Act One Scene One

August 13, 2011

Let us start with the simple stuff.  We are playing Newcastle . Everything else has complications. Which team will we play? What are the tactics? What is happening with the squad?   Will the shenanigans with Cesc and Samir affect the team? How will Newcastle perform with their new players and the loss of major stars? Will last season’s lucky socks bring a better end of season result?

I cannot speak for all but I am really excited by this season. The potential loss of our best player (and Samir)  will not mean the loss of our football ethic and ability to win trophies. We are about to witness the development of the best English creative talent since Gazza (let’s hope JW has a longer career); TV has the potential to become a real world class player –  we missed his drive and resolution throughout last season, should he form a partnership with either  JD or Kos, we have defensive solidity. The loss of Clichy (who I liked very much) allows the fleet footed Gibbs and Traore to shine – they are the future. One of last season’s highlights was the Pole in Goal – still a baby and yet comfortable, relaxed and confident, an AFC legend in the making. What with the youth and skill of Ramsey, Song, Theo, allied to the experience and quality of Sagna, AA and RvP, what is there to be fearful about? And that is before we look at Chamakh who will surely improve in his second season and the dazzling talents of Gervinho.

It would be easy to see Newcastle away as the beginning of the end of our previous season’s trophy campaign.  I prefer to look at that amazing first half when we blew away a decent Newcastle side. This is the Arsenal I want to see – incisive, intelligent, impish,  involved and inspiring. Turn off the DVD at 4-0 and you will be a happy man; stay watching and you will see one of the worst refereeing performances in the history of the Premiership. Let us hope for better from  the referee today.

The team? Your guess is as good as anyone’s. Our midfield is decimated and yet we still have the opportunity to play with 4 full Internationals and three national captain’s (Rosicky , Ramsey and AA).   I haven’t seen any of the friendlies and have no idea about the form of our players but my gut feeling (based upon too many years as an amateur pundit) is the following:-

though we may be better going at a dodgy Newcastle defence and playing Theo in place of Rosicky. There has been talk of Lansbury getting a game – I would be loathe to start him at  St James’ which can be a testing ground for a young man, I would prefer the experience of Rosicky (though much depends upon the fitness of Ramsey).

A topic of discussion on yesterday’s AA blog was whether we play 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 or another combination. My take is that we  have such fluidity  there is no fixed formation, particularly when we play with overlapping full backs and centre backs who like to go forward!

And how about the opposition? Fervent, expectant fans will be expecting a win against an Arsenal team in “disarray”.. The Barcodes are a passionate club and their players will be fired up. The loss of Nolan could be telling as will be the lack of an adequate replacement for Carroll. Mad Joey Barton has yet to find a club yet it would be no surprise to see him start – Pardew will be  short priced at the bookies to be first manager sacked this season, and for that reason he may well decide to forego creative football for the malice and aggression we saw last season.

We usually start the season well and perform our best when facing difficulties. No Wilshere is disappointing but Arsene still has enough strength in depth to cope, especially as we have our first choice defence available (if this IS our first choice defence!).  Can we win? Of course.

Newcastle was home to  Reginald Mitchell (1895-1937). Who, you may well ask? Mr. Mitchell was an aeronatical engineering genius who designed and created the WW2 fighter plane, the Spitfire, without which Arsenal could currently be playing in the Bundesliga!

COYRRG

Big Raddy


What do Supporters Expect?

August 12, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

Two days away from the start of the season and with Big Raddy set to make a triumphant return (I hope) for tomorrows pre match I thought it would be time to ask what the minimum we should expect from the first 6 games.

13th August – Newcastle (PL) A

16th August – Udinese (CLQ) H

20th August – Liverpool (PL) H

24th August – Udinese (CLQ) A

28th August – Man Utd (PL) H

10th September – Swansea (PL) H

So for me the bare minimum for us is qualification for the Champions League proper, in addition to 7 points.

Thats right my worst case includes one defeat and a draw, but it probably would as I am a pragmatic fellow, some would say a defeatist, who will accept that losing at Old Trafford will not be the end of the season, neither will drawing with Liverpool at Home or Newcastle Away.

Yes I would love to start the season with six straight wins and laugh in everyones faces who has written us off, but I am also not prepared to set my hopes so high and I would encourage fellow Gooners to do the same. This season is going to be a rough ride at times full of highs and lows, its where we set our expectations that will allow us to cope with failure in a more restrained way than last season.

Anyway what are your expectations/hope for the first month of the season, is it as make and break as everyone thinks?

And while you’ve all got your thinking hats on maybe today is also a good day to celebrate your favourite Cesc moment/moments. He may not be an Arsenal player by the end of the weekend but he has given us some moments of pure joy in the years that we’ve watched him grow up. I went looking for a video of best Fabregas goals but also found this great video of his assists, that’s what we’re going to miss the most, those magic passes that he could slip through to an on-running player – carving open a defence.

As London keeps reminding us the Fat Lady Hasn’t Sung Yet and so lets enjoy our Cesc Fabregas on the eve of a new season. Cesc is our Captain, our talisman and the one who can drive us on and for as  long as he is with us we are a better side with him than without.

Roll on news of Arsene’s press conference today, no doubt he will be facing further probing into the state of the Arsenal Transfer Nation. It feels like there will be a change in the guard at Arsenal, some will welcome it, some will be distraught, but Arsenal endures.

Dig out as many videos as you can find and lets celebrate our Fab 4.

