Schoolboy Errors Cost Us Once Again.

February 18, 2010

Last night’s game was crying out for someone to put their foot on the ball and calm the whole thing down. It made no sense to me and seemed totally unnecessary that we played at such break neck speed. Players look to their captain to dictate the pace but Fabrégas was guilty of repeatedly trying the Hollywood pass when a shorter, calmer pass, guaranteeing that we kept possession, would have been the better option. I’m not trying to suggest that he had it easy it was very obvious that he had been singled out by the Portuguese to systematically have his ankles hacked at. But in between that we really needed a clear headed Captain to take control of the game. Nasri was no better, neither was Rosicky in fact most of the play resembled school children running as fast as they could around the playground. Can you name me one passage of Wengerball that took place between Fabrégas, Rosicky and Nasri? You can’t because it didn’t happen; we have got to be the only club in the world who cannot make the collective talent of those three players work.

For some reason I felt less pain after we lost to Manu and Chelsea I remember consoling myself by saying that on the day we lost to a better team but we do not have that excuse last night; Porto were not better, in fact, although both teams looked liked they had built their defences using the Three Little Pigs guide to construction, and I am not referring to the sensible one who opted for bricks, Fabainski aside we were the one that looked like we had opted for the better building material of sticks rather than theirs of straw. They left do much space at the back we should have crucified them.

I don’t remember a recent game in which I was so nervous before the start perhaps it was because ITV were repeatedly showing Sol’s last goal in the Champions League Final in Paris which brought back all that pre match anxiety.  The kick off helped calm me, although, that lasted two minutes before one of the Porto players went flying towards our goal with Sol, looking way out of his depth, in chase. I feared the worst but he recovered with a tackle as good as any other defender in the game, if not better. In fact this tackle calmed the whole game down for a short while; we established our shape and all looked well until that is Clichy got ripped to shreds once again on the left by one Porto player, I don’t remeber his name, before he sent in a pedestrian cross that somehow Fabianski managed to put in his own net. Our confidence viably dropped and was not recovered until they only good thing to happen last night and that as you know was the goal from Sol, if the game had ended there the world would have been a very enjoyable place to be this morning but it didn’t. The night was marred by Fabianski’s school boy error in the second half; it was a perfectly good goal which in the cold light of the day I am sure Wenger will realise but what worries me more is will he realise that we desperately need a goal keeper.

Player ratings:

Fabianski: isn’t there a building site that this man should be on. A career in plumbing or carpentry might be a more appropriate line of work because it sure as hell is not goal keeping. 0

Sagna: the Frenchman is one of those players who so obviously benefits from a break, ran tirelessly tonight but as we are have all come to realise we are never going to get anything from him in the final third of the pitch. 6

Campbell: I felt really sorry for him at the end; he gave everything he possibly could and deserved so much better than to be playing with that idiot in goal. Man of the Match. 8

Vermaelen: not his usual composed self, obviously missed the pace of Gallas but did every thing that was needed well enough. 6

Clichy: am I going mad or do I remember this player being able to patrol the left back position with authority and composure? I must be going mad because he now leaves me worried every time a player runs at him. In fairness he did have a better second half but now as far as I am concerned, he is only keeping the jersey warm until Gibbs returns. 5

Diaby: I was very impressed with his performance in the first half and was getting excited about writing this report as I really felt the comparison with a younger Vieira was justified, his tracking back was superb, his tackling sharp and his driving runs forward were inspirational, unfortunately, he faded in the second half and by the end he was guilty of his most characteristic error: not getting rid of the ball quick enough which lead to us loosing possession. 6

Fabregas: please, please, please walk into Wenger’s office tomorrow and tell him that if he doesn’t get rid of these clowns, your off. Ran his heart out, but compared to his normally high standard of passing he was sloppy. 6

Denilson: I completely disagree with ITV’s half time criticism of him, he put in a decent performance, improving as the game went on, it is worth remembering he was simply cover for Song and he will no longer get in the team ahead of Diaby so he is what he should be at his age and stage of development – squad cover. 6

Rosicky: a few good runs but by now he should having a far greater say on games like this he is the Czech Captain but he has all the authority of Bounced Cheque. 5

Bendtner: he is not a number 9 and I cannot ever see him becoming a number 9, but compared to Arshavin’s recent contribution his height helped as did his presence, that said, unless an opportunity arrives on a plate he aint going to score because he does not have what it takes to create a goal out of nothing. 5

Nasri: the Frenchman ran a lot, gave sneaky little digs in the ribs of the Porto players when the referee wasn’t looking but was ineffectual, in fact, I would say that Eboue contributed more in the five minutes he was on than Nasri did for the whole game. 5


Arsène’s Depleted Armada Sets Sail for Porto

February 17, 2010

After the seemingly endless winter break we finally have the chance to get back to the hunt for European glory. I will start today’s post with some stats about our opposition.

