It’s Time To Right The Wrong

April 20, 2011

Written by CarlitoII

Memories of singing, dancing and grinning from ear to ear at halftime on November 21st 2010 have been plaguing me and many other supporters ever since that fateful second half when twitchy switched it around and we contrived to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It was the start of a recurring theme this season, and it was started by our greatest rivals- “them from down the road”.

I put it to you, Gooners and Goonerettes, that tonight’s game is the most important of our season. Not because it could take us to within 4 points of the league leaders, not because we have to get the bragging rights back, but because this team needs to prove to themselves, to their manager and to us that they have it in them to redress the wrongs of that game and subsequent seismic jolts of this season. That is where the doubt set in, and doubt is like a thief, it steals the possibilities from your life.

The players doubt, the fans doubt. It’s all over twitter and the blogosphere. To those who doubt I offer you this:

“A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.”

Alexandre Dumas (French Novelist)

In other words- doubt the team and you might as well support the Sp*rs! I know there are many Gooners who prefer to spend their energy supporting the good guys than hating those “cock n ball”s from the less salubrious parts of North London. But today, those emotions go hand in hand. We need to strike a counterblow for our good and their bad. We need to settle the score. In short, tonight is about REVENGE!

Arsène Wenger did not give a press conference yesterday, much to the chagrin of the journalists who make their living by spinning his words. And I know why. Because Arsène knows… that this is about retribution and he could never allow himself to say that in public, to the press. The fact that this morning’s papers are full of exactly that kind of spin on a straightforward Cesc interview perfectly justifies his stance.

Revenge is a mighty motivator, make no mistake about this- we will turn up tonight because every one of these players is playing for belief- in themselves, from their manager and from the fans.

And I can give you other (concrete) reasons for carrying that hope through your day and into tonight’s clash: Our key defensive men are all back and aside from Sagna have had a match to play themselves into a bit of form. Big Johan made us look like a different team with his assuredness at the back and I never panic with Szczesny in goal. I feel for Eboue after a generally decent performance in regulation time on Sunday, but Bac isn’t called “Mr. Reliable” for nothing.

As long as they can keep their heads in the cauldron of hate, I believe they can repel anything thrown at them. Ahead of them, Song is also available and I believe he will play. I know not everyone shares my faith in him, but we are a far more solid and coherent team defensively when he plays.

But my main grounds for optimism are this: we are playing away. Our away form is considerably better than our home form. The inflexible and recently derided 4-2-3-1 system works much better when the other team try and win the game, and there is no chance the Spuds will sit back against us on their own turf. I think it’s also significant that our away support makes almost as much noise as the Emirates does- sometimes even more!

It is also worth stating that, despite having some fantastic players, most of their team are not in great form, in particular Defoe has had a very poor season by his standards.

So, with hope and belief in my heart, my team for tonight would be:

I think Wenger made an error in starting with Walcott on Sunday and bringing on Arshavin as a sub, I hope he will do the reverse at WHL so Theo can terrorize them in the second half. Wilshere will probably come off after 60” for Diaby (who finally looks like he’s plinking* TM RockyLives).

For pride and victory…

Come on you rip roaring gunners!


The U-Turn Wenger Must Make

April 19, 2011

I bet you’ve never heard of the period in Rembrandt’s career when he gave up painting portraits and turned instead to singing bawdy ditties for a living (it’s generally referred to as his ‘blue’ period).

Or the time Luciano Pavarotti stepped away from the rigours of being the world’s greatest tenor and tried, briefly, to succeed as a tap dancer, much to the consternation of seismologists everywhere.

Or Charles Darwin’s stint as a pest control officer (and his subsequent memoir, The Extermination of Species).

And here’s why you’ve never heard of them: they never happened.

Strange as it may seem, people who find they are very good at something tend to achieve long term success by continuing to do what they are good at.

They don’t wake up one day and decide to do it all differently.

So what happened to Arsene Wenger?

In his first six years at Arsenal his teams netted three League Titles and four FA Cups, playing a brilliant brand of 4-4-2 football that combined pace, power and skill.

Now we play a very different style of football – in a 4-3-3 or, as some would say, a 4-5-1 formation which, so far, has achieved no silverware and does not look like achieving any this year either.

We are often referred to as the best team to watch. The neutral’s favourite. The armchair viewer’s wet dream.

But, being harsh, our style has actually become quite boring.

The drama in football is all in and around the goal – the shots, the headers, the saves, the game-defining moments. Yet most of our play is based on lateral movement outside the opposition’s penalty area, usually in front of their back four ten.

We play from side to side and back again, like a bunch of crabs at a line dance.

Our eventual forward thrusts usually start well (some quick passes and one-two exchanges), but such is their intricacy that inevitably one pass goes slightly astray or one run doesn’t quite come off and the move breaks down against the packed ranks of defenders.

At the very least, most teams have learnt how to counter our current playing style and it’s only the teams whose managers remain resolutely cavalier (like Ian Holloway at Blackpool) that end up getting a good pasting.

So, in simple terms, 4-4-2 was successful for us; 4-3-3 is not (so far, at least). With 4-4-2, Arsene built two great teams.  With 4-3-3, he has built a great-looking team that hasn’t won a bean. So why did he change that successful formula?

After the Invincibles were broken up there was a transitional period when we continued to play a more-or-less 4-4-2 formation with Adebayor as our lead striker, but there were many occasions on which Ade played as the lone man up front. It was part of a gradual move towards the way of playing with which we are currently familiar.