Also, if you want to join our Fantasy Football League click on the button in the side-bar and enter the following code 1144006-264632


Kieran Gibbs: the key to Arsenal winning the league.

August 11, 2011

I can’t get that Benfica game out of my head, have you ever known a pre-season friendly in which one team brings on their best players at the beginning of the second half? Well, that is what I reckon the Portuguese did on the weekend, demonstrated perfectly by the introduction of enormously talented Argentinean international Pablo Aimar. This is the equivalent of us fielding the side we did for the first forty five minutes then keeping the same side for the start of the second except replacing Rosicky with a fit and raring to go Fabregas.

Benfica may have been better in the second half but they were still good in the first, as I have said before, probably better than seventeen of the twenty teams in the EPL and yet we found a way to initially contain them before finding a way past their talented defence. This bodes well for the forthcoming game against Newcastle.

We could have and should have been better, Rosicky and Ramsey are all very good but neither of them offered Song any real support and when playing top class opposition which is what Benfica are then our Alex needs a bit more help than either of those two can offer. In a nut shell — we missed Wilshere. A midfield of Song, Wilshere and Ramsey would have been better balanced and as a consequence much more effective. Rosicky was picking up the ball deep in our half and doing his usual drop of the shoulder enabling him to go past his man but then all too often his pass would not find an Arsenal player, we would lose possession and find ourselves back under pressure again.

But all this is a side-show, our attack looked good the inter play between The Gerv, Arshavin and RvP was impressive again, however, I couldn’t help thinking that with the introduction of Fabregas this attack would be unstoppable. Cesc picks the ball up deep drops the shoulder, goes past his man but unlike Rosicky his next pass finds a red shirt more often than not. This is the difference between a ten million pound player and a sixty million pound player.

A few people have posed the question how should we deal with Cesc when it is so obvious that he wants to leave, the answer is, if he stays, just thank your lucky stars; he is the most talented player we have and he will set that attack on fire.

Anyway the second half against Benfica was the second half; they must have really wanted that little cup, presented to them at the end of the game, in view of the players they brought on whereas it was clear that Wenger was using it for what it was: a pre-season fitness builder.

I want to say a few words more about that game by focusing on Gibbs but putting it in the context of the end of last season.

I think Harry wrote recently that he felt it was the fact that we didn’t score enough goals after Christmas that let us down more than any thing else. I remember thinking he is right, I totally agree with that. Harry was met with a barrage of comments insisting that the collapse of the last nine games was down to the defence and very little to do with the lack of goals. I was taken aback for a while but I have thought about it some more and I am back agreeing with Harry: it was the lack of goals rather than the defence that caused the bulk of the problems.

Look at the last nine games of last season they include teams like West Brom, Blackburn, Villa all teams that we should have beaten and yet they all found a way of drawing or beating us by employing almost the same tactics every time: allow us to pressure and hit us on the break. We dominated those teams with seventy percent of the possession or more and yet we could not find a way to put them to the sword.

Enter our new white knight: Kieran Gibbs, this man is going to offer so much more than we had last season. As an attacking force he is head and shoulders better than Clichy, superbly demonstrated by his pass to RvP for the goal on the weekend and by the way did you notice where The Gerv was for that goal – right place, right time again (love it). Gibbs is going to enable us to punish those teams above a whole lot quicker this season, forcing them to come out which will negate their ability to hit us on the break. This I hope will lead to a calmer reaction from the defence. What about Gibbs the defender? Cross your fingers and hope that Vermaelen plays out there when some real defending is called for but humour aside there are very few games in which teams try to attack us – Barcelona, who are difficult for any side to face, but really after that, who?

I have read a couple of comments saying that we should take the money for Nasri while we can, reminding us that we only really got two good months out of him so grab the money now. How can I put this, Nasri is the most talented French midfielder of his generation he is going to be one of the best midfield players in the world, if you are irritated by the fact that he hasn’t signed quicker, ponder this. Do you think that things will be different when Wilshere only has one year left on his contract, do you think Wilshere’s agent won’t shop around, do you think City won’t come calling, will you say oh just sell him? I think not. Nasri should stay and will stay.

Which brings me to what will probably be the last time I will ever be able to write about the most talented player we have at the club: well certainly with the same reverence I save for players who don the glorious red and white. The loss of a sixty million pound player is going to have a serious impact (the club may value him at 40 but to me he is worth far more). Yes, I know we will survive but that doesn’t stop the pain of the imminent loss of what could be so different, so amazing with the attack that we have now assembled – In the words of Total Arsenal: Barça might want you but Arsenal need and love you.

Written by London


Leave the dog alone

August 10, 2011

Written by Camberwell Gooner

The final weekend before the Premier League kicks off is over, and all that separates us from competitive football is five long days of work (or daytime TV, depending on your current situation). We’re coming to the end of the Worst Pre-Season Ever (copyright), our squad is paper-thin with no real sign of reinforcements, and Rooney is not just a big-mouthed, balding granny shagger, he also believes that coming back from 2-0 down represents a “footballing lesson”.

Last season, Arsenal’s pitiful descent into the abyss of fourth place when second could have very realistically been achieved, is better than well documented. It’s been discussed, documented, dissected, deconstructed, denounced and, finally, flagellated to within an inch of its life and left to rot on the slagheap round the back of the old coal mine. Meanwhile, Arsenal are the naughty dog slinking back into the house, tail between its legs, after laying a steaming turd (last season’s performance) on the herbaceous borders in the back garden. And some fans have taken on the role of the fuming, green-fingered owner who has administered serial beatings to said hound with a rolled-up copy of the Sun, while others are the sympathetic wife defending Rover – even though this is the SIXTH time he’s done it.

