Wenger’s Barca Raid

If Saturday’s performance proved anything, it was surely that Arsène Wenger’s plan to bring Barca-style football to North London is succeeding.

It’s no secret that the boss admires the style and manner with which the Catalans play. Now he has shamelessly lifted their football manual (or should that be Manuel?) from under their very noses and put a red and white stamp on it.

Barca’s front six of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, Villa and one of Keita or Mascherano play beautiful pass-and-move football, denying their opponents the ball and carving their way through the most resolute of defences.

After much experimentation, Arsène now has his own ‘Super Six’: Cesc, Song, van Persie, Nasri, Walcott and Wilshere.

What both ‘sixes’ have in common (and why I have referred to them as ‘front sixes’ rather than the more familiar midfield/attack definitions) is that all the players swap positions at will and all pose an attacking threat.

After the two Champions League games against Barca last Spring I wrote a post saying that “Arselona is Closer Than We Think.”

Despite the outstanding first half from the Spaniards at The Grove and despite the Messi master class at the Nou Camp, I took heart from Barca’s exhibition because it showed what Arsenal could aspire to.

I reflected that there were three differences between the sides: Barcelona had more money, they had better players and they worked harder.

Revisiting those thoughts today, the picture has changed.

Do Barcelona have more money? It subsequently became clear last season that they were grossly in debt and in no position to keep making huge-money purchases. Then some rich Qataris came calling and in the blink of a cheque book Barca threw their much-vaunted principles in the bin (along, presumably, with all their Unicef shirts) and accepted a shirt sponsor in exchange for £125m. Given how high their debts were, this is hardly a licence to buy big, although it gives them more clout in the transfer market than they would otherwise have had. Arsenal, meanwhile, continue to revel in the best financial model in big time football, and you really get the feeling that if Arsène made the case to the Board for a £50m signing they would give him the money. Admittedly, he’s as likely to ask for fifty million quid as Wayne Bridge is to ask John Terry to tea.

Do Barcelona have better players? They may just still shade it, but that gap has closed considerably.  Fabregas or Iniesta? Nasri or Messi? Pedro or Walcott? Van Persie or Villa? Those questions don’t produce the simple answers they would have done a year ago. And both our so-called holding players, Song and Wilshere, have more innate footballing talent than either Keita or Mascherano. Earlier this season I was moaning about Alex Song’s forward tendencies, but he has won me over completely. He is becoming a true box-to-box player with silky skills to go along side his wrought iron commitment. Wilshere, meanwhile, at just-turned 19, is surely heading for world superstardom. We’ll certainly be cheering on little Jack long after the name Balotelli has faded from memory.

Do Barca work harder? The answer to that one is still ‘yes’ overall. The genius of that team is that they work as hard when they don’t have the ball as when they do have it. And it’s still an aspect of the game that has let Arsenal down this season. However, I truly believe that our first team DOES have the right work ethic and has demonstrated it repeatedly since the Christmas period.

To summarise, I would hazard that Arselona is just about here. The players, the style of play, the swagger – it’s all coming together beautifully.

We’re reaping the benefits in the domestic competitions and there’s no reason why we can’t also succeed in Europe.

Certainly the games against Barcelona this year will be very different. Barca are a great team and may still beat us over two legs, but I expect things to be much more competitive this time round. Our players know exactly what they’re up against and, let’s not forget, we were decimated by injuries last year.

All of which is not to say there are no concerns.

This Arsenal team still desperately needs some silverware and, psychologically, that may yet be a big step to climb. The Carling Cup would be a great way to start.

I would also like us to sign a good centre back this January. I would feel even more comfortable with some cover for Alex Song, who has become so crucial to our success. And I fret every game about the fitness of key players like Robin, Cesc, Theo and Samir.

But if Lady Luck favours us with a smile, good things could really happen this year.

RockyLives

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123 Responses to Wenger’s Barca Raid

  1. mohamed says:

    i hoooooop so man..

  2. London says:

    The bar is now so high I can walk under it without ducking. Excellent read Rocky, some great points: Song’s more attacking midfield role, glad to see you have joined the club ;)

  3. London says:

    Does anyone know if season tickets are valid for the Ipswich game?

  4. sic says:

    “Do Barcelona have better players? They may just still shade it, but that gap has closed considerably. Fabregas or Iniesta? Nasri or Messi? Pedro or Walcott? Van Persie or Villa?”

    This is hilarious. Yes Messi is still a “shade” better than Nasri lol. In fact, each of those comparisons is absolutely laughable except for perhaps Iniesta/Fabregas, which is merely silly.

    Arsenal is a good club, but we’ll see how they fare head to head against the best club in the world soon enough. Good luck.

  5. Red Arse says:

    Rocky,

    What a first class read. While respecting all the great authors on AA, this has to be the best Post I have read in the last 3 months. :-)

  6. Red Arse says:

    Sic,

    Don’t be shy. Come out and tell us who you support. Are you a Barca fan?

    What are your grounds for saying the comparisons are laughable? Without giving your reasons we cannot take your comment seriously and it is frankly ….. laughable.

    Do you see how it works? I make a statement about your comment, I say why it is not valid, and then I arrive at the conclusion it is laughable! It is very simple. Try it!

  7. ISH says:

    Great read…Sic’s comments are laughable indeed haha!

    to say Messi beats Nasri, Erm I dont think you will EVER be able to compare the 2 due to the fact Messi DOES NOT play in the hardest league in the world. I will never say Messi is the best player I have seen until he plays week in week out against defender that dont give you respect or time on the ball. Many players look great in the spanish leagues but how many have made an impact when switching to the premiership? answer me that Sic???

