Archive for August, 2008

31
Aug
08

Arsenal 3-0 Newcastle: the good, bad, and ugly

Joey Barton shouldn’t even have been on the pitch.

His tackle on Samir Nasri, and disgusting grin afterwards (which even the announcers decried) sent a clear signal to the FA, to his employers, and to the rest of the footballing world that Joey Barton was back and had not indeed changed one bit after his stint in prison. For someone who grew up on mean streets he should feel blessed to have what he has: money, cars, women, freedom, and adoration. But Barton’s just not wired that way. He’s the kind of guy who sees 6 months in jail as just the price that everyone has to pay if they want Joey around. Stub a cigar out in a teammates eye? Beat a teammate’s face in? A ludicrous tackle in the 90th minute of a game in which you have lost 3-0? Just the price you have to pay if you want Joey Barton on your team.

After the game, Keegan not only defended Barton, but had the temerity to actually criticize Nasri, who received a yellow for his retaliation.

He [Barton] came on and got a good tackle in on Nasri, a very good tackle, then the guy just sliced him down as he was running through. Write it any way you want, but if you write any different you are deceiving your readers.

Barton’s tackle technically could be called “good,” he did win the ball, but it was clearly excessive and with that cheeky smile he proved that it was only done to send a “message:” welcome to the EPL Frenchie. Nasri, on the other hand, sent a message of his own: fuck you you talentless criminal. He was rightly booked for his little trip but make no mistake Nasri didn’t “slice” anyone down. Keegan’s the only one who is deceiving the public.

I just can’t understand why Barton made such a full blooded tackle. Nasri wasn’t showboating, the club wasn’t running up the score, there was no disrespect from Nasri prior, there was no sense to a tackle of that magnitude unless Barton just wanted to send a message. Arsenal was fortunate that Nasri got out of the way because 1 inch to the right and Nasri would have been in the same boat as Eduardo and now (possibly) van Persie.

My message to the EPL is the same as it has been since the Taylor “message” tackle that broke Eduardo’s leg: managers who reward their players for these kinds of tackles are a scourge on the game and should be fined, players who perform them should be banned, and youth should be taught how to play football instead of how to be a cunt. Until then, England will never win a world competition. Never. Because Football is more than just “getting stuck in” and when a no talent criminal like Joey Barton can get international caps just because he’s able to “get stuck in,” then English football is lost.

That tackle and the subsequent defense by that fool Keegan were The Ugly of yesterday’s match. In fact, the way Newcastle comported themselves at all times on the pitch was The Ugly yesterday. From Nicky Butt stepping on everyone’s ankles, to Colloccini’s late challenge on van Persie that may have broken his ankle (part of the reason this blog is late today is because I was hoping to get news on van Persie’s x-ray) Newcastle came out and wanted to dirty up the match, so they get an Ugly award for that. When Keegan came in to the team he said he wanted to play football the Arsenal way: open, attacking football. Subsequently, his team lost 3-0 and 3-0 to the Arsenal way. This year, I guess he’s decided that the Arsenal way isn’t going to work for him and he’s got Nicky Butt and Joey Barton in to break ankles.  The man is a fraud and a hack, which makes he and Barton a perfect pair.  Good luck Newcastle fans, relegation is waiting.

With The Ugly out of the way, let’s move on to more pleasant territory, shall we?

The Good

3 goals to the Arsenal! I watched the match live on Fox Soccer Channel and there was some American dude and some English dude chattering about the game prior to kickoff. They were hemming and hawing about how Arsenal don’t score enough goals and they are a great team to watch but they don’t score enough goals, and gosh darndit if they just don’t score enough goals. In fact, the English dude predicted a 1-0 Arsenal victory and even had a bit of a laugh about that score line reminding everyone of the “boring boring Arsenal” days.

HAR HAR

It really was good to see a rampant Arsenal squad and for me, this game really cleared up some doubts I’ve been expressing lately. Can Arsenal overcome an overly physical team? Is Denilson good enough? Will van Persie get off the snide? The answer to all these questions is a resounding YES!

