Why we failed to win the Premiership last season ……. Where is our Tone?

October 21, 2010

Written by MickyDidIt89

Having professed to know the reasons why we have failed to land any trophies for the last 5 years in a rash comment on Arsenal Arsenal recently, I was challenged to put my keyboard where my mouth is and write a post to justify this claim! So here goes ……

Seasons come and seasons go, and always the same old criticism – no plan B, outmuscled and always trying to walk it into the net.  Let’s look at last season’s league campaign. We were twelve points from the title. We drew six games. So, if you concede one fewer goal in each of these, you are Champions. Or alternatively, score one more in each; same story. Just six goals to score or avoid conceding.

Now this is very simplistic, I know, but it does highlight two things. The fine line between success and failure, and the importance of goals is the other. Strangely, all too often, the focus is on elements of the game that are too far removed from the ultimate and basic objective of goal scoring/defending.

The essence of my piece  is that we are not as far away as some would have us believe. Have we strengthened the defence? I believe so. Have we strengthened the attack? No, not yet. Why not yet, because last season we had Bendy around for some of the time when RVP was injured. This term, both are injured and Chamakh is playing. So effectively, same numbers. Had RVP been fit all season, and Chamakh  on board, we would have been very close indeed. We have not won anything since we last had a consistently fit striker.

At the other end of the pitch, we all know about the goalkeeper issues. However, one all too often overlooked aspect to the winning team is the on-field leader. It was pointed out recently that when Arsene describes coming Third as a Trophy, he is instilling a losing’s-ok mentality. I have always found in life that peer pressure, values and expectations are the driving forces that really get under my skin. Would drawing any game have been acceptable with Tony Adams? Would you have wanted to be in the dressing room with Tone after the WBA game? How about in there with Almunia or Cesc as Captain? Thought so.

My two solutions are thus. One, find a Captain. I am hoping that Verm will be the man, and two, sort out the injuries. Are we overtraining? What’s with the medical team? RVP being sent for placenta treatment. Give me strength!

It is not a compilcated game. I can’t speak for my fellow bloggers, but I get sick of the constant “Arsenal have no Plan B” bollocks constantly levelled at us by commentators. I take criticism very badly (apart from when its about my spelling, when I totally ignore it), and when people criticize The Arsenal, then its personal.

Can I give you my version of Plan B. We do not have one, and we do not need one. Nice, crisp and clear. The reason we only need one plan is that we do not play to lose and we do not play to draw. Therefore, you put eleven men on the pitch, using roughly similar patterns. Then you have a few spare players who sit next to the pitch on expensive faux leather seats. Finally, you have a Leader who wears a tailor made suit of sober design with a shirt and tie.

It is my belief that had Verm, Cesc, Theo and RVP all been on the pitch against Chelsea, or sitting in the expensive faux leather seats, then we would have beaten those tall, heavy, overpaid chavs.

I can only think of one tiny flaw, and I am reminded of the words of Mr Ron Atkinson. He had just taken over at Sheffield Wednesday (I think) and it was the eve of an important local derby, when he supposedly said that he missed the “good old days, before all this tactics bullshit, when we turned up on Saturday, had some lunch, played football, had some beers, then went home”. Sadly for my theory, Big Ron’s team lost. He got fired.

If there is anything of any value whatsoever in what I am saying, it is this. I believe we are very close to domination, and we will do it The Arsenal way. Our way.

Donetsk Forget To Mind The Gap In London As We Celebrate 6 Goals

October 20, 2010

“I don’t think I will celebrate,”  Eduardo.

True to his word, everyone’s favourite Crozilian didn’t even acknowledge his consolation strike, but how we celebrated. You guys behind the goal, I saw you, jumping up and down like it was an Arsenal goal, and the Nicklas Bendtner look-alike in the crowd I saw you too, holding that number 9 shirt proudly aloft, and we all heard the announcer acclaim the goal as if it had been scored a year ago. The standing ovation afterwards was just proper order for a player who didn’t get a real send-off, he has now. Yes, us being 5-0 up at the time helped the mood a lot, but be honest, how many shouted “yes” and punched the air when he scored? We all want the clean sheets but exceptions must be made, and this was one of those times. Its almost like a weight off our shoulders that we gave Dudu his dues.

Eduardo aside, last night’s game was very comfortable. The Ukrainian visitors should know that when you come to London you must mind the gap, not alone on the underground but those around the Emirates pitch. Give us enough gaps and we will punish you.