After 10 home games in Liga Sagres, Porto have yet to lose, averaging 2.4 goals per game. They lie 3rd, 9 points behind Benfica. With an 87% win rate in 19  games, they have conceded just 14 goals.

Captained by Bruno Alves, the tough tackling central defender is the current La Liga Player of the Year. Porto have two strong frontmen; Hulk, a 23 y.o. Brazilian who is reported to be a €20m target for Man Utd (and us!). Top scorer is Columbian Radamel Falcao, who has scored 20 goals in 26 games since signing for Porto in the summer.

Five years ago led by Mourinho, Porto became World Club Champions. In 2009 they won the Portugese League and Cup double and went out of the Champions League in the Quarter Finals to Man Utd, having drawn 2-2 at OT and very unluckily losing 1-0 at home.

Porto are a different club to the team that lost to MU having sold 7 of their 2008/9 first team squad including the sale of CF Lisandro Lopez to Lyon for a staggering €24m rising to €30m !

We played them in last season CL group stages losing 2-0 away and winning 4-0 at home in what was one of our best performaces of the season. However our away defeat should be put into perspective as we had already qualified and played a weakened team including Ramsey, Silvestre, Djourou and Vela.

This season Porto easily qualified for the CLQF’s coming second in their group, despite losing home and away to Chelsea (aggregate 2-0)

We go into the game with injuries to Song, Gallas, Almunia and Arshavin. Song will be a big miss as will Gallas. Both have been immense this season. The injury (finger?) to Almunia should allow Fabianski to get a run of games, develop some confidence and unity within the defence, and finally take the shirt from Coco. I am sure Almunia is a great chap, but he doesn’t inspire confidence, something we have seriously lacked since Mad Jens left. My guess is that Sol will partner TV, and it is here we may have problems. Porto do not play with one big striker to hold up play, Hulk and Falcao being pacy, skillful forwards, not the best style of striker for the ageing Sol. However, Campbell has enormous experience and looks very sharp. plus he is brilliant at marshalling his defence.

I expect Denilson to play ahead of Ramsey. Diaby is a central figure for us, he has started to impose himself upon the team, and with Porto’s stated intention of double marking Cesc, we will be looking to Diaby to create the space for Cesc. Wenger usually plays 4-5-1 away in the CL, so Bendtner will be asked to play the holding CF role, with Walcott joining him for the last 20 minutes.

We will undoubtedly struggle for goals and will look to our midfielders to link with Nik. We don’t have a TH14 to score the breakaway solo goal (who can forget that amazing goal against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu?) and as much as I like Bendtner, he doesn’t have it in his game. That said, we will attack, it is the Arsenal way, and of course we need the vital away goal.

My team would be:

Sagna Campbell Vermaelen Clichy
Denilson Cesc Diaby Rosicky
Nasri Bendtner

It is exactly 200 years (and 6 months) since the Duke of Wellington went over to Portugal and defeated a combined French and Portugese force at the battle of Duoro, just outside Porto. Porto was the beginning of his successful Peninsular campaign which ended with the vanquishing of Napoleon’s armies. Wellington’s rewards were the gold and silver plate that one can see at Apsley House , 1 Marble Arch. This time the French are on our side, and Wengers ultimate reward may be silver as well.

And as everyone knows The Duke was a renowned Gunner …..

By Big Raddy

Arsenal — Going Broke: London’s Rebuttal.

February 16, 2010

Yesterday was very entertaining, one of our co-writers, my good friend Alfa, who is also one of my Emirates buddies, put up a post looking to discuss certain questions about Arsenal’s current financial situation.  A very lively debate ensued which included us being branded a spud site! So today, I would like to put my views forward for what they’re worth.

