New Captain for Arsenal?

December 31, 2010

Is it time Arsenal had a new captain?

And if so, who should it be? Someone already in the squad? Or a transfer market move for the missing leader so many people have been craving?

This debate has been prompted by some of the points raised in response to Micky’s “Looking Ahead – 2nd Half Term” post.

Micky felt we needed Cesc and Robin van Persie to stay fit for the rest of the season if we’re to have a realistic chance of silverware.

But he also said he would approve of a dip into the January transfer window for a World Class Leader in the mould of Tony Adams or Franck McLintock.

Leaving aside the issues of whether a WCL would be available in January and whether, even if he was, we would be remotely likely to pay the World Class Price Tag that would come with him, Micky’s post raises the vexing question of whether we currently have the right captain at Arsenal.

I can see two arguments against Cesc Fabregas being our captain. The first is that he has missed too much time out through injury in recent seasons. Not his fault, of course, but you really want your captain to be playing in the vast majority of games throughout a season.

The second, more problematic argument against Cesc’s captaincy is whether he is a sufficiently good leader on the pitch.

No-one disputes the supreme level of his skills (or his ability to win games almost single-handedly). The question is, is he the right man to drag his colleagues by the scruffs of their necks to grind out wins in adversity? Is he the sort of person you would want beside you in the trenches like an Adams, a Vieira, a McLintock, a Silvestre? OK, in Silvestre’s case you’d fill in the trench and run away, but you get the point.

It was clear from some of the posts that many Arsenal supporters don’t believe Cesc is that kind of leader and that their preferred captain in our current squad would be Vermaelen.

Cesc is perceived to not be a shouter, to not talk enough to his team mates during the game, to not give sufficient encouragement and bollockings.

Sometimes, in those games where we have been misfiring as a team, I find myself fantasising about how TA6 would have reacted had he been playing.

You know the games I’m talking about – the ones where Song has vanished upfield with a head full of dreams of being Thierry Henry; where Clichy is wandering around picking his nose; where Eboue is running up and down the line grinning at the happiness fairies that only he can see; where Diaby is being out-jumped by midgets; where Walcott is racing up the wing with the speed of a locomotive and a touch to match; where Rosicky has all the shooting prowess of an empty water pistol…

We all know how Tony would react.

He would go ABSOLUTELY FLIPPING MENTAL.

He would need new boots for the second half because his original pair would have been planted so far up the arses of his team mates during the half time team talk that they would have studs for teeth.

Which brings us back to Cesc. It seems clear that, like Thierry before him, he was given the armband as part of a strategy to keep him at the club.

I can understand Arsene Wenger’s reasons for doing this, but it devalues the job of captain. Unfortunately this is not something that the boss seems to particularly care about if his past comments are anything to go by: “I think the captain is an important position, but it is not as important as the team spirit. You do not have to over-emphasise the importance of the captaincy.”

He has also said that he has a team of captains on the pitch and has done his best to demonstrate this by passing around the captain’s armband as if it were radioactive. In recent times the following players have all stepped out as Captain of The Arsenal: Fabianksi, Almunia, Nasri, Silvestre, Campbell, Rosicky, Clichy, Squillaci, van Persie and probably others too that I can’t recall.

Obviously part of this is because we have had so many injuries, but it’s a sad state of affairs that one of the great offices available to man has been reduced to this.

I would much prefer us to have a clear structure of captain and vice captain, which should cover us for most games.

My own view is that Cesc can be a great captain for us. He does more talking and encouraging on the pitch than he is given credit for and leads by example with his own bravery and skill.

Where I think he struggles as captain is when his own form is off, as it has been in some of his recent outings. At these times he seems to go more introspective and quiet, which doesn’t help the rest of the team.

But when he’s on fire I believe he has all the required attributes and I hope that in the second half of the season we will come to see him as the inspirational captain for whom we have been waiting. Of course, this also depends on him managing to stay injury-free, which is not a foregone conclusion.

Vermaelen’s day will come, but for now the right role for him (when he returns from injury) is as vice captain to Cesc.

RockyLives


One of those nights….again !!! Wtf..??

December 30, 2010

Written by SharkeySure

Most Arsenal fans don’t really like the ‘R’ word, but accept it as a necessary evil when the games come this thick and this fast. We’d all lauded the herculean efforts of our heroes only 48hrs earlier and knew that changes were afoot for the trip to the Sports Shop that is Wigans home ground. It was just a question of how many, who and where.