    Arsenal need just to win some silverware to prove to themself they are true winners

  8. charybdis1966 says:

    Thanks for the post Rocky and I see what you’re driving at.
    What people forget is that Barca are only tested domestically twice a season during El Classico and we all know what happens when your top end skills are not used regularly – they atrophy, this is why I believe that when we come up against them our months of hard, testing Premier League games will ensure we are at the top of our game whereas Barca may have gotten lazy by playing clubs with one 50th of their resources for months.

    As I suggested in my “Messi To Arsenal” post, I feel the Primera Liga is heading towards the state of the Scottish League, a non-competitive two team league where interest will wither away as the financial disparity bites.

    As for “Sic” he looks like another one of those “Knock down ginger commenters – One sweeping, ill-explained comment and off before he is asked to elaborate.

  9. Wonderman says:

    Morning All, great post I’ve had several people trying to section me already for saying that I believe we will do Barca over two legs. But there is a proviso . We have to get to those games with our strongest squad available. In my opinion for the first time in years a ‘first 11′ has emerged Sagna Vermaelen Djourou Clichy Song, Wils Cesc Nasri Van P Walcott. I believe our success this season hinges on two things a) keeping the first eleven fit b) the players on the bench performing when given the chance and not sulking

    Remember Barca can suffer injuries as well, and a Barca without Messi, Villa and Xavi is a different proposition all together

    @London Carling cup games are never included in your season ticket you have to purchase them separately

  10. Rasp says:

    Morning all,

    Great post and fully justified conclusions Rocky.

    I’m glad you mentioned Barca’s workrate because I felt that it was the one area where we should have matched them last time but failed. They may be packed with some of the best talent in the world but they also work very hard for one another. We are beginning to emulate that type of performance – the chelski game was an excellent example, but we also retain the ability to switch off when under pressure or if the game is deemed less important.

    I still feel our players generally start the 2nd half of games far too ‘relaxed’ and it takes 10 minutes or so to regain their sharpness.

  11. London – season tickets aren’t valid for the Ipswich game

  12. Red Arse says:

    Morning Rasp,

    Spot on. When we have played a game in which we have closed down the oppo, jostling and niggling them (as you say like the Chavs game) we look every bit as good as Barca.

    The problem is that with so many games where we have 60% or 70% possession we sometimes seem to forget that lesson.

  13. Flint McCullough says:

    Good stuff Rocky & with Red Arse’s addendum this post sums up our position.

    Consistency particularly mentally is the key.

    These should be an interesting few months that can go either way but bit by bit you feel it may be coming together & the patience shown by the majority will be repaid, over the coming seasons.

  14. Rasp says:

    Morning RA,

    Hope you’re feeling better. Possession is meaningless unless it delivers goals. I like Rocky’s definition of a midfield 6 (I’ve often described our formation as 4:6) and it is good that they can all attack, but they also all have to defend and be active when we are not in possession of the ball.

    I have to say that having EE in his current form as RB for the first game is a major concern for me.

  15. Bodie says:

    Barca fan speaking here so I’ll be coming with some bias.

    I found it funny how, throughout the entire post, you failed to mention Sergio Busquets, who, oh by the way, is the starter at defensive midfielder. While I agree with your points that Arsenal have gotten better, you cannot compare Villa to Van Persie or Iniesta to Cesc. Villa is a proven goal scorer with at least 20 goals his last two seasons, while Van Persie has struggled to stay fit. When fit, he’s devastating, but he isn’t the classic striker (or poacher) Villa is.

    Fabregas or Iniesta? Nasri or Messi? Pedro or Walcott?

    It should be Xavi or Fabregas for one, since they are the engines that make both teams go. Iniesta is our Nasri, but no matter, let’s keep Nasri matched up with Messi, even though they play two different roles. That would leave Andrei Arshavin, the guy who DOES play the role most similar to Messi’s as a false 9, matched up with Iniesta. I’d pick Iniesta every time.

    My two cents.

  16. Rasp says:

    Thanks Bodie, a resolute defence of your team’s qualities. We are not as expert on the Barca players as you, but we are in agreement that it is going to be close. RvP in his current form is every bit as good as Villa in my opinion and would no doubt have bagged over 20 goals a season had he not suffered so many injuries.

    I think the outcome is likely to be decided by the extent of injuries to key players and the mental attitude. We are just coming in to top form and are match hardened as a squad and we have a score to settle.

  17. Sic says:

    Barca are far superior to Arsenal, their players are by far much better than Arsenals!

    The one BIG difference between them and your players…is the fact that they play ‘their beautiful’ football against the BIG teams! So its irrelevant if they dont get tested in their PL cos when it comes to playing against the BIG teams they still play their football whereas Arsenal NEVER play their football against any of the big teams, never, so we can all actually say that Arsenal can only bully the lesser teams but are not good enough to do it against the proper teams that actually know how to defend!

    That my dear muppets is the HUGE difference between you and Barca, they can play against the big teams and Arsenal cant, simple as that!

    Yet again when Barca beat you home & away you will all be let down hard again since you all live in this dream world that Arsenal are near on par with Barca! lol, such soppy dreamers! LMAO LMAO LMAO LMAO

  18. charybdis1966 says:

    I’m hoping Barca playing 90% of their games against Championship standard opposition will catch up with them.

    How on earth can they keep their standards up playing against such dross most of the time?

