Delight in the Emirates Cup

July 31, 2010

I visited the Emirates this week. Something in my DNA drew me to the stadium. I just had to get off the train at Drayton Park and walk the familiar streets to the ground just to be there. The massive concourse around the stadium was eerily empty and silent, but today it will be alive again, heaving with the throng of 60,000 excited football supporters.

The Emirates Cup is an opportunity for many Gooners, young and old who don’t have season tickets, to get inside the ground and experience the atmosphere. Countless numbers of photographs will be taken with the pitch as a backdrop, or framed against the huge Arsenal crests that adorn the outside of the stadium.

I am fortunate, I get to go to every game, but I really enjoy the fact that there will be so many enthralled children in the crowd over these two days – it is a brilliant means of recruiting the next generation of gooners.  I know the cynics will say its just a money making exercise, but for those children and adults dressed in their kit with their name or the name of their hero on their back, it is a really special occassion.

For us ‘regulars’, there is the comforting feeling of knowing you’re home again when you take to your seat for the first time after so many weeks away. Though we won’t be surrounded by the familiar faces to which you’ve become accustomed in Premiership games, all these people have come to cheer on the team that wear the Red and White of Arsenal. Additionally,  although the tournament means nothing, it will be reassuring to witness our boys wearing the great new home kit which echoes the style of our glorious past.

Unfortunately, because of the World Cup, we’ll still be missing several players so I’m not even going to guess how the team will line up. Will any questions be answered about who is going  to have the no1 shirt or who will partner Thomas Vermaelen at the back? – I doubt it.

These issues have been foremost in our minds all summer and it looks like we’ve still got some way to go before we discover the answers. I’m seething at the thought that we may have let Sol Campbell go for the sake of a few thousand pounds a week and that Silvestre could yet end up wearing an Arsenal shirt for another season if we fail to find the 4th centre back Arsène has said we need.

Last year Rasp and I laughed at how Eboué grabbed the trophy and paraded it around the pitch as if he’d won the World Cup. The rest of the team looked on slightly sheepishly,  realising that this trophy would mean zilch if it wasn’t followed by a couple of others in the  season to come.

So here we all stand again looking forward to the season ahead. The Emirates Cup in our trophy cabinet is not enough Arsène but you don’t need me to tell you that. If you’re going to the Arsenal this weekend, enjoy it, it’ll be the last stress free game until this time next year.

Come on you Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeds


Arsenal in crisis! …. what crisis?

July 30, 2010

I am really getting fed up with all the dross coming out of the ‘red tops’. Yesterday, they reported that we are doomed for another season as RVP and Fabregas wouldn’t be fit enough to play in our opening game at Liverpool.  They are certain our spending is finished for another summer and our hopes for next season are all but over. They highlight the fact that Bendtner will also miss the opening games, (which we all knew several weeks ago) and Denilson and Diaby are also a doubt.

Some Arsenal sites panic at all this make-believe stuff. The internet has been littered with headline posts calculated to provoke reaction. Our ‘fantasy predicament’ pales into insignificance compared to the mess Liverpool are in, with an injured Torres, and Carragher, Kuyt and Gerrard burnt out after the World Cup. The new manager, Roy Hodgson has an enormous task ahead in trying to produce a side that meets the expectation of the Liverpool fans.

What Wenger actually said was that he would address the situation on the 5th August. He didn’t say that RVP or Fabregas wouldn’t play. Denilson and Diaby  both have slight groin strains but would most probably be available although Bendtner aggravated his groin problem and was always going to miss the start of the season. Luckily we have Chamakh now who it is likely will compete with Bendtner for a starting place in the side any way.

Year after year the media ‘will us to fail’ and try every conceivable method to brainwash a gullible audience, some of whom fall for it every time.

Wenger isn’t stupid, I’m sure he wants to buy where we need cover.  He knew months ago that Gallas, Silvestre, Senderos and Campbell were out of contract and would probably leave, and at the same time he would have assessed our present cover. The pre-season games in Austria will have given him a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in the squad .

