Cesc: “Only Arsenal for me”

September 22, 2018

Just as Aaron Ramsey’s contract runs out at the end of this season, Cesc Fabregas’ contract at Chelsea does, too. Now aged 31, would you take Cesc back at The Home of Football? Some have even suggested recently that they might prefer Cesc to Aaron.

Rocky wrote this in May 2013 amid speculation that Cesc might join the Moyes revolution at Old Trafford and it turned out to be the most, or one of the most, popular AA posts of all time. Easy to see why, cheers Rocky. 

We are used to reading rubbish in the silly season, but one story this summer really takes the biscuit.

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to guffaw over my cornflakes when I read the “Fabregas to Manchester United” stories that are doing the rounds.

At this time of year most transfer-related stories smell of fabrication and are written purely to fill column inches or garner online hits. But even in such company, the Cesc-to-Manchester-United fantasy really does stink the place out.

Before I explain why, let’s just remind ourselves of this quote from Cesc himself, shortly after he departed for Barcelona: “Apart from Arsenal and Barcelona, I don’t see myself playing anywhere else. I will definitely be going back (to Arsenal) whenever I have time to watch games and to see the guys… and if there is one place to go back to (to play), it is Arsenal for sure.”

Cesc was abundantly clear then that he would only return to the Premier League if it was to play for Arsenal.

Of course you might say (and with some justification): “Why should we believe the words of footballers? They are always quick to spout loyalty to a club then equally quick to demonstrate loyalty only to their wallet.”

It was about 18 months ago when Cesc gave the interview from which I have quoted and yes, it’s possible he could have changed his mind since then.

But – unlike Brave Sir Robin and the Fat French Benchwarmer – he is not a player known to be driven by greed (he even took a pay cut to join Barcelona).

However, there are other good reasons why Cesc to ManUre will never happen:

Firstly, why would a world class player join a club that is quite clearly at the high point of its “arc of success” and is about to start slipping down the far side?

United have been good enough to run away with the English Premier League this year, but no-one believes they are a great team. Meanwhile, in Europe, they have fallen even further behind the Continent’s powerhouses than they were when humiliated by Barcelona in the CL final in 2011.

Most perceptive observers believe that United over-achieved in the season just past and were helped by mismanagement and upheaval at Manchester City and Chelsea.

Secondly, one of the reasons for a top player joining United has long been the draw of old Mr Scarlet Proboscis himself: Sir Alexander Chapman Ferguson (you didn’t know his parents gave him a middle name honouring a great Arsenal manager, did you?).

But Cyrano de Fergerac is no fool. He will always have wanted to bow out a champion and not a loser.

Having won the title this year, he undoubtedly surveyed the medium term prospects for his club and his playing staff and did not like what he saw.

He knows that, with their current squad, United will face a real struggle to hold on to their title next year and he also knows that without spending a hundred million pounds or more (which United cannot afford) they have no chance of competing with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Quite sensibly, he celebrated the title win and exited stage left.

So now any superstar thinking of joining the red half of Manchester has to consider the fact that they will be playing not for the most decorated and successful EPL manager of the last half century. Instead they will be lining up under some bloke from The Simpsons.

The idea of Cesc Fabregas agreeing to play under David Moyes is simply laughable.

Thirdly, if Cesc does want to return to the EPL and if, for some reason, he reneges on his assurance that he would return only to Arsenal, his destination is far more likely to be Manchester City than Manchester United.

The Northern Oilers are likely to be entering the new season under the stewardship of the highly respected Manuel Pellegrini – a much more attractive proposition for international stars than David Moyes. And, of course, for City money is not an issue.

Finally, it was widely reported that we have first option on Cesc if he wants to leave Barca. Do you really think we would not snap him up again given the chance?

So, having (I hope) properly put to bed all the nonsense about Cesc-to-United, there is one Huddlestone in the Room that needs addressing: would we – the supporters – want Cesc to return to The Home of Football and step out again in the colours of the mighty Arsenal?