The main theories for this change appear to be:

  • Arsene had long been an admirer of the Ajax/Barcelona style and wanted to build his own team in that image.
  • The financial constraints of the stadium move meant Arsene knew he would have to build a team from within and, if he was going to do that, it was an opportunity to train all the teams, from youth level up, in the style of play to which he aspired (youth players being less stuck in their ways than seasoned veterans, who might find it harder to adapt to a new system).
  • Arsene decided that, in Cesc Fabregas, he had one of the greatest midfielders we will ever see, but to release his talents fully required 4-3-3.
  • After TH14 left, Arsene has not been able to find (or at least afford) the kind of world class striker who could lead a 4-4-2 (even though Adebayor flattered to deceive for one season).

It’s probably a combination of reasons (particularly the first and third), but as this season heads for yet another disappointing end, it may now be time to call a halt to the experiment.

It has not been a failure. It has kept us competitive in all competitions for years and maintained our presence in the Champions League despite the lack of cash available for star signings.

But it has not proved capable of getting us over the finishing line in any competition, not even the Carling Cup.

I have enjoyed the ride – the attempt to be the British Barca – and I respect the courage and sense of ambition that have driven it. But now I would like Arsene to return to what he’s good at: building a championship winning group of powerful, skilful players who operate in a devastating 4-4-2 formation.

It doesn’t even need a major overhaul in personnel, although a top out-and-out striker is absolutely vital (an established big name, or another gem unearthed by the boss).

It just needs an admission that the current approach is not good enough, not in the English Premier League, and that there is no shame in returning to something that worked in the past.

RockyLives


Saint Self Destruct strikes again.

April 18, 2011

Written by Wonderman

It was encouraging to learn the team news by way of sky sports as I came out of Highbury and Islington station. Both Szczesny and Djourou had been restored to the starting line up as had been hinted earlier in the week and Song was passed fit.

I was concerned with the new found confidence of Carroll and Djourou was just the ticket. The only bad news was  that Sagna was still injured, but after Eboue’s performance last week I was not overly concerned ( how ill judged that would prove).

Before the game a minute silence was impeccably observed in tribute to the late Asrenal Director Danny Fiszman and those Liverpool supporters who died at Hillsborough.

We started with Szczesny in goal, Eboue, Djourou, Koscielny and Clichy in defence. A midfield of Cesc, Diaby and Wilshere, with Walcott,Van Persie and Nasri up top. The first couple of minutes saw us trying to get our passing going with mixed success. We were either passing the ball to the opposition or under passing leaving our players at risk of injury.

Liverpool had set up defensively with the view to counter, a tactic that everyone except Barca bring to the Emirates. They were trying to use Reina’s  massive kicking ability to get in behind our defense, but Djourou was not having a bar of it. He set his stall out early and Caroll was pretty ineffective whilst on the pitch. In the 6th minute Suarez took a free kick but hit it straight at Szczesny. Arsenal continued to attempt to penetrate Liverpool’s defense but they were compact and aggressive, ensuring that the danger areas that we liked to exploit were negated.

In the 15th minute Kosser had a header hit the bar with Reina in no man’s land. The 19th minute saw great interplay between Cesc and Nasri which ended with a fantastic cross from Nasri which Reina did well to pluck out of the air before Walcott was waiting to pounce. A similar move in the 23rd minute on the other side between Walcott and Cesc had the same result. Two minutes later the ball was in the back of the Liverpool net through a trademark Cesc/Van Persie combination, but Robin was correctly adjudged to be offside.

Suarez and Caroll were trying to combine but we kept them dysfunctional and ineffective. It was apparent to me how bereft of pace the Liverpool front line was and we were containing them comfortably. By this time we were dominating possession Robin chased the channel followed by Reina but was unable to keep the ball in play with the goalie way out of his goal. The final 10 minutes of the half saw us enjoy what must have been 70% possession but creating  no clear cut chances.

At half time, I felt it had gone exactly as I thought it would, except I had expected more of a threat from Caroll and Suarez. I was pleased with Diaby’s contribution, he was incisive and effective, no dawdling or pirouettes and early passes meeting their intended destination. Djourou and Kosser were in control. Eboue was causing real concern to Liverpool along with Walcott on the right hand side.

In the second half Liverpool looked to have a willingness to attack with more intent and continued to try to catch us on the break but not without neglecting solid defensive play. The 54th minute saw Eboue’s achilles trodden on in one of their attacks and he went down like he had been shot leaving their left midfielder to advance.

We continued to probe without success and a clash between Carragher and his right back left him semi unconscious for what seemed ages, which didn’t help preserve our momentum. He left on a stretcher and luckily wasn’t seriously injured .  So here we were with two novice teenagers playing full backs and their main leader / communicator off on a stretcher replaced by the pony tailed one , bloodbath time you would presume….wrong in the 71st minute Walcott and Wilshere were replaced by Bendtner and Arshavin.

Arshavin immediately injected that urgency that our attacks had started to lack, he ran at defenders, committing them attempting to disrupt their two banks of 4 with some success, but I thought our movement in reaction to this was poor and in some cases non existent. Robin rarely threatened the near post and Bendtner out wide right is a mystery to me. By the 80th minute Diaby was beginning to revert to type, probably through tiredness and was correctly replaced by Song .

The crowd were beginning to show signs of nervousness and the Liverpool away support were getting louder than our 55,000 plus fans. The removal of Walcott was like a shot in the arm for the Liverpool defense. Gone was the worry of the ball over the top, gone was the worry of road runner coming at them at 900mph. In the 82nd minute a good delivery from Clichy saw Robin glance a header goalwards, but no danger . Two minutes later Clichy to Cesc to Nasri to Robin again all one touch saw the gilt edge chance we had been waiting for, but Reina earned his corn and stood big.