Donetsk are a far better side than what they showed last night. In the second half we saw they could pass the ball and press a lot better than what they did. Its almost as if they had decided before the game that they would lose here, give us the group, try and get something from us in Ukraine and go for second which they should get based on the evidence so far. Not a great plan and honestly a much harder match might have suited us with Manchester City coming up on Sunday. Not that we should have been ran into the ground, but it was almost a five-a-side training session at times and we rarely had to move out of second gear.

Apart from Eddie, the other opposition player to bring a smile to our face last night was Pyatov – what a shocking ‘keeper he is! His missed catch for Song’s goal even had van der Saar laughing, while my eyes may have deceived me, I thought I spied our Moroccan making a cup of tea after checking was he onside for our fifth.

It was good to see Fabregas and Walcott get a run out. Cesc’s touch was a bit off at times but that’s to be expected after his lay-off, hopefully it will be better by Sunday. It was also interesting to see Wenger play Walcott in the middle when he came on. He didn’t have much time, but on one occasion near the end in particular we saw how his speed has the potential to wreck havoc in the opposition defence.

We now have 9 points from 3 games, with 14 goals scored and only 2 against. A draw away in the next match should see us top the group and after that Wenger can bring out the kids and rest some key players.

Player Ratings:

Fabianski (7) – Didn’t have a whole load to do but made an excellent save at the start of the second half to keep the score at 2-0. Looks more solid in recent weeks.

Eboue (7) – Not too much defending to do, and concentrated on attack. Linked up well at times, but was wasteful on occasion.

Squillaci (7) – Again didn’t have much to do, but should have got out quicker to Eduardo to stop his shot.

Djourou (7) – Made a fine last ditch tackle in the second half and won us a penalty. Will be back on the bench once Vermaelen and possibly Koscielny return.

Clichy (6) – Bombed forward when he could and wasn’t overly troubled by the opposition. I do still worry about his positioning at times.

Song (8) – I thought Song had a great game last night. He won ball around midfield, tidied up, linked well and scored a goal.

Wilshere (9) – Played a central role even though Cesc was back and in the first half completed more passes than the Captain. Great vision, great positioning and great finish.

Rosicky (8) – Started well and his name kept popping up. Involved in defence and attack.

Fabregas (7) – Not at his sharpest but for me he did a fair share of defensive work when it was needed. Well taken penalty.

Nasri (9) – Brilliant once again. Played some superb passes and scored a great goal.

Chamakh (9) – I thought he would be a good signing. WRONG! He has been a great signing. Tremendous work-rate, pressures from the front, excellent hold up play and a cool as you like finish.


Denilson did well when he came on. Made some strong challenges.

Arshavin was given a breather by Wenger and played little more than a cameo. Got involved in some good link up play.

Walcott didn’t get a whole load of time and the game was well won but hopefully we’ll see more of him down the middle in weeks to come.

(It would be remiss of me not to mention the “situation” at Old Trafford. First Tevez, then Ronaldo and now Rooney – smells of a selling club to me!)

Written by Irishgunner

Another step upon the road to European Glory.

October 19, 2010

First off, there is the possibilty that Cesc is fit, so is Theo and Nik. At last we have the opportunity to rotate the squad. Without diminishing the threat of Shakhtar, it is time to give certain players a rest before the real business of the PL at the weekend. Arshavin for one needs a break.

Tonight I would like to see Theo start on the right and Chamakh play centrally, with Chamakh getting a rest after 60 minutes, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nik start. Bendtner does well in European ties.

I expect Wilshere to start ahead of his 3 match ban, his form has been outstanding and Shakhtar will be stunned by our 18 y.o marvel. Should Cesc start we will play a very attacking midfield  though I expect him to be on the bench ahead of the important game at Man City. The defence picks itself with so many injuries, though perhaps Gibbs will be fit in which case I would expect him to start ahead of Clichy.

My team

Shakhtar bring our old friend Eduardo back to THOF and  he will get a hero’s welcome. Despite never reaching the heights expected of him on his return from injury, he gave all for the cause and left with dignity. I wish him well but not tonight.  Shakhtar have a decent record in the CL however we have a superb home record in the CL and I expect it to continue. That said, Shakhtar not having conceded a goal in the CL this season plus they have won 15 out of 17 in the Ukranian League. They are level on points with us and having won 3-0 in Braga are clearly no mugs, but we will surely beat them if we play to our potential.