Look how little activity there is from the top clubs so far this summer. There is a worldwide recession. Most PL clubs are in so much debt that,the penny has finally dropped. The days of buying players at over inflated prices must stop (unless you’re man city) but also, the availability of top players is limited.

Have you seen many who played in the world cup change clubs? City will continue to splash the cash, but making wholesale changes doesn’t always equate to a winning formula .

I feel very confident that we have a good balance now in the squad and will still buy at the least another centre back.

Have faith my friends.

Written by kelsey

Arsenal get it right …. the Press get it wrong

July 29, 2010


What is it about the Daily Mail? No matter how much I try to ignore Fleet Street’s greatest embarrassment, I can’t help finding new things about this fear-mongering, xenophobic, Thatcherite rag to annoy me, usually via a Newsnow link. This time it wasn’t some load of nonsense about how we’ll all be mugged by Kosovan asylum seekers if we even dared to step outside our front doors into the warzone that is 21st century British suburbia; it’s just another piece of journalistic sloppiness about football.

MJC posted a very good piece a little while ago about how the new 25-player squad rules will work – to recap, he explained that essentially (a) any player who is born on or after 1 January 1989 doesn’t count towards the 25-player limit at all for the coming season and (b) of the 25 “older” players, eight places are reserved for players who spent at least three seasons in England and Wales between the ages of 16 and 21 – these are “homegrown players”.

Importantly, but apparently beyond the wit of the Daily Mail, homegrown players can have any passport, it’s just where they trained in their early years that counts.  So, Owen Hargreaves, as a Bayern Munich trained player, isn’t homegrown despite being English (sort of), but Nicolas Anelka is homegrown despite not being English and having played in France, Spain and Turkey as well as England. Clubs can have more than eight homegrown players, it’s just a quota to protect against importing too many established players from other leagues.

MJC explained that Arsenal are in pretty good shape for the new rules, but I wondered how that stacked up against our principal rivals. My nerdy curiosity got the better of me, and I checked the current first team squads of our principal rivals for the coming season (Chelsea, United, Spurs and City – sorry, I didn’t bother with Liverpool, they just don’t seem relevant…). I had to make some assumptions about which young players at each club would be serious senior squad contenders, but my conclusion is as follows:

* Arsenal: Squad of 33, of which 13 are under 21. We therefore have five spaces left for non-homegrown players aged over 21.

* Chelsea: Squad of 27, of which five are under 21. They therefore have three spaces left before they reach the 25-player cap, two of which are for homegrown players.

* United: Squad of 33, of which eight are under 21. United therefore have no spaces in their squad, so can’t make new signings without omitting existing squad members.

* Spurs: Squad of 29, of which four are under 21. They also have no space left in their squad for senior players.

* City: Squad of 31, of which six are under 21. But not only do City have no space left in the squad, even before making any further signings, they will already have to omit seven existing senior players.

Of course, none of this matters if our regular first choice players aren’t up to it, but we are clearly in great shape to get the best out of these rules. Only Chelsea come close to being in as good a position.

But what did the Daily Mail say? They of course said that United are doing well because they have lots of English players, but thought Arsenal and Chelsea would have to omit players. In fact, it’s the other way around, United are the worst positoned of last season’s top three. It’s a shame that there are so many people paid to write about our game who don’t know enough about it, or are too lazy to check.

Written by 26may1989

Arsenal Untested ….A Friendly Stroll in The Park

July 28, 2010

SC Neusiedl 1919. 0 Arsenal 4.

With yet another good workout satisfactorily completed the thoughts will turn to The Emirates Cup, where we might really begin to judge our squad at a much higher level, but I will leave that for another time.

The first thing that struck me last night was the stadium, the infamous Sportzentrum Neusiedl. Even allowing for the fact that Neusiedll were being compared to a Conference side, it appeared that someone had quickly assembled a pitch in a far flung park somewhere in eastern Austria. Nevertheless there was a capacity crowd of 2500, amongst which I must have spotted at least 400 kids happily enjoying their ice creams.