  19. mickydidit89 says:

    Afternoon all.
    Rocky, great post, thanks.
    Only a brief stop for me now, so, while I agree with some comments here referring to the competitiveness of La Liga, we must judge Barca in Europe, and on that level, they are still the scariest club in town. Agree with all about our 1stXI, and that team has only had to flex its muscles once and that was against Chelsea. In that game we saw 100% effort for the full 90, and we pressed very much in the same way as Barca do when they do not have the ball. On a concentration level, we certainly allow things to slip. Look how slow we were coming out of the blocks in the second half on saturday. As far as the Barca game is concerned, this won’t happen, although I share Rasps’ concerns over Eboue at right back for the first leg. It will certainly be a good measure of how far we have progressed over the last year.
    Sadly, off now.

  20. Bodie says:

    I would also include the back four in this equation.

    Possession will be key, as it usually is with both of us, but I think both defenses will be put to the test REPEATEDLY. This is where the game will be won IMO. If Messi et al are allowed to run rampant and expose the high line (as was the case in the Emirates with Verma pushing high and Xavi putting balls over the top and more recently with Messi dropping back into a TRUE false 9 role and exposing Mou’s Madrid with through balls to Villa) then expect a repeat of last year.

    If Cesc does the same and RvP and Walcott punish our back line with their pace (LB is highly susceptible to this with Walcott being the fastest player by miles and Abidal and Maxwell not being spring chickens) then advantage Arsenal.

  21. Rasp says:

    Sic,

    You’ve had your chance to debate this like an adult as a guest on our site and you have chosen to indulge in childish name calling and juvenile text speak ….. Your team has far more class than you do. Take my advice and leave it to the likes of Bodie to represent your fanbase on the internet.

  22. Nasri says says:

    The following comment is from another anonymous, undeclared supporter of who knows/who cares which team, who is under the misapprehension that he is being amusing…….

    …….Guys, come on, i can only play good against the Wigans, Blackpools and West Hams of the world, you know when me and the rest of the boys play the Uniteds, Chelseas, Tottenhams of the world we simply cannot play our pretty football! These teams know how to defend and easily stop us playing our pass pass sideways sideways football that we can get away with against the poor quality teams.

    Its fair to say we can only bully crap teams and then get completely mugged off against the big boys!

    Barcelona will murder us, sorry guts, but pls stop dreaming that we are becoming better than Barcelona, we are amatuers compared to them and they are even stronger than they were last year when they mugged us off so they will beat us with such ease!

    I dont even wanna play in this game, i know ill be completely anonymous like i was against Man Utd!

  23. Rasp says:

    Bodie,

    It all comes down to tactics I think. Some believe Arsene Wenger is a master tactition and others would say it is one of his weaker areas. In general, his policy is to focus on the quality of our team’s play and not look to negate the opposition’s strengths. One thing is for sure, the two managers are about the best in the game, I’d quite happily relieve you of yours when AW decides to’go upstairs’ :)

  24. RockyLives says:

    Thanks for the comments all.
    Bodie – good point about Busquets – he has started a few more games than Keita and Mascherano so should have been mentioned.
    With respect, you can’t really introduce Arshavin into our first team as he is no longer a first choice starter when everyone’s fit. And of course the player-to-player comparisons don’t fit exactly (they’re all slightly different in their styles of play) but I think Cesc is part Xavi part Iniesta.
    Anyway, the overall point was that the quality gap is closing and I believe it will continue to do so. What is indisputable is that the Barca players have achieved over a longer period, whereas Arsenal’s have yet to achieve. But Fabregas and Nasri would probably get in many pundits’ World 11 for this season, so watch this space.
    Should be two great games.

  25. Rasp says:

    It’s ironic when you consider the reputations of the two clubs, that we are getting these idiotic responses (Nasri) from Barca fans (exception Bodie) when the Leeds United bloggers were so impressive.

  26. RockyLives says:

    Bodie
    Damn, you spotted my ploy of trying not to mention the defences!
    Seriously, this probably is an area where we could struggle and you’re spot on about the high line. I suspect we won’t play that kind of high line this time around and I also expect the rest of the team to do much more work off the ball to help the defence.

  27. RockyLives says:

    Rasp
    I suspect ‘Nasri’ represents another UK team who are getting twitchy bottoms right now when they look at the way we’re playing…

  28. Red Arse says:

    Bodie,

    Now that is a well thought out and balanced comment which has been clearly presented. (Sic does not seem to understand debate).

    These things are all a matter of opinion and only time will tell, of course. I think you have a point with the dangers of high line defence, for either side and we have been caught by this a couple of times this season.

    I would not want to, and will not, disrespect any of the Barca players. They are all excellent and play football just like ours. I am looking forward to the match and hope it is a wonderful exhibition of skill by both teams.

    By the way, Sic has been disrespectful in rubbishing the Arsenal players, but over the years Barca have signed many players from Arsenal.

    We all know how hard the Barca management have unsuccessfully tried to sign Cesc. He cannot be a bad player, can he? :-)

  29. Bodie says:

    Rocky,

    What is the first choice eleven when everyone’s fit? If its Song Wilshire Cesc Nasri Walcott RvP then your front six is looser than even ours is.

    The “advantage” (some might call it a problem, I think it allows Messi more freedom) is the lack of a true 9. Whereas last year the Ibramonster was clogging up the middle, Villa is more than happy drifting left allowing Messi to play in the center where he just sucks up the entire middle of the defense. I think you had the same thing when Arshavin was a first choice hence my including him.

