Need We Be Wary Of These Wounded Wolves?

April 11, 2012


No, I haven’t just mashed my forehead onto my keyboard, the above letters are the recent record of tonight’s opponents Wolves since they sacked Mick McCarthy. Drew one, lost six, a run of matches that sees them rooted to the bottom of the Premier League with a measly 22 points, six away from nearest relegation battlers Wigan.

Each club to their own, and we’ve enough to keep us occupied, but I think it was folly to sack McCarthy, after the transfer window and seeing as the players were playing for him, he could have kept them safe yet again. What was even worse was that they replaced him with Terry Connor – a man with no experience of managing a team at senior level or any other level at that. Talk about throwing the poor man to the wolves (not pardoning the pun).

Wolves have been inept to say the least since McCarthy departed. They have no shape, no belief, nothing. Since the commendable 2-2 draw against Newcastle they have been hammered by Fulham and the Mancs, beaten comfortably by Blackburn and didn’t have the nerve to get results against Norwich, Bolton or Stoke. To add misery to their already massive mountain of misery, they have the insufferable Roger Johnson as Captain – the same one that sees fit to turn up to training drunk and pick a fight with their ‘keeper Wayne Hennessey who has had some fine games for Wolves.

As it is, I don’t see Wolves causing us much trouble tonight. A draw isn’t much good to them, so they will have to try and come at us some bit. They don’t have the nerve to defend for the 90mins either, so the only ones that can beat us are ourselves. We were fantastic against Man City on Sunday – Sagna, Song and Arteta particularly impressed, as did RvP who was unlucky that Kompany was the one good Man City player to play well on the day. We need to keep this going into tonight’s game and not get complacent. With the Spuds (and Chelsea) having the FA Cup next (and after losing to Norwich), we have a real chance to put some daylight between us in 3rd and everyone else. A good night’s shift should see us grab three points.

Gibbs is out with a groin injury (or groin fatigue as AW likes to put it – draw your own conclusions), and Koscielny is suspended. Santos will come in for Gibbs which is no bad thing – he will torment Wolves down the flank, as will Sagna down the right – and, is it just me, or are Bac’s crosses getting better and better? Wenger has said that Squillaci and Park will come into the squad but probably won’t get their arses off the bench (AW didn’t say the last bit).

Expected starting XI:

We need to win this game so no “resting” of Rosicky or van Persie, they can rest themselves all they want at the Euros. I’d give Yossi another start because he works so hard off the ball, and with Santos going up and down the wing like a mad man, he would provide good cover and has more experience than the Ox or Theo in doing that kind of job. I do expect the Ox to come off the bench with about 20mins to go.

I’m calling a 3-0 win for the good guys.

Before I let ye go debate the game, a shout-out to Tomas Rosicky for winning the Arsenal Player of the Month. He has been immense in recent weeks, this is the guy we signed from Dortmund, the player I’ve been harping on about that is so needed in the Arsenal squad.

Oh, and did you also know that you can do this and its all fine and dandy?

Nice one FA ….

Written by IrishGunner

The Ramsey Problem

April 10, 2012

Aaron Ramsey’s cameo appearance in our “class versus cash” victory over Abu Dhabi Oil Inc was not his greatest moment in an Arsenal shirt.

He had slotted in pretty well after coming on in the 78th minute to replace Yossi “Busy Bee” Benayoun.

But what we will all remember is the moment at the death where he was through on goal with a chance to make it 2-0 and with Oxlade-Chamberlain and van Persie waiting in the middle to side foot the ball into an empty net.

Young Aaron chose not to pass. He also chose not to stroke the ball low and hard into the bottom right hand corner (from Joe Hart’s perspective) of the goal – which would have been the best option for scoring.

Instead he went for a “Bergkamp” – an ambitious shot curled with the inside of the right boot towards the opposite top corner of the goal.

Unfortunately the execution owed more to Jonny Wilkinson than Dennis Bergkamp – the ball flying high and wide into the crowd. Robin’s reaction – an incredulous gesture questioning why Ramsey had not passed – will probably stay with the Welshman for quite some time.

In the end it didn’t really matter. The game was won anyway. But I have been wondering why Ramsey did what he did.

He has acquired a lot of critics among the fan base during this, his first full season with Arsenal. He has been accused of slowing the game down, of taking too many touches, of trying too many flicks and backheels, of getting in the way of our other midfielders.

At various times he has been guilty of all of the above – especially in his more recent outings.

To me his problems really date from the period when Tomas Rosicky rediscovered his form and became one of the automatic starters in a midfield that also included Song and Arteta.

In away games, most recently at QPR, Arsene Wenger has started Ramsey in addition to the MF three of Rosicky/Arteta/Song, presumably to give us a more solid starting line-up.

Although he has ostensibly taken the place of either Gervinho or Oxlade-Chamberlain, Ramsey is not naturally a wide player and tends to come in field, leading to overcrowding and confusion in our MF.

It hasn’t all been terrible. The same formation played some glorious football for the first 25 minutes away at Everton (with Ramsey taking a key role), but the system faded after that and never recovered – certainly not against QPR.

