Still cooking on Fabregas?

June 17, 2012

Watching Italy against Croatia on Thursday, I could only admire the silky skills of Pirlo, the Italian Playmaker. Especially in the first half, Pirlo gave a demonstration of what the Conductor role is all about. He always makes himself available by cleverly, and constantly, finding space. As soon as he gets the ball, he already knows what he wants to do next. He possesses a great first touch and can move forward, and if necessary past a player, quickly and with great close control.

On top of this, and it’s his most valuable skill and so rare in a footballer; he has a great overview of what is exactly in front of him, and what needs to happen next – and he can pick the pass that pulls a defence apart in one move. Of course, not every ball by Pirlo is a killer-pass, but he always seems to know how to move the play on with real intent and effectiveness. He gives shape and purpose to a team and Pirlo has been brilliant this season for both Italy and Juventus, with whom he just won the Italian league.

His is not the youngest, and once Croatia had levelled he did not have the energy anymore to drive his team forwards in order to get the all important winner. At an age of 33, I think he can be forgiven for this.

I love this kind of player though. They lift football to a higher echelon; they make football into poetry in motion, and they make me want to watch games of teams I do not support, or even like.

Whilst watching Pirlo, I could not help but think back about our former Spanish Maestro, our ex El Capitan: the one who left us because his home town was calling him.

Some of you might recall, I wrote an ‘open-letter post’ to Cesc last year:

http://arsenalarsenal.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/letter-to-el-capitan-cesc-fabregas/

I still love watching Cesc even though he plays no longer for us. I guess I still feel a bit of man love for him, a purely platonic one mind you! I am not bitter though, unlike some Arsenal supporters. He was young and felt a strong urge to return home, where they finally seemed to want him, and where they are playing the best football in the world: I probably would have done exactly the same.

When Fabregas scored his goal though, after he came on late on Thursday, I could not help but think he is not fully happy at the moment. There seemed to be some frustration there – maybe as a result of having to come on as a late substitute, or maybe because he is not being played in the position that suits his talents best.

Having watched him play at Barca in a new role this season, for which he needed to adjust considerably, I feel he has been underused by Guardiola. The now departed manager played him far too high up the pitch, where he did relatively well, but could not play his best football.

The Conductor has been asked to play the double bass, or the first violin, and to a certain extent this is fully understandable. Cesc decided to join Barcelona when they already had two of the finest conductors, and they also do not play the sort of football where there is a pivotal role for a classical playmaker. And this is where he might have made an error of judgement.

If he had stayed at Arsenal for at least another year, he could have continued in the hole – in the ‘1’ of our 4-2-1-3 formation. That is where Cesc belongs. If a player is blessed with the same skill-set as described above for Pirlo, and Cesc has these in abundance, and he finds himself in a position where he is not required to use his strongest assets, then football is being done an injustice, and a player is effectively denying himself – is not fulfilling himself. Good Playmakers are rare and they need to make the play.

And that is a great shame. Cesc is no longer cooking on gas and I wonder whether he has any regrets about his early move to Barcelona now.

Despite Cesc’s two excellent goals at the Euros and all his impressive goals and assists for Barcelona this season, he still left at least one season too early in my opinion. And I think he realises this as well at the moment.

Just imagine him last season: in front of Arteta and Song – what a season it could have been for us, and certainly also for him.

Fabregas is such a good footballer that he can be played almost everywhere and do well. But that is not the point. Barcelona and the Spanish National Team are confronted with an embarrassment of riches, and in the process a great talent is being wasted, whilst the clock is ticking.

TotalArsenal.


What If Wenger Does A Guardiola And Walks Away?

April 27, 2012
La Liga (3): 2008–092009–102010–11
Copa del Rey (1): 2008–09
Supercopa de España (3): 200920102011
UEFA Champions League (2): 2008–092010–11
UEFA Super Cup (2): 20092011
FIFA Club World Cup (2): 20092011

So to tidy that up, that is four seasons in charge winning three League titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues, and one Copa del Rey – and yet, it seems, Pep Guardiola is likely to walk away from Barcelona after all but conceding the league to Real Madrid, and getting knocked out of the Champions League by Chelsea’s bus. They now just have the Cup Final left to win some silverware.