Despite his pedestrian start, Denilson warmed up after a (who else?) Nicky Butt challenge. Before that challenge he literally passed the ball more to the opponents than he did to his teammates. Maybe he’s just the kind of player that needs some time to warm up, or maybe he’s just a kid and he’s going to have days like these. Whatever the answer, he turned in a fantastic second 30 minutes keeping the ball in, policing the midfield, winning balls off headers, tackles, you name it. It was a good performance, and he certainly deserved the goal for all his hard work. Let’s hope it was a watershed performance.

Robin van Persie too had a bit of a breakthrough in this game.  His first goal came off a weak penalty that was more makeup call for the earlier no call that was a clear penalty.  Of course Kevin Keegan didn’t think the tackle earlier was a penalty, nor of course N’Zogbia’s clear handball.  It may have been a bit harsh for Arsenal to get that penalty but I’ve seen that exact same call go against Arsenal (William Gallas’s handball against Man U springs to mind) and so you have to chalk it up to the “football gods” evening everything out; and by “football gods” I mean “referees.”

His second goal was pure team football at its best; Eboue carried the ball forward, passed wide, received the return and (hearing him holler for the ball) back heeled for a lunging van Persie who smashed the ball into the top of the net. Despite still being largely useless, that was Eboue’s first assist in all competitions since December of last year, coincidentally, his last assist was also against Newcastle. Let’s hope it was a watershed assist and a watershed goal.  Watershed.

Mike Ashley chugged a beer, which was about the only good thing Newcastle did all day.  I believe that the chugging of that beer was watershed in some way, I just don’t know what yet.

3 goals, Denilson coming alive, van Persie off the snide, and Nasri not taking any of Barton’s crap.  Hell, the whole damn game was good.  Bravo to the Arsenal and what a way to make a comeback off that dreadful Fulham game.

The Bad

I think I’ve complained enough for today, don’t you? Besides, the team won 3-0, everyone worked hard, and the guys put in the kind of performance that we all hoped for. What could possibly be bad about that?

If you want to check replays of the goals (plus Joey Barton’s tackle) head on over to The Arsenalist.  He’s not just bad, The Arsenalist is bad ass!

That’s it for today.  I’m watching Litterpool and going to have a kick around.  Something has to shake this hangover.

30
Aug
08

Arsenal v. Newcastle

Adebayor

Something is going on with Adebayor — well maybe.  According to the World’s Least Reliable Newspaper, the boss is being somewhat tight lipped about it but loosened up enough to say that Adebayor was benched for the first half of the Twente match not because of normal rotations but because of some other reason.

Something about this story stinks of “The Sun Made This Up To Rile Arsenal Fans.”  I watched the Twente game (with a nice draft Pilsner Urquell at Doyle’s no less) and at half time Adebayor came out and had a kick around with the sprinklers.  He looked far from sad, he looked, well, he looked like a little kid.  Someone who loves playing football.  Which is how all sports stars should be.  I thought it was a great sign.

Sure, there are a few Arsenal fans who boo him (the most obvious person in any crowd is the asshole) because of what happened this summer but really those people need to get over it and get over themselves.  Which is basically the only actual quote I see attributed to Wenger not printed in the World’s Least Reliable Newspaper

In Adebayor’s case, he made maybe a little PR mistake. But, for what is really important – the way he practiced, the way he worked, the way he behaved on a daily basis – it is credit to him. And I think we have to be intelligent enough, the fans as well, to support him. Yes, some of them [have reacted]. But I think the majority are behind him.

I like that Wenger insults the booing fans intelligence.  But really, why on earth would you pay £100 to watch a match and boo your own player?  There are plenty of people on the other team to boo!  Like today, boo Nicky Butt.  Boo Joey Barton in absentia.  Boo Kevin Keegod for having horrible 70’s hair in this photo.

There’s so much more important things to boo, folks.  At worst, Ade was a tool this summer, at best he was screwed by the English press: get over it.

Especially today, Arsenal have a stern test ahead of them today and they need all the home support that you can muster.  I’m not suggesting that they should go Fenerbahce on Newcastle, just that it would be nice to hear some full-throated cheers. Because this Newcastle team is not the emotional and physical shambles that they were last year.

