Arsenal, man and boy…… memoirs of a life-long Gunner

July 21, 2010

We are delighted to publish this fascinating historical insight from our latest writer GunnerN5. The bomb site he played on as a lad is what we now know as Ashburton Grove … yes, the Emirates Stadium; how times have changed.

I was born on Avenell Road as the bombs were dropping on Islington; later we were evacuated to Lemsford near Hatfield in the county of Hertfordshire.

My maternal Grandfather was a coalman and used to deliver around the cobbled streets of Highbury by horse and cart. He lived on Stavordale Road and watched the very first Arsenal game at Highbury.
For my 10th birthday he took me to my first Arsenal game- Nov 22nd 1947 – Arsenal 2 Huddersfield 0 – I was hooked for life.

We were a poor family and my parents could not afford to buy me tickets to the game but that did not stop a determined Arsenal supporter from getting into the ground. Over the walls, I had to negotiate the broken glass bedded into the cement at the top of the walls and often went home with torn pants and got a clip round the ear. Through my Dads legs and under the turnstiles, usually ending up with scuffed knees.

Failing either of these ways in I would wait until half time and when the stewards opened the gates I would dash in and hide in the crowd – the stewards used to give a mock chase but I think they kinda enjoyed letting me go.

I went to every home game, 1st team one week, reserves the next and went to every away cup game that I could afford. We stood as a family under the clock, about 20 of us. My parents both were born in family’s with 9 sons who fathered 46 sons. Of the 64 of us, 60 were fervent Gunners but 4 misguided soul’s went the wrong way up Seven Sisters Road and ended up to be Spurs supporters – I ask ya?

Life’s path took me and my family to Canada, it was a real shock not being able to go to live games but I’ve made up for it by having 3 satellite dishes and the internet – between which I NEVER miss a game, although not always live. Still to this day Arsenal results can make or break my day and as game time approaches I still get goose bumps.

Being a statistical type of person I’ve created masses of data on our history and have recorded on excel spreadsheets every seasons results by year and manager. I also have our history by every team we’ve played in the EPL.

I’ve seen the teams of our past 12 managers going back to George Allison and in this mans view Arsene Wenger is far and away the best.

Unfortunately I’ve not seen a live game at the Emirates although as a kid I did play around that area.

Cheers to all and here’s to another exciting season.

Since GunnerN5 grew up in wartime, we thought it would be interesting to reproduce this passage describing the adaptation of Highbury, taken from Arsenal.com…..

Highbury becomes ARP stronghold during World War II

During the Second World War 42 of Arsenal’s 44 professional footballers were drafted into the services. The majority of the administration staff at Highbury followed and even the stadium itself did its bit for the war effort.

Arsenal Stadium, Highbury was transformed into a ARP (Air Raid Precautions) stronghold and Arsenal had to play their wartime home fixtures at White Hart Lane!

Incidentally, manager George Allison did convert the referees room at Highbury into a small flat for a while.

Success continued during the war years with Arsenal winning the South A League in 1940, the London League in 1942, the Football League South and the Football League South Cup Final in 1943.

Arsenal relied heavily on guest players during that six-year period, notably Stan Mortensen and Stanley Matthews.

For all its efforts, Highbury paid the price when it was bombed. The North Bank was completely destroyed and much of the terracing on the South Stand was also damaged. These had to be repaired before Arsenal could return home after the war.


Emirates Stadium: A Soulless Bowl or Waiting on History?

July 20, 2010

I bet all you lucky souls out there with tickets in the Orange and Green quadrants can’t wait. Yes, YES, YES, YES no longer are we the Orange, Green, Blue and Yellow Quadrants, its back, we are the North Bank, we are the Clock End …….. um …. we are the North Bank/Clock End Emirates? Arsenal? Highbury?

Does the chant stay the same, will we be hearing the blissful:

WE ARE THE NORTH BANK
WE ARE THE NORTH BANK
WE ARE THE NORTH BANK HIGHBURY

WE ARE THE CLOCK END
WE ARE THE CLOCK END
WE ARE THE CLOCK END HIGHBURY

Are the words staying the same or will they be changed?

