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

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:



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!