What is Really Happening at Arsenal?

August 22, 2011

Written by Kelsey

I think a reality check is needed and between us we should try to fathom out what is going wrong at the club. Figures don’t lie and we have won just 2 of our last 13 PL games, which would have been inconceivable in February. Fabregas leaving is going to be a huge miss, and though not replaceable like for like we have had the best part of this year knowing he would leave to find another player as a world-class playmaker.

(Did Arsene know?)

Injuries have been another key factor. Other clubs get injuries but we have a number of players who can hardly string together half a dozen games together in a row before being injured again. Wenger has admitted that on occasions he plays players who are not fully fit – because we don’t have a balanced squad of players some of whom simply aren’t good enough.

Having watched the Liverpool game again I get the feeling that the many fans have accepted that this might turn out to be a disastrous season for the club. Personally I believe with the players available (Kos is out) we will probably lose in Italy and have absolutely no chance at United. I may be proved wrong but the omens don’t look good.

I ask you how many players in our present squad providing they are fully fit and committed and in form would automatically be on the team sheet (I am assuming Nasri is leaving.)

RVP, Sagna, Vermaelen, Wilshere, possibly Gervinho and Szesney, but that’s all.

Kos is improving, Djourou another one who is injury prone and at best is a back up and Squillacci is a disaster. Song is inconsistent. Diaby,Gibbs and Rosicky are injury prone. Arshavin and Chamakh are woefully out of form and have been for months. Walcott just flits in and out of games and is at best a cameo player. Ramsey, Frimpong and Jenkinson will come good but need mentoring and to expect them to play at the highest level at this time is a big ask. Miguel and Lansbury come below the list starting with Ramsey. Traore,Vela and Bendtner are going or are going out on loan
Not fair to comment on Oxlade-Chamberlain as he hasn’t played yet.

So it doesn’t make happy reading.Will one or two signings  make much difference ?

Confidence is at the lowest for years, apart from Vermaelen and a fit Wilshere no one to drive the team on and I am really concerned.
The Emirates is no fortress as seen these last two seasons so home advantage for some reason is not as it should be.
Plenty of questions, but at this moment very few answers.

It would be nice to hear the truthful agenda from Kroenke and Gazidis otherwise known as the Chuckle brothers. Gazidis wants to broaden the name of Arsenal,hence the Far East tour, but surely he should get his priorities in order and deal with our immediate needs by sorting out transfers be they in or out, or is Wenger responsible for that.

PS : This is just my opinion and has no bearing on my support, it’s just doesn’t make sense to me. I take positives with negatives but there is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion which I know many will disagree with.

In the past week AW has been quoted as saying Cesc, Samir and Robin love the club, well so do I and I don’t understand why this is happening.

After writing this post this link appeared  and to me maybe very relevent.Those who want Wenger out should read it.

http://www.thefootballnetwork.net/main/s378/st170548.htm


Arsenal 0 Liverpool 2 – match report and player ratings

August 21, 2011

Written by Wonderman

Not much to write about today’s game, it was not much of a spectacle but still there were positives to be taken. I sat in the west stand today, behind the tv gantry and close enough to recognise Steve McManaman not too far away working for one of the tv channels. One thing that always pisses me off is when teams switch us around before kick off. Spurs were the first to do it a few seasons ago and Liverpool decided to do it today.

Prior to the match I was convinced this game had draw written all over it. As I took my seat the teams were lining up and some idiots took it upon themselves to boo Nasri when his number was called BEFORE  a ball had even been kicked, fortunately there were more sensible SUPPORTERS who cheered. The absence of Kieran Gibbs meant Bacary Sagna filled in at left-back. There were full debuts for Jenkinson at right-back and Frimpong in central midfield. The bench included Fabianski, Chamahk, Bendy, Lansbury, Miguel and Miyachi .

In the first half we were performing well enough without creating any chances of note, but it is here that we can improve without too much effort in my opinion. Walcott was being double banked every time he got the ball to feet. Surely common sense should have told the players either try to play it into space for him to run on to or go and support him. Ramsey also had a bad day at the office even before his own goal. I also fail to understand how Arshavin managed to come out for the second half as he contributed nothing to the first half.

We lost Laurent Koscielny to a back injury early which saw Miquel replace him and contributed to some nervous non threatening possession. Liverpool were seemingly happy to park their five man midfield and take a valuable point, and Vermy was keeping Carroll quiet.

The turning point of the game was the sending off of Emmanuel Frimpong. But again, anyone who has bothered to do a little research would know that Mr Atkinson likes red cards and penalties and our players should have been aware of that irrespective of how many games they have played.