I have seen comments in Arsenal Arsenal recently with differing views on the subject.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Cesc Fabregas is one of the greatest footballers ever to have played for us. If we can get him back he can only improve us. And his return at a time when we are leaving the period of austerity (during which, let’s remember, he was instrumental in helping keep us even vaguely competitive while the club spent NOTHING on net transfers) and about to enter a new era of competitiveness could be the spark that really pushes us to domestic and European glory.

Do you agree?

Written by RockyLives

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Arsenal’s new template taking shape – FC Vorskla ratings

September 21, 2018

So, exactly what did we expect from a game against Vorskla Poltava Who?

Goals? Yes, sure, but there’s a bigger picture. We will try hard to win this Trophy for obvious reasons, and this journey will include a few more Who Teams before we get stuck into the tricky fixtures later on.

Historically, the early rounds of any tournament against Minnow Opposition are opportunities for yoof players to grab experience and shine, as well as the returning-from-injury sorts.

However, while all that was true for last night’s encounter, it was still very much in the context of a new Manager establishing his own footballing template.

Most obvious to me is the hugely positive impact the Club’s transfer policy has been over the last six odd months.

Mesut and Iwobi re-signed, Mhki and Auba brought in, and most recently the importing of Sokratis, Licht, Torreira and Guendouzi.

Last night we saw them all, and I believe the latter four will massively improve both our Europa campaign as well as in the league.

From the evidence of last night, I’m still not convinced Unai has got the balance quite right, although I do understand that when there are so many player changes, finding that fluent rhythm is not going to happen instantly.

While I wouldn’t describe either Elneny or Xhaka as offensive midfielders, neither are they true defensive midfielders in the sense of the DM sort. Both Torreira and Guendouzi are, but what I liked so much last night about their play was, having won the ball back, how quickly their heads are up and immediately looking to build/pass for forwards momentum.

When I mentioned balance earlier, I was referring to two things.  We were slightly lopsided in the first half towards the left, which, if exploiting a tactical weakness of the opposition’s right flank then fair enough, but I’m not convinced. The other concern if the balance between midfield and attack. Mhki was sent out as the link man last night, and I think given more games, it could work. He is strong and aggressive in possession and can drive forwards with the ball when the opportunity presents itself. He does also possess an intelligent final ball.

Way too early to judge, but young Smith Rowe does look to be capable of playing exactly this role in due course.  Another very exciting cameo from him.

I’m waffling, and I’m also out of time, so I’ll end with a comment and a question.

Laca looked pissed off. I would be too if I were him. Why? Because Auba looked far better central than out wide.

I’m still convinced 3-5-2 is the only way to optimise those two and Mesut. Unai doesn’t agree. What do you think about Auba being shunted back out left?

Written by mickydidit89

Ratings (chas)

Leno – did everything very well, tidy on the deck, looked to be heading for a clean sheet and then, bang, beaten by two beauties….6

Lichtsteiner – oozes experience and defensive know-how, though joined in the calamitous defending at the end….6

Holding – didn’t really do a huge amount of note but looked competent without being oustanding….6

Sokratis – growing in confidence by the day. Made some great tackles, my favourite being when he thumped the floor in celebration at a job well done – exactly what we want to see….8

Monreal – Arsenal’s left flank saw a lot of action last night and most of it was offensive. Nacho played his part as usual….7

Elneny – patrols the centre of the pitch effectively but sometimes lacks forward drive….6

Torreira – outstanding to begin with but then took a bit of a battering which lessened his impact. Let’s hope he is as indestructible as our last wee fellow, Arshavin….7

Mkhitaryan – took time for the motor to start purring but grew in confidence, contributing to most everything we did well going forward. Micky’s highlight was the commentator suggesting that in the build up to the first goal, Micki had called “my ball” in Ukrainian causing the Vorskla player to leave the ball as if dummying – as Micki played over a 100 games for Donetsk in the Ukraine, this is highly likely 🙂 ….7

