Archive for November, 2008

30
Nov
08

Chelsea v. Arsenal; liveblogging the 2nd half

The first half wasn’t really that bad. The score line is a bit harsh on Arsenal and especially Djourou, but I really liked that he took a moment after the goal and snapped right back up. The rest of the squad need to do the same, right now. One thing that I have noticed in all my sporting years is that champions come out and play hard in the second half, some commentators call it “finding another gear.” We saw that often with the Invicibles, even a great team like that had moments like we saw in this first half but they always responded in the second half. Chelsea will certainly be aware of this and will come out swinging at the start of the half. Arsenal need to keep their heads up, not get frustrated, and play their game. They are making chances, they have to believe that something will come of it.

Also, Nasri needs to defend Bosingwa further up the pitch — he’s abusing that side and putting extra pressure on Clichy and Clichy doesn’t need any more pressure.

46′ — Well, they are playing hard but back to back miscommunications with Adebayor won’t do much to endear him to his detractors.

51′ — You are seeing an absolutely clinical performance by Chelsea right now. They have sucked the life out of this Arsenal team and are picking apart the defense at will. Cesc is nearly invisible as the Chelsea midfield dominates.

56′ — I don’t think I’ve ever seen an Arsenal squad look this ordinary. Come on boys, you’re the Gunners!

59′ — Looks like Wilshere is warming up. Well, sure, it’s not like Nasri and … NO WAY!!! van Persie is yards off-side and yet Mike Dean rules that the ball came off A. Cole. 1-1 to the Arsenal. Well, I’ll be damned, that’s a harsh call on Chelsea, the Gunners need to really step up now.

61′ — Terry with a two-footed challenge, good yellow.

62′ — now it’s Chelsea who look discombobulated, free kick to Fabregas flicked by Adebayor and falls to van Persie. Well, well… 2-1 to the Arsenal.

65′ — My dog is deaf, Matt! Adebayor is frustrating the hell out of me right now, and I’m probably his biggest fan. Nasri is defending well suddenly, maybe someone had a chat with him.

68′ — Clichy with some brilliant defense in midfield and a great run earns Arsenal a free kick in a dangerous spot — van Persie hat-trick?

70′ — Hey… why isn’t Clichy put in as holding midfielder? Probably a dearth of left-backs it the only reason, he could hardly be worse than Song and reminds me a lot of Flamini.

73′ — Chelsea are getting tetchy, John Terry just elbowed the back of van Persie’s head to clear him off Cesc’s pass.

76′ — AH HA! Clichy has been assigned to cover Bosingwa and is doing a much better job of it than Nasri. This moves Nasri over to the middle of the park where he seems more creative.

79′ — I agree Barnaby, I’ll be happier if the score line is 6-1…

80′ — Ivanovic has been doing a great job harassing Adebayor. Nothing getting past the big Russian. Song, too is having a decent game defensively.

83′ — Adebayor’s had a rough game and is subbed by Bendtner. Mike Riley has to shoo him off the pitch. PINK BOOTS!

85′ — Clichy throws himself about and gets a yellow on Ivanovic… This is the start of my campaign: CLICHY FOR MIDFIELD.

89′ — Come on boys put this one to bed.

92′ — AHHHAHHAH Denilson…

94′ — Oh fuck off, the commentator just reminded me of Essien getting that last-gasp equalizer

95′ — Max Bretos just called Arsenal “truly dysfunctional” you can fuck off too Max, you useless cunt. — Crap, sorry, I just channeled Joe Kinnear there.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure we’ll hear non-stop hand-wringing and recriminations over that first goal and I’d be the first to admit that it looked like Arsenal got away with one there. And? So? I’ve seen plenty of teams get over on us over the years. Until they introduce goal line technology or T-Town Alex’s video replay that’s how the league works: sometimes you get screwed.

We’re also going to hear how Arsenal don’t deserve the win. Well, I could argue that Arsenal didn’t deserve the loss to Hull or Stoke, that’s how the cookie crumbles. Arsenal won.

HA!

2-1 to the Arsenal! And again, happy St. Andrew’s day.

30
Nov
08

Chelsea v. Arsenal; liveblogging the 1st half

Hey Joe!

Both teams are mostly being respectful, well, both teams except injured Joe Cole, who takes a swipe at Arsenal because they haven’t won a trophy since 2005.

People are always going on about the nice football Arsenal play but if you look at the last few years, who’s won the trophies? Know what I mean? I wouldn’t want to be playing for a team that didn’t win trophies.

Chelsea beware; Joe Cole is clearly angling for a January move to Pompey or Tottenham. Also, hey Joe, how many International medals do you have?

Arsene Sticks to His Guns

This will probably make a lot of you very ill, but, well, Arsene Wenger is already saying he’s not buying anyone in January.

People have not yet analysed what will hit society in the next 12 months and I’m quite proud that, after making £30 million last year, we’re in a strong financial position. We’ll try to make the same amount again. Yet, at the moment, nobody cares – they want us to spend £50-60 million. But we have stability. We have a stadium that is built, and a training ground, and a young and very promising team.

