Mr Wenger’s 800th game and Birmingham Preview

October 16, 2010

Jumping Jehovahsphat, it’s back, the familiar Saturday morning frisson, that tingling in the lower extremeties that signify game day. And for you lucky chaps going to the game, the resumption of years old pre-match traditions.

A two week break at this time of the season is ridiculous, almost as ridiculous as our injury problems. How can it be that with so few games played in the past 2 months we have lost so many players to injury? Koscielny is the latest to enjoy the warm sensitive hands of the medical team. Not having the spine of our team is finishing our season before it starts, I believe that had TV, Cesc, RvP and TW started at the Bridge, we would have come away with at least a point – but we will never know. What we do know is that we have taken 1 point out of a possible 9 and are 7 points off Chelsea.

We need to get back to winning ways, however Birmingham are no easy 3 points, they are a team in the image of their manager, hardworking, energetic and pragmatic. Inspiration and flair will be supplied by the fresh air loving Alex Hleb who is accompanied in midfield by another ex-Gooner, Seb Larsson. I watched Larsson play for Sweden v Holland on Weds and he looks in fine form.

Birmingham have yet to beat us in 25 PL games, and we have never lost two consecutive PL games at the Emirates (I think). We have conceded in all but two games this season and Birmingham have scored only once in their last 4 PL games. It should add up to an easy victory for the Gunners, but we just do not know how this team will perform if pressured, and we can be sure this is a point that McLeish will be pummelling into his team – “close them down, harry them, defend from the front and pack the 12 yard line, look for the breakaway”. And we must beware of a late Kevin Phillips goal should he play, he may be as old as Methusaleh but he remains a threat

The team almost picks itself assuming Bendtner and Theo are on the bench

I would be tempted to give JW a rest and play Rosicky, but Mozart played twice for his nation during the break whereas Jack only played once and as such should be fresher. With so many games coming up we have to pray that our CB’s remain unscathed –  heaven forbid another injury to Djourou who desperately needs a few games to return to top form.

And here is this weeks strange City fact  – The curry known as the “Balti” was invented in Birmingham, and exported to India! Such is the magnificence of the Second city’s Curry culture (and of course Lee Dixon owns a curry house chain based in B’ham). Plus B’ham is the birthplace of two of rock’s finest acts Black Sabbath and Judas Priest.

Today is Mr. Wenger’s 800th game in charge. Where have the years gone? I was at his first game and there when the press were saying Arsene Who?  They know him well now, and I wish him an easy and relaxed afternoon with us 2 up at half-time, and 4 up after 90 minutes (we can but hope!)

As a postscript I must mention the sad passing of Malcolm Allison. A tremendous character and the manager of one of the finest teams of my youth. The cigars, the hats, the posturing – he was a one off . There is no-one in football like him anymore – a true maverick  RIP.

Can we win today? Of course we can.



2010 Arsenal Embarrassed ……. what went wrong in 2005? – written by RockyLives

September 27, 2010

Last night I typed “Arsenal+Embarrassed” into Google, limiting the search to the previous 24 hours. The number of hits was 31,500, which just about says it all.

I don’t want to join the stampede of condemnation that followed Saturday’s result and I do not subscribe to the theory that our season is over before it’s begun, but I’ll admit to being spooked.

It would be great to put it down to a bad day at the office (the sort of bad day where you realise too late that you forgot to put your trousers on before leaving home), but the flaws we displayed had the whiff of déjà vu all over them. And that’s not the name of a new perfume from Victoria Beckham.

Familiar failings were on display, but when did they become familiar? At what point did the Rolls Royce Arsenal of Doubles, trophies and unbeaten seasons give way to today’s version: a flashy Lamborghini with a dodgy carburetor?

Looking back through recent history a lot, to me, hinges on the group of players who arrived in 2005.

In the year from January 2005 to January 2006 the following players came into our club:

Emmanuel Eboue

Nicklas Bendtner

Armand Traore

Alex Hleb

Abou Diaby

Emmanuel Adebayor

Alex Song

Theo Walcott

Vito Mannone

Mart Poom

We have had good and bad players before and since but there is a certain malaise that seems to affect the 2005 intake and I would love to know the reason.

Leaving aside Mannone and Poom, who are bit-part players, the others, to a greater or lesser degree, share certain failings that have frustrated the supporters and affected results:  lack of focus, lack of awareness, inability to concentrate, bad decision-making and what might be summed up as a lack of pure class.