There were more changes than most of us expected.

Back line, DJ and Clichy out, Squilly and the Somali Pirate in, Ok.

MF. Everyone out, Diaby, Den, Tomas in. Not too sure about that.

Forwards – again everyone out, Arshy, Chamakh and Bendy in, unconvinced.

The big plus from Monday was the sheer energy and passion of the team, we’d all hoped to see more of the same last night but were left disappointed.

The first ten mins were all Wigan, then we seemed to settle down a bit, but still looked wholly pedestrian. There hardly seemed to be a player in a yellow shirt capable of either controlling a ball or passing it to another guy in a yellow shirt. Wigan were not much better, and the ball ping ponged back and forth. N’Zogbia who had looked threatening all evening went on a jinking run inside Eboue after being waved on by the lethargic Diaby. Insomnia was subjected to the lightest of challenges from Kozzer and over Charlie went. Replays showed a clear clear dive and that the non contact was outside the box. 1-0 Wigan.

My stream wobbled so I missed what caused Diaby to limp, and when it returned LJW had entered the fray. The difference was almost immediate, and our players all seemed to find the missing link at the same time. We started to retain possession and make inroads, whilst Wigan only occasionaly threatened. Bendtner got into a good shooting position and fired off a very good  strike which was well saved by Al Habsi.  The ball flew up high into the air and Arshavin (whilst falling backwards !) executed a perfect volley over his shoulder and into the bottom corner. Fantastic technique from our lazy little bast…oops, from our supremely talented little Russian.

Five mins later a clever run and pass from our TLR ™ set Bendtner clear and he finished with some aplomb. His touch and take to deceive the two Wigan defenders was almost masterful, a really top drawer finish from our Striking Viking. Up until then he’d been abject. Both him and Arshavin played as though they hadn’t even seen Mon’s game, let alone learnt anything from it, as we’d all hoped.

2nd half we continued to see LJW show why he is England’s only hope. Chamkah planted a very good header narrowly wide, and TLR missed a great chance for 3-1. With ten mins to go Wigan scored from a corner and Wonderman described it last night on AA as follows:

“3 errors a) Sagna loses his player which allows the player to head back across the goal b) Fabianski inexplicably leaves the centre of his goal c) Squillaci is caught again inexplicably on the wrong side of his opponent.”  Complete madness and pretty much typical of us for quite a while now.

In the ten minutes that remain Nasri’s free kick is blatantly handballed, but our players hardly appeal for it. We try launching the ball long for the last few minutes to no avail.

No ratings, from me but I would single out Bendtner and Arshavin and give them both a 5, even with a goal and an assist each. Their lack of effort, really isn’t going to get us too far. In Bendy’s defence, once the team improved, so did he, but Arshavin really disappeared again 2nd half.

Oh and a short word on the ref. Cock.


More gloating or Wigan?

December 29, 2010

Here we are still wallowing in the glow of Monday’s memorable night, and yet forty eight hours later, it is once more ‘over the top’ and into battle. I do have a problem with inking a pre-match. From a footballing standpoint,  I take a great interest in all things Arsenal. However, I take none whatsoever in any other team, which leaves me with a big problem. I have absolutely no idea what a Wigan is. I know what a David Beckham is because I have a gay friend who says David is very handsome indeed. In the same way I know what a Posh Spice is, because my Wife has her hair done by someone called Trace. Now neither my gay mate or Trace have heard of any Wiganers, which must mean that they are butt ugly and their wives do not not make the pages of Halo Magazine.

I mean no offence to Wiganists, it is simply my heavily blinkered outlook.

So, back to what I think I do know. Firstly, we have a deep and very capable squad. Cesc is taking a wee breather, which is fantastic, and as I have discussed previously, I think the fitness of RvP and his influence over the remainder of the season will be paramount to what we achieve. Of course two games in two days is nuts, so some juggling will be performed by our string puller.

Also previously, I have aired my thoughts on defensive understanding, so I would always tamper with this department as little as possible. TV will be back at some point, so right now I would go with JD and Kozzer once more. We do have cover on the mend for Clichy in Gibbs, so for the sake of continuity, Gael begins.

