Tuesday 31 August 2010

Schwarzer: my final thought

I was never particularly keen for us to sign Mark Schwarzer, not only is he 37 but he is arguably no better than the goalkeeper we already have, Manuel Almunia. The transfer window has closed and we have no new keeper, Manuel Almunia has to be our man.

I didn't watch that much of Fulham last season but I can certainly remember Schwarzer's howler at the Emirates. I also saw him in the World Cup, against Germany he had a shocker for their second goal and against Serbia his fumble cost another goal.

Maybe Schwarzer would have been better, maybe not, opinion is clearly divided on this one. However it is blatantly obvious that there is not a massive amount of difference between the keepers, what is also clear is that Almunia has been judged incredibly harshly for his errors in comparison to Schwarzer. For example I recently read someone trying to blame Almunia for Blackpool almost scoring from a fine left footed cross that led to a header in the first half, ridiculous.

Many times I have posed the question to those who unfairly slag off Almunia as a joke keeper, so name his howlers and specific errors that have cost us goals? It is remarkable how few errors these people can list, it leads me to the conclusion that some people are being a bit unfair and irrational in writing him off. Maybe some of them are reading this article now. He wasn't half bad against Blackburn at the weekend, was he?

Whatever the ins and outs of it, whoever the better keeper is, how about we get behind Manuel Almunia while he plays for Arsenal? How about we judge him by the same standards that we judge other keepers? And you never know, a bit of extra support might just transform his confidence and with it his performances to the next level. Judging by the reception that Manuel got at the Blackpool game, it appears that a lot of Gooner are right behind our keeper.

Deadline day exclusive!

I can exclusively reveal that transfer deadline day is an over hyped turd burger which teases and tantalises, but then invariably fails to deliver. One has two choices. One can either waste a perfectly good day listening to incessant gossip and rumour, and in the process become progressively manic and infuriated. Or one can go and do something completely different, ignore the damn transfer deadline and have a look at the deals that have been done after the deadline has passed.

There are pros and cons to both options. If one has nothing at all to do then I suppose frantically staring at a computer screen with teletext on in the background is an option, there are other options like sitting on the bog for a period or having a snooze. Personally I'd rather do anything else than waste a day getting led up the garden path by various agents and tabloid journalists. The sun is shining and I am shortly off to expose myself to some radiation.

Anyway while we're all thinking of the transfer window I'd just like to quickly point out just how stupid and cretinous having a transfer window is. FIFA's reason for a window is that allegedly without it one club may choose to buy another club's best player/s in mid season to alter the outcome of the league. This reasoning is deeply flawed and misguided at best. If one looks back over recent decades it is incredibly rare for clubs to buy a rivals' player in mid season. And so what if it does happen, why the hell not let it happen? As things currently stand it's not as if the window stops the big and richest clubs buying the best players?

The muppets at FIFA would do better to protect smaller clubs from the circling vultures by actually doing something to stamp out the blatant tapping up of players that the big clubs indulge in. FIFA should gets it's act together and start enforcing its rules so that contracts actually mean something. At the moment it is commonplace for clubs to approach agents and players directly, before they have sought permission from the player's club, whether this be by the use of the media, direct contact or both. We saw this summer that FIFA's own website was used for the very purpose, ie the deliberate unsettling of an under contract player by another club. FIFA are a joke, the transfer window is a poorly thought out concept and it is about time FIFA actually started to enforce some of its rules, fat chance this will happen though.

Monday 30 August 2010

Fat Sam stewed, Pulis the dire and 'Arry kari

Having re-watched the weekend's game I now feel ready to comment on proceedings. The starting eleven was almost as we had predicted, RVP given the lone striking role with Arshavin and Walcott retained in the wide forward roles, Cesc returned alongside Diaby and Song in the middle. We started positively both offensively and defensively, there was a bit of aggression about our defending which is something you need against the likes of Blackburn.

We looked dangerous, Diaby was unlucky with a cracking volley from a tidy short corner, Walcott almost in but just offside. Having said that Blackburn did come close, Cesc cleared off the line from Nelson, Samba headed just over. The goal was very neatly worked, Arshavin fed RVP who slotted in perfectly for the onrushing Theo, a sumptuous finish into the bottom corner made it one nil. The Blackburn equaliser came at a poor time, we looked the stronger and on the verge of a second, some good play from Samba fed El Hadj Diouf down the left wing, Koscielny misjudged things and got caught in two minds, his slightly limp barge wasn't enough, Diouf raced away and squared to his namesake who slotted home. Sagna did appear to be sucked away from his position and towards the ball, explaining why Koscielny was defending in the right back slot.

Pedersen cheated as he loves to, firstly he took one in the midriff while trying to foul one of our players, the referee then pulled things back incorrectly as we broke dangerously, Song was then incorrectly penalised for a clean ball winning challenge on the theatrical Pedersen. RVP twisted his ankle going in for a tackle that he should really have avoided, it will be a couple of weeks or maybe more, ankles are a tad unpredictable. Chamakh replaced the unfortunate Dutchman just after the half hour mark. Blackburn were energised by the equaliser, the game had swung again, we struggled to keep hold of possession but we still carried a threat going forwards, Theo in particular was lively and dangerous.

