No progress in achievements, but plenty to be positive about for next season

May 24, 2011

 

‘Hold on world, world hold on,
It’s gonna be alright,
You gonna see the light.
And when you’re one,
Really one,
Well you get things done,
Like they never been done,
So hold on,
Hold on.’

From ‘Hold on’ by J. Lennon

The season has finally ended: thank god! Seldom have we looked forward more to the end of a season as this one. The Bolton away game smothered the last bit of a fire that started to go out rapidly from the moment we lost to Brum in the CC final a few months ago. The torture is now over; or is it? Unless, the BoD acts quickly and decisively in the transfer market, the next few months will become even more unbearable with (the dread of) key players leaving and the agonising shenanigans regarding new players joining us or not. Furthermore, this year there is no World or European Cup to distract us from the continuous and highly-addictive media frenzy on the comings and goings of players: you know, you should not check Newsnow, Ceefax, the newspapers etc all the time, but you just cannot help yourself. In times like this, like in John Lennon’s simple yet wise words above, we need something to hold on to.

This post is not about an in-depth analysis about what went right and wrong this season. Others are more thorough, qualified and patient than me to do this. Before I go on, it is important to state I am as disappointed as any other Gooner that, once again, we have not won a major trophy this season. This should have been the year for us, at least domestically – just like it has turned out to be the year for Milan and Ajax in their countries who finally both won their first domestic championship since 2004 (YES, a 7 year wait as well) – but it was not to be. We will have to wait another year, maybe longer, and it hurts like hell. Recently, it has also become a lot harder to speak to fellow Gooners, as everyone is so disappointed and there is so much division between us on whether Wenger should go or not. These are testing times for all of us.

Yet, when I start thinking about next season, and I have been doing so for the last 4 weeks, I cannot help but feel mildly optimistic. There are real positives to take from this season, which combined with the fact that we are a young, ‘evolving’ team, should provide us with a solid platform for next season. And now I have put the cat among the pigeons – big style!!

 

The positives

  1. Best away-form in the league.
  2. We have started to beat our big competitors again, albeit at home and not away.
  3. Koscielny and Chamakh had decent-to-good first seasons, taking into account how hard it is to come here and make an impact straightaway.
  4. Song, Sagna and Fabregas had a good season, although Cesc has performed a little bit under what we have come to expect of him, he still had a decent season (see previous AA post ‘Not Getting Enough Cesc’).
  5. Wilshere, Szczesny, Djourou and more recently Ramsey made great progress this season and look ready to become first choice players for next season and beyond.
  6. Vermaelen looks finally recovered from his injury, and should be ready for next season to lead our defence.
  7. RvP has had an incredible few months and kept scoring goals for fun when almost everybody else stopped performing altogether. He looks ready to captain our side in the next season.
  8. Nasri and Walcott have shown this season that they are getting very close to becoming top-quality players. Nasri perhaps more than Walcott, who especially during the first half of the season was simply unstoppable. Walcott appears to be a somewhat slower developer, but has shown enough this season to suggest that more and better is to come from him (and the key question is: is he a winger or a striker?).

These positives form a solid platform but it is obviously not the finished article; improvements/additions are required. However, it is a (rapidly developing) platform nonetheless that not many of our competitors have in place, especially if we are able to strengthen our squad with a couple of both experienced and quality players.

In this post, I am not lingering on about the negatives, especially not about the players who did not perform and most of us feel need to leave the club: not because I don’t care about it, but I would rather focus on our strengths this time. I am also assuming that Fabregas and Nasri are staying, but if they leave this would create one or two extra vacancies as per below, although I cannot imagine Arsene will ever let both go at the same time.

If the positives are translated into our first eleven for next season, it looks like this (4-2-3-1):

                                                Szczesny

Sagna              Djourou/Vacancy       Vermaelen      Koscielny/Vacancy

                        Song/Ramsey        Wilshere/Ramsey/Vacancy

Theo/Vacancy            Fabregas/Van Persie Nasri/Arshavin/ Vacancy 

                                         Van Persie/Chamakh

.