Iwobi – sometimes his feet can’t keep pace with his brain but when he does get things in sync, he’s outstanding and a real attacking threat….8

Welbeck – scored with his first decent chance, looked a little confused as to where he was playing in the first half. He’s such an athlete, there seems to be a great striker in there somewhere….7

Aubameyang – two classy goals and one beauty curled against the foot of the post. The smile was back which was more than you could say for Laca on the bench….9

Subs

Guendouzi – gave Torreira a rest and proceeded to create with every touch, tackling, surging forward – the whole package….7

Ozil – bizarre substitution, didn’t need the game time but seemed to enjoy being on the pitch because he loves football so much. Enjoyed his improvised finish for the goal….6

Smith Rowe – first player born in the 21st century to make a full debut (well, I think that’s what they said). Surging runs, good on the ball, could be something extra special….7


Europa. Who Starts?

September 20, 2018

Back to Spursday football. An enjoyable test with the possibility of CL entry should we win the Big Vase. We did well last season, losing in the semi’s to the eventual winners, could we reach the final in Baku Olympic Stadium (that’s in Azerbaijan, you thicko))?

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There are some very strong teams in the competition including Chelsea, AC Milan, Sevilla and FC København. Nonetheless, to get knocked out early would be a shock.

We start with a home tie against Vorskla Poltava. It would be a fib if I pretended I had heard of them before the draw, I very much doubt if any of you had either. Thanks to Chas’s excellent post we know what they eat, and more about the club which finished third in their league last season.

Quite frankly, we should beat any Ukrainian team with our reserves, many of whom will get a start tonight.

So, who gets a shirt and who will come out after the half time orange slice?

We will surely get a look at our hugely expensive new GK, Leno. Apparently, he is very good with his feet and can double as a left sided defender when Hector goes walkabout. Why else would we buy him?

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Others who might get a start are Terreira, Lichtsteiner and Welbeck. None of whom has enough post- WC fitness to play more than 45 minutes…. it was very hot in Russia and Danny played at least 10 minutes. The Swiss Bloke i, in particular, will want to show how a full back should defend.

Perhaps Emery will experiment with his CB’s and give a chance to the Yoof, Holding and the other younger Greek bloke. Can’t see who will play LB with AMN out, maybe a Willock or Monreal? Or could we experiment with 3 at the back and Iwobi playing as an extra MF?

My Team:

Leno

Swiss Chap   Holding  GB   Anon

Elneny    Terrier  Smith-Rowe

Mhiki    Iwobi

Welbz

A nice mixture of young fellows and chaps needing a kickabout. The bench should be fun and assuming we are ahead by a couple late in the game I expect to see some new blood.

That said, the above team has not one player who started at Newcastle and UE is unlikely to experiment to such an extent.

This a competition we can do well in and getting off to a good start is important. Doing a Man City and under-estimating the opposition could be embarrassing. We need to win this one and we should.

COYRRG

 


Gazidis. Goodbye and Thank You

September 19, 2018

How do we assess the work of Mr. Gazidis? Do we look at the results on the pitch? Of course not, that is the responsibility of the coaching and playing staff. So, has Gazidis taken Arsenal forward as a commercial venture? The answer must be a solid Yes.

When Ivan arrived The Arsenal we were the 6th biggest (in terms of revenue) football club in the world. Our turnover was £265m appr. There followed a decade of Oil money when countries bought and implemented their financial power into European clubs. Where are we now? We are still in 6th spot with a revenue of £487m.

This after City, PSG, Juve, etc have been Oiled.

I would say this is a job very well done. The club have expanded both in terms of revenue and staff size yet remain a club with traditional Arsenal values.

Much has been written about the power AW within the club and the inability of Gazidis to reduce his influence But how do you do that when Mr Wenger was already an Arsenal legend when Gazidis arrived? And … Gazidis is answerable to the owners of the club who wanted Wenger to stay.

Was the revolution in the summer of 2018 under the auspices of Gazidis? Surely he knew he would be out of the club before it saw any results. Yet being the gent that he is, nothing was said about the MD leaving as well.

