Comeback Conor takes Arsenal Back to The Future

August 21, 2012

Barclays Under-21 Premier League

Arsenal 3 Bolton 1

Eisfeld 47 Blakeman 27 (Pen)

Henderson 61

Henderson 69

Emirates Stadium

ATTENDENCE: 4374

Let’s face it, we have all become sick of the story. Arsenal gradually and painstakingly bring through players from various avenues of the youth development programme only to find they have Barca DNA, a dodgy hamstring or are just plain unsuited to the Premier League.

So with the purchases of Arteta, Mertesacker, Cazorla, Podolski etc, quality professionals in the peak age bracket we should assume that project youth is dead.

Well not quite because behind the facade of a first team much changed in the last twelve months, young guns still fire in Terry Burton’s under 21’s.

It also gave a glimpse of a forgotten gem. When I first noticed Connor Henderson he was passing his way around Leyton Orient’s defence in an FA Cup reply. The likes of Fabregas, Nasri, Clichy and Van Persie were part of the club, Bendtner scored that night too. Much has changed.

Henderson is a cool headed, laid back passer with an eye for the dead ball. Eisfeld is a bustling young Ljungberg as he often showed for the first hour with great movement off the ball and superb diagonal runs. Gnabry is a dribbler with power.

Project youth Mk II, is alive and well.

The game itself was a quiet affair early on with only Gnabry going close when he tried to dink it over Bolton’s keeper only to see his effort drift wide.

Then after Arsenal gave away possession Bolton broke through one on one and Martinez was left stranded and had no option but to try and steal the ball. He caught the player, penalty and a red card to boot.

Bolton’s captain Adam Blakeman coolly finished from the spot on 25 minutes and you had to worry for a young ten man Arsenal.

Substitute keeper James Shea pulled off a worldy tipping over the bar. Moments later he made a great save at his near post. His handling was good all night.

Arsenal made it to half time at 0-1.

The second half began with Gnabry and Akpom causing mayhem before Eisfeld was in the right place at the right time for Arsenal to fire home for 1-1.

Moments later Bellerin smashed the ball into the North Bank after the tireless Gnabry had played him in.

Ten minutes later Arsenal won a free-kick outside the D.

Gnabry and Henderson lined it up and Gnabry’s half dummy run up, Henderson floated the free-kick in to the corner of the net.

Henderson, who had quietly bossed the game, was now playing with a swagger. He was helped in the second half with the help of Gnabry and Eisfeld who became more inside forwards than wingers.

The sending off seemed to remove a stage from Arsenal’s attacks, they became more directs. A lesson the first team might learn.

On 70 minutes, left back Jernade Meade burst threw only to be forced to the ground.

Henderson converted the penalty in to the roof of the net.

For a young man who 12 months ago damaged his cruciate knee ligament it must have been a nice moment.

It was a good night as well for Terry Burton. His team played with a lot of guts and style.

I have added a column below to show which of these I think you might see in the Carling Cup.

All in all there is a lot to be said for playing at the Emirates. A bumper crowd of over 4,000 gave support, a great pitch rather than the slope at Underhill which allowed two good halves of football and a better pace to the game.

The under 21 looks more fun than the reserves league. Roll on Blackburn on Saturday.

Carling Cup Player?

GK Damian Martinez Did fine until sent off in the penalty incident 5 No

RB Hector Bellerin (80) Few loose touches and passes, good start to second half, bad miss. 5 No

LB Jernade Meade<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/jernade-meade> Another converted winger who seems to lack concerntration, very quick. 5 No

LCB Ignasi Miquel (c)<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/ignasi-miquel> Started slow but stepped up as the game went on. Did well. 7 Yes

RCB Elton Monteiro A Djourou in the making 5 ?

CM Nico Yennaris<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/nicholas-yennaris> Ran and ran, very solid, just one of those players that doesn’t let you down. 7 Yes

DM Conor Henderson<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/conor-henderson>Started slow but brought the game to his pace, wonderful free kick and a good pen too. Never rushed. 9 Yes

RW Thomas Eisfeld (73) Great movement, quick feet and bottle. Reminds me of Freddie. 9 Yes

LW Serge Gnabry Very like the Ox on that performance, with Eisfeld, took the game to Bolton. 9 Yes

AM Kristoffer Olsson<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/kristoffer-olsson> (25) Taken off due to penalty incident, looked tidy. 6 No

CF Chuba Akpom<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/chuba-akpom> Involved in first goal but offered little. Tough job as a lone front runner. 5 No

Substitutes

James Shea<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/james-shea> (25) Two great saves, safe as houses. 8 No

Sead Hajrovic<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/sead-hajrovic>

Martin Angha<http://www.arsenal.com/reserves-youth/players/martin-angha> (80) Very bad haircut 5 No

Kyle Ebecilio (73) One nice run. 6 No

Written by Arsenalista

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Slotting in our new players

August 20, 2012

Three signings have already been confirmed in Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla, and a forth is possibly going to happen in Şahin from Madrid. But it is like when it is like the weather in England, we moan when it is too cold and then moan when it is too cold, we moan when we don’t sign anyone and now some fans are moaning that we have no where to play them! Some people are never happy!

Well, firstly let’s start with Podolski. If you were alive recently in June and the start of July, then you would have seen the Euro’s. You may have also seen the most entertaining team in it, Germany, where Podolski was a regular starter. If you did watch our first signing of the summer transfer window, then you would have noticed that he play played on the left wing. This is not actually Podolski’s natural position, even though he is left footed. He is more of a centre forward, a player that sits behind the striker, but he does naturally drag the ball towards the left so he can have a shot on his stronger foot. He can also do this upfront.

So that centre forward position, do we already have players that play there? Well I personally believe that we don’t have a player that is actually meant to play in that position, although we do have some players that can. We have players like Walcott, Gervinho and the Ox who can play behind whatever striker starts upfront next season, Giroud or even maybe a new striker we sign, although that would obviously mean they were replacing Van Persie. Arteta could probably even play behind the strikers if he was asked too.