Dalglish showed his street wisdom by bringing on Suarez to terrorise our backline with his speed and movement.  The goals Liverpool got were admittedly graced with luck: both appeared to be offside, the first one was the result of a calamitous own goal after Miquel’s clearance hit Ramsey and looped over the advancing Szczesny and the second at the death.  But with ten men and a defence of Sagna at left-back, Jenkinson at right-back, and Vermaelen and Miquel in the middle, with Vermy moved to the right hand side of the CB pairing it was always going to be difficult.

Ratings:

Szczesny – 8  Very calm and assured, omly 1 kick went astray pulled off a very good save to his left in the first half. This boy may take some shifting

Sagna – 7  tried his best on his ‘wrong’ side in the absence of a recognised left back

Kosser –  not on long enough to rate

Vermy – 9 Motm jeez have we missed him

Jenkinson – 7 committed, and willing to support, good engine and soldiered on even after getting what looked like cramp. But needs to work on his play when in possession

Miquel – 6.5  good range of passing but was understandably nervy.  Often passed back to the keeper aiding Liverpool to press us high up the pitch

Ramsey – 5 was erratic, passes went astray, didn’t track back with any urgency and had little penetration in his passing. Unfortunate with the own goal

Walcott  – 6 looking like a one trick pony but not helped by his team mates. If his pace was taken away he would not have been on the pitch today, not that his pace helped him. He will soon be eclipsed by Ryo

Arshavin – 4 abject, tricks didn’t come off, no work rate, no goal threat, no tracking back

Nasri – 7 decent shift under the circumstances and was pleased to see the supporters give him a boost when he came to take corners

Frimpong – 7.5 would have got 8.5 had he not been sent off, but this boy is the reason we are not going to buy a defensive midfielder, quick, powerful and aggressive. Once he controls that aggression he will be one hell of a player

Van P – 7  worked hard for the cause but very little service

Lansbury  – 6  didn’t really get into the game

Bendtner – not enough time to rate

A word of caution for a so called category A game there were plenty of empty sets at the Emirates today. I don’t know if it was the kick off time or something else

A word of praise to those fellow supporters who comprehensively drowned out the morons who started to chant ‘spend some …..’ and also reminded Nasri that the dissenters are still a minority. I’m beginning to see a nucleus of fighters in our team/squad. Vermy, Kosser, Frimpong, Van P, Lansbury with Song and Wilshere to add, that bodes well for the future.

Lets hope that we get all of our bad luck out of the way early


Undefeated run to continue? …. Liverpool Preview.

August 20, 2011

What will be today’s most prevalent discussion in the bars before the game today? Lack of signings and our injury problems. The signings may well arrive but once again we go into an early season game with a long injury list and a threadbare squad. I cannot recall us starting a season with a fully fit squad in many years – what is the point of pre-season training and friendlies if we are to lose players with such startling regularity?

We start our home PL campaign against a confident and resurrected Liverpool. A team which has had a fortune spent on it since the arrival of “King Kenny”. Look at their bench and compare it to ours today – which team looks prepared to compete for the title? This depresses me and many of our fans. It is cause for discontent. And yet I believe that even with our depleted first 11 we will give Liverpool a shock today.

Wenger has insisted upon playing the same system from youth level to the first team which has resulted in new players slotting into the first team with confidence. They have already spent much of their careers playing Wengerball, hence Frimpong’s impressive cameo on Tuesday evening. With Song paying for his stupidity young Frimpong is very likely to start today.

Back to the injuries – Rosicky, Gibbs, Traore (perhaps), Diaby, Wilshere, Djourou – all unlikely to play today.

Will Nasri play? He is in the squad (though we have named 19, so by now he could be out!). He must be fit having played for  France not so long ago. If he plays, how will the fans react? His departure though likely is not in any way certain. He could sign his contract and become an Arsenal great. Remember Rooney last season; one week about to sign for City, the next signs a long term contract at OT. It is unlikely that the Nasri situation will end with the same result – we will definitely not give Nasri €220k a week and nor should we. I would play him – we are paying his wages, so let him bloody earn them.

Liverpool are going to be a force this year. They have improved all over the pitch and what they have managed for the first time in many years is to create a team which does not rely on Gerrard. That they can have Stevie G injured and still have such a good player as Meireies on the bench bodes well for them. Thinking of MF’s, where is Joe Cole? And Aquilani?  The new signings have been expensive but good quality: Adams, Enrique, Carroll, Suarez, Henderson and Downing are all fine players, especially Suarez who looks “super quality.” This is a rejuvenated Liverpool.

An interesting afternoon looms for the defence. The bulk of Carroll and the darting runs of Suarez will test TV and Kos. The lack of an adequate left back will be a problem and I hope  AW can find a decent solution. Midfield is an area in which we will be seriously depleted and one can imagine Dalgleish expecting his team to completely dominate. Who would you play? This is my guess ……

Subs: Who knows!

