Archive for March, 2008

31
Mar
08

Platini’s Modest Proposal

platini

UEFA President Michel Platini is a man stuck in the 19th century. I say that with reservations because it might actually be fair to say that he’s stuck in the 18th century.

Yesterday, Platini gave an extraordinary speech in which he claimed to have asked the “European Commission” to ban the transfer of minors.

I have told the European Commission that we should ban the transfer of minors. The first contract a player signs should be with the club who trains him. Minors shouldn’t be seen as a machine that can be transferred for the benefit of agents or clubs.

I’m not exactly sure how this new proposed rule would work. It probably would legally bind a player to a club for a set number of years (probably 2) after they sign their first professional contract. Then after their 18th birthday they could move freely around Europe. Platini wants to implement this because, he says, it’s the only way to ensure that local talent stays local and thereby increases the local fan base and, in his mind, helps the national team. Because for Platini, the way to ensure that England has the best talent is to huddle all the English players together in the rain and make them play against each other.

But how does this idea benefit the footballers? After all, they are the ones who must take the pitch in whatever strip they might be wearing — team or country. If the footballers aren’t getting the best training in the highest competitions how will they be able to play their best football?

I don’t think that it does benefit the players and I don’t just mean monetarily. Players get better when they play against and compete for spots with the best players in the world. If teams are forced to recruit only locally (probably within 30 miles of the club) the ability to pit youth against other youth in a competitive environment that will raise the level of competition across the academy is extremely limited.

And then there’s the idea that the team that trains you, owns you. Isn’t that’s some sort of 18th century indentured servitude? I can see all kinds of problems arising from this plan. Imagine a 14 year old who is a bit of a troubled youth and doesn’t get along with his coach, but he’s a tremendous talent. So, AS Nancy snatches him up at age 14 and until his 18th birthday, his ass belongs to AS Nancy. They could destroy this kid’s career. Let’s say he has a falling out with the management. Oh well, sit on the bench kid.

How does that make players better?

Or worse. Imagine if Fabregas had been forced to stay in Barcelona. He would never have had the opportunity to train with Wenger and he may never have been given the opportunity to play for Barcelona’s first team. Fabregas is a special talent, and I’d like to think that he would have been successful regardless, but you cannot deny that Arsene Wenger is one of the best youth coaches (if not THE best) in the world and thus that he has had a profound effect on Cesc’s career. And for me that’s the “coup de grace.”

Wealthy people send to their children to the best schools in the world in order to help ensure their future success. Why shouldn’t some poor kid from Barcelona be allowed to go to the best footballing school in the world? Why shouldn’t some poor kid from Barcelona be given the opportunity to play against and showcase his talent amongst the best players in the world? Because of where he was born? That’s not helping football Michel, that’s stultifying the development of the game by limiting the opportunities for talented youth to fully explore and exploit their talent.

Of course, this plan is not just about educational opportunity. This is about money. Platini is proposing that a team owns you once they start training you. With that kind of legal power teams will be able to set extraordinarily low wages on players because the player has no freedom to negotiate. All of the power goes to the corporation and none of it to the individual.

Platini spoke of teams treating the players like “machines” to be bought and sold, in essence, he’s saying we need to humanize the youth in football. But freedom, Michel, freedom to move, to disagree with a coach, to get paid what you’re worth; freedom humanizes us. Your plan would do nothing more than empower the AS Nancy’s of the world to dehumanize players through a system of ownership straight out of the 18th century.

Your plan would not help football.  Your plan will not help footballers.  Your plan would not increase the talent pool for England.  Your plan would merely enrich and empower small clubs at the expense of young men.

It’s a modest proposal indeed.

30
Mar
08

“I didn’t see it”

Yesterday, on the way to Doyle’s to see the recording of the game, I was trying to explain to my girlfriend why I thought Arsenal might lose to Bolton 3-0. It was simple really, Bolton was always going to defend and hoof the ball forward. If one of those long balls just happened to drop right, Bolton could go ahead 1-0. I tried to explain that Arsenal’s central defense right now is shaky and how they seem very susceptible to this very basic form of attack.

