Archive for April, 2008


Where did it all go wrong?

Good morning! Looks like everyone is already looking forward to next season around Arsenal. Well, not everyone… Wenger has stated that he felt like Arsenal were just one game away from winning the title. Which game? Away to Man-chest Untied at Old Trafford.


That’s not how I saw it, hell, that’s not even how you saw it, old man, what the hell are you talking about?

Back in February, I blogged about a comment that Wenger made; he thought the league winner would have to get 90 points. At the time, Arsenal had 60 points and there were 13 matches left and I said:

And yet here they sit, 60 points from 25 matches for an average of 2.4 points per match. They are currently top of the table and Wenger reckons it will take 90 points to win the league. Now, if they stay in their current form (2.4 ppm with 13 matches remaining) they will end the season with 91 points. Exactly where Wenger predicts that they should be to win the title and cast off their underdog label.

So, in 13 matches they either have to get 10 wins and 1 draw or 9 wins and 4 draws. And here’s the schedule for the rest of the season… make up your own mind as to whether it’s possible.

  • Rovers
  • @ Birmingham City
  • Villa
  • @ Wigan
  • Middlesbrough
  • @ Chelsea
  • @ Notlob
  • Liverpool
  • @ Man cUnts
  • Reading
  • @ Derby
  • Everton
  • @ Sunderland

I’m not going to jinx them by predicting positive outcomes in any of these matches. I’ll just leave it up to you to find 30+ points from that schedule.

So far, they have not even come close to the 2.4 ppm that they had averaged up until that point and even IF they win out (no easy task mind you) they will max out at 83 points. Which is 7 shy of Wenger’s prediction and 8 shy of mine.

So where did it go wrong? Here’s what I thought Arsenal would do to get 90+ points.

  • Rovers — 3
  • @ Birmingham City — 3
  • Villa –3
  • @ Wigan — 3
  • Middlesbrough — 3
  • @ Chelsea — 0
  • @ Notlob –1
  • Liverpool — 3
  • @ Man cUnts — 0
  • Reading — 3
  • @ Derby — 3
  • Everton — 3
  • @ Sunderland — 3

You could argue that one or two of those results could have shifted around. Maybe a draw at Wigan instead of three points, but what can’t happen is for 4 of the first 5 games on that list to all end up draws. Which is exactly what happened: Arsenal got 4 points from a possible 12 which left them in the position of having to win out. And no offense to the fans at Wigan, Birmingham, Villa, and Boro… but your team is easier to beat than Man U.

The season didn’t rest on the match at Old Trafford, it had already died at the JJB.

The pitch that day at the JJB was a disgrace too. Remember that? They had played a rugby match just a few days earlier, it was the middle of the harshest part of the season for grass, and what grass was left was covered in mud. The pitch was so bad that when Bendtner had an open look at goal, the ball bobbled up at his feet and his strike found air instead of ball.

And now Man U have to travel there and play in similar conditions, right? [record scratching] Not so fast there Bub, turns out Wigan’s owners have asked the Rugby team that plays there to please do Man U a favor and postpone their Rugby match. Why don’t you just ask the referee to give Ronaldo a few spot kicks while you’re at it?

It’s not all doom and gloom around here though, Teddy Sheringham is retiring. About 10 years too late “Teddy.”

And finally, Wenger has revealed that Adebayor is having his baby. Just look at the picture in the linked article. Irrefutable proof.  No, seriously, Wenger says that Ade hit double the number of goals that he thought he would.  Which is cool.  But even cooler?  There’s a list of players and goals scored for Arsenal since the inception of the Premier League.

Arsenal’s top scorers in the Premier League
Season Player Goals In League
1992/93 Ian Wright 30 15
1993/94 Ian Wright 35 23
1994/95 Ian Wright 30 18
1995/96 Ian Wright 23 15
1996/97 Ian Wright 30 23
1997/98 Dennis Bergkamp 22 16
1998/99 Nicolas Anelka 19 17
1999/00 Thierry Henry 26 17
2000/01 Thierry Henry 22 17
2001/02 Thierry Henry 32 24
2002/03 Thierry Henry 32 24
2003/04 Thierry Henry 39 30
2004/05 Thierry Henry 30 25
2005/06 Thierry Henry 33 27
2006/07 Robin van Persie 13 11
2007/08 Emmanuel Adebayor 30 24

Look at which players Ade is up there with. Ian Wright? Thierry Henry?  Holy crap.  No one has scored 24 league goals for Arsenal since Thierry Henry in 05/06.  I’m not saying Adebayor is the new Henry, NO ONE will ever replace Henry.  But if Ade can score 30 goals a season for a few seasons, he might just make a name for himself.  Plus!  You really do have to give him credit for this outstanding season.  And with that I no longer feel an overwhelming need to defend him, because if you’re still on the Hater-Ade (pun in 10 did) then you’re a chump and your football opinion is useless.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.


The good, the bad, the ugly (Derby 2-6 Arsenal)

The good: Enough can’t be written about how good Adebayor has been this season. Yesterday he came on at half time (subbing for an injured van Persie) and immediately made a huge impact. It took a whopping 15 minutes before he got his first goal, then another 15 for the second and you just knew he would eventually get the hat trick he deserved. Incidentally, the last person to score a hat trick as a substitute in the EPL was Robert Earnshaw (more on him in a moment). So, a hat trick (his second this season), 30 goals (24 in the Premier League, which moves him into second place), and a strong performance all over the pitch from the big man. Good stuff but no less than we have all come to expect from the big fella.