We started the second half well, winning more loose balls in the midfield and pressing a bit better. The goal didn't take long to come, excellent work from Sagna who squared to Cesc, his shot ricocheted to Arshavin who made things look easy, two one it was and two one it stayed til the end. On the hour Diaby showed some brilliance to release Arshavin, the angle was tough and the ball was blazed over. Then Cesc missed a great chance to release Theo but underhit the pass. Arshavin and Walcott were giving us such great movement and options, Chamakh was also making some good runs.

The slightly rust Cesc was replaced by Tomas Rosicky with twenty to go. Bacary Sagna nipped in well to make a vital interception as the less c*nty Diouf burst through on goal. Walcott hit a rasper just over after a decent one two with Chamakh and then was very unlucky to have a marginally offside goal chalked off. Jack Wilshere replaced the excellent Arshavin with about ten to go. Blackburn huffed, puffed, threw long and punted, but so rarely threatened, a rare shot was blocked by Song in front of Almunia. Near the end they did try a couple of truly comical dives in the penalty box that even the most blinkered of Blackburn fans would have admitted were not the greatest shouts.

The win was thoroughly deserved despite what the bloated Allardyce may have said. There were several encouraging things to take from the game. Obviously Theo's form has been terrific, Andrei Arshavin is definitely finding the groove as well, I also thought that Alex Song and Abou Diaby were an excellent shield for the back four, something we have not had enough of in recent years. On the whole the defence did very well, Blackburn created very little, especially when trailing in the second half. Manuel Almunia was solid and showed what a decent keeper he is, Vermaelen and Koscielny were nicely aggressive and the full backs did well too. It's a good three points to get given Blackburn's home form and an very encouraging result.

Briefly I have to mention a couple of absolutely hilarious things that have been in the news this weekend. Stoke's manager Tony Pulis has written to Arsenal to complain about Arsene's recent comments concerning Stoke's blatant fouling of the opposition goalkeeper. All Arsene said was:

'You cannot say it is football any more. It is more rugby on the goalkeepers than football.....When you see the way Shawcross kicked Heurelho Gomes, how Robert Huth pushed Gomes in the goal, you cannot say that is football anymore.'

Arsene is quite right. Stoke's football is terrible to watch, it is also terrible for the English game, it also includes some rather blatantly overly physical play that is against the rules of the game. Tony Pulis should grow up and start behaving like a man. He should also watch the match video which shows these clear fouls on the opposition goalkeeper, his complaints to Arsenal will inevitably fall on deaf ears, he has no argument, he has no point, he is an embarrassment to even himself. The only fault with Arsene comparing it to rugby is that rugby is meant to be played by gentlemen, Stoke's 'football' is played by a bunch of violent knuckle dragging Neanderthals.

Finally to this brilliant piece of video footage showing 'Arry Redknapp up for who he is, a foul mouthed and extremely bitter individual. His famed sense of humour has gone missing, I think someone dust protest too much:

Saturday 28 August 2010

The start

I am slightly paralysed away from my computer and typing this brief post from a phone with a moribund battery supply. Today's result away to blackburn is exactly the kind you need to grind out if you are to be in contention come the end of the season.

We showed grit, determination and desire. We played far more like a team than we did in many away games last season. The bottom line is we now have seven points from our opening three games and given how tricky two of these. games are, that is a damn good start.

Thursday 26 August 2010

CL draw as fat Sam's cloggers await

Year by year it seems the draws for various competitions become more drawn out as a result of various vacuous pieces of bullsh*t that no one really cares for, the problem is you care about the outcome of the draw so you watch on regardless, getting progressively irate as Michel Platini drones on whilst admiring his plump pomposity in the mirror. Anyway we have Shakhtar Donetsk, Braga and Partizan Belgrade. Nothing disastrous and nothing easy, a fairly standard Champions League draw. The return of Eduardo to north London is of note.

Of the English sides I think Manu have the easiest, while Spurs and Chelsea have comparable draws. The AC Milan, Real Madrid, Ajax, Auxerre group looks tough to me. It's strange how things have changed over the last decade and how we have grown accustomed to things in the Champions League now. Back in the day we really needed a good draw to progress, the draw was a thing of real key importance. We have come so far since then, now whatever is thrown up at us, we know we will qualify if we play to our potential. There seems to be very little point in worrying too much about the teams we are playing as in days of old. Arsene does deserve a lot of credit for having taken our club from being a decent to European side to being one of the best in Europe year in year out. It is easy to get complacent and take too much for granted, I just thought a little reminder of this was worthwhile.

Now to fat Sam and his band of cloggers. Arsene has been stoking the fire ahead of the weekend's game by likening the fat Sam brand of football to rugby. One of the main differences between rugby and fat Sam's football is the fact that rugby is played by gentlemen and fat Sam only employs c*nts to play for him. But seriously Arsene does have a very valid point, the systematic fouling of the keeper that went on last season at Ewood park was completely unacceptable and at least one of Blackburn's goals on that day should not have stood. This clearly happened when Spurs played Stoke last weekend, the referee gave the keeper far too little protection. I have no problem with Blackburn hitting long balls into the box, but the referee has got to properly enforce the rules of the game and this must include protecting the keeper from deliberate attempts to impede and obstruct him.

We'll need to be on the ball and it will be important to press Blackburn high up the pitch, thus keeping them away from our penalty area as much as possible, dropping deep is the worst thing one do against the aerial bombardment. The pressing has clearly been re-emphasised to the players this season, as seen in the Blackpool and Liverpool games to good effect. I'm not quite sure what line up Arsene will go for and if I were manager I'd be struggling to choose the first eleven. The back five picks itself but there are numerous options in midfield and attack. I think Song and Diaby will get the nod due to their size and defensive ability, this may well mean Wilshere has to make way for Cesc. Then up front will Chamakh continue, will RVP return or will both start? Surely Walcott is a definite on the right. Frankly I still don't know and I haven't even mentioned Arshavin and Rosicky. I'm glad I'm not the manager, come on you Gunners.

