Pick your team versus Cologne

July 21, 2011

It seems that Arsenal supporters have gone quiet at this testing time, either because they are biting their tongues in the hope that we will be surprised by some unexpected quality signings or because their faith in the management leaves them in no doubt that Le Boss will weave his magic and everything will be fine come the start of next season.

Luckily we have a game of football ahead to act as a distraction from the growing tension of the Cesc saga (he’s all but gone let’s face it) and the results of what Gazidis describes as being ‘very active’ in the transfer market.

It’s a couple of days away, but there is a game in Cologne on Saturday afternoon. This will be another chance to see how the team will set up and how new players are fitting in. Hopefully we’ll see Gervinho play but I expect Cesc to have not recovered from his little injury. Will Nasri play? After Mancini’s announcement that he expects to sign Samir by the end of the month maybe he too will be a ‘leeetle bit short’ for this game.

If we lose Cesc and maybe Nasri, will we still be able to compete for a whole season and finish near the top of the Premiership?

Take the opportunity to pick from those who we know will be available and let’s see if we have a side that can not only beat Cologne, but can maintain our extraordinary run of top four finishes under Arsène Wenger?


My Arsenal Prediction Will Come True… One Year Late

July 20, 2011

OK, this is a bit of a risk.

Chin up, deep breath, clench buttocks: here we go… no, hang on a minute – unclench buttocks (it’s making me want to wee a little). That’s better. Now, for real this time, here we go:

The EPL Player of the Year for the 2011/12 season will be…

Andrey Arshavin.

Before you laugh, shout or go back to Teenage Latin Lovelies, let me point out that, at Arsenal, there is a precedent for what you might call the delayed prediction.

At the start of the 2002/3 season Arsène Wenger proclaimed that his team were capable of going a whole season unbeaten.

Most people were highly skeptical about this suggestion and some were brutal in their ridicule. They said that in the modern age, with so many demands on the top teams from so many competitions, it could never be done.

Arsenal failed to win the EPL that season, finishing five points behind Manchester United. Many of Arsène’s critics remembered his “unbeaten” comments from back in August 2002. In fact Arsene had been careful not to say that his players would go through the season without experiencing defeat. He merely said that they could.

Most journalists ignored that subtle difference and took joy in pointing out that, far from going unbeaten, Arsène’s men had lost six times in the league that season.

The following year Arsène (and we) had the last laugh. The Invincibles went unbeaten for 38 games, history was made and those same reporters who had been ridiculing Le Boss 12 months earlier were suddenly writing breathless articles about whether this was the best team ever to grace the English top flight (it was).

In a nutshell Arsène had been right with his prediction, but just a little premature – and which of us hasn’t had that problem once in a while?

Which brings us back to our diminutive Russki.

Now I would hardly wish to compare myself with our esteemed manager, but a year ago I predicted that Andrey would be the Player of the Season. Not just for us, but for the whole EPL.

It’s fair to say that that prediction was quite spectacularly wrong. Despite a tidy goal return and an excellent assist record Arshavin had, at best, a mediocre season. Perhaps even a poor one for someone with his talents.

Regardless of the stats, we fans could see that the little Leningrader was often peripheral to the action; he frequently lost possession and seldom tracked back. And some us thought that, well, he had been overdoing the borscht a bit. He may have been only a few pounds overweight, but when you’re the size of a mouse that’s going to show.

But what if, like Arsène, I have come up with the right prediction at the wrong time? What if I’m proved correct – a year later on.

I happen to think it’s possible, and here’s why.

  • First, no-one can question Andrey’s innate footballing talents. He is rightly regarded as one of the most skilful players in the world. If you doubt me, go to YouTube and take another look at his four-goal performance against Liverpool.
  • Second, after some rough treatment from the fans during last season, I thought he really sorted out his effort and work ethic in the last part of the campaign. His tracking back and tackling earned many a resounding cheer in those later games (when there was not much else to cheer about). I think it finally began to dawn on him that English fans don’t approve of ‘luxury’ players who don’t pitch in when the opposition have the ball.
  • Third, although Russia’s inability to make the World Cup last summer should have meant he would come back to Arsenal fully rested and fired up to succeed, in fact I think it was a serious blow to his morale. He was his country’s captain and the failure weighed heavily on him.
  • Fourth, in pre-season this year he looks slimmer and sharper and, while other illustrious members of the team seem to be searching for the escape tunnel, he has been talking a good game.
  • Fifth, if Cesc goes to Barcelona (as I believe he will) it could be the making of Andrey. The style of play we created to maximize Cesc’s talents meant that the Russian really was peripheral – in the literal sense. He was pushed to the left of the field and forced to play as a winger. Without Cesc I expect him to get the chance to play more centrally, possibly in the Dennis role or with a greater roving brief – and that will enable his gifts to bear more fruit.

