Has Denilson Played His Last Game For Arsenal?

March 21, 2011

There are certain things Arsene Wenger never does.

These include never inviting pube-scratching meat-head managers of opposition teams to sample his fine claret after a game; never responding to chants of “Arsene Arsene give us a wave” with anything other than the sort of brief, embarrassed arm-flick normally only used by teenagers horrified to have bumped into their dad while out with their mates; and never subbing off a player at half time when they’re playing crap.

On Saturday he broke the last of those taboos.

Denilson was having an absolute stinker in the first half against West Brom. Manuel Almunia may have stolen the accolades for Dick of the Day with the sort of suicidal sprint normally found only in the world of lemmingkind, but Denilson was having his own private meltdown.

Opinion is divided on Denilson. Some men like a neat and tidy Brazilian. Others prefer something a bit more luxuriant.

Myself, I have always felt there’s a role for him in certain games, where we expect to have a lot of the ball and where we have other, more creative, players who can make something happen. In those circumstances Den can play a role in midfield, moving the ball quickly from player to player, switching the direction of play: never incisive, but usually accurate.

On Saturday even this part of his game went missing. Even those simple, sideways passes went too often to a man in a striped shirt.  He played like a cross between Ray Wilkins and Ray Charles.

But, despite his woeful performance, I was stunned to see that he had been substituted at half time. The TV commentator assured us that this was tactical, not due to an injury. Unbelievable.

We have all sat through games where it was obvious that a change of personnel was needed, but Arsene has stubbornly refused to put on a sub before the 60th minute. More often it’s the 70th minute before he’ll make a change, even when we’re losing or struggling to break down a park-the-bus defence.

So for him to remove Denilson at half time feels to me like a significant statement. On one level it shows how desperate Arsene was to win the game (and remember, we were only one nil down at half time); on another level it could well indicate the moment when Arsene has finally given up on the young Brazilian.

Denilson came to us from Sao Paulo in 2006 as the captain of Brazil under 17s.  In his early outings for Arsenal he looked like he could become another Cesc Fabregas, but that promise has never been fulfilled. He just doesn’t seem to have progressed. He has never made the step up into the full Brazil team and it’s not hard to see why.

This season, with the emergence of Wilshere and now Ramsey, he has probably become a sixth or seventh choice midfielder, playing only when others are injured or suspended.

Admittedly, the holding role in which he was cast on Saturday is not his natural position, but that does not excuse his poor performance.

Sadly, it looked to me as if his confidence is shot. This may be a result of being pushed down the pecking order; it may be because of the moans and groans of the crowd at The Grove whenever he does something wrong; it may just be because deep down he knows he’s not good enough.

Whatever it is, Arsene had seen enough by half time at the weekend and hauled him off.  With key players returning from injury I suspect it’s quite likely we’ll never see Denilson in an Arsenal shirt again.

It’s probably for the best. With Almunia showing the mental fortitude of a dormouse, Diaby displaying the focus of a goldfish and Squillaci looking as safe as a knitted condom, the last thing we need for the title run-in is another nut job in the starting line-up.

The most likely move for Denilson would be to Spain or Portugal in the summer, but I could see him heading home to a team in Brazil.

He has played some good games for us (most recently away at Man Utd in the Cup, when he was one of our better performers in a disappointing display). I would much rather that he had fulfilled his promise and become a must-have member of the squad. But that’s not the case. It probably is time for him to go and Arsene may well agree.

If he does ship out in the summer, I will wish him boa sorte but I won’t have any regrets.

RockyLives


Arshavin scores a great a goal

March 20, 2011

Here is Arshavin celebrating his great goal and if you haven’t seen it being scored click on the link

http://videa.hu/videok/allatok/2-1-arsenal-Fy2At09VCGvJaR3p

Out of nothing, Chamakh and our little Russian combined in the 70th minute to score a fabulous goal. What had gone on before the 70th minute was so unimaginative by Arsenal that not only were we 2 goals behind but it looked like there was no chance of us getting anything out of this game.

Poor defending had given West Brom a corner in the first 2 minutes and poor defending gave them a free header to score in the 3rd minute. But it was only the third minute. We had players on the pitch that could undoubtedly change that and surely the Baggies couldn’t park the bus for 87 minutes. Cue boring boring Arsenal.

So much has already been written about Almunia’s inexplicable decision to rush out of his goal to meet Odemwingie whilst having the support of Squillaci and Koscielny that I can’t be bothered to even rant about it. He may be a great shot-stopper but thats only part of his job. What on earth was he doing? Enough, the ball rolled into the back of the net and we were 2 down.

In the 76th minute we had our own goal from a ball that rolled over the line from van Persie, actually it trickled over the line and we were lucky that no-one was alert enough to claw it back before it got there. Suddenly, we were level and the resulting 14 minutes plus extra time were played at a frantic pace, but to no avail. Why did we wait until it was 2-2 to try and win this game?