My choice of Squillaci is because I do not believe it is wise to blood the very inexperienced Jenkinson out of his natural position. Squillaci is not the best but he remains an Arsenal player and is a defender! Perhaps Lansbury, Frimpong or Rasp could play LB and assist in us not being forced to play the Italian – only AW will know.

I have been googling for inventors born in Liverpool and all I can find is one Kenneth Dodd who invented something called the “tickling stick” sometime in the 1960’s.

It would be great to start with a win today and Arsenal are always best when facing adversity. Let’s hope this patched together team can pull off a surprise.

Key player? Arshavin. He likes scoring against the Scouse.

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Boring, boring Arsenal?

August 19, 2011

Written by TotalArsenal.

How tough has this summer been for us Gooners? It is not over yet. I cannot help it, but the transfer window activities during this summer remind me of Ravel’s Bolero. Unfortunately, this is not a reference to Bo Derek’s question – in the film ‘10’: ‘Did you ever do it to Ravel’s Bolero?’, and the subsequent erotic endeavours. No, this association is of a far less pleasant nature; every time we think we reached the crescendo during this transfer window, there is another turn of events – and our patience is being tested even more and our blood pressure is raised even higher. At this stage, we do not know how it will end, and yet the music keeps getting louder and louder.

The fat lady has sung re the departures of our midfielders Cesc and Nasri, but some very good/promising players have been signed as well. The fact is nobody knows exactly what is going on, and what’s more, what will happen next between now and the end of the transfer window – does Arsene?

On top of all the transfer actions, we have an incredibly demanding number of August fixtures: Newcastleaway (0-0), Udinese at home (1-0), Liverpoolat home, Udinese away, and the easiest one of all, Mancs away. You could not make it up! Boring, Boring Arsenal, hey?!

So many fellow Gooners have reached conclusions about Arsenal’s faith this season already. For them the Bolero has stopped, and the outlook is bleak. For me, and luckily for quite a few other Gooners, the crescendo is yet to come: and I am hoping for a hell of a climax. I am as frustrated at the process of our selling and buying of players as anybody else. But, you only have to look at AA’s list above of players ‘in’, ‘out’ or gone ‘on loan’, to realise that the BoD and Arsene have initiated a major, and very complex – from a negotiations’ point of view – change process.

I am amazed how little trust there has been in the BoD’s and Wenger’s plans and capability to achieve the best possible for our club this summer, although I do agree with comments made in the past – by the likes of Red Arse especially – that Arsenal’s PR activities towards the fans have been poor. The multi-facetted negotiations, involving high risks/many millions of pounds, and the complex strategies that are required with such a large programme of change, are the likely cause for the lack of communications regarding the BoD’s exact plan of action. However, Ivan Gazidis promised major transfer activities a few weeks ago, and I will not judge him and the Board until the TW has closed.

There has been so much negativity around that even the most weathered and resistant AA’ers have been affected by it. I am also not above this negativity, but am not yet willing to accept any defeatists’ views until the TW is firmly shut. Only then are we in position to analyse, and criticise or praise, what the BoD set out to do and achieved this summer; only then can we start to make projections of what will happen this season.

For me, it is absolutely inconceivable that we would let Fabregas and Nasri go, without reinvesting in a quality, ready-to-go, attacking central midfielder. I would also be very surprised if we were not to buy a fourth CB, so we can pick our two CB’s for every game from Koz, Vermaelen, Djourou and the new signing. This is the minimum I would expect us to buy before the end of the TW, and for me, it would be a worthy crescendo to this mad summer; anything on top of that – like a top-striker – would be even better. I have listened to Gazidis, and I have listened to Wenger and I believe they are capable and trustworthy people, who will deliver on their promises.

I am hoping, and yes EXPECTING, that this is the way it will go. My brain tells me this is what will happen, but my heart is not so sure. There is still a nasty and lingering doubt that it might not happen, or even worse: that Arsene is the last one to leave our club before the TW shuts. The critics might finally get Wenger’s scalp, and Arsenal have entered the dark ages again.

 

Let’s hope we get a 10 out of 10 ending to this most unusual and unpleasant transfer window a Gooner has ever had to witness.


You’ve only come to see Eboue.

August 18, 2011

Who has been my least favoured player over the last 3 seasons? Emmanuel Eboue. Who has been my favourite Gooner of the last 3 seasons? Emmanuel Eboue. And herein lies the conundrum. How could such a likeable man become so annoying when he got on the pitch?

We have had many discussions over the months about the efficacy of Emmanuel; what he brings or doesn’t bring to the team, but no-one has ever questioned his commitment to the cause. He swallowed the whole AFC cake, history, tradition, fandom and obsession. He become the totem at the club when not playing, greeted the players when they left the pitch, was the first to celebrate a goal, he has been a Gooner personified. BUT he was not paid to be a Gooner, he was paid a huge amount of money to be an effective footballer and it is this context that he let us down.