I can’t imagine many of you will agree with me, and I fully understand why. The question is, was last season evidence of his powers beginning to wane (and his performances for Russia arguably support this theory)? Or was it an aberration, caused in part by the crushing disappointment of not getting his country to the 2010 World Cup?

We shall see.

OK, I’ve got my tin hat on – over to you.

RockyLives


The Winds of Change

July 19, 2011

At last we have played some football and wonder of wonders a new wind of optimism seems to be blowing through the blogs after the most excruciating month of self-flagellation I can remember in 60 odd years following the Arsenal. From learning to read the match reports of Desmond Hackett : he of the Brown Bowler hat: on the back page of my fathers Daily Express, to watching Nubile young ladies sensationalise each and every action on Sky Sports News.

Incidentally we talk of fiddled expenses today, dear old Desmond used to bill the paper for a new Bowler every month, and was so wrapped in his own PR, he would, whenever he was at the airport arrange for a tannoy message to be put out calling him to take a phone call at the information desk, thereby making sure he was seen by his public. Eat your heart out Mourinho you were not the first special one, though in passing I must admit I would rather have met Georgie Thompson than him: Sorry I digress

In all that time never have I known such bitter recriminations over a season past and opportunities lost, as have characterised this one. But now the players are back on the field I do detect a change on-line, sure the press persist with their silly transfer roundabout, but among those that matter, the fans. There seems to be an acceptance that losing Cesc and Samir would be a blow but not a fatal one. We have the wherewithal to get by and move onwards and upwards, because losing them would cost someone a lot of money.

Watching a very calm Arsène being interviewed in Asia, this observer gets the distinct feeling that should the worst happen he is prepared and has his plan B in place, that the money as usual will not be wasted, his targets are identified. Gazidas has since that interview also gone on record to declare that the board is happy with the planning and the firm stance on Cesc and Samir in that they wish both to stay and are prepared to take the loss on Samir if they do.

Should this prove to be nothing but an aggressive marketing ploy however, it matters not, as the result of failing to hold onto them can only mean a significant cash inflow and despite the implacable stance of some seasoned fans that the board will not make this money available to AW, my belief is to the contrary given our financial position is so much more favourable than in seasons past.

If Cesc. does go, it could  well be the making of Samir, enabling him to play in the middle of the park for a year as he does for France,  unless of course the Arsenal  do decide to let the obscenely stupid city money lure him away.  Unlikely as that maybe before January, which is when Samir with the ball firmly in his court,will probably take stock and make his decision as a free agent whether he stays or goes.

In the meantime AW’s carefully scouted and identified generation of  new players designed to marry with the gifted young players we already have will begin to arrive and strengthen the squad.

Frimpong, Theo, Ramsey, TV back from Injury, hopefully Rio and a whole galaxy of others, will be added too, with new players with league, maybe even PL experience joining in the next month. Creating the kind of optimistic buzz around the Emirates we have not felt for some time.

Other old ‘uns like me will remember Harold Macmillan in years gone by saying a wind of change is blowing through Africa and by golly did it. That same wind is now I think about to hit the Emirates. Brought on by new players and a strengthened squad, a potent mix of youth, ambition, experience and desire among the existing players to put right the wrongs of yesterday and shove the often underserved criticisms of the simplistic consumers (how I love that description) who masquerade in dark corners as fans and pour their vitriol out into the blogosphere, down their throats. That is not to say all was sweetness and light in the camp, of course it wasn’t, nor was it beyond the compass of real fans to say we got it wrong, but we are the Arsenal and as in times past we will come again.