This Arsenal team look great on European nights and appear to play better against foreign teams who play the passing game as opposed to the muscularity of the Premiership, though Shakhtar who play with two hard tackling midfielders are not afraid of the physical challenge.

It should be noted that Shakhtar Donetsk won the UEFA Cup in 2009 and are a fine team.

Donetsk is Ukraine’s second city with a population of over a million. It was founded by a Welshman (John Hughes) in 1869 (no kidding!!). More Russians live in Donetsk than Ukranians and the city was  called Stalin until 1961. The Euro 2012 semi-final is due to be played in Shakhtar’s stadium. The most famous son of Donetsk is Sergei Bubka the brilliant pole vaulter who between the years 1984 -1994 broke his own world record 18 times! He remains the world record holder 16 years later.

Can we win?  Yes.   Will we win?  Yes


What’s Wrong With Rosicky?

October 18, 2010

What has Arsène Wenger got against Tomas Rosicky?

For long periods of Saturday’s game, as we played tippy-tappy around the edge of the Birmingham box, it was obvious that we needed some good old-fashioned directness.

Apart from Wilshere, none of our players were willing to take the responsibility to make the quick killer pass or take the first time shot at goal.

Diaby, with his bursting power-runs, seemed to be affected by an invisible force field on the edge of the opposition penalty area. Unfortunately he also had ‘goldfish memory’ syndrome, so time and again he would charge forward only to go DOING!!! into the invisible wall.

Arshavin, I think, is suffering from sore toes. It’s the only possible explanation for his unwillingness to use the front of his boot when making a pass. Either that or he is involved in some kind of bet to see how many back-heels he can make in a single match.

Nasri, who has been a consistently good player this season, could only get so far with his dribbling runs when the opponents were packing the defence as resolutely as the Brummies were.

And poor old Alex Song, lumbering into dangerous areas and misplacing his passes, was like your 10-year-old son trying to help you assemble an Ikea wardrobe: eager to help, but generally getting in the way and making you hit your thumb with the hammer.

Don’t they know that if you want to get to Birmingham, it’s best to take the M1?

When Tomas Rosicky came on the difference was immense and immediate. Instead of zig-zagging through Warwickshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire, suddenly we were taking the fast route. Here was a player whose first priority was not to create beautiful 20-pass moves, but to hurt the opposition.

It was another excellent cameo from the little Czech – and raises the question of why he is getting only cameo roles. Why doesn’t Arsene trust him to start ahead of Diaby or the clearly misfiring Arshavin? In eight league fixtures TR7 has started two and come on as a substitute six times.

The two games that Tomas started? Blackpool (6-0) and Bolton (4-1). We certainly had ‘thrust’ in those matches. He was also in the starting line-up for the League Cup hammering of the Spuds. That’s pretty strong evidence for his impact on the team – and the fact that for the West Brom calamity he was on the bench makes me want to cry.

As Peaches pointed out in the comments yesterday, Rosicky is a ‘proper footballer’ who has played elsewhere – clocking up five seasons with Borussia Dortmund and 74 caps for his country. He is experienced and, age-wise, is at the peak of his career. He definitely adds something to the way we play.

But Wenger doesn’t seem to see it. Could it be that the Boss is more keen to persevere with the players who constitute his so-called youth experiment: the likes of Diaby, Denilson and Song?

Is he worried that Rosicky’s injury record means he can’t be exposed to more substantial amounts of playing time?

Or does he simply think that the other players are better?

If it’s the latter I would respectfully suggest that he needs to reconsider. Rosicky is a player who, at his best, can come close to matching Fabregas for ability. And above all he adds a forward momentum to our play that is often lacking.

A starting line up that includes Fabregas, Wilshere, Rosicky and Walcott has the directness to hurt any team, especially those who ‘park the bus’. We have been unlucky (again) with injuries this year, so that foursome has never been on the pitch together at the same time.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see them soon in the starting eleven?


A better day at the office ….. three points in the bag

October 17, 2010

This was another of those games where the title of the match report could be ‘What is Diaby for?’ How many times did he go on a great run only to come to a grinding halt at the edge of the penalty box? Those long, strong legs with feet that obviously have the ball magnets in their boots have to be attached to the most infuriating footballer in our squad.

He doesn’t have to keep the ball at his feet while he’s running but he does have to keep running. His awareness of where his team-mates are is virtually non-existant. His shooting ability has never been in question so why doesn’t he look up and check what’s happening around him. BigRaddy said last night that once Theo returns Diaby will have company on his runs but that won’t be of any help if Diaby hasn’t got his brain switched on. I can run with the ball at my feet into space – admittedly not with the grace and speed of Diaby – but if I didn’t know what my next move was going to be what would be the point?