Already Newcastle have been to Old Trafford and held a despoiled Manchester United to a draw and today, I fully expect Michael Owen, Nicky Butt, and Obafemi Martins to come on and give Arsenal a good game.  With Butt in the midfield, stepping on ankles, Owen’s pace up front, and the random flashes of brilliance by the mercurial Martins I can easily see Newcastle going home with points.   Especially if you combine their positives with our negatives.

One of the glaring negatives right now is injuries.  Well, actually I see it as good/bad news: there haven’t been any changes since last week which means that Diaby, Silvestre, and the others are still out, but it also means that no one picked up a new injury!

Silvestre has a hard date set for his return (September 13, away to Blackburn) but worryingly Abou Diaby does not, reportedly “another couple of weeks.”  While Silvestre’s injury is termed a “thigh complaint” Diaby’s is called a full-blown “thigh injury.”  He and Rosicky are actually expected to return around the same time-ish: knock on wood.

All this really means for us is that Arsene will use the same 18 as we saw against Twente except that there will be some rotation.  Baring late injury/illness I expect the following:

Almunia

Sagna    Toure    Gallas    Clichy

Cesc    Denilson    Nasri

Walcott   Adebayor    van Persie

Yes, I think Wenger is playing three up front.  Every time I’ve seen Walcott on he’s essentially playing a forward role so that’s where I’m putting him.  I suppose I could have done a half space and put him between the strikers and the midfielders but I’m lazy and that’s what you get.

Newcastle will have to look at Arsenal’s recent results and our injuries and be thinking that they could catch us unawares. Thus, the boys will have to be on their toes and put in the same whole-hearted effort that they did on Wednesday.  Let’s see it.

Up the Arse!

29
Aug
08

Busy Friday

Too.Many.Stories.

I could write a match preview for tomorrow’s game against Newcastle, I could talk about injuries, the Champions League Draw, Platini’s “Investigation,” Danny Fiszman’s transfer kitty, Clichy’s comments about the fans, and (of course) the ongoing saga of Arsenal’s lack of transfer targets.  Why on earth do they save up all these stories for Friday? More importantly, how do I condense all of this into one blog without writing 2000 words or (worse) just being a human RSS feed?

I have it!

I’ll have to write about the Platini Investigation thing as it’s own special column.  There’s just too much detail and too many interwoven stories here to simply include it in the daily update.  So, maybe this evening I’ll write a piece and you lot can have it on Sunday or something.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s see, I’ll do the match preview first thing in the morning, including an injury update.  Which really just leaves us with…

Transfer Madness

It really has been a crazy couple of days.  One day Arsene is saying that they won’t buy any more players and the next day he’s saying that he’s going to buy one or two — if they happen to fall out of a tree at midnight and land on his head AND they have the right price. Meanwhile, Danny Fiszman has said that Wenger has a £30m war chest if he wants it. What’s the truth?  Are they buying a £30m player today?

Personally, I think this is just posturing on the part of the board.  Arsene Wenger has never and will never pay £30m for a single player and they all know that.  So, Fiszman could have said £100m or £200m and it would have been the same.  Does Wenger have money to buy players?  After looking a lot of financials (in prep for the Platini article) I can say that I now have no doubt.  Does he have £30m to buy an established player who will come in and demand £150k a week in salary? That’s a little bit tougher.

See, Arsenal’s salary is already second in the league (Chelsea doesn’t count, their salary is so obscene at £140m it’s not so much “salary” as it is bribery) and their wages to turnover ratio roughly 50%.   They have managed this incredible feat not by short changing “lesser” players but by having a stratified salary that pays everyone well.  The way they go about setting salaries isn’t just some “thing” they’ve done: it’s their team philosophy.  But you don’t have to take my word for it, Fiszman admitted it himself:

This constant suggestion that the stadium is bleeding us dry is crap. The reality is our wage bill is very similar to Manchester United, substantially above Liverpool and substantially below Chelsea – but that is to be expected. We pay good salaries, but we pay them more evenly, so we do not have extremes of very high and very low wage-earners. There is an ethos of a team effort.