I happen to believe that this is the year and the gentle breeze rippling through the blogs could well become a hurricane of joy for the real fans and untold bragging rights for those that feel the need to have them.

Written by dandan


Pique Slams Barca Team Mates For Constant Cesc Talk

July 18, 2011

Barcelona’s Gerard Pique has lashed out at his team mates over their attempts to unsettle Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.

The furious 24-year-old Spain international told the Spanish newspaper Sport: “We must leave Cesc in peace and let things run their course.”

His midfield colleague Xavi was the latest Barcelona player to go public about Fabregas earlier this week, earning a stinging rebuke from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Other players from the Blaugranes to have made unprompted comments include Andres Iniesta, Dani Alves and Pedro Rodriguez.

Even the mayor of Fabregas’ home town got in on the act this week, suggesting the Arsenal stalwart had been ‘kidnapped’ by his club.

Many observers see the barrage of comments as an orchestrated campaign by Barcelona FC to unsettle Fabregas and force Arsenal to sell him at under his market value.

There is growing speculation that the blatant nature of the campaign is alarming the European game’s top echelons, with UEFA preparing to step in to remind Barcelona of their responsibilities. If the Catalans ignore the warning sanctions could follow.

Rounding on his colleagues Pique said: “Any player suffers when there’s so much talk about his future.”

He added that although Barcelona’s players had always talked with respect, their comments were damaging the Arsenal number four and they should stop immediately.

End of news story.

Note to Readers:

This story accurately uses the same quotes that were used in yesterday’s coverage of Pique’s remarks.

It’s quite clear that while Pique was offering a partial defence of Xavi, he was also saying that his team mates should stop talking about Cesc.

Strangely the British press chose only to focus on the former interpretation, with not a mention of Pique’s “shut up” message to his fellow players.

A typical headline was “Pique defends Xavi comments” (ITV Football).

There’s a simple reason for that. The media has decided that Arsenal are in crisis, that Fabregas and Nasri are going and that “big” players don’t want to join us.

Once their pack mentality kicks in, they willfully ignore facts that contradict this over-riding narrative (such as the second half of Pique’s comments). In fact, once Fleet Street decides on its narrative it’s harder to turn than a supertanker.

If you want further evidence, just look at the garbage written by Sam Wallace in The Independent, under the headline “Jagielka snub shows Arsenal’s fading appeal.”

Regulars will know I have banged on about this a lot, but it really does my head in.

And by writing the Pique story the way it could quite reasonably have been presented with exactly the same facts, I hope it will go some small way towards helping Arsenal fans realise they should pay less attention to what they read. Most of it is made up and the rest is twisted to suit whatever agenda the journalists and their paymasters want.

Ignore the bullsh*t. Wait for the facts.

RockyLives


Nasri or £20million?

July 17, 2011

The question is clearly a gross oversimplification of the complex chain of negotiations involved in football transfers, but many supporters are prepared to believe that Arsène Wenger means what he says and intends to keep Samir Nasri whether he signs a contract extension or not.

Personally I find it hard to believe that the club would let him go on a free in a year’s time when he could add £20m (or thereabouts) to the coffers this summer.

Even so,  if we accept AW’s assertion that Nasri is going nowhere is true, let’s examine the pros and cons on the assumption that he does not intend to sign a new contract with Arsenal.

Pros if Nasri stays

  • We would have the services of a top player who has been an integral part of our midfield for another year.
  • He could be the difference between us qualifying for the CL or not and the money earned by doing so outweighs the loss of a selling fee.
  • We would not be weakening ourselves and strengthening one of our top four rivals by allowing him to go to manu or city.
  • We would be sending out an important message to the football world that we won’t be bullied.

Cons if Nasri stays

  • We would forego a selling fee reported to be in the region of £20m
  • Hopefully we will still have Cesc in addition to Song, Wilshere and Ramsey. Add to that Arshavin, Diaby, Walcott, Rosicky and possibly Frimpong and it would appear that we have an abundance of midfielders.
  • He could pick up an injury and miss a large chunk of the season.
  • What if he can’t motivate himself such is his disappointment at not being allowed to leave?