But it all depends on the formation that Wenger plays the team in this season, Podolski may play on the winger or behind the strikers. In past seasons he has opted to have ‘copied’ Barcelona with the 4-3-3 formation with two defensive or holding midfields and one in front of them, and one central striker.

I think that the formation will be changed next season, we will have Giroud, so he may play a 4-2-2-2, although Podolski would have to play on the wing in that formation, and we would only have two midfielders in the centre, which we put us at an disadvantage against a team which plays a lot of midfielders, for example in a 4-5-1 formation, even a 4-4-2.

I think that to accommodate all of the fresh talent brought in to the club, we would have to play a 4-2-1-1-2 formation, with Arteta and ?Diaby at defensive midfield, Cazorla in the centre attacking position, and Podolski sitting behind Giroud. This would mean Cazorla and Podolski are free to drift over to the wings.

Our second signing of the transfer window is French international striker Olivier Giroud, who is twenty five years old, he has been a professional football player for only three years, so his football mental age is younger than twenty five. He is tall, although he isn’t actually just a central striker. He is deployed upfront, although he does run onto the wing and crosses to the other striker. He finished the 2011 / 2012 season off with twenty five goals and eleven assists in the league , one more assist in other competitions. This proves he can create goals as well as score them, something Van Persie did do as well, almost the same stats between the two. A big difference between those two is that Giroud isn’t injury prone.

Our third signing is Cazorla, his signing was almost as painstakingly long as Podolski’s was this year. We knew we had signed him, so did all the players, he had flown to Germany with the squad, all before the announcement of his arrival, Malaga’s financial problems preventing us from revealing his arrival. He is a player that operates on the wing, although can also play in the centre of the park. He can’t be deployed at high up the pitch as Podolski can, but he is a player that can attack on the wing, or help control the game with Song and Arteta in the centre of the pitch. He can score, nine goals in La Liga last season, and he provided vital assists.

We do actually have players that can play in his position, Arteta can if asked, the Ox is now being played in a central role, and possibly Diaby can, but once again, we don’t actually have a nippy little player who can attack quickly and can help in defence will waiting to begin a break. Cazorla is the type of player that top teams have, for example Man City with Nasri, Man United with possibly Carrick and Chelsea have Hazard who can play there. He may single handedly, along with the form we had towards the end of the season, make us a title contending team finally. He may be our new Ljungberg or Pires.

Fans are worried that we are going to have too many players, especially if we finally confirm the signing of Madrid’s Şahin, a central player, and some fans will want to see certain players and they aren’t played. I personally believe that we will have some nice competition between the players to get into that starting line up, especially for the Champions League, which Man City especially have, and it hardly did them any damage.

Wenger also stated while in Asia, before the news of Cazorla’s transfer was taken seriously, that any more players arriving depended on how many players left. Well not one left before Cazorla arrived, except six youth players not signing senior contracts and Almunia. Now Vela has left, and Bendtner may also be following him out, as well as Squillaci, who has been rumoured to have been bid for. Chamakh played in the Asian tour, so he may still have one last chance. Qpr are also contemplating whether or not to bid for Arshavin, a player who arrived all guns blazing, but just lost it after that. This all may suggest more signings, which every Arsenal fan wouldn’t mind, we have been deprived of signings in recent years, but now things may have changed, finally Wenger have dipped into that pocket of his, rumoured to have around forty million in. Has he learnt his lesson, youth may not always be the answer, Arteta, an experienced player, defiantly proved that.

I have said this before and I am sticking to it, the summer transfers are a long way from over, lets see what the next few days brings.

Written by Miles

 


Failure to Beat Sunderland: We’re All Doomed (and Player Ratings)

August 19, 2012

Well, all those hoping for quick and easy answers to what our season holds will be disappointed.

There were not enough positives in our 0-0 with Sunderland to have the optimists planning their outfits for the Champions Parade, nor enough negatives for the pessimists to start slashing their wrists.

The performance can probably best be summed up as “OK, in the circumstances.”

Not that that has stopped the media from going overboard with stories about how we’re doomed never to score again without the magic left boot of Brave Sir Robin and how Giroud is our latest French flop.

My favourite headline was from a website called Emirates 24/7 (not an Arsenal site – it’s based in the United Arab Emirates, I think). It said: “Van Persie Haunts Arsenal As Giroud Crumbles.” To whoever wrote it, take a bow son for the best load of hyperbollix on the net yesterday.

And so to the game.

Arsene Wenger gave starts to two of the new boys – Santi Cazorla in the attacking midfield role (despite him having travelled across the Atlantic and back with Spain midweek) and Lukas Podolski in the central striker role.

Well done Big Raddy for getting 10 out of 11 starters right in yesterday’s pre-match (Gervinho instead of Giroud was his only miss).

The home team took the field with a spring in their step and to a noisily positive reception from the crowd. The away team’s clapped-out old Greyhound bus sputtered onto the pitch and parked itself in front of their goal.

From the off it was clear that Sunderland were playing for a 0-0, but there were plenty of positive signs for Arsenal in the early stages.

Cazorla oozed class, controlling the ball instantly, turning on a peseta and always looking for the killer thrust. He’s a real midfield matador and could become our most important player this season, even if he could apply the “coup de gras” to Sunderland’s bull.

Gervinho was offering plenty of threat down the left, beating the Sunderland defenders and getting to the byline on several occasions, one of which gave Cazorla a good shot on goal, although it went narrowly wide.

Walcott, who struggled to create anything, scuffed a decent half chance after a Mertesacker knock-down and Diaby forced a good low save from Filet Mignon in the Sunderland goal.

At one point Walcott got to the touchline and pulled the ball back for the onrushing Podolski in the six yard box, but our new signing was crowded out by a posse of blue shirted defenders.

This was all still in the first half and it was becoming clear that something special would be needed to break down Sunderland’s resistance.