Fabregas also had an all around great game, notched an assist, and generally showed that Robbie Savage is no longer premiership quality. Cesc was partnered in the center with Denilson who I though looked a solid player. He won the ball quite well, distributed fairly well, and honestly looked as good to me as Diarra ever did. I remain convinced that he’ll fill Flamini’s spot fairly well next year.

Theo looked farking fantastic. Technically, he didn’t get an assist yesterday but I counted no less than two times where he was instrumental in Arsenal scoring a goal. Plus he scored a fantastic goal himself: curling the ball into the side netting between two Derby defenders. Heady stuff from the young man. Interestingly, Wenger started Theo on the left — will we see more of this?

The bad: I’m not trying to get down on the boys here it’s just that the two goals they let in were such stinkers that they have to be mentioned. Gallas in particular looked like he had the worst game of his season and earned the lowest rating of any of his teammates. That Earnshaw goal was particularly egregious: the striker set up between the two defenders and came back perfectly from an offside position. That’s just lazy, disorganized defending of what amounts to a grade school attack. A strong, organized defense must be first on Wenger’s shopping list for next season, especially when you consider that Arsenal allowed Derby to score two goals: which was Derby’s first time scoring more than one goal all season and those two goals also represented over 10% of all Derby’s goals this season. Not inspiring stuff from the defense. PLEASE NOTE: I am not suggesting that personnel need to be changed in order to strengthen the squad. Gallas and company have what it takes to do the job, they are all great footballers. They just need a little better organization at the back; maybe Tony Adams? I hear that he’s available.

Up front, I am going to single someone out; I thought Bendtner was shockingly lazy and his poor clearance was what let in the first Derby goal. This is your chance to shine young fella… Don’t stand stock still in the 18 yard box and just expect people to pass you the ball! Geeze.

One final “bad:” van Persie was injured… again. What a shame too. When van Persie is on his game and able to stay healthy for a few weeks he can be a tremendous asset to this team. But he seems more injured than healthy and his injuries seem to be getting more frequent.

The ugly: Robert Earnshaw’s fugly dance: I think it was supposed to be the dance from “Jungle Love” by Morris Day and the Time (WARNING: CONTENT ADVISORY — WHITE GUY DANCES “LIKE” MORRIS DAY). Whatever it was I never want to see it again.

But if you want to see it again here it is! (Thanks to Arsenalist for putting these up on his web site. If you ever need post match highlights, he’s your man.)

Equally ugly was Adebayor’s reply dance(s). The first one looked like he was mocking Earnshaw which is fair enough because Earnshaw’s dance was that disgusting. But whatever Ade’s first dance was, it was at least synchronized… that second dance was just stupid. Stop doing that.

No… seriously… stop.

It was funny when you did it with Henry. It’s now just you and Eboue and kinda makes Arsenal look pompous. Go win a trophy and then do some line dancing. Synchronized dancing when you score a goal against Derby is just embarrassing. You’re SUPPOSED to score goals against Derby. They happen to have the most accommodating defense in the league, so scoring a goal against Derby isn’t cause for celebration, it’s your job. I don’t dance every time I fix a computer. Hmmmm… maybe I should start.

The dance routines did teach me something. I learned the role that Eboue plays on the team: first man to celebrate a goal with! He never does anything on the pitch, but he’s always the first player that gets a hug, or lines up for some kid of dance maneuver. Emmanuel Eboue: team dance partner.

All in all, it’s a good win, and brings Arsenal 3 points closer to the Premiership trophy.  Now, if only both Chelsea and Man U could lose all of their matches…

That’s it, see you tomorrow!


Like rams to the slaughter?

It may seem like a life time ago, but there was a day back in September that Arsenal beat Derby 5-0. Diaby opened the scoring on 10 minutes and from there on in the result was inevitable. Well, three points was inevitable, who would have pegged Ade to score a hat trick? Pretty much no one since, at that point Ade was still considered “horrible” by most Arsenal fans.

Back in September… the season was wide open, Arsenal were on a winning streak, and hopes of glory were still in front of us. 7 months later and now we’ve come full circle: hopes for this season have been dashed (though mathematically Arsenal COULD still win the league title since there are 9 points up for grabs and Arsenal are only 7 points off the leaders), and hopes for next season are in front of us; Arsene is promising to blood some young players, and the old players have all been granted awards.

It should be a fun match to watch. I suspect Arsenal will play the way they always play; open, attacking football (Wenger’s teams never change style regardless of the personnel). And rumor has it they will showcase some young talent, which I always enjoy watching because those young players will be trying to convince Le Boss to give them a few starts next season. On the other end of the pitch, I expect Derby will put in a good performance, hoping to give their long suffering (but no less faithful) supporters something to talk about next season. So, a lively match is on tap. Kickoff is noon local (Pacific Standard) time and the match is a Setanta exclusive here in the states. Which to my loyal readers means that the game is being shown at my favorite Tacoma Football pub — Doyles.