We then broke again but Cesc made the wrong choice of pass, frustration/ nerves were beginning to kick in. Shortly after Suarez got in with a blindside run behind Clichy with no midfielder tracking him and rather than cut it back to two Liverpool players who surely would have tested the goalkeeper or even scored he blasted high, wide and handsome. We continued to press but my concern was the gaps Eboue was leaving behind and his poor recovery runs to get back, all of Liverpool’s attacks were exploiting that space. Because of the injury there were 8 minutes extra time signalled.

In the 96th Cesc was brought down in the box after some cute footwork Penalty ! Van Persie despatched it coolly followed by a feeling of absolute relief/jubilation in the stadium 1-0. BUT it was at this point that we rubbed our little magic lamp and summoned St Self destruct. Straight from the restart Liverpool desperately tried to shoot. Szczesny parried and was closed down by Suarez forcing him to pick up. Suarez then turned his back on the goalie giving him the chance to take the ball to the opposite side of the box and use up some valuable time. Instead he kicked the ball to the half way line back to Liverpool whilst the defence were still pushing up.

Liverpool then went long with 3 players against our 4 defenders and Meireles running past the non reacting Bendtner. Song had two chances to clear, Kosser had a chance to clear both unconvincing, the ensuing scramble saw a free kick correctly awarded for a foul at the edge of the box. Suarez hit the wall with his effort and it ballooned to our right where Lucas was closely followed by Eboue running towards the corner flag with his back to goal. From where I sat 110 metres or so at the other end of the pitch, it looked like Eboue had put his hand on his back and then fell on top of him, stonewall penalty, to make it worse after protestations of innocence  Eboue had that ridiculous grin on his face. Kuyt despatched his penalty 1-1 ….the stadium began to empty almost immediately

 

Ratings

Szczesny – 7  Looked assured and was safe in his handling. Kicking still requires some work and he needs to add ‘game craft ‘ to his locker

Eboue -6 Did not have a bad game but made a very bad decision that cost us 2 points to do what he did was just typical of us this season. Still has the tendency to make injury seem worse than it is which annoys the hell out of me.

Djourou – 8:5 My man of the match I shudder to think what would have happened had he not recovered from injury today. Carroll knew he was in a game today

Kosser – 8 did not do much wrong but still has a tendency to try and win an unwinnable ball , but what a first season

Clichy -7 Energetic as usual and got forward well, but still worries me when he has time on the ball in our defensive third

Diaby – 8 pushed Djourou hard for MoM put in a very good shift today linking play quickly and efficiently, was subbed at the right time but should be pleased with today’s work

Wilshere – 7 not his best game as there were many stray passes today. But the sign of a class player is one who always wants the ball no matter how many mistakes he makes. Kept going until he was subbed

Cesc – 7.5  almost identical to Wilshere but was instrumental in winning our penalty

Nasri-7 not his best game and is beginning to look battle weary

Walcott- 7 was no where near as effective as I expected , especially playing against an 18 year old novice. Is not a winger

Van Persie – 8  battled all game usually against 4 defenders, had balls of steele to take our penalty at the 11th hour

Arshavin – 7.5 Looked dangerous when he came on and tried to raise the tempo. Perhaps should have started bearing in mind his record against Liverpool

Bendtner -7 is not a wide player, does not look or play like one, so why do we insist on putting him there ?

 

Song -7.5 Solid return from injury

In closing, there is continual talk of buying this player or that player but  in my opinion no matter who we buy or who plays, when we continue to commit such fundamental errors of judgement life will always be more difficult than it needs to be. Mathematically the title is not absolutely dead as I still think there will be a twist or two, but whilst we remain unbeaten in the league this year we don’t appear to have the required momentum  to be champions…but I could be wrong

St Self Destruct strikes again !!

 Wonderman   


Sing up for the Arsenal – L’pool today

April 17, 2011

It seems an eternity ago that Reina scored an own goal following a Chamakh header in the 90th minute to gain our first point of the season. It was to be a pre-cursor to the season  – Arsenal have all the play, the opposition score a superb goal (without question Ngog best PL goal) and we have a player (Koscielny) sent off by an insane referee.  Liverpool went on to have a dreadful few months and looked in deep trouble until the return of King Kenny.

Much water has flowed since those days. January gave Liverpool an belated Xmas gift when they swapped a misfiring Torres for two fine young attackers. I fear for our CB’s today because Liverpool have once again  formidable attacking options. Carroll has terrorised us before and scored at the Grove this season, Suarez looks a fine player and Kuyt has found his scoring boots. Thankfully they remain shaky at the back and are suffering from a minor injury crisis. No Gerrard is a plus but Meireles has improved enormously and against Man City Liverpool’s midfield totally dominated.

If Liverpool play the same expansive game at the Grove as they played at the weekend, this will be a terrific game. With only Sagna definitely out we have almost a full squad to choose from and AW will be racking his brain to sort out who starts. Should he play Diaby in light of Carrol’s height? Should he play Bendtner to take advantage of Liverpool’s frailties? In my opinion, No, to both 🙂  We must play our game and see how Liverpool cope.

My team:

I expect a tight game, much will depend upon us stifling the supply to the front men. A concentrated Song is essential as Blackpool exploited us through the middle thanks to Diaby’s poor positioning  – he isn’t a DM and it showed. As ever Theo’s pace will be a big threat and more of the long balls from Cesc to RvP would be good – he is sure to score from one of them.