To be fair, the Black Cats did not need nine lives to survive, but their defending was full of commitment and effort. However, along with their time wasting almost from the first whistle, it made zero contribution to the spectacle. We know that many teams will come to the Emirates and will try to frustrate us like Sunderland. If we don’t score early on it gets harder and harder, so we really need the famous Plan B (of which there was no real sign yesterday).

Sunderland had a couple of breakaway chances in the first half – and, given our tendency to concede to the opposition’s first attack last year, I had my heart in my mouth – but a combination of well organised defending and good alertness from the Pole in Goal averted any catastrophes.

The second half was more of the same. Walcott tried an ambitious volley from a tight angle with an unmarked Podolski screaming for the ball in the six yard box; we had a few long range shots (including from free kicks), all of which went high; we tried to pass our way through the packed ranks of the bus boys… but as time wore on a goal seemed ever less likely.

Arsene switched out Podolski for Giroud and Diaby for Ramsey. We continued to press without much end product until Cazorla set up Giroud with a beautiful reverse pass into the box. Our striking (in more ways than one) Frenchman hit it first time and put it wide. It wasn’t a shocking “missed a sitter” moment of the kind trademarked by Fernando Torres last season, but it was a good chance and his shot should have been on target.

That said, it was one attempt and all strikers miss these sorts of chances. In fact they miss them more than they score them – even Brave Sir Robin. I have seen some people already describing Giroud as a flop on the basis of that one miss, which seems (to me at least) a spectacularly inane attitude. He may or may not turn out to be a good striker for us, but screwing one shot wide tells us very little either way.

With the clock running down and the Sunderland bus dented but still standing, we got the one big surprise of the day – a cameo from Andrey Arshavin. The Russian – looking slimmer than last year (which may tell you more about the quality of food back in Russia than about his fitness regime) – looked busy around the Sunderland penalty area, but also, frustratingly, gave away possession in the midfield several times just when we were trying to build momentum.

The final whistle led to Sunderland celebrations – they had got exactly what they came for – and a mixed reaction from the Arsenal faithful. The already-disillusioned felt it was déjà vu, and that we would lack firepower all season (as if we didn’t have any nil-nils when van Persie was playing). The more optimistic felt they had seen promising signs and were prepared to give it time.

You won’t be surprised to know that I’m in the latter camp. We lacked fluidity overall and there was little mutual understanding in and around the Sunderland box, but we created enough chances to have won, we were solid at the back on the very few times Sunderland threatened and there were some very encouraging individual performances.

When Cazorla gets used to the playing style of his new team mates I really expect big things to follow.

Arsene said we lacked sharpness and fluency and our passing wasn’t fast enough. All of which will improve.

Next week we’re away at the Orcs, which will give us a good indication of where we stand. I read somewhere that the FA have decreed that all pitches have to be the same size this year, so the Orcs will not be able to use their habitual tiny pitch trick, designed to assist Rory Delap’s basketball efforts. The little bit of extra room might be just what we need to give them what they deserve.

Player Ratings

Szczesny: Sunderland’s timidity meant he had little to do, but on the couple of occasions when he was called on, he did just fine. 7

Jenkinson: I noticed a mixed reaction to Jenks in the comments after the game. For me he didn’t do a lot wrong and put in a steady shift. He’s still learning but does not seem out of his depth. 6

Mertesacker: Typical performance by big Per: confident on the ball and good at anticipating the Sunderland threat. He wasn’t stretched but did what he had to do perfectly well. 7

Vermaelen: His first game as club captain. He was solid at the back and tried to drive us on for a winner. 7

Gibbs: He looked very comfortable defensively. I would have liked to see him him give more support to Gervinho at times, because on several occasions the Ivorian got to the byline with two or three defenders in front of him but did not seem to have the cut-back option on. 7

Arteta: Not his most showy display, but he was typically tidy and disciplined. 7

Diaby: First of all it was great to see him complete 70 or so minutes and look fit. He showed good attacking intent and did a solid job in the midfield. There’ll be better to come, hopefully. 7

Cazorla: Tired a bit in the second half, when the transatlantic jet lag must have kicked in, but he looked a class player throughout. A couple of clever reverse passes into attackers in the box were pure Cesc. MoTM 8

Walcott: Seemed uninvolved for long periods and unable to make much happen. Playing against the parked bus is not his forte and yesterday it showed. There are rumours that he, too, is about to leave. Maybe that played a part too. 5

Gervinho: A strange performance. He saw lots of the ball and was our most consistent attacking threat, mostly down the left. He made a couple of good openings for others, but most of the time his end product went awry. I can’t quite figure him out, but, based on last season and yesterday’s game, I find I’m getting less excited when he takes on defenders because I don’t expect much to come of it any more. On the other hand he is lightning fast and can skin fullbacks for fun and kept trying all game. For me though, the jury’s out. 7

 

Podolski: Plenty of effort but it didn’t really click for the German/Pole on his debut. It’s clear these players need to get used to each other and maybe Pod will feel more comfortable coming in off the left wing. 6

Subs

Giroud: Made good runs and had a great chance to be the hero of the day. Looks promising but time will tell.

Ramsey: Busy as ever. Won’t have changed anyone’s mind about him.

Arshavin: We know he’s gifted and carries a threat. His casual passing in midfield was frustrating.

RockyLives


Normal Service Resumes: Sunderland Preview.

August 18, 2012

What a summer: Euro’s, Olympics, Wimbledon, early Arsenal signings and our usual transfer nonsense with our best player. And now the real stuff returns.

Mo Farah started the pre-season off well and I am sure Arsene’s red and white army will continue to lead from the front, 3 points today will be a fine start. A first game at home is a boost, particularly against what will be  well marshaled opposition in Sunderland.

We have high hopes of our new boys – but will they play? Who plays midfield or full-back or even centre back? It appears O-C and Koscielny’s injuries are serious enough to exclude them from the squad. The only definite starter is Chezzer, which is the huge improvement in this squad as opposed to recent years. We have strong competition in every area apart from RB and GK. (surely we will buy ). The midfield is awash with top players all itching for a game – Diaby, Frimpong, Coquelin, Ramsey, Wilshere, Arshavin, and Rosicky will all compete for one place alongside what I expect to be the first choice of Arteta, Cazorla and Song (should he stay).