So we’ll leave that smelly dog mess where it is, or better still, bury it so that it can nourish the azaleas…and I have no idea what the flowers represent. (Note to self: ease off the metaphor. It’s getting tired now.)

The Guardian’s season preview booklet thingy is out and for me this is the light at the end of the tunnel, the sign that the very silly season is almost over and we can all enjoy a good few months without its nonsense and our own repetitive navel-gazing. Some of the stats make for some interesting reading, so I did a very quick, extremely dirty and utterly unscientific comparison of Arsenal against other top clubs to see if I could glean anything of note, a sparkly diamond in the rough if you like. My eyebrows were raised more than once during my ‘research’ (and not in the disapproving, “Good God! What perfectly abominable behaviour!” sense, more in the, “I say! Corking stat old chap!” way).

I said myself that in the latter part of last season our attack became stale, slow and predictable – a bit like Old Twitchy’s speech patterns after too much ale, but I actually found that…….

We led the league in shot accuracy with 47.5%, followed closely by Liverpool with 47.2%, ranging down to the Spuds with 41.6%.

We also had the highest pass accuracy (83.7% compared to Liverpool with 77.2% and the others close to us around the 80% mark)

……but hit the woodwork more than anyone else (22 times, The Chavs running us very close with 21, then the others no more than 14 times). Which means we’re the most accurate shooters, but still need to be, er, more accurate.

Even though we scored more than most (72 times to be precise, and you’re probably not that bothered about the other clubs’ stats in this area…what’s that? You are? OK then. As we all know, the Spuds are constantly breathing down our necks and soon to replace us as the biggest club in North London, and they’re well on their way to doing this, scoring a whopping 55 league goals last term. Sorry Spuds, not even close. Now get back in your box. Thwack! *twats them with the Observer – no supplements removed*).

I’ve intentionally left out a lot of other figures as they don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know (and they’re kind of dull), but it’s not hard to see that we’re quite a bit better than the baying, pitchfork-wielding, firebrand-waving mob would have you believe. And before people start lighting Molotov cocktails and sharpening their gardening tools, would they please read my disclaimer below:

  1. I don’t think we’re the best in the league.
  2. I know last season sucked ass over and over again.
  3. I agree we still need more signings.
  4. I’m just as worried as others are about our tough opening fixtures.
  5. I’m not a Wenger apologist.
  6. I do think the board have feet of clay.
  7. I do wonder how good Gazidis actually is.

BUT……….

We kick off on Saturday. It’s a new season. It’s the Barcodes away. And we owe them a hiding. Let’s all get behind the boys. We Are The Arsenal. Come on you reds.


Ask not what Arsenal can do for you, Ask what you can do for the Arsenal

August 9, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

This is a plea to all fans lucky enough to walk through the turnstiles at the Emirates this coming season. Since we moved there from our beloved Highbury, I can count on one hand the amount of times I wished I had been there rather than watching on TV or on the radio, those games are:

Liverpool 2008 when the crowd went ballistic against Howard Webb after sending off “he who shall not be named” with a second yellow, it was the first time I had heard the Emirates really rocking as the support got behind the team.

Spurs 2009 to have been there when Cesc nicked the ball straight from the restart and dancing round the defence before slotting home the second and sending the faithful into raptures.

Barca 2011 the atmosphere sounded incredible the result even better, that night the fans did something they so often don’t they made noise even though we weren’t winning, they were singing at 1-0 down coming in at half time, they were singing to the rafters as Arshavin came in to pass the winner into the net.

Personally I have been to one game where the atmosphere was memorable and that was Everton at home last season, again suffering an injustice the crowd made noise, pressured the ref, and lifted the team on to win in the second half.

This coming season I am worried more than ever about the lack of natural atmosphere in the Emirates.

To be quiet until given something to cheer or applaud is one thing, the growing prevalence of the boo boys (and girls) is another. I wrote a post last season about the growing moaners and groaners greeting every misplaced pass or shot, now I am asking that all who go to a home game go a little further, its time for everyone to unite in vocal support of our team.

By the way I should mention here that a long drawn out “SHOOOOOOOT” is not my idea of vocal support, if there is anything more ridiculous to be heard at a sporting venue I have not yet heard it, yes its more ridiculous than those teams in the Premier League that play a bit of music after every goal scored and the fans dance and singalong.

We need to create an atmosphere that not only lifts the players but also gives the players something to play for.

So how are we going to achieve this…….thats right what are WE going to do, no more excuses about it doesn’t feel like home, that the club don’t want an atmosphere that the stewards tell you to sit down. How many were standing for the last ten minutes against Barca, did you all get thrown out? No because they can’t they have no way of removing the whole end if you’re all standing and singing, its a football match they do expect it to happen.

The club gave us our Clock End back, and whilst the North Bank is not the same it can still be identified. So this is your mission if you find yourself sitting in the Clock End I ask you to stand on your feet, and sing loud and proud, you know the words:

“We’re the Clock End, We’re the Clock End, We’re the Clock End Emirates.”