Okay, results are not as good as expected. But they’re not as bad as they have been. People speak as if this club has been in the Champions League continuously for 50 years. But it’s not true.

There’s a glimmer of hope in there, I guess, but I would put 100 to 1 against him buying one big name much less the three big names that people want. I used to think that Arsene was taking the fall for the club, that maybe there wasn’t any money and they were all lying, but I’m slowing coming around to the idea that Wenger is just doing it his way. I’m sure that the board is aware of and supportive of this fiscal austerity and in a sense, I am too, because it does make sense to run Arsenal responsibly. Still, it would be a huge shame not to play in the Champions League next year, hey maybe we can win the UEFA Cup? Joe Cole would like that.

ZOMG GALLAS TO TOTTENHAM

Is anyone taking this seriously?

Ok… breakfast is on I’ll be back for the kickoff.

0746 — I have squad info: looks like Sagna, Nasri and Adebayor are all in. Djourou also gets the nod over Silvestre. Interesting.

0751 — Oh hey, I forgot — happy St. Andrews day! I’ve taken tomorrow off so that I might indulge in a few spirits this evening. Hey if American Irish can have a drunken holiday, why can’t American Scots like me?

upgrade-u

0753 — the first of many “Upgrade” commercials, oh joy!

0800 — FSC has lost the feed — RUN THE UPGRADE COMMERCIAL!

1′ — nerves are jangling, the crowd is electric, A. Cole gets his first of many boos.

5′ — nervous moments at the back as Clichy puts a feeble cross out that is batted around at the edge of the box.

8′ — Almunia flapping at the ball, takes two punches to clear. Arsenal look very nervous at back.

9′ — First corner of the game goes to Arsenal and cleared well by Chelsea who counter quickly. Again Arsenal nervous but they keep the home team at bay.

13′ — damn, both of Arsenal’s “full backs” are streaming forward and it leads to another corner that fails to clear the first defender.

15′ — damn, I can’t keep up! Arsenal now applies some pressure and Cesc has a shot that is easily handled by Chech.

17′ — Matt comments on the corners and is 100% correct. Not only is Arsenal weak defending corners but they must be the worst team in the EPL taking corners as well. How often have we seen Arsenal fail to clear the first defender?  Twice today.  I think that’s why they do that little one-two corner between Cesc and van Persie; though that doesn’t work very well either. Something the boss needs to work on. Let Nasri take the corners!

24′ — Frank Lampard makes a great run, no one picks him up there, problems with communication at the back.

26′ — HOLY CRAP! A full footed clearance from Arsenal. That must be the first of the season.

28′ — Gallas is wrongly penalized for a great tackle on the edge of the box and the free kick is cleared by Song.  Bad call Mike.

30′ — Almunia… sigh that was a stupid mistake. Chelsea get an own-goal from Djourou who jumps right up after his mistake to get on with the game. God, I hope Djourou doesn’t go down the same path as Senderos.

33′ — Come on Arsenal! That was a crazy few minutes there where van Persie has a weak shot that is parried by Chech. If only Arsenal had a Pires, or an Eduardo, (someone who wants to score) that ball and the other one that Chech left out could have been converted.

40′ — Chelsea seem content to poke and prod and wait for an opening now. Arsenal too, seem to have taken their foot off tha gas. That own-goal may be catching up to them, phychologically. Come on Cesc, you’ve got to pull this team up now.

45′ — That’s it for the first half, Arsenal look really down right now, sluggish and disinterested, they need a spark right now from somewhere.  Mikel and Lampard are owning Cesc and Denilson right now, it’s not even funny. Maybe Wenger can call Beyonce, I hear she’s giving away Upgrades.

Second half available to the masochists here.

29
Nov
08

Arsenal v. Chelsea Saturday Preview

beyonceupgradeu

LEMME LEMME UPGRADE YOU

I’m sitting here watching the Fox Soccer Channel preview show and my advice to the guys running this program is to change the commercials every once in a while. The Beyonce “Lemme Upgrade You” commercial is mind bogglingly annoying the first time you hear it, has the ability to cause existential dread the 10th time you hear it, but if you hear that commercial more than once in an hour it actually has the ability to rip space time and unleash unspeakable horrors upon mankind — according to 3 of 4 professors in a Miskatonic University study.

Oh God, commercial break…

LEMME LEMME UPGRADE YOU!!!

And the beasts that she has unleashed? Adebayor, Nasri, and Sagna are all fit and ready to maul the Chelsea back line. This is great news, but only if the Nasri who played against Man U shows up, if his doppelganger shows up we could get the type of game we saw against Man City.

The other beast that Beyonce had unleashed upon the world is Abou Diaby, hopefully he doesn’t kick John Terry’s head clean off tomorrow.