Ever since the Man. U and Chelsea matches, the big question for all Gooners has resurfaced again. Why aren’t we buying the 2-3 big players we need to cement our place back at the top of the league?

Arsene points to the dearth of available players and even less of a higher quality than we already have at the club. As Arsenal supporters we have a choice: you either believe this or you think that Wenger is lying. Personally I believe that Wenger did make inquiries about David Villa in the recent window but was unsuccessful and so now with the unlikelihood of securing the signature of David Villa, Wenger has turned to Chamakh who I fully expect to see playing at the Home Of Football next season.

More to the point, can we really not afford to compete on transfer fees and wages, or is it stubborn old Arsene still just trying to prove that he can win with kids?

We haven’t been able to compete since the arrival of Abramovich so we have had to adapt; this doesn’t make Wenger stubborn it makes him pragmatic and by that I mean we now buy players like Arshavin and Vermaelen; which, under the circumstances is no bad thing. As for the youth project, people miss how wide this is and often forget that the fruits of “Project Youth” include Fabrégas.

Only last Wednesday he talked about Arsenal having to live in a ‘realistic world’. So what is the reality for Arsenal?

Wenger could have said we have to live in a realistic world ten years ago as easy as it is to imagine that he will say it in ten years time. I read this as a negotiating ploy; a simple method of trying to keep transfer fees down. And the reality is that we are still in the chase for the EPL and the CL.

Arsenal’s earnings (leaving out interest payments etc.) are probably falling, mainly because existing player wages are going up to compensate them for tax changes.

To my recollection there have only been three contract renegotiations since the summer, Rosicky, Eduardo and Van Persie. The first two are probably so grateful to still be at Arsenal and have accepted a rise of somewhere in the region of £10 a week. RVP is different but his increased salary would have easily been compensated for by the removal of Adebayor’s wage.

The new flats development at Highbury isn’t likely to make any money to help pay off the £242m we borrowed for the Emirates.

Building the Emirates and paying off the cost of it was never dependant of the financial success of Highbury Square. The £242m has been structured in such a way (bond issue) so that it can comfortably be paid back over 25 years.

So whatever money we make is having to go first to existing players to keep their take home pay the same, even though taxes are going up and up.

Rosicky and Eduardo would have got nominal wage increases and taxes will be going up in Spain and Italy to the same level as the UK if not beyond.

Then we have to pay more for the loan on the Emirates than we planned to.

There is no reason to assume this or evidence to support it.

If we didn’t qualify for the Champions League.

We have qualified for the CL in the last thirteen seasons and I see no reason to think that we will not be involved in that competition next season.

Uzmanov wanted to issue new shares and bring an extra £150m into the club. It would pay off a fair bit of debt, get the interest payments down and give some breathing space.

The repayment of the cost of building the Emirates is very much under control so there is nothing that we need breathing space from. That being the case there is no need for a share issue and if there was the current board are just as capable of organising one.

Even £150m wouldn’t put us back in the big league though, just get the bankers off our backs.

We do not have bankers on our backs so this assumption is flawed.

Second option – sell players, starting with Cesc.

This is based on the premise that Arsenal are cash strapped….they are not and therefore there is absolutely no reason to sell our most important asset.

Thanks for being a good sport Alfa and to everyone else, have a good day in AA.

Arsenal – going broke?

February 15, 2010

Ever since the Man. U and Chelsea matches, the big question for all Gooners has resurfaced again. Why aren’t we buying the 2-3 big players we need to cement our place back at the top of the league? More to the point, can we really not afford to compete on transfer fees and wages, or is it stubborn old Arsene still just trying to prove that he can win with kids? Only last Wednesday he talked about Arsenal having to live in a ‘realistic world’. So what is the reality for Arsenal? Does ‘realistic’ mean ‘skint’? I think the answer might be YES.

Digging into Arsenal’s finances is about as exciting as waiting for Rory Delap to dry his balls. Fortunately Robert Peston, BBC Business reporter and long time Gooner, did a lot of the work last summer. Aided by a convenient leak of an investment report, he put some fascinating facts together, including:

1. Arsenal’s earnings (leaving out interest payments etc.) are probably falling, mainly because existing player wages are going up to compensate them for tax changes.

2. Our season tickets are 24% higher than other big four clubs and our other tickets 40% higher. So no more money is coming in from the fans.