In those frenetic 14 minutes there were occasions when there were plenty of  our Red (yellow, I know) shirts and West Brom’s striped shirts in the penalty area while we tried to score a  goal. It occured to me that the voodoo is clearly in the penalty area as we have as much luck scoring scrappy goals as we do defending corners or set pieces into the box – unlike manu who once again got an undeserved winner late on. Why is that?

What are this Arsenal team really good at? We often can’t defend and just as often we can’t score goals, we can keep the ball and weave pretty patterns in the middle of the pitch but scoring goals is what counts. Arsène, for all our possesion stats, when it counts we don’t seem to be able to score.

There were a couple of positives to be gained from yesterday game. Arsène changed the habit of a life-time and made a substitution at half-time taking off Denilson and bringing on Chamakh who was infinitely better. Was it a tactical change or did Denilson pick up a knock? I hope it was both. In addition, Aaron Ramsey made his first start since returning from injury and was welcomed back with a huge cheer from the supporters watching with me in Club Level.

We have a two week break and then hopefully the return of Theo van Nasregas at the Emirates for a must win game against Blackburn. The manks must be feeling confident that the title is theirs this morning – 9 games to go. Come on Arsenal.

Written by peachesgooner



Back to Business

March 19, 2011

We return to Premiership action after a difficult few weeks concentrating on the peripherals.

An away trip to an opponent who are desperate for points and are in real danger of the drop is just what we need to get back on track. WBA will be giving everything today as their situation becomes more desperate.

A new manager often equates to an improvement in form and Roy Hodgson will he hoping his team can at least avoid defeat today. Hodgson is a fine manager and in my opinion was foolish to take the L’pool job (though an understandable decision). He will do well at WBA, a team without stars but one that functions on teamwork and hard work. They suit his work ethic.

Proof of Hodgson’s decency lies in this quote about Mr Wenger:  

“If I had been an Arsenal fan, watching the teams he has put out over the past six or seven years, I would be very happy with what I had seen.

“He seems to lose a team then build another. My admiration for people like Arsene Wenger and Sir Alex Ferguson is immense.

“They have done it for so long, yet still they have exactly the same enthusiasm, intensity and desire.

“They still put themselves in the bear pit every week. And the thing is they could have packed it in and enjoyed legendary status years ago.”

Would that our own fans had the same opinion!

Injuries play a huge part of any teams run-in and have cost us dearly in the past. Long term injuries to our two best CB’s, our best GK’s ,and niggling, but consistent injuries to our best midfielders and forwards have proved costly this season, but with a reduced number of games thanks to Cup exits we have time to re-group. Unfortunately the table doesn’t include numbers of injuries, if it did, we would have won the title already!

Latest news indicates further losses through injury, Diaby is out, which will allow us to play an untried midfield combination. We have such riches in midfield that even with the injuries and loans, we remain strong. Nasri, Denilson, Rosicky, Eboue, Wilshere, Ramsey, Arshavin, – who would you play?  AW has resorted to Eboue on a number of occasions, but I really hope he gives Ramsey a start – he looked very busy in his cameo at Old Trafford.

My Team:

Almunia

Sagna  Squillaci  Koscielny  Clichy

Denilson  Ramsey  Wilshere  Arshavin

Bendtner   Van Persie

My fears with this team is that we are very lightweight in midfield and have little height . It is also a very attacking set up, but my mantra is “He who dares, Wins.”

We have won 6 of our last 9 PL games and are unbeaten in 11. However, WBA are on a good run losing just one in six.

If the points were not so important I would expect us to draw (due to the injury list), but as has been discussed (at length!) this game is hugely important to Arsenal. It is the precursor to the real run-in, and we should beat teams at the opposite end of the table. If, god forbid, we should lose today, the press will go to town and the Arsenal blogs will resound with calls for AW’s head.

West Bromwich is home to the very pinnacle of the Heavy Metal pantheon. Mr Robert Plant (who should be Sir in any decent world) is a native of WB. Judas Priest were formed there and unbelievably Phil Lynott was born in West Bromwich (as Irish as Andy Townsend).

This game is important. Nerves will not be an excuse for a loss, we need the players to show their mettle. We also need a decent refereeing performance  – something conspicuous by it’s absence in recent matches.

COYRRG


Mentally Scarred….Is it terminal?

March 18, 2011

Written by Harry

I am still fed up with the way we keep getting beat, when we have the better of the game……it goes to show that even when you do dominate {ala Barca}, games can go against you (so if RVP had stayed on…..who knows), we used to have that ability, to win when not playing well, sneak your one chance and 1-0 would be sung with gusto as we see out a game, or sometimes that 1 goal with ten minutes left would open the floodgates, it’s all about taking chances……..

Our on field issue of converting chances when they come along is symptomatic of our recent history, the ability to take chances, the Carling Cup for example, win that and the confidence would have oozed, I am sure……..

United are a poor side and very average squad {1 domineering WC CB and WC Keeper and a spluttering of just above average players}……., but they retain that ability to take a chance, make something happen and fergie gets the best out of them. How many times have we out played them or Chelsea and that one chance sees them take the lead and we then get caught trying to catch them…….