In a 4-4-2 formation it would look like this:

                                                Szczesny

Sagna              Djourou/Vacancy       Vermaelen      Koscielny/Vacancy

Theo/Vacancy Fabregas/Wilshere    Song/Ramsey/Vacancy          Nasri/Wilshere

                                         Van Persie

                           Chamakh/Bendtner/Vacancy

Both formations, 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2, need strengthening by filling the vacancies.

Defence

As a minimum, we need to recruit externally a tall, strong, fast, yet technically competent partner for Vermaelen. He should compete with Djourou for that position. I have no doubt that Wenger will spend in this area. I would really like to see Koscielny compete with Clichy for the LB position, as he reminds me of Lee Dixon.  However, if Clichy were to leave Arsenal, we might need to spend the money we get for him on a replacement, as Gibbs is not ready yet. Koscielny is also a good replacement for Vermaelen, if and when he gets injured or suspended.

Midfield

The centre of midfield has a great future with Song, Wilshere and Ramsey and Fabregas (at least for the time being). I also have high hopes from Frimpong. However, we need to add an experienced central midfielder who has won a few top prizes in his career, to support Fabregas (or replace him if he leaves), even if it just for a couple of years. He should help to mentor our talents to improve our mental strength when the going gets tough, so we can make the final push towards winning cups. This will be the hardest position to fill, especially if Cesc should leave us. Ideally, I would also love to recruit another quality winger, whether Arshavin is staying or not, but would understand if Wenger would try to fill this position from within his current squad (given the great number of talented midfielders he can pick from and needs to keep happy).

Attack

Finally, I am quite happy with our current strikers, especially with Van Persie and Chamakh. Both Chamakh and Bendtner did not get many opportunities to prove themselves in the second part of the season, and I believe there is more to come from them. In 4-4-2 we would see a lot more of them, no doubt about it.

4-2-3-1 has worked well for us in away games and against our main competitors at home. We should build further on this during the next season. Our home form needs to improve drastically but with a strengthened defence, more experience in midfield, and a more adventurous attacking formation of 4-4-2 against the ‘lesser’ teams at the Emirates, we should make progress here as well. Yet, Arsenal does not need to break the bank: £25-35m (not including possible sales proceeds) should make a big difference.

Although we have gone through a few difficult years, the future is still looking good and we should ‘hold on’. However, we need to learn from the past and move forward. As the Hindu proverb goes: ‘There is nothing noble about being superior to some other men. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self’.

Come on Arsène, show a bit of humility, do not be scared to adjust your course, and make the necessary changes. Your loyal fans deserve it.

Written by TotalArsenal


The damp squib continued …………….

May 23, 2011

With no-one volunteering to write a match report following yesterday’s last game of the season at Craven Cottage it seems the disinterest in the final moments of our season have been cemented in silence. To finish fourth after being second for most of the season is hard to swallow.

The 2010/2011 season is over, we can file it away as another trophy less one and hopefully move on to the next with hope in our hearts. We do need some changes in our team in order to feel any kind of positivity and although the spin is 50/50 at the moment whether Arsene Wenger will spend money or not we have to hope that the shortcomings will be addressed sooner rather than later.

The question of Cesc staying or going needs to be solved early – if he goes there will be money to spend but if he stays how will that permeate through the team? Many of us said last summer that having him was stay was better than letting him go but we have felt all season that he may have not really had his heart in it. If he stays should he be captain? How will his team-mates feel about another summer of will he/won’t he? Could all be academic of course.

The management must be worried about how poorly the team have faired in the last ten games, dropping points as if it really didn’t matter. The worry that this team could not be motivated to succeed when it mattered must be sorted.

Hopefully some new blood will help to get the mojo back into our squad and we have many weeks to debate and get excited about who we would like those players to be. In addition there’ll be much drawing up of wish lists of who should be moved on.