Proving that Beyonce’s powers warp all of space time, Wenger has shocked the world by saying the same thing that I said back in September; given that Cesc has played over 200 games he can’t really be called “inexperienced.” You can’t just count the number of games but look at the quality of the games as well; cup finals, Champions League campaigns, Euro 2008 champion, etc etc. With all those quality games under his belt, Wenger sees him as a 26 year old instead of “just” 21. Right, which is why I was saying that he’s not really captain material; any player with any leadership quality who has that number of games under his belt should just naturally step up and be captain de facto. Oh well, it’s all moot now isn’t it? He’s captain de jure.

Not everyone can be Flamini, I guess.

Hmmm.. what other horrors has Beyonce unleashed upon mankind? A refeshed Gallas? A renewed Anelka? An Ashley Cole love in? OH GOD NOT THAT

end transmission

28
Nov
08

Great Zombie Arsenal

One day Ballack is throwing dirt on our coffins and the next day Scolari is resurrecting us, which is it, are we dead yet or not? Somewhere in-between.

I have maintained all season that more than any other year, there has been massive compression of talent in the Premiership. So, more than any other year, any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday Saturday. I know that my friend T-Town Alex (among others) disagrees and sees Chelsea as the clear favorites but already they have struggled at home, winning only 3 of 7 home games and spectacularly losing to Liverpool for the first time since man walked with dinosaurs.

Don’t get me wrong, Chelsea is a dangerous team and when they smell blood they pounce — winning several times 5-0. I think they might even be the second strongest team in the EPL, right behind a healthy Liverpool. Also, I certainly don’t need to chronicle the difficulty that Arsenal have had so far this season to any of you, you’ve heard it all before and even mentioning those team names evokes winces of pain among the faithful. Chelsea may be struggling and Arsenal may look resurgent but let’s not kid ourselves, even a struggling Chelsea is 10x the threat of Kiev. Imagine for a second that William Gallas gifts the ball to Anelka as he did to Bangoura on Tuesday: that will be a goal against Chelsea.

Arsenal will need to be in top form to pull out a draw and will need some luck to get the win. I think that they can do it, especially if Adebayor, Nasri, and Sagna are all healthy and they all show up to play.

If the matches of the past are any indication it should be a spectacular match too — full of piss and vinegar and probably a few yellow cards and possibly a red. The good news is that Fox Soccer Channel is showing the game so I can watch it from the comfort of my home. I hate going to important games at Doyle’s because there’s a combination of fantasy sports people rooting for individual players, hangers-on who just root against Arsenal (or Chelsea) and of course, there will be Chelsea supporters — some old school, some new school, but nearly all of them unbearable.

Nope, I’ll be at home, with a nice breakfast, a cup of coffee, and my family, which is a great way to watch an Arsenal match.

Gallass

Yes, I saw that Gallas’ book came out or something and all the newspapers are a-blubber about Gallas v. Chelsea. You know, I’m not going to get into the whole Gallas thing again, the quotes in the press make him sound like a little kid crying with stuff like “they didn’t even let me get my clothes.” I don’t know if it’s true, I don’t care, Chelsea are a classless organization who have racists in the grounds crew, who defend their players throwing coins at fans, and who are currently on a downward money spiral and firing every coach and scout outside of the first team. And obviously, some of that classlessness and greed rubbed off on William Gallas. But so what? He won’t be a Goonah much longer (maybe he never really was) so unless he reveals something truly shocking — like Chelsea put on a show of classlessness and are actually a decent organization that adopts puppies and feeds hungry orphans — there’s nothing to report here.

Platini the Cheat

And speaking of blubbering to the press, Platini is desperately trying to remain relevant and is still calling for “financial fair play.” Put aside for a moment the fact that English clubs operate on a more purely business model than any continental clubs — who receive funds from cities and townships for stadiums and past player transfers, who have newspapers do the tapping up for them, and have favorable tax rates legislated for the players so that they can attract big names. Put all that aside because all you need to look at is how quickly Chelsea are unraveling to see the detrimental effects of a single owner piling debt onto a team can and does have. Michel, my belle, that business model is not sustainable, it eats itself.

Currently Chelsea are cutting costs at the periphery but killing off your international scouting is a death knell. In the old days Chelsea would wait for Arsenal to bid on a player (Essien, SWP, Drogba, etc,) and then swoop in with triple the offer. But as Roman’s fortune dwindles and his interests start to wane, that won’t be a viable option anymore. He’s already said that Chelsea need to sell to buy this January and with his net worth tumbling from $23b to a “mere” $3b, it’s safe to say that the well is drying up. With the club losing millions nearly every week on overpaid salaries, a too small stadium, and the fact that they are out of one competition and hanging by a Cluj to the Champions League, Abramovich cannot possibly continue to throw millions at them.

Further, at the cost of nearly a Billion US dollars, Chelsea has only back-to-back Premiership titles and one FA cup to show for it. Despite their billions in player salaries and transfers, they won exactly the same number of trophies that Arsenal did last year (0) and they haven’t won a single Champions League trophy, which is what Platini wants to protect, right?