Barca again, Twitts, Defoe cheats and await 1700

It is no surprise that Barcelona are again trying to sign a player for a pittance of a transfer fee. This time the club concerned is Liverpool and the footballer is Javier Mascherano. Again the miniature Neanderthal freak boy feels the need to comment on things, saying:

“Javier won't play for the club again, I can assure you of that, and I think the Liverpool coach knows that now. Javier's family are unhappy and the pressure of seeing that is making him depressed. Liverpool must act humanely and let him go."

Well, boo hoo, poor old Javier, earning millions a year and having to respect the contract that makes him a very rich man, he chose to sign his Liverpool contract and the dirty little bastard should damn well show it some respect. Spanish football is in big trouble with debt, in fact they make the Premier League's credit card look underused. Despite lower revenues, Spanish clubs' debt is over 3 billion, around a billion more than in England. This means that clubs like Barca are skint, they are therefore trying to sign players on the cheap by deliberately unsettling them and tapping them up, then getting them to go on strike. The problem is that Liverpool are not in a great position to resist, as barring interest from other clubs, they are in massive debt themselves and cannot afford to stick the cheating Argentinian git in the reserves until he cheers up a bit.

There is a lot of fretting about the Squillaci signing, in the Internet age it seems we are developing the concentration threshold of small brain damaged limpets. Maybe the shiny electronic gadgets we have become so accustomed to are not good for out mental health, they certainly encourage the inane and shouting without thinking to a degree. Maybe we are all regressing, we can no longer relax, there is always something buzzing in our ear or flashing in our eyes, silence and calm are no longer tolerated, we now have an incessant desire for something, anything, I think you get the point. Anyway if you can look at this all from the right angle it can be quite amusing, the Schwarzer medicals are a case in point as the amusing Arseblogger remarks.

Not that I watched much of the spuds last night, their win was sadly inevitable against one of the weakest sides in the qualifying competition, but the reaction to Defoe's clear cheating was a great example of the rank hypocrisy shown by so many in the media. Contrast the reaction to Defoe's deliberate handball with Henry's against Ireland, similar incidents, one is greeted by howls of outrage and the other commented upon jokingly. If spurs make such hard work of such a low quality side, they will need a good draw to have any chance of progression. The fact that we are in pot 1 makes a big difference, we know that whatever the draw, we will qualify if we perform well, as a result I am no longer quite as excited by it as I used to be.

I heard that Manuel Almunia has already been blamed in some quarters for whatever happens against Blackburn on Saturday, some people are also trying to blame him for the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, apparently he really should have blocked that water off at the near post. The reserves thrashed Bolton 5-0 last night, there is a report here and pics here. JET impressed yet again, the lad is an absolute beast, while young Chuk Aneke was also on form, he partnered Afobe in attack. With Bendtner out for a while yet, it would be good to see JET get a chance at some point, he adds something a bit different with his unique combination of physicality and dribbling skill. Aneke and Afobe both look excellent prospects. Henri Lansbury was due to be farmed out to Swansea but Frimpong's injury may see this cancelled, it would be nice if Henri were to get a chance to show what he can do if he does stay with us.

Blackburn is a mother of a game, especially in the context of a last season's capitulation and the International break. There is some good banter emerging from our camp and this is the kind of thing we need to build our determination to go there are grind out a result. Blackburn will pose a big aerial threat, we'll need to watch out for the marauding powerhouse Nzonzi in particular. Koscielny will return, I am sure we are also likely to see the big lads Song and Diaby providing some aerial help to the back four as well. With Cesc and RVP back there will be a lot of competition for the starting eleven. I would keep Denilson firmly welded to the bench. Will Arsene retain the front three that dismantled Blackpool and will Rosicky retain his place after such a fantastic performance?

Tuesday 24 August 2010

Assorted witterings and congratulations spurs

It seems that the Squillaci signing is extremely close, the Is have been dotted and the Ts have been crossed, the one thing that may not have been done is the stocking up of the club shop's supply of the letter Q. He seems to tick all the boxes, most importantly he wants to play for us, he has experience, he is aggressive and he has a good track record. The one thing of interest is who is going to be ahead in the pecking order, Kosceilny or Squillaci? Certainly the competition will be healthy and the squad depth necessary.

'Arry Redknapp seems to be losing what few marbles he had in the first place, or maybe he sold them to pay for William Gallas' wages. His latest quotes on the Gallas signing smack of desperation and are a dishonest misrepresentation of the actual events which took place. Reading between the lines Arsenal wouldn't meet Gallas' ridiculous wage demands and then effectively withdrew from negotiations in order to sign Laurent Koscielny. If 'alfbaked 'Arry thinks spuds fans should feel like they have got one over the 'rsenal then it will be just another episode in their long running delusional series.