If they brought in another big name player with big name salary demands they would have to either change their whole philosophy, just flat out lie, or they would have to change the whole salary structure to keep everyone happy.

That’s why this summer has been so difficult.  Their philosophy drives the business, which is the only sustainable model and ultimately the more rewarding model.  The team didn’t break the salary structure when Flamini demanded it.  They also didn’t break the structure for Adebayor.  Clearly the whole club is sticking to this salary structure philosophy.  What would it say to the team if they suddenly changed their minds?  I literally think that change would destroy all club cohesion.  Which is the problem when you sell everyone on a philosophy.  You have to then remain consistent with that philosophy.  So, philosophically, I cannot see them buying a big name player.

More importantly, does Arsene Wenger have the will, the desire, to buy an established, big name, high salary player?  Given all the quotes over the last two weeks I would say the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.”  When asked about transfers on Wednesday he got visibly upset and started ranting about £40m players

It is not one player who makes a difference. It is up to us as a team to show personality, strength and belief. If we can find one more, we will do it, if not we will not limit our ambitions because of it.

So, it’s clear that the board, the manager, and the players are aware of our complaints.  It’s also clear that they are not buying a big name, regardless of Fiszman’s latest £30m pledge.  It’s just not in their plans.

That said, I remain hopeful that Wenger will sign someone on Sunday.  Most of the names that the team has been closely linked to are not going to figure in these last two days: Inler is outler as he just signed a new deal, Barry is staying at Villa this year, Gerrard is hurt and so Liverpool NEED Alonso, besides which he was only on offer in order to finance the Barry deal which isn’t happening now, de Guzman was ruled out by Arsene today, and so who is on the radar?

I don’t know, to be honest.  It seems like no one knows; except Arsene.  He always knows, right?

28
Aug
08

Arsenal 4-0 FC Twente; the good, bad, and ugly

Before we get started with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly I just want to briefly say that there may have been some misunderstanding on the part of my new readers and I want to clear that misunderstanding up.  This overall negative theme that crept into the blog this week is an aberration.  Generally speaking I am a solid supporter of the team and the boss and generally speaking I back them both 98% of the time.  Of course, I call a spade a spade, as we say here in the USA, an I will call a player or even the manager to task if needed but generally speaking I try to remain positive.

I think that what happened last week was that Arsenal suffered such an ugly loss that I just got a little, well, Emo.  A lot of Arsenal blogs did!

The point is that whenever you read me criticizing the team I want you to take it with the understanding that I genuinely mean well, I fully support the team, and if I offer criticism it should be taken as constructive criticism.  As in, “I’m tired of Gallas” translates to “I wish I could walk a mile in William Gallas’ shoes and then I could understand him better but then I would be tired from walking a mile.”

Ok, no it doesn’t.  I have an ongoing dislike of both Gallas and Eboue, what can I say, they give me the Willies.  But other than those two?  I LOVE ARSENAL!  Never forget it.

Secondly, I want to give a shout out to The Arsenalist, he always has the highlights from the matches: go there, click some sponsors, and watch the highlights if you missed them.

Thirdly, I want to briefly touch on transfer news as it seems that The World’s Least Reliable News Source is linking Arsenal to some dude.  I don’t know who this dude is except that he’s the next Owen Hargreaves by way of Holland cum Canadia or something.  I kind of rather doubt this story because A) it’s The Sun and B) Arsene Wenger said this about the midfield situation after the match

I think Denilson had a good game tonight. We have as well Aaron Ramsey – for me he will be a very good player – and we have Alex Song and we have Abou Diaby. Even Nasri can play central but we have to see.

Sounds like a manager who feels like he’s stacked with players, not like someone who is looking to buy.  But if it happens then, huzzah, everyone will be happy until Arsenal lose again.

And finally, Senderos has stated that the loan to Milan is a “dream come true.”  These are not the words of someone who is coming home at the end of the loan period.  Nope.  I fear that the only way he’ll come back to Arsenal is if he’s a flop of Baptista proportions.  In which case we won’t want him, still.  Good luck big Phil, you were a loyal servant and you deserve a chance to shine.