“Coward! Coward!”

They are yelling it on Fleet Street and in their masses on the internet. But is he really? Apparently the going has gotten tough and Pep is doing a runner.

I suppose before I continue I better clear up a few things (these are my own personal thoughts and not those of AA as a blog)

  • Barcelona are over-rated. They are not “the best team ever” – Would the best team ever have a back five pretty incapable of defending? Valdes makes Almunia look good. Alves is a poor man’s Carlos, and while Puyol is a good defender, he is no Franco Baresi. Isn’t it funny how Lionel Messi didn’t perform over the two legs in the Champions League semi-final and they get knocked out? They are a great team, the best team CURRENTLY plying their trade, but the best ever? Surely I can’t be the only one that watched the AC Milan team of the late 80s and early 90s?
  • They have no Plan B.
  • Pep’s influence on the team has been over-rated. In 2008, he inherited a team that was largely been built up since the Academy days – the core being Xavi, Iniesta and of course, Messi. Gerard Piqué was also returned to the Nou Camp from Manchester United in the very first days of Pep’s reign, while the likes of Pedro and Busquets were been readied for the first team after coming through the youth ranks. All ripe and ready to form a winning machine – all coming neatly together after Frank Rijkaard had kept the ship steady over this period.
  • None of the above is not to say I don’t think Barcelona are a fantastic side and Guardiola a fantastic coach – he has embedded a work ethic in the side which is unparalleled – sadly it also extends to them largely diving as a team (Messi and one or two more gladly don’t take part) and to them waving imaginary cards and trying to get opponents sent off.

So back to the main point – Is Guardiola walking away?

Yes, yes he is. But he’s not walking away from the hard work ahead, or the cries of some greedy fans who want trophies every year, he’s walking away from a possible heart-attack. Pep has just turned 41, has a young family, and has aged considerably in the last season or two.

But Barcelona are a winning club you say, where is the heart attack waiting to come from?

I’ll tell you – the pressure. The pressure of being expected to win every game at a canter, to win every trophy available every season. The pressure of having a mad President that comes part and parcel of a top Spanish club who buys a player at a mad expense and tells you to play him whether he fits or not into your puzzle.

Pep Guardiola is taking a break from football for the sake of his health – both physically and mentally. And who could blame him? He has achieved so much in so little time, and at 41, will still be such hot property when, and if, he returns to football after a season long break. Besides, it’s not as if he might not have done this anyway, regardless of Barcelona’s “failed” season. He has only ever accepted rolling one year contracts and has always hinted he would take time out of the game after a few seasons.

So what has all this to do with Arsenal and Wenger? Quite a lot actually.

The pressure Guardiola is under is very similar to that Wenger is under: managing a big club whose fans expect to win every season playing perfect football. However, unlike Pep, Wenger can’t walk away from football for a while and then pop back into it again. At 62, he may feel that the time is slowing, closing in on his time as a manager, time closing in on his dream to win the Champions League.

So what if he decides to walk from Arsenal to achieve that? What if he thought to hell with the financial pressure he is under and trots off to PSG, Madrid or Barcelona? Sure, he’ll be under the same pressure as at Arsenal, but he’ll have more financial muscle. If anything, walking into Barcelona would be easier for Wenger, he will inherit the same problems there as he has here – dodgy back five, strike force that weighs heavily on the shoulders of one man, pressure to play proper football, pressure to win, but he’ll have the ££££ at Barcelona.

So just imagine if he said “sod it” and off he went. Where would that leave Arsenal? Would Pep Guardiola come over here and give it a punt – or the mouthy Jose Mourinho who knows best when it comes to all matters Arsenal? Yeah lads, we want all that Real Madrid and Barcelona have, but we want it without spending any more money than we make. Ha, that last one makes you think doesn’t it? Makes me think “We want everything that Barcelona and Madrid have – the Galacticos, the va va voom football, the trophies, the giant stadiums … but do it while making more money than you spend Mr. Wenger.”