3. The new flats development at Highbury  isn’t likely to make any money to help pay off the £242m we borrowed for the Emirates.

So whatever money we make is having to go first to existing players to keep their take home pay the same, even though taxes are going up and up. Then we have to pay more for the loan on the Emirates than we planned to.  Whatever is left over could be used to buy players and pay their wages. How much could that be? It could be as little as £5m-£10m. Now it makes sense why our big new signings are coming in on frees. When Chamakh arrives, his wages alone will use up quite a bit of that.  If we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, even that £5m to £10m could disappear. Now you know why we played the second string against Stoke.

So far from being prudent Arsenal, the board seem to have got us to the point that we are strapped for cash. Emirates or not, we have bitten off more than we can chew, and we are paying for it.

So what can we do?

Uzmanov wanted to issue new shares and bring an extra £150m into the club. It would pay off a fair bit of debt, get the interest payments down and give some breathing space. Even £150m wouldn’t put us back in the big league though, just get the bankers off our backs and let Arsene buy quality. The board don’t like it because it means giving up some control. I think it’s a bit late to worry about that now.

Second option – sell players, starting with Cesc. £40m in the bank and another maybe £5m off the wage bill. Not what we pay higher season ticket prices for than anyone else, but no different from Man. U. selling Ronaldo.

I never thought I’d say this, but I pick Usmanov over selling Cesc. The board have done their best within our proud traditions but this time they’ve blown it and unless we want to start moving with the Evertons and Aston Villas of this world, it’s time we faced up to the state we are in, before it is too late.

Bolsheviks Murder Russian Royal Family So That Arsenal Can Win The Champions League.

February 14, 2010

It’s FA Cup weekend and no doubt there will be a few Arsenal supporters who would prefer to be jumping in the car and making their way along a motorway to some third division ground or what ever that league is called nowadays; in fact, when I think about it, there are probably quite a few but no matter how many — they don’t include me. I am one of a growing number who are happy that we have this weekend off. This break gives the team more than just a much needed opportunity to recharge their batteries: it ensures that they avoid unnecessary injuries ahead of the all important game against Porto on Wednesday.

Wenger has clearly made a conscious decision to prioritise the Champions League over the fading glory of the FA Cup, rightly so, and not before time in my opinion. I am convinced that he looks back to middle of this decade and recalls the exceptional talent that he assembled and regrets allowing the FA Cup to divide and therefore dilute his and his teams’ attention away from the vastly more important Champions League.

Yes, we won our games and went on to make our annual pilgrimage to Cardiff, a city in which I visited so many times I still exchange Christmas cards with a certain hotelier on the outskirts of the town. But in addition to making trips to Wales I also went to many of the away games in European — I still do and if there were a choice between Stoke and Porto, there would only be one winner.

For too long, progressing in the FA Cup on weekends like this has provided Wenger’s teams with a false sense of security. It acted as a safety-net and therefore an excuse to be able to fail in the infinitely more important Champions League.

This should never be allowed to happen again, the FA Cup needs to be culled early; it must never again be allowed to act as a prop. No Arsenal team should be put in a position in which their total focus is taken away from the aim of winning the Champions League.

I remember watching the film Doctor Zhivago with my Dad many years ago and asking him why the Bolsheviks felt the need to kill the Russian royal family including the children, being a child myself at the time I remember the stark answer: to make it absolutely clear to everyone that there was no going back.

It has taken Wenger longer than he should to adopt this brutalist way of thinking about the FA Cup, I suspect that he regrets not doing it when he had the likes of Henry, Pires, Begkamp and Vieira. This group of players should have achieved so much more in Europe than they did and had their security blanket in the form of the FA Cup been wrenched away at an earlier stage, forcing them to give the Champions League their undivided attention, I feel certain that they would have.

The current crop of players, I am sure you would agree, couldn’t hold a candle to those which is even more reason why all their efforts should be focused on just one cup competition. I want the players to know the harsh reality that when they approach Wednesday’s game that there is no going back, there is no FA Cup safety-net, no security blanket, no fall back position; glory lies with the Champions league.