First off, I sadly never got to see the mighty Arsenal play at Highbury and its honestly a thing that saddens me. So, for a change in this post instead of rabbling on like I normally do and thinking I’m right about everything, I am going to ask the regulars here, and those of you who pop in, who have been to Highbury regularly and now the Emirates some questions.

Has the Emirates got a raw deal?

I know its a structure made from cement and steel etc. but to me stadiums are living, tactile, almost breathing objects. They echo of battles lost and won, of players who have taken to the field as warriors. Highbury is packed to the gills with this history: Herbert Chapman leading out his groundbreaking Arsenal side through the marble hallways. Liam Brady curling in another screamer with his left foot. Ian Wright scoring goal after goal with a smirk on his face. The battles and hidings we gave them lot down the road. Bergkamp and Henry leaving the opposition looking like idiots (not that it was confined to Highbury). Adams scoring THAT goal to confirm the title, celebrating the Invincibles. Looking up at the Clock for it to hit 3.

There is a certain sense of attachment to Highbury, I have it and have only ever walked past it as a block of flats.

But is it time to move on?

Of course I don’t mean to forget. How could you forget? It would be sinful to forget, but when is it time to stop longing and whining that we are no longer at “home” at Highbury?

The Emirates or rightly Ashburton Grove has done nothing wrong. It is a wonderful stadium, and aside from Wembley I can’t think of a ground in England that comes remotely close to it. It is something to be very proud of. Its only fault is that it has seen us through a tough time (if constantly finishing in the top 4 and getting to the latter stages of the Champions League are indeed tough times) and for that it is almost at times treated with disdain.

There haven’t been too many epic games there, or a single trophy held aloft but we’ve been there for FOUR seasons, not 93 years. They will come, give history a chance to be written.

I was reading an interview with Johnny Lydon in FourFourTwo this month and he reckons the sense of community has gone from the club since the move to the Emirates. Again, that is a question for those of you in the know? Although common sense would tell me that the Clock Enders and North Bankers no longer sit together, have been split and people are getting accustomed to new faces.

But maybe instead of moaning at the club, its time for the fans to do something about it? Personally, I’m a firm believer in “ask not what your club can do for you, but what you can do for your club” The powers that be have given us back The Clock, The North Bank, and have added as much Arsenal features as possible. Why not try to keep the chants going this season – yes, even if we have to sit down. Why not get to know the person sitting next to you? Maybe its just my inability to keep my mouth shut but I met the most fascinating Gooner at the Bolton match two seasons ago who told me of his trips abroad donkeys years ago to see Arsenal play. The club can only do so much, at times we have to help ourselves.

I had planned on going to a home and away match this season. I now think an away match and two home matches are in order – I’ve just got to sit in the North Bank and Clock End.

Whether I like it, you like it, or anyone else likes it or not our home is now the Emirates. Its great to look back on Highbury and it’ll be always here in our hearts (maybe more so yours than mine) but if we keep looking back over our shoulder, we won’t know our way forward, and this club is moving forward.

We may have moved ground, but aren’t we still The Arsenal?


Project Youth Means Arsenal Will Have Premiership’s Biggest Squad

July 19, 2010

Written by mjc

There is much confusion about the 25-man squad limit which is being introduced for this season and we’re lucky enough to have  a blogger who was happy to write a detailed explanation of how the new ruling will impact on Arsenal’s squad. It looks like we’re going to be in a very strong position although obviously there are still changes to be made with players coming and going.Thankyou ‘mjc’ for taking the time to put this together for us.

The adoption for the 2010/11 season of the new 25-man squad limit will impact on every team in the Premiership.  But Arsenal look like they have an edge.

The new rule requires that:

–   no more that 25 players over the age of 21 (or more accurately born before 1st January 1989) are allowed

–   a minimum of eight of these must be home-grown, that is to say, must have received three or more seasons of development in England or Wales prior to the season of their 21st birthday

–   any number of players born after 1st January 1989 can be added to this 25-man squad.