Pressure?! Pressure, Mr. Guardiola, Mr. Mourinho? Pressure to win because they spend so much on their squads say Fleet Street, but Mr. Wenger is “under none” because we have a board with an ounce of cop on when Portsmouth and Glasgow Rangers are dying. Pressure?! Come to an angry Emirates Stadium of a cold Saturday afternoon Pep, I’ll show you pressure.

Written by the lovely Irishgunner


Woke Up, it was a Chelsea Morning: Preview

April 21, 2012

Remember when you were small (or in Chary’s case, smaller)?  Morning break – out came the football, lunch break, – out came the football, after school – out came the football. At weekends, a game Saturday morning and another in the afternoon, often playing until dark in summer.

Young Big Raddy slots one past a concerned Kelsey

What is the relevance of my opening paragraph? Well, it is the complete tosh talked about Chelsea having to play 3 big games in a week. These men are honed athletes who spend their lives doing something they love and are trained non-stop to do so. If I can play 30+ hours a week as a 12 y.o. then they can manage under 5 hours as adults. Am I right or am I right?

Chelsea have one of the biggest squads in World football. They have a World Cup winner and the most expensive player ever in the PL on the bench! They have Essien on the bench, who IMO has been the best DM in the PL since PV4.  But they moan about how the FA have been harsh. If the FA was harsh Meireles would be banned for being so damned ugly and frightening the horses.

It is true Chelsea will be missing some players through injury but who in their right mind would play Luiz ahead of Cahill against Arsenal?  Ivanovic is banned but they have a  €21m replacement in Boswinga (yes, €21m !!). Rumour has it that Drogba is out, and we all know that Drogba loves to play us, but in Torres, Sturridge and Kalou they have some very expensive and talented replacements.

Playing Barca on Tuesday will certainly be on their minds, however, should The Blues fail to win at Camp Nou and this afternoon they are likely to play a regular Thursday night game. So, this is a huge game for them and I expect nothing less than 100% effort and a full first team.

Knocking 5 past them at the Bridge was great and JT’s slip was one of the season’s highlights. However, under Di Matteo they have developed into the Chelsea of Ancelloti. Hard, physical, highly motivated and disciplined; we are unlikely to score 5 today. That Terry continues playing at all with 2 cracked ribs is a testament to the man. I have broken ribs skiing and could hardly breathe, how JT plays football is astonishing. I hope RvP gives the brute a couple of digs early on and then TV clatters him at a set piece. Actually, give Diaby a few minutes – he will sort him out :-)

Our problems start and end with Arteta. His absence is statistically worrying (we have yet to win a PL game without him) but we showed against AC Milan how good we can be  if we really attack from the first whistle.  That said, we have shown a weakness to very fast counter-attack and Chelsea are certainly capable in that area.

My Team:

Will Mr Wenger give an out of form Gervinho another start? I wouldn’t. I would start with O-C and tell him to attack Boswinga and then cut inside. On the other wing we have to hope Theo gives Cashley a tough afternoon. Cole has been the best LB in the PL history and it is a huge regret that he took the 30 pieces of silver.

I have said before that if RvP scores today then we will win. In my opinion, he is the key player. His shooting has been a little off recently but he is The Man, and if we are to take 3rd spot Robin has to keep scoring until season’s end.

Today’s Gooner:  With the Olympics coming up and high hopes for Diving medals, it should not be forgotten that the man in the diving form of his life is a huge Gooner: Ashley Young of the Manchester Diving Team. It is hoped that he and Mr Wayne Rooney will represent GB in the Men’s Synchronised 10m Diving team. Given their past record, a podium position is assured.   Vital game for both teams today.