But, I went on, if Arsenal go down an early goal it would mean that they would be even more aggressive defensively and gamble more. This in turn, leaves them even more vulnerable to the one type of attack they are least able to defend and unless Arsenal got a quick goal in return, all of their forward momentum could see them go 2 down.

I also told her that I was worried about one of the Arsenal players getting frustrated by Bolton’s overly physical approach and how the person who retaliates is always the one who gets punished. So, I could see Arsenal going down 2-0 and also being reduced to 10 men.

Little did I know I would be prophetic.

I wish I could say that I saw a 10 man Arsenal would go on to then score 3 goals, win the match, overcome their bogey team, and send the miserable cunts down to the Championship division. I didn’t. I predicted a 3-0 loss to her.

So much for my prognosticating skills.

I say all this, not to brag about how insightful I am. Rather that I suspect a lot of us could have predicted that 3-0 Bolton wins result. It’s an easy prediction, given their recent form, the desperation, the shaky defense, the historical cuntery of Bolton, etc. etc. It was an obvious prediction. The prediction of a fan who is down on his team.

The real supporters wouldn’t make that prediction though. The real supporters always hold out hope that their team can win.

Last year when Arsenal beat Liverpool in a see saw 6-3 match at Anfield I saw a guy keep the faith in his team, and at the time I was dismissive of him. “What a fool” I thought. But now? I’ve decided that he should be an example for us all.

Right now, we should all be proud of this squad.  Just like Wenger is.  We should be proud to be an Arsenal supporter.  Remember this was the team that nearly everyone wrote off as 5th place or 6th place. And this was the team who, for most of the season, led the league. They proved everyone wrong before.

Why shouldn’t we believe that they can do it again?

29
Mar
08

Bolton v. Arsenal

Can’t sleep, so you get an early, crappy, post.

Today, the squad is without Eduardo, Rosicky, and Sagna due to injury. You all know that Sagna picked up an injury during the Chelsea match. But what you probably don’t know is that Chelsea haven’t apologized for it yet. What? Terry is as much at fault for Sagna’s injury as Eboue was intentional about Terry’s injury, why shouldn’t they apologize?

Anyway, Sagna is going to be at home today, combing his beads, waiting by the phone for John Terry to call him up and apologize. On the other hand, Adebayor might be at the stadium but he’s unlikely to play. Le Boss has said that Ade looks ‘jaded’ which is British for “tired.”

Adebayor, Adebayooooor

I don’t do fantasy sports but if I did, I wouldn’t play Adebayor because if he plays at all it will be in a reserve role. Which is a bit of a shame, because he really needs to get a goal ahead of the Liverpool clashes, but I guess Wenger has weighed that against his jadedness (jaditude?) and the big Togolesian getting a break.  What will the Arsenal fans sing about if they don’t have Adebayor to sing to?

So, it’s up to a very rusty van Persie and a very big Dane to carry the scoring load. As I was looking both players up and I found this video of van Persie’s “13” greatest goals.

Watching that video makes baby Jesus cry. He’s so fucking good. Here’s to Robin getting his touch back all at once.

Other than to report that Wenger wants to rest Ade, I’m not going to guess what kind of lineup Wenger will choose. It’s his team, he knows them best. Don’t be surprised if the old man has some further tricks up his sleeves. Flamini and Cesc may also get a rest today, you never know.

In our penultimate story, Cesc has fired his old agent and hired David Dein’s son. I don’t like this one bit. Darren Dein is the same agent who greased the rails that saw Henry shipped to Barca. Is the Dein family hell bent on destroying Arsenal? From his father’s association with a Russian mobster who wants to milk Arsenal dry to the son’s relationship with Barcelona this family seems noxious at first glance. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they are collaborating to get Barcelona to over-pay for Arsenal players.  And maybe they are scamming a Russian mobster.

And maybe rainbows and pots of gold will suddenly appear at Emirates…

And finally, Martin Keown is coaching a one-time famous clash today.  He’s managing Oxford in the Oxford-Cambridge match.  This is the long way around for him to get his UEFA A coaching license.  Good for him, and may he have a long career coaching.  Oh, and by the way, he’s doing this for free.  I always liked Keown.  Especially when he went Donkey Kong ape-shit on Ruud van Nistlerooy.