The transfer window doesn’t open until the 1st July and we know that we’re at the back of the queue as far as spending serious amounts of money goes and that’s why I feel it would be good to know about Cesc early on, if we can get £35-40m for him that’s money to spend.

It would be nice to think that Arsene will treat himself to a holiday but we know from the worry lines on his face that probably even that might not help.

Hopefully we’ll have some good news to cheer us up quite soon but until then feel free to be as positive or negative as the mood takes you.

See you in the comments

Peachesgooner


The Last Post

May 22, 2011

So we arrive at the hateful day when the approaching empty oceans of a no-football summer is at hand. Normally, it a day of deep depression but following the events post- Birmingham, there is a sense of relief that the disappointments of the past 3 months have come to an end. Such are the slings and arrows of supporting an Arsenal team in “development.”

My intention was to write a Fulham post littered with literary quotes and clever quips, but quite frankly I can’t be arsed!  Instead you will get the chaotic final episode of Big Raddy’s pre-match ramblings for the 2010/11 season.

It seems a short while ago since the opening day draw against Liverpool when my hopes for the season were established. At that time I would have  asked for :- Us to be in the mix at the end of March, have had a decent Cup run, a couple of famous victories in the CL, and some standout individual performances from the players. All of which has come to pass, and yet, and yet, I feel really disappointed. I can’t decide whether this is because I am an ingrate (my father’s favourite name for me!) or because I lived with too high expectation, either way, BR, like many fans is unhappy.

Today we hope to rejoice in  a possible victory over another set of heathens, in this case a Fulham team managed by the miscreant Mark Hughes. Now it has to said that if Mr Hughes were to be in my close proximity, I would not dare to speak my mind – why? Because he is a venomous, vituperous, violent viper of a man, and he would knock me into  next week. This is a manager created in the image of SAF and Fat Sam; the only manager who elicits antipathy from Mr Wenger (which is surely proof of his awfulness).  I do not like him and with his record I cannot understand how he remains a PL manager, it is once again proof that in football mediocrity can be handsomely rewarded.

His Fulham team reflects his playing philosophy; destruction ahead of creativity, workrate ahead of  skill. They have fought their way to safety based upon a solid defence, a competitive midfield and aggressive  but low scoring attack (only 47 goals so far this season ). Dempsey is their top scorer on 12 followed by Zamora and Hangeland with 4 apiece. On current form (last 8 games) Fulham lie 6th (as opposed to our 10th), and are difficult to beat at Craven Cottage. A Top 10 finish is a definite possibility and with a victory today they could finish as high as 7th, which would represent a fine campaign.

Enough of them, what about us? Would that I could say we have enjoyed a successful campaign, we have had another season of so near, yet so far. The problems which were manifest over the past 3 years resulted once again in our failing – a back-up quality DM, a proper GK, and an organised, secure defence. But there have been plusses, many of them: – beating all the teams around us including both CL Finalists, discovering a Goalkeeper , 2 decent CB’s (JD & Kos) and 2 superb young MF’s, plus sorting out the uncertainty at Board level.

If anything the problems on the terraces are more concerning than those on the pitch. In the 50+ years I have been an Arsenal fan I have never witnessed the kind of antipathy between fellow fans. The Black Scarf movement, anti-Wenger chants and the booing of the team are all evidence of a growing dissatisfaction which can be seen on both blogsites and the terraces. Any support of the manager or the team is seen as senseless and retrogressive by a growing number of fans. To me this is a bewildering progression, I am an Arsenal fan, you are an Arsenal fan, we may have different ideas as to how the team can improve but surely we are a brotherhood. As one who is privy to the AA backroom, I can tell you that there have been hundreds of abusive comments which have been moderated off the site and they come primarily from Arsenal fans who think it fair game to abuse fellow fans. I disagree and disagree strongly.