It must be said that Arsenal have not been as successful on the pitch during Ivan’s reign though we have won 3 FAC’s.

One could question his inability to present a more transparent view of the off-pitch transactions. Many complained that he was aloof and refused to answer the questions raised at the AGM’s.

Gazidis has to be judged on the commercial success and value of AFC and in this he has been hugely successful in a time of change. He always attended the games, spoke well about Arsene and the Arsenal, led the club from the front – a very different type of MD to, say Ken Friar.

Ivan has taken on a difficult job in Milan despite the money available. I wish him good luck.

written by Big Raddy


FC Vorskla – Who are ya?

September 18, 2018

With the much-awaited return of Thursday night football this week, it’s time to take a look at our first opponents, FC Vorskla of the Ukraine.

Based in the city of Poltava, FC Vorskla were born out of the ashes of a former Soviet trade union sports society, called Kolos. Going through a number of name changes and bankruptcy, the club re-emerged in 1986 in the Soviet third division before joining the second tier of the new Ukrainian League in 1992.

Promoted to the Ukrainian Premier League in 1996, they have remained there ever since. On the European stage, the club played twice in the old Uefa Cup  before various assaults on the Europa League, the highlight being group stage participation 2011/12. Of course that highlight has been superseded by the ultimate in FC Vorskla’s history, when drawn to play the mighty Arsenal FC in this season’s Europa League group stage.

The club play at the Oleksiy Butovskyi Vorskla Stadium which was named after a famous Poltava dignitary from a cossack family who was instrumental in the founding of the International Olympic Committee.

Vociferous rivalries amongst various Ukrainian club supporters have largely been put to one side due to the fighting in Eastern Ukraine. Fans of Vorskla Poltava are fierce patriots of the Ukraine and many are said to have taken part in the Ukrainian revolution of 2014.

On 26 July 2014, the club’s president and active local politician, Oleh Babayev  was shot dead. Police opened a criminal case under Article “premeditated murder” but it appears the perpetrator was never found in the familiar fashion of disputes between Ukrainian and pro-Russian factions in the region.

Local Food – Borshch, Varenyky (stuffed dumplings) and Banosh with Brynza (corn flour cooked in sour cream with sheep’s cheese and crunchy pork fat) are examples of local cuisine along with Holodets – “This strange dish shocks tourists. But, for Ukrainians, it is the central dish served at all celebrations. Holodets is made of meat broth, frozen to a jelly-like state, with pieces of meat inside. One of the main components for this kind of aspic is pork leg. To be more specific, the lowest part, the one that ends with hoofs. During the process of cooking, the smell spreads all over the apartment. But the result is so satisfying that it is worth it.”

While I’m sure local Ukrainian food is delicious, I’d imagine Arsenal will be taking their own chef! (as most clubs seem to after the spuds’ experience of Lasagnegate 🙂 )

chas


Things we Learnt from the weekend

September 17, 2018

When Lucas Torreira was bought from Sampdoria, a clause was inserted in the sale agreement which would trigger large additional payments if he started a League game before Christmas.

Auba doesn’t appear to like his left wing duties and didn’t look best pleased when substituted.

No-one really knows what happened at half-time at St James’ Park. Torreira came on as sub for Guendouzi, but that still doesn’t explain how virtually every other player came out of the tunnel with a spring in their step, at least two yards quicker and with a desire to actually play some football.

The Ramsey/Ozil conundrum becomes more complex, unbalancing the side with both vying for the same free role.

Sokratis, while not quite in the Usain Bolt category, has not been taking sprinting lessons from the BFG. Catching and dispossessing  Newcastle’s speedy youngster, Murphy, was no mean feat for our Kalamata Colossus.

Sokratis gleefully runs to celebrate our second goal with the rest of the lads

Our next League opponents, Everton, were finally beaten having drawn three and won one of their opening four games. The hammers rode their luck and took chances to make West Ham Bob’s weekend. Jack is back in the sick bay with an ankle knock.