And that’s it for today.  Here’s to 3 points.

28
Mar
08

Bolton v. Arsenal preview

Bolton.

3 years in a row now Arsenal have lost to Bolton.

Bolton.

Arsenal’s Premier League season now hinges on winning an away match to one of the dirtiest teams to ever disgrace a football pitch.

Bolton. Ugh…

There is a ray of hope here though. Bolton no longer have Sam Allardyce and there can be no doubt that Bolton’s home form against Arsenal was largely (pun intended) a product of the Fat Man. Bolton also let Anelka go this January (which prompted me to predict relegation) and they have really missed his presence. So much so that the second leading scorer on the squad (behind Anelka) is midfielder, skipper, and hard man, Kevin Nolan. Unfortunately for Bolton fans Kevin Nolan won’t be on the pitch tomorrow either, because he is serving a suspension for his 10th yellow of the season.

No Sam, No Nicholas, no Nolan: a walk in the park right? No way.

Bolton are fighting against relegation and players like Davies (7 yellow cards) and Diouf (10 yellow cards) are not going to roll over and let Arsenal tickle their tummies. I fully expected the nasty game to be the one against Chelsea and it turned out to be a pretty fair match between the two — by recent standards. And now, with Bolton and Arsenal at opposite ends of the table but their respective seasons hanging in the balance I’m going to have to move the tense match to tomorrow. Throw in 3 years of bitter history, a depleted Bolton squad which will force them to ugly up the game, and it could very well explode.

Or… Arsenal could score early and put them to bed.

Personally, I’m hoping for the latter. The longer Arsenal wait to score, the more belief will creep into the Bolton side… then, one ball hoofed up to a speedy Diouf and… damn, I don’t want to think about it.

Fortunately, it looks like Wenger has studied the tapes of the last 5 matches and is calling for a defensive renaissance.

I believe we will do it but we need to get back to our defensive stability. We were leading with 20 minutes to go at Chelsea and then surrendered it. What we produced defensively was just not us: we can do much better than that.

Yes. “Defense wins championships” we say here in America (because our sports don’t have draws) and in this case it’s true.  Arsenal need to shore up their defense, stat.

It’s important to note, however, that while Wenger was reminding the team to tighten up their defense, he was also giving 100% support to William Gallas. So, while he’s calling out William to lead the team, to lead the defense, he’s not doing it in such a way as to undermine the squad.

Some Arsenal supporters (me included) would do well to take note of this technique. It’s too easy to slide into attacking and blaming when the team has a slump in form. But that’s when the team need us most — supporting.

And so, Bolton tomorrow at 8am PST in a potentially tense match. It would be a nice match to see Arsenal regain their form, wouldn’t it? No one needs reminding that Arsenal have three tough tests against Liverpool next week, do they?

The match is live on Setanta, which normally means me at the pub at 8am, but I’m busy tomorrow and so I’ll have to watch the replay at 5pm.  Here’s to a break-out match for Arsenal, a 7-0 thrashing, and everyone goes home unhurt!   Hell, I’ll take three points and everyone unhurt.

Until then, kickers…

p.s. The Madness of King Kev has struck again! There’s a story that he wants to sign former Gunner, Reyes. Um, Kev? He’s a striker who scored 16 goals in 69 appearances. And when he wasn’t taking up space on the pitch? He was bitching about the weather or the physical play of the PL. Come on, this story HAS to be a fake, right?

p.p.s. The Madness of Jens Lehmann has struck as well! 20 years ago this would have been a non-story but in these day and times, feeding non-alcoholic beer to a toddler is probably a crime. It’s a real shame that, I remember my dad gave me beer when I was very young AND I TURNED OUT FINE.

Cheers.

27
Mar
08

ding dong the witch is dead

Good game Mike

Mike Riley has been dropped from refereeing Premier League matches this weekend. Instead, he’ll have to make poor calls in the Championship and League One: for a week.