Opinions seem to be divided on the issue. I’d be interested to know what the groundswell of opinion among supporters is so please feel free to express your preference by participating in the poll below. The results are open for all to see by clicking on ‘View Results

False premise

It is entirely possible that all the speculation is based on a false premise. The exercise is purely hypothetical and the whole furore may have just been engineered by Nasri’s negotiating team to get him the best deal possible. Many will say “sell him as long as we spend the money to buy a top player (defender)”.

I think the only two alternatives the club should consider are:

We do everything to encourage him to stay including a sizeable pay rise and repeatedly tell the world he is not for sale

or,

We sell him even if it is to a top four rival.

A possible outcome could be that he signs a new contract with a buy-out clause that allows him to leave in a year’s time. This way both parties retain their dignity and Arsenal will get a good price in addition to his services for one more year.

The idea of  a ‘gentleman’s agreement as a form of  ‘contract’ seems to have arisen from the circumstances surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo’s exit from manu. We all know the famous Samuel Goldwyn quote regarding verbal contracts.

I don’t think any top club has ever admitted to striking such a deal which would rely on honour and integrity, both of which are in short supply in the Premiership as Mancini  graphically demonstrated only yesterday. Buy-out clauses (often ludicrously high) are common and may be the norm in contracts with the top players so I would expect any new contract signed by Nasri to include an exit strategy.

I want to keep him and keep him happy. Cesc will almost certainly go back to Barca some time in the next few years and the future of Arsenal’s central midfield may well be in the capable hands of Wilshere and Ramsey, but for the timebeing I want to retain the artistry and experience of Nasri but not at the cost of £20m for one season – that’s too high a price.


Arsenal’s Acupuncture Remedy

July 16, 2011

Written by Carlito11

Feeling gloomy about the Cesc/ Nasri tabloid furore and our end of season capitulation? Worried we may not sign a “big name” or even the experienced leader we need? Feel like slitting your wrists that we could end up playing Bayern Munich in the Champions League Qualifiers?

Well here’s the thing, since watching our team with a sprinkling of new blood turn out to great fanfare and support in Malaysia, none of the above are remotely near the forefront of my mind. In fact, optimism has been born anew, less out of any logical sequence of thought but more out of just the pure buzz of having our football team back- Jack’s biting challenges and ghosting forward runs, Ramsey’s vision and undoubted goal scoring instinct, Vermaelen’s precision at winning the ball back and all the excitement I feel at Walcott playing in a more central role and Ryo Miyaichi giving his full back a headache.

This is the stuff! Not the transfer window. Not the merits of financial deals. Not the never-ending and ultimately unresolvable hypothetical arguments about Usmanov, David Dein or what if we had kept big Pat for another season or two. None of this is why I love my club. The passion of the fans in Malaysia was infectious- the youtube vids of them singing OUR songs and cheering on our boys was the simple pleasure we all once felt- pride in the colours and values of the club and excitement at seeing them play.

Today we play again in China. I’ll be on the road and unable to watch it and I am actually sad about it! I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to watch a pre-season game more! My Arsenal is back and the media side show is just that now- no longer my only sustenance.

Come On You Rip Roaring Gunners!


Arsenal Supporters Anonymous – The Twelve Steps

July 15, 2011

Written by chas

1.  We admitted we were powerless over Arsenal Football Club – but that our lives had become unmanageable without it.

2.  Came to believe that a Football Club greater than any individual could restore us to unity.

3.  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the adoration of Dennis Bergkamp as we understood him.

4.  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves as supporters of our beloved team.

5.  Admitted to Patrick Vieira, to ourselves and to anyone else willing to listen the exact nature of how wrong it is to support the spuds.

6.  Were entirely ready to have Thierry Henry remove all our defects as supporters.

7.  Humbly asked Robert Pires to remove our shortcomings as worshippers.

 

(Haha, looking for pictures of Bobby, I came across this… what a cracker!)

8.  Made a list of all players we had unjustly criticised, and became willing to amend our opinions of them all.

9.  Made direct amends to such players wherever possible, except when to do so would fly in the face of all that is sane.

10.  Continued to take personal inventory of our opinions about the squad and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

11.  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with the footballing gods as we understood them, praying only for knowledge of their wishes for the team and their power to influence dodgy referees.

12.  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Arsenal supporters worldwide and to spread these principles at every game we watched or attended.