Maybe Diaby just doesn’t know what his job is  – I’m afraid to me he is just a  ‘headless chicken’, but he’s been like this for far too long and needs to answer some stern questions. Footballing skills are great but pretty pointless if you don’t fit into a team.

But there were positives to take from this game. Our favourite flapper was considerably more solid than I can ever remember. If Birmingham were ever to score it was going to be from a free kick or a corner and Fabianski wasn’t at fault for their goal. With a fledgling partnership in front of him in the form of Djourou and Squillaci it could have all gone horribly wrong but he was vociferous and didn’t at any time look vulnerable. Shame on those supporters who hammed up their applause of his first touches of the ball, when he’s wearing the shirt at least give him a chance.

Jack Wilshere was once again at the heart of all that was good. Some great interplay between him and Chamakh that should have yielded a goal but once again there were too many passes. Arshavin was unlucky today that none of his back flicks found a man but he kept on trying. I’ve just seen Jack’s tackle again that led to his red card and he was late and could have hurt the player – who thinks that Arsène Wenger sent him out to let the player know he was there? Obviously not and having watched Jack in pre-season I felt that he had a fiesty tendency that he’s so far kept under control – good for him,  he’ll learn I’m sure.

Watching Theo, Rosicky and Nikki warming up after half-time did bring a flutter to my heart. When Rosicky came on he added great directness to the play managing to sting the keepers hands with 2 rasping shots. Nikki also got a chance to join in and could have scored with his first touch. He’s way behind Chamakh and van Persie in the pecking order which hopefully he won’t mind. I thought this game was crying out for Theo but we’ll have to wait for Tuesday night against Shaktar to see him. I don’t want to put a hex on it but its worth noting that the penalty was scored by a cool penalty taker who smashed the ball into the back of the net.

So, overall this was a game we were expected to win, it wasn’t pretty by any definition but on reflection we actually ground out a result. I’m not going to say it was comfortable because it certainly wasn’t and the last 10-15 minutes were suitably nervous as we looked, as usual, like we could concede at any moment but we hung on and added three points to our total…….. more than the chavs and the manks ha ha. Sometimes its nice to win ugly.

Here are some player ratings from BigRaddy

Fabianski. A solid performance, not at fault for the goal – it was a superb header.His distribution was a bit suspect. 7

Eboue. Added little to the attack and was guilty of a very poor tackle. Good application 5

Squillaci. Improved performance. Unlucky not to be on the scoresheet. Could be the answer once TV comes back. 7

Djourou. Still looks rusty to me. Probably the most mobile of our CB’s. Got caught under the ball for a couple of headers and was outjumped for the goal. 6

Clichy. What has happened to his positioning? A shadow of the player we saw 3 seasons ago. 5

Song. A dynamic performance. Drove the team forward and put in some fine tackles. One of his better games though his passing was wayward on occasion 8

Nasri. Got a bit lost in the midfield hurly-burly but once again was aggressive in his attacking play. Not at his best. 7

Wilshere. Our best player prior to his rash tackle, let’s hope it is a lesson learned. Strong and disciplined in defence when required, excellent link up play and moved the ball very quickly when required. 8

Arshavin. Started really well and faded. Mr Inconsistent ran about for 20 mins the first half and went missing prior to his substitution. Is he fully fit? Does he need a break? Does he know that Arsenal play in Red? 4

Chamakh. As usual worked hard. Scored , got the penalty (I believe it was the correct decision), the focal point of our attacks. He is improving. 7


Rosicky. Came on for Arshavin and immediately shot from distance (clearly under instructions). A good cameo. 7

Bendtner. Only had a few minutes but almost got on the end of a cross. 6


Mr Wenger’s 800th game and Birmingham Preview

October 16, 2010

Jumping Jehovahsphat, it’s back, the familiar Saturday morning frisson, that tingling in the lower extremeties that signify game day. And for you lucky chaps going to the game, the resumption of years old pre-match traditions.

A two week break at this time of the season is ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as our injury problems. How can it be that with so few games played in the past 2 months we have lost so many players to injury? Koscielny is the latest to enjoy the warm sensitive hands of the medical team. Not having the spine of our team is finishing our season before it starts, I believe that had TV, Cesc, RvP and TW started at the Bridge, we would have come away with at least a point – but we will never know. What we do know is that we have taken 1 point out of a possible 9 and are 7 points off Chelsea.