  30. Rasp says:

    Hi Rocky,

    Yes I suspect you are correct, if he tries to place futher comments they will end up in the bin.

    Win or lose over the 2 games against Barca, I want to be left with a feeling that our team did us proud.

  31. RockyLives says:

    Bodie
    Arshavin was very much a first choice until just before Christmas, when he was dropped for the Chelsea game and Arsenal played outstandingly and won. So, yes, the six is the six you list and they are loose in their formation, but the key is that Song and Wilshere share the defensive cover roles, allowing Cesc to get forward. (Although you’re just as likely to find Song popping up in the box).
    Like you, we also play without a True 9, although van Persie generally takes the most central position.
    Nasri and Fabregas are excellent dribblers (and Walcott has his moments) so there is a lot of variety in our play at the moment.

  32. Red Arse says:

    Rasp,

    I don’t understand who Nasri’s comment was attributable to.

    Was he writing on behalf of himself or “another anonymous, undeclared supporter of who knows/who cares which team, who is under the misapprehension that he is being amusing…….”?

    Whatever, I found it incomprehensible, puerile and crass.

  33. Rasp says:

    RA,

    I added the first paragraph to put his ridiculous comment into context – I wouldn’t waste any more time on it – he won’t be allowed on any more.

    More importantly, how are we going to stop Rocky giving all our secrets away to Bodie ;)

  34. Smith14 says:

    Morning all,

    The player comparisons are hard to nail but, in my view, Cesc is better than Xavi and Nasri is, this season, on par with Iniesta. I also think Alex Song compares postiviely to Busquests, I would say he’s a more complete player. Personally, I think that disruption by injury has stopped Robin Van Persie being recognised as one of the best strikers in the world. Hopefully he can stay fit now and prove what most Arsenal fans have always suspected.

    I suppose that leaves Messi v Walcott. For my money, Messi is the differece between the sides. Last year, in the second leg, we went 1-0 up and should have made it 2-0. Messi had 4 attempts to my memory and scored them all. Although I still don’t think he’s quite as good as many suggest Messi is an extraordinary Footballer, he brutally exposes the slightest mistake. To me, we compare in all departments but they have one of only a few players I can remember who can literally win a game on his own.

  35. Red Arse says:

    Rasp that explains it. :-)

    If Rocky gives away any more secrets we can threaten him with each of us telling him a joke!! :-)

    Well said Smithy. I must say tho’, I do think Messi is one of the most exciting and fabulous players I have ever seen.

    I would be happy to blow the next two years transfer budget on acquiring him. That would be £3.9 million then! :-)

  36. 26may1989 says:

    Good post Rocky, thanks.

    Barca are still the better side, and are the best side in the world. I expect them to win the CL tie against us, but the point is it’ll be closer than last year. If Barca don’t concentrate, if they don’t have the energy they had in the game at the Grove or the finishing they had at Camp Nou, they may find themselves on the wrong end of a shock, just as Real Madrid, Milan, Inter and Juve have in the past when they underestimated us.

    Looking at the two squads, we seem to have more depth, even with Barca’s signing of Afellay. The weakness of their second string was there for all to see in the 3-1 cup defeat to second division Real Betis, a side that also lost to Villarreal’s reserve team. We’re not perfect (the Leeds and Ipswich games testifying to our own frailties) but we can afford to look forward to the Barca games with genuine hope.

    So Sic and Bodie, please do tell us how bad we are, and how marvellous Barca are, it can only help!

  37. 26may1989 says:

    Rasp and Peaches, I’ve just sent a draft post. Mail me if you need to discuss.

    Cheers.

  38. GW says:

    Very interesting piece, though agree with Bodie that Busquets is a serious oversight. He’s first choice in that position now.

    Do think you overlook one important point though, particularly if you want Arsenal to aspire to play like Barca, rather than Barca Lite.

    You can pick out individuals and put them in match-ups with their Arsenal equivalents, or near-equivalents, but the key to Barca is that they are much, much more than the sum of their parts. The main members of this team – Villa excepted – have been taught to play the Barca way from pre-adolescence. It has been “receive, pass, offer” every day of their lives for at least a dozen years.

    British academies produce individuals, while Barca’s produces teams. Arsene Wenger is a great judge of a player, and can go out and buy individuals who he thinks will fit into the system he wants to play, but that’s still not a substitute for starting from scratch and hardwiring it into their psyches.

    Personally I’d guess that that is always likely to keep Barca ahead of the field, even when this golden generation has passed, at least until their main rivals invest similar sums in youth development.

    And I don’t think that Premier League clubs will ever be minded to do that. £50mill on youth for a potential return in 10 years, or the same on a marquee striker? The PL chairman is always going to go for the big name.

    Cheeky aside for Bodie – any idea how I can get a ticket for the Barca section at the Emirates without paying £500 to a scalper? Managed to get one last year but the source has dried up.

  39. Wonderman says:

    The one thing that does bother me …isn’t Sagna suspended for the first game ? do I not like Eboue’s attititude of late

  40. London says:

    Can we just remind ourselves that the reason for our new found optimism is genuine and quite easy to explain; we are starting to play like a team that is capable of beating anyone. None of us thought it was going to be easy, I am sure we still don’t but out of the two teams there is one whose ascending star is getting brighter and more powerful by the week where the other one cannot afford to have an off day.

  41. London says:

    Eboue had a poor game against Ipswich I am convinced he got a talking to becasue he had a perfectly good following game against West Ham.