Let us hope for a strong referee to curb the excesses of the mad Carragher  (I used to have a dog that had Mad Carragher’s Disease – it got put down soon after the diagnosis).

Should we win today the League is still on, the confidence gained will boost the side ahead of the trip to the Lane, and renewed belief will build in the Grove. To those who are lucky enough to have tickets, please make some noise and show the team the support they deserve. This game could be tight and nerves may fray, don’t take it out on the players – start singing and then sing some more.

You can will the team to victory.

Remember 26/5/1989.

Today be the 12th man ……

COYRRG

Written by BigRaddy

A message from peaches

My very beautiful number 1 daughter Rachel is running the London Marathon today on behalf of the National Autistic Society. As a family we have a lot to thank the NAS for as my youngest was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome, a condition on the Autistic spectrum, when he was just four years old. We spent years battling the education system to get him support and learning how to teach him to be a sociable young man. The information that the NAS was able to pass on to us was invaluable. There is a much better understanding of all Autistic Spectrum disorders now and that is due to the gathering of information by this extremely hardworking worthwhile organisation.

We’ve flagged up a couple of charitable causes in the last few weeks but if you feel you would like to support Rachel and her Marathon Run for the National Autistic Society you can go to her giving page here. The Marathon Run is a pretty mega thing to decide to do and I’m immensely proud of her, even more so because she said it was fine for me to go to football on Sunday. What a girl huh!

Only, last night she hoped I would be at the finish and so I’ve given my ticket to Rasp for the game but hope to catch up with the second half at The Tollington on my way home.


Happy Arseday To You: A New Annual Celebration for Gooners Worldwide

April 16, 2011

Ladies and Gentle Arses I have a proposition.

One of the finest things about supporting the world’s greatest football team is that it makes us part of a vast tribe of like-minded people.

Whenever I see a stranger walking along the street wearing Arsenal regalia I feel a surge of pride and pleasure.

And even though I will probably never exchange a word with that passer-by, I know that I have a bond with them: they will have shared my joys and sorrows; they will have cheered when I cheered, wept when I wept.

And this bond goes worldwide.

Britain once had an empire on which the sun never set. The same can now be said of Arsenal’s support. When the Aussie Gooners are going to bed under their red-and-white duvets, the Californian ones are waking up and pouring coffee into their cannon-embossed mugs.

So it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to devote one day a year to celebrating our international kinship.

We might call it Arseday.

And on Arseday we might do the following:

  • Every Arsenal supporter would wear something with the club colours and emblem. If you have strict uniform rules at work – for example if you’re a policeman, a barrister or a bishop (don’t laugh – the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is an ardent Gooner) – then an Arsenal pin or tie may be appropriate, even a pair of Gunners undies or socks.
  • Supporters should endeavour to meet with like-minded people (other supporters) for a social gathering.
  • Where possible the social event will include a fund-raising element to generate funds for Arsenal’s chosen charity of the year (for example, an Arsenal quiz night, a screening of the Invincibles season highlights or of the full game at Anfield from 1989 or the 1971 Cup Final).
  • All present will raise a toast to: “The Arsenal: By Far the Greatest Team the World Has Ever Seen.”
  • Maybe we could even send ‘Happy Arseday’ cards to each other!

I love the idea that on Arseday you would be on the lookout wherever you went for others wearing their Arsenal regalia. You would be able to give them a knowing nod and share a moment of togetherness, without anyone else having the faintest idea what on earth was going on.

The next big question (and I’m sure you’re ahead of me here) concerns which date should be chosen for Arseday.

There are some simple options, like the first or last day of the season, but I’m sure that we Gooners can come up with something better. Here are some possibilities:

  • December 11th: the day, in 1886, when Dial Square (who would go on to become the Arsenal) played their first game.
  • September 2nd: it was on this day in 1893 that the newly named Woolwich Arsenal played their first match as a professional club.
  • September 6th: In 1913, this was the day we played our first game at Highbury.
  • December 25th: in 1886, the first time the word Arsenal was used in our club’s name (it was changed from Dial Square to Royal Arsenal).
  • January 19th: Herbert Chapman’s birthday.
  • October 22nd: Arsene Wenger’s birthday.
  • May 26th: the date, in 1989, when we clinched the most dramatic league title of them all.
  • May 8th: the day we completed our first Double, by winning the FA Cup in 1971.
  • St Totteringham’s Day. The day on which it ceases to become mathematically possible for Sp*rs to finish above us in the league.

Some have obvious problems: December 25th has already been claimed by someone else; St Tott’s day (hard though this is to credit) is not actually guaranteed to happen every single year; any dates in May run the risk of being overtaken by the drama of the business end of the season; and using AW’s birthday is all well and good – but what happens when he retires?

Perhaps we should have a poll to see which date works best?

Anyway, there it is: a modest proposal. What does anyone think? Is it a waste of time or would it actually be quite nice to have one day a year where we just celebrate being Arsenal?

Would the Arsenal blog world get behind the idea?

Over to you…

RockyLives


Are Arsenal hungry for success?

April 15, 2011

Right chaps, I’ve got some info that’s going to make your day. Have you ever worried about your testosterone levels? Well, I’ve been doing some research on all of your behalfs and there are some very simple ways for you to make sure you never have to worry ……….

What actually happened was, having been banging on about the perceived ‘lack of testosterone’ on show from our team I went delving into the depths of male hormones on the internet to see what I could discover.

Obviously, raised levels of testosterone and other performance enhancing hormones are detectable by testing but what if the reverse was happening to our players? I quickly dropped the idea that some sort of doping was going on although when you see how the team come out after half-time it would be easy to suggest that they’ve definitely had something slipped into their tea.