We need to get back to winning ways, however Birmingham are no easy 3 points, they are a team in the image of their manager, hardworking, energetic and pragmatic. Inspiration and flair will be supplied by the fresh air loving Alex Hleb who is accompanied in midfield by another ex-Gooner, Seb Larsson. I watched Larsson play for Sweden v Holland on Weds and he looks in fine form.

Birmingham have yet to beat us in 25 PL games, and we have never lost two consecutive PL games at the Emirates (I think). We have conceded in all but two games this season and Birmingham have scored only once in their last 4 PL games. It should add up to an easy victory for the Gunners, but we just do not know how this team will perform if pressured, and we can be sure this is a point that McLeish will be pummelling into his team – “close them down, harry them, defend from the front and pack the 12 yard line, look for the breakaway”. And we must beware of a late Kevin Phillips goal should he play, he may be as old as Methusaleh but he remains a threat

The team almost picks itself assuming Bendtner and Theo are on the bench

I would be tempted to give JW a rest and play Rosicky, but Mozart played twice for his nation during the break whereas Jack only played once and as such should be fresher. With so many games coming up we have to pray that our CB’s remain unscathed –  heaven forbid another injury to Djourou who desperately needs a few games to return to top form.

And here is this weeks strange City fact  – The curry known as the “Balti” was invented in Birmingham, and exported to India! Such is the magnificence of the Second city’s Curry culture (and of course Lee Dixon owns a curry house chain based in B’ham). Plus B’ham is the birthplace of two of rock’s finest acts Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

Today is Mr. Wenger’s 800th game in charge. Where have the years gone? I was at his first game and there when the press were saying Arsene Who?  They know him well now, and I wish him an easy and relaxed afternoon with us 2 up at half-time, and 4 up after 90 minutes (we can but hope!)

As a postscript I must mention the sad passing of Malcolm Allison. A tremendous character and the manager of one of the finest teams of my youth. The cigars, the hats, the posturing – he was a one off . There is no-one in football like him anymore – a true maverick  RIP.

Can we win today? Of course we can.


No subs at half time……. I blame Hleb

October 15, 2010

Friday is traditionally a quiet day on the blogosphere so we have decided to reinstate Rant Friday. This is an opportunity for bloggers to submit a paragraph on anything that has been bugging them. It is not an excuse for an assault on the club or the manager, but a good way of encouraging new bloggers to write for Arsenal Arsenal.

Carlito11’s offering

Picking up on a comment by Jekyll yesterday, I want to question Arsene’s other ill (aside from scouting for keepers!)… the mollycoddling worry about damaging player’s confidence that causes him to never sub off a poorly performing player. Any other winning manager (from the specious one to old rednose to the centurion who is currently leading England to ruin) has been known to make big changes at halftime, but I cannot remember a time Wenger has done this except because of injuries.

The time has come for Wenger to treat these players like men, and shame some of them into better performances. We need anger from players not playing well enough- and a tougher mental attitude. Let’s hear a big more “play better or you’re off”. George Graham would have done it and the best part of our winning attitude during the Wenger era was forged by Graham and the players who remained from his era.

Rant over!



Rasp’s rant ….. Hleb’s a weaner

I first saw Alexander Hleb play for Arsenal in a pre-season friendly at Borehamwood back in 2005. I was immediately struck by his amazing ball retention and quick feet. Here was an exciting prospect for the team surely destined to be a pivotal player in the new team Arsène was building to continue the legacy of the Invincibles.

As the weeks/months passed and Hleb became a first team regular, I listened to supporters eulogizing over his intricate passing and clever link-up play, but growing inside me was an increasing frustration. I realised that here was a player who was more interested in exhibiting his technical brilliance than helping his team win games. I’d swear he got more pleasure from turning the same defender inside out 3 times than slamming the ball into the back of the net. His over-complicated play would slow down our attacks and allow the opposition time to get everyone behind the ball.This would lead to the all too familiar scenario of us playing brilliant possession football around our opponents box, but frustratingly, seldom piercing their defence.

I blame Hleb for being the forefather of clever possession at the cost of incisive attacking football. How many times would he wriggle his way into a perfect shooting position only to shun the chance and slot a clever sideways pass to  a teammate in a worse position and the opportunity would be lost?