Arsenal must shrug off the disappointment of Monday and play without fear. If and it is a big If, Chelsea do suffer from fatigue we must punish them in the final 15 mins.

I believe we can beat the South West London Ponces.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Cesc Will Rue The Day He Left Arsenal

July 23, 2011

Not many players leave Arsène Wenger’s Arsenal and thrive.

Look at Alex Hleb.

The ‘new George Best’ sold his soul for a Mr Whippy with extra sprinkles and quickly went from Barcelona to the heady heights of Birmingham FC.

Now, still owned by Barca but not wanted by anyone, he floats in the footballing ether, dribbling in mazy circles to nowhere and declining clear shooting opportunities to his heart’s content.

Matthieu Flamini, after finally having a good season at Arsenal, showed all the loyalty of a two bob hooker and decamped for Milan. One of his main gripes was that he had been forced to play so many games at Arsenal as a left back.

No such problem with the Rossoneri. They played him at right back instead.

Thierry Henry won some gongs when he joined Barcelona, but he was literally a peripheral figure (pushed back out to the wings, from where Arsene had rescued him all those years earlier). A classy, brilliant player, but no-one can doubt that we got the best of him and sold him when his decline had started.

Now he’s some kind of showman in the Americas, wearing a Stetson and juggling footballs on the back of a rodeo bull while toting a Colt 45 or somesuch.

Patrick Vieira? Like Henry he was too good to vanish into obscurity. However, when he moved to Italy he had the bittersweet experience of winning numerous medals – but only as a bit part player. When he stumbled across the ATM that never stops churning out ten pound notes (otherwise known as Man City), who can blame him for retiring to its warm dressing rooms and well varnished benches?

Ljungberg, Pires, Adebayor, Reyes, Petit, Overmars… I could go on, but the point is: Arsene knows when it’s time to let a player go. In most cases it is when he has judged that their performances have crested the zenith. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are bad, just that they will never quite reach their peak again and will, in fact, decline.

Even those he has been forced to sell reluctantly, like Flamini and Anelka, have never subsequently had the central, starring roles they had at Arsenal.

So what about Cesc?

Have we seen the best of El Capitan? When he leaves us will it be for a few tortured years of bench-sitting at Barcelona, plagued by ever-worsening hamstrings and haunted by the curious longevity of the Xavi-Iniesta partnership, still winning the Primera Liga well into their thirities?

Will we Arsenal fans nod sagely to each other and repeat the mantra that players just never do as well when they leave us?

DON’T BE STUPID.

Cesc Fabregas is one of the best four or five players in the world. I would put Messi and Ronaldo ahead of him, but after that…? The man is a genius. Of course he is going to have a marvelous career at Barcelona. If he is not a regular first team starter by January London will eat his red-and-white socks*.

And yet, you say, your headline referred to him rueing the day he leaves Arsenal. If he goes on to win Spanish title after Copa del Ray after Champions League what will there be to regret? What tears will little Francesc possibly shed?

Let me tell you.

Cesc will rue the day he leaves because when this Arsenal team, whose talisman he has been for so long, finally starts to win the big prizes without him it will pierce his heart with the brilliant sharpness of one of his incredible passes through the Totteringham defence.

If Arsenal win the league this year – and I am one of those who believes it is a real possibility – then Cesc will be disconsolate. It will be a failure for him that will live with him throughout his career and his life.

He will have given eight years of his life to a project – and not just any project, but a glorious, ambitious, eyes-on-the-stars kind of project – and then walked away just before it reached its crowning glory. It would be as if Neil Armstrong got to the Moon’s orbit and said: “You know what, I’m fine, I’ll just stay here in Apollo 11 and look out the window…”

Never mind whether he has a championship medal in Spain, a Champions League title and has been chosen as Miss Catalunia 2013, there will be a hole in Cesc’s soul that will never be filled.

He will rejoice for his erstwhile teammates, but deep down he will know that he should have been with them. And for that, I will grieve with him.

RockyLives

*That’s OK isn’t it London?