The other problem with Ramsey’s game is that he has lost his scoring boots.

He has always seemed like a player with the ability to make late runs into the box and pick up goals from midfield. Recently, however, he has missed a bunch of sitters – like the last minute effort against Man City.

So what is the Ramsey problem?

Is it positional?

Is it that he is as limited as his critics allege?

Is it a hangover from his horrendous leg break (Dudu Mark II, if you like)?

Is it confidence?

Before attempting to answer that, I thought it would be good to take a look at some of the ratings and reviews he received in Arsenal Arsenal match reports (from various authors) earlier in the season. Here are a few, all from the November/December period:

Versus Manchester City

Ramsey: brilliant game. Fought like a dragon and worked his socks off for the team. He was everywhere and made so many positive runs into the box. Sooner or later, he will start scoring goals on a regular basis and, ideally, we would have had somebody in Ramsey’s position yesterday, who can do what he did plus score (more) goals. But Ramsey gives absolutely everything and is learning and growing very fast: 8 (Total Arsenal)

Versus Everton

Ramsey: works and doesn’t hide, makes the odd mistake, but works hard to make up for that. Needs a goal and deserves a goal. I read on one website, Ramsey was deemed the worse player on the pitch, complete pony; he was very good and close to MotM for me. How anyone can berate him is completely beyond me. 8 (Harry)

Versus Borussia Dortmund

Ramsey: excellent second half when more space was available. Playing well at the moment and appreciated by his team mates 7.5 (FatGingerGooner)

Versus West Brom

Ramsey: had a good game, probes and drives team forward. His pass for Walcott to get him free for starting the move for the opener was quite simply brilliant. Presses well and breaks play up. 7.5 (Harry)

Versus Stoke

Ramsey: amazing game from young Ramsey. Cesc-like passes (especially the assist to Gerv), great work rate and dangerous shooting. He is going to be an Arsenal legend no doubt about it. Glad Shawcross has not ruined the great career he will have. 7.5 (Oz Gunner)

Versus Chelsea

Ramsey: super Welsh Wizard, truly a special player who gave his all today, his range of passing was fantastic, he has a great engine and never doubts himself. 9 (Harry)

Not bad, right?

It seems people forget very quickly how good a player is once they start having a difficult patch.

Which brings me to the answer to my own question – what is the Ramsey problem?

For me it’s all about a shortfall in confidence caused by the lack of support our young Welshman received from a minority of Arsenal supporters when things were going badly for the team as a whole.

So when we had that terrible run in January (which was entirely down to the fact that we had no orthodox fullbacks available), the critterati decided it was all Ramsey’s fault.

The vitriol that was directed at him by some of the hate blogs was quite appalling and quite out of proportion. Other people picked up on it and spread it. If you hear something often enough you start to give it some credence, so even decent fans began to have doubts about Aaron’s abilities.

And we can be sure that in this age of instant communication, the hatred and bile did not go unnoticed by Ramsey.

The result is that, lately, he has been trying too hard; trying to create moments of magic when all he needs to do is play the simple game and let things happen naturally.

It completely explains his desperation, in the dying minutes against Manchester City, to score a glorious goal that would have fans and pundits alike drooling with delight. That would answer his critics.

The Ramsey of earlier in the season would almost certainly have passed to Robin or the Ox.

So what is the Ramsey problem?

It’s the poisonous, negative minority that have plagued the Arsenal fan base for the last year or two and have done their best to destroy a young man’s career before it’s hardly started.

I dread to think what they would have said about a 21-year-old Tony Adams, who showed flashes of brilliance but was also accident prone at that stage of his career. At least when TA6 was labeled a “donkey” it was NOT by Arsenal fans.

The haters are already having to eat humble pie over Arsene Wenger, over Song, Arteta and Koscielny. Even over Robin van Persie (the “constant crock” who should have been “offloaded post haste”). Next season they will eat a portion more when Aaron Ramsey emerges as one of the players of the season.


Cash Is So Last Millennium – Class Is So Permanent: Match Report

April 9, 2012

Written by TotalArsenal

Today, Arsenal had a chance to make a statement of where it stands in the current hierarchy of English football. This was not just a game we needed to win to keep us in contention for a top-four finish – no, this was also a game in which we needed to demonstrate to ourselves again how good we really are. During a transitional year, progress is measured not only by finishing as high as possible – it is just as important to claim the scalps of teams like Pool, the Chavs, and especially, the Oilers. Winning these sorts of games builds confidence, belief and respect: they’ll become part of the DNA of this new, post-Fabregas team.

First half

From the first minute it became clear Arsenal were up for this game. During the first quarter of the game, Arsenal enjoyed 78% possession, leaving Citeh with nothing else to do than chase the ball and set up a fortress around their box. This must have been hard for Citeh, as it’s usually them who keep the ball, and pass it around, better than their opponents. Recently, Arsenal have been a little bit lob-sided towards our right, but we were constantly able to switch our attacking play from side to side in the first half. Although we threatened a lot with our energetic and innovative attacking moves, we did not manage a clear attempt on goal until the 16th minute. RvP made a perfect connection with his head to Arteta’s corner-kick, but his effort hit the back of Vermaelen’s head, whose own run had taken him to just under the Citeh’s crossbar. RvP was just so unlucky not to score.