Back to more serious matters. We had learnt earlier in the day that Sol had finally decided to leave us for the heady heights of Newcastle and I’m sure all of us wish him well and even at the ripe old age of 36, I feel it would have been beneficial to have him still in our squad. This was further compounded with the sad sight of Djourou leaving the field after barely 20 minutes, and this may turn out to be a blessing in disguise, as the need for a centre back is now a must.

I won’t give you a match report as it wasn’t really a game, but in the first half Nasri shone way above anyone else and looked sharper than ever. Wilshere also had a fine first half and was reintroduced midway through the second half. I hope the boss was thinking that the lad is now ready to be an active member of our first team squad.

Frimpong, after a slow start impressed yet again, and it was as nice to see Carlos score with his customary chip, as it was to see Theo score and Chamakh cooly slotting in his first goal for the club from the penalty spot.

Many were surprised to see Almunia start let alone as captain, but I wouldn’t read too much into that. For those who were not aware, Rosicky was withdrawn 10 minutes before the start.

Generally we still look vunerable in defence and again our crossing needs to improve dramatically. This is a real issue for me, but on the other hand we will see a radically different line up for the first game at Anfield. Arshavin is a canny player and one gets the impression, not for the first time, that he is saving himself for the games that really matter.

All in all maybe a few questions were answered for the boss and finally it was nice to see Gibbs back in the team, though he may well need a good few weeks to regain his sharpness. JET for a big lad had a very compact game, but I doubt he is quite ready for the first team, and a word for Mannone who has hardly been mentioned lately, a good penalty save and basically nothing much else to do.

Roll on Saturday and A.C.Milan.

Written by kelsey

Arsenal get it wrong again.

July 27, 2010

The closing of the transfer window at midnight on the 31st of August is still over a month away. Yet the football blogs are awash with disconsolate fans, convinced in their own minds, that the fact that their club has not yet purchased the top player they believe is indispensable, is proof positive that the club or manager lack ambition.

Arsenal are a case in point, having just paid £8.5 million for a centre half that had been scouted and watched continuously for months by the same people who had  evaluated and recommended Thomas Vermaelen for AW. We immediately find our new man is derided as not good enough, supposedly lacking class, not the world-beater the club needed. These opinions based mainly on the amount of money paid for the player. The argument being, if he was any good he would have cost more and of course it also proves no one else is coming in because AW wouldn’t spend that much on a back up.  Regardless of the fact that at this level football is a squad game.

Mind you TV himself, quoted by many judges as the best PL buy of last year, is, according to these blogging super coaches part of the problem. He isn’t big enough even if he has a big jump, he is easily knocked off the ball by bullying centre forwards and needs a giant next to him for protection at set pieces. I would love one or two of these guys to tell him  that to his face. He doesn’t look a pushover to me.

In thinking about this I am reminded of Brian Clough, “Cloughie” in his heyday loved punters, fans and pundits to tell him what he needed. Rumour has it, that on one memorable day he was informed by a reporter that the  European club they were going to play had a centre forward who was the most deadly header of the ball in the business, “Don’t you worry young man says Cloughie, we have a secret weapon, a young man from a pacific island, he is 7’3” cant kick for toffees but makes his living heading and cracking coconuts as they fall from the tree, how’s your man going to deal with that” says Brian and walks of laughing.

More than a month remains of this transfer window. More business is usually done in the final fortnight than in all the preceding weeks. Personally, I am going to sit back, watch the preseason games, enjoy the silliness on the blogs, TV and radio and await the first of September with anticipation, knowing that the boss is more likely, than probably any other premiership manager to surprise us all with quality players – in his own good time!

Written by dandan

Arsenal’s reserves implode – just like the first team

July 26, 2010

 Another Saturday and another Arsenal friendly for your humble scribe (having made the trip to Underhill last weekend with the ArsenalArsenal crew), but thanks to the vagaries of the M25 I missed the first 20 minute or so of the pre season friendly against Blue Square team Welling United, known as ”The Wings”.