Red meat. How much Red Meat do our men get to eat?  Now I know that everything about red meat points to unhealthy diet but lack of fat affects concentration, something that we’ve long worried about with regards to some of our players.  Our chaps do lead a pretty healthy existence so why deprive them of the calories and the taste. Reduced fat is all very well if you have sedentary job but these guys burn up calories for a living and so I say give them meat.

Not wanting to bore the pants of you with too much science you’ll know that testosterone is useful for ensuring that you have a fulfilling sex-life, deep voices and hairy chests. Many of you already know the perils of having too much testosterone as that is responsible for hair loss in men.  Here’s a little test you can all do. Research has shown that women – who have low levels of testosterone, generally have their index finger the same size as their ring finger, whereas in men the ring finger will be longer than the index finger because they have higher levels. Have you all had a look?

Now, while it was great fun to think about the size of the fingers all the men I knew it wasn’t exactly the truth I was looking for. I don’t know enough about the strict eating regime that Arsene instills at the club but I do know that many of our chaps are bred to be lean so that they are quick. Maybe it’s only the girls that notice that some of our players physiques change dramatically during their time at the club but I feel that maybe the lean, low-fat approach is damaging to our fighting spirit on the pitch.

Seriously, this isn’t as mad as it sounds, research into the effects of testosterone and competitive behaviour suggests that testosterone increases competitiveness and risk taking and surely that’s some of what we’re missing. I’m not criticising the players here, maybe it’s not their fault entirely.

We know that Arsene’s new regime extended the playing careers of several players when he joined the club and I’m all for healthy eating but we have witnessed a dumbing down of assertiveness, tenacity and sheer bloody minded fighting spirit and something needs to be done to reverse this trend.

So, Arsene if you’re reading, Zinc is the most natural way to increase testosterone levels and can be found in oysters, beans, red meat, turkey, brown rice and cottage cheese. Do men even eat cottage cheese? Foods rich in vitamin A and B also bolster testosterone levels these include apples, pineapples and citrus fruits and spinach, carrots and red peppers, salmon is filled to the gills with it, eggs contain it and bananas have the added benefit of potassium which helps to produce testosterone.

Alternatively food parcels should be sent to The Arsenal Training Ground, London Colney, Hertfordshire.

Written by peachesgooner


Why has this Arsenal team no Leaders?

April 14, 2011

This post was written prior to Rocky’s excellent post in which he covered similar areas and concerns about the fragility of the team  – think of it as synchronicity.

A refrain we hear over and over again from within and without the Hallowed Halls is that this Arsenal team lack Leaders. We are told that none of the current crop have the ability to push the team forward in times of crisis and as such we need to buy  some “steel.” It has been said that this lack of Leadership is the fundamental reason for our not being top of the table in a year where MU have faltered. How could this happen?

Firstly, it is important to look at the team and see whether this assumption is true. We currently have 5 Captain’s of their International teams. Yes… 5! Almost certainly a record and one that is rarely, if ever mentioned. Rosicky has been Czech Captain for the past 5 years and led them in the Euro Championship. Arshavin has been the Russian Cpt. for over 2 years, Vermælen has been Belgium Cpt since 2009. Both Nasri and Ramsey have been honoured with their national Captaincy this season.

So, 5 National Captain’s and it is highly likely that Cesc will captain Spain at some point in his career, as Wilshere will captain England. Surely, there are leaders amongst them?

Should Fabregas be Club Captain? Does he have the “cojones” to lead the club? In my opinion he is the natural leader of the side, and I would refute the argument that he is not Captain material. Following in the footsteps of two of the finest Captain’s in Arsenal’s history – in Adams and Vieira he has grown up with two fantastic role models – he has seen at first hand how to lead a side, and I believe is growing into the role. It must be recalled that he is still only 23, yet he is the player all the others look to, and for me he does the job well.

Perhaps Leadership on the pitch has nothing to do with Captaincy, perhaps Captaincy is just recognition of the value of the player to the team. In Italy the captain is the oldest player in the team. Often the Captain is chosen purely upon his popularity in the dressing room, but in England the Captain is meant to be the heart and soul of the team and at Arsenal this has to be Cesc.

So how can we not have pitch leaders? Is it as the pundits say, a lack of British grit? Should we sign Joey Barton or Kevin Nolan both of whom have the British never-say-die mentality in spades? OK, not Barton, but how about Scott Parker? Would his attitude have made a difference?

We talk of needing “winners” in the team, and are fed the fable that without experienced winners we cannot move forward as a team (what have Parker or Cahill ever won)? I think we are being misled by the talk of Arsenal lacking “winners”. All our players have grown up in winning teams, through schoolboy to youth and reserve team level they have represented winning teams. Every one of our players is a proven International – surely they know how to win a game or two. Or am I wrong, is winning English Silverware the only way to create a “winning mentality”? And is this winning mentality a requirement for pitch Leadership?

Recently I have read that Wilshere is a natural pitch leader. As far as I can tell what this means is that he gives everything in every game – is this Leadership?  Is it a player shouting at others to keep them focussed in the manner of Roy Keane?  Is it the sight of Cesc clenching his fists and rousing the crowd?  Or comforting a player when they have seriously screwed up?  Or a player running 50 yards to help out the defence in the last 5 minutes?

What is clear is that there is much talk about our lack of it in the current side.