We have the little matter of some other Chavs to entertain next Wednesday, so it is imperative to build on the momentum we created in such style against Chelsea. We all know about our vulnerability in being over confident and underestimating some teams. We also know that the teams around us are as capable of dropping unexpected points, which just reinforces how “Up For Grabs” the title is this season.

To my mind one of the great things about the aftermath of a massive win, is that it elevates the level of  belief within the squad. This in turn makes everyone want the ball, and the only way to get that ball is through selection. Voila, a hunger for places. Healthy competition. My only area of concern is in the cover for central midfield. I think we need Denilson back. He will be very valuable. I have to say that as soon as Rambo returns to Arsenal action, I will have considerably fewer worries.

With what looks like being one of the closest Title contests in years, it will be decided by these types of games. The fitness of key players amongst the protagonists will be key, and so will the ability to rotate during the periods of fixture congestion. We are very well placed in this department. Only City can match our bench, and lets face it, with Adebeyor, Tevez and Balotelli amongst their ranks, solidarity will not be one of their strengths. So tonight is where we discover what we are made of. This title will be won by twenty players, not eleven.

COME ON YOU GUNNERS.

Written by MickyDidIt89

Title inspired by London


Oh Ye of Little Faith: Arsenal 3 Chelsea 1 (and ratings)

December 28, 2010

Where are they now then, the doubters and doomers, the carpers and cavilers?

There’ll be barely a squeak from them today and what little there is will be drowned out by another sound.

Do you hear it?

That low, grinding rumble?

It’s the sound of tectonic plates shifting; of seismic change in the English Premier League.

An edifice that hitherto had seemed rock-like and immovable is revealed as friable and fragile. Its place is suddenly vulnerable to a hard, new force that has been quietly forming and solidifying.

Or, to mix metaphors, the Roman empire is facing decline and fall, while Arsene Wenger’s belle epoque is about to begin.

Does this sound like hyperbole?

I don’t care. Monday December 27th will come to be seen as the day the Arsenal reclaimed its rightful place as London’s top club. (Yes, I know our history and record of trophy winning puts us streets ahead of any other club in the capital but, on the field of play, we have indisputably been second best to Chelsea for the best part of five years).

It was only one game, but the symbolism was immense.

Chelsea’s tired old warriors were out-played, out-passed and out-fought, while their younger colleagues looked weak and ineffectual. Arsenal exhibited fire, hunger, energy and skill.

The Chelsea bench had all the depth of a toddlers’ paddling pool.  Arsenal’s bench, by comparison, was the Marianas Trench. Just look at the respective line-ups:

Arsenal: Szczesny, Squillaci, Diaby, Rosicky, Arshavin, Chamakh, Bendtner.

Chelsea: Turnbull (who?), Bosingwa, Van Aanholt (who?), Bruma (who?), Ramires (what a waste of money), McEachren (who?), Kakuta (who?).

The victory was thoroughly deserved and the margin should perhaps have been bigger. But if you look beyond this single result the evidence for a shift in the balance of footballing power in London is even more compelling.

Chelsea have a relatively small stadium and often have trouble filling it. Their billionaire owner (whose roubles are the only reason that they have been able to compete at the top level) has snapped shut the wallet. If the rumours are to be believed, he is now focusing on the 2018 World Cup in Russia and is losing interest in his malfunctioning toy.

To replace ageing players of the calibre of Terry (30), Lampard (32), Drogba (32), and Cole (30) they will need to spend tens and tens of millions, because they certainly don’t have any real quality coming through the ranks.

It’s unlikely that Roman Abramovich will make the money available. And even if he did, who’s to say the new acquisitions would gel with the rest of the team, or that Chelsea would be able to compete with the even bigger billionaires at Man City (and, possibly, at Old Trafford, if the Qatar Royal Family story turns out to have legs)?

Any way you cut it, Chelsea are in for a period of decline. They won’t collapse like a house of cards, they will still win some big games and stay in touch with the championship race this season, but their time is over.

Our time, however, is just beginning. Arsene Wenger has brought together a squad of supremely gifted players at very little cost, nurturing talent from within and balancing the budget while moving us to a new 60,000 seater stadium and keeping us in the Champions League every year. In the future this achievement will come to be more widely appreciated for the astonishing piece of management it is. If you don’t believe me, just look at the fuss made about Old Twitchy and his Posse of Cocks for getting into the Champions League just once, despite having spent tens of millions more than Arsenal on players over the last 10 years.