Glory Days

February 13, 2010

When I was a kid the FA Cup held romance.  I recall going to Yeovil in ’71 to see Big Raddy play on their once famous sloping pitch.  We went on to Wembley that year to see Charlie George score his wonderful goal and win the Double.  In those days one had to collect all the stamps in the matchday programmes to obtain a ticket, and if you were missing one – disaster ! But I had been to all the home games that season and bought all the programmes,  I was a winner and so was Frank Mclintock.

In later years, I watched us almost throw the Cup away after being 2 up with 10 minutes to play in Liam’s final game for us.  Then came the GG years and the seemingly annual trips to Wembley, followed by our regular trips to Cardiff, when winning the FA Cup seemed our right ( apart from being robbed by the referee and Owen in 2001).  My favourite Cup Final was Freddie’s.  We stayed in a brilliant hotel, Cardiff was bedecked with Gooners wearing Freddie wigs or red sprayed hair and we were playing the Chavs, who are supported by many of my close friends.  Of course, he had to score, and what a goal it was.

I didn’t attend the last time we won the Cup, with Paddy’s final kick in an Arsenal shirt, and watching the game on television it seemed the correct decision.

The FA Cup is THE Cup,  Arsene is right to say that the Carling Cup holds little value, when we talk of the “Cup”, we all know which cup it is. Which brings me to the point of the post….. Why do I not care a jot that we are not playing today? What happened to trivialize the FA Cup for me?  Sure, I would be delighted if we got to Wembley, and won the FAC again, but quite honestly I believe AW was right to play an understrength team at Stoke.  I prefer that we have a day off prior to the important game at Porto.  In my opinion, Wenger would have put out a weakened team should we have beaten Stoke, and I would have agreed.

Could it be that winning the Double twice has reduced the Cup’s value?  Or that we became too accustomed to getting to the Final, or is it the inexorable rise of the Champions League?  Probably the latter.  There is far more excitement and sense of achievement in reaching the last 8 in Europe than beating Wigan at home to get to the FAC semi’s.  A memory has just floated in…. I was at Old Trafford watching to see us beat Spurs in the semi’s – it was Sol’s last game for Spurs prior to seeing the light and leaving the Forces of Darkness.  I recall a surging run from an imperious Vieira before Pires came onto a low cross to guarantee a celebratory drive home.  But will I think of this on a cold night or will it be Sol scoring in Paris ?  You know the answer ….. both !

My conclusion is that our European adventures have dimmed the light of the FA Cup to such an extent that it is an afterthought.  I realise that many Gooners will disagree with me, they retain the romantic attachment, and say it is Silverware (which is unquestionably true).  But I have fallen out of love with it.  Gone is the exclusivity of a game live on TV, gone is the excitement of the all day build up,  the coach arriving at Wembley,  the Abide with Me, the man dressed in the England suit and Mottie’s sheepskin jacket.

But I will never forget that sunny day in ’71 when Frank lifted the Cup.  As the Boss says…. Glory Days

Wenger Auditions For “Stars In Your Eyes”; Gerrard’s Lead Role In “Boy Who Cried Wolf”

February 12, 2010

Stars In Your Eyes is making a special comeback for 2010 and tonight Cat Deeley, Arsene Wenger will be Lenny Kravitz.

Arsene as Lenny Kravitz

Arsene as Lenny Kravitz

Surely Arsene Wenger has got all the squad singing:

“So many tears I’ve cried
So much pain inside
But baby It ain’t over ’til it’s over
So many years we’ve tried”

So many years we’ve tried and failed but this year Gooners it can be different because as certain as I am Irish and I love Arsenal, IT AIN’T OVER TILL IT’S OVER!!

There are 12 games for Arsenal to win this title.  We don’t need to win them all nor do we need to play well in them all, we just need to score points in them all.

The Chavs stuffed up big time midweek. And they WILL stuff up again!

John ‘The Slut’ Terry has been given a few days off by Ancleotti and thankfully he decided he wanted to go a day early and left Saha in twice to secure all three points for Everton.

Cashley has plenty time to count his extra £5k a week now that he is out for the season. Bad news for England but good news for the rest of us because he was having a storming couple of months for the Chavs.

Oh, and a certain Jose Mourinho is waiting for them in the Champions League. That’ll be fun to watch. Two full blooded affairs I’m sure.

We’ve made Chelsea look good this season but they aren’t good. They have lost to Wigan, Everton,  and drawn away at Hull.