Pique Slams Barca Team Mates For Constant Cesc Talk

July 18, 2011

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique has lashed out at his team mates over their attempts to unsettle Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.

The furious 24-year-old Spain international told the Spanish newspaper Sport: “We must leave Cesc in peace and let things run their course.”

His midfield colleague Xavi was the latest Barcelona player to go public about Fabregas earlier this week, earning a stinging rebuke from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Other players from the Blaugranes to have made unprompted comments include Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves and Pedro Rodriguez.

Even the mayor of Fabregas’ home town got in on the act this week, suggesting the Arsenal stalwart had been ‘kidnapped’ by his club.

Many observers see the barrage of comments as an orchestrated campaign by Barcelona FC to unsettle Fabregas and force Arsenal to sell him at under his market value.

There is growing speculation that the blatant nature of the campaign is alarming the European game’s top echelons, with UEFA preparing to step in to remind Barcelona of their responsibilities. If the Catalans ignore the warning sanctions could follow.

Rounding on his colleagues Pique said: “Any player suffers when there’s so much talk about his future.”

He added that although Barcelona’s players had always talked with respect, their comments were damaging the Arsenal number four and they should stop immediately.

End of news story.

Note to Readers:

This story accurately uses the same quotes that were used in yesterday’s coverage of Pique’s remarks.

It’s quite clear that while Pique was offering a partial defence of Xavi, he was also saying that his team mates should stop talking about Cesc.

Strangely the British press chose only to focus on the former interpretation, with not a mention of Pique’s “shut up” message to his fellow players.

A typical headline was “Pique defends Xavi comments” (ITV Football).

There’s a simple reason for that. The media has decided that Arsenal are in crisis, that Fabregas and Nasri are going and that “big” players don’t want to join us.

Once their pack mentality kicks in, they willfully ignore facts that contradict this over-riding narrative (such as the second half of Pique’s comments). In fact, once Fleet Street decides on its narrative it’s harder to turn than a supertanker.

If you want further evidence, just look at the garbage written by Sam Wallace in The Independent, under the headline “Jagielka snub shows Arsenal’s fading appeal.”

Regulars will know I have banged on about this a lot, but it really does my head in.

And by writing the Pique story the way it could quite reasonably have been presented with exactly the same facts, I hope it will go some small way towards helping Arsenal fans realise they should pay less attention to what they read. Most of it is made up and the rest is twisted to suit whatever agenda the journalists and their paymasters want.

Ignore the bullsh*t. Wait for the facts.

RockyLives


Letter to El Capitan: Cesc Fabregas

July 12, 2011

 Barca might want you, but Arsenal need and love you, and that is all you need!

Cesc, did you read Sandro Rosell’s comment regarding your possible transfer last week: “let things run their course and hope they go in our favour”? How do you feel about Barca’s unwillingness to meet Arsenal’s apparantly more than reasonable asking price of £40m in one go? Barcelona seem to be in no rush whats-o-ever to sign you, to make you part of their team in this crucial period of preparation for the new season, and why so? Maybe, because they only want you, but do not really need you, and certainly do not seem to love you – like really, really love you. You know what I mean: that sort of possessive, mad love that makes people jump through seemingly impossible hoops to get you, to make you theirs: to do whatever needs to be done, pay the necessary price and subsequent sacrifices, so they can bring you back home where you once belonged.

I read somewhere recently, I think it was in ‘Fraction of the Whole’ by Steve Toltz, that once you actively take a distance from certain people, they will soon double that distance between you and them. This, I find very true and you might well find, Cesc, that the people of Barcelona have also doubled the distance that you once decided to take from them, when you decided to leave your hometown and –club. At Arsenal, you are not only wanted, but also needed and loved. That is three out of three – it does not get any better than that: can you say the same about Barcelona?

What you have done for this club is immense, from a sporting point of view, but also from a gentleman’s point of view.You have handled this situation impeccably: you made it clear you would like to return to Barcelona, and we the fans understand this: how could we deny a man such a wish?! You always behaved with restraint, full of respect for the club and the fans. In this day and age, it is heart-warming to see such behaviour, and whatever you will decide to do you will always have a place in the hearts of the fans.