Frankly I have a grudging admiration for the old red nose pensioner, single handedly he has kept United in the upper echelons of the football world, far longer than they should have been…….

I have defended staunchly certain players and the manager, I always will within the confines of the Emirates, but my belief is been eroded away at an alarming rate and as much as I can be objective about the defeats we have suffered and other games such as Newcastle away, I feel such annoyance that we keep getting so close but falling short, yes we have a larger than fair share of injuries (and always key players)…..How can I continue to berate other fans for being negative, when we consistently disappoint?

Other teams have gone out of all cups, now there are only be 4 left in the FA cup, there are only 8 left in CL as today sees the draw….so we are not alone in being out, many others have fallen, and last night saw the end of Man City and Liverpool as they bit the Europa league dust…(so much for spending loads of wonga, doesnt guarantee trophies)

Now we are only in with a chance of 1 trophy instead of 4 all within a space of about 10days, this is what is so shattering, devastating and in the long term we have to look at the mental scars, is this becoming terminal?

I get so frustrated at the way the press have harped on about the 6 years  with no trophy blah blah,  ask any fan of any team how long since Arsenal lifted a trophy and you’ll get a correct response, ask about other teams and nobody will get it right………………..

Somehow we need the Emirates crowd to get behind the team and in some respect, an away match is probably best right now, get 3 points and we are still in there, by our fingernails….(mathematically strong position : mentally still fragile though)

Then we have to keep winning, if we drop anything, even a draw, then it’s over for the season, then could the unthinkable happen, especially with these injuries racking up? Will we still qualify for the CL next season?

After WBA we have a ten day break, timely to say at least………Time to heal, after WBA we have Blackburn and Blackpool, after those 3 games we need to have taken 9points…………..As after that our run in gets interesting, with Liverpool been a big test right now…….followed by Spurs, Stoke, Bolton, United, villa and fulham…..

I will never ask for Wenger to leave, I hope he’ll know when his time is over and not get forced out, but if we fail this season on all fronts and he decides to stay, he must seriously look at our squad the makeup and then shake it up, with perhaps 6 going and maybe 7 / 8 coming in, remove that brittleness by injecting some new blood, try to remove that mental barrier…….He can still retain his football ethos, but he must admit that the choking at the finish line is a malaise within, a rotten core that needs ripping out and replacing with some real winning mentality…………..

Maybe Jens Lehmann on his ad-hoc monthly rolling contract will at least bring a stronger mentality to the dressing room, a calming influence, did I say that? Certainly more experienced than all others around him, it might just help…..I think he is the best option right now…….

I am trying so hard to retain some belief that we can do it, after 90mins at the Hawthorns on Saturday I will have my answer, it will either strengthen my resolve or it will allow me to prepare for the worse and steady myself for the possibility of total failure…..

Without been too melodramatic, I actually see this WBA game now as been one of the biggest in our recent history….Not just in the sense of fighting for this title, but the very real danger of this squad been damaged beyond repair, mentally can they respond…..

I believed in this team and the squad at the start of the season, all I felt we needed was another CM / CB Warrior {ie Parker/ Samba etc}, and I believe that was right at that time and still do on the aspects of technical and physical ability, but now we have to assess the mental state of some players, they might need to move on for themselves and the best interests of Arsenal…

I will get behind the team and try to be positive till the season ends, all I hope is that it ends on the 22nd May at Craven Cottage with us taking the Premier League Crown………

Lets see what Saturday brings, 3points and a performance, I pray…….All Gooners, Stand tall Be proud, Stand as one Stand together, conquer all……


Who are the real footie fans?

March 18, 2011

Written by Red Arse

I am a fan! Like many Arsenal fans I call myself, with a great deal of pride, a ‘Gooner’. This clearly identifies me as a fan of the greatest footie club in the world. I bet you do too.

But here is the thing. Although the behaviour, the thought processes and the values of many who also call themselves Gooners chimes very closely with my own ideals, there are many others who seem to have decidedly different views of what constitutes a real fan. We cannot all be called fans, can we?

So, let’s see; who is the real fan?

Excitedly approaching the Emirates on a match day, with the noise of the crowd and, the occasional whiff of sweaty mankind, combined with the oniony smell of greasy hotdogs, you quickly become immersed in an environment recognisable to all fans from childhood.

At the game, when we take our allotted seats, we are immediately aware there are strong visual signals that all fans are indeed not the same.

Over there, behind the goal, are a group of shirtless wonders proudly flashing their six packs, or fat bellies, depending on your view point, while they drink copious quantities of beer and laugh with their mates. Next to them are men and women of indeterminate age, solid, experienced, proudly wearing their club scarves, hats and shirts, the love of their team shining out of their eyes. These are out and out fans, who attend games come rain or shine, are always enthusiastic, always willing to sing and chant and always encourage their team, come what may. The life of any club!