  42. Wonderman says:

    London….spot on and surely the family of black cats Arshavin ran over must pardon him sometime soon !

  43. Rasp says:

    For the first part of the season, Nasri was our only player who you could honestly say was ‘on form’. Now you can add Sagna, RvP, van Persie, Clichy, Song, Wilshire, Djourou, and Cesc to the list – and that makes a huge difference.

  44. Rasp says:

    GW,

    Thanks for your comment. Arsenal players from the bottom to the top are taught to play ‘Wengerball’. We may have borrowed the idea from Barca, but we do coach the type of football you describe through all levels of the club, the idea being that replacements fit seamlessly into the system with no loss of flow and continuity.

  45. aj says:

    Rasp

    “I still feel our players generally start the 2nd half of games far too ‘relaxed’ and it takes 10 minutes or so to regain their sharpness.”

    I have been making this point for sometime too. I wish someone would tell the players that the half-time break is 15 minutes and not 25 minutes.

    We were discussing the game at half-time on Saturday. At only 1-0 up, we worried about losing the lead in the first 10 minutes of the second half. As it happened, we were terrible for 10 minutes, as usual, giving the ball away at every opportunity. In fact, I reckon that Wigan spent more time in our half in those 10 minutes than they did for the rest of the game. Luckily, Wigan were so crap that they couldn’t capitalise.

    We should remember too, that Barca go their only two goals at The Emirates in that spell just after half-time.

  46. 26may1989 says:

    Rasp, good as Barca are, the inspiration for infusing the club with Wengerball looks more like 1970s Ajax than our friends in Catalonia.

  47. Rasp says:

    aj,

    I’m pleased I’m not alone. Good point about the timing of the Barca goals.

    Having done the stadium tour and been told of the holistic Feng Shui principles involved in the design of the home changing room, I can only conclude we need a different changing room for half time that incorporates beds of nails, posters of Evra and death metal music

  48. RockyLives says:

    26may
    I think it would be fair to say that the Ajax model is the true source for both the Barcelona and Arsenal approach.

    aj
    Good comment, linking Rasp’s point to the Barca game last year. I wonder how we can fix it? Someone needs to really get them going as they come back up the tunnel after half time.

  49. charybdis1966 says:

    Barca(and General Franco’s team) will stay ahead of the pack in Spain while they are allowed to negotiate individual TV deals, rather than only getting a 1/20th share of the TV money, like we have in the Premier League.
    It is that reason, and that reason only, which will preserve the two-team league’s status quo.

  50. Rasp says:

    26m,

    You’re correct of course – more argument for getting DB10 on board in the coaching staff.

  51. RockyLives says:

    Rasp
    How about having a life size dummy of Patrice Evra for the boys to kick on their way back out…

  52. Rasp says:

    Yeah, that’d do it Rocky :) – I meant Evra, not Nani

  53. GW says:

    Rasp
    That’s great as far as it goes, but a problem Arsenal face compared to Barca is the competition for raw material from the likes of Man U, Chelsea etc. Real Madrid’s relative indifference to youth development – though again that could change if Barca keep spanking them – means that Barca have pretty much the whole of Spain to pick from. Xavi, Pique & Busquets are Catalan, but Iniesta turned up in the middle of nowhere, Pedro is from Tenerife and so on. That’s a big advantage for Barca.

    One other question is what happens to Wengerball post-Wenger? Is this now the unshakeable Arsenal philosphy, or will it disappear when its originator does, particularly if the trophy drought continues in the meantime?

  54. RockyLives says:

    They could give the Nani dummy a smack round the head for good measure (although he’s nowhere near as objectionable as his team mate).

  55. RockyLives says:

    GW
    What’s interesting is how successful Arsenal is in securing the best young players coming through in the UK. It looks like we’re going to land Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from Southampton despite ManU, Man City and Spuds all being after him; last year we got Aaron Ramsey in the face of competition from ManU. The key is that young players know they will get proper development and a chance of first team football under Wenger.

  56. 26may1989 says:

    Rocky and Rasp, agreed.

    I love Barca, despite the unmitigated arrogance of their attitude towards nabbing other teams’ players, like there’s some sort of rule saying tapping up isn’t allowed unless it’s part of the Camp Nou “dream project”.

    But one thing that gets forgotten in all of the enthusiasm about the Messi-Xavi-Iniesta generation is what happened to them when they were developing that squad: 2001 – 4th, 2002 – 4th, 2003 – 6th. There are obivous (but not inevitable) parallels with Arsenal.

  57. Rasp says:

    GW,

    Not wishing to rub salt or anything, but we’ve done pretty well coaxing the likes of Fabregas, Merida and Ignasi Miquel away from Spain, in addition we beat manu to Walcott and are about to sign Chamberlain in the face of tough opposition.

  58. Bodie says:

    Cheeky aside for Bodie – any idea how I can get a ticket for the Barca section at the Emirates without paying £500 to a scalper? Managed to get one last year but the source has dried up.

    I’m in the same boat as you re:Games. Have to fly out from Kuwait so it’s 500 a pop for me as well.

    As for aj, to me that game at the Emirates was a more frightening prospect in the opening 10 minutes of the game where Barca could have been up by 3 at least had it not been for Almunia playing out of his mind.

    I think the addition of Villa has made us that much scarier in that he fits the system so well. Ibra, magician that he is, was a fairly static piece in a dynamic system, not unlike Chamakh was in yours.

    If he’s on his game, and if Messi rips the high line (which I still think you’ll end up playing), then advantage Barca.