So how do Arsenal fare with the above rule? Categorising the first team squad gives us:

Home-grown (Minimum of eight):

  1. Vito Mannone
  2. Johan Djourou
  3. Gael Clichy
  4. (Sol Campbell)
  5. Cesc Fabregas
  6. Denilson
  7. Alex Song
  8. Nicklas Bendtner

So we exactly meet the minimum requirement of eight home-grown players, without having to include any of the under -21 players in the list. Losing Sol Campbell will of course impact on this equation.

Non home-grown (Maximum of 17):

  1. Lukasz Fabianski
  2. Manuel Almunia
  3. Bacary Sagna
  4. Thomas Vermaelen
  5. Laurent Koscielny
  6. (William Gallas)
  7. (Mikael Silvestre)
  8. Abou Diaby
  9. Tomas Rosicky
  10. Samir Nasri
  11. Andrey Arshavin
  12. Emmanuel Eboue
  13. Eduardo
  14. Robin van Persie
  15. Marouane Chamakh

We currently have 15 players registered in this category, although this can be expected to fall to 13 with the departures of both Gallas and Silvestre. In theory a further four players could be added, although both Vela and Szczesny will move into this category for the 2011/12 season.

Under 21 (No Restrictions)

  1. Wojciech Szczesny
  2. Kieran Gibbs
  3. Armand Traore
  4. Aaron Ramsey
  5. Jack Wilshere
  6. Carlos Vela
  7. Theo Walcott

Having seven first teamers (including one-third of our strikers) as “freebies” is certainly not to be sniffed at, and immediately extends the squad size to thirty-two players.

Furthermore, the above players are those with squad numbers from the 2009/10 season, and we can expect to see a number of the reserves (all of whom fall into the under-21 category) make the step up this summer. Many of these already have League Cup and/or Champions League experience:

Havard Nordtveit
Kyle Bartley
Gavin Hoyte
Nacer Barazite
Francis Coquelin
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Henri Lansbury
Mark Randall
Sanchez Watt
Gilles Sunu

This means that Arsenal’s squad for 2010/11, as registered with the Premier League, may well exceed forty players – larger than any other Premiership squad.

Certainly, Arsenal’s squad as registered for last season’s Champions League was the largest in that competition by quite some way.

And so, one might ask, what advantage, if any, does the above give to Arsenal? Is there really any benefit in having Novdveit available to face Drogba or Rooney?

Possibly not, but when injuries start mounting up this season, and the 25-man limit starts to bite, you’re going to see teams with more players out of position, and a great deal more blooding of untried youngsters than has previously been the case, and that will come as a shock to all the clubs involved.

Except Arsenal.


A Couple of Stars on the Horizon

July 18, 2010

I’d  put the squad names on yesterdays post but by the time the players were on the pitch doing their warm-up both Almunia and Eduardo had mysteriously morphed into Mannone and Szczesney. This felt to me the right thing to do as I couldn’t see what Almunia would have to offer in this kind of game and was looking forward to watching both of our other keepers being tested. So, flu or no flu, good decision Arsene.

Traditionally in this game Arsene sends a pretty much 1st team out 1st half and then the reserves for the 2nd half but this year it was more of a balanced mix. Rosicky captained the first half with a team set out as a 4-3-3 with Arshavin, Jay Simpson and JET up frontish. The mid three were Wilshire on the left Frimpong in the middle and Rosicky on the right. The back four Traore – Vermaelen – Koscienly – Havard Nordveit. Arshavin put us ahead inside 2 minutes and we all relaxed.

If you’ve never seen him play, Frimpong looks like Eboue. He was playing the holding mid-fielders role and his energy in driving play forward and in the tackle was a pleasure to behold. I hope he turns out to be good enough for Arsenal because I saw him playing just over a year ago in the Youth FA cup team and was impressed with him there. He runs at players, has good ball skills and he made some fine tackles. Had a couple of shots too. I think we’ll see more of him.

Even though Jay Simpson showed his appetite for goals and his finishing skills, the star of the first half and indeed the match for me had to be Havard Nordveit. He usually plays as a centre-back  but he was imperious here as the right-back.  Don’t we have any right-backs coming through? He got to more headers than Koscienly and his crossing was pretty good too, anyone know if he’s right or left footed because we noticed that his crosses came off his left-foot.