Over to their right are some very respectable looking young guys braying like donkeys over some indecipherable private joke, who probably only attend games once in a blue moon courtesy of a business contact. Perhaps fans of convenience?
Just a couple of rows behind them is sitting a rather harassed looking father trying to calm a couple of young munchkins with painted faces, smartly bedecked in club shirts, who are busily slurping Cokes and jumping on and off their seats. These are the fans of the future, already exposed to the opiate of Goonerdom!

Over to the left, again, there is a bevy of young women, faces aglow, scarves worn jauntily around their necks, chatting animatedly to their beaux, and giggling their denials of lust for the players’ thighs, or nether regions. These are the breeders of the young fans of the future.

Higher up in the stands are the alumni, students out to enjoy themselves, with their club scarves, and bobble hats perched precariously on their mops of hair. Perpetually fidgeting, yelling and bursting with animal spirits, they never remain still and unceasingly shout out their support throughout the game, while loudly deriding the opposition with scatological glee as well as assuring the referee he has no father! These will be the senior fans of the future.

Then over there, in the plush areas are the ‘respectable’, prawn sandwich fans in their smart suits, sipping wine and laughing like hyenas at some indecipherable private joke. These fans are here to be entertained and remain seated at all times, while politely clapping any goal attempt but, of course, never indulging in the common man’s singing or chanting. Fans? Well, their dosh is important to the financial stability of the club, so let it go!

For me, my love and support of the club is unconditional, and I have probably been many of these different types of fan as I grew from an awestruck child to manhood.

What type of fan are you? In truth, I don’t suppose it matters. We all love the Arsenal!

Perhaps the following sums up what being a fan means to us!

A young man was watching football. He noticed an empty seat in front of him. It was a better seat than his, so at half-time he went down to the empty seat. He asked the old man sitting next to it “Is it okay if I sit here?”

“No problem”, said the old man. “It was my wife’s seat, but she’s dead. We’ve been to every home match together for 40 years, and we always had these two seats.”
A tear rolled slowly down the old man’s cheek.

“Don’t you have a friend, or someone from your family, who’d come and sit with you?” The young man asked, gently.

The old man wiped his eyes and said, “Yes, but not today. They are all at my wife’s funeral.”

Reference:: Sikh Philosophy Network http://www.sikhphilosophy.net/showthread.php?t=22838


Nik Bendtner. Should he stay or should he go?

March 17, 2011

Mr Bendtner is a man who creates waves, everyone has an opinion about Nik and for a man who has yet to play a consistent first team role in the Premiership, he attracts an enormous amount of publicity. Why? Perhaps it is his self-belief that rubs the humble Anglo – Saxon mentality up the wrong way or is it his happy swagger and the fact he finds football amusing?

This post is not designed to defend Nik (though in places it surely will), it is my perspective as to whether Arsenal should remain his employer.

I reside in Denmark where Nik is perceived with superstar status. Coming from a small country with a football mad population of just over 5 million, he is the shining star; the successor to the Laudrup brothers, Peter Schmeichel, Preben Elkjær and Johnny Jensen (OK, maybe not JJ)  he is lauded wherever he goes. Front cover of all the society mags, front cover of the tabloids, the face of  advertising campaigns, and the reason why every Arsenal game is shown on Danish TV.

Bendtner was still in Arsenal’s youth team when he received his first International cap, scoring on debut. He had already played in the U-21 World Cup at the age of 17, scoring regularly. He was voted Denmark’s Player of Year at both youth and senior level. He was poached by Mr Wenger at just 16 and made his first team debut at just 18.

Is it any wonder this lad has self-confidence?

The question is, where does he go from here? Has he a first team future at Arsenal, and if not should he be sold?

This season started badly for Nik who had a tough World Cup campaign, picking up a muscle injury before South Africa but considered so important that he played in all Denmark’s games and scored against Cameroon. He came back to Arsenal crocked, was unable to get any pre-season and consequently has had a stop-start season.

However his stats are very good. This season despite only starting 14 games (+ 12 subs), he has scored 9 and had 7 assists. In his Arsenal career he has started 79 games (+71 subs) and scored 45 with 22 assists. These are the returns of a top striker, especially one of a man who only recently turned 23 y.o.

Yet a percentage of Arsenal fans remain unconvinced. How many times do we read of his “dreadful first touch”, his lack of pace or his inability to turn a game? His self-confidence is seen as a negative (which to me seems a ridiculous argument) – he is too big for his boots etc etc.

My concerns lie more with where he fits into the current Arsenal squad.

We have yet to see where Bendtner’s natural position lies. He is neither fish nor fowl. As far as I can see he has the strength to lead the line and yet his passing ability is such that his talents are wasted as a target man. He has the vision to play as second striker but AW prefers to play him on the right when allied with RvP (I have yet to see the benefit of using NB as a winger). He is superb in the air (witness the brilliant header v Orient), yet doesn’t attack the 6 yard line when the ball comes in from the wings. He has fine dribbling skills yet continually tries to beat too many players and loses the ball.  His first touch is inconsistent – compare the first touch for his goal v Ipswich compared to the one in the dying minutes at Camp Nou.