Soon after that, MC had to withdraw Toure who got injured during a strong challenge by Song. Rather than the tried and tested De Jong, Mancini decided to replace the Ivorian with the relatively (PL) inexperienced David Pizzaro. Undoubtedly, this was a big blow for Citeh, as Toure has been a consistent force in midfield for them in recent months.

Citeh had only one half-chance in this half, and it came from a ball through the middle that almost reached Balotelli. However, Sir Szczesny did fantastically well in anticipating the danger and with a quick and timely run he reached the ball before the Italian hothead.

During the rest of the first half there were no more clear attempts on goal, as Arsenal dropped off a bit and MC were able to regain some possession, albeit without threatening our goal themselves. Balotelli was keen to grab all the attention with another petulant performance, and he should have seen a straight red card for his nasty, studs-up challenge on Song. The referee appeared not to have seen the incident, so the Italian got away with it. Luckily, Alex somehow survived the charge. After that incident, Balotelli fouls our RB, Sagna, twice, and he finally gets a yellow card. He should have had a second one for a handball before the end of the first half, but once again, he got away with it.

Second half

Arsenal started the second half tentatively, with a lower tempo and less hunting down of the opponents compared to the first half. This allowed Citeh to have more possession and create a few chances. After 8 minutes, Citeh create their first proper chance with a decent, weighted ball into the box by – the until then very quiet and timid – Na$ri towards Zabaleta and Aguero who, however, stand in each others way, resulting in a weak effort on target.

In the 63rd minute, Song produces another of his trademark, fine, lofted balls into the box towards the continuously alert RvP. For once, the yet again very impressive Kompany has not anticipated Song’s ball. Robin shows his top-striker instinct by heading the ball straight towards goal, beating Hart in a flash, but the post is in the way. Once again, Robin is unlucky, and I am starting to feel a bit uneasy; thinking this might be another one of those games against Citeh, where we play well but are just not clinically/lucky enough to win it.

My uneasiness grows further when Baloteli tries an overhead kick from a header into the box by Kompany – luckily he fluffs his attempt – and, soon after that, RvP is, agonizingly but correctly, ruled just offside, after yet another fine passage of attacking midfield play by Song, who found RvP in the box with a weighted pass.

The good thing is that Arsenal are all over Citeh again, and that the Oilers are starting to look tired in the second part of the second half. There is only one team who really want to win this game by now.

In the 76th minute it looked like we would finally, FINALLY get our reward. But yet again, it was not to be, as Citeh survived three attempts on goal in the space of a few seconds. Rosicky passes the ball into the box towards Theo who does not hesitate: he does not take a first touch, but strikes on goal with a low and placed shot towards Hart’s right corner. Hart manages to just get a hand on it, diverting it towards the post where the Belgian Rottweiler is ready to pounce. FFS, would you believe it! Inexplicably he slips, AGAIN, and his fluffed effort ends up with Benayoun who, two yards from goal, also cannot manage a clean contact and Citeh, miraculously, escape once more!

After that, I was convinced we would have to settle for a draw, but then, THEN the moment we had all been waiting for, still came. And it could not have fallen to a better, more deserving person: Mikel Arteta! After vacuum cleaning the ball away from Pizarro, Arteta moves forward, and I am sure we all felt that this was the moment. Arsenal’s Engine Room sees a rare opportunity to have a shot on goal. As soon as he lined up, I felt it would go in. Arteta cleverly uses Lescott’s body to block Hart’s view and unleashes a pile-driver from 25 yards towards Hart’s left corner. The England number one has no chance and at last we have our goal. Simply orgasmic: 1-0 to the good guys!

In the last minute of the game, Ramsey had a great chance to make it 2-0 and he should have done better. It sadly looks like my prediction that Aaron will become a victim of ‘fans fulfilling prophecy’ is coming through. He looks to be low in self-confidence and is starting to believe his critics. Arsene has got some work to do with Aaron over the next few weeks to get his pecker up again.

At the end of the game, Balotelli made sure he got some more attention by making another reckless challenge on Sagna, resulting in a second yellow card, and a sending off.


But, today’s game is not about Balotelli and how he let his team down. It is about a very mature and professional Arsenal TEAM beating a ‘collection of highly overpaid individuals’, supposedly fighting for the title, at a pivotal moment. And in a way, I am happy Balotelli only got send off at the end, as it would have been hard to argue now that an earlier dismissal had not weakened Citeh and therefore did not have a crucial impact on the result.

Instead, we beat them fair and square, 11 against 11, when they HAD to win to stay in contention for the title. There was a lot at stake on Sunday: this game was about putting the Oilers in their place, to show that class is indeed permanent – that it cannot be bought so easily. Beating Citeh is a scalp we badly needed, and it has taken away any remaining doubt that this new Arsenal team has become a force again – one that will be fighting at full strength for the top prizes next season.