If anything, the Chelsea model is definitive proof that the model fails on its own merits and needs no regulation. Just watch as they unravel this year, Platini and save the rubbish regulations scrubbing the scourge of racism from football.

The fact that Zenit-St. Petersburg openly will not employ black footballers, has a huge contingent of the world’s most racist supporters, and yet is still allowed to play in Europe is an affront to the notion of “fairness.” Any head of any organization that would allow that scum to play in any tournament they sponsor has no right to lecture others on the notion of fair play.

F*ck off Michel.

27
Nov
08

Gazidis Starts Shopping and I Make a Case for Appiah

turbaconducken

The traditional Turbaconducken -- a bacon wrapped Turkey stuffed with bacon wrapped chicken and bacon wrapped duck.

Happy Thanksgiving, Americans! Hey, do you know what the Brits call Thanksgiving?*

Anyway, while Americans are gorging themselves on what should have been our national bird the rest of the world is hard at work, playing in the UEFA Cup, complaining about their teammates, angling for a move away from Arsenal, you know, a typical day at the office.

Plucked from his Thanksgiving table and flown across the Atlantic to enjoy Square Pie in dreary London, Arsene Wenger gave Ivan Gazidis his stamp of approval during a face-to-face meeting. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until January before Gazidis will be officially taking over many of the duties left undone by David Dein’s departure in 2007 and Edelman’s departure earlier this year. This January is such a crucial time for the club and everyone knows it. Quality reinforcements are needed and Gazidis will certainly need to hit the ground running as Wenger targets players and Gazidis is instructed to go get them. His experience handling all MLS player contracts will help in this regard.

In addition to his financial and business acumen, he sounds like the right personality for the job as well: born in South Africa, raised down the street from Highbury, and educated at Oxford Gazidis’ very first quotes speak volumes about how the man sees his place at this venerated old club:

The great thing about Arsenal is that it has been run to sustain itself. It is not dependent on an outside investor to pump money in year after year. That position is inherently a little bit unstable because it depends on one individual. Arsenal has positioned itself not to be dependent on one individual. It’s essential if Arsenal is going to be respected. This is not going to be an American coming with no understanding of Arsenal looking to make it in to a Disneyfied version of Arsenal.

Excellent start Ivan, now go sign us some talent!

Given the on-field struggles so far this season and the very acrimonious self-destruction of Gallas it’s only natural that there are already rumors flying about that Arsenal is looking to move some players. Newcastle is reportedly interested but not hopeful that they can sign Djourou and Song on loan. No, Joe, you f*cking c*nt arse cocksandwich prick, you can’t have Djourou, but maybe you could have Alex for a Song? Seriously, this is a plan with no drawbacks, Arsene and Ivan, let Song go. Then we can all stop pretending that he’s is anywhere near Arsenal quality.

There’s also a rumor that Bendtner might be going to Spartak Moscow for £5m. Seriously, this is a plan with no drawbacks, Arsene and Ivan, let Song Bendtner go. Then we can all stop pretending that he’s is anywhere near Arsenal quality.

While his play might not be Arsenal quality, Bendtner has reached a personal zenith at Arsenal saying

But I don’t think anyone at Arsenal is going to be able to compete with me on that front. I have reached the top of the outstanding boots. The only way they can beat me now is to play in diamond-encrusted boots. And I don’t think that’s going to happen for a few years.

+1 to Bendtner for having a sense of humor. Have fun in Siberia, I’m sure your pink boots will be extra outstanding in the snow.

And finally, William Gallas, the man whom Gael Clichy said “Shattered” the Arsenal team with his dumb comments, is being linked with a move to AC Milan. I suspect that a move of some sort is in the works with Gallas, he’s lost all credibility with his teammates and more importantly with Clichy. I don’t know how a central defender could stay with a club after losing the support of his partners at the back — trust there is absolutely vital and might be a clue as to why Arsenal have struggled in defense this season.

Gazidis and Arsene have their work cut out for them but I trust that they can take care of the on-field problems with just a few key signings.

Stephen Appiah

Why not? I’ve been beating this drum now since T-Town Alex convinced me to take another look at the player but I’ve been beating it from a talent perspective only. What about the financial implications? I know that Wenger supposedly has a sort of salary cap in place — that they basically have a pay scale at Arsenal with William Gallas at the top, Cesc not far behind and every other player on the team earning slightly less than the top two. Egalitarian, Wenger called it.

That said, it was this egalitarianism that prevented Arsenal from keeping Flamini. Flamini argued that since he was a free agent, and since he pays 43% in income tax to play in England, and since it would cost £10-20m to replace him, Arsenal should just pay him the transfer fee spread out over the remainder of his contract. At the time, I agreed with Flamini. It just makes sense. Damn the salary cap Wenger, say that you’re paying him a transfer bonus or whatever but keep this guy at the club.