Liverpool and Citeh look strong but the chavs have somehow managed to keep pace by hook or by crook. Burnley are in an early season swamp, as are Newcastle.

The analysis around the spuds defeat centred around Pochettino having a bad game. Is he getting homesick and looking at Spanish weather forecasts with an envious eye? Let’s hope so. 🙂 (yep, I realise he’s Argentinian – his birthplace is called Murphy!)

chas


Toon dooned by a Xhaka boom

September 16, 2018

First Half

Nothing happened. Hopes (and fears) for a deluge of goals were battered on a sea of directionless football from both sides. No shots on target, virtually no shots. Duller than a day trip to Sunderland.

Second half

Another half time sub, presumably a firework or two tactically inserted and a different Arsenal emerged for the second period. The ball suddenly became an important ingredient in the footballers’ toolkit. Torreira injected an urgency and positive momentum that the first 45 had totally lacked.

Ozil and Ramsey, instead of looking like Arsenal’s equivalent of Lampard/Gerrard, started to enjoy finding each other. Every player looked hungry for the ball and keen to find space for a pass when not in possession.

Auba was fouled a few yards outside the area and it looked as though Torreira had decided he fancied a pop. Lo and behold, Granit produced a peach and Arsenal’s first goal direct from a free kick for donkeys. Beauty.

The whole red and white machine was suddenly infused with extra confidence and a second looked likely as Toon heads dropped. Mesut passed the ball into the net 10 minutes later after a blocked effort from Laca and that looked to be enough to see off the demoralised barcodes.

Arsenal, being Arsenal regardless of who the manager is, still managed to give us all kittens in the final 5 minutes of the match. First Cech had to make his first meaningful save from a free header at the back post, before an identical chance was duly despatched as injury time began. Thank Dennis there were only the three extra minutes to endure.

Summary

Guendouzi must have been perplexed seeing the Arsenal side which emerged from the tunnel after half time. It looked one he might have enjoyed playing in. That first period, on the other hand, probably made him grateful he’d been hooked.

Why did we ease off after the second goal? Was the tactic to allow the opposition to come on to us and then to pick them off on the counter? Two goals rarely seems like a convincing lead where Arsenal are concerned.

Anyway it turned out that they were enough in the final reckoning. Another away win, three points in the bag plus two home fixtures next up and things look a whole lot rosier than when we were in ‘crisis’  a few games ago.

Ratings

Cech – more comedy on the floor from Petr’s feet. A couple of dangerous passes followed by humping it up the pitch. Strange. Had little to do with his hands, one decent stop from the header and numerous catches of overhit lofted balls into the area….6

Bellerin – acres of space behind him in the first half. Good job Shkodran is always there to cover with his lightning pace. Still think Lichtsteiner behind him makes sense. Hector is always dangerous going forward though….6

Mustafi – some good stuff in amongst some typically crazy moments….5

Sokratis – stoic and resolute from our stone faced Greek. Made several important tackles, blocks and interceptions plus he even showed a yard of pace. Settling in nicely….7

Monreal – competent without having too much to do….6

Guendouzi – seems to have lost just a touch of his earlier confidence. Though when passing backwards is your only option as it was in that appalling first half, it’s always going to be a struggle….5

Xhaka – grew into the game, usual high number of passes and a glorious peach of a dead ball which sailed into the net….7

Ramsey – completely anonymous and disinterested in the first period. Much better when the football began in the second….5

Ozil – looked especially pleased to mark his 200th appearance with a goal….6

Laca – tried hard to make an impact throughout. Didn’t have a great deal of service….6

Auba – no smiles in the first half and didn’t look comfortable on the ball before finally being withdrawn….5

Subs

Torreira – another 45 minutes for the Uruguayan. Seemed to make an immediate impact with tempo and forward movement….6

Mkhitaryan – tidy in possession without achieving much at all….5

Welbeck – one impressive break but didn’t have the balance to finish off a fine chance….5

Manager – changed things at half time which was much needed….6

chas