The likes of Diaby, Walcott, Song, Hleb and Adebayor have looked like world beaters one game and panel beaters the next.

Of the bunch you would have to say that Adebayor was the most successful because he had one good season, and that Theo should be cut some slack because of his age and because he is now (hopefully) beginning to show signs of turning into the finished article.

But the rest – particularly Diaby, Eboue, Traore and Song – have shown a maddening lack of consistency. They can be amazing one minute (Diaby away at Villa anyone?) but on their bad days they seem to lack effort and a sufficient degree of football intelligence.

In fact, with their repeated inability to pick the right option they don’t feel like Wenger players at all. Arsene has always loved players who read the game intuitively – think Vieira, Petit, Pires, Fabregas, Ljungberg and others too numerous to mention.

Of the 2005 batch even Bendtner (whose work rate and effort is beyond reproach) is hampered by what can only be described as a certain lack of class, evident in his poor touch and poor decision-making.

For what it’s worth, I think that in 2005 Arsene took his eye off the ball when it came to transfers.  The sheer scale of the job involved in moving to the Grove must have been all-consuming (it has been reported many times that Arsene pored over every little detail of the new stadium). Added to this was the knowledge that money would be tight for several years to come. Somewhere in all this I believe he did not give the job his usual focus and ended up signing players he would not have signed today.

Of course that could be 100% wrong. Maybe the 2005 intake have struggled because they arrived at the transition point from a great team to a merely good one and could not cope with the expectation and pressure.

Or maybe, joining a team that had so recently been Invincible, they thought success would come automatically to them without having to sweat every drop of blood to achieve it. To use an in-vogue word, maybe they just felt entitled. Up-and-coming players previously at the club, like Cesc and RvP, had had the chance to live and play alongside the Invincibles and, one assumes, to imbibe a sense of what it takes to be the best.

Whatever the reason, our midfield against West Brom had three of the boys of ’05 in it and the failings that have become the trademark of that group of players were evident.  Many of our worst performances of the last few years have led to members of this group being castigated by fans.

Of the outfield players who arrived in 2005, Eboue, Bendtner, Diaby, Song and Walcott are still with us and Traore is out on loan. Who knows, they may end up being instrumental in bringing us silverware, but I’m not banking on it. I‘m putting my faith in the ones who have come after: Wilshere, Ramsey, Nasri, Chamakh, Arshavin, Rosicky, Vela and the rest.


The Truth About Cesc Fabregas and FC Barcelona

May 25, 2010

Posted by guest writer Deepak Israni*

The Greatest Club In the World? Apparently its FC Barcelona. Like butter wouldn’t melt, the club from Catalonia have everyone from Sepp Blatter to Alex Hleb verbally masturbating – and perhaps otherwise – over them. They are the saviours of football – a club who won’t let any corporation adorn their shirts. They play exciting football – apparently a new brand of team attack and defence (which Sacchi’s AC Milan team of the early 90s did to far better effect). Such is their standing in the world that they can get away with all but tapping up Cesc Fabregas for the past few seasons without even so much as a call to Mr.Hill-Wood – or so he tells us.

Well I say £^&* Barcelona and so too does today’s guest writer Deepak Israni. Deepak is a Madrista at heart but is an ardent admirer and supporter of the mighty Arsenal. Below he outlines why Barcelona really need to just come down a peg or two…….. or ten!

BREAKING NEWS: In transfer rumors, Barcelona are hell-bent on signing Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.

Well that will never get old, now will it?!

This is the story every year, and now with the Catalans having their presidential election in the summer which sees Joan Laporta doing whatever he can in his power (which includes signing David Villa) to tip the scales in favour of his backed candidate so that he can move onto national politics and STILL have a say in what FC Barcelona does,  it was obvious that such rumors would only escalate in number.

The worst part about all this is that Cesc hasn’t done a single thing to calm the rumors, instead he is signing a little kid’s Barcelona jersey, adding fuel to all the rumors.

If Cesc does indeed sign for FC Barcelona, then Cesc is the biggest most ungrateful b1tch on the planet! And if you think that I’m being harsh on the Captain, then tell me, if bailing out on the club that gave him all the opportunities that he could only dream of at his childhood club, and made him the player that he is today in pursuit of more money and trophies isn’t acting like an ungrateful b1tch, then what is?