Another difference is that this is a team of men; when Sagna returns there will be grown ups all over the pitch  – even O-C and Szczezny have developed following this International summer

Upfront we have also strengthened with different options to last season, we will not be so Robin Reliant. We have signed players with established goal scoring records and in Podolski have what could be the standout import of 2013.

Where can we improve? Well, I will start with “Jigsaw” Gervinho ( so called because he goes to pieces in the box).  Give him the ball on the ground with space to run and Gervinho will confuse and confound his markers, but what we do not want to see is him become the new Hleb. We need him to score at least 10 this season because we lacked venom from the left, and a balanced attack is important. But how often will he start a game other than due to losses through injury? IMO the obvious front line is Pod, Giroud, and Theo.

What really cost us last season? The 49 goals conceded.  No signings as yet to bolster the defence so our hopes lie with He’s Got No Hair but We Don’t Care. I maintained throughout the season that we have excellent defensive players but lacked defensive cohesion- it will be up to Stevie B to create a secure defence based upon every man knowing his job and where he needs to be. Lee Dixon said of the Famous 5 that he always knew where the others would be and that if he made a mistake the others would cover – we need more of the same. I still fear for us at RB; Jenkinson and Yennaris may well become fine players but to rely upon them for at least 2 months until Sagna returns is foolhardy.

My team: (prior to injury updates)

But this is purely a guess – Cazorla played in Puerto Rico on Weds and may be on the bench, Arteta may not be fit etc etc

As to Sunderland, we know any team managed by MoN will not be short of spirit and endeavour. The stats for the game point to an Arsenal victory (SFC have not won away since Feb). In midfield, Cattermole will make sure Santi gets an English welcome to the PL, and Larsson’s free kicks will test our defence  (he scored a beauty at the Grove last season).

I think it needs to said how much admiration I have for Mr Wenger’s manner over the summer. He must have been furious about RvP and yet maintained his sang-froid, being polite and respectful throughout. Now, he faces the same with Song, though in this case DanDan’s revelations show AW playing a different game. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks! My reading of AW’s stance is saying to the players ” If you do not feel proud to be wearing our shirt then join the Foreign Office”, a message I can only concur with.

We need to win this game and we should. Last season’s start was the worst in many years which led to us chasing the pack throughout the season (thanks for the meltdown Spurs).  The boys on the pitch have to maintain the feel good factor of a new season. To those lucky enough to attend, become the 12th man.

I haven’t found a season’s theme as yet, so this should keep you going until I do…

COYRRG

Written by Big Raddy


Put yourself in Arsène Wenger’s position ……… select the Arsenal 1st team squad for 2012/13

August 17, 2012

This post was submitted before the news broke last night that Kyle Bartley is off to Swansea so ignore him.

It would take a lengthy surf of my memory banks to find a transfer window where Arsenal have added more maturity and strength to the team, pre-season games have shown that in Podolski, Giroud and Cazorla we have added three outstanding international players to our squad.

Of course it would not be Arsenal if we did not have a snummer saga to contend with, I think that Tony Adams must have left a curse on the Captains arm band as yet another Captain has decided to do his gardening elsewhere. This time it’s van Persie who feels that the grass at the Emirates is not being fertilized enough to meet his personal “higher than mighty” standards of green” – I’m not sure if that’s green grass or green cash?

We have proven before and we will prove again that – it’s not the player that makes the team – but the team that makes the player, when will they ever learn?

Arsène obviously knows the players skill sets more intimately than us fans but that does not leave us without an opinion on the Arsenal squad – now does it? I’ve put together a chart showing both our 1st team squad and our reserves and youth players. I pulled the data from Arsenal.com so it should reflect the current reality.

Here’s your chance to be Manager for a day and determine our 1st team squad for the 2012/13 season.

Here are the squad rules.

  1. The team must name 25 players before September 1st.
  2. The team must contain at least 8 home grown players.
  3. If the team names less than 8 home grown players then the total squad is reduced by the amount of players lesser than the eight.
  4. The team can only have a maximum of 17 over 21 year old players.
  5. The team can have an unlimited number of under 21 year old players.

These are the players:

Average age of first team players: 25

 Average age of reserves/youth players: 17.94

 Written by GunnerN5


Farewell Robin ……. shame it’s ended this way

August 16, 2012

So that’s it then, it’s official, Robin van Persie is on his way.

It’s a pity it’s ended this way, with van Persie (prompted by his agents, Kees Vos and Darren Dein) having forced his way out of the club by publicly undermining the club of which he was captain. It was clear when he came on as a sub against Cologne at the weekend, when the Arsenal fans in the house gave our erstwhile hero the most tepid of welcomes, that his statement had hit home; his hero status had evaporated.

But for all our frustration that we’ve lost our best player to our principal rival, and the sense of betrayal at the way that move was engineered, despite the time and money invested in a player who has had the worst of injury records and who was an under-achiever for years, we should remember the good times. His final Arsenal stats are more than respectable: in 278 competitive appearances (67 as sub), he scored 132 goals (at a rate of 0.47 goals per game) and provided 62 assists. But it should also be recalled that he has only surpassed 11 league goals in a season twice, last season (30) and the one before that (18). And he started more than half the league games only twice in his eight-year career with us.

He joined from Feyenoord for just £2.75m on 17 May 2004, arriving with a reputation as a trouble maker, his relationship with manager, Bert van Marwijk, having long since deteriorated into a feud. After a shaky disciplinary start with us (remember the silly red card he got, playing against Southampton, which prompted that rarest of things, the public Wenger rebuke), van Persie settled into his new position in the front line and began knocking in goals on a regular basis. And what beauties they often were: volleys, sweeping shots to the far post, little dinks over the oncoming keeper, pinpoint shots to the corner, his repertoire included all of them. Scuffers weren’t much of a feature. His cool head and intelligence were obvious. Yes, he is arrogant, but his talent justifies that arrogance. Thierry Henry said of van Persie: “Without going too far he has everything a footballer would dream to have. He can play anywhere he wants. I am not joking, it is up to him and his desire.”  And in January 2006, he signed a new long contract, saying “I am very happy with my team-mates and the boss. In fact a lot of my progress is down to him and his faith in me.”  As we can see from his “I want to move” statement from a few weeks ago, six years is a long time in football.

