the great audacity to suggest that Wayne Rooney may have dived:
"Thanks for your e-mail.I understand that you were unhappy with the way that Alan Green dealt with a caller to 6-0-6 on BBC Radio 5 Live on Saturday 29th August after the Manchester United v Arsenal match.The caller was comparing Eduardo's alleged 'dive' during the Celtic game earlier in the week to the challenge that led to Wayne Rooney's penalty. The resulting exchange between Alan and the listener was indeed fiery and reflected Alan's passion for the game. Alan is a well respected commentator who is popular with our listeners and is known for his forthright opinions.I am sorry that you felt that on this occasion Alan's manner was abrasive. Many thanks for contacting us. Regards"
I have replied to the BBC indicating that I am quite unhappy with their inadequate response. Alan Green's one way tirade was no 'exchange' and it was not just that I 'felt' it was abrasive, it was downright rude and offensive from a man who is meant to be working for a public sector broadcaster. Alan Green should apologise live on air for his behaviour. I would urge anyone who has received this BBC response to write again to complain about the inadequacy of the response, I would also write to Ofcom to complain about the incident as if enough people write they shall be obliged to act.

Saturday 5 September 2009

Round up as boring weekend commences

I have to start with the noble John Terry's words of great wisdom this morning, he has felt the need to let everyone know what he thinks about Eduardo:

"Diving is something the England lads don't do. Sometimes we're too honest. Even in the Premier League, we see the English lads get a bit of contact and try to stay on their feet and score from the chance. The foreign mentality coming in is any little clip, you go tumbling over because of the speed of the game nowadays."

His words hardly need comment, they embarrass themselves with their rank stupidity. Just remember this is coming from a man who has recently shown his great loyalty to Chelsea by blackmailing them for more money by pimping himself for a move to City, what loyalty, what class. In fact I've seen cans of cider with more decorum and class that JT. The man is the epitomy of the scum that resides in the heart of chav England. This kind of mindless moron should be someone our nation despises, not idolises, he was clearly brought up by a rather classy lady himself. Using JT as role model is about as cunning as cleaning one's ears out with a shot gun, he has captained Chelsea through some of the most appallingly undisciplined acts of any club in the modern era.

"When you see the opponents' team-sheet you know who you've got to be careful with but there's nobody in this England squad like that."

Owen, Gerrard, Rooney, Lampard, Cole (times two), just to name but a few, these chaps have never dived routinely have they? JT also claims that Didier Drogba has stopped all his gamesmanship, I'll believe that when I see it last for more than two weeks, or has he simpy stopped diving and converted it into a JT like barracking of officials? How noble. Not all the money in the world could buy JT a brain, how very unfortunate.

My heart does bleed for Chelsea as regards their potential transfer ban. They have always behaved morally as a club, they have never thrown around money in an unethical way, they have never tapped up players before in a blatant manner, they have also never paid people off to keep quiet about their unethical and illegal dealings. The parallels to the Eduardo case are just not there, the Mirror make this point today. A club that looks to Peter Kenyon for moral leadership was always going to find itself up shit creek without a paddle. Chelsea may in yet more trouble over an 11 year old this time.

Elsewhere Fabio Capello has been praising our Academy system, some of the fruits of this will be harvested in the next few years, Jack Wilshere being one of them. Aaron Ramsey's goal against Italy's under 21s is well worth a peek, while young centre back Kyle Bartley has been made reserve team captain for the season. The club have sensibly appealed the Eduardo 'decision' and they should have a very strong case given the video evidence and the fact that UEFA are singling him out in a completely unfair manner. Even Sir Alex Ferguson agrees on the inconsistency point. Finally Amazon have seen that even free speech has its limits.

ps Arseblogger has an interesting story this morning about the delightful Fat Willy, aka Will Robinson of WR 'talent', a man who spoke of the delightful manu chant about paedophiles standing up:

"This is the first I've heard about it and I'm surprised. There is nothing defamatory. That track you are talking about is not directed at anybody."

It's not directed at anybody is it Will? My words 'disingenuous' fat c*nt are also not directed at anyone.

Thursday 3 September 2009

Manure fans reveal their cretinous nature

Reading Arseblogger this morning I was pleasantly encouraged that the media have finally (finally finally) started to talk about the disgraceful abuse that has been dished out to Arsene Wenger ar Old Trafford for over a decade now. This Guardian piece is particularly spot on, 'chanting cretins' sums it up nicely. These moronic chants are well below anyone's belt line and should be stopped. It would help if certain high profile people would speak out against it a bit more forcefully. Any fans singing Munich songs in response should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves, sinking to the level of these idiots is not big or clever. are still selling a selection of rather unimaginative Manure chants by 'Fat Willy', the offensive one that Arsene is subjected to is no4 there, the customer reviews say it all, while it is pretty poor from Amazon that they are refusing to withdraw this item all in the name of 'free speech'. have withdrawn the rather pathetic item from their online shop. In my mind there is no doubt that Manchester United should do more. It is also worth bearing in mind the chants that we sing about various opposition players, for example there is an Ashley Cole song that I do not sing for this particular reason, it is well below the belt, we should all try to do our own little bit to stamp out certain things in football and every little helps.

Elsewhere Diaby has continued his run of bad luck by injuring the French goalkeeper in training. Patrick Barclay talks a lot of sense on the Eduardo situation in the Telegraph:

"It is a cowardly judgment that was made simply to appease the English press. Uefa will find it very difficult to show any consistency going forward."