The reserves travel to Bolton tomorrow night, it looks like Henri Lansbury is off on loan to Swansea, it would arguably make sense for JET to have another year gaining experience elsewhere. Our latest signing from Brazil now has his own blog, you might want to brush up on your Portugese before visiting though. Jack Wilshere has been slotted back into the U-21s which makes sense to me, it looks like Kieran Gibbs will continue with the seniors emphasising the lack of decent left backs elsewhere in England. I love Andrei Arshavin's blog, it is completely off the wall, in this week's Q&A he talks of classical music, smoking, potential man love with Roman Pavlyuchenko, and this nice banter about the Blackpool fans:

"While playing against Blackpool, you were discussing something with Theo Walcott looking in the direction of the fans of the opposite team.
AA Yes, they are good fellows who supported their team. They didn’t stop doing it even when the score was 0-5. Theo told me: Andrey, do you hear what they are singing about? I asked him to clarify. It turned out that they were singing that the score was 0 - 5, but they will win 6-5. That was funny. I like it when people have a sense of humor when supporting their clubs. My friend was at the match against Liverpool. He said that the fans were hurling insults at each other for the entire match but after the game they left the stadium together and went to London in the same train. There was not a single clash. It was surprising for him."

Brilliant. I wish people would get off his back, he has been plagued by niggling injuries and has been low on confidence, maybe the low confidence can be mistranslated as him lacking work rate at times. He needs people to get behind him because he is unplayable if we can get him confident and fit. The same goes for some of the ridiculous criticism that Almunia has been subjected to. I've read in some orifices that he was to blame for the Blackpool header that flashed wide with the score at 1-0, unbelievable, that cross was not claimable. The majority of decent Gooners will support Almunia when he plays, unfortunately there is still that minority of cretins who always want something to vent their general bitterness at. The 'holic is never bitter and always amusing, agree with him on his little blogging ethics meander.

So you're probably wondering why I'm congratulating spurs, well it's not over the William Gallas transfer, 'alfbaked 'arry has already done the self congratulation and flagellation there. I would like to congratulate spurs on making it through to the final stages of the Champions League. Given that so many spurs players already seem to think they have made it through to the knock out phases, we might as well assume that they brush aside Young Boys 100-0 and get the congratulations over with. So there you are, well done spurs. Look forward to seeing you in the draw on Thursday.

Fergie's red herring and the truth behind the murky Rock

Having researched the background to the feud between Alex Ferguson and the BBC, it has become pretty clear that Alex Ferguson may well have created this feud as a smokescreen to obscure our view of the real dirt. They key to the whole affair lies in a racehorse, the Rock of Gibraltar.

Firstly let's go back a few years to 2001 when John Magnier and JP McManus first began buying shares in Manchester United. Alex Ferguson was friendly with these men and was a keen dabbler in horse racing. At around the same time the racehorse, the Rock of Gibraltar, was carving out a reputation as one of the best around. Interestingly the 'gift' of 50% of the Rock to Alex Ferguson occurred at around the very same time that Magnier and McManus began acquiring their first shares in Manchester United. The fact that a senior manager in a PLC should be accepting such a large gift from a major shareholder is dubious in itself.

Whatever the truth behind the Rock, Ferguson was the 50% registered owner and as the horse's value skyrocketed with his success, it became clear that the potential stud value of the Rock would be huge (up to 10million/year). Whether Ferguson had any claim to the stud money was the root of the long running and ugly dispute which would ultimately see Ferguson sue Magnier for 50% of the stud fees.

There is some more interesting background to this affair. Magnier and McManus (via Cubic Expression Ltd) acquired another big chunk of Manchester United from BSkyB; Murdoch's company had their takeover of MUFC blocked which then resulted in them relinquishing their 9.9% stake to the Irishmen. It would therefore appear that Magnier and McManus are on pretty decent terms with Mr Murdoch, no wonder the Murdoch media empire has been so quiet on the Magnier/Ferguson/BBC saga.

Thus the informal gift of the Rock led to a dispute which turned friends into bitter enemies. Magnier was not going to give in easily, he vigorously denied Ferguson's claims and immediately hired Kroll Inc, Wall Street's so called 'private eye', to begin the digging into Ferguson's dodgy dealings. Kroll dug the dirt and this led to the infamous '99 questions' for the board. These 99 questions exposed Alex Ferguson and his son, Jason, as well as casting doubt over the honesty of 13 Manchester United transfers.

As the ante was upped by Magnier, Ferguson realised he was out of his depth and buckled by accepting a tiny settlement fee, of note this was significantly less than he had previously been offered to keep things away from a court. This was in March 2004, a key fact is that this was two months before the BBC's program that detailed some of Magnier's infamous 99 questions.

Ferguson was clearly rather scared that his dirty linen was to be aired in public. This was because neither Magnier or McManus had a seat on the board, meaning that they could at any point have called an emergency general meeting to discuss the 99 questions in front of all shareholders. Ferguson clearly had a lot to hide, he had bitten off more than he could chew in taking on Magnier, Magnier had found out things that Ferguson didn't want to see the light of day, Ferguson didn't want the 99 questions to be made public and he quickly dropped the lawsuit.

The BBC program was actually a bit of a damp squib, they were just feeding off Manchester United's internal review which had been forced upon the club by Magnier's 99 questions. Even the club's own internal review found significant problems and irregularities in numerous transfers, as well as breaches of FIFA rules. The release of this internal review was moved forward to reduce the impact of the BBC program 'Ferguson and son' which was initially due to precede it.

In reality Ferguson is probably deflecting anger towards the BBC because he is still fuming that he was completely outmanoeuvred by John Magnier. A man that is used to bullying people into accepting his way was bullied into submission by a more powerful man and made to look very foolish in the process. Alex Ferguson came very close to losing his job in the process, he was also very close to having all his dirty linen washed in public. Magnier and McManus walked away with a huge profit, selling their stake to Malcolm Glazer in 2005.