The aged turnstile attendant told me “Its one-one mate” as I finally arrived at the Park View Ground  in Welling, one of my old stamping grounds(my school was a misplaced Bendtner shot away from the Danson Park end of the ground); technically in Kent, but in reality an outer London borough that borders north west Kent. It is also a short five minute drive away from the original home of the Gunners, Plumstead Common, so you could say we were back to our roots in this game.

The feeling in the ground that the £11 admission was a bit steep and the quality of the play, certainly from us, tended to support that view. To their credit did say that is was very unlikely any first teamers would feature so I suspect it was Welling United who were responsible for the pricing.

Having missed the first two goals, a screamer from Gavin Hoyte and a supposedly generous penalty for the Wings after a chap called Pires was upended in our area; the remainder of the first half saw the Arsenal X1 keep possession fairly well in the centre of the park but as usual over elaborate as the penalty area was approached.  No one especially impressed and in particular Randall seemed quite content to stroll around midfield waiting for opportunities to play the odd flick or lofted pass. He barely seemed to be out of breath at any point in the first half.

With the first half being fairly lack lustre you would have thought the second half would see Arsenal come out with renewed vigour after a Liam Brady rocket had been placed up their  complacency.

What I saw was a Welling side fighting for possession in the midfield and at any set piece a hesitancy in the defenders which screamed out that we would concede with a corner or a cross -which sure enough we did.

To my eyes it seemed the centre backs were waiting for each other to clear the ball and on one of those occasions a Welling player pounced for a tap in. One of the centre backs, Ignasi Miquel, is another one of those Catalans we stole from Bankruptalona against his will. Should he come good then it would behove us to return him “home” as long as the DNA test proves we have a moral obligation to do so.

Of the last two goals one was as a result of a forward having a try from distance, surely that’s not allowed? The other goal was a goal keeping error as the goalie fumbled and an opposition player pounced and scored from the rebound.

Now does that not remind you of the first team somewhat?

I’ve heard it said that one’s greatest strength can be ones greatest weakness also. Arsenal’s possession game is played from the top down, from the first team to the reserves and the under 18’s, which – when it works is all well and good –  so in that respect all our teams have a consistent approach which I don’t have any complaint with.

However our lack of decisive defensive play leads to a more willing and industrious opponent being able to exploit counter attacks when the possession game falls apart. This was very much the case in the second half.

It didn’t help that I had a Welling supporter behind me bellowing “Break his legs” whenever one of our midfielders brought the ball forward, the fact that  none of our players reacted to that taunt from only 10 feet away shows we expect to hear that sort of goading. He then crowed “Who are you?!” when the fourth goal went in. Ah, the joys of the terracing.

So the problems of the first team were mirrored here – namely centre backs who don’t cut out crosses and make effective headed clearances and a reluctance to shoot (although I believe Chuks Aneke did try his luck with a few shots towards the end of the game.)

I was hoping to see this game in order to watch a glimpse of our future; however the problems of the present were flagged up again.

Still, the upside was the new home kit still looked smashing and I’m looking forward to member’s day when I can see the next stage of Arsenalisation at Ashburton Grove.

Written by charybdis1966

Arsenal Midfield Genius Desperate for Hometown Return

July 25, 2010

After many months of speculation which has stirred up so much animosity amongst the Arsenal faithful, it finally looks as though this summer’s biggest transfer saga will not be settled until 2010 at the earliest.

In a statement that seemed to confirm how desperate he is to return to his hometown club, Jack Wilshere said: “It is what I have been dreaming of since I was a little kid, and that was weeks ago. In my heart I want to play for Stevenage Borough. Borough are in my DNA. They are also on my lunchbox. And my pencil case.”

Arsene Wenger was said to be saddened at the not unexpected statement: “There is very little we can do when a player has a desire like this. But I believe that we should expect a fair price for Jack, and that will not happen this year because of Borough’s finances. They may be champions, but they are not rich like me.”