Enough of that stuff… on with the show.

The Good

Any time a team wins 4-0 the whole damn game can be called good.  And Arsenal really, really were good yesterday.  Whether it was the clarion call of Cesc Fabregas making a reappearance in the middle of the park, or the team just wanting to make up for Saturday’s debacle, or a combination of both, whatever it was, Arsenal shimmered last night.

Top of the list, though, has to be Theo Walcott.  He just looked like he was in another gear out there.  Running past, over, under, and around the Twente back four and midfield he was quite literally unstoppable.  I think though, as nice as the goal was my favorite part about Theo’s performance last night was that Twente would try to put in a crunching tackle on him and more than once he was knocked completely to the ground, only to get up, pick up the ball and continue his run.  That’s a footballer.  Every player in every league should play like that.  No more of this “I feel contact, I go down” crap.

A great goal, great dribbles on the defense, great passes, and perseverance in the face of the enemy earns Theo Walcott Man of the Match.

Nasri also could have earned himself Man of the Match yesterday had he not needed to be substituted at half time with some kind of stomach bug.  He scored the first goal and, even more importantly, had put in a great effort in the first half.   Already Nasri has more goals in two games than Hleb had in three years at Arsenal.  I kid, a little.  Nasri already has half as many goals (2) as Hleb did in all of last year (4) and I swear half as many shots as well (not really, but Hleb only shot 25 times in all competitions last year).

The only thing I would say?  He needs to shoot a little earlier!  On the goal he scored there was a moment where he was wide open, in control of the ball it was on his left foot and the whole net was in front of him.  Incredibly, he dribbled in to the defender before he shot and the ball went in despite the deflection.  I’m not faulting him on the goal.  Just encouraging him to shoot earlier and more often!

It was good to see Cesc back even if he did look rusty.  I’m sure he’ll be fitter for this weekend’s clash against The Keegans having gotten 66 minutes under his belt.

And finally, honorable mention goes to William Gallas.  Sigh.  He worked hard the whole match, didn’t throw a single tantrum, scored a goal and after a week of criticism he was swamped by his teammates during the goal celebration.  That was a great show of unity by the team.  Maybe Wenger has got it right that this team has great spirit and that they were just tired last week?  I see a ray of hope here and am standing by ready to eat my Cuffley Cap if Gallas turns in a great season as Arsenal captain.

The Bad

Obviously, van Persie’s howler was the low light of the match. I was watching it on ESPN Deportes and since it was in Spanish the bar decided to play oldies music over the top of the match instead of match commentary.  So, what I saw looked like stoppage of play and van Persie missing a petulant kick.  But no, that was an actual attempt at goal.  Owch.  I think Robin is suffering from “too cute-ism” right now.  He missed several chances yesterday all of which should have been on goal and yet were wide of the mark.  Don’t try to be too cute, just put the ball in the net.  It’s simple really.

Also, not to get overly negative but, the midfield struggled a bit when Eboue came on for Nasri and Theo moved to the left.  I know that they scored three goals after that happened  but I thought they immediately got less creative and Theo had to work harder to get the ball to the strikers.

Finally, Song in midfield was pretty much a wash.  He didn’t do anything good and didn’t do anything bad: unless you count his giant mane of hair which was a crime against humanity.

The Ugly

FC Twente: they tried to ugly up the game and I swore that someone was going to get hurt because of their hamfisted tactics.  I know it is all they could do but I’m still going to call them out for it.

Also, the referee could have called the game tighter and he was lucky that Twente didn’t hurt anyone.  It’s not that they were dirty, just desperate and bad tackles are born of desperation.  The ref should have put an end to it early on when Tiote tackled someone from behind.  Sure he awarded the free kick but the player got away with just a warning when a yellow was clearly merited.  Tiote then went on to commit like eleventy billion fouls before getting a yellow and could have hurt several Arsenal players along the way.

The ref should have done better.