Undoubtedly some around you will look at you like you’re the maddest fool ever to walk in the ground, but all you do is repeat again, louder if possible, and again. Now this is where your resolve will be tested trust me others want join in, they just don’t know it yet. If you still can’t get a response turn round make eye contact spread your arms wide and gesture to your fellow supporters that they might like to stand up and give you a hand in your stirring rendition. If at all possible make eye contact with the few that are singing with you and make sure they follow your lead in encouraging others to join in.

Hopefully if all goes to plan soon the whole of the Clock End will be singing and the North Bank (and RedAction) will have no choice to respond, if they choose not too I would suggest a rendition of “Can you hear the North Bank sing?” to get them stirred into action and try again with “We’re the Clock End.”

By the way I realise that I am asking that we include Emirates in the song, but if we haven’t accepted that is what our new home is called yet then we are stuck in the past unfortunately and I worry that we will never move on.

I know I am asking my fellow supporters to cast off the inhibitions but why should we care, we’re amongst friends, why should we feel we cannot express our love for the team in anyway we see fit. Its been five years since we moved to the Emirates its time we made it our home, its time we the fans built a fortress that other teams don’t like to come to and one that our team can’t wait to play in front of. The team needs us more than ever this season, I want them walking out feeling ten feet tall.

Whilst we’re discussing atmosphere we need some songs for the new additions, and a few for players who have not really been given songs unique to them. This lot either have boring songs (in my opinion) or no songs, time to get the thinking and lyrical caps on lads and lasses.

Aaron Ramsey

Jack Wilshere

Gervinho

Theo Walcott

Laurent Koscielny

Johann Djourou

Kieran Gibbs

Robin Van Persie

Bacary Sagna


Wenger on Transfers

August 8, 2011

One of the fuels that has fed the fire of discontent among Arsenal supporters this summer is the sense that we are being misled by the club.

When the club speaks, through the mouth of the Manager or the Chief Executive, some fans refer to “spin and PR bullsh*t” designed to placate the faithful or, more cynically (in some people’s opinion), to con them into renewing season tickets with the hint of big name transfers that will never materialise.

I have been convinced all along that we will still make at least one big name signing this summer (although whether it comes before the season starts is another matter).

But if I question the basis for this conviction, I have to ask myself whether it really stacks up – because I realise it comes from me pinning a huge amount of faith in what Arsene Wenger said in May about being very active in the transfer market.

Why would he lie? What would be the point? (I don’t buy the “get them to renew their season tickets” line). He clearly felt he needed to strengthen his squad, he said he would do so, so why would he not?

The problem is, those who doubt that we will make few if any more signings are also able to point to AW’s words to back up their case.

It seems that we each hear what we want to hear and ignore what contradicts our pre-formed opinion.

So are Arsene’s words really so contradictory? Is he really sending out such mixed messages that some fans can practically smell the dubbin on Juan Mata’s boots, while others hear only tumbleweed blowing through the arrivals room at the Emirates?

There was only one way to find out. Starting from late April I have gathered as many AW quotes about transfers as I could find (apologies if I have missed some). The dates are approximate because some may reflect the dates on which the comments were reported rather than the dates they were made. I have also added a relevant quote about transfers from Ivan Gazidis.

Here they are, with time line…

April 22nd
On being asked at a press conference whether he had as much as £40 million at his disposal:
“Is [that] available? Frankly I don’t know. We have not completely checked out our financial position. The only thing I can say is that the Club is in a healthy financial situation and, if needed, we can make a big transfer.
“I don’t [expect a busy summer] at all. The team is 23 years-old [on average] so why should we expect to have a huge turnover at the end of the season?”

April 23rd
”Why should we sell Cesc [even if we received a ‘silly’ offer]? In our job it is difficult to know what is silly money. We have built our team around Cesc and we have Wilshere now as well and we want to keep doing that.
”We are talking to Nasri and his agent already and we have the same situation with Clichy. We have agreed to speak about it during the summer.
 
I am very optimistic [that they will stay].”

May 1st
In response to a question about whether the team needed more experience:
“The team has accumulated a lot of experience despite their age. They are 23 on average but football-wise they are 26 or 27. I gave them a chance to play at a young age and I don’t regret that. 

Maybe I could have got some more experienced players but it is too easy to say that. They [the current squad] are very close to their peak.
“We need to strengthen some areas but we have the quality. 

At the moment we have to face some scepticism, but we have to keep believing in our strengths. These players all started at a very young age and they should be ready.
“We want, of course, to add what we need to add. I am very cautious with what I say because it can be turned both ways. I feel it is important for the Club that we keep faith in what we do.
“You can see that the players grow when they get the chance to play. Like Szczesny, for example, you can see already that compared to two months ago, he has already grown. It is a law in our game that you can only grow, at some stage, if you play. So people want both, they want to win every game and they want us to produce quality young players. But if Wilshere has grown this season it is because he played. But on the other hand, if you do not win, people say, ‘why do you play young players?’”

May 8th (After 3-1 Stoke defeat)
“Something has gone [and] you could see that today. We have to take a distance and make the right analysis of the season.”

May 15th (After 1-2 defeat to Villa)
“It is down to availability and quality. We don’t rule out any position and we don’t target any special position before the transfer market.
 
We look to strengthen every year of course. But first we look not to weaken because we want to keep all our players, and then we try to strengthen.
“It’s not about the number [of players], it’s the quality. I don’t want to give out a number [we’ll go for]”.
On conceding from set pieces:
“It has been [a problem]. We cannot deny that because we conceded more goals from set pieces than other teams. But you have to consider as well that we conceded 17 penalties.
”It is more about the size of our whole team in some games like Stoke. When you go out of the back three, after that we are quite short, especially when Abou Diaby wasn’t there for big games. When you have the defence plus Diaby and Alex Song, and you go to places like that, you can of course fight. 