My guess is that Mr Wenger views him with similar perplexity. Our first choice strikers must be RvP and Theo with Nasri or Arshavin completing the frontline. We have a choice of Vela, Chamakh or Bendtner for the bench and rotation, and I cannot understand the signing of Chamakh if he is to be 5th choice striker. As such Nik must be considered well down the pecking order for 2011/12. Will his ego/agent accept this?

How must Nik feel when having scored so many goals on the way to Wembley, that he didn’t get a starting role? Furious, I imagine. How does he feel about the signing of Chamakh when he has yet to be given a proper run at CF? How does a man who believes he is one of the World’s top strikers feel about being on the bench week after week?

In my opinion he has to seek pastures new, though I would be very sad to see him go. I just cannot see where he fits into Arsenal’s future. We need another striker but it is not NB, it is a proper left winger or a fox-in-the-box. RvP’s propensity for injury is the only reason I can see for keeping him,  and even in this case, I would prefer to see Walcott take a more central role. I cannot see NB being prepared to accept al ong-term role as second-string right winger, can you?

So, if it is true that Bundesliga clubs have Bendter as a summer target then I am afraid we should take the money and watch his career blossom elsewhere. My main problem with this being that Danish TV will start to show German soccer instead of my beloved Arsenal. On second thoughts, BENDTNER MUST STAY

Hot News – The Fun Run to raise funds for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint is this Saturday. There wil be kids and adult events running around the outside of the Emirates from 10.45.  If you’re coming to watch the game in Club level get down there early to be part of the fun. See you there. peachesgooner

Be a Gooner, Be a Giver – Saturday 19th March

One of our young gooners has signed up to do the Fun Run this Saturday for Arsenal’s chosen charity Centrepoint and it would be fantastic if any of you felt you wanted to support her and the charity by donating on her giving page.

The Fun Run will take place at the Emirates stadium this Saturday the 19th March 2011. Centrepoint do such good work for homeless young people in London and Arsenal are hoping to raise £500,000 this season to help fund the refurbishment of a facility in Soho.


Twittering Dinosaur

March 16, 2011

Written by dandan

It’s not easy being a dinosaur you know, not in the instant digital world we now have to inhabit. Now this dinosaur’s brain might not be what it was, if indeed it ever was, but to me twitter and face book seem like forums for airing your dirty linen in public.

Numerous sportsmen from diverse disciplines glory in posting their no longer private thoughts out in cyberspace without thinking it through, then wonder why the world goes pear shaped and falls on their head. It’s also not easy to say you were misquoted when it’s in cyber writing, so to speak.

They say it’s their way of connecting with the fans, but do we fans need to know the ups and downs and intimate goings on of club life. Is it that important? What about loyalty to the club and your mates, shouldn’t these things stay in the dressing room or on the training ground?

Why would anyone want to follow the minute-to-minute musings of a club footballer? Unless of course, you are a Journo looking for tomorrows copy, or an agent after making a buck, from a disaffected player

Transfer window closing day sort of brought this home to me, every time a news channel went “live” to a club or training ground gate, there, behind their own man was a gaggle of people all busily entering messages into mobile phones, or holding one clamped to their ear.

What is the matter with us fans, we can see these guys are in and out of cyberspace looking for info and yet when they regurgitate it, on air or in the paper, we then discuss it on blogs like this one, as if it is really so, even though we know that much of it probably started life on a blog in the first place. What goes around comes around I guess.

All right, ok, I agree, maybe I am a Dinosaur, although I am on face book because that’s a way to keep up to date with the kids and grandkids, but help me out here guys, what should we call you twitter lovers, other than addicted.

 


Rebuilding the Arsenal Chateau

March 15, 2011

Written by GoonerinExile

On the 30 September 1996 Monsieur Wenger arrived at Chateau Arsenal to find a heavy task in front of him. The most recent successful vintage was becoming a little stale, it had pretty good body, and sometimes an exquisite finish but in all fairness it was far too unrefined when drinking and often a bit dull and boring, drinkers were not so keen anymore, and supporters of other Chateaus would often taunt Chateau Arsenal for its lack of imagination, and predictability.

Wenger had to decide how to reinvigorate the Chateau, he knew he had a good base, but realised that in order to charm the locals, he would need to add something else to make the wine more exciting. So he set about blending, using the base of the most recent vintage he added to it some quality wines from other producers.

In doing so he created a potent and successful blend that came of age half way through 1997 and managed to get two big domestic awards by the summer of 1998. Between 1997 and 2004 this approach continued and he continued to win awards for the grand old Chateau. This culminated in the success of the 2003/04 vintage that was quite literally unbeatable by any other domestic producer.

During this time he was always ready to ditch wines that were past their best, or nearing it, so as to maximise the gain financially to spend on more untried wines from other producers to blend with his existing crop. These untried wines were opened occasionally to breathe and see how they drank, if they were not quite ready he was prepared to wrap them back up and cellar them for another couple of years before deciding to open them up again.

Occasionally some acquired wines just did not fit the bill or complement the wines he already had, again he still managed to convince other producers that the wine would be worth something to them and sell them on for in most cases a small profit.

