Archive for March, 2009

31
Mar
09

Down goes Diaby

I wasn’t going to do a blog today because A) there’s no evidence that the Fabregas quote about being tapped up is real (it’s been picked up but not widely AND Arsenal are being quiet on the topic) B) I got up late, owing to the fact that I now put in 14 hour days between work/school on Mondays and Wednesdays and C) because there should have been fuck all to report.

Unfortunately, there isn’t fuck all to report as Abou Diaby has picked up a hip injury during training for France. My regular readers know how highly I rated Diaby over the last few weeks, going so far as to say that he was the key ingredient to our midfield success lately. So, even with Cesc coming back I imagined Diaby would keep a starting spot. Especially with Arsene hailing Diaby as the new Vieira. In my dreams it would have been Cesc/Diaby in the “holding/box-to-box” spot and Arshavin in front of them. Now it looks like we’re back to defensive midfielder by committee for a few weeks.

No news on Bendtner and whether his national team will see fit to let the guy see the doctors on the team that pay his salary. Robin van Persie, on the other hand, has been flown back to London to have his groin looked at <insert joke>.

I would say “knock on wood” that no one else picks up an injury but each time I’ve said that we’ve picked up another so now I’m going with a more traditional English phrase: touch wood.

I’ll be touching wood all day today. Hey if that’s what it takes to keep Arsenal’s players safe, I’m willing to make that sacrifice, are you?

30
Mar
09

Injuries and Fabreflap make me Kroenke

...in a fire, after being shot out of a cannon

If today’s news reports can be trusted Arsene Wenger has his work cut out for him over the next few days.

First, and worst, is the injury flap surrounding Nicklas Bendtner. Bendtner was substituted at the 30th minute of their match against Malta (pop: 410,000) because he had suffered a knee injury. Word on the street is that Wenger/Arsenal tried to recall the player at that point, probably to do a scan and prevent further injury. Well, Danish national team sub-coach Peter Bonde responded with a huge middle finger to Arsenal, saying:

He is here with us right now, if he is ready then he is ready. We cannot be thinking about Arsenal. We treat players well, but we will play them if they are fit. We have set a deadline of Tuesday. He is not training today [Monday] but he is receiving treatment. We will see how he responds.

Now let me make myself very clear Mr. Bonde: go fuck yourself. Arsenal are the reason that Bendtner is even in your team, so you should be worried about Arsenal. If it wasn’t for Arsenal playing Bendtner week in and week out while he has sucked ass you wouldn’t have a world class striker on your team.

But more importantly, this should be Bendtner’s decision, not yours. If Bendtner wants to risk his football career in order to play Eastpodunkia in the next match, then that’s his choice. But he needs to be given a choice, without threats of losing his national team spot, you don’t own the player.

Also, please note in that story there’s an aside about Robin van Persie picking up “something in his groin.” At least it was against a team that had some chance of getting into the World Cup.

UGH

So far, Arsenal have suffered just two injuries, knock on wood that we don’t suffer any more. I guess we should be happy with just two injuries so far, some of these matches are starting with riots.

Meanwhile, Cesc Fabregas is embroiled in two, or even three, flaps at the moment. The Hull Shiatty flap is still ongoing, with Hull submitting their “evidence” to the FA that Cesc spat at one or all of their coaches — and that he also cursed out Ethel the tea-lady, after spitting all over her. I have no doubt that this is going to be a he-said-she-said case and will be dismissed by the FA. Though, there in the back of my mind is the fact that Cesc is not English and thus, unlike Rooney’s disgraceful and caught on tape disrespect of himself, his club, and the referee, there’s always a chance that the FA will punish Cesc based on Phil Orange’s good word — despite the fact that his word has been dragged through the mud and spat upon by the man himself.

A bit of a bigger story, though, is that swirling around the constant speculation that Fabregas is leaving is some quote attributed to Cesc that he was tapped up by Real Madrid last year. At the time of the supposed incident, Cesc denied Real contacted him and Arsene said that he spoke with Cesc and that Cesc denied contact was made and that for him (Wenger) that was case closed. However, Arsene did leave the door open for future action saying

I did not allow Fabregas to talk to anybody. He denies he did. If you can get the statement he has done that and that Real Madrid, more than ever, has done that, then we will sue Real Madrid (emph. added).  His agent might have spoken to Real Madrid. But Real Madrid are not entitled to do it without our permission.

Now, it could be a slip of tongue, could be a mistranslation, could be the media making up something but Cesc (ironically while trying to put transfer rumors to bed) is being quoted as saying

It’s true that the president of Real Madrid called me personally, we spoke on the phone, but I never gave him my word, I never said to him that I was going to sign for Real Madrid. He asked about my progress and that was it.

I have not given him nor anyone else the expectation that I will join them. The same goes for anyone who represents me. I am a person of my word and I can assure you that I have never given any club reason to believe that I would leave Arsenal. Nobody can say that they have agreed with me that I become part of their project. That is clear.

There’s something funny about the quote though, I don’t see a date associated with it like “Cesc was talking to a reporter on Friday and said…” so it is possible that this is just a recycled quote from last year making the rounds (I searched and found nothing). It could also be a mistranslation, misquote, or even something made up: the Spanish press are actually more notoriously cuntish about transfers than the British press.

That said, if it’s true and recent and Real Madrid did contact Cesc Fabregas without Arsenal’s permission and Arsenal have evidence of that then Arsenal should sue the shit out of Real Madrid. End of.

More on this story as it develops. My gut feeling is that this is a non-story. Let’s hope my gut is right. But if it isn’t then the road ahead is clear: sue them, sue them into submission.