Before you get too excited, Manchester United’s favorite referee is only getting a slap on the wrist. It’s the Premier League’s equivalent of a three match ban, except he gets to work and gets paid, but other than that it’s almost exactly the same!

What really strikes me about this is how long it took for his poor performances on the pitch to catch up to him. Some of you might remember back in 2004 when he was the referee who handed United a penalty that sealed the win that killed Arsenal’s 49 game unbeaten streak. At that time there was a huge flap over his bias, with the record books showing that Riley gave an astonishing 12 penalties in 23 matches for United.

It wasn’t like he went on to clean up his act after that. He just kept making poor decision after poor decision.

There was Middlesbrough v Arsenal where he gave a penalty to Boro (and was quick to book Jens Lehmann for protesting.) There was the time he sent off the Reading mascot, poor Kingsley. Or the time he gave Arsenal two penalties against Manchester City, one of which led to the infamous “Pires penalty.”

Shall I go on or can you discern a pattern here? Mike Riley loved to give penalties.  I don’t know what he career total for penalties are but I do know that if you read through all the stories about his glorious career, you’ll see that managers across the country are pissed at Mike Riley, because he gave the opposing team a penalty.

Other than that, he’s just completely farking nuts. He has no problem giving Jens a card for dissent but three years later can’t muster more than a yellow when confronted with Ashley Cole’s spectacular defiance. He’ll even send off your mascot for “obstructing” him!

But I guess the last three weeks had been too much: the week before the Chelsea debacle he’d been suspended for his poor handling of the Blackburn v Fulham match.

And so the Premier League drops him for a second time this season and speculation is that he won’t be allowed to work any of the big games for the rest of the season. Fans alike from Geordies to Gooners to Wanderers will all rejoice in the news that the Wicked Witch of the North is finally dead.

Well… Man U fans will be sad, after all, they’ve lost one of their staunchest allies. But don’t worry your pretty haired heads; he’s only being relegated for a week, there’s a chance he might come back up and give you a penalty call or two.

Until tomorrow.

26
Mar
08

Played by the press

I’ve been reading British sports news now for 4 or 5 years and you’d think I’d have caught on by now. When a story isn’t repeated anywhere else (and sometimes when it is repeated) and it’s outrageous then it has to be false. Or, if not false, then a “misquote” in order to manufacture a story.

That’s what happened yesterday with the whole “Gallas claims not to have friends at Arsenal.” By 2pm local time yesterday, I fully expected to see the story run in other papers, denials printed, reactions, op-ed pieces, etc. The wires were silent. So, I went back to the link… those cork suckers had updated the link with the following:

Gallas’ peculiar reaction could possibly be explained by a suggestion that he understood the question to refer to English mates at Arsenal.

They didn’t even have the balls to print a second story! They just updated the link! That’s unprofessional.

Look at yesterday’s column now. Now look at the quote from Gallas. Uh huh. Now I know why he included Wayne Bridge in his statement. Jesus Lap Dancing Christ…

My bad y’all. I wish I could say that it won’t happen again but I tend to be very reactionary — it’s probably my Scottish and French heritage — uhh, nope, it’s my inexperience. I bottled this one. Took the bait. Hook, line, and sinker. It was easy to do though, Gallas is an easy target for all of us. Remember last year when he said stupid crap in the press? Or the year before at Chelsea? And then you add in his recent bizarre behavior and some of his comments about Theo and you could see how someone might buy the quote.

Still, I should have been wary.

The Rock of Gilberto has shored up the locker room by releasing the only public statement about all this Gallas flap by simply stating that there is no problem. I actually like the fact that there was a simple statement and then the team has clammed up. Maybe it’s the international breaks but I’d like to envision the team having a meeting and deciding that they aren’t going to talk about this issue and instead prepare for the notloB match on Saturday. And also talking about how they are going to create a solid defensive presence, something that’s been lacking in the last 5 matches.

Speaking of international week, it’s a busy week for Arsenal; half the squad is away on international duty, the Emirates stadium is hosting Brazil v. Sweden, and the Emirates will be used to mark the start of the English-French summit.