And that’s that for today.  I’ll be back tomorrow.  Let me just leave you with this remark by Arsene Wenger about Theo Walcott

I feel you have to be patient with Theo, I always say that. He can be decisive in any game against anybody if the team has a good collective display and if you can get him involved. He has improved his first touch, his link play, and that was a vital stage for him. Then without losing his one against one ability, he has worked on his control on the move and looks now to have found the balance between individual play and team play. He is a good finisher. What he did today is really the brand of a good finisher and you cannot teach that. He has that naturally.

Heady praise there — and well earned.

27
Aug
08

yes guys, a whole team of £40m players

I don’t know anyone who is calling for Arsenal to buy a single £40m player as Arsene suggested today, much less the whole new team of players of Peter Hill-Wood’s fevered imagination.  This kind of angry defensiveness, the type where you blend in some hyperbole for good effect, is a sure sign that the speaker is aware of his faults and is trying to cover them up.

How could you not be aware of the faults?  Arsenal let Flamini, Gilberto, Hleb, Senderos, and Hoyte go in one summer!  Meanwhile, the same cast of injured players is still hanging out in the infirmary (Diaby, Rosicky, Eduardo) and they have been joined by not one, but two new friends (Bischoff and Silvestre).  And so, a team that was just a few points away from winning the EPL, a team that just needed a little bit more defensive steel and one more goal-minded midfielder has lost it’s midfield engine, a proven leader, and two promising defenders.  Who were effectively replaced by guys who are too injured to play and a teenager.

I’m all about the bargain Arsene, but come on, try to see it from our point of view! And while we’re on my point of view, let me just make myself very clear Arsene; you don’t need to buy any £40m players, because there are some very good £15m players out there who will fill in the team in exactly the spots that the team most needs.  Also, since you bang the drum about this being a good team and about developing these players, isn’t it helpful to have competition in a spot?  You know, the old story of 27 year old man taking 21 year old man under his wing and showing him a few things?  Like what to look out for defensively, how to put in a proper tackle, and what you can and cannot get away with as a defensive midfielder?  Then challenging the young man to win the place from him through hard work and effort?  A signing like that would only cost around £15m and would make a lot of fans happy AND (more importantly) improve the team.

No, this was a defensive reaction pure and simple.  They know what’s wrong with this team and they will either choose to fix it or they won’t.  If they don’t then I guess we have no real choice.  It’s not like a real Gooner can just leave the club.  You love the club no matter what and what did that one guy say “love the one you’re with” or something?

I told Twente puns to make people laugh and no pun in ten did

Yes, my whining friends, Arsenal have a game today and the press is tripping over itself to make puns of their headlines.  Probably they are getting all punny because there’s nothing really to report.  Silvestre is out, Cesc is healed but the boss is being coy about whether he’ll play him and other than that, there’s no real news.  Yeah yeah yeah, Wenger said it would be “criminal” if they get dumped out against Twente, that’s not news, that’s just telling the truth.  Essentially, Arsenal would have to concede 3 goals, at home, to a pub team from Europe.  That would in fact be criminal negligence on Arsenal’s part.

No, I’m hoping to see Adebayor get a brace, Wilshere get some time, and Clichy to get his first goal.  See!  I can remain hopeful.

All kidding aside, this is an important game and we all need to get behind the team.  We are supporters, we support, especially when the team is struggling.  It’s like that picture of footprints on the sand and Jesus is abandoning his followers or something.  Yes just like that.

The last game was actually televised live here in the U.S. on ESPN2 but it wasn’t listed in the programming guide.  I’m going to go down to Doyle’s pub and see if the game is on any of the various channels they get.  If it is, yay.  If not, boo.  Kick off is at 11:45 PST, see you there if you’re in town.

Come on you Arsenal.

26
Aug
08

And then there were 7

Losing Senderos is in some ways actually sadder to me than losing to Fulham.  Fulham was a one off failure, something that can be fixed, but losing Senderos is an admission of a complete and utter failure by Arsenal.

I’m just sitting here kicking through the ashes of Senderos’ Arsenal career and wondering where it all went wrong.  He was the starting center half in 05/06 and had formed a record breaking partnership with Kolo Toure — one in which the team went 10 Champions League matches without conceding a goal.  Their record breaking run was not against teams like FC Twente, or Fulham, it was against the Real Madrids of the world.  That summer, he also played an integral part in the Swiss team’s surprise run in the World Cup, again keeping record breaking clean sheets along the way.