The wonderful irony of this whole affair is that so much rage is now being directed at people who do not deserve it. Firstly Ferguson's rage with the BBC is completely misplaced, he should be looking long and hard at his own dodgy dealings, he also should never have taken on John Magnier and the muck raking would never have happened. Secondly Manchester United fans direct so much rage towards the Glazers when it is likely if it were not for Alex Ferguson's lawsuit then they would have far more benevolent dictators in charge, it is Alex Ferguson's greed that is really to blame, still it is easier to be angry with anyone other than your beloved bully of a manager.

This story really does have it all, blackmail, dodgy dealings, corruption, horseracing and football. Strangely the Premier League, the FA and FIFA have never looked into the dirt that Magnier exposed at Old Trafford. It is likely that the 99 questions and Kroll's investigative findings have been locked in a safe somewhere in Ireland, just in case in the not too distant future someone needs reminding who their daddy is.

Monday 23 August 2010

Sir Alex Fergsuon, the BBC and Manchester United's dirty dirty linen

The long running refusal of the Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson to speak to the BBC stems all the way back to 2004. The BBC produced a program that looked into some rather suspicious transfer dealings that had involved Manchester United, Elite and L'Attitude, the agency that Alex Ferguson's son Jason worked for.

The background to this story is also rather interesting, the BBC's investigation was following up on a dispute between Manchester United and their largest shareholders which led to the club's directors to answer 99 questions that probed a number of rather dodgy transfer deals. The reason for this was a nasty spat between Alex Ferguson and major shareholder Magnier over the breeding rights to a certain race horse. The following call was contained in the document detailing the 99 questions:

'The prohibition of payments for player transfers to agents or agencies whose members or directors have a close personal connection with the Company or any officer or employee of the Company.'

All the BBC did was produce a program that explored a few of these matters further. The BBC demonstrated how dodgy some of these transfer dealings were and how corrupt some of the conflicts of interest were concerning these big money moves. FIFA rules were broken and corruption was unearthed, Sir Alex's close ties with the Elite agency were also exposed. It is worth noting that both Jason Ferguson and Elite turned down the chance to have their say on the allegations in the program. Unsurprisingly Manchester United moved to distance themselves from this network of corruption and quickly severed its connections with the Elite agency.

Since then Sir Alex Ferguson has refused to speak to the BBC. Quite rightly the BBC has refused to apologise as all they have done is accurately reported the facts surrounding some rather dodgy transfer dealings. The stand off is due to be addressed at next month's Premier League meeting. This is why the story is hitting the news a bit more frequently of late. Amusingly Magnier and McManus made a fortune by selling their stake to the Glazers shortly after this whole affair in 2005.

In my opinion Sir Alex Ferguson has made himself look incredibly stupid and foolish by boycotting the BBC. If he feels the BBC made clear errors that were libellous that he should have taken them to court, the fact that he has not adds weight to the argument that the BBC have done nothing wrong. It appears that Sir Alex is a rather unpleasant bully who is used to getting his own way by behaving like an aggressive spoilt toddler, it is not working in this case, it is just making him look all the more like the spoilt toddler who stubbornly refuses to admit that they have got it completely wrong. The more one looks at this whole affair the more stupid Sir Alex appears and the more dirt he appears to be hiding under his carpet. The 99 questions have still to be answered.

Sunday 22 August 2010

Tangerine dreams

You simply can't argue with that. A fantastic team performance combined with so many excellent individual performances. You can only beat what is in front of you and that's precisely what we did yesterday. The starting eleven was close to my prediction, Djourou obviously wasn't 100% so Song came in at centre back, Rosicky in for Nasri in midfield, Walcott for Eboue on the right. It was particularly good to see Jack Wilshere keep his starting place. It was also good to hear a great reception for Manuel Almunia from the vast majority of fans with brains.

There were some early warning signs for Blackpool, Walcott's pace and movement was threatening, Arshavin was looking more dangerous than last week, Chamakh came close when he side footed one narrowly wide after Walcott's excellent through ball. The opener was fantastic, some great work from Arshavin saw a lovely slotted pass to Walcott who finished neatly first time. The game was over as a context moments later, a perfectly timed run saw Chamkh clear, Evatt's tackle from behind left the referee with no option, the Blackpool player was dismissed and Arshavin was clinical from the spot. I sympathise with Ian Holloway because the rule is stupid, it is double punishment, a penalty goal would be far fairer.

Walcott added a third shortly after with a neat turn and low finish. It was three nil at the break and the Blackpool keeper had played well, pulling off a couple of top saves. It has to be said that Blackpool had a cracking chance with the game at one nil, Sagna was off having recieved treatment, the right back slot lay vacant and a great left footed cross saw Clichy not do enough to challenge Taylor-Fletcher, who headed just wide when he should have scored. After half time Diaby added a lovely fourth with a well timed first time shot from an excellent Sagna cross. Walcott completed a brilliant hat-trick with a dribble followed by an unstoppable left footed effort. Chamakh got in on the act late on with a powerful downward header from a well whipped RVP corner.

The most impressive thing was the togetherness of the team, when a player was injured there was genuine concern, when a goal was scored there was a proper team celebration, there was no moaning when a pass was misplaced, it was all positive and encouraging. The team also worked terrifically hard, Blackpool were pressed so hard when they had the ball, the work rate was there.