Here’s a link to a compilation of his Arsenal goals (be warned, the vid is 26 minutes long): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVzsSNDWRig. There are some real beauties (I’m especially fond of the double at the Bridge last season, the equaliser in the 5-2 against Spurs, a howitzer of a free kick against Sunderland a few seasons back, that near post equaliser in the 2-1 win over Barca and the amazing midair volley against Charlton years back). But looking back through that compilation, it’s noticeable that the last two seasons take up almost half the video. And in a sense, that underlines some of the disappointment about van Persie’s career: he’s been with us for years, Wenger took a rough young diamond and polished him into a real gem, but we never really got a full return from him. Injury after injury robbed van Persie and us of continuity until two seasons ago.

And just when we thought we might be able to have him lead us back to the top, he’s off.

There will be plenty of bitterness expressed about his departure for Man United, and his return to the Home of Football on 27 April 2013 is likely to be a feisty affair. Whatever happens between now and then, it is almost impossible to think that van Persie will return with any of the positivity that came with the return in enemy colours of Henry, Vieira, Pires and Fabregas. He forced his move and has joined one of our main rivals. But personally, I won’t have a go at him when he comes back to Ashburton Grove, I might even applaud him. Our bitterness won’t really have a lot to do with his selfish, disloyal statement, that will be long gone by then; the root of the bitterness will be the helplessness we feel at seeing yet another star that Wenger has created turn tail and join a direct rival. But can we really blame van Persie for that? After all, we exploit other the ambitions of other clubs’ players, so why should we criticise a player who sees a chance to guarantee himself a four-year contract worth at least £40m?

Van Persie’s departure underlines a few things: players, now more than ever, and whatever they say about loving the club and the fans, do not have anything close to the feeling for a club that fans do. I’m sure most players look on us as the over-emotional patsies who fund their gargantuan incomes but even those who have some feeling for the clubs they’re with (and I include van Persie in that group) in the end, and quite rationally, follow their self-interest. Even the big one-club players around usually wanted to leave at some point (Adams and Vieira wanted to go to United, Terry wanted to go to City and Gerrard wanted to go to Chelsea). Gary Nevilles are truly rare things. If we were just to accept that players are not and never will be like us, we’d probably feel a lot calmer about things.

Van Persie has also shown us that we will continue to lose quality players for so long as we don’t win silverware; it’s a chicken and egg thing, since if we still had the likes of van Persie, Fabregas, Nasri, Adebayor, Hleb, Clichy, Cole, Flamini, Diarra and Toure, chances are we’d have been top of the pile by now. But let’s face it, the reality of the Abramovich-Abu Dhabi age is that we’re just going to carry on losing these players until somehow we start winning trophies – just as van Persie learnt from Nasri, so the younger players in the squad (Song, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Wilshere) will learn from van Persie. This will go on until the cycle is broken. But in the circumstances, for the club to get £22m to £24m for a player with only one year on his contract and who has publicly declared he won’t renew really is great on the business side. I still wish he’d stayed though.

The transfer is, as many have observed, a weird one for Ferguson. Every United fan I know says this deal doesn’t make sense. They only have two full backs, no defensive midfielders, ageing central midfielders, poor goalkeepers and centre backs who are ageing or flawed. The only departments in which they are well served are on the wings and up front. And yet the want to blow more than £60m on a 29-year old striker with only two decent seasons behind him and lots of injuries. No matter how good he is, that is very odd. I’m sure van Persie will be a success next season, but after that? I doubt it. It does make sense for van Persie though, it is the best route to the pot of gold at the end of his career. I don’t mean that in a bitter way, he’s entitled to pursue his career as he sees fit, he just didn’t need to do it quite like this. Perhaps there will be some after-the-fact PR efforts at appeasing us in the coming weeks.

What now? Well, the first thing for players, coach and fans alike is to dig in: the first game can’t come soon enough now, we need to get going and start showing why we believe in this squad, even without van Persie. And it is a very good squad, capable of taking the fight to our rivals – we’ll be written off by the know-nothing pundits of course, we are every year, but with Cazorla, Podolski and Giroud, as well as the quality players we have, we can compete. One advantage of having gone through these experiences so often in the past six years or so is that we are used to it, we know how to cope.

Will there be a signing to make good the gap left by van Persie? I think so, but I very much doubt it will be a star like Fernando Llorente. More likely Poldi will get the starting slot up-front, with Giroud being a tactical option, and a quality squad player like Clint Dempsey being recruited to provide depth. An interesting rumour that hit newsnow tonight (love those rumours!) was that Javier Hernandez might come our way, having been bumped down to fourth choice at Old Trafford. I really can’t see that happening, but if it did, great, the Little Pea is a proper striker.

So long, Robin van Persie. You promised much, delivered some of it, and spoiled it at the end. I hope your move to Manchester is a disaster on the pitch, but that you get every penny you wanted.

Written by 26may1989


Who Should Be The Captain Of Arsenal, If And When van P€r$i€ Leaves?

August 15, 2012

When Henry was made captain, everyone agreed.  He was our best player, at the time and arguably ever. When Fabregas was made captain, almost everyone agreed. He was our best player at the time. When van Persie was made captain, people didn’t really know what to think, and personally, I still don’t know what to think. I personally believe a midfielder should be captain, due to them being the link between the attack and defense.