And then, out went Martin Keown and in came William Gallas.  I firmly believe that the loss of Keown was the first blow to the end of Senderos’ Arsenal career.  But you can’t really just point to that, because I also think that Gallas destabilized the young man when he came in to the squad.

Keown was the last of the Arsenal old-school: a tough, big, stopper, who knew how to attack the ball on defense.  These just also happen to be Senderos’ best qualities.  Is it just coincidence that *literally* as soon as Keown left the squad the Arsenal defense went to pot?  The year after Keown’s departure was marred by defensive inconsistencies, an inability to defend in the air, an inability to defend off the corners, and Arsenal finished a mere lasagna away from 5th place in the league.  Since then, things have not been right defensively for Arsenal.  Last year they fixed the corners and to some degree the aerial problems and immediately became susceptible to the long ball.  The point here is that there is something clearly very wrong with the defensive situation at Arsenal.  Maybe it’s just coincidence, but since Keown left and Gallas came in both Arsenal and Senderos have struggled defensively.

At the time that Gallas came in to Arsenal the blogosphere was all a twitter that Arsenal had replaced their want away left back with a ready-made international.  I also remember reading the reports leading up to that swap that Gallas’ main complaint was that he wanted to play in center-back so I publicly wondered how Gallas would fit in to the rotation, what with Senderos and Toure coming off a brilliant defensive season.  I remember asking “would William Gallas be content with 3rd fiddle” and people like Arseblogger replied “no, he’ll play left back.” But note that we were all convinced that Senderos was the starter; that’s how good he was at the time.

And Gallas never did play left back, not really.  What he did instead was started up the pouty-ness, the sniping, the demanding to be played in the center of defense and the complaints any time he had to play left back.  I remember that I thought he would have a deleterious effect on Arsenal’s defensive stability and I was unanimously shouted down: Gallas was seen by everyone as a great defender and certainly better than Senderos, because Senderos had started to make a few mistakes.

What’s truly incomprehensible is that somehow Senderos’ mistakes, which come against the likes of Drogba, are magnified by the fans while Gallas’ mistakes are given a pass.  I don’t know if you noticed it or not, but Gallas makes mistakes too; against people like Elf Haargardderrnened who plays for a club that barely escaped relegation.  In fact, Gallas makes mistakes all the damn time.

Plus, he’s just, well, there’s no other way to put it, William Gallas is an asshole.  He’s the kind of guy who rips into his teammates after they make a tremendous recovery to clear the ball off the line and save a goal.  He’s the kind of guy who believes that “leadership” is gathering the team at the center circle and “inspiring” them with wild eyed speeches like “we must show them that we are not AFRAID!!!”  In short, he’s the kind of guy who tears down people around him in order to make himself look good.  As soon as Gallas came in to the club it seemed that Senderos’ self confidence started to crumble.  All it took was a slip up and a lambasting by ole Bill and Phil was shot through.

Maybe it was Keown’s departure that started the problems, but I am convinced that it was William Gallas who accelerated those problems. I have also become convinced that not only is Gallas a cancer on the club, but Gallas is a poor defender.  I know it might seem odd, but the departure of Senderos seals the deal for me: I am sick of William Gallas.

I know that 3/4 of you will come in here to say “good riddance,” I’ve grown used to it… it doesn’t bother me any more.  It doesn’t bother me because people who hate Senderos are irrational about it.  They don’t marshal a single fact in their defense, they just simply say “well he’s rubbish.”  Or “well he let in that goal at Liverpool.”  And??  All defenders let in goals, all defenders make mistakes, if they didn’t they would never learn.  And that’s where Arsenal failed Senderos.  He’s 23 years old, he has at least 5 years before he’s at the top of his game, and Arsene didn’t give him a chance, the fans didn’t give him a chance.  Arsenal failed Phil, let’s hope we don’t repeat that failure with his Swiss compatriot, Djourou.