Yeah, they have beat us but they haven’t done what Champions in general do and that’s beat the smaller teams regularly. We’ve been better doing that this season.

Meanwhile, the Mancs are relying on Rooney and his goals. He is dragging them kicking and screaming through this league.

Red Nose and his team are 5 points ahead of us while the Chavs are 6 points ahead of us.

Joy to the World they still have to play each other so one or both will drop points and Liverpool may nick some points off them somehow.

The Mancs won the league last season but secured only FOUR POINTS against the so-called big four. We have topped that by two this season thanks to beating the Scousers twice.

The media and other moaners will say you should beat the best if you want to be the best but I couldn’t give a stuff if we win the league by beating neither of Chelsea or United – all I care is that we are top of the pile at the end.

Besides, we did it the special way with the Invincibles so why not try something a little different?

Talking about being a little different, lets go off on a different tangent and talk about Stevie Me and his new starring role as the boy who cried wolf.

Since Wednesday night he has been “dismayed” at how a penalty wasn’t given against Fab4 for the handball in added time.

Its called karma you dirty, snivelling, cheating little prick.

Innocent ickle Stevie was looking for a penalty when Cesc clearly raised his hand to the ball but the little boy is crying wolf here because Cesc got away with one bit of cheating when St.Stevie Me of Gerrard gets away with cheating game after game.

Steven you are a top player but an absolute disgrace. Your diving increases tenfold when Liverpool go behind, you stick your studs into other players legs with little care for their welfare and then you cry “foul”…


Oh, and you ain’t ever going to win a League Medal either, HA!

You can see Stevie as the boy who cried wolf every weekend in the English Premier League. However, shall you not be able to wait that long then tune into the UEFA Champions Leag…….. oops sorry!!

C’mon Gooners, heads up. Wednesday has given us a glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel, this season to date has proved it ain’t over till its over.

Arise Sir Diaby.

February 11, 2010

Sir Abou, as I shall respectfully call him from now on, earned his right to wear the glorious red and white shirt of Arsenal last night with the prestigious cannon emblazoned on its chest; once upon a time it would have had the words Victoria Concordia Cresit, underneath, although, until the goal the words victory through frustration rather than victory through harmony might have been more appropriate. This may seem a bit harsh, especially if you saw the high-lights on MOTD which managed to make the game look exciting but if you were there, I have to tell you, that for the first seventy minutes it was tough going for the spectator.

The first half was marked only by the chance that fell to Bendtner who lashed it over the bar, we were playing like a team, that unsurprisingly after the last two drubbings, were completely lacking in confidence but fortunately as hard as we tried we just couldn’t make Liverpool look good. Recent results may indicate to many a neutral that we are not as good as Manu or Chelsea but thankfully we have not fallen so far that we will be thought of as being worse than Liverpool.

The goal, the goal, the goal it was all about the goal maybe the fine save that Almunia pulled off from a rasping shot from Babel or the tackle timed to perfection by Gallas deserve a mention but I am sure you would agree nothing was more important than the goal — it changed everything.

It wasn’t expected, attacks were ebbing and flowing and the build up looked as though it was going to whither into nothing in the same way that every other attack that we had mounted had done so far, the ball was bobbling around Liverpool’s penalty area when it bounced kindly to Bendtner who played it to Rosicky on the right wing who, in turn, sent over an inch perfect cross to be met by the on coming, and now Knight of the realm, Sir Abou Diaby — the relief was tangible; the players, coaching staff and fans alike went wild, we were in the lead; can you remember the last time we went in the lead, I couldn’t then and I can’t now.

Suddenly the confidence returned, chests were pushed out, passes found their man and the world of football as we know it started to look a much better place. The goal, as you can imagine,  was Liverpool’s cue to stop time wasting, get the kitchen sink out and throw it at us as hard as they could, but no matter what came our way, and that included Gerrard cheating as much as he could, we stood firm.

Results couldn’t have been kinder on the night which puts us just five points behind Chelsea who I see as far more likely league winners than manu but as we know our run in is far better then theirs so perhaps it is apt to say that rumours of Arsenal’s demise might have been a little premature.

Player ratings…….and they are low for a reason.