Hleb’s a weaner. He lacks power. He could pass the ball 20ft very accurately but did you ever see him blast a diagonal pass across the pitch onto A.Cole’s chest or curl a shot into the top corner from outside the box. The way he behaved to engineer his way out of  Arsenal was despicable and his lame attempts to lure Cesc away as soon as he arrived at Barça show that he never had Arsenal in his heart.

The man who thought he was going to be the leading light at the Camp Nou is now a footballing outcast who will be representing Birmingham City (the club he dreamt of playing for as a young boy!) on saturday …. I don’t consider him even worth booing.

Mr Wenger. Earn your corn….

October 14, 2010

Given the choice of players in the Premier League there are few that I would swap for our boys when they are on form, and that is the point of this post …. when they are on form.

What is the difference between Arsenal and Man IOU? It is not the talent of the players, nor is it application, no, it is Consistency. Being brutally honest, MU are a pedestrian team with two fantastic forwards who when they are off-form cause the entire team to struggle, how would it be if the rest of the team played as patchily for a season? And yet that is what Mr Wenger has to put up with week in week out.

We have perhaps two consistent players – very few of our players perform at their top level week after week, Sometimes they are coming back from injury, other times they are carrying an existing injury, but nonetheless we struggle for a constant high level performance from anyone.

It wasn’t always thus. You knew when PV, TA, Keown , Dixon, Bould, Parlour, Nutty, Seaman, Gilberto etc took to the field what type of performance to expect, they without fail delivered .

Let’s take today’s team. Cesc and Vermaelen are certainly reliable performers, yet both are/have been  injured and thus give no consistent platform to the team, which any side with Champion pretensions needs. To win the PL a team has to have at least 6 players playing at the top of their game, they need to be reliable, the go-to players when the side is struggling. Which current players carry that responsibility?

A couple of seasons ago we could look to the full backs to give regular dependable performances but even the stalwart Sagna has been poor on occasion, and as to Clichy – one never knows whether he will be brilliant or cost us a goal.

Arshavin is inconsistency incarnate. A wonderful player on his day, which is my exact point. I realise that flair players are less likely to be consistent but Arshavin is at the peak of his considerable powers and ought to be great every time he steps over the white line

Song would have been my most likely candidate to become a stand up guy, but this season he is all over the shop. One week solid and accurate, the next cannot find a red shirt. The same can be said for Diaby, a super talent who has yet to  put 3 decent performances together in a row. Rosicky is another who can flatter to deceive, he can play superb passes that offer others tap-ins. and then goes missing for 45 minutes

Theo? He had a fine start to the season and we can but hope. The form of our new centre backs has wavered – of the two; Squillaci appears to be the more reliable though to be fair they will take time to settle into the PL. The same can be said for Chamakh who has been good and sometimes very good.

There is no need to discuss the goalkeeping situation.

I have left the two consistent performers to last. Nasri and Wilshere. Both have given top notch performances every game they have played. To me Nasri has carried the inventiveness of the team in the absence of Cesc, his driving play in the dreadful team game versus WBA was testament to his desire to give of his best. He is going to be an integral player at THOF for many seasons. And as to JW. What is there to say that hasn’t been said already? What a prospect.

The difference between us and Chelsea or Man Utd is that they have players who consistently play well. Fletcher rarely has a bad game, nor do Vidic, Giggs, Ferdinand, Park, Scholes, Van de Saar, Carrick or Neville (of whom, IMO only Vidic & VdS would get in a top form AFC). With such a platform they can allow capricious performances from Nani, Rooney and Berbs. Chelsea have consistency throughout their side (and is probably why they got rid of Joe Cole) which is why they are Champions. Of course it is simplistic to suggest that the only differences between our sides is purely consistency, we have been subjected to an awful raft of injuries to highly important members of the team,  we do not compete at a financial level and on the whole we have been unlucky (I would like to see the stats of which team hits the woodwork the most). But sending out a dependable team is essential to our prospects and the old excuse of youthful inexperience is no longer valid.

So what does Mr. Wenger do about it? How does he make young but now experienced players play at the top of their game week after week? Well, he is the manager and gets paid handsomely to supply the answers; I on the other hand have no idea ….

Your girlfriend is right after all……Size Does Matter

October 13, 2010

Today’s post was written by Red Arse over the weekend and continues the discussion about serious injuries.

Written by Red Arse

Like most Arsenal fans, I greeted, with relief and joy, the news, that “Rambo” Ramsey was not far from resuming full time training, with a view to returning in the New Year. It is wonderful, not just for us as fans but for the player himself.