And now, the rumor is that Stephen Appiah is making similar demands; asking for an outrageous salary due to the fact that he’s a free agent, he’s good, and whatever club signs him won’t have to pay a transfer fee. It’s a logical argument, really. Why shouldn’t Appiah make £4m+ per year? At 27 he’s pretty much at the top of his game and while there might be some fitness questions you have to think that a club could recoup whatever salary Appiah asked for in the transfer market. Think about it: you pick up Appiah, pay his outrageous salary and play him. If he’s good enough, you keep him on, if not you sell him. You sell him! You make money off his transfer. Even if it’s a £2m transfer, you still made £2m in profit. Subtract that from his retarded salary and it seems like a good deal to me.

Of course, all this hinges on Appiah playing well and not asking for a truly outrageous salary. If he played really poorly you might be saddled with a huge salary and an under-performing player and no one who wants him. And if he asked for some kind of truly insane salary (like £8m a year) you’ll never be able to unload him, because there’s only a few clubs in the world who can pay that.

So, that’s my case. There are a lot of known unknowns but I think Appiah could turn out to be a good on-field deal and a good bit of business to boot.

Arsenal had to have thought of this, right?

Ok, I’m going to have some breakfast, lay about, then pip into Doyle’s to watch a predictable and injured Tottenham lose to some other team in a competition I couldn’t care less about. It’s my birthright as an American.

*Thursday.

26
Nov
08

1-nil to the Aveline! The Good, Bad, and Ugly

I don’t want to fail him, because he has given me everything in football — Cesc on Wenger and the captaincy.

The Good

Looks like Aveline’s new away romper worked! Arsenal got their first win in two weeks and a well deserved one to boot. The good here is that I got the romper a bit too big so she’ll be able to wear it for every match the rest of this season (I hope! She’s a really tall baby and already the 12 month romper is only slightly too big).

But seriously, a win is the perfect way to kick off Cesc’s reign as Arsenal captain and individually I thought he was just outstanding. He didn’t take over the holding midfield spot like I had hoped but he did play box to box and seemed to have tons of energy. Maybe it was the week off or maybe it was the fact that he had been given the armband (which he wore upside down for the first half) but whatever the reason he was certainly more energetic than I had seen him in a long time. In the first half the whole team was more energetic, in fact, at the 50th minute, Setanta put up an amazing stat: Arsenal had completed over 300 passes to Kiev’s 110 or so. That’s a ton of movement, folks, and Arsenal kept that going for nearly the full 90 minutes.

I say nearly because as the second half kicked off, Arsenal came out very flat and Dynamo looked like they were going to steal a goal through hard work and enterprise. But then Cesc picked up the game, started going back into the defense and put in a great tackle to turn the tide around. It was exactly the kind of subtle change that a good captain senses and pulls the team up from.

The cream on the top of Cesc’s performance was the fact that he laid on the pass that Bendtner lucked in for the goal. The young man started his tenure off with an inspiring win and got himself an assist against a team that had publicly stated they were going to play a defensive, counter attacking match that exploits Arsenal’s weakness of late.

The other good that needs mentioning here is that Arsenal used 5 (6, if you count Bendtner) youth team members in that match. Ramsey showed sparks of why the boss thinks he will be a future partner for Cesc. Vela showed the type of class, speed and touch that I haven’t seen from any of the starting strikers this season (save Adebayor when he shows up). And Jack Wilshere was just magnificent if you consider that he’s the youngest player to ever represent the club in Europe. I actually have grave concerns about the club’s ability to sign him when he turns 17. As slight as he is he could start for a number of teams right now, both lower-tier Premier League teams and Championship teams, which means he could be tempted to leave Arsenal by an offer of first team football: AT THE AGE OF 17.

By the way, if you watched Djourou and cringed whenever he got the ball on an overlap, don’t hold it against him, he’s a central defender and Wenger had him slotted out wide. It’s not in him to go forward, frankly, but he did a good job considering how far out of position he was played.

The Bad

Let me preface this by saying that I had the misfortune of watching the video of the first 100 goals by Dennis Bergkamp on Sunday and it’s fresh in my mind. Yes, it’s a highlight reel. No, I didn’t see all the misses, missteps, poor touches, fouls, and frustrations of the man but I did see all 100 of his first 100 goals and each one that came from the run of play was spectacular. Bergkamp was graceful, economical, and always knew what he wanted to do with the ball when he got it.

It is a bit unfair to compare anyone else to Bergkamp, because, as the song goes there’s “Only One Dennis Bergkamp” but I think it’s insightful to know that good players are graceful, economical, and know what they want to do with the ball before they receive it. Which is exactly, 100%, the opposite of what Bendtner and van Persie provide.

Robin van Persie, in particular, has lost a ton of confidence this season. In previous years I’ve seen him strike the ball on the first touch ala Bergkamp, but for some reason this year he seems to want to take one touch, two touch, three touch, dribble, touch, dribble, touch — when he should just SHOOT THE DAMN BALL! It’s almost as if the one guy who used to be our bold striker has succumbed to the Arsenal way of dribbling the ball into the goal. Robin, SHOOT.