This was taken to be a reference to the ten of thousands of pounds that Stevenage are having to invest in new CCTV cameras at their ground this summer in order to meet minimum Football League arrest quotas.

Meanwhile, in a stunt that was obviously intended to drive a wedge between the player and the Arsenal fans, Wilshere was grabbed from behind by a number of Stevenage Borough footballers during a live charity radio broadcast and was forced to dress up like a chav – the official Stevenage uniform.

One of the Stevenage players said: “It was all a big joke. Little Jackie loved it. We all know that he wants to play his football in our magnificent stadium with our magnificent fans, all within walking distance of North Hertfordshire’s biggest Primark.”

Stevenage’s other sporting genius, Lewis Hamilton, said: “This would be fantastic for Stevenage, and Stevenage deserves it. It such a fantastic, happy place to live, which is why I moved to Switzerland as soon as I got some money.”

Jack Wilshere is 14½

Written by mjc

This is just a bit of fun for a Sunday morning, we’re still around to debate serious Arsenal issues like our lack of defensive cover and whether Arsene Wenger is going to spend any more money in this transfer window.

We, The Mighty Arsenal, Don’t Have A Number 1 Keeper

July 24, 2010

I keep thinking about what Wenger said recently  “we do not have a number one keeper”.

So I did a bit of research. Gerry Peyton, our goalkeeping coach is leaving for personal reasons (Irish would know a bit about him, having represented Ireland on over 30 occasions). Two years ago Sczesney broke both hands, and most probably Arsene is assessing him, but to be fair in the two pre season matches so far, he has had little or nothing to do.

IMO Schwarzer is still on the radar as a keeper/coach, probably short term in the first team, but I doubt anything will be resolved until Fulham have a new manager in place. That leaves Almunia. I wonder where he really stands in Wenger’s mind.

A good point that I have read several times is that the goals ratio to shots that we concede is very high for a top 3 club, and how often, especially at The Emirates we see keepers have their game of the season when they are continuously bombarded by our attacking options.

It makes sense to me, that a keeper who spends 75% of a game doing next to nothing and then concedes will always come under the spotlight a lot more than a keeper who may concede 3 or 4, but actually have a good game.

This is just another point of view as to our definite keeper problems, though the defensive issues are also a must to be addressed.

Is there really an argument that a keeper can be too young to be a first team choice? Look at Iker Casillas,  a product of Real Madrid’s youth system who started in the junior squad during the 1990–91 season. He was first called up to the first team on the 27 November 1997 at age 16 to face Rosenborg in UEFA Champions League 1997–98, but it wasn’t until the 1998–99 season that he debuted in the senior side.

La liga may not be as strong or physical as the Premier league yet now he is regarded as one of the best in the world, and has shown his class on countless occasions for Spain.

We have three problems and they are all linked – not on ability or coaching but by a mental barrier. Almunia has had personal problems and like it or not is compared to Jens Lehmann. Fabianski was mentally shot last season, so can he come back into the cauldron and Szczesny is unproven at the highest level.

At least, at long last, I feel Wenger knows he has to address this problem sooner rather than later.

Written by kelsey

Fletcher admits ………… Ferguson’s a hypocrite

July 23, 2010

Just over a year ago, having watched Darren Fletcher commit foul after foul against Arsenal without receiving a single booking, Arsene Wenger coined the term “anti-football”.

He said: “’I have seen today a player who plays on the pitch only to make fouls. The players who are never punished and get out of the game without a yellow card.

I think it is anti-football. I don’t know why it is this way. You should ask the referees. Look at how many deliberate fouls some players get away with. That’s a bigger problem because it cuts the flow of the game. And people pay to see football, not free-kicks.”

Of course Fletcher and Ferguson both said afterwards that Wenger was a sore loser and that Fletcher was an honest, skillful footballer.