But it led me to think back to the horrific injury that we were shown happening to him, in all its gory detail, on Sky TV, in full HD close up. The recollection brought an involuntary, empathetic shudder as, in my minds eye, I saw his leg bending in several completely unnatural directions and how it appeared to be held together only by virtue of his red and white sock. Yeuk and double Yeuk! I felt sick to my stomach reliving it, even in flashback.

But, hold on, that was not Rambo I was envisioning, it was Dudu, smashed by Taylor; but no, oh God, no, it was neither, it was Diaby, with his ankle apparently sheared off at Sunderland. Wasn’t it?

Well, it seems that they have all become one amorphous whole, each as shocking as the other.

This week’s news, that Danny Murphy had lambasted the thuggish gorillas, sent out by even more thuggish managers, to brainlessly assault more skilful players in more skilful EPL teams, in a manner likely to cause appalling career threatening injuries was amazingly refreshing and unexpected. He even named names; Fat Sam, stupid McCarthy, sickening, self justifying Pubis. Wow!

Picked up by other publications, his comments received mainly positive responses, with many a sage nod of the head, and a general agreement that such thuggery was wrong and that something must be done to curtail these wanton acts of aggression.

Contrast this with the xenophobic “Whingeing Wenger” headlines that greeted similar comments by our esteemed manager. The same moronic “it’s a man’s game”, and “I know him, he would not do that deliberately”, yada, yada, were soon churned out by said thuggish managers, of course.

Sometime ago, I wrote a Post highlighting the cretinous cabal of professionally limited managers, who encouraged and condoned this appalling, “in their faces”, tactic, inflicted by their physically imposing but cerebrally challenged minions. To Danny Murphy’s list I had added Mark Hughes, Owen Coyle and others, on the margins, whose teams occasionally dabble too.

Surprise, surprise, several of the usual suspects popped up; Kevin Davies, Shawcross, and de Jong among them, claiming they had always behaved like choirboys and their sainted managers had never issued any such instructions, nor incited them to inflict damage on skilful opposition players.

Now, at this point, I intend to leave that stream of thought and perhaps shock you, by coupling these Neanderthal antics with our lack of success, in recent times.

Following our defeat by Chelsea, I have lost count of the number of times opposition fans have said, “Your team were out muscled and well beaten” or “They never remotely looked capable of winning, because they were up against a better team, who were far stronger, taller, heavier and more powerful”.

I also lost count of the number of times I denied this was so. “We played well, and were unlucky to have lost”, I said, “We could have won, if we had taken our early chances”, and so on, and so forth.

All the time, at the back of my mind, I was thinking the unthinkable. “These guys could be right!”

In my opinion, even though I think Arsène is the best manager I have ever seen, I think he is complicit in our setbacks against the other top 4 teams, or the intimidating tackling and long ball tactics used against us so often. This is as a direct consequence of the type and size of players he has bought for us, over recent years.

We have often argued on this site about the pace or strength of our current players, with the implicit criticism, by some of us, that they were not quick enough or big enough physically.

Underlying this argument is the indisputable fact that when we were kings of the EPL, winning not just one, but two Doubles, we had in our team colossal players like Tony Adams, Martin Keown, Paddy Viera, Sol Campbell and many others like Manu Petit, Titti Henry and the incomparable Denis “Iceman” Bergkamp. I use the term “colossal” advisedly.

They not only had great skill, but they were giants physically. All of them strapping fellows with muscles on their muscles; they were all well over 6 foot tall, with great long ball winning legs, and a hard bitten, “take no prisoners” attitude in the winning of titles.

And then it all changed!

Arsene fell in love with seemingly fast, small, amazingly skilful players. Their brand of football is an entertaining, breathtaking style, with fast flowing, exquisite passing at its core. This appetite for physically small skilful players has now extended to defenders, with our latest recruits having very modest physiques.

Unfortunately, these little guys do not win against the “Big” teams. And they do not win trophies.

That is the crux of my disquiet. For reasons I do not pretend to understand, AW has decided that our best chance of winning trophies is by recruiting players half the size of those wonderful Double winning teams of yore!

This is not working! Please, Arsene, change your mind!

A Message to Henry Winter, Amy Lawrence, Patrick Barclay and Friends

October 12, 2010

Malicious recklessness is the new scourge of the modern game in England.

As I explained in yesterday’s post here on Arsenal Arsenal, the sort of leg-breaking challenges produced by the likes of Ryan Shawcross, Martin Taylor, Dan Smith, Karl Henry and Nigel de Jong represent a new and serious threat to the game we all love.