Player ratings:

Szczesny: fine, confident performance, remained focussed throughout the game: 8.

Sagna: super warrior as always, worked incredibly hard and did not let himself get provoked by Balotelli once. Supported our front men time and again, and he is a total team player: 8.5.

Vermaelen and Koz: very powerful, energetic performances, bossing their area with ease and composure, great support to our midfield as well. 8.

Gibbs: fine performance, unfortunately had to go off early. 7.5.

Song & Arteta: what a duo today. They are working together better and better and totally bossed the midfield, even before Toure went off. Song has so much to offer: is there a more all-round midfielder in the PL at the moment? Arteta had a great game as well and also showed what a complete midfielder he is for us, and of course he scored the all important goal. For me, they are both Man of the Match today (with Sagna not far away). 9.5.

Rosicky: worked hard and always wants to attack quickly and incisively but does still miss accuracy at times. He did a lot of chasing down opponents and is also a total team player: 8.

Benayoun: a good team performance, he also did a lot of chasing down opponents and supported Gibbs well. 7.5.

Theo: was not given any space by Citeh, as they were well aware of his danger and provided plenty of protection for their LB. He still worked hard to be a constant threat as he stuck to his role well, and he put in a fine team performance too: 8.

Robin van Persie: worked his socks off, always making clever runs and making himself available. Very unlucky not to be on the score sheet today, despite having to combat with one of the finest CB’s in Europe: Kompany. 8.5.


Into the arena – Gooners to be Armed & Ready for Oilers

April 7, 2012

With the N17 looters having dropped two points on Wearside yesterday the Good Guys find themselves needing defeat avoidance at the very least to return to third place.

One would hope that the Spuds have over achieved this season on the back of a few decent performances from their squad semi-evolved simian. This same player should be Barca bound having finished the audition for the Catalan Divers today with yet another dive and a Busquets-like peek through the fingers to check if the decision had gone his way or not before more John Terry style grass-sniffing.

The conventional wisdom may be that a draw against the Oilers from the Emptihead Stadium (a.k.a. A.C.S FC) is a fair return from one of the two teams who will win the League.

For me a win is more essential now as looking at our remaining fixtures compared to those of the chicken-on-a-basketball brigade this looks to be an perfect opportunity to go two points clear in third so that upcoming tough fixtures, such as the trip to the Shittania (to “play” the assorted knuckle scrapers and Orcs which Pullis has cobbled together) and the visit of a potentially revived Chav Pensioners squad don’t derail our season finish.

Having recovered from his apparently “stupid” injury Aguero will more than likely start on the bench together with the winner of this season’s prestigious Golden Bench award.

Also returning to the squad is Lescott, one of the quartet of face ache Oilers (Lescott, Tévez, Kompany and De Jong) who can make any pleasant social event into something ugly.

The good guys are missing only Mertesacker, Coquelin and Wilshere with the perpetually injured Diaby now a sitting tenant at London Colney’s medical complex.

As regards to the tactical bollocks (©Mdi89) the main talking point will be the ambition of the Oilers manager, who can’t be all bad having admitted he’d like to hit Balotelli – who of us wouldn’t like to give someone of Mario’s arrogance and front a slap or three ?

Will Mancini try and be adventurous and play two up front or will he use four defensive midfielders(de Jong, Barry, Hargreaves, Yaya Toure) in a five man midfield with the aforementioned lunatic Italian/Dzeko up top on his own?

Having only gotten a draw at home the Mackems last time out I suspect Mancini will start cautiously with Aguero coming one to replace one of the defensive midfielders if the Oilers are chasing the game or sense the chance for a late winner.

How should we play? A month ago I would have said to press from the start and maintain the pressure all through the game, however having seen how we ran out of steam in the last half hour against Milan in the second half of the second leg I confess to maintain the “correct” tempo for the game will be a tricky act.

I see the Oilers as a team with too many wayward characters – Tévez’s antics have been well documented and Balotelli always appears to be just one mental, hissy fit away from a Charlie Sheen style melt down; perhaps Mario has tiger blood? Or perhaps he’s a rock star from Mars ?

The opposition have not performed well on their travels (one win in their last seven away fixtures) and it is for this reason I see today as a great opportunity to rebuild any dissipated momentum resulting from the lack lustre and listless display against QPR.

In keeping with Big Randy’s tradition of selecting a famous gooner for pre matches for home fixtures I present Hollywood superstar Kevin Costner, who had this to say about his trip to Highbury:

“When I came over and made Robin Hood I got a chance to go see a football game and it happened to be Arsenal.
They invited me as their guest and I didn’t know what to expect, and I was blown away. I didn’t realize how emotional it can be in the stands. I didn’t realize that people sang and did all that and I was moved by it….. there is something communal about the way that they sing in British football.”

Which brings me on to my final point – for those of us lucky enough to be going to THOF today, your team needs you to be at your most vociferous, as you have been for months now.