This is my Church, this is where I heal my hurt

July 14, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Some of you will know the above line as a lyric from a song. If any lyric could reflect my existence on this planet that is it. It has two meanings for me, one is in the middle of a music crowd, the most important is in the middle of the red and white army.

Maybe I am suffering from a dose of ‘rosetintedglassitis’ here, if so, I hope I am not alone.

I remember a time when there wasn’t twenty-four hour rolling news, let alone twenty-four hour rolling sports news, a dedicated sports radio station and print media as obsessed with back page stories as they are front page news, when I arrived at Highbury and picked up my programme it was the first bit of inside information I had seen all week, the team sheet would be the first clue of injuries. As I took my place on the terraces I didn’t know what was in store, I certainly hoped for a good result, but expect it, demand it? How could I? I was just a fan there for ninety minutes of respite from my life ninety minutes when nothing else mattered.

Why is any of this important? Simply put I have never felt an atmosphere around the club like I felt at the end of the last season.

Some will say it is justified to be so vocal in dissatisfaction, and that if we the fans do not air our views the Board, Manager and Players won’t know exactly how we feel. Unfortunately it is this airing of these views that led to scuffles between our own support, something I have never witnessed before between our fans.

My default position is to defend the club, this is usually from attack from outsiders. More often these days it I am defending the club from mutineers within. It probably gets me classified as a certain type of fan, or I am viewed to have no ambition, that I believe the “second is success” line. None of that is true, I just don’t care about trophies as much as I care about the experience of supporting my club. Win, lose or draw I have a great time, obviously its better when we win, but its football you can’t always win there has to be a loser, you pay your money and you get what you’re given. Its never been any different, sometimes it gives you Steve Morrow, sometimes it gives you Gus Caesar.

I fear that some of us may have forgotten why we support this club. Do we follow the club because we demand wins or because we want to win?

This coming season that lyric seems more relevant than ever, not just to me, but for the entirety of our support, it is time for us fans to heal our hurts to reunite as one in support for our club. Forget the manager, forget the players, forget the board, remember why we are all here, to support our club, whether hereditary or because of what it stands for you and I chose this club, we chose The Arsenal, we give it our support unconditionally, don’t we?

Victoria Concordia Crescit – Victory Comes From Harmony


Arsenal’s Transfer Plans Decoded

July 13, 2011

Never mind what the newspapers say or what “inside sources” claim to know, there’s only one sure way to determine which of our supposed transfer targets have a realistic chance of joining Arsenal.

I refer, of course, to the arcane art of the anagram.

Mystics have long believed that rearranging the letters of a person’s name can reveal hidden truths about them and their destiny.

So it’s no surprise that Maggie Thatcher converts easily intoThat grim EEC hag”; or that Tony Blair PM isI’m Tory Plan B and President Boris Yeltsin becameIsn’t one terribly pissed?”

So, with this in mind, I have run a few of our alleged targets through the anagram scrambler and the results are quite revealing.

For example, it becomes obvious that Gervinho was always going to be coming to N5 once you realise his anagram is In H. Grove”.

Likewise there’s no chance of us ever signing Kevin Doyle because, quite simply, he is anEvil Donkey.” Not that we needed an anagram scrambler to figure that one out.

And Jermain Defoe –No Jedi, Me Fear – was always a non-starter. With only three league goals last season the Force was definitely not with little Jermain.

However the powers of anagram are capricious and don’t always make things so clear cut. I’m in two minds about what their insights tell us about Per Mertesacker, the big German defender. As aPecker Streamer does that mean he’s a long streak of p*ss? Or does it mean he’s going to p*ss all over the opposition? Tough one. Maybe he’s just got an STD.

No such ambiguity with Christopher Samba, I’m afraid.Chamber Pot’s Hairs tells it’s own story. He may be a big strong centre back, but if he joins us he’ll be as welcome as a pube on a toilet seat.

Nor is young Dutch defender Jan Vertonghen coming to us, as his anagram makes clear:No have Jnr gent.”

Gary Cahill on the other hand gives you everything you want from a central defender. We often talk about needing a CB who is a tower of strength, a man mountain, rock solid at the back. Well, Gary isA Hilly Crag and that’s good enough for me.