Arsenal have 14 players out on international duty this week. 14! I didn’t know we had 14 healthy players much less 14 healthy internationals. I was surprised to see that Rosicky was included on the Czech roster but the club is indicating that he’s just “traveling” with the Czech team. Still, that’s a lot of players, 4 of which have been called up for France to play against England, which Wenger claims is not really a “friendly.” Fingers crossed that all our players come home safe and sound.

In the Brazil v. Sweden match Gilberto and Ljungberg are captaining their sides respectively. It’s good to see two former Arsenal players keeping their careers going. What? Oh yeah, Gilberto still plays for Arsenal. My bad.

And finally, the story of the day! The Franco-Anglo summit! Arsene Wenger! Emirates! The French Prime minister! Carla Bruni! Throw in that Wenger’s reportedly buying every winger in Europe (another guy is reportedly on his way, Kuzmanovic) and it’s got to be a busy week indeed.

That’s it for today, I think I’ve said enough, don’t you?  I’ll end with a picture of Carla Bruni, with all her clothes on.  Do you know how hard that is to find?
guitar

’till tomorrow!

25
Mar
08

has a captain ever been replaced?

I was reading the Arseblogger this morning and he reminded me of something that happened on Sunday. When I was watching the pre-match there was a moment that the cameras picked up on an on-field team meeting presided over by William Gallas. At the time I kinda thought, “that’s odd, but hey, maybe that’s how the team gets motivated for a big match.” I turned my attention to something else for a second and like a shot, I heard Gallas say, in his best English, “We have to show them that we are not afraid!” It wasn’t the assured voice of a man who was instilling confidence in other men. It was the shrill voice of a man who was pleading for his men to have confidence. That was when I knew that they were afraid, desperately afraid, and I got a twinge. Like when you just know something bad is going to happen. You can see the whole thing for yourself here:

I like the look on van Persie’s face. That says it all.

And the stink over the 2-1 defeat is starting to spread a bit. The boss has now made it clear who he thought was at fault for the loss. With this statement he laid the blame squarely at Gallas’ feet.

We have some defensive problems that we need to sort out. We gave away an easy goal against Middlesbrough, against Aston Villa and again today. The spirit is right, the mentality is fantastic but we needed a bit more defensive authority. You can say we played badly but we were vulnerable today.

But it’s not just once that Wenger blamed the defense, he’s now done it in at least two different statements. For Wenger, Gallas is the captain, Toure is the co-captain, and that pair are responsible for the loss. What will be interesting is to see how they respond. Will Gallas talk to the press about Theo’s lack of creativity or will he pull his head out of his ass and work on his game? You know, set the example for the young players. I don’t really think of Toure as any kind of captain so I’d be surprised if he made a statement, but I’m waiting for Gallas to react. The boss is now saying over and over that the defense was and has been the problem over the last 5 games. So, will Gallas blame others or will he take responsibility? Given his history, I would put money on the former.

Adding even more fuel to the Gallas fire is a big story on a small statement by Willi.

Asked by a French newspaper who his mates were at Arsenal, Gallas said: “Mates? Well, they are more like acquaintances. At Arsenal there is Theo Walcott but he is very young. Really, it’s the guys at Chelsea like Frank Lampard, John Terry, Wayne Bridge and Joe Cole. It always gives me pleasure to see them again. We all have our own lives but when we see each other – especially Terry – we always like to spend some time talking together. After all, I spent five years by their sides. There is always something between us. John Terry in particular. I like his mentality. He is a real warrior. In fact he is an example to me even though he is much younger than me.

Just to clarify: William Gallas has no friends at Arsenal, save the man he notoriously slagged off a few weeks ago, but he does have an abiding love for his former Chelsea teammates, especially John Terry. Ugh. I think I just puked up my breakfast.

Has a captain ever been replaced at Arsenal at this point in a season? I suspect the only way to do it would be to claim an injury and pair Big Phil with Toure (a partnership I like!). Then you could hand the armband to someone who has actually been inspirational, who has played hard every match, someone who paid his dues, someone who cut his teeth for the club in the Champions League where he played out of position when asked because of his selfless dedication to the team… someone like Flamini.

I am officially done with William Gallas.  Time to throw out the spoiled apple if you ask me.




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