    Your back four is scarily unreliable. That Tottenham game…

  59. 26may1989 says:

    GW

    “One other question is what happens to Wengerball post-Wenger? Is this now the unshakeable Arsenal philosphy, or will it disappear when its originator does”?

    Very important questions. Who knows what the answers are, but here’s hoping the age of Wenger lasts longer than the man himself. Perhaps his natural heir is Pep Guardiola…. after all, Barca are beginning to struggle financially and our finances are just going to get stronger over the coming years.

  60. charybdis1966 says:

    26May – remember Guardiola’s contract is a 12 month rolling affair which he has not renewed yet, and as I said in my spoof “Messi to Arsenal” post, it’d make perfect sense for him to be Wenger’s successor.

    That’s probably why Cesc stayed last summer, he was promised by Wenger that Pep would be the guy to succeed him. :)

  61. London says:

    Woooo, I was just about to jump on GW and say how can someone with a first name like Andrés not be Catalan but thought I would have a quick check on Wiki first and low and behold “El Fantismo” (The Ghost, as they call him becasue of his pale complexion) is from the middle of no where, the boon docks of Castile. Didn’t know that.

  62. London says:

    Chary

    You are, of course, right about the duopoly of TV rights in Spain, the thing that I don’t understand is why the others don’t club together and say if you don’t share it we won’t play you.

  63. Printer says:

    always arsenal!

  64. Red Arse says:

    A propos the Keys/Gray sexism claim.

    The irony is that I have lost count of the number of times both Andy Gray and Keyes have spluttered, after a disputed goal, that neither the referee nor they themselves understand the offside law.

    It seems they are sexist, unprofessional and ignorant!

    Off with their ghoulies!! :-)

  65. Red Arse says:

    Printer, excellent. :-)

    That was your response when asked “which would you prefer; to have a free trip around the world, no expenses spared; or to win £50 million in the Euro Lottery or watch Arsenal?”

    Me too. :-)

  66. 26may1989 says:

    Just seen what Wojciech Szczesny said in advance of the Ipswich game: “We are Arsenal and believe we can beat anybody.”

    You’ve got to love him!

  67. charybdis1966 says:

    London – I suppose the big 2 in Spain have such power that the others are powerless to do anything about it.
    Give it a few years and the Primera liga will be as dull to watch and as uninteresting for outsiders as the Jocko’s premier league is.

  68. Red Arse says:

    26,

    Before the Wigan match, I watched Chezzer being interviewed for the BBC, with flashbacks to an i/v when he was 16, by the same reporter.

    I was really taken by his remarkable self confidence, not just with goalie comments but in his control of the interview and the interviewer who laughingly admitted as much.

    Very impressive young man. :-)

  69. Rasp says:

    We are in the process of setting up a site twitter link where you will read (if you are not already subscribed) what the players are saying about games and each other. Sz is a prolific twitterer (tweeter?) as are LJ, Cesc and quite a few others. You get an insight into their personalities and attitude to games.

  70. GW says:

    Think a bit too much is made of the finances, the Barca brand is incredibly strong already but there’s plenty more scope to exploit it globally on the back of the current team. Can’t see it being a reason for Guardiola to jump ship, anyway.

    Agree to some extent about La Liga becoming a little dull, but that’s looking in from outside. The Spanish aren’t so bothered, as – according to Sid Lowe – 60pc of them claim first allegiance to either Barca or RM, and most of the other 40pc have one of the big two as their “second” team.

    A couple of the clubs have acquired big-money owners in recent months, but it’s difficult to see how they can break through in the way that Chelsea did and, arguably, Man City are in the process of doing. La Liga has been a duopoly for a large part of its existence, so it’s fair to assume that Spain likes it that way.

  71. Rasp says:

    London – I have a job for you, seeing as you are the No.1 fan with added musical talent.

    I was really disappointed that we could only chant the imaginative and lyrical “Robin van Persie” over and over again after he scored a hattrick. It’s just not good enough.

    We need a song befitting his talent and dedication to Arsenal – and while you’re at it, see if you can come up with a better one for Cesc would you :P

  72. Rasp says:

    ….. No Shostakovitch though …..

  73. GW says:

    @Bodie, thanks for the reply. Have found a tenuous link to a 25-year socio in Barcelona, so am living in hope. Good luck.

  74. SharkeySure says:

    Another quality post Rocky.

    I’m only up to commenty no.31 so far, soI’ll ad my two cents worth later.

    One exception: Wonderman – “I’ve had several people trying to section me already for saying that I believe we will do Barca over two legs” Brilliant!!

  75. 26may1989 says:

    I agree with GW, Spanish football has long been a duopoly and that seems not to have prevented it retaining a position as one of the best leagues around – the last time the top three didn’t include at least one of Real M and Barca was 1970 and 50 of the 79 titles have gone to one of them.

    That attitude of Sz is great, exactly the sort of self-confidence we’ve lacked at times. Bendtner of course has shown a similar streak but lacking as he does the talent to be a top player, it comes across badly. Our rookie keeper looks to be made of different stuff.

  76. 26may1989 says:

    @ Rasp: Perhaps a spin on “When the red red Robin comes bob-bob-bobbing along”?!

  77. Rasp says:

    Good suggestion 26may – or we could recycle the old Vieira classic …. When the ball hits the net like a big Jumbo Jet it’s… van Persie

    Thanks for the post, it’s in drafts – shall we call it – 26may’s dismay?