And if we need some back-up to come off the bench when Alex Song gets hurt, there is an intriguing possibility in the shape of AS Saint-Etienne’s Blaise Matuidi, whose letters unscramble to revealA timid sub? A lie! Fierce substitutes – that’s what we want.

Finally, to add some goal threat, how about Wigan’s Hugo Rodallega? Is his anagram –Good large haul,” a hint that he would win the Golden Boot if he joined us? Hard to tell. Maybe he’s just a prolific angler in his spare time.

Anyway, given that it’s well known how Arsene Wenger leaves nothing to chance in his preparations, I have little doubt that he devotes an hour a day to analysing the results of his official AFC anagram scrambler, pondering over the hidden meanings of results such as:

Wayne Rooney – Nan Were Yoyo

John Terry – Re JT: Horny

Nemjana Vidic – Maniac Jived

Dani Alves – Anal Dives

If you have got this far, thankyou for humouring me with this untypical post. Sometimes the seriousness of everything is such a drag that one tries to lighten the mood.

And I have no doubt that if you’re so inclined you can easily outdo my anagrams in the comments below…

SickyLover

Note from admin:

It is likely that the site stats will pass a million hits today. How befitting that we celebrate this landmark with another brilliantly amusing and innovative post from RockyLives. Thanks to all the great authors and contribuors who have made Arsenal Arsenal such a success. COYRRG


Letter to El Capitan: Cesc Fabregas

July 12, 2011

 Barca might want you, but Arsenal need and love you, and that is all you need!

Cesc, did you read Sandro Rosell’s comment regarding your possible transfer last week: “let things run their course and hope they go in our favour”? How do you feel about Barca’s unwillingness to meet Arsenal’s apparantly more than reasonable asking price of £40m in one go? Barcelona seem to be in no rush whats-o-ever to sign you, to make you part of their team in this crucial period of preparation for the new season, and why so? Maybe, because they only want you, but do not really need you, and certainly do not seem to love you – like really, really love you. You know what I mean: that sort of possessive, mad love that makes people jump through seemingly impossible hoops to get you, to make you theirs: to do whatever needs to be done, pay the necessary price and subsequent sacrifices, so they can bring you back home where you once belonged.

I read somewhere recently, I think it was in ‘Fraction of the Whole’ by Steve Toltz, that once you actively take a distance from certain people, they will soon double that distance between you and them. This, I find very true and you might well find, Cesc, that the people of Barcelona have also doubled the distance that you once decided to take from them, when you decided to leave your hometown and –club. At Arsenal, you are not only wanted, but also needed and loved. That is three out of three – it does not get any better than that: can you say the same about Barcelona?

What you have done for this club is immense, from a sporting point of view, but also from a gentleman’s point of view.You have handled this situation impeccably: you made it clear you would like to return to Barcelona, and we the fans understand this: how could we deny a man such a wish?! You always behaved with restraint, full of respect for the club and the fans. In this day and age, it is heart-warming to see such behaviour, and whatever you will decide to do you will always have a place in the hearts of the fans.

But Cesc, you are so close to success with Wenger’s latest version of Total Football. Patience is running thin, understandably so. We are all frustrated to have been so close to silverware last season, and yet it all slipped away, again. But, Vermaelen is back, Ramsey is back, Wilshire is fully rested and ready for battle again, and so are Song, Koscielny, Djourou, Arshavin, Sagna, Theo, Chamakh, Robin, Szczesny, and maybe Nasri as well. Wenger has promised to strengthen further our defence, and seems to be keen to buy one or two wingers to add some more bite to our team. Gervinho has just been confirmed as our latest new signing – who looks like a winger to me – and Wenger has said that he will add one or two more players this summer.

Cesc, you should be part of the impending successes, you should be the leader of the last push towards cups and accolades: if you stay with us, you could be on your way to football-immortality.

If you do decide to go, then your decision will be respected. But please Cesc, give it one more thought and do not only think about what you are likely to gain back home, but also what you are likely to lose. Arsenal will make the final push, sooner or later, with or without you. But you deserve to be part of this: you worked so hard for it during the last seven years. Leaving Arsenal now, could become the biggest regret of your life.

TotalArsenal.