Jeer every touch by an opposition player, and some (you know who they are) more than others.
Howl at every poor decision made by the referee against the good guys.

If Hart decides to time waste make sure he gets the Krul treatment so that we make sure the ref knows that there is time wasting.

Every kung Fu kick by de Jong must be rounded on and the reaction magnified for the referee’s benefit, as that is the whole point of home advantage – to make the Grove a hostile environment for any visiting team!

Make the Oilers feel like they have entered an arena they’ll not want to come back to again in a hurry!
That is your duty my fellow gooners, now go and do us proud!


Charybdis1966 (twitter @charybdis1966)

Arsenal – testing your loyalty

April 7, 2012

I’m hoping the long gap between games isn’t causing the players to lose focus as badly as it has me – although it is a concern after our last performance!

This is just a bit of interactive fun to fill the time before we take on city tomorrow.

One object of the exercise is to test whether your loyalty to Arsenal might just possibly cloud your judgement in matters concerning by far the greatest team the world has ever seen……..

Try to answer the following questions honestly. It may be that your choices would be the same either way – but I doubt it.

So are you a dyed in the wool Arsenal supporter (in which case you lied in some answers) or are you one of the new breed of fan who prefers to stay seated, doesn’t sing and thinks the ref is a jolly good chap 😕

Feel free to debate the questions and your choices in Comments, or maybe you can suggest similar questions that could have had you battling with your Arsenal conscience.

Written by Rasp

Playing Championship Manager

April 6, 2012

As the season is drawing to close and another trophyless one for the good guys again thoughts are beginning to turn to who we should buy and how much we will spend in the summer.

Some fans are beginning the clamour for new experienced signings already, sure that it is the only way we can ensure success going forward. They are also demanding the release of a number of surplus to requirement players.

“We must reduce our wage bill, to free up cash for the big names”

I caught an interview with Karen Brady recently (she was promoting some poorly titled book) and she was quizzed about the situation at West Ham. She told of how this season the owners have been required to put a large chunk of their own money in to sustain the club, blaming in the main players wages. She was asked why they paid the money they did, her response was quite simple.

“if we want to sign a youngster from United on a £30k a week contract with three years left to run, we have to pay him the same otherwise he will stay where he is”

Makes sense.

She also went on to say that it is very difficult being at a Professional Club and dealing with expectations.

She gave an example of two 18 year olds working for West Ham. One was a youngster just signing his first pro contract the other was new in the ticket office.

“on one hand the ticket office girl earns £15k a year and struggles to make ends meet, whilst the footballer earns that in a week and can’t understand why anyone would get out of bed for less”.

How crazy is that? West Ham a championship or lower table Premier League Club pay their young pros £15k a week. Yet some Arsenal fans think what we pay our youngsters is too much.

Anyway that’s a side issue I just found it interesting. So let’s look at our squad going into next season and ask two important questions:

  • 1) Do we need additional players?
  • 2) Can we accommodate them?

The first question is ultimately only answerable by Arsene, but for me looking at our current squad I’d say there is perhaps potential for improvement in one area, that of support striker. This assumes Robin stays. If Robin decides he wants to ply his trade elsewhere the desire to improve will become a necessity to replace.

The second question is the most difficult to answer, it requires careful planning by Arsene and is the part of his job that must be the hardest. Some of you will remember in January that I wrote a post saying how Thierry would be our only business as our 25 man PL squad was at its limit of overseas players, eventually Manuel Almunia had to make way for a short term space for Thierry.

Additionally we now have players that were not required to be named in the PL squad but over the next two years they will be.

So let’s take a look at where we are with our current squad going into next season and where we will need to cut to make new signings. The assumption is most new signings will be non homegrown, thankfully our youth policy allows us to fill up the squad with players deemed to be homegrown.

Potential 2012-13 Squad – Players Over 21 on 1 January 2012 (in bold are homegrown):
For this purpose I have assumed Arshavin has returned as he has stated his wish to do so and also Mannone will return into the squad also

Wojciech Szczesny
Vito Mannone
Lukasz Fabianski

Defenders: 7
Johan Djourou
Kieran Gibbs
Laurent Koscielny
Andre Santos
Bacary Sagna
Per Mertesacker
Thomas Vermaelen

Alex Song
Aaron Ramsey
Tomas Rosicky
Mikel Arteta
About Diaby

Wingers: 3
Theo Walcott
Andrey Arshavin

Centre Forwards: 3
Robin van Persie
Marouane Chamakh
Ju Young Park

So thats the current squad we are coping with, the eagle eyed amongst you will notice the absence of Squidgy (I believe his contract is up at seasons end) and Yossi (who’s loan spell will see him return to Chelsea).

In 2012-13 Arsene will have a squad of 21 players requiring to be named, 14 non homegrown, therefore we have space for 4 players, 3 of which can be non homegrown. There is also the potential of Nicklas Bendtner, Denilson and Carlos Vela returning although this seems unlikely. Henri Lansbury and Kyle Bartley will also be returning (Bartley is not required to be named but Lansbury will be).