But Cesc, you are so close to success with Wenger’s latest version of Total Football. Patience is running thin, understandably so. We are all frustrated to have been so close to silverware last season, and yet it all slipped away, again. But, Vermaelen is back, Ramsey is back, Wilshire is fully rested and ready for battle again, and so are Song, Koscielny, Djourou, Arshavin, Sagna, Theo, Chamakh, Robin, Szczesny, and maybe Nasri as well. Wenger has promised to strengthen further our defence, and seems to be keen to buy one or two wingers to add some more bite to our team. Gervinho has just been confirmed as our latest new signing – who looks like a winger to me – and Wenger has said that he will add one or two more players this summer.

Cesc, you should be part of the impending successes, you should be the leader of the last push towards cups and accolades: if you stay with us, you could be on your way to football-immortality.

If you do decide to go, then your decision will be respected. But please Cesc, give it one more thought and do not only think about what you are likely to gain back home, but also what you are likely to lose. Arsenal will make the final push, sooner or later, with or without you. But you deserve to be part of this: you worked so hard for it during the last seven years. Leaving Arsenal now, could become the biggest regret of your life.

TotalArsenal.


Arsenal Pounded out of the Top Four

July 1, 2011

Some transfer rumours are pure fabrication, some are speculation and a very few have genuine substance – having said that, it is unwise to dismiss all the current stories surrounding Arsenal players when they stall over signing new contracts and are a year away from leaving on a free.

Make no mistake, Cesc wants to go to Barca and Clichy and Nasri are looking elsewhere for big money (and possibly the notion that they may be more likely to win trophies). I believe there is truth that manu have shown interest in Nasri, city are looking to buy Clichy and are prepaed to offer Nasri silly money, and pool are also interested in Clichy.

It is likely that all of those clubs can and will offer a better deal to our players than Arsenal will table. The top four is now a case of perm any 4 out of the top five as Liverpool have shown their intent by spending big and spending early. Three out of our four rivals are looking to cherry pick players from our squad with only the canny new manager at chelski biding his time.

We are becoming a feeder club for the other top clubs and that may mean that the miracle of CL qualification that we have achieved on a minimal budget over past years is coming to an end.

Why? Well I think there are three main reasons.

1. We are being outpriced.

2. Some players have run out of patience, they are entering the peak years of their playing careers and want to taste success

3. The aura of Arsène Wenger’s managerial brilliance borne from the days of the Invincibles is wearing thin.

Where does that leave Arsenal and Arsène Wenger? If we sign Gary Cahill, some of my faith will be restored as there are plenty of cheaper options out there and we will have chosen to pay the extra for proven PL quality.

Gervinho looks like a good player, but is he any better as a striker than Bendtner? His price tag and past goals per game record would suggest not. We can only consider ourselves as moving forward if the players we bring in are better than those leaving (and not potentially in 3 years time) and in the case if Cesc and Nasri, that would be a very tall order.

Losing the Carling Cup was a humiliation. To restore belief (not just talk about it) we have to make our mark in the transfer market especially if we let big players go.

Our manager’s reputation has changed in the perception of many from a visionary genius to an over-cautious spendthrift stuck in his ways and if that perception has entered the minds of our players then we are in trouble.

Arsenal may now be being viewed by potential new signees as the most effective way of showcasing themselves to one of the ‘big’ clubs – “one good season at Arsenal and Barca will come in for me”

I know I’m going to be branded as negative, ungrateful, delusional and just plain wrong, but please don’t bother listing all of AW’s achievements, I am well aware and profoundly grateful for all he has done, but now he has to show that he can compete in this new era of football.

Like it or not, our position has changed in relation to those around us and we need to rethink and regroup, or we have to accept the inevitable that the Holy Grail of CL qualification will fall from our grasp.

Written by Rasp


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