Right – off the soapbox and onto our team for today. I am hoping for a Nasri return. Losing him and Cesc at the same time massively reduces our creativity. The Ramsey/Wilshere midfield may well be the future but it is not the present, though Chamakh deserves a start following his performance last week.

My team:

Fulham has not been blessed with Heavy Rockers though Brian May and Kelly Jones (Stereophonics) are residents.

Finally, I would like to thank all those who have read a Big Raddy pre-match this season. I hope they have entertained and BR would like to say that anything offensive has been written in jest (as if!). I wish you all a fantastic post and pre-season and look forward to seeing you in the comments. (though BR is now in Italy)

Come on You Rip Roaring Gunners.


Not Getting Enough Cesc?

May 21, 2011

There is a distinct possibility that Cesc Fabregas will leave Arsenal this summer.

Persistent rumours originating from people with ‘inside knowledge’ suggest that our Number Four may finally be on his way back to Barcelona.

Cynics will say the deal was done last year – that Arsène Wenger persuaded Cesc to stay for one more year by agreeing to let him join Barca for the 2011/12 season.

How does that make you feel?

Are you distraught at the idea of going without Cesc?

Or do you feel that the Cesc you’ve been having has lost its lustre and that, maybe, it’s time to look for something a bit more exciting elsewhere?

Well, let’s examine some statistics.

I have made this point before, but in his first four seasons with Arsenal Cesc was a fit and resilient young man who played almost all our games:

2004/5: Total appearances 46, including 33 (87%) in the EPL.

2005/6: Total appearances 50, including 35 (92%) in the EPL.

2006/7: Total appearances 54, including 38 (100%) in the EPL (yes, that’s right – every single EPL game, although four were as substitute).

2007/8: Total appearances 45, including 32 (84%) in the EPL.

Then something happened – and it’s a cautionary tale for Jack Wilshere.

Four EPL seasons of full-on football, coupled with international tournaments in the summer began to take their toll on his fitness. The player who had been almost ever-present started to become often-injured.

In 2008/9 his appearance record dropped to just 22 games (58%) in the EPL.

In 2009/10 he managed 27 EPL games (71%).

And this year?

Cesc has played in 25 games in the EPL, three of which were as substitute. That gives him an appearance percentage of 66%.


So – and apologies for doing the full Vorderman with all these numbers – in his first four seasons as a regular starter for Arsenal Cesc averaged an EPL appearance rate of 90.75%. Pretty much every time we stepped out for a Premiership game our little Spanish genius was on the pitch.

In the subsequent three seasons (including the present one) his rate has dropped right off to an average of 65%. In other words, he has missed more than a third of our EPL games in the past three years.

He is our captain and our best player. Can we really afford to have him absent for so many important games? Hard and wrenchful though it would be to see him go, might we not be better with star players who can turn out in most games?

Well, here’s another statistic that might give pause to the minority of Arsenal supporters who claim they would be happy to see Cesc depart this summer.

This season, in all competitions, our win percentage when Cesc started has been 62%.

In games where Cesc didn’t start, our win percentage was 46%.

That’s pretty clear: we win significantly more games when Cesc is on the team sheet. If he goes to Barca (or elsewhere) during the close season, Arsene Wenger is going to have to think long and hard about how he makes up for that loss in quality.

So there you have it.

On the one hand Cesc’s increasing susceptibility to injury might make his departure less damaging than it might seem; on the other, the fact that we are considerably more effective with him in the team should be a cause for real concern if he goes.

RockyLives


Time to break up the Northern Mafia

May 20, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

It has been a troubling few weeks for us all as Arsenal fans, unfortunately it has led to navel gazing and infighting which is unhealthy for the club and its supporters. So today I aim to give us something to unite in anger against.

After another particular raw deal from the man in the middle I decided to have a bit more of a look at our Select Group of Referees. I must admit I was shocked, presently fourteen of the sixteen select group referees hail from the northern counties. For sake of clarity I drew a line across the country from the Wash to the Severn above the line Northern Monkeys below the line Southern Softies.