The second half was a bit of a slumber party. Some good linkup play between Theo and Chamakh, nice neat passing that could have produced a couple of goals. They seemed to be alternating playing in the middle. Chamakh was happy to track back and showed a couple of tricks. If our wing-backs could learn how to cross he will get us goals, he got into a great position for a corner late in the half but the delivery was poor.

Here are chary’s thoughts of the game:

A much more competitively contested game than in 2009, as evidenced by the late sliding tackle on the revelation of the first half, Havard Nordtveidt, who seemed to ooze class and composure giving the Barnet left winger no joy at all.

Arshavin and Nasri looked as though they had come back from fat camp and showed touches of class, although more came from our Russian maestro.

Both Rosicky and Barazite seemed to have gotten a job lot discount on haircuts.

Jet looked like an amalgam of Kevin Campbell and Heskey to me, but the Emile comparison is not meant to be derogatory, he’s still young enough to round off the rough edges to his game as he certainly has the power and pace.

Kozzer needs to get some high protein shakes into his diet and bulk up on his upper body but he seems the determined type of player who will bust a gut to improve.

Chamakh settled into an Alan Smith type of role – holding up the ball to allow others to come into play and I’m salivating at the prospect of us actually posing some threat at set pieces now. His close control seemed pretty impressive too.

It’s a pity Barnet couldn’t throw/kick in some crosses to test Chesney’s catching and decision making as he barely had anything to do

Finally,the first Peronis of the season were downed by yours truly and jolly good they were too!


Barnet v Arsenal – more mouthwatering than the World Cup final

July 17, 2010

How many weeks have we waited? – its been far too long; like being separated from a lover, knowing that the date and time is set for a reunion, counting down the hours and minutes until we are re-united.

I’ve really missed Arsenal. I’ve watched a lot of football  in the last few weeks and although it was nice to have Cesc and van Persie in the World Cup final, to see a whole team in the glorious Red and White, heralding the beginning of our preparation for the new season …. what can compare to that?

This afternoon I’ll be at Barnet FC to welcome Arsene Wenger, Pat Rice and our players, new and old – a mix of gifted reserves spiced with a smattering of first team stars who were spared the exertions of playing in the World Cup. I would imagine some managers (Domenech and Capello) may now be regretting the ommission of Arsenal players who would undoubtedly have performed better than the forlorn figures who returned early in failure.

Friendlies at Barnet can be anything from a thrilling 11 goal celebration of beautiful football to a tepid nil nil.

Having watched the way Spain laboured to win the World Cup 1-0, I’d love to see us bang a few in for fun. Here are the results of the games so far this century:


The Barnet fans always make me laugh. They used to sing about ‘the Highbury Library’ and ‘shall we sing a song for you’ etc etc, but like most Arsenal fans, although I’m really excited about the game it would be a bit pathetic to go overboard as we are playing a team from the 2nd division  (apologies to the Barnet faithful). Having said that, I much prefer Barnet to the other team starting with ‘BAR’ who publicly embarrassed our captain in that ‘shirt incident’.

The look on Cesc’s face said it all. Take my word, he will be an Arsenal player next season and he will play with all the passion and conviction that makes him such a great footballer.

This is the 22 man squad as announced on Arsenal.com

Manuel Almunia (GK)
Andrey Arshavin
Nacer Barazite
Marouane Chamakh
Johan Djourou
Craig Eastmond
Eduardo
Jay Emmanuel-Thomas
Lukasz Fabianski (GK)
Emmanuel Frimpong
Kieran Gibbs
Conor Henderson
Laurent Koscielny
Henri Lansbury
Ignasi Miquel
Samir Nasri
Havard Nordtveit
Tomas Rosicky
Armand Traore
Thomas Vermaelen
Theo Walcott
Jack Wilshere

Looking at that list, I would love to to see the new boys, Chamakh and Koscielny get some time on the pitch. It will be fascinating to see which centreback pairing takes to the field against pool for the first game of the season. Today we may get an insight into how Vermaelen/Djourou and Vermaelen/Koscielny combos would work.