This is the man who invented the starfish – lying on the ground as though hit by a piece of 4 by 2. Staring at the ref, beseeching him to take action against the miscreant who was close enough to Eboue to allow him to dive. simulate. I hated his theatrics. I hated his lack of honesty – it was not and is not the Arsenal way. I also found his lack of end product immensely frustrating – for a man who can beat a player both with pace and tremendous skill, he should have had more assists. He has a wonderful engine, can get from box to box in seconds , can drift past opposition defenders with ease but to what effect? He never learned to cross accurately, find a man in the box, nor shoot on target. To be fair, he did become more disciplined in his last season and perhaps Galatasary have signed a bargain.

I was ashamed to be a Gooner when he got booed off the pitch having been brought on in a position he had never played in previously, no Arsenal player should be humiliated in such a manner that AW is forced to replace him. It was a night of shame for all true Arsenal fans. How did Eboue react? He manned up, put in more effort, more training, made himself popular again. Grounds all over the country resounded to “You’ve only come to see Eboue”, such was his resurrection as a player.

It was typical of EE’s luck that he left the club in the same week as someone else who has been hogging the limelight. Few words have been devoted to his 6 years of loyal service, it is a shame because he deserves so much more. This is not a Nasri whose love for the club can be measured in £’s, it is a man who sweated blood for a club he loves.

Eboue’s AFC career was blighted by injury and it was his ankle rather than his lack of talent that forced AW to sign Sagna as our first choice right back. He played 132 games for us and always gave his all, never hid despite the boo-boys, always played with a smile.

I wish him well at his new club, they have signed a Man, not a spoilt brat but some-one who knows how to overcome adversity with a wide, toothy grin.  Emmanuel Eboue is a clown but he is also a real Arsenal man, farewell and thank you.

Written by Big Raddy


A Continent of Discontent

August 17, 2011

As I write this, Arsenal Football Club stand on a precipice of doubt, a mountain range of negativity, a continent of discontent.

In comparison to last summer, we have been positively flying in the transfer market, signing so far no less than three first-team players with more promised. Gervinho, Jenkinson and Oxlade-Chamberlain (whose contract terms were agreed in January). We’ve seen Miyaichi gain his work permit and been earmarked for the first-team and players like Frimpong, Lansbury, Afobe all promoted to the first team fold.

But then, we are facing an exodus this summer never before seen at Arsenal under Arsene Wenger. A clear-out of almost epic proportions.

So far we’ve seen Jay Emmanuel Thomas, Gael Clichy, Cesc and Mark Randall amongst the players leaving the club with Clichy fleeing to the North-West’s answer to Chelski and it’s become Arsenal’s dumping ground of falling stars – Man Citeh. Bendtner, Almungo and Eboooooue are all looking for new clubs and are yet to be successful.

Amongst the comings and goings, we’ve endured the relentless and eventually successful pursuit of Cesc, our Captain, our little Spanish genius and the boy we had allegedly stolen/kidnapped from Barcelona. It’s been clear over the years that he has suffered from Stockholm Syndrome and fallen in love with Arsenal and us, Arsenal’s dedicated, loyal fans, his captors. Clearly he was hoodwinked into signing such long contracts with us and shame on Arsenal for tying their best player down on a long term deal and letting him pocket the signing on fee.

I refuse to be bitter towards Cesc, instead I revel in the wonderful things he has done for us on a week by week basis and I feel almost apologetic about the condition that we allow him to return to the Barcelona fold. His battered and bruised husk and dodgy hamstrings don’t sum him up as a man or as a player, but they might just determine the rest of his career.

In truth I hope not. I hope that he continues to have a wonderful career and completely out-shine Xavi and Iniesta so that everyone knows what a wonderful player he is.

Bless Arsene for trying again though, signing Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral Harper from Barcelona and accelerating them into the under-18s squad. I do hope we aren’t just setting ourselves up for a Groundhog day.

We’re also faced with the possible departure of Nasri, the mercurial French dribbler, whose quick feet, pace and determination made him a fan favourite and really stamped his authority in the first half of the season. He has a year left on his contract and it appears that we are struggling to tie him down (in the contractural sense, though perhaps a more literal application of the term might be appropriate to ensure the contract negotiations complete in a satisfactory manner).