You will also notice that Jack Wishere, Francis Coquelin, Emmanuel Frimpong, and Carl Jenkinson who have all had first team appearances are excluded, this group of players are currently 20 so do not require inclusion until 2013-14 season.Then we have another batch of youngsters including Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Benik Afobe, Ignasi Miquel who are still under 20, but will soon be requiring naming in the squad.

Its not like we have five or six players in the current squad coming to end of their contracts anytime soon.The long and short of it is this isn’t Championship Manager, not only does Arsene have to assemble a squad that can achieve success on the pitch today, but also he needs to think about the players coming through the ranks and how to include them in the future.

It is not as simple as buy this player and sell that one, would you really want to be the person who bought a player that led to Frimpong, Miquel or Coquelin not getting into the squad in the future?

Written by Gooner in Exile

Kroenke Fails in Ownership Bid – Arsenal to Benefit?

April 5, 2012

Mostly unnoticed on the UK side of the Atlantic, Arsenal’s majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, has suffered a setback to his sporting ambitions in the United States.

Kroenke combines being a Trappist monk (vow of silence) with owning sports franchises in the NFL (American football), NHL (ice hockey), NBA (basketball) and MLS (soccer) as well as his stake in Arsenal. He also owns a professional lacrosse team (it’s a game where people chase a ball with butterfly nets) and, for all I know, he may be heavily invested in curling, dwarf-throwing and synchronised swimming.

But even that’s not enough! Up until last Thursday (March 28th) Kroenke had also been in the final round of bidders for the LA Dodgers baseball team.

The Dodgers, one of the biggest “brands” in US baseball with a beautiful, historic stadium in the hills above Los Angeles, had filed for bankruptcy protection under the previous owners and the franchise was put up for sale.

In the end the winning bid – a mighty $2 billion – came from a consortium including former LA Lakers basketball legend Magic Johnson.

Silent Stan’s failure is not particularly surprising. Had he won, he would have found himself in violation of the NFL’s cross-ownership policies (even though basketball and football are different sports, the NFL controls the LA market).

Further, the NFL are said to be unhappy with his stewardship of his American football team, the St Louis Rams and there have been suspicions that he wants to move the Rams out of Missouri and back to Los Angeles (where, as the LA Rams, they played from 1946 to 1994).

With Stan having failed to buy the Dodgers, NFL officials, off the record, are welcoming the prospect of him having more time on his hands to sort out the Rams. Which sounds kind of familiar, doesn’t it?

Since he gained effective ownership of Arsenal, many commentators and supporters’ groups have questioned whether Kroenke devotes enough time to the club – and, in particular, to making it successful.

His “absentee landlord” approach was deemed to have contributed to Arsenal’s woeful performance in the summer transfer window last year. (History may yet be a kinder judge of the 2011 window, given that it brought in the likes of Arteta, Mertesacker, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Santos and Gervinho, but there is no doubt that the last minute nature of many of those deals appeared desperate and unplanned).

Without the job of revitalising the Dodgers (who have not won a World Series since 1998) it is to be hoped that Kroenke will, indeed, be free to give more focus to Arsenal matters.

We may already be seeing the fruits of that, in the apparent attempt to sign up Lukas Podolski even before the window has opened.

Let’s not forget, last year was Stan’s first experience of the transfer window as club owner  and I’m sure he learned a lot. You don’t get to be as rich and successful as he is without being smart and I am confident he will not make the same mistakes this year.

That should mean that we buy early and that we also tie up our business with van Persie, Song and Walcott sooner rather than later.

Time will tell whether Kroenke turns out to be a great owner of Arsenal, a good one or a failure.  I have read many comments suggesting that he presides over mediocrity in his US sports franchises.

That’s actually a little harsh and also betrays a shallow understanding of American sport, where it’s often much harder for a small group of teams to dominate for year after year.

The Rams won the first Superbowl in their history under Stan’s stewardship; his basketball team, the Denver Nuggets, have made the NBA play-offs for the past eight years; his ice hockey franchise, the Colorado Avalanche, has won a Stanley Cup (equivalent of the Superbowl) under his involvement as well as achieving two divisional championships; and the Colorado Rapids (his MLS soccer team) won their first MLS Cup in 2010 with Stan as owner.

So he’s hardly been a flop and, as far as I know, none of his sports businesses has gone bust or is in heavy debt or is run on uneconomic lines. All these things augur well for Arsenal.


Do We Play Ryo Miyaichi or the Twitter Flavour of the Month Next Season?

April 4, 2012

Not another kid!

We need Eden Hazard, Yoann Gourcuff, Mario Goetze, some other player playing in the French Ligue 1/Bundesliga who I’ve never really seen play, but a lot of people are talking about him on Twitter so I presume we really need him and am going to get really angry about it when Wenger doesn’t splash out £50million on him in the summer.

Of course, these were more than likely the same people who booed Andrey “established star who cost a few bob” Arshavin off the field when he was replaced by Alex “oh bloody hell another kid who cost us a small fortune” Oxlade-Chamberlain at the Emirates against Manchester United.