In really great and cool and fun news Cesc has earned himself the PFA “Young Player of the Year Award.” Kudos to the young man, who doesn’t turn 21 until May 4th. Really? He’s only 20?

Along with Fabregas, the PFA named Adebayor, Clichy, and Sagna to their Premier League Team of the Year. So, wait, does that mean I got 4 out of 5 right? I guess it does. And why is it that a man who is described by some “supporters” as having the “touch of a rapist” pegged for Team of the Year along side the likes of Fernando Torres? I can’t quite figure it out myself. In that article, even Ronaldo (who won Player of the Year) revealed that he voted Adebayor for Player of the Year. That must be one of those “lost in translation” things because Adebayor couldn’t be, you know, actually a good player… could he?

There’s some rumor floating around about the Flim-Flam-man signing with Milan because they want him to replace Gattuso. Yep. I’ll believe it when I see it revealed on The Dot Com.


And finally, my favorite pack of utter douchebags (Bolton) has revealed that they enjoy being douchebags. In fact, they say that their only regret is that they felt they could have been bigger pricks and are right now desperately seeking a way to play an entire season without scoring or conceding a goal, pick up 11 yellow cards a match, not have anyone sent off, and permanently injure one opponent per match.  Lofty goals.  It must be gripping stuff for their supporters to watch a bunch of no talent clod hoppers hoof the ball forward to despicable cheats like El-Haji-Diouf and utter cunts like Kevin Davies. GRIPPING.

Sorry for all the language there, I’m suffering from a form of Tourette’s syndrome; whenever I think of Bolton I have to curse. Also, read the linked article at your own risk, spontaneous projectile vomiting is a known side effect of statements like “We (Bolton) were a top eight side and no one can ever take that away from us.”

If there’s a god, that team will be relegated… along with Birmingham.



t-minus three days

It’s a nice, lazy, Sunday morning and I’m just sitting here watching Juventus destroy Lazio while scouring the internet for an Arsenal news story. Later on I’ll probably check out the Villa/Everton game what with everyone pegging Gareth Barry as a replacement for Flamini.

And that’s the truth of it isn’t it? Everything right now is transfer speculation and responses to transfer speculation. Which is a bit odd for me as this is my first year blogging. Before, I could just sort of zone out at this point in the season and now, I’m looking for stories… Come on… any story will do. Huh, here’s one: Hleb says he wants trophies, is afraid of Premier League defenders, blames his pass first attitude on his childhood, and claims not to know whether he will be going to Inter.

Two things caught my attention there: the thing about defenders and the thing about his pass first attitude. It’s pretty clear that Martin Taylor’s horrible tackle on Eduardo rocked some of the players. You have to wonder what part that tackle will play in Hleb’s decision to move to a new league. Especially when he sees the problem escalating:

The tackling and the style of play has become more aggressive. Sometimes you can see a tackle coming and if you don’t do anything you could lose both your legs. The referees should be protecting players and the game, if they don’t, the aggression is going to escalate.

I kind of disagree with Hleb here. I’ve been watching some classic football matches and those guys were pretty freakin violent. I’m not saying that the league couldn’t use a little cleaning up; certainly it could. Instead, we should see the progress that the league has made in stamping out a lot of violent play and encourage them to go further.

I’ve been beating this drum ever since the Taylor tackle, but I think that the managers and clubs need to be held accountable when players are told to go out and get overly physical. As I’ve said before, international football is changing (UEFA promises to crack down during Euro 2008) and if England wishes to compete they are going to have to develop skill players instead of just churning out lumbering, mindless, no-talent hulks like Martin Taylor. Hleb citing that tackle as a reason he might leave should be seen as a shot across the bow to the FA.

But it won’t be.

As for the pass first thing… Jesus, Hleb, you’re 27 and you can’t shoot because your youth coach told you to pass? I don’t think so. I think that’s an excuse. You scored goals in Germany, I’ve seen you shoot at goal for Arsenal, so I know you CAN shoot, but why don’t you?

Some guys don’t shoot because they are afraid. You can always tell who these guys are because they will find themselves wide open, in front of goal, and will look around for someone else to pass the ball to. I think Hleb is one of these guys. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal should get rid of him, but instead that we as fans should realize that he will never be a huge goal scorer; he just doesn’t have the personality for it.

In the other Arsenal news, Wenger is making noise about players leaving for more money. You’re all probably tired of hearing this but, Arsenal have a strict wage bill policy (with only Cesc and Gallas making more than £50k/wk)and Wenger is NOT going to break that up. Wenger has stated that if he gives Flamini a bunch of money then he has to start re-negotiating contracts with everyone and before you know it, Arsenal are burdened with an untenable payroll. I guess that makes a certain sense.

But Flamini raises an interesting point: Arsenal are linked to Gareth Barry, right? He’s valued at £15m, right? He currently earns £42k/wk and any transfer would see him get a raise, right? So, let’s say Arsenal lets Flamini go and then buys Barry to replace him. They sign Barry to a 5 year deal and pay him £50k/wk. After you add everything up and divide it all up (£15m/5 years/52 weeks) Barry’s total cost is £107,000/wk.