  78. 26may1989 says:

    Rasp, I like the word play, will think about it a little bit though!

  79. Rasp says:

    Only kidding 26m, we don’t want to reveal a title in advance anyway – but thanks, it’s a nice piece and I, (like many others I’d guess) had been having similar thoughts.

  80. mickydidit89 says:

    No no 26.05.89, no doom post, unless it concerns the Emirates snacks!

  81. London says:

    I was right in the middle of incorporating the name Robin Van Persie in Shostakovich symphony number 10 when you go and write no Shosta; I mean, it was hard enough but now it really is going to be an up hill task.

  82. London says:

    Emirates snacks are doom and gloom in a paper tray.

  83. RockyLives says:

    For a vanP song, how about adapting the Robin Hood theme (you know, the one from the old 1960s series):

    Robin’s good, Robin’s good
    He’s our number ten.
    Robin’s good, Robin’s good
    Scored three and missed a pen.
    His legs are made of glass
    But he really loves the Arse
    Robin’s good, Robin’s good, Robin’s good.

  84. mickydidit89 says:

    Some Gooner I was talking to on the train after the game on saturday said he reckons they were feeding chants through the pa system. He was clock and was referring to the “We are the North Bank/Clock End” number. He thought they had left in the word “Highbury”! Anyone in the know?

  85. mickydidit89 says:

    Rocky :-)
    You old Wordsworth.

  86. RockyLives says:

    Ah, Wordsworth

    “I wandered lonely as a cloud
    That floats on high o’er fields and hills…
    I wish I had not been so proud
    And taken my flatulence pills.”

  87. Carlito11 says:

    Great discussion on here today- I’ve missed the main event again! Just a quick point to add regarding the player comparisons. I think a fit robin van persie is equal to David villa. We’ve seen it so rarely that a non avid arsenal watcher would scoff. But the form he’s in has me dreaming at the moment!

  88. Carlito11 says:

    Micky- they do an audio montage before kick off including the north end clock end songs- we keep trying to get it going on the newly christened North Bank but never hear a reply (or get enough momentum going for that matter)! It’s still highbury as far as most are concerned it seems

  89. Carlito11 says:

    On the back four being weaker ‘hole in the argument’ I think that abidal has only ever been average and our recent back four are getting more sure footed after all- kozzer vs piqué is getting closer (think the ex mank is over-rated) and sagna vs alves is not cut and dried either. Puyol is a class act but TV will hve the same rep at his age and JD is becoming quite a presence. I look forward to seeing the current back four take on ManUre later in the season. I have a feeling they’ll hold up well

  90. Carlito11 says:

    I meant great discussion- sorry for the typo! Really like the robins good song- can imagine the last three being sung with gusto welsh choir style (maybe not by our fans tho ;-)

  91. Carlito11 says:

    And I’m spent! Off to cook a panang curry :-)

  92. RockyLives says:

    Carlito
    Sorry to have missed you. That curry sounds nice.

    Good point about the defence. Bac is as good a fullback as anyone; Clichy is on a decent run of form and the JD/Kozzer partnership is also working well.
    Their defence has a lot more experience however, which could prove important.

  93. London says:

    Hi Carlito

    Panang curry……sounds good.

  94. Irishgunner says:

    Evening all – sorry I seemed to have missed ye guys. Had an urge to write a little something on Keys and Gray and their lack of knowledge on everything.

  95. RockyLives says:

    Wotcha Irish
    Can you post the address of your site again please?
    Ta

  96. Carlito11 says:

    Panang Curry was hot hot hot! Irish- where are you posting that? I find it hard to comprehend that 2 commentators who first came on air in the NINETIES can have views of that kind. It’s worse than the Fast Show Ron Manager Sketch when they can’t get ther heads round having a female anchor on the show and that went out in the early 90s!

  97. Carlito11 says:

    Can’t argue with the fact Barca have more experience in defence but you got to get it somewhere and I have a good feeling about ours as long as we don’t lose anymore of them *frantically strokes the wooden table*

  98. Irishgunner says:

    Hiya guys I post on http://www.sportshaze.com in the England section.

    You’ll find me, I’m the only woman there – must go learn the offside rule now :P

    Not sure if my rant is up yet though.

  99. Carlito11 says:

    Just had a read of the giggs piece- I’m not sure I’d be able to eulogise any other teams players ;-) I’ll check back for the rant later. Looks like the real Chelsea are back. Do you think they got taken over by a whole team of quantum leapers from the future making sure Russian money doesn’t ruin the Premier League forever?

  100. Irishgunner says:

    Ha ha I did manage to get some sneaky Arsenal references in though :)

    I dunno but if they were they should quantum leap to Manchester next.

  101. Carlito11 says:

    its a shame you can’t search the archive by writer on sportshaze like you can on some other sites- i’ll keep an eye on it tho :-)

  102. Irishgunner says:

    Cheers Carlito.

    I’m a bit worried because the article hasn’t gone up yet. If they pull it because I critized Keys and Gray they have lost themselves a writer.

  103. Carlito11 says:

    Have you told them that? Looks like even the Tory press are running the story in pretty strong terms- sportshaze aren’t a Murdoch enterprise are they?

  104. dandan says:

    Irish I have just posted an article doing that in draft LOL

  105. Irishgunner says:

    Carlito – No its independent bu they want to make contacts. I didn’t have a pop at Sky just at the two “pundits.”

    Dandan – I cannot wait to read it :)

  106. Rasp says:

    Nice article Irish, well done.