Broken legs have always been an occupational hazard in football, but they used to be an unusual or freak occurrence. Now they are becoming habitual and the players who cause them are routinely defended by their managers. This is leading to a rise in what I like to term ‘malicious recklessness’: recklessness, because the offending players are out of control; malicious, because they make these challenges in an attempt to physically intimidate the recipient.

But one group of people really can do something about this problem. It’s not the players, because the likes of Shawcross (as evidenced by his quotes this week) seem to revel in their role as out-of-control leg-smashers.

It’s not their managers, because they are prepared to accept serious casualties among their opponents if it means an extra point or two in the battle to stay in the Premier League. And, unlike many of my fellow Arsenal supporters, I don’t think Blackburn’s Sam Allardyce and Stoke’s Tony Pulis are bad people. I think they inhabit a world of public and private pressure that few of us can imagine and they will clutch at any straw to achieve their desired end. In doing so I think they genuinely believe their players are nice guys who wouldn’t deliberately break an opponent’s leg. They are too close to the problem to see that they are contributing to a culture that inevitably leads to career-threatening injuries (as Danny Murphy of Fulham eloquently pointed out last week).

It’s also not the football authorities who, as many bloggers have pointed out, are unlikely to take this problem seriously until an England golden boy is crippled by one of the EPL’s foreign legion.

Instead I believe the biggest impetus for change can come from national newspaper football reporters – the likes of Henry Winter, Patrick Barclay, Joe Lovejoy, Amy Lawrence and their colleagues. Some of them have expressed concern at the dangerous challenges that go on in the modern game, but I think there’s a more fundamental step they can take.

They (and we) need to reclaim the language of football from the Neanderthals – both players and managers – who distort it.

When Wenger criticises career-threatening challenges, the likes of Allardyce and Pulis always retort with “tackling is a great part of football and it would be terrible to lose it.” They know full well that Wenger has no problem with tackling, just with dangerous, reckless play, but it allows them to portray Wenger as a wuss who wants football to be non-contact.

The language distortion here centres on the word ‘tackling.’ Shawcross’s assault on Ramsey, Taylor’s on Eduardo do not deserve to be dignified with the name ‘tackle’ and journalists should not use it in these cases. They should refer to “Shawcross’s lunge” or “Taylor’s reckless assault.”

The word “tackle” is written into the rules of the game and should be used only for legitimate acts of football, not deliberate or reckless assaults aimed at intimidating a player.

It’s an example of what George Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, referred to as ‘doublethink,’ a definition of which is:

To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both of them, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it…

With this in mind, every sports journalist should think twice before using any of the following euphemisms:

Full Blooded:  by all means use this for a strong, fair challenge. But please let’s have no more excusing clumsy attempts to maim a player by saying the offender made a ‘full blooded’ tackle.

Committed: Michael Essien is committed; Wayne Rooney is committed; Ryan Shawcross flying into an opponent’s leg while totally out of control is not ‘committed’, he is reckless. And malicious.

Football is a Contact Sport: this phrase is the last refuge of the scoundrel. As mentioned above, it’s an attempt to deflect attention away from one’s own players’ crazy challenges by suggesting that the complainant is against tackles per se. Wrong. There is a huge difference between a strong, fair tackle and the sort of wild lunge that might break a leg or rupture the knee ligaments.

Not That Kind of Player: full credit to Arseblog for continually ramming home the sheer hypocrisy of this phrase. Yet it’s not just managers who use it – journalists too have used it, particularly over the Shawcross/Ramsey incident when all the evidence suggests that he IS that kind of player.

Late Tackle: buses are late; my granddad is late; John Cleese’s parrot is late; tackles are not late (which implies a misfortune of tardiness) – they are dangerous, uncontrolled, illegal or, if you prefer, plain dirty.

Letting The Opponent Know You’re There: when I call in on my 76-year-old Mum I like to let her know I’m there. I do this by saying ‘hello’, not by executing a two-footed lunge from behind on her lower legs. The ‘letting them know you’re there’ phrase is a euphemism for committing a violent foul.

I’m sure there are many more (all suggestions welcome please), but these are football’s version of ‘doublethink’.

If the distinguished writers who cover football for the national press start being more discerning about how they refer to maliciously reckless play, if they start to use the language appropriate for the acts they’re describing, then it will become harder and harder for those who govern football to let things go on as they are.

As the author Joseph Conrad said: “He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word.