Despite the success of the Chateau deep down in his heart Monsieur Wenger knew this is not how a wine producer should really create its wine, to be truly proud of your Chateau you have to produce the wine yourself, from grapes you have tended and cared for over many years. When Wenger arrived at the Chateau the home grown wines were indeed robust and solid, however the currently growing vines were not producing good enough wine to complement his blends and perform to the high levels that he expected. An occasional wine would emerge, but unfortunately they either didn’t have the legs, or were too complex to be used in the Chateau.

This did not earn him much respect and the critics of the vineyard would constantly point to the fact that the new wines were not of the Chateaus own making and the young wines that he did use had often been taken from other producers during their formative years, while Arsene provided the final finish through some careful oaking and nurturing whilst still in the barrel.

The Chateau was also forced to move its main headquarters for a bigger home to ensure more people could taste the wine being produced, the expense of this move however meant that Arsene could not spend as much money on buying in wines from other producers. This gave the critics further fuel saying that Wenger could not actually grow his own wine, he needed to be able to buy it. Wenger still continued to produce some good blends after the move but not quite up to its previous standards.

Little did these critics know that down at the vineyards Wenger had been creating his own homegrown vines, they were planted once he had relaid the ground on which they would be tended, the Chateaus main vineyard in Hertfordshire was totally remodelled and Wenger made sure the setting was perfect for wine growing, so after its opening in 1999 he set about growing the vines, we are now seeing the first crops produced by Wenger during this time, he made sure that every person on the vineyard caring for the vines ensured that every single method was applied exactly as he would like. We are only just seeing the grapes being produced by these vines, but the first inklings are that these wines will need little maturing before being launched on the unsuspecting producers who have laughed at Chateau Arsenal’s struggles in recent years.

If Arsene’s new vintages are as good as he hopes other producers won’t get a sniff of an award for many years to come, there is one wine already being used within the current blend, there are several others being opened in other producers to see how they have matured, and there are many that are queuing up behind the current crop to replace the blends currently employed.

The future for Chateau Arsenal is indeed bright.


Will Wenger Make Fools Of Us Again?

March 14, 2011

After our loss at Manchester United, I found myself harbouring murderous thoughts towards Abou Diaby.

He was our worst player by quite a stretch (despite stiff competition from Gibbs and, later, Rosicky).

Every time the ball went to him he either killed the momentum of an Arsenal attack or lost the ball. When most Arsenal players are capable of playing and thinking (plinking?) in the same instant, Abou seems to work like this…

The thoughts of Abou:

Here comes the ball!”

“I will stop it and bring it under control.”

“I have it under control! (or not).”

“Just checking I have it under control.”

“Good! I do.”

“Now, what will I do with it?”

“Better have a look round to see where my teammates are.”

“There they are – they have run forward but have now stopped.”

“Why do they all look so cross?”

In other words, Abou is just not fast enough in thought or deed to fit into Arsenal’s rapid pass-and-move style. While the others are plinking, Abou is plonking.

However, I can’t maintain murderous feelings for long and pretty soon I fell to wondering whether I was just scapegoating Abou for a disappointing defeat.

To make someone a scapegoat is to blame them for something that was the fault of others. Was I doing this to our lanky Gaul? Should I instead be blaming the defenders who failed to stop United scoring? Or our attackers for not converting any of their many chances? Or Arsene Wenger for being tactically outwitted by the gout-faced Glaswegian?

Well, actually, no. I wasn’t laying all the fault for our loss at Abou’s size 12s. My criticisms of him were based entirely on how he played and would have been the same even if we had won the game. I wasn’t unfairly blaming him for the faults of others. I was blaming him for his own faults. So, not a scapegoat then. We need a new term. How about a scapedonkey?

That’s it! I have decided to make Abou the scapedonkey for our FA Cup humbling.

But here’s the rub.

We Arsenal fans have had scapedonkeys before.

Alex Song was booed off the pitch as a 17-year-old in an away game at Fulham; Fabianski was derided as the worst keeper ever to have played for a Premiership side; Eboue was booed mercilessly at The Grove; Vermaelen was written off before he ever played a game for us for being too small; Walcott, the sages confidently told us, would never be a must-have player; earlier this season Djourou was being talked about as a fourth-choice-if-we’re-desperate CB.

I am happy to accept that Arsene Wenger knows more about football than me, and more than every single Arsenal blogger or online commenter.

He is also not stupid and he also desperately wants success.

So if he believes that Abou Diaby can make it as a top player for Arsenal then, on reflection, I am inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. Ditto the other current scapedonkeys, like Denilson, Gibbs, Bendtner, Arshavin, Squillaci and Rosicky. If the boss feels they can contribute to our success, I will yield to his better judgement.

They may not have covered themselves in glory in some recent games, but we have been here before with players who have gone on to become vital parts of our first team. We have to believe in their potential to improve precisely because AW believes in it.