And Bendtner, well, I think Bendtner is not good enough. If Cesc had played that same ball in to Bergkamp that Bendtner scored, Bergkamp would have shot that on the volley, when he was wide open. Instead Bendtner kneed the ball to himself, allowed the defender time to catch up, and frankly got very lucky with the near side shot. Bendtner would do well on a team like Birmingham, but he’s not Arsenal quality.

I don’t know if Gallas’ performance was “good” or “bad” but I’m sticking it here because I think he had a bit of a rough match. I mean, it’s good an all that he was able to overcome being stripped of the captaincy and that he came out and played hard and was unlucky to have a goal taken away for an offside. But when he gifted the Dynamo striker the ball in a moment of Clichy-like madness, he was saved only by the profligacy of that player. Further, when van Persie finally did have a shot on goal (after 20 minutes of dribbling around inside their box), he was the one who cleared it off the line for Kiev. It was a Senderos type performance and I don’t want to get down on him, because he is having a bad week, but there can’t be too many more of these types of performances before the boss puts Kolo Toure back in. A Kolo Toure who is now rumored to be looking for a move to Citeh due to his lack of first team appearances.

Arsene… uhhh… seriously… With Gallas being linked to AC Millan and Kolo linked to a move out as well that’s a defensive crisis of epic proportions: Havard Nordveit, ain’t going to cut it. I hate the phrase “get out the checkbook” (especially since it’s always in British and has a god-damned “que” in it) but I think that the phrase is appropriate here.

The Ugly

What the hell was Aliyev doing out there? First, there was the disgusting, shameful, and in my opinion straight red card for rolling around on the ground, trying to get the ref or Arsenal to stop play after he was dispossesed in his half, only to literally pop up and start sprinting when his team recovered the ball. Here’s the video, courtesy of the Arsenalist.

That’s shocking stuff, really. A caution is letting him off easy, that is just plain cheating and a player who is willing to cheat like that has no business playing the game.

Later, Aliyev was sent off… for shoving the ref. Not much to say here except that he really disgraced the game yesterday.

Conclusion

So, Arsenal get into the knockout stages of the Champions League, get Cesc off to a winning start as captain, sign some dude from the MLS to handle transfers, and there’s good news about the big three injured players ahead of Sunday’s game against Chelsea.

Now, all we need is for Chelsea to lose today, get knocked out of the Champions League, pick up some crucial injuries and roll over and let us tickle their tummy on Sunday. Then we’ll be right back where we want to be and I can say it’s a good week.

Late blog tomorrow owing to the fact that it’s Thursday in England or what we ‘Mericans like to call “Thanksgiving” and I’m sleeping in.

Oh, and just for Packy — “one nil to the Arsenal…”

25
Nov
08

How can they lose?

Aveline got her new kit yesterday and today is her first time wearing it; don’t break her heart Arsenal!

25
Nov
08

Fabregas v. Dynamo Kiev

Best.Poster.Ever

Good morning Cocksandwiches, are you ready for some football?

The Fabregas’ take on Dynamo Kiev today at 11:45 PST with the match being shown live on Setanta here in the states. It’s a good chance to don your Fabregas strip (mine’s an away), pour a pint, order a sandwich, and cheer on your “new look” Arsenal.

Before I get into all that stuff I need to give credit to Gunnerblog for the poster above. The poster and the attached parody article made me laugh, and with all that has been going on at the club it was a welcome relief. Check it out.

OK, now, where was I? Oh yeah, the “new look” Arsenal. Cesc rolls out in the armband for the first time to the relief of many, many supporters. The more I think about this selection the more I like it. Disregard the supposed “curse” that the last few Arsenal captains have left nearly immediately after they get the armband: Cesc has already put that rumor to bed saying:

By becoming captain it shows how much I’m committed to the club, I actually feel I’ve shown commitment since I arrived here. Each year people talk about me leaving yet I’m still here and I want to be part of the future of Arsenal. I love the club and I’m totally committed to it. I’m not looking to play anywhere else.

The real benefit of Cesc as captain is that he’ll be allowed to play a little more unrestrained. Captains get away with heavier tackles, they get to complain to the ref, and they can defend their teammates — something Cesc was not really allowed to do when Lampard attacked Kolo during the Carling Cup final a few years ago. It’s that incident that stands out as his most captain-esque moment. Irregardless the fact that he wasn’t wearing the armband, when Lampard got in Kolo’s face Cesc waded in and sorted it out. So, in addition to getting away with a little bit more foul play, he’s also the guy expected to sort out the team. Despite what Arsene says about how unimportant the armband is, that’s what the captain does on the field and I think Cesc is perfect for that.