Citeh have by all accounts tabled a bid or two and it is being considered. I do expect if we lose Cesc, which looks likely then I expect the board to throw a big deal on the table in front of Nasri to make him stay.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, after a pre-season littered with excellent first half performances and shattered by disjointed second halves the new players, Gervinho and Jenkinson have fitted in really well and I think they are assets to the squad. Gervinho has excellent pace and an ability to get in the right place at the right time. Jenkinson, a fresher, younger talent has the raw attributes to be an excellent right back in the mould of Lee Dixon. He’s strong, has a good range of passing and heads the ball well.

With the recent addition of Oxlade-Chamberlain we have an astonishing amount of players who can play out wide. With the promotions from within we have a veritable shedload of central midfielders too so if Bendtner leaves to get first team football our squad deficiencies are clear, we need a defender and we will need another striker.

Too many people write off Chamakh, who is a proven goal-scorer at all levels, in the Premier League and Champions League but if Bendtner leaves there is a vacancy up front and I think Theo Walcott will fill it.

I think if we lose both Cesc and Nasri we will still have a good squad and with quality additions at the back and in midfield I can see us challenging. I think the combination of Wilshire, Rambo, Gervinho, Arshavin and Walcott would easily score 30 goals between them. If RvP keeps up his impressive goal-scoring form and barring any long-term injuries it might not matter if we concede two goals if we score 4.

A big problem with the way we play is that if it breaks down we are often exposed at the back because we are impatient. With Gervinho, Arshavin, Miyaichi and Oxlade-Chamberlain we have real wingers who like running into space and pushing the opposition defence about. With that kind of attacking intelligence up front I can see a lot of goals against the “park the bus” teams. Something that has been lacking in the last season or two.

We are more solid than last season. Defensively and Offensively. I think we will do well this season, whether we will be able to topple Citeh and that beast Aguero is yet to be seen, but I’m excited by the chase.

It’s important to get perspective, to be positive. There will be up’s and down this season, but we are Gooners, not Goners. We are Arsenal.

WG

Republished from http://www.wigangooner.co.uk – originally published on 12/08/2011 – updated on 17/08/2011 due to Cesc transfer


Forza Arsenal

August 16, 2011

Which are the best games of the season? Well, to me they have always been the Autumn  midweek night games. The games start in sunshine and finish under floodlights, it is early season so the fans are excited, the team has gone through pre-season and are all fit and raring to go.  These are nights that live long in the memory.

Yet tonight, despite this being Arsenal’s opening home match, there are ripples, no waves, of discontent and difficulty. The fans are unhappy, the team is torn apart by injury and doubt,  grey clouds are expected over the Emirates. It is in this context that Udinese arrive at THOF to try and knock us out of the Champions League.

Much has been written about the glass half empty/half full performance at St. James. I prefer to concentrate upon the positives – a solid defensive performance and a midfield that controlled the game. We looked under-par in the offensive aspect of the game but surely with the quality we have that will come.

Udinese:. I know little about them but Italian teams are always good, well trained, difficult to break down and almost always a threat. Udinese will be no different despite losing their 3 best players this summer. Sanchez, Inler and Zapata all moved on which will make Udinese a different proposition to the team that finished 4 th in Italy. Sanchez, in particular, will be missed; voted best player in Italy last season he was sold to Barca for over €30m. Yes, we know that pain!

Udinese have only played English opposition once  – they beat Spurs 2-0 in 2009  🙂  This is their first CL campaign having had the best season in their recent history. In Di Natale they have  last season’s top scorer in Italy (29 goals – 59%  of Udinese’s goal tally!), though the loss of Sanchez and Inler will surely affect his supply line.

You know the tale of woe emanating from the Emirates. Cesc gone, Nasri and RvP suspended etc etc.  Despite this, we remain a top European act and have enough strength in depth to win the tie tonight. Much will depend on the efficiency of the attack and for this reason it is a big night for the front 3. Without any real creativity in midfield they will have to start creating their own opportunities, in particular I would to see Chamakh return to the player we saw at the beginning of his AFC career.

My team: (assuming a fit Rosicky)

 

 

subs: 7 chaps.

I really hope AW has enough faith to go at Udinese from the start and play a proper 4-3-3 rather than rely on a deep-lying Arshavin, but he has almost always chosen a cautious approach to the first legs of games so I wouldn’t be shocked to see AA start in place of Theo.

We have yet to lose or even draw a CL qualifying game, having won all 8 played. Tonight should see us continue this excellent run.

Udine is a small town (175,000) near Venice in the Fruili region, famous for it’s wonderful wines. Bruno Sacco was born in Udine; the head designer of  Mercedes Automobiles for over 30 years. He was voted one of the 25 most influential car designers of the 20th century and as an ex-Merc man (an old 500 SL) I can testify to his achievements.

COYRRG

written by BR


Cesc Would Have Stayed If…

August 16, 2011

So, in a piece of shocking news akin to “sun rises in east” or “John Terry proven to be total twunt”, it was finally confirmed that Cesc Fabregas is leaving us to join his DNA soulmates in Barcelona.