Almunia: it’s funny how Coco looks better when we win but considering we have got more Poles than Spearmint Rhino surely one of them has got to claim the number one jersey next season…….I know, I know, I have been desperate to find a way of getting that one in. Lol. 5

Eboue: with Sagna looking jaded, Eboue’s inclusion was predictable and necessary; he offers so much more offensively than Sagna. One of the things that made me laugh was that with about 10 minutes to go he was hobbling around holding his leg waving to the bench indicating that he wanted to be replaced, the ball finally went out for a throw and we expected to see the last of Eboue but to everyone’s surprise Wenger who had obviously seen this all before was having none of Eboue’s antics replaced Bendtner for Sagna and you know what……surprise, surprise within two minutes Eboue was running perfectly. 5.5

Gallas: Billy boy was back to his self today, strong, commanding, determined and if there was a category for tackle of the season he would have won it; the perfection in which he took the ball from Ngog was world class. 6

Vermaelen: this man clearly wants to win the league; he hasn’t suffered the disappointments that so many of the others have and sees no reason why we shouldn’t. I agree with him. 6

Clichy: and as if to prove my point that it is funny how players that you have been questioning look better when we win, Gael finally put in a half decent performance. 5.5

Song: Stuck to his job of protecting the back four and did it very well, he seems to have cut out those silly unnecessary bad passes as well, I still maintain that by the time he is twenty six he will be one of the best in the world in his position. 6

Fabregas: turned back into the captain for the last twenty minutes, still too sloppy in his passing for my liking something he never used to do when Henry was at the club, I don’t know why that is? 6

Diaby: and so we come to the man of the match, gone where the sloppy passes, gone was holding onto the ball too long, gone was the lazy persona and on came the crisp tackler, the determined runner and the insightful passer, ladies and gentleman, I give you Sir Abou Diaby the midfielder we all hoped he would be. 8

Bendtner: sadly Nikky is never going to be Drogba or Torres; he doesn’t have the speed of turn but tonight he gave us a target man and played his part in the goal. 5

Arshavin: freed from the confines of playing the loan striker he was able to be more influential in the game, although, I think he is trying too hard, that’s to say I would like him to go back to doing the simple things well, too many passes are not finding their man. 5

Nasri: not on the pitch long enough to award a mark but what he did he did well enough.

Walcott: if Diaby can turn the opinion of a tide of doubters around; of which, I am included, then maybe there is hope for Theo.

Conclusion: one word…..relief.

A Manager of Two Halves ……..

February 10, 2010


Arsène Wenger, OBE born 22 October 1949 in Strasbourg

Arsène Part I

Joined Arsenal on the 1st October 1996 having previously managed Monaco and Nagoya Grampus Eight.

1996/97 Season – 3rd in the Premier League. Qualified for the Champions League

1997/98 Season – won the Premier League and FA cup double making up an 8 point deficit on Man United. Qualified for the Champions League..

1998/99 Season – came second in the Premier League losing out by 1 point to Man Utd on the last game of the season. Qualified for the Champions League.

1999/2000 Season – came second in the Premier League, reached the UEFA Cup final losing to Galatasary on penalties and the FA cup final losing 2:1 to Liverpoool. Qualified for the Champions League.

2000/01 Season – came second in the Premier League. Qualified for the Champions League.

2001/02 Season – won the League and FA cup double for a second time under his management. Qualified for the Champions League.

2002/03 Season – 2nd in the Premier League and won the FA cup. Qualified for the Champions League.

2003/04 Season – won the Premier League and made history going the whole season unbeaten. Qualified for the Champions League.

2004/05 – 2nd in the Premier League, won the FA cup beating United in the final on penalties. Qualified for the Champions League.

Significant signings: Vieira, Anelka, Petite, Ljunberg, Kanu, Overmars, Henry, Pires, Wiltord, Edu, Gilberto, Van Bronckhorst, Fàbregas, Touré, Campbell, Reyes, Van Persie, Flamini

Achievements off the pitch: sold Anelka for £23m and built a ‘state of the art’ training facility admired the world over.

Arsène Part II

February 2004 – construction work started on the construction of The Emirates Sadium

2005/06 Season – 4th in the Premier League, reached the final of the Champions league.  Qualified for the Champions League.

July 2006 – moved into The Emirates Stadium

2006/07 Season – 4th in the Premier League. Qualified for the Champions League.