For all those who have been so adamant that Arsenal “must” get rid of players like Abou and Denilson I hope that Arsene makes fools of you again, as he did with Song, Vermaelen, Walcott, Fabianski and others.

I hope that we lift the title come May on the back of a rip-roaring run that has seen vital contributions from our thoroughbred scapedonkeys.

RockyLives


Same old Arsenal… Déjà vu all over again

March 13, 2011

Written by CarlitoII

They say familiarity breeds contempt. Yesterday’s game saw a familiar pattern reassert itself. Out of 3 competitions in quick succession and what looks like a season-ending injury to one of the main reasons for continued belief in what remains of the season. I feel contempt… but for who?

I certainly don’t feel contempt for our away fans, who could be heard loud and proud on ITV. I have not a smattering of loathing for our much derided goalkeeper, who saved a certain own goal in the second half and had a good game for being 3rd choice in his position.  I can muster very little ire for Chris Foy, the referee, who despite failing to send Scholes off in the final 10 minutes, was even-handed and aimed to play the advantage wherever possible. He made errors, but I felt these were evenly distributed between the two teams and had no bearing on the overall result.

I could rage against Sagna, who was nowhere to be seen in the build up for the first goal as it was played out to his side and Djourou was left floundering trying to deal with Hernandez’s header, or for hospitalizing Djourou (accidentally). I could aim my anger at Gibbs for the error leading to the second goal. I could lay the blame at our manager’s door for selecting a player who has patently struggled with the defensive side of playing at left back this season and for leaving Clichy on the bench instead. I would love to blame the referee for letting Scholes stay on the pitch as he did his best impression of Norman Whiteside in the last ten minutes. I might feel inclined to decry the entire team for the way their self belief ebbed dramatically as soon as the second goal went against us.

I have a strong desire to play the blame game, but I cannot and must not. That very ebbing of self-belief is the reason why we must withhold our anger and support this team if we are to have any chance of keeping our one remaining iron in the fire. I won’t blame anyone else for venting their understandable frustration at this disastrous fortnight of football results but can only counsel a keep calm and carry on attitude until the dust settles at the end of the season.

So why did we lose?

The best players on the pitch were Van Der Sar and Chris Smalling- in the first half. In terms of desire, Rooney was in a class of his own on the pitch, playing in midfield, attack and even at left back at one point to ensure his team were the victors. Hernandez, in getting 2 assists showed that he will be a danger for many years to come. In short they were, to use one of Wenger’s favourite words “efficient”.  Our best player was Jack Wilshere, heart on his sleeve heroics but unfortunately little end product.

The pre-match discussions I took part in were all about ManUre’s lack of wide options and Wenger set up his team accordingly to play down the wings.  I have to hand it to our Auld Enemy for coming up with the perfect counter to this. In selecting 7 defenders, we could have been fooled into thinking they would defend and try to nick it on the counter- but Fabio and Raphael are versatile Brazilians (unlike our own) and proved adept and playing in a more attacking role. That each was instrumental in a goal apiece in a 2-0 win can only go down as a masterstroke by the man we love to hate and a depressing lack of plan B from our manager.

Before outlining the events of the match, I’d like to consider this: Was this game important? Compared to Barcelona it felt like a damp squib before it began and I only started to feel any nerves five minutes into the game. Compared to our still very real chances of winning the league, the cup comes a distant second. So the positive I take form this, is that we now have only one target to aim for, whilst having none of the fixture congestion of our rivals for the premier league.

The game itself followed a depressingly familiar narrative thread. Pressure, possession, over-elaboration at times, swift breaks being checked back allowing the opposition to regroup, shots on target, defensive errors leading to goals against the run of play and a subsequent lack of belief to get back into it.  We’ve been here before too often in the last 5 years and the season ending injury to Djourou, our lynchpin defender just made the sense of déjà vu all the stronger.

It was a match of two halves from our point of view. In the first half, we had plenty of possession and played with our tails up. Raphael’s goal came against the run of play. Fabio received the ball in his own half and charged forward releasing his brother Raphael down our left side. At this stage Gibbs should have Raphael covered with Kozzer and JD in the centre marking Hernandez. As Fabio continued his run our right back was ambling slowly back leaving space at the far post which turned out to be fatal as Fabio joined Hernandez in the centre and the latter was able to peel behind Djourou to propel an powerful header that Almunia was only able to parry away to leave Fabio a simple tap in.  Gibbs should not have been so far up the pitch but got back well- the same cannot be said of Sagna.

Throughout the first half, and even after the first breakaway goal we carried plenty of threat and had the lion’s share of possession forcing excellent saves from Van Persie and Nasri. But we never looked like troubling the 40-year-old Dutch stopper and that tells you what you need to know. In total we had 18 shots of which 11 were on target and 11 were saved.

In the second half, Fergusson made an attacking change bringing on Valencia for Fabio. We started brightly again, and the game still felt very open when Koscielny drove forward over the half way line, fed Wilshere and after some neat, quick build up play on the edge of the box involving Van Persie and Arshavin found Koscielny again inside the area who had a deflected shot palmed back to RVP who fed him again to draw a fantastic save from Van Der Sar. Great play- real intent- top save by their goalkeeper.  The resulting corner also had a shot from a tight angle from Arshavin that drew a save.