Sometimes we’re one or two men short.
“The fans want to win football games. They will not check how much money we spend, they want to win football games. When we don’t, they are not happy and that is completely normal. We will try to strengthen our team, of course, but the best way to keep our fans happy is to win the games.”

May 20th
“We need to add, of course, and we will do. But we have a strong base.
 
We have enough quality to beat anyone in the world, even with the current squad. You have a Champions League Final and only one team has beaten both of them and that is Arsenal.
 
We have a good team and the best away team [in the Premier League]. The loss of the Carling Cup Final had a huge impact on the team and we did not handle it well.
 
It is not catastrophic and do not think we can go to Coventry and find the player who saves Arsenal Football Club.
“I always try to get value for money. That is the job of a football manager. 
 
In England, it is a bit more difficult because player inflation is higher than everywhere else. When you only have a few players at many clubs, the price is too high.”

May 22nd (After draw with Fulham 2-2)
“If you speak about the quality of the Club and the style of football we play we have many offers on the table for players who are desperate to join us. [But] if you speak only about money, we are certainly less attractive than some other teams.
“We will try to buy the right players. Spending is not a purpose, it’s not our goal. We want the right players. We cannot buy players for £50 million and, even if we try to strengthen our team and spend money if needed, that is fact.”

May 24th
“The market will be hyperactive because everyone believes financial fair play will happen soon. So we are quickly doing the last buying before the stores will be closed. And for the first time for a while, I will be very active, too.”

May 31st (French radio interview)
“We’ll invest in players who can bring something more to the team, and that won’t be easy.
“I am very active on the phone. Everyone is in a standby position, where everyone is waiting for the first step, expecting a super-transfer. It will move in late July and early August. Then we will analyse the gaps in each team.”

June 8th (Carl Jenkinson signed from Charlton)

July 2nd
“Everyone wants to make that great signing and I’m focused on those objectives and am very busy on the telephone.”

July 8th
“For me, the best thing is not to talk too much about it. The more you speak about things, the less chance you have to achieve them. The only thing that I can promise you is that we will work very hard and we have had some long nights to achieve what we want to achieve. I can understand [the impatience among the fans].
“Believe me, I know all the clubs in the world and everybody needs the same players for the same positions. If there were an obvious choice, people would have already made their decisions. We are at the top level and therefore need exceptional quality to strengthen our side. I can understand that people say ‘you have money, just go out and buy’. But it’s not only that, we want to find the quality we need.
“I have said many times that we were very close to winning things last season, despite the disappointment we had at the end. I hope that provokes a response from my players. We were so close this time we want to come back and achieve it. 

My responsibility is first of all not to lose players and then to add and make us stronger. 
Let’s hope we can bring in one or two more additions of top quality.”

July 13th
“Yes [I expect Cesc to stay]. As simple as that. I have never spoken about what has happened behind closed doors but Cesc loves the Club. We know the Barcelona story goes on for years now and we have to close that. Now we focus on the new season, hopefully with Cesc Fabregas.
”Yes [I expect Nasri to stay as well]. There is always speculation when a player has one year to go on his contract that he might leave the club but Samir Nasri is very happy at the Club and committed to stay at the Club. I hope he will sign a new contract but I am not the only one to decide that.

”Both of them (Bendtner and Almunia) are possible departures. They are talking to other clubs at the moment. I cannot tell you which ones.

“For us it is important that the team settles, psychologically, as quickly as possible because we have a tough start. We play all the big clubs away in the first half of the season.

 It is important that the players focus on the season and not the transfer market. The players who are here as well will ask ‘will he go? will he go?’ – that is not the way to prepare for the season.

“The plan for left back is that we have Kieran Gibbs, Armand Traore and Thomas Vermaelen can play there too. So we have what we need.”

July 18th (Gervinho signed from Lille)

July 18th (Ivan Gazidis):
“If we found an established world-class player and we thought the economics made sense and he would add to what we could do on the pitch then there’s no philosophical objection to that.
Arsène has no point of principle to show the world that he can build his own team of young players. That’s just not the way it is. 

It’s easy to lose perspective on what Arsène is trying to do, which, I think, is an extraordinary vision but if you look around here, the fans we have around the world, that vision is very attractive and very, very powerful. We should be proud of that.

“We still will be active in this window. We haven’t finished our business at all. We’re just not conducting it publicly; we’re working hard privately.
 
We understand where the weaknesses have been. Financially we’re in a strong position, we have resources to spend. We’re certainly not sitting there saying ‘let’s hold back on our resources’ for some reason, why would we?
 
The resources are there. We’ve got a substantial amount of money that we can invest. The important thing for us, which can be frustrating, is not doing it only in response to a public clamour but in a way that can positively impact our performance next year. That’s the focus now.”

July 23rd
“Certainly, we will have to find one more defender. We [are] working on it.
 
I can promise we work very hard on it. In fairness, everybody looks for players. Everybody looks for the same area and you see that nobody turns up with magic. It’s all about being steady, working very hard on it and being calm as well.
 
I don’t want to comment individually because I do not want to destabilise clubs. I do not want to do to other clubs what some clubs do to us so I wouldn’t like to comment individually on any player.”