Seems kinda silly not to pay Flamini £60-70/wk doesn’t it? I understand that that would mean you’re breaking the pay scale but you’re breaking the pay scale to save money. Yes, you will have to explain to the younger players that there was this “one off” pay discrepancy but that’s your job! Alternately, if you want to keep the pay scale, then why not a “signing bonus?” Isn’t there some creative way for Arsenal to get the player what he wants?

I suspect they could but that Wenger doesn’t rate Flamini any higher than what he’s offered him. That may be the sad truth of all this. That no matter how highly I think of Flamini, he’s not as good as I’d like to believe. In fact, I was watching Juventus and Sissoko currently holds the spot that Flamini claims at Arsenal and honestly? I can’t see Flamini breaking into the starting lineup there, not unless they are going to radically re-tool that team. Flamini has to know that he will be riding the pine in Italy. So, this is about the money — which Wenger eruditely points out:

There is something in this team which is stronger than a few bucks here and there. What is really important is that this team says ‘lets go to the end of our potential together and not walk out for any simpler reason’ – and that is where I expect them to show strength, and care what they can achieve together… Flamini can earn more somewhere else that is for sure because it would be a free transfer – but how much is he ready to sacrifice to stay here?

We’ll find out in just three days but I suspect Flamini’s answer to that question is “not much.”

Until tomorrow.

P.S. I really don’t know what the big deal is with Gareth Barry, so far he’s been decent but the way the press make him out, he’s the greatest holding midfielder in the history of England.  He doesn’t even play holding midfielder for Villa, Petrov does.  I don’t get it…


Oh god, this is what summer will be like…

Physically, I’m looking forward to summer, Arsenally, I’m not.  Because, if today is any indication, it’s going to be a long, hard summer.  Long… Hard…  *sigh*  That’s all I got folks.

Today’s two news stories are about two former Arsenal captains: Adams and Henry.  Seems like both players are pining for their old teams.

Adams will be out of contract at Pompey here in a few weeks and is sort of stirring the pot at Arsenal to consider taking him on as defense coach:

I love the club, it was part of my life for so many years and if anyone at Arsenal wants to invite me back, I’m willing to give it a shot. I’m fully prepared and willing to do what I have to do.

And we all love you Tony, could you please be a dear and take out the garbage?  Yes, he’s the one over there with the Gheri Curl mowhawk.

Look, the man’s a legend, a rock in defense and a truly inspirational leader both personally and professionally.  Any team in the world would be proud to have him as head coach much less as the exact right man to lead a team of young and old defenders through the ropes.  Listen to his philosophy on defense:

I always tried to lead by example [at Arsenal] and get out there and make sure they realised they were playing for the Arsenal. I tried to install in the team a kind of ‘over our dead bodies’ kind of attitude.

That’s EXACTLY what Arsenal needed at the end of this season.  Or as the old timers used to say “a kick up the arse.”  If I was Arsene Wenger…  uhhh… that’s a quandry.  How about, please Wenger, sign this guy before some horrible pack of cunts like Bolton do.

As for Henry, I really don’t see him coming back to Arsenal.  I know, he text messages the boss daily, and they love each other, and there’s a special place in Henry’s heart but I just don’t see it happening, not in a playing capacity anyway.  As a player in his last season he was too disruptive to his teammates; he had that Berbatov body language and was constantly upbraiding his teammates over the smallest stuff.  I love the guy too, but he was just not a good fit for this team.  By the way, what are Wenger and Henry’s text messages like?

Wenger — lolz i pwn3d barca wif u trade
Henry — tru dat, i lost 1337 hax0r skillz

The more likely scenario is Henry to the MLS, with Seattle and New York considered the front runners right now.  As I’ve said before, I’m not sure if Henry can handle the mental pressure of playing with people who are so far below his standard.  I mean, he was crabbing at Fabregas, for god’s sake, what will he do when he’s getting poor service from some dude who can’t get a spot on a League 1 English team?  That doesn’t mean that he won’t come over to the states, just that if I was the owner of the Red Bulls or the Sounders I would think thrice before buying a gray old man with an attitude problem.

That’s it for today, I’m reading (can’t get a live feed) the Chelsea/Man U game and so far Ronaldo’s hair has NOT caught fire and set blaze to both teams and both sets of supporters.  I’m still holding out hope.


You’re making him mad, you don’t want to make Gallas mad.

It looks like it’s going to be all rumors, innuendo, and recrimination until August.

First, Captain Gallas has had a go at the press:

They (the media) can say what they want…they will not bring me down, I’m stronger than that. It makes me mad because I don’t think (what happened in Birmingham) was our problem. How can you summarise our season with that thing at Birmingham? That is not why we stopped winning matches.

Good for him. I might disagree with the man occasionally (often) but I think parts of what he’s saying here are right on. The first part about the press saying what they want? Right on the nose. The second part about making him mad? Again, right on! The third part about Martin Taylor’s vicious mauling of Eduardo and Gallas’ subsequent emotional reaction are not what caused Arsenal to start losing matches? Hmmmm…

Look, William, Bill, can I call you Bill? good. Look, Billy, one of the hallmarks of a good leader is the ability to admit it when you are wrong. You say, “I’m sorry” shake hands and try to work on it so that you never do that sort of thing again.