My favourite captain apart from Tony Adams, who was our most successful captain ever, was Vieira. He controlled the game, he then defended and attacked. And he wasn’t quiet like Fabregas and now Van Persie are. He would scream at players he thought were lacking concentration and weren’t in the game. He was a leader, even though he seems to have abandoned the team that made him for €ity, just for the pay cheque, some of my respect for him has gone I’m very very sorry to say.

The major contender for the captaincy is Vermaelen. The centre back that joined from Ajax, where he was captain, in 2009. Ever since joining Arsenal, he has caused a fresh argument for Premier League fans to have, who is the best centre back in the league? Every Arsenal fan surely says Thomas, because he is. Vidic is over rated, end off, John Terry is good, ignoring personal matters, he’s good, but getting on a bit now, Kompany, ok he lead his team to the league title, but millions of pounds were invested in that team. In my opinion, he shouldn’t even be in the argument.

Vermaelen acts like a leader. He has been sent off once, against West Ham, which wasn’t a red card! When he was injured during the 2010 / 2011, he made two appearances, the last two games of the season, a defeat to Aston Villa, and a draw against Fulham. Against Fulham, he played better than Vidic and Terry had the whole season, I remember him blocking every attacker, and clearing it off the line with ease. We struggled the whole season, as he was our only solid centre back at the time. We would have still struggled with two solid centre backs, he would have improved them who ever they are, Vidic, Terry or Pique.

I believe Vermaelen should be captian, vice captain already, so is Wenger’s prime candidate for the captaincy, and to be honest he deserves it, but would he need it, or could the whole squad benefit from someone else having the captaincy?

Mikel Arteta. Some fans had questions over his signing on deadline day in 2011. Well, what can we say almost a year later? One of Wengers best signings of the decade, up there with Fabregas and Nasri. He controlled the games for us, something Nasri didn’t, and couldn’t do probably. When he joined Arsenal, he said he wasn’t bought to replace Fabregas, but I think he has to be honest, and we couldn’t have bought anyone who would have played better for us. After ten eleven games for us, he was an integrated part of Wenger’s Arsenal set up. He is going to be a major part of the team for next seasons title challenge.

I believe Arteta, along with his developed partnership with Song that won us almost seventy percent of our games (Arteta didn’t play a few games due to injury), link the attack and defence, and can lead a team that may have three new starters and youth in, who need leadership. Arteta has been in the Premier League for seven years, as long as any other player in our squad. This means he has experience, more than Arteta. He has so much experience and quality, he was voted Sky Sports midfielder of the year in 2007, beating Ronaldo, Gerard, Fabregas, Lampard etc. We was voted Everton’s player of the year 2006 and 2007, and Everton’s Players Player of the year 2006, as well as North West player of the year 2007. I know this means nothing, but he knows seven languages as well.

I heard a story about Arteta, about when he first joined Arsenal. He noticed that when the players were relaxing and had their own time after training, how the squad would split up into separate groups, something he believes lowers the teams chemistry on the pitch, and addressed Van Persie about the problem. If anything was done about it I do not know, but this shows a sign of a leader. Worrying about the teams togetherness off the pitch, not just on the pitch.

I believe he is a very strong contender to be captain, Wenger surely must discuss it with him, he will defiantly make him at least vice captain. The simple fact is, Vermaelen leads the squad naturally, he does it now, even if he isn’t captain, but Arteta would feel he could say something to lead the team, although can’t now too much due to him only being at Arsenal for just over eleven months, and not being the captain.

There are other contenders for the captaincy, Song for example. Song has been in the team for seven years, and is also a integrated part of the Arsenal set up. He controls the game like Arteta, he provides amazing assists, and is rarely tackled on the ball. He can also play at centre back when asked, and regularly goes and defends when the other team are attacking. He then starts the attack. This is a vital part of Wenger’s set up, and he may deserve the captaincy in some peoples eyes. There are emerging rumours of Song moving to Barcelona, hopefully there is no truth in it, and if there is truth, that he would be loyal to the team that have given him everything. Something Van P€r$i€ hasn’t done.

Other candidates for the captaincy include Sagna, Koscielny, I’ve heard someone say it should be the player bought to replace the current captain, Giroud! Sagna firstly, has been at Arsenal since 2007, and has been our best defender apart from Vermaelen for a long time. Since his arrival, he immediately became our first choice right back. When he has been injured we have struggled, although that could be due to us not having a solid second choice right back, usually a centre back has to fill in, and in the game against Sunderland, as he broke his leg, Koscielny. He is a great player, one of the best right backs in the league. He doesn’t score yet although he does provide some great assists. He doesn’t seem to be very vocal on the pitch, but seems to concentrate a lot so can’t worry about speaking to other people. This is the only reason I personally wouldn’t make him captain, although he may deserve it.

Koscielny joined Arsenal in 2010 in July, only a few days after the window opened. He started poorly, getting sent off against Liverpool. His season began to have highs and lows, scoring against Bolton, but the lowest of lows was against Birmingham. We had barely got through against Ipswich, having to play Fabregas against them, embarrassing. Leading up to the game, every one said, watch Zigic, his height will cause the smaller defenders trouble. He scores. Van Persie pulls us back into it, but in the 89th minute, a mix up with Koscielny and Szczesny meant we lost the game and our trophy drought continued.

But then last season changed for the young French defender. The whole team were at fault for the poor start of the season, but when the team began to gel, Koscielny and Vermaelen’s partnership really became apparent, and Koscielny changed from a vulnerable young defender, to a strong solid player. He had to play on the left on the right for some games due to all of our full backs being injured at the same. He dealt with his well, although Mertesacker left a whole in the centre of the defence, for example Norwich.

The defence lined up ‘Koscielny Vermaelen Mertesacker Santos’. When Norwich scored it was due to Mertesackers mistake, but when Koscielny saw what was going on he moved across into the centre to help out the centre backs, while protecting the right flank. Captains actions surly? Once again, the only reason I wouldn’t make him captain is because he doesn’t seem to shout orders out in a game like Vermaelen. Team have more than one vice captain, he could be one along with who ever isn’t captain, Arteta or Vermaelen.