The Select Group of Referees started in 2001, in that year the split of north and south was even, and stayed this way until 2004 when the split started to move to the North until we end up in this current situation. Over this time it is undoubtable that we have been on the end of some good and bad decisions. Who can forget Graeme Poll giving the thumbs up for Thierry to take the quick free kicks which caused all kind of fuss.

More recently as the Northern drift has occurred we seem to be getting less and less decisions in our favour. This season for example we have had young Anthony Taylor from Manchester turn down appeals for a penalty against Sunderland in a key game for us this season. All I’m asking is for a small amount of balance. The referees raised in the North appear to enjoy the rough and tumble tactics applied by the more robust teams of the Premier League. It would also appear that they favour their own.

As the geographical shift of referees has occurred, we have also witnessed a shift in the location of the competing clubs. In 2001 the split between north and south was eleven to nine, this is now more uneven fourteen to six. The time has come to stop the rot, we need to see some more balance brought to the Select Group of Referees. I have had a look through the football league referee group to see whether there are many from the South. The good news is there are quite a few referees in the National List who come from the South, however there is one that I would like to say now even though he is from the South should never be allowed to referee in the Premier League.

His name is Darren Deadman and he is listed as from Cambridgeshire, there are a couple of reasons I would not like to see him progress. The first is from memory I am sure he supports the clowns in N17. The second is a bit more personal. Not that I am one to hold a grudge. Eighteen years ago I was goalkeeper and captain of my school first eleven. Mr Deadman had left our school a few years earlier and was already doing his referee training (having given up being a goalkeeper). At the end of every year the Teachers would play the First XI, as long as I had been at the school the pupils had never won the match. With the pupils leading 2-1 with a minute to go Mr Deadman awarded a penalty against me for an innocuous push on the opposition Centre Forward, he smiled as he gave the decision and clearly he did not want my team to beat the teachers and achieve where his generation had failed. Thankfully I saved the penalty. To this day I have never forgiven him for the blatant cheating, and therefore never want to see him progress, like I say I’m not one to hold a grudge. So apart from D. Deadman (Cambridgeshire) could we please have a few more referees from the South in the Select Group please.


Arsenal Obsessive and Compulsive.

May 19, 2011
 Written by mickydidit89
 
Let me begin with a rather unsavoury tale.

I used to live in the Ladbroke Grove area, and in the supermarket there was quite often a fifty something year old man in full schoolboy kit. Cap, shorts, blazer, the works, and I always felt it was reasonable to ask questions, and that I could make cautionary assumptions. However, perhaps it was nothing more than a perfectly innocent obsession with his childhood rather than a full blown case for Nurse Pratchett. I don’t know, but I have a nasty feeling that I am developing a certain illness of my own.

You see I am now considering buying my first ever replica top. Yip, a uniform all of my own. Naturally it will be the Toffs ’71 as I am not totally beyond some level of reasonable taste. Of course over the years I have bought stuff. The autograph book, pins and badges, the wallet and so on. Now bearing in mind that I started following The Arsenal back at the tail end of the rattle and rosette era, I am really trying not to be too stuffy about this, which  brings me on to the whole idea of middle aged men in replica shirts. Midlife crisis is putting this mildly. Or is it? Have I finally shed the shackles of modesty and ego? Have I come to realise that I am not the strong minded individual I like to think I am and that I am caving in to my innate tribal instincts. Time to let myself go and let it all hang out perhaps. I have not begun to decide when and where I am going to wear this garment. At home is clearly a Green Light, but outside in front of strangers. The home games. I really don’t know.

 How far is it ok to go. Let us suppose it is August and the temp is in the late 90’s. The Top, yes. Casual shorts…maybe. Now make those shorts white and the socks red and I believe we have a problem. You see there are limits.