If you look seriously at the last 2 months and cannot see the effect that your petulant display at Birmingham had on the team — specifically the defense which went to tatters after that match, doubling the goals allowed numbers — then I really don’t know what to say to you other than “bon voyage.” The captain of the team, who captains both the team and his defensive squad — where he plays — went to pieces at the same time that the defense went to pieces and you seriously can’t see that people would make that connection?

Bon voyage.

Admitting that you were wrong means that you are willing to learn from your mistakes and make yourself into a better player and a better captain. When you were winning you were a great captain but the measure of a man is not in the high times but in the low. And at Arsenal’s lowest moment, you reverted back to the old Willy; petty, petulant, pompous, and prevaricative. Or what I call “The 4 P’s of Bad Management.”

Speaking of Arsenal captains who practiced the 4 P’s of Bad Management: the press are linking Henry with Arsenal because he said that he “only has Arsenal in his heart” or something.

Let me be very clear (ahem): Thierry Henry is not walking through that door, folks… and if he does he will be old and gray.

Henry is not going back to Arsenal because Wenger has a strict policy against taking back former players as he reminded us all in January when Anelka was again linked to Arsenal.

Nicolas wanted to come back here and I considered buying him because he wanted to put things right, but we have a strict policy that once a player has gone we have to accept it

The “Thierry to Arsenal” stories are worth less than an American Dollar, case closed.

On the injury front, apparently Arsenal will be playing the U-18s on Monday instead of the first team.  Arsene has committed himself to resting players who are set to play in Euro 2008 (Fabregas, Bendtner, van Persie, Gallas, and Clichy) plus Arsenal are missing Hleb, Diaby, Rosicky, Djourou, Sagna, Flamini, and Eduardo due to injury or suspension. So many people are injured I seriously can’t keep track. I need a “who’s injured for Arsenal” widget on the blog so I can keep a running list. I’ll get right on it.

Oh yeah, I told my friend John that the Arsenal game is on Sunday, it’s not, it’s a Monday game, noon kickoff local time. The match is against Derby who are playing for Pride (pun intended) and I don’t think it will be a 6-0 thrashing if everyone is resting. It could be a good match.

Lastly, the Arsenal Women have won the league after a 4-1 come from behind lashing of the Chelsea women. This is the Arsenal women’s fifth consecutive league title. Impressive.

Coaching the Women’s team, Vic Akers has now won 10 league titles, 8 FA cups, and 9 League cups. My GF and I are having a little girl in May and I can only hope that she would one day want to play for a team with that kind of pedigree.

See you tomorrow!

Update: there’s a report coming out of Italy that Juventus is NOT signing Flamini but that AC Milan is… for 4m Euro, which is less than he is reportedly offered from Arsenal. I think this is just further proof that you cannot trust anything you read in the paper.

T-minus 5 days for him to sign with Arsenal.


Money money money money (money)

This transfer season is already set to give me a huge headache but I think I’ve found a coping mechanism. I’m calling it the Rick Pitino coping mechanism.  When Rick was coach of the Celtics, the fans were all over him to buy a bunch of players so they could get back to winning ways.  One day, at a press conference, he broke down and in an attempt to protect his players made his famous “Larry Bird is not walking through that door” proclamation.

Well, to paraphrase Rick: “Thierry Henry is not walking through that door fans, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires are not walking through that door. And if you expect them to walk through that door? They’re going to be gray and old.”   After this morning’s spate of telling newspaper articles I feel very strongly that Arsenal are preparing the supporters for an off season with no big signings. So, for my money you can add to that above list Quaresma, Ben Arfa, and anyone else that’s linked to the club.

First, there’s the “I want to keep the club together” thing that Arsene keeps saying as if it’s a mantra to ward off evil spirits. Of course ‘footballistically’ you want to keep a solid team together. Any professional sports team that I have ever followed that broke off even one key player immediately went into what we Americans refer to as “the holding pattern.”

The Seattle SuperSonics spring to mind. One year they are good enough to make it to the NBA finals and take the Chicago Bulls to 6 games and the next year they sign Jim MacIlvaine to a big contract, which causes turmoil on the team, Shawn Kemp leaves, and the team is left with no one but Gary Payton and a few role players. Sure, they make the playoffs, but they never go very far and can never manage to piece together a winning team. That’s the holding pattern: your team is stuck in 4th place until one day, the star gets sick and tired of being on a 4th place team and leaves —  then you’re left with a team rebuilding from scratch. So, from that perspective you definitely want to keep the team together.

But from a money perspective too, you can’t always be transferring players in and out, and no more so than this season. See, if Hleb and Flamini leave, the transfer fee will be only a portion of what they are worth due to the “Webster Clause.” I’ve tried to explain this “Webster Clause/Article 17” thing before and let me try again: basically, Arsenal would get a transfer fee equal to each player’s salary (for the remainder of their contract) plus a prorated amount based on their original transfer fee, unless the transfer fee has amortized to zero. There are some other rules, such as the club’s ability to dispute the amount that the player is worth, but what I said above is pretty much the long and short of it. That means that Hleb could leave for as little as £8m and Flamini could leave for almost nothing. On the open market Hleb and Flamini would be worth at least £20m. So to replace them is (in the simplest terms) going to cost Arsenal at least £12m out of pocket. And that’s a serious problem if Arsenal’s transfer kitty is as small as some people are reporting.