It will also be interesting to see Havard Nordtveit. The Norwegian is now 20. He’s grown to 6ft 1 1/2 in. (tall for an Arsenal CB!) and has spent the last couple of seasons playing first for Lillestrøm in Norway and last year FC Nuremburg in the Bundesliga where he was deployed as a defensive midfielder, not a centreback?

Slightly more depressing is the choice of Goalkeepers – Almunia and Fabianski. Although I think the latter can become a good keeper, Almunia surely cannot be trusted to perform under pressure in the ‘big games’. Why on earth won’t we get a chance to see Szczęsny? They’ve been raving about him at Brentford all last season. He’s been playing in the league above Barnet, so surely he could have been given a chance. We know what the other two keepers are like to our cost!

The Bees (Barnet) always put in a spirited performance characterised by pace and endeavour – but let us all pray they don’t forget the ‘friendly’ nature of the occassion and injure any of our boys before the season starts.

A group of ‘Arsenal Arsenal’ bloggers will be at the game and I am hoping that each will write a short paragraph on their impression of the game for a ‘composite’ match report tomorrow.

Come on you reds………..

Written by peachesgooner


So, Do You Think We Can Win The League?

July 16, 2010

I don’t know why but I am not as confident about winning the league this season as I was last which is unusual for me because when it comes to optimism and blind faith I make Stevie Wonder look like he has twenty, twenty vision.

This time last year I was getting quite excited, we had just managed to offload the disruptive Adebayor to City while fleecing them shortly after in the form of Toure. Our attack looked solid helped by the long awaited return of Eduardo. The midfield was bolstered by the return of Rosicky and the defence was augmented with Vermaelen. This gave us the partnership in central defence of Gallas and Vermaelen with Senderos, Silvestre and Song as cover all of which sat well with me. Manu had lost Tevez and Ronaldo, the dippers were totally reliant on the fitness of Gerrard and Torres and the chavs, well that one was always going to be the biggest hurdle to get over but nevertheless, I put my faith in my optimism and arrived at the conclusion that we were going to win the league.

This season, I am not so sure, we have Chamakh which is very exciting, although, for those expecting to see an out and out number nine alla Ian Wright I think you are going to be disappointed. From the five full games I have watched him he plays the channels, he is far more of a team player than the selfish Wright, although, that is not to suggest that being selfish is a bad thing for a striker, it just makes the point that they are very different. The clever advantage, above all, of having a player like Chamakh is that by reputation he will not expect to get an automatic starting place  – he will know that he will have to earn it; the other advantage is that the rest of the attack won’t feel threatened but he will keep them on their toes.

The midfield is so obviously reliant on Fabrégas that there seems little point of discussing the possibility of life after Cesc, as far as I am concerned — Denial is a river in Egypt — and Cesc will lead the good guys out at Anfield.

On a serious note there is only one issue out there that the Cesc bashers are still clinging to and that is what his father is rumoured to have said: the next time you get into a debate with one of them ask if there is a shred of evidence to show that Cesc’s father actually said that his son would like to leave and you will find out very quickly that there isn’t and do you know why that is true? Because if there was, those so called Arsenal supporters would be throwing it in our faces at every opportunity — Cesc has acted impeccably throughout this trying time.

I digress or perhaps I was just trying to put this off — the midfield — I have to admit that such a pivotal role falling to Diaby scares the life out of me the idea that he can stay focused for the whole season seems way beyond his capabilities but hey ho in Arsène we trust as they say.

The central defence: “we won’t win anything until we get four world class centre backs.” Don’t you just want to strangle people who make statements like that? It is about as banal as saying grass is green, it also suggests that such a revelation might not have crossed Wenger’s mind. Four world class CB’s at a club at any one time is a mirage, an impossible dream, you may be able to keep two happy but which two other self respecting world class players would be prepared to sit on the bench for what could be the best part of a season if not more, Chelsea with their inflated wages come close but even their situation is far from perfect.