I could echo Shakespeare and say I come here to praise Cesc, not to bury him. But there has been no shortage of teary-eyed eulogies around the Arsenal blogosphere bidding farewell to our little Spaniard.

And there have also been many thoughtful (and some less thoughtful) analyses of what his likely departure will mean for the team, for our formation and for our prospects this year. Again, I’ll leave that to others.

What’s exercising my grey cells this morning is this:

Did it have to be this way?

If things had been done differently, might we now be looking forward to the sight of Cesc leading out the troops for a fresh Premier League and Champions League campaign?

Many reasons have been suggested for Cesc’s determination to leave Arsenal, including several that reflect badly on our club and its manager. The main theories seem to be as follows:

Cesc would have stayed if…

…the club had showed some real ambition in recent years by signing other big name stars to play alongside him.

…we had finished last season more competitively, perhaps coming second in the league and not falling down like a pair of Sammy Nelson’s shorts.

…the club had acted early and decisively in the transfer window this summer, thereby demonstrating to Cesc that we were going to put right the flaws that led to last season’s abysmal collapse.

…the club had at least gone out and signed a decent defender early in the transfer window. A solid, English giant of some kind. Ryan Shawcross anyone?

…we had re-signed Alex Hleb. It is well known that he of the mazy dribble to nowhere was Cesc’s best friend at the club after Senderos left. Bringing him back might have persuaded the Captain to stay one more year.

…the fans had not played their part in making the end of last season so ill-tempered. Cesc is one of the best players in the world – yet on a regular basis in March, April and May he found himself walking off the pitch to a chorus of boos. Even if they weren’t directed at him personally, how could he, as captain, not take them personally?

…we had won the Carling Cup. Regardless of what then happened in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League, we would have claimed our first silverware under Cesc’s captaincy and provided enough optimism to think that others would follow.

…we had won the league at least once in the last three years (or the Champions League).

…Barcelona had not spent the best part of two years deliberately unsettling him at every turn, eventually making his continued presence in North London untenable.

…Arsene Wenger had tried harder to keep him.

The funny thing is, I don’t think any of those theories are completely right. And most are dead wrong.

If we had invested huge sums of money two or three years ago into players that our business model could not sustain at that time, we might well have been more successful in winning trophies.

All that would have done is hasten Cesc’s departure. I believe that Cesc always intended to return to Barcelona one day – but that he really, really wanted to achieve success at Arsenal first. Had he won the league, say, two years ago, he would probably have left last summer.

So spending more money, buying more superstars, abandoning our careful advance towards financial sustainability would only have had the effect of speeding up the ‘Adios’ moment and might well have put us in bad financial straits. Admittedly, we might be feeling better about his departure with a few trophies gleaming in the cabinet, but he would still be gone.

There may be more of a case to make that a stronger finish to last season would have helped persuade Cesc to stay. If we had fought Man Utd all the way to the wire and forced them to win the league rather than us handing it to them on a plate with stupid defeats to inferior sides, maybe he would have felt that one more year would be enough to land the big prizes with Arsenal before heading South. Unfortunately I think that was the point he arrived at the previous summer, in 2010. That was when he decided to give it one last shot at winning things in our red and white. Regardless of how we finished the last campaign, that bird had flown.

Likewise, early summer signings this year would have made no difference.

Short of signing Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Alves, Puyol, Valdes, Pedro, Villa, Pique, Busquets and Mascherano, firing Arsene Wenger and hiring Pep Guardiola, there was no way we were keeping Cesc.

Our likelihood of retaining him has not been helped by the fact that Barcelona are currently going through a purple patch and are generally regarded as one of the best teams ever, anywhere. Their ethics as a club may be in the gutter, but their football is gazing up at the stars.

So what of the other “what ifs”?

If the mood round The Emirates last season had been better, it might have made Cesc more regretful about leaving than he probably is, but I can’t see it as a decisive factor. Nor the absence of his good friends like Hleb and Senderos.

As for Arsene trying harder to keep him… really? What more could he have done? He made him captain, cherished, nurtured and valued him and undoubtedly was key to him staying for the 2010/2011 season. He tied him up on a long term contract which still has four years to run, so he can’t be accused of letting him slip through our fingers for want of proper planning.

So that only leaves the impact of Barcelona and their concerted campaign to unsettle Cesc.

That’s the one factor that, had it not been there, might well have made a difference.

The massive peer pressure exerted on him at every international get-together by Barca’s Spanish players – and repeatedly in the media in between times – must have taken a toll.

Imagine if Barcelona had not been actively pursuing him for the last two years. He might well still fancy returning to his roots (and Catalan roots grow deep and strong) but the sheer pressure and expectation to do so would not have been there and he might have felt he could stay at Arsenal for longer.