What do you think?

p.s. Yesterday saw the premature passing of Danny Fiszman at the age of 66. If we lacked leadership on the pitch we certainly haven’t off-pitch. Danny took a middle sized football business and accompanied by David Dein established Arsenal as one of the most financially successful football clubs in the world. A North London lad and an Arsenal fan throughout his life Danny made his first fortune in diamond trading, and was then asked by his friend Dein to join him at Arsenal. Alongside Arsene Wenger they created the modern Arsenal, funding the new stadium, the re-development of Highbury and the surrounding areas. Arsenal are acknowledged as the financial model for football clubs throughout the world and this alongside the stadium is his legacy.  That Danny’s final act was to ensure that his beloved Arsenal was in safe  hands is proof of his devotion.

His was a successful life both in business and at leisure. We at AA wish his family long life.

Written by BigRaddy


The Title: Why We’re In With A Shout

April 13, 2011

Silent Stan has been making the headlines.

But what’s excited me about The Arsenal this week has been the noise.

The noise of Arsenal players getting their heads in the game.

First: the noise of Robin van Persie bawling out Abou Diaby at half time versus Blackpool for getting himself a stupid yellow card.

Second: the noise of Jens Lehmann shouting at the players like a deranged sergeant major (or maybe that should be a deranged oberleutnant).

It is my bold contention that no quiet team has ever won a football league title. If there was such a thing as a Trappist Monks Eleven they would be dead certs for relegation. Their only chance of any points would come in the annual grudge match against the Mute Society.

But despite this self-evident fact, you can’t deny that Arsenal have been a quiet team in recent years.

Lots of skill, to be sure, but not much sound and fury. Cesc may well be a leader, but he is not an obviously vocal leader – you seldom see him yelling at his team mates and pumping his fists.

Sometimes professional footballers need support. Sometimes they need reassurance – an arm round the shoulder and a word in their shell-like that it’s OK, we all make mistakes.

BUT SOMETIMES THEY NEED AN ALMIGHTY KICK UP THE ARRIS.

I have it on good authority that Arsene Wenger instinctively prefers the shoulder to the arris, despite what the troglodytes of Old Toilet might chant on occasion. And, by bringing through a team largely made up of young players, he has produced a group in his own image.

They care, I’m sure, but they don’t show their passion in a way that was once the norm at Arsenal.

In the days of Adams, Keown and Vieira you could guarantee that any player doing something stupid would be given a severe telling off by his senior colleagues.

This would have two effects: one, it would make everyone acutely aware of their responsibilities to the team as whole; and two, it would raise the temperature among the players, firing them up to lift their game and take out their frustrations on the opposition.

So to hear that Robin tore into Abou for his silly yellow (particularly given the same player’s red card for retaliation against Newcastle earlier in the season) is greatly heartening.

It shows that Robin really cares.

It’s also the only occasion I can remember in recent times of a story getting out about one of our players chastising another for letting the side down.

Coupled with Mad Jens giving a masterclass in shouting, organising, shoving, jostling and cajoling, it gave a distinctly different flavour to our performance at Blackpool.

I noticed that even Eboue – a man who laughs more than Stuart Hall on helium – had caught the seriousness bug. When he belted our second goal into the ‘Pool net he didn’t react with his usual grinning imitation of Donny Osmond at the dentist’s. Instead he remained grim-faced and determined.

I really hope it betokens a change of attitude among our squad. Possibly, in the wake of the public criticism Arsene dished out to the team after the limp-wristed draw against Blackburn Rovers a week earlier, they have out their heads together and decided to come out fighting.

And if that means more shouting at each other, more holding of team mates to account, then I’m all for it.

Let’s bollock our way to being champions of England.

RockyLives

 

I know Rocky won’t mind me tagging this amazing charity event onto the end of his post. Our CarlitoII is taking part in this, so please support him if you can, read on ………………………

On 11 June 2011, Freedom in the Air (FITA) is holding its first skydive Freedom Freefall day. Supporters from across the country will join us at Peterborough Sibson airfield drop zone to take part in this amazing challenge and raise money for FITA. Carl Roberton is one of the 25 freefallers.

The charity is run and inspired by Gautam Lewis <http://vimeo.com/freedomintheair> .
Gautam is a pretty inspiring chap as you’ll see from reading the press cuttings and watching the video on this page:
http://www.freedomintheair.org/press/

You can watch Carl’s video here:
http://vimeo.com/21872732
For more info on the event and aims of the event:
http://www.freedomintheair.org/freedom-freefall-skydive/

The paypal sponsorship link is:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=P5932ATMFD2CC




Foreign Ownership the Arsenal way.

April 12, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Ok, the day some of us (me included) dreaded has finally arrived. The ownership of our beloved club has moved into a single pair of hands, some of us have said not over our dead bodies, some of us have asked for it to be done the Arsenal way, some of us said its ok if its a billionaire to come and buy us trophies.

It is early days yet but all signs point to Kroenke amassing at least 60% but more likely around the 90% mark. And in the main it appears to have been done the right way, no ugly public confrontation very quick progression from breaking news to confirmed within 24 hours.

So what about those who wanted an end to the ownership uncertainty to allow more investment in the playing staff, well I think Kroenke’s successful takeover will disappoint here, it is unlikely with such a lump of cash required to buy the shares that there will be any loose change hanging around for injection into Wenger’s pocket for transfers.

To this end some would have preferred Usmanov to come in and pile in the Roubles, but we have seen how little respect that gains you in the football world and also how few trophies it buys you at the same time. As I type this I am watching the multi million pound assembled Man City getting a pounding by Liverpool three goals down in 35 minutes.