Now before you worry, this isn’t another pop from a blog at Arshavin. I am very fond of the Russian and do hope that if he can’t find form at Arsenal, he will somewhere else (in a different league) because he is a joy to watch. No, no, this is about the kids, and one in particular – Ryo Miyaichi.

Arsenal signed Miyaichi in January of 2011, and he immediately went out on loan to Feyenoord until the end of the season. In 12 games, he scored 3 goals and made a big impression there. At the time, a Dutch friend of mine told me that he was still raw but was an exceptional prospect. It was on such evidence that he was granted an “exceptional talent” work visa. Ryo was hyped up by Wenger when he signed for us, and again during last summer, but other than two short appearances in the Carling Cup, we saw nothing of Miyaichi. That was until he went to Bolton on loan.

Now, during the Fat Sam era I wasn’t a fan of Bolton, with their pedantic football and aggressive style. Things didn’t get much better under Gary Megson, but under Owen Coyle, Bolton are a decent side to watch, aren’t into the bully boy tactics, and as shown by Jack Wilshere’s successful time there, a good place for Arsenal to loan out some younger players to get some vital first team experience. Young Jack grew up a lot in his time at the Reebok, he was taken away from the comfy bubble of London Colney and thrust into a more no nonsense set-up at a mid to lower league side where everyone had to pull their weight.

The same has happened to Ryo, and he hasn’t even got the benefit of a few years at our academy like Jack had, which leads me to suspect Wenger may be tempted to give him a try-out in the Arsenal squad sooner rather than later. I’m not going to try and sound clever and pretend to have watched every game he has played for Bolton, but I do read all the reviews and in them, Ryo’s name pops up time and again. Reporters often claim he is Bolton’s most creative player, and often their best. In fact, he was voted the club’s Player of the Month for February by fans. His goal and 2 assists in just 6 games probably helps.

I’ve only caught highlights of Ryo play, but he is willing to take defenders on, and can whip in a fine cross. His reaction to Fabrice Muamba’s illness is also telling when it comes to Wenger’s favourite, his “mental strength.” At the time he was obviously and understandably shocked, this turned to a tear when Muamba’s name was chanted on the first game back at the Reebok, and that in turn turned to sheer determination to do well on the field. It is hard to know how he will re-act to playing in the famous red and white on a big night at the Emirates, but like with the Ox and any other youngster, there is only one way to find out – throw ’em in at the deep in.

I’m not much of a betting woman (lost €30 to Paddy Power during Cheltenham – so if anyone has any tips for the Grand National I’m listening) but if I were to harbour a guess, I can sadly see Arshavin and Benayoun leaving the club in the summer and Miyaichi given his chance to shine. That would give us the options of Miyaichi, Walcott, Gervinho, and Oxlade-Chamberlain out wide, and they all have one thing in common – SPEED!

So do we give Ryo Miyaichi a go next season, or some player we’ve never really seen play or heard of before Twitter told us we needed him?

Written by Irishgunner

The Spaniard Who Finally Found ‘The Home of Good Football’

April 3, 2012

Mikel Arteta is gradually winning over more and more Gooners as one of their favourite, if not THE favourite, Gunner(s) in the current squad. There is something about Arteta that appeals to most, if not all of us: something that we can easily associate with as supporters of Arsenal. It is difficult to describe what this is in just a few words. The best I can do, is describe him as somebody who plays football as every single fan would like to do: with full conviction and desire to make the very best out of the special chance he has been given.

Arteta is the total professional who always gives everything and enjoys what he does to the maximum. In a way, he is confirming to us – through his career until now and the way he has established himself at Arsenal – that we, as in you and I, can indeed achieve what we want, by working hard and being focussed and enthusiastic about what we do. Arteta is not the most talented midfielder that has ever worn an Arsenal shirt, but he is brilliant at getting the very best out of himself, at maximizing his potential, and I believe that for the very same reason, the likes of Ray Parlour, Gilberto, and Flamini (at least until he left) were loved by many of us too. There is simply something very appealing about these sort of players.

Here is a man, who joined Barcalona at the tender age of 15, where he played alongside the likes of Iniesta and Xavi, but he did not manage to break into the first team, and a two year loan spell followed at Paris St Germain. It must have been hard for him to come so close to playing at the highest level, only to lose out against a number of midfielders of the highest possible standard in Spanish football history.

In 2002, he joined Glasgow Rangers because he wanted to toughen-up and there he established himself as a regular, scoring 14 goals in 68 games over two seasons. Then he returned to the Basque Country, the area where he grew up – to play for his boyhood team: Real Sociedad. But, once again, it did not work out for him in Spain and after only a year he returned to England in 2005, where he joined David Moyes’ Everton for the bargain price of £2m. Under the wings of Moyes, he developed into a fine player and he established himself as a successful attacking midfielder with 35 goals and 41 assists in 209 games, between 2005 and 2011.