When it comes to Wenger’s signings we as Arsenal supporters are used to having to make a leap of faith; there was a time when the names were so obscure that I was chuffed just to have heard of the country of origin never mind their pedigree.  Last year it was Vermaelen, although, in his case we had the reassuring knowledge that he was captain of Belgium and captain of Ajax. This year we are really being tested with the signing of Koscielny —  I have to admit I am nervous, this is possibly the biggest leap of faith we have ever been asked to make. Still we won’t have to wait long, his first appearance is on Saturday at Barnet when, if all goes well, people will return with glowing reports of how Wenger has unearthed yet another gem and this uncomfortable pessimism will evaporate………I certainly hope so.

Written by London


A Rivalry Sorely Missed

July 15, 2010

Written by Jay-Jay

When you think about the great sports rivalries, paramount amongst any sort of compilation or discussion should be Arsenal and Manchester United. At its pinnacle, the desire to emerge victorious and the animosity between the two clubs was an absolute joy, and I really miss it.

Since the move to the Emirates, and Arsenal’s slight drop in the pecking order of those who compete for English Football’s most prestigious honour, the rivalry has turned into something less feral and, dare I say it, tame. Arsene Wenger and his pickled counterpart can even be seen these days sharing a forum together and enjoying a bit of friendly banter.

That wouldn’t have happened back in the day.

I fondly recall the battles between the two clubs when the pressure was on and they were both competing for the title. There certainly wasn’t any of today’s friendliness at Old Trafford in 2003.

As a celebrating Martin Keown bounded toward the thoroughly deplorable van Nistelrooy like an angry baboon protecting its young, the public relations between the two clubs hit an all-time low in the melee that ensued. Every other story you read was one side’s statement of disdain at the other.  The season following saw the Vieira/Keane incident in the tunnel after Paddy had a pop at Gary Neville – customarily, a cowardly little girl – and Keane returned the favour once Neville had told on the boy bullying him. As always, the calm, cool head in the Highbury tunnel was Dennis Bergkamp. Man United eventually won the game 4-2 and I would have happily killed Gary Neville after watching him celebrate.

The list of incidents and goings-on between two clubs at the highest levels of the Premiership used to make games at either Highbury or Old Trafford between the two real spectacles and the ones we all looked forward to. The atmosphere at the games was electrifying, the tension palpable and the desire to win on each opposing player’s face was evident. There were individual rivalries, moments of brilliance and moments both sides would sooner forget.

As I said, I really miss it. The rivalry with Spurs has only recently started to have a bit of extra bite since they’ve made a marked improvement – before they were just our second-rate neighbours we’d take great pleasure in beating – and after them there isn’t really anyone else. Yes, we all hate the Chavs and their squad of nefarious hooligans, but it doesn’t have the history yet.  Let’s hope it’s merely a case of things temporarily being off the boil, with proceedings soon to be re-ignited in the future as that competitive edge returns.

God knows I miss the bragging rights over the greasy glory-boys where I work. They’re just not the same at the moment.

So, I put it to you, the humble Gooner, to give me your finest moment between the two clubs…

This post is written by Jay-Jay who has his own blog The Armchair Gooner


Gallas to Return?

July 14, 2010

Has Gallas really gone? We all know he is currently touring the fashion capitals of Europe in search of a two year contract and a wage that will enable him to continue the lifestyle he has become accustomed to — but is that really likely to happen? He can rule out the big four salary payers: Barça, Real, City and Chelsea, they have no interest in him.

So, now what for Gallas?

My guess is that he is in for a rude awakening, that’s if the morning sun isn’t already shining in his eyes from having Juventus laugh his grandiose demands out of town. Still smarting from that embarrassment he might just start looking a bit more fondly at our one year contract, and its suggestive nod towards a second year, with renewed interest.

Gallas has not burned his bridges at Arsenal and he is going to have to work somewhere so why not come back to the warm familiarity of the Home of Football.

Koscielny to start against Liverpool – are you sure?

I am not convinced that Koscielny, a player with so little big time experience, has been ear marked by Wenger as a first choice starter. Well, not at the very beginning of the season any way; I have trouble imagining him taking to the field along side Vermaelen at Anfield and I am not persuaded by the argument that we wouldn’t have paid ten million pounds just for back up. Why wouldn’t we is my answer to that?