What I am really getting at is how far do we take this obsession before there is an “issue”? Reliving the Magic of ’89 has become ridiculous. I do this on a regular basis with one of my children on our hallowed turf. He is Lukic and Smith, I am Dixon and Thomas. You know the rest. There is the ball out from Lukic. We then both “come streaming forwards” in what must surely be our last attack.  There is a “good ball by Dixon to find Smith”. Smith in turn “finds Thomas” who is “charging through the midfield” just before the finale when our little performance becomes “up for grabs”. The fact that I know these words inside out, and have done for the past twenty two years, when I cannot remember the finer details of a very important business meeting yesterday afternoon says an alarming amount about this obsession.

Now throw into my own little equation a costume and what have I become? A middle aged fantasist who is into uniforms and role play. “Nurse Pratchett!”


So where do we go from here?

May 18, 2011

Another season draws to a close. A season that had begun with the fans believing anything was possible is ending with blatant dissatisfaction among many of the supporters and a vociferous  angry minority demanding the departure of Wenger.

As a long-term supporter, it is difficult not to be amused by the appearance of the gathering anger clouds. A storm in a Carling or FA cup perhaps. In today’s money driven football world, both of these competitions are regarded as second-rate by the top cubs. Somehow, despite lacking the prestige  of years past,  they have assumed an importance in supporters minds far in excess of their actual worth.  A pot is a pot in the fans eyes;  whilst any pot other than the league or CL is insufficient return on investment as far as the board is concerned.

So what do we think the directors require of Arsene Wenger? Well, the Champions League is of course where it’s at, anything else is nowhere. Top four in the premiership is the specific target, first would be nice, top three preferable, but top four critical and non negotiable. Miss that and unless you win the CL itself, the manager’s position might just become less secure.

So how to achieve that? A squad reorganisation is inevitable, two or three players in, with probably half a dozen or more moved on from a mixture of,  the first team squad, loanees and reserves. Some big names I fear will be among those that leave, as Arsene raises the money to refresh the squad from outside.

We all have our ideas as to who should come and go and the shopaholic’s fury will know no bounds if in their enlightened opinion insufficient money is made available, to fulfill their expectations. After all, they will say, ticket prices have gone up and the debt gone down and yet,  the board,  still pleads poverty.

Expect then, demands from this section of the clubs supporters that we must enthusiastically embrace our Red and White Russian. Who is not only  the companies second biggest shareholder, but  has again this week reiterated his earnest desire to strengthen the squad, by making sufficient money available immediately, to provide Arsene with the financial clout to compete on more equal terms for  the big new players, in the upcoming close season bunfight. These  players are the stuff of  fans dreams at present, necessary as they see it for the success they crave, but way beyond our reach in the current scheme of things.

The price for our Knight in shining armours largesse?  Just the seat on the board he feels his investment deserves.  And why not? After all, he is, according to the Sunday Times rich list, the second richest man in the country. Why, they will say, don’t we take his money as others have done and are doing from their foreign benefactors? The antipathy of the board towards both that suggestion and the gentleman concerned will lead to interesting times I feel.

Strange then that not so long ago Kroenke our new American owner himself was told he was not welcome by our illustrious chairman and now owns 62% of the shares and a seat on the board. So the board itself faces a fight from without it seems  and how that will turn out is anybody’s guess.

The upcoming transfer window will, I think, be hectic, as our main rivals spread their millions around. The challenge for them all, is the same as ours, a top four minimum finish with the financial rewards it generates and the self-sufficiency that brings.

With the added proviso of course, that  for City and Chelski it is a little different, as winning the CL is the  avowed personal goal of their owners for which they are prepared to pay regardless of cost.

This is not to say that Arsene and the board do not want to win it. Of course they do, desperately, but must do so within the confines of a sustainable budget and with an eye for the financial future.

Not what most fans want to hear I fear. But regardless of the propaganda the club’s publicity department feeds to the market place, the bottom line is, like it or not, that it happens to be the truth.

Written by dandan