Allegedly (according to Mark Kleinman of Sky) Usmanov attempted to make a counter offer for Bracewell-Smith’s shares, Kleinman reported that he offered £13,000 and a lower offer earlier but she being an honest type rebuffed due to the irrevocable undertaking she had given to Kroenke. She has issued a statement regarding her sale:

“This marks the end of an era for our family’s association with Arsenal FC and we are proud to have had such a long history with one of the world’s greatest clubs. I am confident of Arsenal’s continued success both on and off the pitch and believe that Stan Kroenke will continue to develop the club in a manner true to its heritage for the players and the fans.”

And this is a lesson to Mr Usmanov, money can’t buy you everything especially from people who love what they are selling.

With Usmanov now nothing more than a thorn in Kroenke’s side we can hope that he is inclined to sell his lot for a quick buck and move on. Unfortunately for a man who is valued at $17.7 billion one must wonder what that quick profit will mean to him and this one could run and run.

Assuming Kroenke is successful in a full takeover (minus hopefully a token gesture for the Arsenal Supporters Trust) all I ask of him is to continue the work he has seen whilst he has been at the club and to recognise that what has made the club so valuable is its prudence, its trust in its managers, its loyalty to players past and present, and its ability to keep its dirty washing in house.

On that final point I hope that Kroenke lives up to his nickname, I don’t want the club to become more about the man upstairs than the men on the bench and the lads on the pitch. Say Chelsea and most of us think of Abramovich first, mention City and its the Sheikh that dominates our thoughts, the trophies are for them not for the players or managers, the staff come and go like the mercenaries and playthings they have become. This is where the Glazers have been successful at Man Utd, yes they have taken the club into debt, yes they have forced a hold on transfers, but could you really say they make you think of them first, no, you think Fergie, you think Giggs, Rooney and others before you think of the owners.

Comparisons will likely be made with the Glazers, neither they or Stan speak openly to the media and both made their money through real estate (one from trailer parks and one using family ties to build malls next to his Father in Laws Wal-Marts). It appears both have a penchant for sports teams too, although to that extent Kroenke is far more active having owned three top flight American Sports Teams, plus a couple of minor ones too.

Kroenke also insists that he will not be using any kind of debt financing to fund KSE’s purchase of Arsenal shares, although similar promises were made by Gillett and Hicks at Liverpool and the Glazers at United, all reneged and effectively put the clubs into debt to fund their acquisitions. We can only hope that the Board are right to believe Kroenke has the funds to make this happen without needing any extra finance secured on the assets.

Clearly a clever businessman, what of his sports teams. Everything I have read about Kroenke is that he is hands off when it comes to team matters but heavily involved with the financial detail. It is also worth remembering that American sports teams have to operate under salary caps, with the Financial Fairplay rules apparently around the corner it would seem that American ownership with experience of these conditions will be beneficial to the club.

Kroenke has owned 40% of the St Louis Rams since 1995, he bought the whole kit and kaboodle in 2010, but that has forced him to relinquish control of Denver Nuggets (NBA) and Colorado Avalanche (NHL) (both owned since 2000) due to NFL rules.

In his time as major shareholder St Louis Rams have won the Superbowl, but since his full takeover have been undergoing a bit of a rebuilding pinning their hopes on a Rookie Quarterback in 2010.  The Avalance won the 2001 Stanley Cup, and the Nuggets whilst winning their division in his time have failed to win the conference or the championship.

But to compare trophies is probably unfair as the American system does not allow any one team to dominate year after year, for example the reason the Rams have the young Rookie Quaterback was that the season before their record was 1-15 and therefore were given first draft pick.

So all we can do now is sit and wait, to be honest I do not expect any major changes but I have one final thought before I put this post to bed.

Look after our club Stan, its ours, you may own the shares at the moment, but the people make this club, the ones that have followed in their fathers footsteps to Highbury and now the Emirates, please make sure its still in one piece so we can take our children and grandchildren on the same walk. And don’t ever forget we’re by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. Make sure it stays that way.


Arsenal Rock and Roll onwards…..Phew!

April 11, 2011

Written by Harry

As the sun shone all over Bloomfield, Arsene’s battle weary troops took to the field with Lehmann starting his 200th game for the gunners…….No mean feat, apart from the fact his 199th was 3 years ago!! Manuel was injured in the warm up…….I think I heard that Eboue had tied his bootlaces together…Anyway Big Jens was in the spotlight…..

As expected Blackpool started like a rollercoaster, pace and purpose with a few ups and downs, survival is paramount to the seasiders and they tried to get at a vulnerable Arsenal defence, supposedly which is there for the taking according to some…….But Arsenal held firm with Squillaci and Kosceinly doing a good impression of a Centre back partnership..

And although Blackpool got some crosses in Lehmann took every catch with the air of authority as he marshalled the back line as if he had never been away, he has a presence about him, a calmness that really does settle the team…..

Fabregas was back and although not at his majestic best, his array of passing was on show as he looked to open up the seasiders, a delightful lobbed pass over the Blackpool back line saw van Persie’s control just let him down as the ball ran through to Kingston.

Arsenal really began to control the game as Blackpool found it difficult to maintain the early pace, Diaby intercepted and strode forward with purpose, laying off to Cesc, Diaby then thrust towards goal, as Cesc pinged the ball wide left to van Persie, who only needed to play the ball across the area to an Arsenal player, yes for once someone was in the area!! Honest!! As Diaby just ended the move he started with ease, 1-0……..