Cesc Fabregas despite being an Arsenal academy product……oh wait…….are you guys still living in a world run by FC Barcelona and believe that he is a Barcelona product?

Let me clarify. Barcelona themselves claim that Carles Puyol is their academy product, but in fact he was SIGNED at the age of 19, Cesc Fabregas joined Arsenal at the age of 15, if that doesn’t make him a product of Arsenal’s academy then what does? More can be learned from a team at the age of 15 than 19.

There are many reasons why I believe that Cesc Fabregas shouldn’t leave which include FC Barcelona being a dirty hypocritical institution unlike the popular image of them, created by them and their controlled media. But that might not apply to Cesc, because he’s a Cule by birth and he may already have made up his mind to return home. But I won’t let that stop me from pointing out what FC Barcelona are all about!

The first and foremost reason that I believe Cesc shouldn’t leave is the lack of opportunities. He joined Arsenal for the same reason, and him leaving to be a bench player for Barcelona when he is already the captain of one of the most prestigious clubs in the world, is odd.

There is no way he will get a starting place in the Barcelona midfield. The Blaugaranas play Xavi Hernandez in Fabregas’s position, there are rumors about them selling Xavi Hernandez but it seems highly unlikely. Then the second position is of Seydou Keita, ain’t no way in hell Barcelona will remove their insurance policy in the middle, Cesc is just not big enough. The only one he can replace is Sergi Busqets who is a good enough ball winner, and has the Plan-B of winning the ball back—which is, that he’ll go down like a sissy whenever he loses the ball so that the play of the opposing team is broken down and Barcelona get the ball back. They like to play two DMs, they want all the protection in midfield they can get, Cesc isn’t cutting into that team.

The second reason is that Barcelona play like sissies though they might advertise that they play the most beautiful football in the world and that Arsenal try to copy their style of football. Those who have watched Barcelona play know that they roll the ball around between their back-line and sometimes the midfield and then take it back to their defense again, who would chuck one up for Messi or Ibrahimovic, hardly beautiful.

Their play is a different version of negative football which includes ball-hogging doing nothing with the ball so that the opposing team can’t do anything. Why leave a team which plays beautiful attacking football where you are an integral part of the system for a crappy ass team where you’d be stacking in a high number of passes and would be looked at in awe on Sportscenter, but in reality you’d be passing to the defenders!

And now the last, but not the least, and probably the most important reason why Cesc shouldn’t leave is that Cesc probably wouldn’t have the same satisfaction in winning a trophy where the success is bought. The Blaugaranas might claim that it’s only their rivals—Real Madrid who do all the spending –  but we all know it’s all false.

Their sheet is as splattered with big money transfers in the recent years as Real Madrid’s. Dani Alves, Arsenal’s own—Thierry Henry, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (second highest money transfer—€85 million = Eto o’ + €45 million), Dymtro Chyngrinsky (who’s apparently a waste of €27 million, a bench player), Eric Abidal (similar amount to Arsenal’s biggest signing—Andrei Arshavin), Gabriel Millito (€22 million, for a player who remained injured for the major part of two seasons, and this was his third season at the club), Seydou Keita and now the first signing of the summer—David Villa (€45 million).

The expenditure (money spent in purchasing players – money recouped by selling players) of FC Barcelona in three years is more than Real Madrid, yet they proudly say that they don’t spend money and “make” their players. It’s nobody’s fault but their own that they sign expensive players that they don’t really play and make it look like they use their own academy.

Arsenal are pretty close to a title now, actually they always are, last season showed how the Gunners have matured but the injuries to key players are a major problem, the new training regime might lessen that. With Arsene Wenger finally diving into the transfer market to sign replacements, this might be the year of the Gunners, which partly depends on whether Cesc stays or goes, if he stays good, if he leaves, then it depends on who is going to be his replacement.

It’s all up to Cesc, he can choose to be Captain of Arsenal or he can leave to sit on the bench of FC Barcelona, but need we remind him of a certain Alexander Hleb, who is still picking the thorns out of his ass!

Cesc can choose to do whatever he wants, Arsenal will be happy either way, they’ll be happier to see him stay but won’t be disappointed to bag whatever is remaining of the €60-70 million after buying his replacement.

* All at Arsenal, Arsenal would like to thank Deepak for taking time out to write up this post. If you liked what you read you can find more at his own blog on Real Madrid called “Football Through the Eyes of Real Addicts”