July 30th
“Our business will be done sooner rather than later but it is difficult to speak about any individual player because that makes things difficult. I cannot complain about other clubs talking about our players and then do the same.
“I like the player [Mata], but that does not mean we will buy him. The other player [Jagielka] is under contract at Everton. If we want to buy a player, we need first the agreement of their club.

At the moment the rules are constructed in a way where it is basically forbidden to speak about one individual player. I know that not everybody respects it, but I try to do as well as I can.
”At the moment you have two categories of movement, one from zero to 10 million, and one from 30 to 50 million. We are in between. In between nothing happens at the moment, there has been very little movement. All over Europe our industry is basically in a very bad financial situation. All the clubs who live from the money which football generates do not buy. The only clubs who buy at the moment in Europe are ones who buy with money which is not generated by our industry. There are two categories of club – those who travel with sweat and those who travel with petrol. We are those who travel with sweat.”

August 6th
“Ideally I would have finished all [our business] but it doesn’t work like that. We
work very hard, we are non-stop working throughout the summer. I am positive because we have good quality and a style of play that is known by the players. So we want to add not quality but super quality.
“You have to identify the players, agree with clubs to get them out, agree the fee. That means they have to agree with you and they have to find another player before they release their players. In England, it is a lot more difficult to move during the summer because some people are not there. It’s all kinds of things you meet during the transfer market. But I can understand the impatience of people.
And are Arsenal close to a new signing?

 “No, not at the moment. We hope to give you some good news soon. Next week, something might happen.”

So, what conclusions can we draw.

For me it’s the realisation that substantial new signings are perhaps less likely than I imagined. For every positive noise from Arsene, there are two warnings about the difficulty of finding the right players, of getting value for money, of not blocking the opportunities for our youth players to come through, of how we can’t compete financially with some top teams and so on.

I have been listening to the positive noises and screening out the cautious ones.

But I also think the quotes indicate that Arsene intended to buy players and buy them early, but found his hands tied. Tied, presumably, partly by the Fabregas/Nasri sagas and partly by the fact that it has perhaps been more difficult to get his men than he has expected.

Certainly there are inconsistencies in the messages that have been coming from both him and Ivan Gazidis. “We can buy if we want, we have the money… ah, but it’s harder than you think and we have to make sure we don’t stop our young talents from coming through.”

With the quotes all together I can see where the frustration among a proportion of the fan base comes from.

But with Arsene saying as recently as July 23rd that he will “certainly” add one more defender, I expect that to happen soon. Whether it will be a name to quieten the skeptics, or another “experienced” but jobbing CB like Squillaci or Silvestre, only time will tell.

More worryingly, as Arsene himself stated clearly on July 13th, the uncertainty over key players’ futures undoubtedly unsettles the whole squad – and the fact that such uncertainty is still rumbling on as the start of the season heaves into view is surely not a good thing.

RockyLives


Thoughts on Benfica and Another Bad Week

August 7, 2011

Benfica 2-1 Arsenal

Aimar 49,

Nolito 60 van Persie 33

It started well enough and we tried hard enough. That is the best I can say.

Gervinho looked good and went close twice before Arshavin played Gibbs in, who found van Persie for a cool finish. It is a goal Arsenal wouldn’t have scored with Clichy overlapping on the left.

In the second half Gibbs failed to clear and Squillaci went a wandering before Vermaelen got brushed aside by little Aimar. I am sure Alan Hansen would be sitting at home uttering his trademark phrase.

Shortly afterwards the lively Nolito cut in from the left and Squillaci got mugged again, 2-1.

The look Ramsey gave him and what he appeared to say was telling.

Benfica have played competitive games and that sharpness gave them the edge. The performance in itself isn’t that much of a worry but the last week has been.

I don’t care about pre season results, they don’t matter. What does matter is that you get to your first game with 90% of your first team fit and on form and we are not anywhere near that.

Arsenal were missing many players for various reasons and that does excuse the lack of craft in an under par second half performance but that in itself is an issue seven days away from the big kick off.

We haven’t had a good week since February.

Injuries to Gibbs, Vermaelen, Diaby, Wilshere, Van Persie, Walcott and no win in three this week.

Fabregas, Nasri, Bendtner and Eboue are sitting by the phone.

The fans are fighting amongst themselves.

In the space of a week I have seen two draws, one defeat and more importantly three fairly average performances from patchwork sides. Seen fans turn on each other watching friendlies and training sessions, met some heroes, lost a couple two.

I’ve seen our captain train, smile and give an imperious wave. Mad people could read all kind of things in to that.

Are we together? No.

Are we healthy? No.

Are we ready? No, we are not even close.

There is nothing wrong with being anti-Wenger. If you are, I think you are wrong but you are entitled to your opinions and we shouldn’t make out that it is a crime or that it means you are not a real fan.

It is ok to get angry.

It is ok to doubt.

It is ok to be frustrated that we haven’t spent a pound (net) in five years.

It is ok to question Wenger’s training methods when we are seeming to be starting a season with anywhere up to eight players suffering injuries of some kind.

It is ok to think that if someone had come to you in 1996 and told you that you would win 7 trophies in 15 years when Arsenal had won 6 trophies previous few years, you might have said we will gamble on someone else.

Again, I think you’re wrong but it’s your choice.

It is ok to hold that opinion and you shouldn’t have to say 10 “Hail Arsènes” every time you question the team sheet.

It is ok to be sick of “mental strength” performances and “super quality” players that never seem to materialize.