So, yes, Wenger wants to keep this team together because of team chemistry or adapting to English football or fitting into Arsenal’s system but he also cannot afford (literally) to lose players on what is essentially a free transfer. Every one of those players he loses represent players he must buy just to keep the squad at its current strength, never mind improving the team.

Second, I’m starting to see a bunch of “There’s not as much money as people think” articles. The most dubious of these articles claims that the Arsenal Supporters Trust has discovered that Wenger will have as little as £25m this summer to sign players. I can find no such news release on the AST web site so I report this “news” with reservations. But I am passing it on because there are quotes from the boss that indicate that the piggy bank doesn’t have as much money in it as we all were told. Remember the £70m number? Arsene poo poo’s that number

There is money there [for transfers], but not as much as I read in the newspapers, because that is not true… It is not as simple as it looks when you read there is so much money available to buy players – that transfer budget also includes the improvement of the wages.

There you have it, two definitive statements from Arsene Wenger himself that there isn’t some £70m war chest lying around that he can crack open to buy Lionel Messi or whomever fans think Arsenal ought to buy. How much money is there? I don’t know. But I do know a “leak” when I see one and this is a leak to the fans that they need to be less optimistic about signing some really big names this summer.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsenal only have the money to buy replacements for Hleb and Flamini and neither should you.  Lionel Messi is not walking through that door, folks.


Down goes Murty!

Alex Hleb has admitted to the charge of violent conduct on Graeme Murty and will now serve a three match ban. Since there’s only three matches left in the season, this sad incident ends what had been a very good year from Hleb and may even be his last act in the Red and White.

OK, so you get a three match ban for slapping someone in the face and having them pretend that they have been struck down like Sonny Liston. OK, I accept that.

My only question though, isn’t what Murty did the essence of diving? Feel a little contact, go down, and feign the need for treatment in order to try to trick the referee into giving a card. If so, then, isn’t Murty equally guilty in some respect?  I remember when Cesc went down after a slight elbow to the face from Arteta and everyone cried foul (on Cesc).  Why isn’t anyone crying foul on Murty right now?

Now, before everyone gets in a tizzy over my last comment, let me clarify: Alex Hleb was guilty. 3 Matches is the exact kind of penalty one should receive for this kind of stupidity. Intentionally slap someone in the face, get a 3 match penalty. That seems fair to me.  End of question.

Moreover, intentionally punch someone in the face and break their jaw: 9 match ban? Heck that might even be too lenient. All of this is to say: I am not condoning the actions of Alex Hleb in any way, shape or form.

For me, the fact that Murty “made a meal of it” is the crux of the problem with modern football.  Can you imagine Tony Adams writhing around on the ground and then going off to get treatment after 9 stone Hleb slapped him like that? Roy Keane? Vieira? Flamini? No.  The problem is that the FA can’t really do anything about that kind of dive; someone got hit and went to ground. But think about it, it’s these “justified” dives that lead to the worst examples of diving.

It’s like those infamous “four squares” that supposedly can explain everything in life (I disagree). When two players come together in a clash you have contact/dive, contact/no dive, no contact/dive, and no contact/no dive.

Everyone can agree on the third square there (no contact/dive): when we see a player go down and there’s no contact it’s a dive. That one should be punished straight away with a yellow card and some of us even argue that those should be reviewed after the match just like the Hleb incident.

Everyone can also agree on the fourth square (no contact/no dive), because really that’s just a guy dribbling and falls over for some reason.  He doesn’t look at the ref, throw a tantrum, roll around on the ground needlessly, just picks himself up and continues playing football.

Also, I’m pretty sure everyone can agree on the second square (contact/no dive): it’s refreshing to see a player take a healthy knock in the box and stay on his feet.  It’s refreshing because it’s rare, but it is refreshing none the less.

What we can’t agree on is the first square (contact/dive). Is it acceptable for a player to go to ground when there’s ANY contact, no matter how slight? I would suggest that there’s a range of fan reactions here, depending on who’s team the diving player is on, how much that team’s supporters are used to their players diving, how desperate the team’s situation is, or even some specific team’s supporters and their inbred venom against another team (such as the bizarre reaction that Arsenal generates from Bolton supporters, etc.)

That first square there is what I’d like to call the Murty square. Was he justified in his reaction? I say no and here’s why: those types of dives lead to the more serious and pernicious types of simulation that we have seen invading the game of late. That type of reaction leads, inevitably, to Ronaldo’s famous words “I feel contact? I go down.” It’s the logical outcome isn’t it? But isn’t that kind of dive just as bad if not a worse form of simulation? And when we talk about getting rid of diving, isn’t this the kind of diving that we all really want to see stamped out? The no-contact dive is easy and I’ve actually seen a yellow for that. But the some contact/all dive is almost never awarded a card and I think it’s time to stamp that out too.

The reason Hleb gets a three match ban is because he violated our shared rules of sportsmanship. In the four square of sportsmanship everyone agrees that slapping your opponent in the mouth is a three match ban. But I think it’s almost just as unsporting to play act after getting slapped.