The ‘Arsene Out’ brigade really needs to take the blinkers off and look at the big picture of what is being built at our club.

Yesterday’s result showed that our young team is finally ready to claim its destiny.

I have rambled on for too long now, so there will be no full match report, just some observations:

  • We were fantastic. A true team performance in which we completely outplayed the champions.
  • Djourou was immense and limited our nemesis Drogba to scraps and crumbs.
  • Chelsea’s goal came from a dead ball situation and, apart from that strike, they rarely threatened (and certainly not from open play). So much for our ‘weak defence’.
  • Playing Theo against Cashley was a Wenger masterstroke, nullifying the greedy traitor’s attacking threat.
  • The biggest factor that decided the game was our work rate. Every single Arsenal player bust a gut to help his team mates.
  • In other words, for a change, we played as well when we did not have the ball as when we did have it. This is the trick Barcelona have mastered.
  • We were better without Arshavin. I love the pocket Russki, but Theo’s defensive work (aided by his recovery speed) was a refreshing change and gave extra support to Sagna.
  • One man bossed the game from start to finish: Alex Song, take a bow.

After such an outstanding and emphatic win I don’t want to dwell on negatives but, like an impoverished Japanese home owner, I have a couple of small carps:

  • Cesc is still blowing hot and cold (he made some careless misplaced passes and was caught in possession a few times) but the ‘hot’ bits were scorching.
  • Koscielny could have done better for their goal, failing to get a proper challenge in on Ivanovich.
  • Fabianski’s position was poor for the goal – he neither came to claim it nor stayed on his line to save. Instead he came into no man’s land and seemed to try the unusual trick (for a goalie) of making himself small.

But, as I say, these are only small complaints in what was an all-round team performance of great confidence and power.

This should now give us the boost we need to go on a run of great results, starting tomorrow at Wigan.

Come on you Reds!

RockyLives

Player Ratings

Fabianski: Chelsea hardly troubled him, but he might have done better for their goal. 6

Sagna: excellent game from our Mr Reliable. 8

Djourou: at last we have a CB who refused to be intimidated by Drogba. Towering performance by the big Swiss. 8.5

Koscielny: lost Ivanovich for their goal, but apart from that did very well and made some very important tackles and interceptions. 7.5

Clichy: still prone to charge forward when we should be protecting a lead, and was dispossessed too easily a couple of times, but his forward thrust did help keep Chelsea pegged back. 7.5

Fabregas: some outstanding play from the skipper, including the glorious pass for Theo’s goal. His passing is still not back to its very best – but it will soon get there, and what an awesome prospect that will be. 8

Song: what can you say? He was immense, scoring the vital opener (and yet again making me eat my words for saying he should not go forward so much) and breaking up Chelsea’s moves for the entire match. 9 MoTM

Wilshere: made a few mistakes through inexperience, but the fact he held his own in such a big game at the age of just 18 is so, so encouraging. Imagine what he’ll be like at 21!  7.5

Walcott: kept Cashley confined to defensive duties and suckered him beautifully for the second goal. Was always a threat and took his goal well. 8

Nasri: almost scored with a sublime chip and was constantly probing at Chelsea’s right flank. Not as influential as in some recent games, but that was partly because we sent a lot of play down Walcott’s wing. Fluffed a great chance in a one-on-one with Cech. 7.5

van Persie: started very sharply and displayed good movement, but never quite got the game by the scruff of the neck. Tried a couple of ambitious shots that went well over the bar. 7

Subs

Diaby (for Walcott, 73 mins): didn’t really get into the pace of the game, but that’s hardly surprising after such a long lay-off. 6

Chamakh (for van Persie, 76 mins): slotted in to his usual centre forward role without fuss and held the ball up well. 7

Rosicky (for Fabregas, 88 mins): used his experience to help run the clock down, but not on long enough for a rating.


A Chance to Blow the Blues Away

December 27, 2010

Written by Big Raddy

At last a game and what a game –  the chance to get a monkey off our backs and put some distance between us and Chelsea.

I trust that you all had a fine Xmas and are recovering from the effects of over-eating and that last pre-bed Brandy. What better than a dose of fresh air and a home match against the pretenders to our crown as Kings of London?