At that stage a comeback looked likely but another breakaway occurred straightaway with the ball carried down our left flank and passed to Raphael who went past Gibbs who looked like he had completely lost his bearings. Raphael was in the box and played the ball to Hernandez who was tackled by Djourou. The ball bobbled up out of the challenge and Rooney reacted twice as quickly as Sagna and Gibbs to head it smartly past Almunia. Thereafter, the confidence visibly drained. Poor Arshavin started misplacing passes, Diaby’s invisible wall returned to the pitch and possession became much more equal.

Wenger made changes, but Denilson was unlucky to be the first off, having had one of his better games. Chamakh coming on was invisible as we struggled to make our passes tell and clearly wasn’t the impact sub Wenger had hoped for. A double substitution followed with 20 minutes left to play and Diaby and Arshavin both coming off, rightly in my opinion, to be replaced by Rosicky and Ramsey. How good was it to see Ramsey back on the pitch? Well, at 2-0 down it was a crumb of comfort but it wasn’t long until the horrible collision between Sagna and Djourou left the big man on the ground needing a long break in play to get treatment and be carried off. Having played all 3 substitutions we were down to 10 men for the second time in a week. With 12 minutes left and down to ten men through injury with Ramsey deputizing at Centre Back, the match was gone. Paul Scholes launched some nasty challenges in this final period, but even if he had been sent off for the 3 awful tackles he made, I doubt the result would have changed. Despite more of the huffing and puffing that had been much in evidence throughout the game, there was a very palpable feeling throughout the second half that the players didn’t believe they would win.

Can our players recover the belief that clearly drained away in the second half at Old Trafford? This time we have no convenient Busacca scapegoat figure to blame. Playing the blame game against our players and manager at this stage of the season will only add to the recurring sense of a season imploding that this loss will have added to. We lost this game ourselves, and if the players can accept that, work on their failings and man up for the league run in, we could still be celebrating in May. The players and manager will need our support if we are to entertain that hope.  Can they recover their belief? Can we?

Player ratings:

Almunia: Idenitfied as a weakness before the game, he looked shaky on crosses and I feel the defence of panics at times with him behind them, but I can’t fault him for the goals and he pulled off some good stops in the game, not least the potential own-goal. 7

Sagna: At fault for not tracking back and leaving space on the right for the build up to the second goal. But in trying to get back into it, Bac man was the main source of danger to the team in red and apart from the error was one of the best players on the pitch. 7

Koscielny: Had an incredible moment up the pitch where he nearly scored and showed great comfort on the ball. Good enough in defence but missed the shield normally provided by Song. 7

Djourou: Once again a man with great reading of the game in front of him and some excellent tackles. Some of those tackles backfired in this game. He was lucky not to score an own goal and he was the nearest player when both goals were scored although there was little he could do about either of them. Hope the injury is not as bad as it looked. If he’s out for the rest of the season, our chances will be greatly diminished. 6

Gibbs: What can I say? Taken apart again and again defensively, especially for the second goal where he stood and watched as his man went past him. I feel for him, but he had a nightmare. 3

Arshavin: For the first 30 minutes, looked like a great threat and potential match winner. Faded in the last 5 minutes of the first half as his passes went astray and he appeared to run out of breath. All his recently recovered confidence seemed to dissolve in the second half and he was replaced too late in my opinion. 5

Nasri: Very similar to the Barcelona game, had a lot of the ball but doesn’t seem to have the cutting edge he displayed two months ago.  Clearly not yet ready to be our Cesc replacement. 6

Diaby: The way he started the game, I had high hopes that we would finally get a “good day” out of him and the first half was ok. He missed the opportunity for a first time shot in the first half and was too slow to play players in or take advantage of the split second chances that change games. Faded to be replaced by Ramsey. 5

Denilson: Amazed me by playing the ball forward with some regularity! He also won some crucial tackles. Offered nothing incisive however. Very much a journeyman performance from a journeyman player. Replaced early by Chamakh in a positive move from the manager. 5

Wilshere: An all action performance, as we are getting used to. Sweated blood but still didn’t have a great influence on the game, despite his best efforts to “do a Gerrard” and drive us forward single-handed. 6.5

Van Persie: A couple of curlers nearly did it but, as usual, the high-performance goal machine that RVP is needs a few games to become deadly after every lay off and this was one of the games he needs to get back to that form. 6

Subs:

Chamakh: Wasn’t involved for what seemed like ages after he came on. Amazed me with a shot of substance from the edge of the area but it was straight at the keeper.  Didn’t have the impact the manager would have hoped for. 5

Ramsey: Great to see him back, had to fill in at CB when we went down to 10 men after the injury to Djourou. Unfair to give him a rating based on an odd comeback game for him.

Rosicky: Um, not the player he was is he? Arshavin was running out of legs, but apart from being able to run I feel he did little. 4