And don’t get me started on how the hell Hleb gets the same ban Taylor got for breaking Eduardo’s leg…

In Arsenal news, the Hleb ban will probably mean that Diaby will get the nod on the left wing. If he’s not fit (he picked up a bit of a knock for the reserves last weekend) then expect to see ye olde 4-5-1 with van Persie slotted on the left. Of course Wenger could bring up a young winger that I haven’t heard of and get him some experience in the last three games. I haven’t seen any news reports so I’m just speculating my ass off here.

Either way, the last three games only matter as far as positioning on the league table. Yes, I’d like to see Arsenal finish 2nd, so fielding a strong side against the final three teams is imperative. That said, the worst that could happen would be to lose all three games and slip to 4th place. In order to get into second we have to root for Chelsea to lose or draw against Man U and then get a draw against Newcastle or Bolton. Hmmm. It all depends. Chelsea could implode here at the end of the season. There’s a lot of tension in their dressing room. A bad loss to Man U and Liverpool at Stamford bridge could be the catalyst that actually destroys the team but they have such talented and experienced players that I just can’t see them going down without a fight. I don’t know, it will be interesting to watch the title race and possibly report on someone else choking for once!

You are also, no doubt, seeing a ton of negative reports about the Flamini deal. As per my new policy I am not giving rumors and innuendo any press here. I will just say this: agents, players, and clubs often try to use the press to their advantage spreading rumor and even lies to change a player’s price, so you all would be wise to ignore any of that stuff. The only press reports about personnel that should be trusted are the ones from that say “such and such a player has signed for so and so.” Anything else is just a rumor so ignore it.

Speaking of “reported on The Dot Com:” 17 year old Norwegian Captain of the Arsenal Reserve team, Havard Nordtveit, feels like Wenger should choose him instead of dipping into the transfer market. I love the balls on this kid and the balls of the club. First, the kid is 17 and already feels ready to be selected for Arsenal’s first team. And second, this is a club generated story, folks. In my mind that means only one thing: they are preparing us for the fact that the boss is not going to buy a whole pack of established players,  Hell, he might not buy anyone!  Here:

Earlier this season Wenger admitted he had “rarely seen a boy of his age so mature”. If Nordtveit continues on his upward curve, the Frenchman may not have to look far when he hunts for reinforcements this summer.

Uhhh, yeah, I fully expect to see “Nordveit is like a whole new signing” stories this summer. Which is fine with me, I think the team could stand pat and win a trophy, but I just want you all to be prepared for a dearth of signings this summer.

And that’s it for today, see you tomorrow.


Darling, you look Fabregas

“He’s only 20.” Just keep telling yourself that. “He’s only 20 years old.” Yeah, 20 years old and already a veteran of over 200 matches. He’s been to the Champions League final, Carling Cup final, and this year he pushed Arsenal to within a few games of the Premiership title and another Champions League final. He’s only 20, but he has the vision, ability, and (most importantly) a patience that belies his 20 years.

I often hear the criticism that Cesc is not a goal scorer. Well, he wasn’t a goal scorer before this year. But who will ever forget his winner at the San Siro? Or how about his run of 6 at the start of the season which included a goal against Spuds, at White Heart Lane? No, he’s not a goal scorer, but so far, he’s scored 13 goals in this campaign: more than triple his output of the previous season. He’s not a natural goal scorer but what gives me hope is that “he’s only 20” and he’s still working on it. And he’s getting better, faster than any player I have ever seen.  For example, when Christiano Ronaldo was 20, he scored a mere 7 goals and only racked up 6 assists.

See?  Now say it again — “Holy crap, he’s only 20!”

As you would expect, in the assist department Cesc has only gotten better, already netting 22.  That’s only 5 more than last year but Arsenal still have Derby left to play, so that number could grow quite substantially.

To show you how far Cesc’s season has come, Theo’s even pointed to Cesc as the person who might next captain Arsenal. You might think that’s impossible, but then again, on May 4th the kid will be 21and we’ll all be saying “Holy crap, he’s only 21!”

News: The Anfield turmoil has finally struck Arsenal: Chairman Peter Hill-Wood was snubbed by Liverpool’s management/owners/lunatics. Take solace Peter that you’re chairman of a club that’s not rife with hatred of foreigners — especially Americans.

Meanwhile, Wenger speaks out about the “Webster Clause” which is a ruling that anyone under the age of 28 isn’t really in a contract even if they signed the contract as long as they stay with the club for 3 years of their contract. Confused? Me too but it looks like basically if you’re under 28 and you sign a 5 year deal, you really only have to honor the first 3 years of that deal.  After the third year you can “opt out” of your contract by paying the club the amount that your salary would have been over the next two years.  Like a sort of “reduced calorie transfer fee.”

This is important because Hleb is 26 and he signed a 5 year contract 3 years ago. Jesus, Wenger must be sweating bullets. Half the team could leave under the Webster Clause. If that happens we can all sing our new relegation theme song:

He’ll raid you of your youth
their contracts don’t mean shiat
Hleb went to AC Milan
and the Itais didn’t remit
HEY! Webster Clause is coming to town!

Rumor has it Fabianski might play in the last two away games v. Derby and Sunderland. Ok, he’ll probably do just fine against lower division teams.

Anyway, I have stuff to do. Can’t lounge around here talking football all day (unfortunately). Heh, I think I’ll take the Ducati to work today; there’s only a 60% chance of rain, which is pretty good for this time of year.