I would really make Arteta the captain, due to Vermaelen leading from the back anyway. He is a solid player and even though he hasn’t been at Arsenal for a year, he deserves it. He is the perfect player to have it, as he will be able to tell the players how they can improve their performances on and off the field. I hope that either Vermaelen or Arteta is captain, they both deserve it and Wenger has defiantly got to consider both of these players. Hopefully the next captain won’t leave, and lead us to a trophy. Van Persie is, and I suppose soon it will be wasn’t, a good captain anyway. A striker should never be captain, especially a very un-flexible one like Van Persie. I think Giroud will be better than him, so I personally say good riddance to him. We don’t need the money from his transfer, we should keep him sitting on the bench next year and someone can have him for free, a 30 year old, injury prone and will have no resale value and will want £200,000 a week. He will never be bigger than Arsenal.

Written by Miles


Man in Cologne – Match Report

August 15, 2012

As most of you will have watched highlights or even the full Köln-Arsenal match, I won’t bore you with match details, and will stick to my personal view of the game, and a few bits of information picked up along the way!

Well it was certainly a gloriously day for a game – the sun shining and the wind, which had been gale force earlier in the day, dropped to a gentle breeze.

Köln is a very civilised place to watch a match! You can grab a beer and chillax on the grassed park outside the stadium – no police enforced drinking exclusion-zones here!

Chillaxing pre-match with a civilised beer

The local fans seemed to be in carnival spirit – I guess they were all here to see off Podolski. Interestingly, many of the new 2011-12 shirts worn by the fans have Podolski’s name on the back, even though he’s left. Put simply, he is their Thierry Henry!

The Arsenal fans in attendance were a strangely mixed crew. About half, I would guess, were your die-hard North London bunch. The rest were a mix of noisy Poles, smiley Swedes and a fair number of ex-Pats gooners from the local area happy get to see Arsenal in their adopted city for the second year running.

I normally wait to the last minute to go into the Emirates (one of the many drawbacks of being a smoker), but decided for once to have a look at which players would warm-up for the match. I certainly didn’t expect to be able to drink and smoke in my seat, which was a pleasant surprise!

And so to the action….

Before kick-off, Stevie Bould did ten or so laps of the pitch with Miquel Arteta, so he’s obviously not too far off from match fitness.

All the players looked fit and relaxed in warm-up, with Van Persie taking the central place in an extended one-touch keepy-up exercise.

At kick-off, we had ourselves a triple debut. Carzorla, Giroud and, of course, Podolski. Must be the first on this scale since Overmars, Petit and Grimandi back in 1997.

Podolski looked very sharp and I expect we will see him very early in the season (perhaps even straight away). He gets a massive reception from the Köln fans.

Giroud makes a lot of space – he’s tall and agile and looks like a very intelligent player. Strikes me as a straight-forward Chamakh upgrade.

But it’s Carzorla that really catches the eye. There’s a puzzle in the Radio Times every week with a wheel of letters and one letter in the centre, and you have to make as many words as possible, but always use that centre letter. That centre letter is the closest I can come to describing the role that Carzorla has in the first half. And even when he doesn’t touch the ball, his positioning and his runs make space for the move to progress. His two-footedness is quite a revelation, as is his balance, which seems impossible to read. Expect him to win a lot of free kicks this season from less intelligent centre-backs.

Cazorla’s link-up play with Oxlade-Chamberlain is pure poetry to watch. Fast, penetrating passes which leave the Köln midfielders dizzy.

The Arsenal defence doesn’t have much to deal with, but looks surer of itself that last season. I also believe that we can expect to see Arsenal holding possession much longer this season, and that, based on more passing options being available now, loss of possession will tend to occur lost further up the field. Both of which should help with the goals-against column.

So, three-nil at half-time:

Bouldy-style flick-on by Mertersacker converted by a Vermaelen bullet-header;

Ox wins a penalty which Podolski converts;

Podolski gets his second – a clinical finish from a low Gibbs cross.

The Köln fans sing Podolski’s name for both goals as if he had scored for them!

Half-time brings cool Kölsch beer delivered to your seat!

 A beer? In view of the pitch? It’s unthinkable!

And the second half kicks of with eight or nine changes, I believe (the accumulative effect of the local ale is gradually take its toll!)

Gervinho looks more settled than last season and scores a lovely goal to make it 4-0.

From this point on the game goes into kick-about mode. It’s almost as if Peter Hill-Wood had wandered into the dressing room at half-time and said: “OK chaps, one more goal and then clam it down. Don’t forget we are guests here!”

When RVP comes on at about the hour mark, the booing commences. By two big fellas who hadn’t made a single noise up to this point. A few of the Poles join in – they are by now quite drink! Most of the Arsenal fans tell them to shut up, which they gradually do. The two fat chaps carry on booing, and seem pleased with themselves.

Booooo! Booooo!

So it all gradually grinds to the halt of the final whistle. Vier-null to the Arsenal. Podolski is the very last to leave the pitch and spends a good ten minutes with the Köln fans saying his goodbyes. I expect he will be back here once his Arsenal days are over.

As I walk back from the ground I am accosted by a middle-age couple who wish to show me photographs on their iPhone. I am naturally quite anxious about this. However, it turns out that they had entered a half-time competition for the Köln fans, and had won the opportunity to talk and have photos with an Arsenal player straight after the final whistle. They just didn’t know who he was. The pictures shows a very happy, smiling Robin Van Persie, who the couple said was really funny and joking and talked to them for 20 minutes or so.

Is this the same RVP who was supposed to be sulking in a dark corner of the away dressing room, desperately trying to reach his agent for an immediate move to Old Trafford because he couldn’t stand the boo-boys (or at least that what The Sun would have us believe).

In any case, did we see the birth of Wenger’s Arsenal version 4.0 today? Quite possibly. We will see tougher opposition, and blind refs, and northern swamps, all of which will test this new experiment.

But it’s looking promising. Very promising. Can’t wait until Saturday!