The other thing the captain does is “other duties as needed” which is why I’d like to see Cesc become Arsenal’s temporary enforcer: just until Wenger brings in Appiah (joke!). We shouldn’t forget that Cesc was brought into the club to be the holding midfielder and what a job the kid did, too. Who could forget what he did against Patrick Vieira in the Champions League run that eventually led to a final appearance? It was masterful: a box to box midfielder who tackled the ball away from Vieira, scored the opening goal, and laid on the second. Lately, he’s been playing a very forward role, which does suit him, but as captain, I’d like to see him revert to the dirty job in defense and let Denilson go forward. Of course, some of that depends on who Arsene puts in there. If Denilson, then my idea is fine, but if Song, well… then it’s Song and frankly I don’t know what to do with Song to make the team better.  The point is that Cesc needs to lead by example and right now this team needs a holding midfielder, who better to do that than the captain?  At least temporarily.

For the opponent’s tonight Wenger has a bit of a headache selection with Nasri and Diaby adding to the injury list of Adebayor, Kolo, Eboue and Sagna. Plus long term injured Theo, Eduardo, and Rosicky. If you are wondering why Gallas was included in the squad, you need look no further than an injury list that is 9 folks long. How many clubs could survive with 9 injured players? It’s an amazing number.

The Beeb is reporting that Wenger will pick from Almunia, Hoyte, Gallas, Silvestre, Clichy, Ramsey, Fabregas, Denilson, Vela, Van Persie, Bendtner, Fabianski, Song, Djourou, Wilshere, Gibbs, Lansbury, and Simpson. How you line that up is beyond my powers of prognostication. I would slot Silvestre on the right and play Djourou in the middle, but that’s just me. As for the pairing with Cesc, I would certainly start one of the youngsters — Wilshere and Ramsey both? I dunno. And up front… well… I don’t think I’d play Bendtner. Which means we’ll see Lansbury start next to Cesc, Bendtner and Vela up front, Djourou in the back with Gallas out right… you get the point.

So, that’s what we have this afternoon. Despite the recent struggles, the change in captaincy, the injuries, and the fact that 9 of the 16 included for the trip are youth team members I’m hoping for a really gutsy performance tonight and a modicum of revenge for the 1-1 draw away earlier. A win here would see the club through to the knockout stages and give us a big boost to go with our long rest ahead of the St. Andrews day clash with Chelsea. Plus, what better way to see Cesc’s captaincy kick off than with a win?

Come on you reds!

24
Nov
08

Captain Fabregas, Gallas back in

cesc-happy2

I didn’t read a single opinion piece yesterday and it felt, well, it felt good. I did read all of your comments and I want to thank all of the readers who left comments yesterday and Saturday, I always read all of your remarks and enjoy each of your insights. But I stayed away from the Independents’, Suns, Beebs, Telegraphs, Arsenal.coms, Setantas, and Goal.coms, because I knew that it was just going to be a feeding frenzy by the press; blood is in the water after all.

One of the things that I noticed while scanning through the news stories this morning is that everyone thinks that they know what’s going on at Arsenal. Something is clearly going on, no doubt, but what exactly is happening is pure speculation.

The one story that we haven’t seen yet is speculation about why Wenger hasn’t bought big in the last five years. I have been very suspicious that Arsenal just don’t have the money that they keep claiming that they have. Whether there’s a drain on finances due to the Emirates, the huge payroll, or there’s some kind of dividend being payed, we just don’t know. The facts are very clear; Arsene Wenger has broken even or earned money in every transfer market for the last 5 years. Further, Wenger has admitted that he bid for Alonso (an experienced midfielder) and Chelsea have admitted that he bid for Malouda, but that both bids fell short and were not upped is telling. That behavior can’t just be explained away with Wenger’s insistence that he is pursuing a “youth” policy or that he doesn’t want to “pay over the odds.” There’s something going on, I suspect.

It seems I too can speculate with the best of them.

But instead of the finance story, there are dozens of stories about how Wenger is afraid of Gallas, how there are cliques in the dressing room, how they argue on and off the pitch, and the worst of all, how Wenger has lost the plot. The point of all these stories isn’t to really shed light on Arsenal, but rather just to draw you in. They take one quote and spin a yarn around it. Who really knows what’s going on in training? Arsene Wenger, and I trust him to make things right.

Which brings me to today’s press conference. Just a few minutes ago, Wenger announced that Cesc will be captain and Gallas will be included in the team. Time to drop the speculation over whether Cesc will make a good captain, we’ll see if he will or not. Last year I called for Gallas to be replaced by Cesc and I was roundly criticized so, despite my reservations this year, I have to admit that I see the quality in him. It’s a tough, tough time to take over as captain but, like President Obama, when you take over at such a pivotal time you will either pass with flying colors and be one of the greats or you will go down in flames.

Here’s hoping that Cesc is the former.

The very first thing I would do, if I was Cesc, is knock on Wenger’s door, close the door behind me, and tell Arsene Wenger to go out and buy an experienced midfield partner. I would not leave the room until I had a promise from him that he would buy that person. You all know that I want Stephen Appiah, he’s available right now and I think he would be magnificent for the job. But maybe Wenger has a January target, someone better, he needs to let Cesc know now.