Slap in the face

The fourth player of Arsenal’s top 5 players of 2007/2008 is Gael Clichy.  Arsenal’s tireless and seemingly  unbreakable (knock on wood) left back has had a second solid year in a row.  Gael has started more games than any other player and played more minutes than any other player.  He even played for France in January and February and came back uninjured: is Clichy French for miracle?

How he’s able to maintain that energy level is just amazing because it’s not like the man isn’t doing anything when he’s out there.  Whether it’s the odious job of defending speedy right wingers or bringing the ball forward and launching in the perfect cross Clichy does it all.  But he’s also so solid defensively that when the opposition brings the ball into his corner I actually feel relief.

No, he’s not perfect but he’s a tremendous defender, a tireless worker, probably almost as fast as Theo, and I’ve never seen a tantrum or a dive from him, ever.  So, here’s to you Gael Clichy; may you have 10 seasons at Arsenal, each one just as good as this.

News: The Daily Mail is ratcheting up the hyperbole surrounding Hleb’s “malicious mauling” of Graham Murty.  I’ve seen the replay a dozen times and it looks more like Hleb was pushing the guy away (probably because he was being held or kicked, but you know we’ll never see THAT) and caught him in the face a little.  Of course, Murty, realizing the only hope they had to win was to have Arsenal reduced to 10 or maybe even 9 men, fell to the ground as if he’s been shot in the face.  I think Hleb, at this point in the season, probably weighs all of 130 lbs: 120 of which is leg muscles.  I doubt he could drop a man of Murty’s stature with an intentional punch, much less a “hey get off of me!” shove that grazes his lips.  Of course Murty made a huge deal of it all, going over to the sideline and getting “treatment.”  Please.

My favorite part of the article?  When they compare this incident to something that happened 20 years ago and say “The circumstances are certainly not without precedent as far as Arsenal are concerned.”  Wow.  Just.  Wow.  But wait!  There’s more!  They even go ahead and mention “former Arsenal” player Aliadiere!

That Arsenal, what a bunch of monsters.

Except Theo.  He’s a man, but not a monster, says Wenger and I’d have to agree.  At the beginning of the season, Theo looked shy whenever he got the start but Saturday was different.  After a very brief bout of nerves at the start of the match he looked very assured, very mature.  He also showed more physicality than we’ve come to expect from him and I thought he defended well from the front.  I bet if he adds 10 pounds of muscle this off season, we’ll see a very different young man next year.

Unleash the beast Theo.

On the transfer front there’s no news.  None.  Well, Wenger is warning the players that a transfer to another team doesn’t guarantee trophies — unless it’s “Manchester We Want Our Trophy Back United” who are guaranteed to win a treble every year, right???  But if I were to guess which three players were going to leave Arsenal in the summer I’d go with Hleb, Flamini, and Gallas.  Hleb because the ice cream in London is not nearly as dreamy as a nice gelato and he’s got guys like Murty trying to kick him off the pitch all the time.

Flamini, because, well because I think he’s probably more hard headed than even Wenger and this whole new deal thing is probably ticking him off.  The sticking point on Flamini’s contract is that he wants to break Arsneal’s wage structure.  And he’s got a good point about it too; from what I’ve read in various sources, basically he’s asking that the cost of transfer fees (what it would cost to bring in a replacement) and his regular salary to be put into one salary for him.  This would be a deal like £4.5m a year for 5 years (£10m transfer fee + £50k a week salary / 5 years).  I have to say that I see his point, EXCEPT…  There are players on the team right now who can fill his shoes.  Well, maybe not fill them 100%.  Gilberto, for sure, he did it last year.  But I’m thinking of Denilson.  I know that a lot of people tipped Diaby for that role early on because of his physical similarities to Vieira but Diaby doesn’t have the mettle that Vieira had and frankly, Diaby’s a defensive liability.  But Denilson is a hard little bastard and I think if given the opportunity would work tirelessly in the spot.  Would he be the leader that Flamini is?  No.  Does he have the experience of two Champions League seasons under his belt.  Hardly.  But he could do the job if asked.

That’s such a hard spot to be in.  On the one hand I totally respect Wenger’s wage system and what that means to the team and to the business.  But on the other hand, I would hate to lose an important seasoned leader and workhorse like Flamini — and on a free transfer.  UGH.

Lastly, I think Gallas is going to go.  I don’t think he’s been a very good captain (as I said, Flamini seems better) and given his history as a disruptive force on and off the pitch, the only way I can see Wenger stripping him of that title is if Arsenal buys a player of extraordinary quality and experience. Since we all know that ain’t going to happen, the only other real option is to move Gallas.  Maybe Wenger can use whatever transfer fee he gets from that deal to pay for Flamini?

One last thought…  I don’t want it to seem like I’m getting down on Gallas.  I think if I played professional football I’d be the same way he is: emotional, fiery, mouthy, and a bit of a prick on and off the field.  I empathize with him, I really do.  I’m not saying Wenger SHOULD trade him, just that the logical thing is that he will.

Any way, I have to take my annual bath and get ready for work.  I bet you’ll never guess who tomorrow’s “top 5” player will be.  Until then.

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