Written through a beery haze by mjc


The Calm Hand of Silent Stan

August 14, 2012

 So how are you feeling about our summer so far?

I think it’s probably fair to say that most Gooners are approaching Saturday’s season opener with a mix of anticipation and expectation.

Or, to put it another way, excitement tempered by a nagging concern (like the way you might feel if your most reckless friend invited you for a spin on the back of his new motorbike).

The over-riding sense of optimism is largely down to the way the club has handled its transfer business this summer:

Experienced international attackers Podolski and Giroud signed up early doors; one of the best creative midfielders in world football wrapped up within the last week; and (at the time of writing) an apparent willingness to play hardball in our latest want-away-Captain saga.

After last summer’s transfer window debacle there were plenty of people willing to point the finger at the manager, the owner, the CEO and the Board.

So, if you agree that things have been handled well this year, it’s only fair to give credit to those who have made it possible.

Obviously Arsène Wenger deserves a decent slice of the credit cake, as (probably) does the much-maligned Dick Laws who handles the fine detail of our in-and-out business.

As a point of order, NONE of the credit goes to those Wenger-hating blogs that are trying to suggest that their criticisms have forced a change of policy at the club. That’s like the pebble thinking it made the sea retreat when the tide turned.

But the man who may well deserve to take home the rest of the cake (and eat it) is our very own non-speaking American.

Last summer was Stan Kroenke’s first close-season transfer window after assuming majority control of the club. My pet theory is that he believed Arsène when Le Boss told him he would be able to keep hold of either or both of Fabregas and Nasri.

He gave Arsène his head – only to find it covered in egg as Cesc left after taking acid (DeoxyriboNucleic Acid to be precise) and Nasri, like the evil gnome he is, ran off with an empty wheelbarrow hoping to fill it with banknotes.

It’s fair to assume that, in his first summer in charge, Kroenke did not have a full handle on how the “soccer” transfer window works. It operates very differently to the way in which transfers are done in most North American sports.

But Stan is a quick learner and I have no doubt he entered the 2012 window fully prepared to make a success of it (and to not repeat the mistakes of 2011).

So when Arsène said to him “I am convinced I can persuade van Persie to extend his contract” Stan will have said something like “don’t p*ss on my boots and tell me it’s raining.”

Well, alright, he might actually have said: “I hear you Arsene, but let’s play it safe this time round and act as if he IS going to leave. That way the sumabitch can’t put us over a barrel and make us squeal like little piggies.”

(One of the nice things about having a silent American owner is that you can have a lot of fun imagining how he talks).

Anyway, I’m sure he personally gave Arsène the go-ahead to spend money on the quality players he has signed this summer.

Of course it also helps that this is the first year in which our financial position is finally allowing us to spend money. Up until now the debt burden caused by the stadium move and the economic slump has severely restricted our clout in the market.

We have made a net profit in the transfer market every season since the stadium move while also qualifying for the Champions League every year – an achievement by Arsène that probably even eclipses his two Doubles, even though it will never be generally recognised as such. And he didn’t balance the books because he’s tight fisted, or obsessed with youth or obeying the cruel orders of an over-weening Board of Directors. He did it because it was economically essential for the Club to behave in that way.

Now, with the renegotiation of our major commercial deals on the horizon and our debt the lowest it has been for six years, we are finally able to be net spenders rather than net savers.

The icing on the cake is that UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations seem also to be having some impact on the moneybags clubs, with Manchester City, in particular, finding it a problem to bring in new players when no-one wants to take their vastly over-paid cast-offs. If it wasn’t for the threat of FFP, I have no doubt that City’s Arabs would just sign off on another couple of hundred million quid and buy whomever the manager wanted.

But back to Silent Stan. (By the way, isn’t it funny how the Glazers – who are also seldom heard talking about Manchester United in public – are never referred to as the “Gob-shy Glazers.”  Nor is Man City’s Arab owner, who generally keeps his own counsel, ever described as “Miming Mansour”?).

But if you look at his custodianship of his North American sporting enterprises, you will see that Kroenke is an involved and committed owner who gives them financial stability and every opportunity for sporting success.

I, for one, am delighted that he is in charge of affairs at Arsenal. I think he deserves the lion’s share of the praise for the good things that have happened this summer and I suspect him to get even better as the years go by and he learns the system more and more.

I can’t bear the lazy comments about how he’s only in it to make money on the club. Of course he’s in it to make money – he’s a financial investor. But how do you think he can best make money on his investment? By penny-pinching his way to mid-table mediocrity? Or by putting Arsenal right back at the top of European football?

You don’t have to be Bertie Einstein to figure that one out.

Stan wants Arsenal to be winning titles and Champions Leagues just as much as we do – because then the value of his investment will grow exponentially.

So let’s hear it for the mild-mannered American who is now firmly at the tiller of our great club…

Silent Stan – whisper it, but you’re my man.

RockyLives


Could Arsenal Win The League?

August 13, 2012

Hands up all those who breathed a huge sigh of relief at the end of the first 45 minutes of yesterday’s game? Moi. I say that because I think like most I didn’t have a clue what to expect. Usually, we get minor changes enabling us to have a pretty good idea of what to expect but with last season’s and this window’s signings everything seems to be up in the air making it very difficult to calculate what to expect. But at half time, I am sure you agree that we could sit back sufficiently reassured in the knowledge that Arsene has yet again gathered a squad capable of making a fist of a title challenge and just as important we could take another glug of that cold beer safe in the knowledge that this will not be one of those seasons in which spuds finish above us. Young people might think that stories of spuds finishing above us are about believable as the idea that Father Christmas really exists but what can I say?

I could go into great detail about particular passages of play but you all saw the game so you all know it was a game of two halves, the first to give Arsene and idea of who was going to start next week and the second half was to give the lesser lights a feeling that they are still needed – and they are.

As for the new boys, I shall simpy repeat what many others have already said: Cazorla is class, Podolski is a leader and fingers crossed that Giroud is the goal scoring beast that we all hope for.

Sunderland next up – can’t wait.