    Several idiots on Talkshite were also trying to excuse the behaviour of Keys and Gray – no surprise there then!

  107. Irishgunner says:

    Cheers Rasp.

    I was trying to avoid the “all men are bastards” silly route which I hope I accomplished, but I see sexism and racism on a par. Also, I can take a joke but one knows when its a joke and they weren’t joking, seen as they have previous.

  108. Gooner in Exile says:

    Bloody long comments today! Always difficult to come to the debate late.

    Good report Rocky and I love the confidence we are all showing as fans now we have found this First XI idea!

    Agree with many on here about the Wengerball teams and development of youth.

    The one thing I think has helped Wilshere above Nasri and Cesc in coming through so young is being brought up in the English Youth system but playing the pretty stuff. Some of the youth players Wenger has allowed to move on (Bentley, Pennant, Sidwell etc) were all physically strong with good technical ability.

    Now the players that come through have excellent technical ability, Wilshere, Lansbury, Randall, Watt, Frimpong, JET etc. But in addition they are having to earn the right to play that style of football in England, which is leading to players who want to play pretty football, but also are not put off by a hard tackle or two and willing to fight to win the ball back. I’m sure in Spanish and French leagues the skill players are probably afforded more protection which means when they arrive in the EPL they need some time to acclimatise, or never get use to the physical side of the game.

    I also think the number of young players of the quality of Wilshere coming through is making a few of the more senior players sit up and take notice and realise if they want to keep their shirts they are going to need to step up their game, after all they know age will not stop an Arsenal player that is good enough making it into the first team under Wenger.

    We may still be a season to early to take on Barca, but I reckon we will guve them a good run for their money, and if we lose, well its Barca no one expects us to win.

    Think Sic might have been a Spuds or Citeh fan but ho hum. Now they have lost the chance to win the league they are trying to ease their pain by convincing themselves that Arsenal are the most vulnerable team in the Top 4. Poor them.

  109. Gooner in Exile says:

    We definitely need a new song for RvP and Cesc, Theo too.

    I recommend JD to be honoured with the old Tony Adams chant if he continues to develop. And Wojech can have the traditional GK chant Sczezny Szczezney Szceznnney sod it “Chesney Chesney Chesney”

    Like the idea of big guitar riffs for chants like Eboue’s

    So what about Kasabian – Club Foot for RvP

    Boooosh Lalalalala Robin Van Persie

    About 0:45 seconds on this clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9l4SY8r4HHw (RvP in place of “Say that I want you” and “Say that I need you”

  110. RockyLives says:

    My son came up with a decent suggestion for a Djourou song (well, in my opinion anyway!).
    To the tune of ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’ it goes…

    “Kozz to the left of me
    Sagna to the right
    Here I am
    Stuck in the middle Djourou…”

  111. Gooner in Exile says:

    Like it Rocky, we can change Kozz for Tom when the Verminator returns

  112. RockyLives says:

    Done…

    “Verm to the left of me…”

  113. London says:

    I am sure all those who question Eboue’s talents will add “Joker to the right” Here I am stuck in the middle….

  114. mickydidit89 says:

    Ahoy London and Good Morning AA’ers,
    BR/Pre-matcher,
    Tougher call tonight, but given I have Arsene dans ma poche, and I want the strongest line up, I will be asking for 10/11.

  115. mickydidit89 says:

    To win the league, we are going to need a strong Chelsea to remove points from Utd, so I see a positive in last nights’ result.
    My team:
    Chezzer
    Sag Kos JD Gibbs
    Cesc Song Den
    Theo Chamakh Nasri

  116. mickydidit89 says:

    I would consider playing Eboue in these two cup games, as I think he could do with a little practice ahead of Barca.

  117. Gooner in Exile says:

    Surely play the 1st team tonight?

    Our squad players should be able to overcome Huddersfield shouldn’t they?

  118. mickydidit89 says:

    GiE,
    Strangely given my team, I do agree with you, its just that it hurts to play RvP too much!
    From comments I heard at the game on saturday, I am expecting a fairly small crowd on sunday, which has nothing to do with anything right now.
    Back later.

  119. Carlito11 says:

    Morning all- semi final cruncher on the way! Micky- I worry about denilson in games against committed less skilled players- I hear rosicky’s getting a start tonight too. Hope we get 3 in the first half and then rest some players. Rocky your son seems to have inherited at least some of your skill- those lyrics are simple, memorable and set to a great tune- I can see it taking off and will start a Twitter campaign on it’s behalf this morning!

  120. Big Raddy says:

    Stuck in the Middle comments made me laugh ….

    Fine discussion yesterday prompted by yet another quality post from RL.

    I would like to believe we are close to Barca but one huge difference is consistency.

    I know we rotate players but nonetheless to be a truly great team we have to turn it on week in week out – whoever is on the pitch

  121. Morning all

    There’s a New Post

  122. gnarleygeorge9 says:

    G’Day everyone,

    Its Australia Day here & its going to be a scorcher :cool: on the east coast.

    Big night of footy last night saw Oz beat Uzbeckistan 6-0 to reach the Asian Cup Final. I guess you now realise that we have had other things on our minds other than some little urn :lol:

    Ofcourse I stayed up for the 3-0 demolition of Ipswich :shock:

    Watched snipets of Blackpool throw away a 2-0 lead. United were given the run of the ref from what I saw ;)

    …….& we play the poms @ cricket again today :lol: Poms making lots of excuses now.

    Anyway, off back out into the sun now to finish my morning walk.

    COYRRR

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