It wasn’t long before it was 2-0 with the goal of the game for me, Eboue cutting in from the right played a one-two with Wilshere, as he took the ball on the return in his stride and absolutely smashed in the far top corner….If that had been Rooney and Scholes, the press would have wet themselves, that was a goal of a high quality……

Arsenal tried to put the game to bed, but for the rest of the first half they had a bit of a Torres spell……Most memorable moment came when Nasri couldn’t quite get the ball out of his feet to get a shot off inside the area, he was pushed wide, he played the ball back across and darted into the box again as Fabregas sent a sublime chip into his path, as the keeper came out, nasri struck across the ball, which hit the post and away, that would have been a quality goal, one we all knew we needed.

Just before Half Time Blackpool signalled their intentions not to lie down, when they got down the right and put the ball across into a melee, somehow a faint touch from Lehmanns outstretched leg stopped the ball going in and Fabregas calmly took the ball away.

In the 2nd half, Blackpool took the game to Arsenal, with more gusto than a Talksport presenter criticizing Arsenal……

As Blackpool broke again, little Jack stretched to a tackle, but brought himself a yellow, Mason waved play on, Blackpool attacked at pace, as DJ danced into the box he took the ball towards the goal, Lehmann, came out and took him down, the ball fell to Taylor-Fletcher who tapped into the empty net, game on…..

As much as I rate Lee Mason as the worst referee I have seen in the premiership (he was the ref at the Everton home match), fair play to how he handled this phase of play……Lehmann could have seen red… (Lucky Break No1)

Blackpool really went for it and Arsenals steadiness of the 1st half was replaced with some ropey impressions of Bambi on ice, then lucky break no2, Koscienly took Taylor-Fletcher out just inside the area with what was a stone-wall penalty…..Mason waved them away, ying and yang somehow playing their part, me thinks….

Wenger made his first substitution with an inevitable early retreat for Arshavin, I think we could all see that coming a mile off.  Walcott’s entrance would add an extra threat that would finally seal the points.

But the start of the move for the points bagger, must see high praise for Toto, who slid in for a perfect tackle, taking the ball away just as Blackpool threatened again, Diaby mopped up the ball but was under immediate pressure, he twisted and turned and got a chip pass through to Cesc, who first time helped it on to the jet fuelled Theo, who disappeared down the right faster than Rooney chasing a Camera man, he passed across to van Persie who passed the ball into the bottom right hand corner. Game over, planets re-aligned…..

Ratings:

Lehmann: 8: Probably a tad generous with his near red moment, but then it wouldn’t be Jens without that; I just liked the authority he has, barking his orders and berating the slightest error….keeps them on their toes. Made a couple of good saves as well……Does he have 7 more games in him?

Eboue: 8: Still has the ability to frustrate with his acting ability, but I love the way he takes the game to the opposition, not afraid to see a gap and attack it, his goal was superb.

Koscienly: 7: Solid enough game, but lucky not to give away a penalty, but apart from that I felt he did his job without too much problems.

Squillaci: 8: Very solid, read the game well, cannot remember any mistakes and his tackle that started the move for the 3rd goal was exceptional.  For me, probably controversially, my MotM…

Clichy: 7: Had a decent game apart from his moment of “Total Liability” when he decided to dwell on the ball and acts like a lemming……For me it is a too regular occurrence, Spurs, Birmingham etc.

Fabregas: 7: Fantastic Passing, orchestrated attacking moves like only he can, just lacked a bit of sharpness in his movement, but he is nursing his hamstrings….

Diaby: 7.5: Started and Finished the move for the opener, and was instrumental in the 3rd, got a silly booking before half time. This is the Diaby I defend continuously….although he has even more to give, physically he can dominate games if his head is in the right time dimension.

Wilshere: 7: Although no where near his best in affecting the game creative wise, but he kept in there and was involved throughout in physical encounters, never gives up, has the right attitude for me.

Nasri: 7: Looked more himself today, still not as sharp as before his injury, but getting there. When we were on top he really was buzzing, probing and trying to get at their fullbacks. Nearly scored twice…….

Van Persie: 7: Good game, unfortunate the ball ran away from him on one occasion and another he just seem to half hit it. Took the goal well to seal the points, worked hard, just needs to be a tad more clinical at times.

Arshavin: 6: Not involved enough for me, after a couple of better performances lately, but he needs the team to involve him more. Personally I would play him behind Van Persie, would be much more effective, but I am no Professor…….

Subs:

Walcott :7:  Lively and Jet fuelled, want him to be more selfish when near the goal, but there again that’s not in our locker….

Gibbs and Ramsey: Too little time to judge…..

Wenger: 9: End of a turbulent week for Le Boss, his handling of the press set the scene for a punchy response from his team. Made the right changes to the line up and made the substitutions at the right times…..

Roast Dinner at Pub with Man United Mates: Priceless …………

Overall:

Some decisions went for us, some didn’t, its argumentative who had the real key defining ones, although Kozzers’ was a stonewall penalty, but hey ho that’s football……..It was a great result and a much more impressive performance, still needs to be upped a level for the next seven games, all must win for me.

Away from home we definitely play with more freedom, less fear. With Blackpool fans epitomizing my firm held belief that a crowd can play its part, okay, they didn’t win, but the positive support helped them go through the gears with the speed of Jensen button…..

Footnote:

Probably could do without the talk of takeovers at such a crucial time, but just maybe the distraction could keep the fans from been so negative about the team and Wenger?

And if the takeover sees the return of Double D, this could reignite the successful times he enjoyed with Wenger till his acrimonious departure, I pray…….

2nd Footnote:

Man City think they can buy our Jack for 40million?

For that amount of money they can have his boots, he isn’t going nowhere my middle eastern oil pumpers…..See you all next Sunday……