But Barca did exert their pressure in blatant contravention of all the tapping up rules, and there’s nothing we or anyone can do about it.

So, to sum up, there is NO right way of completing the sentence “Cesc would have stayed if…”

And now it’s time to move on, with sadness for the closing of one chapter, but hope and optimism for the opening of another.

RockyLives


Will Arsenal Win The League? No Reffin’ Chance

August 15, 2011

There appears to be something of a debate about what portents the Newcastle game holds for the season ahead.

Those choosing to see the positives were encouraged by a defence so impregnable that not even John Terry’s mighty and unruly member could hope to penetrate it.

Others, seeing the negatives, despaired of an attack so bereft of creativity that if it were a painting it wouldn’t even get a place on the wall in Tony Hart’s Vision On, as the camera pans quickly past the offerings in this week’s “crap our viewers sent us” section.

What I saw was something to depress both those who wear rose-tinted spectacles and those who prefer the shite-tinted variety.

It was yet another example of Arsenal losing points because of the subconscious refereeing conspiracy against us.

The Barton-Gervinho spat has been discussed ad nauseam.

Yes, Gerv had to go for raising his hand, but Barton should have been red carded for throttling our new signing – and Arsenal should have had a penalty for Barton’s assault.

Apparently Barton reads a lot of philosophy. Well, he’s clearly a complete Kant. And a total Hippocrates, who’s dragging our game into the Goethe.

But what the furore has obscured is the fact that Gervinho was quite obviously tripped in the box in the first place for what should have been a bang-on penalty before the heir to Plato even had a chance to get his fingers round his throat.

And before that?

How about Taylor’s flying elbow into Sagna’s head very early in the first half? Taylor led with the elbow, made no attempt to get the ball and could have inflicted serious damage on our right back. It was also a straight red card assault, but none of the four officials on duty noticed it.

Admittedly, Song’s stamp on Barton was also missed by those highly trained officiators, who clearly need to go to SpecSavers.

In the second half, Sagna, again, was the victim of a throttling by either Obertin or Guttierez (sorry, can’t remember which one) as both players were running for a ball deep in Arsenal’s half. The same sort of throttling that earned Abou Diaby a red at Newcastle last season.

Barton’s dives all resulted in free kicks for the home side; Arsenal players had to be virtually rugby tackled before referee Walton would put the whistle to his lips.

Frankly we should no longer be surprised.

They say that referees’ decisions even themselves out over the course of a season. Well, from an Arsenal perspective, for several years now our seasons have been about as even as the Himalayas.

I have written before about how I think that referees have a subconscious agenda against Arsenal. Essentially, they see us as a foreign team playing in an English league and this leads to preconceptions that (a) our Johnnie foreigners all cheat and (b) they don’t like it up ‘em.

So, on his Premiership debut, our new African attacker, recently signed from the French league, gets tripped in the box and an inept official decides it must have been a dive. He’s not sure, so he doesn’t stop to book him for simulation in case the TV cameras prove him to be incompetent, but he doesn’t give the penalty either.

Likewise with the Barton-Gervinho scuffle. Barton can assault our player – that’s just a red-blooded Englishman showing passion. Just a yellow card for “getting a bit carried away”. Gervinho, of course, gets a red for what must have been a meaty right hook, right? That tough Barton fellow wouldn’t fall to the ground like that unless he had been seriously hurt would he?

I estimate that last season refereeing mistakes – whether from incompetence or from subconscious bias –cost us at least 12 points. The worst example all year was in Saturday’s corresponding fixture, when Phil Dowd pulled on a black-and-white striped shirt and started playing for the Geordies.

His appalling performance that day left us utterly demoralised and I have little doubt that it was that result, rather than the Carling Cup final, that set the tone for our late-season collapse. If Dowd had made just one less mistake we would have still won 4-3 and our title charge may well have stayed on track.

I don’t expect this season to be any different. As Saturday showed, we will continue to get the crappy end of the stick – the one that’s covered in essence of Barton.

It means we probably have to be effectively 10 points better than Man Utd to have a chance of pipping them to the title by just a point.

I’m not sure what we can do about it.

Just be philosophical I suppose…

RockyLives


Newcastle v Arsenal – Match report

August 14, 2011

Arsenal came to Toon to play and play they did.

The first half was predictably all Arsenal, controlled possession and lots of through balls for Gervinho and Arshavin to chase. Gervinho did extremely well on his Premier League debut and there is much more to come from the talented Ivorian. Ramsey busied himself about in the middle of the park and did very well, the midfield trio of Ramsey, Song and Rosicky functioned well and snuffed out any attacking threat from Barton, Tiote and Cabaye whilst piling more pressure on Newcastle.