Indeed, it is completely stupid work from UEFA, they are now damned whatever they do, they have stuffed this one up good and proper. Bendtner and Denilson have both signed new long term deals at the clubs, good news, while Fran Merida appears to be making strides towards starting a few first team games after another fine performance for the reserves in midweek. Graham Poll continues to reinforce his reputation as one of the biggest c*nts around. Wayne Rooney talks of his honesty and how he doesn't dive, I'm surprised he doesn't then move on to talk about his good looks, his pretty and educated wife, and his dislike of older scouse prostitutes.

The big breaking news is that Chelsea have been banned from the transfer market until January 2011 for encouraging a young Lens player to break his contract. This kind of punishment is needed as Chelsea have been caught with their hands in the till several times in the past, and well done to Lens for actually seeing this through rather than taking a pay off like Tottenham did. I am sure Chelsea will appeal as they did when caught with their pants down over tapping up Ashley Cole, the ban is needed though as 70 thousand pound fines mean nothing to them.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

The Scottish FA - meddling self interest

One of our readers has kindly alerted me to some rather interesting information about the Scottish FA and their recent influence in all things UEFA related. As we know the Eduardo decision is a very strange one, it was a borderline dive for one thing, there was some contact and the Celtic keeper did make an uncontrolled lunge for the ball, so to see him banned for two games in the context of much worse dives routinely going completely unpunished is bizarre. Something smells fishy.

Interestingly the last time a player was banned for diving was way back in 2006 and the Scottish FA were heavily embroiled in this as well, what a coincidence. In fact the very same Gordon Smith was pushing for the player to be banned, Mikoluinas of Lithuania was the hunt victim that time. Lithuania were not happy with this punishment and in fact argued that Gary O'Connor should also have been banned for feigning injury in the same game, it appears double standards were applied yet again in the interests of serving the mighty Scottish FA.

The Scottish 'conspiracy' has also been touched upon by Arsene who has hinted that the Scottish FA's power in UEFA was largely the reason why Eduardo was charged for diving. The Scottish FA has also been rather key in the stupid resistance to goal line technology and the expansion of the European Championships to 24 teams. The Scottish FA seem to be out to represent themselves and they appear to have a bit too much power to affect the decision making apparatus in UEFA. How can they be so keen to ban someone in retrospect using video technology directly contradicting the referee's decision at the time, but also their policy is against the use of technology in sport because it takes the human element out of it? Selfish interest appears the name of their game to me.

Whatever the ins and out of the Scottish FA's role in all this malarkey, it is quite clear that politics have no place in these affairs, a disciplinary system should treat everybody the same, the club they play for, their nationality and the media exposure of events should not come into it. Even if takes that Eduardo did dive, there was no contact and it was complete 100% cheating, he should still not be charged because they need to treat everyone the same or charge no one. The video clip above shows one of Ronaldo's blatant dives, each one of these should not get a two match ban and it shouldn't matter where the dive takes place, whether in our outside the box. Any dive should now see a two match ban, wherever it occurs and whoever does the diving, this situation is clearly farcical as things currently stand.

There are clearly malignant things going on inside FIFA, UEFA and the FA, certain people have far too much influence and this is stifling progress for the game. The game of football will never move on into the 21st century unless these vested interests are taken on and crushed, for all of us who want fairness and consistency it appears there is a long way to go before the likes of Blatter, Platini and Smith will embrace proper reform and progress; these hypocritical cretins want an inconsistent system that can be manipulated as they see fit, they simply want to hang onto their own comfortable positions of power.

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Appeal and UEFA idiocy

So UEFA have banned Eduardo for two matches, the club are set to hear the full details by Thursday and will then have three days in which to appeal:

“We have been informed that we will receive a “reasoned decision” from Uefa by Thursday of this week. Once we receive Uefa’s rationale, we will make a decision on the next steps.

We have been deeply frustrated by the perfunctory and apparently arbitrary process that Uefa has followed in this instance. We believe it is imperative that Uefa’s explanation for its decision provides clear and comprehensive standards that will be consistently enforced. It is also critical that Uefa provides specific details of the processes it plans to adopt in reviewing all games under its jurisdiction."

How on earth UEFA can reason this Kangeroo judgement appears almost beyond comprehension. How can they simply start charging people at random because the media start making a bit of noise? This cannot be consistent, it cannot be fair, it is by nature random and haphazardly unfair. As the Telegraph explains there is a bit of inconsistency here as Article 10(1c) which was introduced over three years ago states that:

“for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision or supporting his error of judgment”

This is directly contradicted by another of their random rules:

"Decisions made by the referee on the field of play are final and may not be reviewed by Uefa’s disciplinary bodies.”

If UEFA were to enforce Article 10(1c) consistently then it could result in many bans for every game played as every single act of dishonestly appealing for a throw in or corner could be deemed to break this rule. It is a ludicrous idea.

Arsenal also feel that the video evidence shows quite clearly that there was contact to Eduardo's ankle from the Celtic keeper, something I pointed to at the time. It remains clear that if there is any justice in the world then Eduardo will not be punished, however it appears there is very little justice when football's governing bodies come into it.

Who can forget Van Nistelrooy punching Freddy, who can forget numerous leg breaking tackles that have been ignored, who can forget the ridiculously over the top punishment we have received for various hand bagging incidents against both Chelsea and Manu, and who can forget the FA's trial by video of several Arsenal players for the most inocuous of incidents while the GBH of others has been ignored? Justice never came into these decisions, consistency certainly didn't come into it either, it was a question of a corrupt institution reacting to the blood curdling cries from the moronic media.