David Dein leaves Arsenal

2007/08 Season – 3rd in the Premier League. Qualified for the Champions League.

2008/09 Season – 4th in the Premier League. Qualified for the Champions League.

2009/10 Season – ????

Significant signings: Hleb, Eboue, Diaby, Adebayor, Walcott, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin, Vermaelen

Achievements off the pitch: presided over and had major influence on all aspects of the building of the magnificent Emirates Stadium.

So there you have it:

Part I –  9 seasons of scintillating football, winning the Premiership 3 times (the double twice) and the FA Cup 4 times.

Part II – 5 seasons (if you include the present one) in the footballing doldrums.

The only characteristic that both eras share is qualification for the Champions League every year.

I have included the building of the Emirates Stadium, David Dein’s departure and the new players signed in the timeline because they are often cited as factors in our change of fortunes.

Is it fair or even accurate to evaluate Arsène’s tenure in these terms?

Has HE changed or just reacted to changes in our financial position and the insane economics of world football?

Is he obsessed with a mission that appears to have failed and is losing support from even his most ardent admirers?

Is he stubborn or just willing to be a fall guy for the Board?

Has he lost the plot, or can he really be that brilliant that sometime soon it will all come together as he predicts and ‘project youth’ ultimately succeeds?

Or is he just a business man who has consistently produced a healthy profit for his employers?


Your answer to these questions will define what side you are on in the ever widening divide that separates Arsenal fans. It is undeniable that the ‘it’s time he went’ lobby is growing and as a result the ‘trust him, he knows what he’s doing’ believers are becoming marginalized and more aggressive in their defence of his actions.

I can’t bring myself to want Arsene gone, but I do feel he needs to prove his point by the end of this season or accept that there is another way and reinforce the squad significantly in the summer (hold on, didn’t I say that about the same time last year!)

I hate to hear our manager who was previously lauded for his footballing ethos and integrity being ridiculed in the press and on the radio. He has been mocked. Fans who support him are labeled as deluded. The team is viewed as ‘not serious competition’.

Today we play the dippers. Make no mistake, this IS a must win if we have any hope of winning the title. With Villa playing Manu and Everton playing Chelsea there are two possible scenarios. If all results go our way, we would be 6 points behind Chelsea and 4 behind Manu and 8 points clear of pool. If they don’t, we could be 12 points behind Chelsea, 10 behind Manu and have pool breathing down our necks only 2 points behind us.

Let’s match pool at their game and beat them with ours. If we defend well, we will win.

Whither Walcott

February 9, 2010

What do we do with Theo??

Sunday was frustrating in so many ways, but for me what was so disturbing was the non-performance of our Boy Wonder. He was lacking in everything apart from speed and energy. If the last two games are anything to go by, he cannot pass, cannot beat a player, has little control, cannot head a ball, doesn’t know how to lose his marker, cannot shoot, actually his contribution was less than nothing – the fact he was on the pitch meant  others were looking to pass to him, and thereby we lost possession.

So what does AW do? Theo has all the talent to be a super player. Wenger says he needs time and he will achieve greatness by the age of 24, but how does he get the games to develop. Games like Sunday will sap his confidence even further, however if he cannot play against the Big Boys how can he learn?  We can ill afford to carry a player for a whole game (even Denilson!) and 20 minutes here and there are not enough. Should he go out on loan? Well, not this season.

According to some Gooners  Walcott should be be sold. To me this is illogical, the training staff clearly see a super talent, and  as good a talent spotter as Fabio Capello predicts greatness. We have seen what he can do when he is confident and it all gels.  However, would Arsenal be better off with the money from his sale (assuming we buy another striker) and can we wait for his talent to blossom ? Plus he earns €60k a week which could be better used elsewhere.

I have been saying ever since Thierry left that we need a Worldwide Marketing Tool. TH’s smiling face was beaming out of advertising boards all over the World, with his loss we lost our “face”. MU have Rooney, L’pool SG and Torres, Chelsea have Fat Frank, Drogba and JT.  We have Cesc who somehow doesn’t cut it as the focus of our public relations (remember his embarassing TV show?). Theo Walcott should be the future face of Arsenal. Good looking, articulate and unassuming (with a childhood sweetheart), he is  the perfect advertisement for AFC. We need him to come good, but can he?

Your opinion?

written by BR