There must be a few others reading this who, similar to me, like to cook? Imagine you were in the middle of cooking fish, something I am particularly fond of, and you look in the fridge in search of lemons and realise that they are all past their use by date. To solve the problem you send one son to the shops and another to pick one from the tree in the garden. Taking the fish out of the oven you are confronted with a dilemma — which lemon to use – the answer is, of course, the best one, irrespective of where it came from — the one that will make the meal the most successful.

Hopefully someone reading this will realise that the home grown lemon is a metaphor for Djourou and the purchased lemon being Koscielny – the only thing that Wenger will take into consideration when choosing between them is which one will make the team the most successful.

More new centre back signings – in our dreams.

One thing that I don’t believe will happen is that we will buy a house hold name centre back with more experience than Koscielny that’s to say Mertesacker or Jagielca.

Wenger may pit Djourou and Koscielny against each other to fight it out for the right to eventually play along side Vermaelen but I don’t believe he would buy someone who by reputation will expect an automatic first team place: the effect would be to crush the enthusiasm of the two we already have as they would be consigned to the bench for what could be the best part of the season and quite possibly a lot more. History tells us that Wenger doesn’t do that; he always gives players a chance.

Gallas’ return would solve many problems.

The beauty of Gallas returning is that he could start the season bringing all his experience to bear while gradually handing over the reigns to whoever best emerges between Djourou and Koscielny and even if Gallas starts playing out of his skin the two younger Franco-phones will know that their chance will be coming sooner rather than later.

I genuinely think Gallas’ return is a realistic possibility and is the only reason Sol is waiting before he takes up one of his many offers. If Gallas returns there is absolutely no space for Sol, if Gallas finds another club there is still work for Campbell.

Come back Gallas your team needs you.

Lets see how many people come on today, not having read to the end, and leave a belligerent comment saying I am mad and that Gallas has been released – to them I say this: he may well have been but so had Campbell and look what happened there?

Written by London


Where does the beautiful game go from here?

July 13, 2010

I awoke on Monday morning sick and angry at the realisation that the Sam Allardyce School of football had somehow found its loathsome way to the World Cup final as Holland kicked, hacked, tripped and shirt pulled their way through 120mins of cynical attrition, laughingly described by some as football. Thus the most high profile game in the world was dragged down to a level that would have shocked Sunday morning pub footballers.

This I thought is the country that gave us Johan Cruyff, Krull, Neskins and latterly our own Dennis Bergkamp and Robin van Persie, each and every one renowned for sublime skills. Yet it was RvP, who’s own foul play straight from the kick off announced to the watching world just what today’s game plan would be.

Where has Holland’s fabled total football gone? Surely it was this concept that had inspired Barcelona through successive managers to play it with the style and panache that makes them the most attractive club side in the world.  The same style copied back here in England by Arsene Wenger as he shapes our own Arsenal after the same fashion.

Yet here and now, in the full spotlight of the world’s media and on millions of TV screens worldwide. We had watched Spain’s modern interpretation of the same concept, being ruthlessly nullified by storm troopers, wearing the same orange shirts their forbears had worn with such distinction, as footballers in previous world cups. Sure they had never won one, but their reputation and magic has entered footballs folklore and is to this day the stuff of dreams and wonder to those of us lucky enough to remember. What will this crowd of losers be remembered for?

So bad was the rough stuff that even Alan (football is a mans game and a contact sport) Hanson was a complete contradiction of all he has ever espoused on BBC TV. He was moved in his half time summation to roundly condemn the Dutch, their methods and tactics in an anti intimidation tirade that would have left most listening gooners in a state of  complete disbelief given his known track record on the subject. Miracles it seem do happen, conversion is still possible in today’s cynical football world.

So back to yesterday morning and as I lay in bed the realisation of how far we had fallen came. When I turned my radio on and Jordie Cruyff a Dutch international himself and the son of the great man, said to Nicky Campbell “of course we played the correct game we had to stop them playing, if we had let them play their tippy tappy football we may as well have gone home after 45 minutes as we would have been beaten. The referee didn’t help he was very” (picky, fussy cant remember exactly. But the meaning is clear). Like father, like son I think not.