A year later, and Fletcher has realized that Wenger was completely correct and he has now decided to admit to the error in his ways. Fletcher said that it is his job to “…break up play, sometimes to commit a tactical foul to stop the other team counter-attacking…”

Now I’m no Premiership referee, but I believe that what he is talking about is called unsporting behaviour, and should ON EACH AND EVERY OCCASION be dealt with by a yellow card.

I very much hope that referees were listening to Fletcher’s comments and will act accordingly in the forthcoming season.

And what are Ferguson’s true views on the types of fouls that Fletcher sees as wrtitten into his job description? Well, they are rather different when they happen to his team.

Here is what he said after Manchester United were knocked out of the FA Cup by a Portsmouth team that included the Fletcher-like Lassana Diarra: “He [Lassana Diarra] doesn’t get a booking [for a cynical obstruction of Ronaldo in United’s first attack],” said Ferguson. “That sets a tone for Pompey knowing that they can get away with so many things. He had eight or nine fouls in the match. It’s incredible. I don’t blame Portsmouth. If any team comes here and finds that a referee won’t do anything, won’t do the right thing, then they will keep on doing it. And I think that’s a tragedy.”

Yes that would be a tragedy – so let’s just hope that Premiership referees will call an end to this behaviour this season.

They can make a start by getting Fletcher’s name in the book the first time he makes one of those “tactical fouls”.

I’m not holding my breath though….

Written by mjc

Can Theo learn any Tricks?????

July 22, 2010

Sturm Graz 0 Arsenal 3

It was certainly a good work out in our new away kit (any thoughts)and they all looked pretty fit, but I get the impression that Arshavin doesn’t need these matches as he only wants to be involved in the real thing. JET is a monster, a sort of young Emile Heskey, and showed nimble feet on more than one occasion.

Nordveidt did look composed as did Lansbury when he came on and scored a suberb goal which was calmly taken.

Nasri looked very sharp and was undoubtedly the man of the match in the first half. The prolonged summer rest showed to good effect.

Jack is class,  a little feisty, though he undoubtedly has a football brain and as I’ve  said before he is ready now and IMO should be a useful member to the squad. He is quality and showed it when he drew the right back so that Lansbury could score.

Chamakh will need time and its far too early to judge him but if the truth be known not many of these will feature in the first team.

Gibbs looks assured, but as I said it was basically a work out. What I had  really hoped to see was  an  improvement in Theo, but it wasn’t there, maybe I am judging him too soon,  more about him later on.

It was interesting to see Traore play the first half as left-back, come off at half time and then re-appear for Wilshere on the wing. I wonder what the bosses thinking is with regard to Traore.

I think for Wenger this was an exercise to assess which players should be in the squad this season, together with the fitness levels of both Gibbs and Djourou, and  those that may go out on loan. The majority of the first team haven’t even played yet, so it was an exercise  to slowly see who might be good enough to compliment the side.

Almunia was absent yet again, a prolonged tummy upset or perhaps not. I have a gut feeling that we may have a new number 1 and 2 this season. Fabianski played the first half and was replaced by Szczesny for the second but neither keeper were tested so we’re still in the dark there.

The focal point for me was to watch Theo. He has had a lengthy break, should be fresh as a daisy yet is there any improvement being shown? Unfortunately, in my view, not as yet and midway through the second half he was  attacking via the right wing and for some reason decided to play the ball back from the halfway line to Szczesny.

I know we are split about the progress or lack of progress Theo has made in the 4.5 years he has been with us, and the expectations as a 16 year old were immense. He was unfortunate to suffer various injuries including the inherent shoulder problems that came to light about 2 years ago but these have now been addressed. At 21 one has to decide if he is a naturally gifted footballer who will enhance the team,  or perhaps a slow learner or dare I say it nothing more than a squad player. Some will argue he needs more time, but I am not so sure.

On the other hand I have to eat my own words about Rosicky. He looked  like a player reborn, and he was mighty impressive in his midfield role, spraying accurate passes all over the field, and on more than one occasion I thought it was Cesc. Is he another new signing  😉

A lot to ponder and I am sure you will all have your own view to the points I have raised.

Written by kelsey