Here is a man, who chose to come to Arsenal: The Home Of Football, because of the football that we play and who, apparently, took a pay-cut and was willing to fight for his spot in a strong Arsenal midfield. When he was asked, back in September, what he thought of Wenger, he said:

‘The most important thing is he wants to play good football and then win, and I like that’.

That sequence is important: first play good football and then win – he is driven by football itself, as an art, a treat (the latter being an anagram of his name!).

In an age where some footballers refuge to warm up, fight over who should take a free-kick, conspire against their manager, are almost entirely driven by earning as much as they can put their hands on, and show little or no loyalty to their current clubs, it is just great to hear that Arteta joined Arsenal because he had a longing, a homesickness if you want, to play good football. He had a first taste of good football at Barcelona in the early years of his career, and this taste created a longing that has never gone away.

At Everton, he was loved by the fans and did not have to worry about money or competition, but it was his personal ambition to get the very best out of himself and play football the way it should be played, that made him jump at the opportunity Arsène Wenger offered to him last summer.

His new challenge at Arsenal could not have been much bigger. Inevitably, comparisons were drawn between him – the newly arrived Spaniard – and the last summer departed, genial Spanish maestro, who had us play football of such breathtaking beauty. Fabregas had a strong longing – some called it homesickness – to return to his boyhood club Barcelona, and there is no doubt he left a gap behind. It did not take long for us to see our initial thoughts confirmed: Arteta is not a like-for-like, in terms of quality, replacement for Fabregas. In our current 4-3-3 formation, Arteta is not playing in the advanced midfield position as most of us had expected. Especially with the long term injury to JW, this seemed the most likely position for him.

Arteta has occupied Wilshere’s position last season, instead: the one next to Song as ‘the second DM’, and he has been a revelation. The partnership between him and Song has developed into something special, and the longer they will play together the better it will become. Arteta has shown us defensive qualities that many of us did not think he possessed.

He tidies up in front of the defensive and in midfield tirelessly, and links defence with attack seamlessly. His passing is incredibly accurate and efficient and his ball winning skills are very impressive too. Some have called him the ‘engine room’ (Ade David on AA recently) or the ‘perfect anchor’ (Rasp on AA yesterday), and these names sum up perfectly what most of us think of Arteta’s contributions to our team.

Personally, he reminds me more and more of one my all-time favourite Dutch players: Edgar Davids (such a shame he decided to play for the Spuds at the end of his career, though). Davids was known as ‘De Stofzuiger’: the Vacuum Cleaner. He used to work tirelessly to own the area between defence and attack and he made an art of performing the simple things to perfection. His partnership with Zidane at Juventus in the last decade was an absolute joy to behold.

Arteta is currently performing a similar role, albeit in a different formation. And, just the way Davids allowed the likes of Litmanen, Zidane, Seedorf, Bergkamp (national team) to shine in previous teams, Mikel is allowing Song, and whoever plays in the more advanced midfield role, to shine for Arsenal. Next season, Wilshere is likely to be our main man in the advanced midfield role and boy will he benefit from the service he will be getting then from Arteta (and Song).

So, there you have it. Arteta has made a long and beautiful European journey from the Basque Country to Catalonia, from Paris to Glasgow, and from the Basque Country to Merseyside, but only now he has arrived at The Home Of Football. His longing is over; he is no longer homesick for good football, as he now plays with a broad smile on his face, and wears the shirt of Wengerball-football with the greatest pride.

Welcome home, Mikel!


Don’t Panic! All Is Well At Arsenal

April 2, 2012

Here are some results to put the fear of God up you:

  • Losing 2-3 at home to Blackburn Rovers.
  • Losing 0-3 away at Newcastle.
  • Losing 0-1 at Everton.
  • Losing 0-1 at Sunderland.
  • Losing 0-1 at Everton (again).
  • Losing 1-2 at Stoke.

The good news is that none of them are Arsenal results.

The first two defeats belong to Manchester (Surrey) United; the second pair were secured by the Abu Dhabi Oilers and the final two results were achieved by the Neanderthals from N17.

My point being that, in the context of the above results (which are all from this season), a 1-2 defeat away at QPR does not look so bad. Every top club this season has had embarrassing defeats and there will surely be more before this season is done.

The EPL is a competitive league and – literally – anyone is capable of beating anyone on a given day.

Arsenal losing at QPR is now a fact and a statistic, but it does not need to be a milestone. Reading through the comments on AA and elsewhere I feel there has been too much criticism following Saturday’s defeat.

On the day, Rangers played to the best of their ability and we played to 75% of ours. Somewhere in that gap, QPR found the room to win the game and take all three points.

But if you need to know anything about the current Arsenal squad it is that it has repeatedly proved its ability to bounce back from disappointment to confound the critics.

I am delighted that we have the Oilers up next. If we had a park-the-bus team battling against relegation I would doubt our ability to break them down. But a title-challenging Manchester City is exactly what we need.

The Spuds, meanwhile, are away at a confident Sunderland. I fully expect us to win and the Rioters to lose, courtesy of a Nik Bendtner brace, putting us back to a three point lead over the enemy.


It was sh*t.

Now we move on.

We are The Arsenal…