Question his methods, but don’t question his motives. Do you think he would still be here if he didn’t care? Do you not think there are easier jobs he could do?

You shouldn’t think that those of us pro-Wenger don’t see his flaws.

We see Wenger’s flaws but don’t boo the team, don’t insult your fellow fans, they pay good money too. It doesn’t help anyone.

We don’t sit there in some drug induced haze thinking that Squillaci is the future.

I’ve seen cheap comments from cheap hacks, stories and “inside” knowledge twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.

I have read Myles “Source” Palmer spreading poison among the masses. Do me a favour!

I wonder how many Arsenal fans regret buying that book.

Arsene Wenger has won three league titles, four FA cups, paid for Arsenal to build a training ground and a stadium by keeping a team in the top four with little money to spend and taking a skip full of flack while he has done it.

This is the man who brought you a season unbeaten and some of the best football you have ever seen.

This week I have seen someone refer to our Captain as Fabretwat, on this very site.

I saw a Gooner make comments about Arsène Wenger, the kind that are usually reserved for nights at the Lane. At the time the drunken slob was getting a free tour of the Stadium. His kids must be very proud of him.

It is ok to disagree, but stop the hate. It’s pathetic.

Arsene Wenger, any team he picks, and captain he chooses, deserve a little more respect.

Raise Yourselves!

The fans need to get on the same page, for the good of the team.

Wenger needs to do his bit and get a centre back, patch up the walking wounded and get three points.

The board need to tell Barcelona and Man City to do one.

We all have a part to play.

Don’t blow it or this might just start feeling like an ending.

Written by Jamie


Jones and Smalling: should Arsenal care?

August 6, 2011

I’ve always had the impression that the stories about Arsenal matching the offers of manu for Smalling and Jones only to be turned down as being a yarn purposely spun by the manu PR machine in a sad attempt to redress the balance after we publicly rubbed their noses in it for missing out on Ramsey. It is worth remembering that Ramsey was a self confessed manu supporter as a kid, it is also worth remembering just how much the Arsenal PR machine revelled in telling anyone who would listen that it was the fact that Arsène Wenger interrupted his summer holiday to speak to Ramsey and family personally rather than the mere Gary Neville who manu sent that swayed team Ramsey’s final decision to sign to the good guys.

It makes very little sense for Smalling and Jones to have wanted to sign for Arsenal regardless of what we offered whereas it makes complete sense for them to want to sign for manu. In the pecking order up there they only have Vidic and Ferdinand in front of them, the latter of the two is, as we all know, becoming more and more injury prone meaning that either Smalling or Jones will have a serious chance of breaking into that first team in the not too distant future.

At Arsenal, by contrast, they would have to get passed Vermaelen, Koscielny and Djourou. I have never been one of those people who believes the grass is always redder in Manchester and I refuse to start now. Koscielny and Djourou are better than Smalling and Jones and Vermealen is better than them all.

Very simply, the manc pair have a better chance of first team football in the red half of Manchester than they do with us and that above all was, in my opinion, the reason why they signed for who they did and the very same reason that Ramsey signed for Arsenal.

Let’s sign Cahill.

I love the way so many Arsenal supporters trot that line out. Whenever I read it I want to ask the author: how many times have you been to the Reebok to see him play? Most people who cry out for him to be signed have next to no idea just how good he really is. I have never been to the Reebok but there is nothing that I have ever seen that convinces me that Cahill is better than Koscielny. That being the case, why on earth would Cahill give up the opportunity of playing first team football to sit on our bench? I know injuries are common but what if we don’t get our usual quota? He could waste one of the most important years of his football development due to lack of playing opportunity and let’s not forget that we are not Man City who can afford to double someone’s wages as compensation for rotting on a bench. Cahill will want to play first team football and that will not be guaranteed at Arsenal so for the same reason that Smalling and Jones never came to THOF I do not expect to us to sign Cahill.

Don’t get me wrong.

I might think that Vermaelen and Koscielny are a better combination than Cahill and either of those two along side him but that is not to say that I think everything is rosy in Arsenal’s defensive garden. The idea of going into the coming season with Squillaci in the squad fills me with horror; he is about as mobile as a wooden stake driven into the ground; Bartley would be a better fourth choice CB but like Cahill a season of potentially warming the bench at Arsenal was never going to float his boat — solution: Jagielka, he can play anywhere along the back as well as giving Song a bit of competition for the DM spot. The Englishman with a Polish name offers as many possibilities to the defence as the Ivorian with a Brazilian name offers to the attack.

So Arsène, as soon as you have had your coffee this morning here’s what to do: sign Jagielka, sort the Nasri contract out, tell Barcelona to sling their hook and we are good to go.

Written by London


Members Day…….Will Cesc rain on our parade?

August 5, 2011

Written by Harry

Well it was an early start as I had to get my eldest boy, Luke, to the ground for 0930hrs, as he was due to meet the squad as a thank you for been a ball boy last season……..So Reece, my youngest, and I were at the ground nice and early with little going on, supposedly there was meant to be more happening, but perhaps the rain stopped that….

Anyway as a complete random side note, as I was waiting at the turnstiles, an old school mate tipped up, hadn’t seen him for 23years!! So chatting away blew some time  as we waited to get in.

Finally at about 11.20hrs we got let in, one of the stewards mentioned due to the bad weather that the Photo shoot had been cancelled. But the main issue that was on everyone’s lips was whether Cesc was present and also was Nasri about or had he been snaffled away by the Arabs…

Well they were both there amongst some other notable attendees and some equally noticeable absentees…..