In very recent years Chelsea have bought their way  to become a major force in European football, no-one could deny the quality of their Double win last season which was achieved with a rash of goals and some superb entertaining football. With Malouda in form they became as artistic as they were effective, but he has suffered from post-WC withdrawal and following the injuries to Fat Frank, Drogba, and JT, Chelsea have struggled for points. Ancelloti will be delighted to have his full team back on the pitch and expect a return to winning ways.

This is not the place to discuss the total lack of class exhibited off-pitch by Chelsea and their players, but from the top down they are as dodgy as 3 week old Turkey sandwiches and it is for this reason that whatever the result of today’s match Arsenal will remain London’s top team.  Yes, it is true that we have a dreadful recent record against them, yes it is true they have amassed a pile of Silverware in recent times but I would suggest one checks out the Trophy rooms and see whose is stacked with treasures representing a long, proud history, and whose has just a few pots gathered in the last few years. Our fans have been complaining about lack of silverware  – well, I suggest you look at the decades between Chelsea’s first Championship and their second (5 was it?).

Today’s match is interesting because neither team is firing on all cylinders, both losing points to teams well beneath them in quality and PL position. To our Newcastle, Spurs and WBA one can compare Chelsea’s losses to Sunderland and Birmingham. Had they lost last week’s postponed game against Man Utd, Chelsea’s season could have been over by the end of today’s match!

Onto the “hoodoo”. Can we beat one of our rivals for the title? The loss to MU pointed to an improved attitude – I never felt we were outfought or that our players didn’t believe they could win, they just were found out by a lucky, well drilled team. I look forward to the Mancs return to the Emirates. It was a similar story at Stamford Bridge, we weren’t outplayed but were beaten by a superb Drogba goal and an unstoppable shot from Alex. In between we were well on top and had Koscielny scored an early header from 2 yards out, we would have gone on to win the game.

We all know the Chelsea team, full of great players from Ashley through JT, Essien, Fat Frank, Anelka and Drogba (can we stop his outrageous run of goals against us , 13 in 11 games?). A truly formidable side who on their day can seriously be considered to be challengers to Barca as the best side in Europe. But they are struggling and we can take advantage.

If Cesc is firing and Nasri shows the form he has everywhere except OT we can and will win. I am happy that Fabianski is fit despite Chesney looking very good last time out.

My team:

Bench: Chesney, Gibbs, Kos, Chamakh, Diaby, AA, Eboue

I would love to see us attack them at pace. Chelsea are not going to worry about Chamakh’s aerial ability – they are fantastic in the centre of defence, so we need to test them with guile and speed.

I firmly believe we can win this game ( I always do!), we are rested , have our Captain and best player back and have excellent players on the bench. Mr. Wenger will have been stung by the criticism of his tactics at OT and will be eager to pit his wits against one of the World’s top managers in Ancelloti.  In a topsy turvy season a good run will win the title and we can start today.

COYRRG


The home comforts of Ashburton Grove

December 26, 2010

Written by charybdis1966

Being a tardy sort of chap I finally managed to undertake the Stadium tour of N5 about four years after they became an option, so what better day than Christmas Eve 2010 to find out more about the off pitch set up at our ground and further indoctrinate my sons into all things Goonerish?

First off we are shown through the Diamond Club entrance to the Directors box which sits in the second tier above the player’s tunnel entrance and directly below the TV camera gantries. The extra padded seats and maroon coloured leather, as opposed to the Arsenal red, differentiate them from all the other seats in the Stadium and offer the best view as you would expect for the Directors box, where the home and away directors would watch the game after being dined at Raymond Blanc’s(who is a Gooner according to the tour guide) eatery; the thought of Slimy Kenyon, replete with shining pate and unctuous smile, being wined and dined there on Monday sent an anticipatory shudder up and down my spine.

A short hop on the extremely ornate lift (with a Dial Square Crest motif embossed in the floor) from the exalted luxury of Diamond club and it’s down to the players tunnel.

This appears smaller than it seems on TV when you see ManU Sports (aka Sky Sports) cameras showing the players shortly before they walk out side by side onto the pitch (the players coming out side by side is another Herbert Chapman innovation incidentally) however the walk through the extending tunnel with the Middle Eastern airlines logo on it is still awe inspiring and you can only imagine what it feels like to make that short walk pre match.