Individually there were also some fantastic showings. Walcott was awesome, direct, quick, clever with the ball and clinical in front of goal. Chamakh linked up the play so well, his movement and work ethic top rate. Arshavin was much better, I feel he may well have lost a bit of confidence in recent months and this seemed to be returning after his goal. Rosicky was so good that no one noticed Cesc's absence, so much good came through his clever movement and passing. Wilshere impressed with a disciplined display, he played deep, was neat in possession, fought hard for the ball on numerous occasions, it was a very good all round midfield display.

There were few negatives. Song is clearly not a centre back, positionally he was caught out on several occasions and this would have been punished against a better side. Clichy doesn't look the most solid to me at the moment, he was caught napping a few times and was not physically robust enough at times. In contrast I thought Sagna was much more aggressive and robust.

Amazingly there is this idiotic minority of Arsenal fans who still had time to moan and whinge yesterday. Whether it was trying to blame Almunia for something or other, or slagging off Walcott for his one stray pass. Some people do really need a good baseball bat around the head at times, to watch such a fine display at home and still be so negative, it really takes a special kind of w*nker to be that dismal. Maybe they're just incredibly stupid and have been spoilt over recent years, even so there is no excuse for it and I would encourage anyone at a game this season who sees this kind of behaviour to openly challenge these morons. I have had enough of them and if they are negative after a 6-0 win then they should f*ck off and let someone else watch the game who would derive some enjoyment from it. Maybe these individuals have wives that aren't putting out, if this is the case then may I suggest that they swap their season tickets for cash which they can then spend down the local brothel.

Overall a cracking win and three points on the board early doors, just what was needed. No doubt there will be much bigger tests around the corner than Blackpool, Blackburn away next weekend will be tough. They are a big physical side who will rely on long balls and set pieces, this is the kind of game in which we need to prove we have the defensive capacity this year. Anyway enough of that, let's enjoy the moment, it's not often you see six goals slotted in at home.

Saturday 21 August 2010

Wenger on Scholes: spot on and undeniable

The Sun is making a massive deal of Arsene's comments regarding Paul Scholes this morning. Really there is nothing to make a big deal out of when you read the proper quotes in the Telegraph:

“You ask me was Scholes a fair player: I say no,” said Wenger. “I’m sorry, for me he was not a fair player. There’s a little bit of a darker side in him, sometimes, that I did not like. I respect him highly as a quality player but I did not like some things he did on the football pitch and I have the right to say that. It’s not because you are older suddenly that you are a saint. The regret I have personally is he was not always the fairest player.”

The Sun's Shaun Custis whips this up into a sensation, as if it is outlandish to say such a thing, how could a foreign manager dare suggest that a Man United saint be unfair? Well Shaun, the facts speak for themselves I'm afraid.

Scholes is the fifth most booked player in the history of the entire Premier League. Remember this is in the context of him getting away with murder playing for Man United. He also holds the Champions League disciplinary record with over twenty bookings and two red cards. Scholes also holds the unenviable record of being the only ever England player to be sent off at the old Wembley, this was for a criminal assault on a Swedish players that left him needing several stitches to a gaping shin wound. The video above shows one of the many hundred red card offences that Scholes has somehow got away with over the years, one wonders just how many red and yellows he would have had if he had played for a team that was punished fairly and that was not managed by a man who intimidates officials.

Scholes' record speaks for itself, brilliant player and a dirty c*nt. Obviously because he plays for Man United and is English he has never got the dirty reputation that he so thoroughly deserved. It is ludicrous to pretend that Scholes just innocently mistimes his tackles and there is never any intent present; this is a man that can control volleys perfectly from 30 yards but he allegedly cannot control his two footed leg breaking lunges. Scholes has shown himself to be a rather nasty piece of work throughout his career with this repeated tendency for trying to break other players' legs, if Arsene chooses to say that Scholes has not been fair over his career that this is pretty mild criticism in the context of what Scholes has repeatedly done over the years. Well said Arsene.

Friday 20 August 2010

Overpaid, Redknapp's no-brainer and tomorrow

Armand Traore has apparently turned down a move to Benfica because it would result in his salary halving. I think this shows that we are overpaying some of our younger players who have no even made it as first team players. Obviously we need to attract in the best talent, however I would argue that a lot of lucrative five year deals have been thrown around too early, before players have done enough to justify such rewards. If we were a little stricter then it would inevitably lead to the odd player being lost for free, however it would mean that we wouldn't be paying so much money to a lot of unproven players and maybe there would be a bit of good natural selection at work, as those who left and didn't stay to prove themselves may well be of a less motivated and determined subgroup of player. I wonder how much the likes of Fabianski, Denilson and Vela are on a week?

Harry Redknapp seems to think that it's a 'no-brainer' to sign William Gallas on a free. Other pearls from the interview include the magical:

"He's a footballer"

That's insight for you, thanks Harry. But seriously the undercurrent of the interview is one of slight desperation from Redknapp. He pretends that Arsenal were dying to keep Gallas, but Gallas wanted to play for the spuds. This is a stretch of the truth, Gallas was offered a contract but he was never likely to accept a massive salary cut as Arsenal didn't really want to keep him, Arsenal's attention had gone to Laurent Koscielny as Arsene had admitted.