Unfortunately Robin Van Persie was isolated up front and rarely received the ball in a goal-scoring position. Gervinho worked tirelessly trying to create opportunities but none came to fruition. As the first half came to a close with the score at 0:0 it was deja-vu, the problem with the 4-3-3 is this, if they don’t have to come at you and can afford to keep at least 5 players at the back then it just doesn’t work, because the target man is man-marked leaving a minimum of 4 players to handle the runners.

Jonas Guttierez didn’t shower himself in glory, I saw him on two occasions wave an imaginary card at the ref to get players booked. I thought that was a yellow card offence in itself?

We weren’t clever enough at times and showed a lack of sharpness and guile, Ramsey made some excellent runs which were missed for other options. Our defence coped well with the physical presence of Demba Ba and Ameobi and finished the first half with plenty of credit. Sczcesny had a very mature, consistent performance with some excellent catching and punching whilst under pressure. I thought he particularly dealt with high balls well which always makes the defence feel more relaxed and his ball distribution is much improved.

Out we came for the second half, at this point it all still felt good. I felt the team blend was good and if we got a goal (with the likely source being Gervinho/RvP combo) then I thought we were capable of scoring a few. Rosicky again started pulling the strings and we carried on as if the half time break never happened. Again plenty of pressure and a RvP free-kick that threatened the goal but just skimmed the top of the net with Krul floundering.

Arshavin came off on 60 with Theo coming on to try and stretch the game. Theo looked a bit leggy, off the pace and laboured. I would have saved him for later in the game. A bit of controversy as Song stamped on Barton, which infuriated the Newcastle player as it was missed by all the officials. Currently I wouldn’t be upset if half of the Arsenal faithful marched all over his stupid face, but it was not to be.

Barton, not to be ignored however managed to get into the limelight, never one to shirk his responsibility as a role-model and professional he decided to get involved when Gervinho, who went down in the penalty area after slight contact with Tiote. Barton charged across the pitch, grabbed Gervinho by his shirt and hauled him to his feet. Far be it from me to defend Gervinho, but if someone did that to me I’d headbutt them. Barton looked incensed that Gervinho went down and continued to hold him. A ruck of players ensued with players entering the fray to seperate the players and Gervinho foolishly tapped (only a tap, not a slap or punch) Barton on the head and he went down like he’d been hit by a rock. So, don’t mess with Gervinho, he’s really hard as nails.

Gervinho got sent off, Barton got a yellow. Worst decision ever. I agree Gerv had to go, for the tap as it does count as raised hands, but surely Barton’s handling of the player, his aggressive attitude deserved a red also? – Referee Peter Walton take note: Have a look at the replay son, if you think it’s OK to manhandle a player up from the floor by the shirt then you need to be refereeing somewhere else.

Newcastle tried to press home the man advantage, but the defence held firm with some excellent work from Koscielny and Vermaelen. Gibbo and Sagna both did extremely well also.

We played a containing game after the sending off, looking to break with the pace of Theo and Gibbo but Theo really looked slow today. An odd thing to say and I know he’s coming back from injury but he looked really slow. Frimpong came on for Rosicky in the 84th minute and shored up the midfield further and pushed Gibbo to left midfield. We didn’t really carve any more opportunities in the match and it headed into injury time. Djourou was brought on for Ramsey and literally his first touch robbed a Newcastle player and he bombed forward, charging across the halfway line, it was 3v1 for Arsenal as Gibb0 and Theo ran either side of the beleagured Newcastle defender, Djourou stumbled and half stabbed the ball wide for Theo but he had to check his run and it allowed Newcastle to recover. A short burst of pace failed to beat his man and the opportunity was lost.

There was just enough time for RvP to have a snap-shot at goal which went well wide.

All in all it felt like the end of last season. The Arsenal fans were baying “Spend some F#*#@n Money” and it finished goalless.

There are plenty of positives to take from this match;

1) We defended extremely well at both corners and set pieces. The zonal marking system looked very effective.

2) Our midfield trio looked very good, I can’t fault their performance and I didn’t once think that I wished we had Cesc in there, I thought in particular Song did a great job covering the defence, whilst Rosicky kept pulling strings. Sometimes we needed a bit more guile, but it is still the first game of the season and there is a lot more to come from our midfield if this performance is something to go by.

3) Gervinho is going to be awesome. I hope his red card is turned into a yellow, because I feel it is very harsh considering the provocation and the agressive manner in which Barton grabbed him. I would have done far worse in Gervinho’s shoes and Barton would still be looking for his front teeth now.

4) Sczcesny looked every bit our number 1 keeper. He was very focussed, confident and tidy today.

There is much to look forward to with Udinese on the 16th (tuesday).

Come on you Gooners!!
WG