25
Aug
08

…then the bargaining

I don’t want to play up the whole “stages of grief” thing too much because there is real grief and real pain in the world and I do realize that a few fans’ overrreaction to the outcome of a sporting event isn’t nearly as serious as the loss of a loved one.  For the record, the grief cycle is just something that’s been on my mind lately (with the death of my friend) and I’m sort of poking fun at myself (and some of you) for taking this loss so seriously.  Losing to Fulham is bad, but it’s not the end of the world.  Besides, everyone knows that the end of the world happens in 2012; John McCain’s second term of office.

That said, I think a lot of supporters right now are in the bargaining stage.  I recognize that and I want to help you to quickly get through this bargaining stage, move on to acceptance, and hopefully find some joy in this season and being an Arsenal fan.  Ready?

Arsene Wenger will do what he wants to do.  No matter how much we stomp our feet and threaten him or each other and all signs point to him not buying anyone.  In fact, he pretty much said so today:

When you lose a game the solution is not always to buy. Did we play at our best? I say no and so we have to look at why? We had problems to win our first few games last year but we won them. This year we did not win – that is the reality. We had 60 minutes to come back on Fulham and we did not do it. Is that down to Fulham’ s quality or the fact we were not good enough? Only the future will tell us that.

And the official line, from the dot com, is that Arsene is looking for replacements in the midfield from within.  So you can drop that talking point immediately.  I’m in this same boat.  I really want Arsene to buy Alonso or someone but given his last outburst, his statement about spirit, and all the talk about how this youth team is his greatest experiment I really think he’s sold himself on trying this for a year.

Besides, do you really think we can bargain with the best manager that Arsenal have ever had?  No.

Another thing I hear a lot of is that Wenger has “lost the plot.”  When Wenger came to Arsenal he revolutionized football: he brought in dietitians, statistics, workout regimens, banned booze, and stubbed out smoking.  It worked, he won.  Then he challenged the old boys network by bringing in foreign players.  That worked, he won.  In his boldest move ever, he wants to do nothing short of revolutionize all of football.  Show that the team can overcome the individual.  That no matter how much money you spend on a club, a better prepared, hungry team can win it all.  Given his success, I think we owe him a chance to try it.  He deserves the chance to try whatever he wants for three years far more than we “deserve” silverware.

A little perspective, please, before you start calling for him to be replaced or use terms like “lost the plot.”  Gazza has lost the plot: Arsene is trying something radical.  Arsene is trying to build the anti-Chelsea and ensure the long term financial fitness of the club.  That’s a little bit different than eating raw liver and drunkenly threatening to stab the bellhops whilst swaddled in little more than a hotel bed sheet smeared in your own excrement.  Trying out a radical new idea may be uncomfortable to some of you, but it’s not losing any plot.  So stop with that, mmmmkay?

The other bargaining point I hear a lot of is “just how bad were Arsenal?” when instead we should be focusing on how well Fulham played.  I know what I said yesterday, but I’m taking it back.  It’s just plain disrespectful to the team that won for us to focus on how bad we were.  So, here’s credit where credit is due, Fulham were the better team and deserved the win.  They defended well and scored a great goal.  End of story.

It’s one loss.

There are 36 more games to play.

Let’s all just get over it.

Transfer news

Coming in, Arsenal are being linked with Citeh midfielder Michael Johnson.   According to the article he’s rated at £6m and makes a “paltry” £9k a week.  From a rumor mongering perspective the press is doing a much better job, that’s more like an Arsenal signing if I ever saw one.

Going out, there is a rumor from Italy (I bet it’s from Vincenzo Morabito, Super Agent) that Senderos is going on loan to Milan.  This rumor and the one about Djourou going to Rennes are pretty odd if you ask me.  It’s pretty clear that Arsenal need cover all over the pitch so why would they loan out two decent players?  The pure speculator in me thinks it’s a bookkeeping thing and that Arsenal’s financial’s are far worse than anyone is letting on.  That would also explain this new found philosophy of the boss and his reluctance to dip into the market… Oh wait… I’m not bargaining again am I?

DAMNIT.




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