Arsene is typically polite regarding Gallas' departure. The reality of Gallas' last few years of football has consisted of some deeply average performances in a back four without a rudder, some incredibly disruptive and petulant behaviour, several team mates not speaking to him and no leadership. Whatever one thinks of Gallas, he has only managed to play over thirty league games once in four seasons with us, showing how injury prone he has been. Obviously the lack of silverware in his time with us is not solely down to him, but his indiscipline and poor leadership have undoubtedly played a massive part in it. Chelsea have hardly missed Gallas either. Notably he has only ever been effective in the Premiership as a full back, he has never really got the hang of playing the role of the dominant centre back. Interestingly numerous clubs didn't think Gallas was worth the money, even on a free, after his poor world cup.

Redknapp seems to think that Gallas has been 'professional' in all that he has done in recent years and that there has been no attitude problem. Ignoring numerous incidents, just take Gallas' behaviour at Birmingham in the video above as one example, that is no leader of men, that is more like a small child who didn't get his sweeties. Gallas showed his completely unprofessional side in that Birmingham incident and in retrospect he should have been shown the door straight after that.

A lot of rotting went on in the months after that game and we are only just beginning to clear things up to create a new team spirit and togetherness. Overall it's a strange one because normally Gooners would be fuming at their ex-captain leaving for the spuds, but with Gallas it's different, no one liked him and we won't miss him in footballing terms either. I am just glad he doesn't play for us anymore, I thought he was a w*nker when he played for us and now I can openly say it without guilt.

Tomorrow sees the visit of Blackpool after that amazing win against Wigan. I'd like to see Kieran Gibbs get a run out, Djourou will come in for the suspended Koscielny. In the midfield we may well see Song return from injury, while Cesc and RVP must be close. Personally I'd like to see Rosicky get a start after his great substitute performance at Anfield, I also think Walcott is a must on the right flank and he will scare Blackpool with his pace. This is my team, I'd keep Cesc and RVP on the bench assuming they're not quite ready yet:

Sagna Djourou Vermaelen Gibbs
Diaby Song Rosicky
Walcott Chamakh Arshavin

Billy Gallas, Manu, and transfers attempted

So William Gallas is set to join the mighty spuds. It hardly gets me worked up because it shows that there can't have been much interest in Gallas, and one must realise that this is because he has been pretty damn poor over the last couple of seasons. As well as demanding ridiculous wages, Gallas has been a disruptive influence, an inconsistent performer, in fact the only thing he did consistently was be a pain in the arse and fail to command the penalty box.

The spuds need to be careful that they don't disrupt their happy and stable squad with the likes of Gallas, a poor signing in my view. In one game at Anfield Laurent Koscielny showed us what we have been missing by actually winning a few headers, making a few aggressive interceptions and showing some pace on the turn. For me Gallas was a very solid defensive full back for Mourinho, but he has never been a great Premier League centre back; Gallas himself seems to think he should be a centre back but has never proven this with performances.

Firstly to Emmanuel Frimpong, who has been unfortunate enough to rupture his cruciate ligaments in training this week. This is terribly bad luck given how well he had started this season. Luckily these days with modern surgical techniques it is very rarely a career threatening injury as it used to be and we are likely to see Manu back in action by the summer. All the best for the surgery and a quick recovery Manu. I wonder if Wenger will be tempted to try to bring in some short term cover in for the defensive central midfield area or whether Arsene is happy to rely on Craig Eastmond as back up.

Jay Simpson has joined Hull and good luck to him. He is clearly a very decent player but has never been good enough to force his way into Arsene's thinking. Having watched him in action for QPR a few times last year I have to say he was good but not Arsenal good in my opinion. It also appears that Armand Traore is on his way to Benfica for a fairly decent fee, all the best to him too if that goes through.

Interestingly we have had a bid turned down for the 30 year old french centre back Sebastien Squillaci who plays for Sevilla. Reading between the lines it appears Squillaci is keen to leave but Sevilla want more cash. He appears the ideal signing for the squad, he is experienced and at the age where he will not insist on playing every game, the perfect squad signing. Apparently another bid has been turned down for Mark Schwarzer, the first offer of 2 million was generous in my opinion given the age and the fact that the player only has a year left on his current contract. I wouldn't bother returning with a third offer as Fulham are taking the p*ss in my opinion.

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Another news round-up volume 1

As the Blackpool game approaches I thought it would be a good time to start a quick review of the week's news, something we shall aim to do here on a completely random and intermittent basis, if I were unemployed then it would be a regular fixture but unfortunately I do have a job which does get in the way of being at all reliable with sticking stuff up on the blog.

Our injury curse has struck and Samir Nasri is out for a month. It sounds like he must have sustained a meniscal tear (the sport's cartilage in the knee) against Liverpool which has been tidied up today with some keyhole surgery. That's bad luck for Samir who has arguably looked our best and most determined player in pre season, still at least it's in a position in which we are very well covered. With Koscielny suspended this weekend, Johan Djourou is set to make his first league start for many a moon, provided he doesn't get injured between now and then. Armand Traore looks to be on his bike and that would make sense when he is so far down the pecking order.

When I had a browse of the web earlier today I stumbled upon a hell of a lot of positive media reaction to the Arsenal Fanshare scheme, it does sound like a great idea and I did no hesitate in sticking a few quid into it without telling my other half. I reckon it could be rather popular and it's a great way in which the average supporter can get involved to have a bit more an influence than they may otherwise have had. I just wish I were rich enough to buy a few whole shares, maybe one day.