True the referee tried valiantly enough, but no doubt warned by the politicians not to ruin South Africa’s big day, was not able to apply the law, as he should have done in order to control the game. Two sent off in the first half would no doubt have finished any hope’s he might have of higher office when his officiating days are done.

We are well used to Blackburn and Bolton and their ilk playing against us in this manner, the broken legs and in some cases spirits of fine young footballers, in our own club, testify to the malaise in this country.

But from Cruyff to Allardyce in the world cup final is a tragedy I am unable to get my head round.

Thank god they didn’t win and the beauty of the Spanish game got its just reward. Even if there was too much diving, unnecessary posturing and card waving from the Spanish players, but at least they stuck to the basics and kicked the ball most of the time.

So my football loving friends please answer the question I keep asking myself, where the hell does the game I love go from here?

Written by dandan


The Exit Looms …. But For Who?

July 12, 2010

When discussing buying players recently, I’ve found myself repeating the phrase ‘cautiously dipping our toes back into the transfer market’.

I know we’ve been buying players selectively over the last couple of years, but I do believe that the pattern of one decent signing over the summer will become 2,3 or even 4 as long as our profits remain healthy and the squad needs reinforcing.

In a perfect world, we’d have a gifted and balanced squad, none of whom want to leave, fed by a constant influx of talent from our youth system, but Carlsberg don’t do football management. I don’t expect us to buy any ‘finished article’ £25m+ superstars, but continue with what we do best and that is to identify players who are not on the radar of the big clubs but are ‘Wenger gems’ in the making. I expect Koscielny to be just such an acquisition.

This brings me to the main point of the post. In the future, if we are going to bring in 2 or 3 players, we will also be letting 2 or 3 players go. Competition for places in the side should be fierce and hopefully this will increase desire, ambition and work rate in the squad. I’m not referring to the likes of  Sol, Silvestre and Campbell’ older players who are being ‘let go’. It would be great if the next time we sell a player it will be because WE want to  rather than THEY would prefer to play for a ‘bigger’ club.

In yesterday’s post, 26may1989 put it very well when he wrote this about the respective performances in the World Cup ‘Never has a tournament shown the value of team play, of the collective over the individual. To me, that’s a good thing.’

I would argue that team spirit and belief is eroded when the better players know that there are weak links in the side.

We’ve discussed the importance of not damaging player’s confidence by character assassination from the terraces; in the media or on the blogs, but the ruthless objectivity that has got us into this enviable position must also apply to the squad.

The purchase of Vermaelen to replace Kolo Toure is a perfect example of the way I think we should go about strengthening the squad.

I have it from a ’very reliable source close to the top’ (hell, I sound just like the sort of rumour monger I despise), that last season, there were four first team regulars that were thought not to be up to standard – pretty amazing that we finished 3rd in the Premiership if that really was the case.

I can already sense every reader compiling a list in their heads. Apart from the obvious choice of the keeper, this subject will produce more disagreement than any other. Song would be one of the first names on the team sheet for me whereas I am yet to be convinced that Diaby can produce the consistency and discipline required.

I shall not describe any players in relation to a ‘popular savoury spread’, but suffice to say that we all employ our personal prejudices when evaluating players and sometimes that is an irrational judgement, but the harsh reality is that we can now afford to replace any that are not good enough – and that’s precisely what we must do!

Arsène will no doubt have it in his mind that next season will be make or break for some players. He has announced in previous years that he expects player ‘A’ (Theo?) to really step up a level, he now has the financial clout to replace player ‘A’ if he fails to reach the required standard. Every player with potential should be given the chance to prove they can make the grade (Vela?), but equally there is a point where persistence with failure damages the team and costs games.

We will have a stronger team this coming season. The description of Koscielny as a ‘warrior’ says it all; Arsène knows we need to be stronger and more aggressive to compliment our silky passing skills.

I expect that any player who consistantly fails in terms of ability and work rate will be closest to the door when we go shopping next summer.