The very next thing I would do, is I would squash the bullshit squabbling between RvP and Gallas — neither player is good enough to get away with this stupid bullshit and tear apart my beloved Arsenal. Wenger has stated that Gallas will be used for the remainder of his time at Arsenal saying:

William is a player that I rate and a man that I rate. I have a big respect for him. He was working as a captain in a very difficult media environment. He was under big pressure from the press. For me, the player is committed to the club and I think he can be stronger as a player because he took all the problems of the team to his heart. I think it can be a new start for him.

Given the fact that Wenger is determined to select Gallas (who is arguably the best defender on the team — I said ARGUABLY) Cesc’s second big challenge is going to be to support Wenger and Gallas in this. At least until the man can be moved on in January.

The last thing that Cesc is going to have to do is heal the wounds at the club. This is probably the most difficult task ahead because right now, the club and the fans are a club divided. If winning is the salve that heals all wounds then so be it, go out and get some wins. But I suspect that Cesc will need to do more than just win in order to keep this group together. He will need to put an arm around the shoulder of his teammates when they screw up, he will need to work a lot harder on the pitch than he has as of late, he will need to inspire his teammates, he will need to back his teammates up, and he will need to back Wenger up.

That’s what Cesc has got to do over the next few weeks. It’s a lot to ask any man at a healthy club, but it seems a superhuman task to ask a 21 year old at a club that is tanking games and in danger of losing their place in the Champions League.

Up next is Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League more on that tomorrow.

22
Nov
08

City 3-0 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

I’m publishing this today (Saturday) because I’m taking tomorrow off to gather my thoughts, regroup and start fresh on Monday. After this week’s events, Arsene Wenger might want to follow my lead.

The Good

Here’s what I learned today…

  1. Stephen Ireland was great today.  His work rate and commitment in the match eclipsed the thrashing around of Alex Song and Denilson. Arsene Wenger surely saw that, which means that a change has to be coming, right?
  2. We only lost 3-0, the way that those guys played we probably should have lost 5 or 6 to nil.
  3. If you watch an Arsenal match with Yakity Sax playing in the background the game is much more enjoyable. Turn down the commentators and turn up the Boots Randolph — it’s the only way to get through the rest of the season.
  4. Does anyone still doubt the value of Adebayor? Seriously?
  5. There’s no question now, the experiment has failed. It was audacious to try and kudos to Wenger for having the balls to try it but a youth team just can’t do it. No hard feelings for Arsene trying it — he gets all the leeway he wants from me — but I suspect that he knows that the experiment has failed and will now move on.
  6. Tactically, Arsenal have been found out as well. Teams are now playing the same defensive scheme over and over against us and it works perfectly. Let Arsenal attack, there’s no teeth there, and since the defense is comical, prone to mistakes, and likes to dribble the ball out you don’t need much possession to get a goal. Once you get the first, just sit back and counter, more goals will come: Arsenal play a comically high line and with with 8 Arsenal players in the opponent’s box, you just wait and lob it out to a speedy attacker who will get you a break away goal.

Learning things is always a good but only if you capitalize on what you learned.

The Bad

I totally want to rip Song here but what’s the point? We all can see his limitations.

Same with Bendtner, Arsene says that the sign of a great player is that they know what they want to do with the ball as soon as they receive it and Bendtner hasn’t a clue. That’s pretty much all you need to know about Bendtner. But so? Adebayor can’t play every game, so I guess we’re stuck with Bendtner until Eduardo rides in on his white horse and saves the world.

The Ugly

So, what the hell happened to Clichy? Last year he was a revelation and over the last few matches he’s been completely unreliable at back. Today he had one of his worst matches I’ve ever seen. I’m not mad at him, I don’t want to fire him or anything, but rather, it makes me sad. What the hell is going on at Arsenal that we’re burning out so many talented defenders?

In my mind this whole bizarre defensive merry-go-round started with Campbell. When he walked out after shipping 2 goals against West Ham and we all said that maybe he just didn’t have the mental strength it took to play for Arsenal.

Then we lost Senderos and we all said that maybe he didn’t have the mental strength it took to play at Arsenal.

Then Toure…

Then Gallas…

Now Clichy?

What the living hell is going on with the Arsenal defense? I don’t have an answer, but I suspect that the “total football” approach exposes the defense to attacks that require 100% from our defenders. Since no defender can be perfect, these players are occasionally exposed, then they make a mistake and that leads to them doubting themselves and so on. I hope Arsene sees this and starts making some changes tactically.

Anyway, that’s enough for the weekend. There will no doubt be stories and quotes from the boss but I’m just burned out.

There really isn’t much more to say right now, is there? Try to have a good weekend, I’m going to take my frustrations out on Sunday — I’ve got a match.




RSS My Google Reader

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Flickr Photos

Twits

Arsenal Community

Arsenal News

Arsenal News

e-soccer
November 2008
M T W T F S S
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930