The reliability of the Internet was shown perfectly by these two stories, one claiming Schwarzer was having a medical and the other claiming that this was nonsense. It's an interesting Internet phenomenon that one can attract more readers by making sensational claims than one can by being boring and pragmatic. I suppose this is why everyone should let comments to their articles go uncensored (obviously there are some extreme exceptions), anyone routinely censoring or hiding from comments must have something hide from in my opinion.

The keeper situation has been subject to much debate in recent days and I have to say I have found all the banter fairly interesting. I think the Cannon gets things pretty near the mark, overall I am convinced the goalkeeping situation has been mismanaged in this pre season and this had made things very hard for Manuel Almunia to carry on, harder they may have been if things had been managed better in my eyes.

Certainly another thing that has become clear is that goalkeeping statistics are completely useless and unreliable. The stats commonly used like % of shots saved and the number of shots saved/game are not good predictors of goalkeeping quality for several reasons, one main one being that the way one's team defends has a massive impact on the number of shots and the difficulty of saving these shots. Dave Seaman reckons Schwarzer should be signed and we shall see if this happens in the next few weeks with the transfer window due to close shortly.

Mick McCarthy has backed Arsene Wenger's comments on the new rules that restict Premier League teams' squads. It was interesting to read about yet another ridiculous new rule from FIFA that will enable players to scrap their contracts if they don't play enough games. FIFA are truly a bunch of absolute monkeys, on one hand they justify not introducing video technology because it would be too complex and not perfect enough, however at the same time they keep introducing new rules which make the game ever more complex and which will undoubtedly make a lot of lawyers a lot richer. They really make me fume with their inconsistent and incredibly incompetent approach.

As you can see above, the famous clock end is back is back! We are all to be asked to take to our seats a bit earlier this weekend as the stadium ends are to be renamed the new clock end and the new north bank, not forgetting the east and west stands. Most importantly I wonder what people will sing? Will those such as myself who resided in the old clock end at Highbury continue to sing as if clockenders, or shall we become north bankers? The mind boggles.

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Sticking up for Manuel

There is no shortage of speculation at the moment about the goalkeeping situation at the club. Obviously this is not particularly reassuring for the current first choice goalkeeper and he quite rightly is not enjoying the speculation. No doubt Manuel is partly to blame for this situation, his form has been somewhat erratic over the last year. However personally I feel the club's management are also to blame, they have never seemingly supported him and he has been undermined at times, sometimes unfairly I would argue.

Off the field events clearly affected Manuel last season, we were told that a chest infection and a bereavement in the family were behind his prolonged absence. Whatever the reasons, he clearly wasn't particularly fortunate with a series of events. He didn't have a brilliant season last year, but he was by far our best goalkeeper and he was pretty decent. Despite the odd error he did have some truly top notch games, Barcelona at home being one great example. In earlier seasons when he was very consistent, in my opinion he never really got the credit he deserved.

Confidence is vital as a goalkeeper and it is vital that a goalkeeper is backed, even when things are going badly. We saw this weekend how a very good goalkeeper (Reina) can make a shocking error but he will be supported by his manager and team mates alike, this is vital. Being backed by one's manager and knowing you are no 1 is also key in remaining confident.

I don't think Manuel has been helped by the manager at times. For example this pre season it was obvious that Fabianski was being given a chance to replace him as no 1 despite a series of appalling performances. It cannot be good for a goalkeepers confidence to see this happen, it shows a distinct lack of faith from the management which is bound to have a knock on effect on the keeper's performances. This also happened at times last season and this resulted in stupid dropped points when Manuel's deputy was clearly not up to the task.

Maybe Manuel has never been good enough to be a first choice Arsenal keeper. However once he was made no 1 he should be been backed 100% by the management and fans, personally I feel that a lot of people have always seen what they have wanted to see with Manuel. For example last weekend people were trying to blame Manuel for the Ngog goal, I hardly think it is fair to claim that not making one the saves of the season is a goalkeeping error! Actually over the last few seasons he has made very few bad errors, even when his form has been at its worst.

Several other big keepers at the big clubs like Cech, Reina and Van der Saar have been some real howlers, but when this happens they are not undermined, they are supported and this helps the goalkeepers. The fact that Manuel has always had people on his back is part of a vicious cycle of confidence and support which does not help Arsenal Football Club. It is also worth noting that he gets the least help from his defenders of any keeper at a top club, yet for some reason some people like to unfairly dump all our aerial failings at Manuel's door. It is easy to blame Manuel and call him 'nervy', but it is rather obvious that a lack of support from the management is at least as much to blame for this as anything else.

The current speculation cannot be helping Manuel's confidence and this cannot be good for the club. I think the move for Schwarzer is a very strange one, here we have a guy approaching 40 who is arguably no better than Manuel, I agree with Stewart Robson on this one, moving for Schwarzer doesn't make any sense to me. Remember his miskick last season at the Emirates and his calamitous world cup? Robson also makes the point that Shay Given cannot dominate in the air, something that many people like to ignore, for some of us the grass is always greener on the other side, but when we get to the other side they want to move on again.

Overall I think goalkeeping is a very special role in a football team, you have to be a bit binary with the way you manage your goalkeepers because confidence is so key in their performances. Personally I don't think Manuel has ever been given the support he should have been and this has made things harder for him. Maybe things are almost untenable for him now, but if we sign no goalkeeper then we should all get behind him as he is bound to play better with the crowd's full support. I am getting fed up with a lot of the unfair criticism that he has been subjected to of late, it is time to get behind him now.