As some may already know there is a plastic weave sewn into the base of the turf to hold the roots of the Dutch grass roots together which has been found to be the optimal for the requirements of the playing surface in the climate we have in London with the pitch having a camber of around fifteen inches or so around the sides. The racks of lights being shone onto sections of the pitch were to encourage growth, it being more or less the winter solstice, rather than to defrost the pitch as my eleven year old correctly surmised and yours truly incorrectly assumed.

I raised the question of at half time watering the end we attacked (in the second half) only, as I’d seen done at the home of Pullis’ oval ball chasers however I’m told this is contrary to premier League rules; mind you not adding on injury time for time wasted by ball wiping with towels is another Stoke-ism that has gone unnoticed by referees.
The guide pointed out the location of the away allocation at which point I asked why didn’t the club consider putting them in the upper tier of the portion between the East Stand and the Clock End? This would be to diminish their vocal effect and make them less effective a presence, as it is done at many European grounds. The answer seemed to be possibly the danger of away fans throwing missiles at home fans in the lower tiers directly below them however the Bar codes have an upper tier allocation for away support and in Europe netting is used to prevent this.

Now some will tell you that all Arsenal employees are merely bureaucrats who couldn’t care less about the team; however he seemed to be of a like mind to me in that anything that gives us an edge at home was worth considering and he suggested e mailing the club.

From here on in I noticed a recurring theme of the guide’s narration namely the differences in the home team’s facilities and the away teams.

The home teams dug out, to the left of the players as they enter the field of play, has a heated floor area for the first two rows(the two rows behind the front two for non-playing squad members) while there is no such heating in the away dug out.

There was a warm up area we weren’t shown where the players could have a pre match kick about; again this facility is only given to our team and not the away team – and rightly so!
Next onto the home dressing room which has one semi-circular end rather than a completely square room; this is, according to Japanese Feng Shui principles, the most positive and uplifting of all living space shapes – a square room is the most negative and depressing shape, so needless to say the away room was made completely square. It’s no surprise one of Wenger’s many inputs into details of the stadium design is prompted by his time spent with Grampus Eight.
As you enter from your left the players are grouped goalkeepers first, then defenders, midfielders, strikers then substitutes, with the Captain at the time located at the apex of the semi-circle at the right hand end of the room as you enter. Proof of our current Captains stardom evident by most of the tour group wanting to be photographed at our number fours bench space, myself I plopped myself where our enigmatic Russian number 23 would ready himself for the game. The bench places of Nasri and Eboue and Van Persie also proved popular choices to be photographed in front of.

Pretty soon after the first few games at Ashburton Grove Wenger decided that padded cushions in front of each of the players spaces were to be introduced – I can see doomers now saying “Typical, we’re molly coddling our players by giving them comfy seats for their pampered behinds!”

Wrong, it was found that sitting on a cold hard surface at half time increased the chances of hamstrings tightening – of course no cushions for the away team.

The flooring was of a non-slip variety suitable for studded boots, while the shiny, slippery version was installed in the away dressing room. The guide wryly remarking that Drogba has never slipped over on that glossy surface but as soon as he takes to the pitch he’s barely able stay vertical, especially in and around the penalty area.
There is a hydrotherapy room and sets of physiotherapist’s couches in another room next to the dressing room, obviously no such facility for the away team.
Next, onto the media room where all managers have to give post match interviews, except of course Lord Fergie of Govan who can flout these rules. For some reason old bacon face doesn’t send the assistant manager to face the media when his team wins – coincidence?

Yeah, right.

Initially managers were interviewed at the same time, however the problems this can cause soon made separate interview slots necessary – who could cause such contentious post match interviews?

Step forward, as ever, Sir Alex Chapman Fungus-scum.

After the conclusion of the tour a walk over to the Arsenal Museum is highly recommended and brought a welcome respite from the hurly burly of last minute Christmas shenanigans.


Arsenal, not successful? …. you gotta laugh

December 25, 2010

Second in the league

Semi final of the Carling Cup

Through to the last 16 of the Champions League

Yet to play in the FA Cup

The best stadium in the Premiership

Zero debt

The only way is up………..

Thanks for all your support on Arsenal Arsenal

….. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year…….


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