The youngsters that have seemingly been promoted to the first team are, Frimpong, Lansbury, Afobe and Miyachi (still waiting for a special talent visa), Bartley was absent despite signing an extension yesterday, so back out on loan maybe? {Just announced on SSN for a season back to Rangers} Personally he would be in my squad and at the expense of Squillaci…

Almunia was absent, Eboue was about but not involved in the training waiting for his move to be finalised? Nasri came out and had a very gentle warm up, but didn’t take part in the training matches due to an ankle knock.  Bendtner was there and not in Portugal……. My son had asked him if he was staying and initially he said NO, but then he backed down and said things hadn’t been decided yet……..?

After a warm up and some simple passing, the first training match saw an eleven aside match on a shortened pitch, Bendtner smashed in a corking goal, 9million? Easily worth that on that form.  Lansbury scored a long range effort to put the greens 2 up….

Benik Afobe who looked sharp and very much capable at this level, sold his marker and finished with aplomb for the whites….. Bendtner sealed a 3-1 win with his second.

Cesc although involved throughout and showing a great range of passing, his body language was cold, sullied and distant, he did have moments where he seemed to defrost his exterior…….but you could sense that not all was settled yet…….

It was an interesting game, with various players standing out for me, but looking at the newbies and young-uns. Jenkinson looks very capable and will push Sagna this season, Frimpong looks like an ox. Ryo was also showing glimpses of his ability. And Lansbury can shoot from distant unlike 99% of our squad. Benik Afobe could be an asset this season from the bench……

Then the players split into two groups and conducted an attacking practice, with crossovers, crossing and finishing the main areas of the practice.

The stand out moment for me was when, Cesc tried to lob Szczesny, he managed to get a hand to it, it fell to Chamakh, Szczesny beat it away and then again before Cesc rifled it in. Our young pole looks well up for it and his confidence is certainly flowing…….

After that the squad broke into three teams and had a 3 way tournament, of note there was a sublime finish from Van Persie, Bendtner scored some more and Afobe made his mark with a couple.

Walcott was a lone trainer getting put through his paces by Tony Colbert the fitness coach, he looked to be moving freely so looks good for the season opener hopefully….

After this there were some penalty shootouts and crossbar challenges with selected fans. Then the players volleyed some balls into the crowd.  As the players walked away, Cesc came over and signed a few items and had his picture taken with some fans, my Reece was one of them…..

So it was a good day for the Fans, but unfortunately none the wiser as to what will our squad be when the season starts…….

Our opponents will be drawn today for the Champions League Qualifier and I understand the Squad numbers for the season will be announced……..

The new season is getting closer and the excitement is building as is the anti-Wenger feelings amongst some fans, who have judged him already.  For me he has till the transfer window to convince me we have a good season ahead of us……..I just have a bad feeling, no one else is coming in………….

He only has to December before I start asking serious questions……..But I will never boo……….


What does Gervinho bring to the team?

August 4, 2011

Above all I would say that we have finally found someone able to play the number nine role, this was demonstrated perfectly by his Ian Wrightesque finish against Cologne after wearing the glorious red and white shirt of Arsenal for just ten minutes. A sublime chip from Wilshere played inch perfect for The Gerv to run onto and slide powerfully past the on coming goal keeper.

It got better.

And just to show us that that was no fluke, ten minutes later he was in the right place at the right time: arriving at pace in Ian Wright territory, the six yard box, to stab home Theo’s slide rule pass.

Now that is what I call making an impression in the first ever forty five minutes for your new club.

Next up Boca Juniors: as soon as I saw the top three line-up of Arshavin, Rvp and Gervinho I thought, this is Wenger trying out what he hopes will be his best strike force.

The fluidity, the fluidity, it was all about the fluidity: Gervinho and Arshavin were swapping wings with more confidence than I have seen two Arsenal players do in years: Gervinho coming in from the right, no problem, Gervinho coming in from the left, still no problem, best demonstrated by the inch perfect pass played with his weaker left foot to the fast moving Van Persie who powered home for the first goal.

Happy, happy, happy.

On come NY Red Bulls, this time the fluidity went further than Arshavin and Gervinho switching wings as happened the day before. In this game we saw how The Gerv was capable of swapping so effectively with RvP that you could not even see the join. Think of the brilliant pass that Rosicky played for Gervinho to run onto creating a one on one with the keeper. This is an attacking star in the making: capable of being a number nine if needed or play on either wing. The Ivorian should have scored or played it square for Ramsey to slide home but hey, every player deserves a honey moon period and as you can tell from the tone of this post, The Gerv is in Hawaii with a garland of jasmine flowers around his neck.

The goals and the assists are the obvious stuff but the hidden gem was how he was able to bring out the best in RvP; he seemed to take the pressure off of the Dutchman. RvP didn’t have to force it; his play was more composed, more assured than I have ever seen it. The Boy Wonder’s headed goal against NYRB was class and so was the ball sent in by Rosicky who as Irish rightly pointed out was MOTM by some distance.

There has been so much talk about how RvP is not a natural number nine and that 4.3.3 doesn’t work for him, the most common solution put forward to remedy this has been to revert to 4.4.2, not one of us thought of the idea of finding someone that makes 4.3.3 work with RvP in it – brilliant in its simplicity.

Please excuse this bare faced adulation; it’s just that I am starting to get excited about the new season.

London