Finally, in the “meh” news category and included here just to bring you down from your emotional high; Stan Kroenke has bought some shares from Danny Fiszman.  YAY! At least it’s not Usmanov.

Well, that’s it for today, let’s all hope that Arsenal escape the rest of the week without any more injuries and without any more stories about Phil Orange or Cesc transfer rumors.

Gods I hate the International Break.

29
Mar
09

Return of the Fabregas, plus I watch a Sounders game

Looks like we’re all on the same clocks again, well, the real world is synchronized. WordPress still thinks PST is GMT -7. So, if you get these articles in a news feed you might find some strangeness due to the clocks on WordPress being wrong. I suspect they will fix that in a few days.

Most of you have already read the News of the World kerfuffle. I don’t have anything to add, it looks like typical British sports journalism to me. As a side note, I used to subscribe to the NotW RSS feed and stopped because of their reporting on the Adebayor transfer and their constant misquotes of Gallas and others. NotW is basically one step up from The World’s Least Reliable News Source.

One thing that we have reliable information on is that Cesc is 100% available for the Citeh game. Wenger is being coy about whether Cesc will play but I have to think that if Cesc is available and 100% healthy he will get a run, maybe not a start, but at least a run.

That’s it for Arsenal news.  I could probably come up with some quotes about Arsenal buying someone or selling someone but it’s really rather pointless. I’d much rather sit back and bask in the idea of Adebayor scoring a goal for Togo, Cesc returning, Rosicky healthy, and some cat named Sylvestre joining the team, all giving Wenger a major selection headache.

Last night I heard that the Seattle Sounders (MLS Expansion team) were going to be on the television (in HD to boot!) and so I just had to tune in. I fired up the DVR, recorded the program and then as the night wound down, I sat back to enjoy some football.

I say enjoy rather loosely because the game was one step up from utter crap, but hey, let’s save that for The Good, Bad, and Ugly:

Match Report

ESPNSoccernet: Swedish star Freddie Ljungberg played his first MLS game and first game of any kind in nine months Saturday night, finishing a routine final 29 minutes in the Sounders’ 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.

Match Video

You can’t be serious.

The Good

Seattle Sounders have a bright spot on their team and his name is Fredy Montero. Imagine if you took Carlos Vela and plopped him down in the 3rd division. His close control, runs, tactical awareness, and just pure class would shine though; though it could also be that surrounded by such a distinct lack of talent makes him look better than he is.

The goal he scored, for example, was pure class: dribbling through defenders he hit a stunning 35 yard shot that blazed over the keeper, dipped and found the back of the net. It looked easy.

Too easy.

The Real Salt Lake (Royal Salt Lake? huh?) keeper was way off his line and is a very small man (my size!) and I have to think that any ordinary EPL keeper would have easily claimed that ball.

Still, credit to Montero who recognized the vulnerability and took advantage of it. That’s what truly talented players do. Honestly I could see him playing in the EPL, he’s that good. He wouldn’t tear the league up, but I think he’d make the grade.

The Bad

The first 20 minutes were the ugliest football I have ever seen and I play pickup football on Sunday mornings with 16 guys who are either mortally wounded or are past their prime.

It was so ugly because every player on the field was terrified to hold the ball. The keeper would play a long ball and for the next 30 seconds the ball would be headed, volleyed, swiped, kicked, punted, and bobbled until it found its way either out of bounds or back to the keeper at which point this whole process would start all over.

After the first 20 minutes though, Seattle settled and there was some nice play: I think there was a point where they actually strung together three consecutive passes!

Let me give you another example: the fist goal came off a “cross” by Steve Zakuani (former Arsenal academy member). Zakuani plays on the left wing but is the single most right-footed player I have ever seen.  His “cross” came when he dribbled, sort of, past the pathetic Real defense, and with the outside of his right foot, flicked in a ball which found the shin guard of the Sounders huge striker. Every single cross from this player (who plays on the left, did I mention that?) came in off his right foot — no wonder he didn’t make the grade at Arsenal.

And poor Freddie Ljungberg… not only does he have to suffer the indignity of Kevin Calabro mangling his last name, but I don’t think he got a single pass from his teammates in the entire 30 minutes he played. Of course, it’s not like it would have mattered, he’s a shell of his former self. I still want to see him play but it’s sad to see Freddie lumbering around the pitch, ignored by his teammates, and complaining constantly about not getting the ball.It reminds me of Thierry Henry’s last season at Arsenal — minus the service, talent, and any sort of speed.

The Ugly

Remember when I predicted that the plastic pitch would suck ass and that there would be gridiron football lines? Well, it does and there are. They’ve found a way to sort of cover up the gridiron lines but on my broadcast they were clearly visible and quite annoying. The reality is that Qwest field is there to support the multi-million dollar Seattle Seahawks organization. The only way to get rid of the gridiron lines (and the even more distracting sideline area) is to bring in a dedicated football pitch. Since the stadium isn’t designed to have a real field, despite living in the world’s best place to grow grass, this is what you get.

And then there’s the crowd. A very enthusiastic Seattle crowd of some 28,000 showed up to cheer on the hometown kids, which is awesome.  My only problem is that the owners have decided to allow the fans to bring in those huge plastic horns. This means that for 90 minutes there’s a nerve wracking droning sound coming from the stands. After about 20 minutes, I actually just turned the sound off. Which is shame because they have Kevin Calabro doing the play-by-play and for those who don’t know, Calabro was the voice of the now defunct Seattle Supersonics and a local commentating icon.

Of course, I fast forwarded through 3/4 of the match anyway. So, I guess the annoying noisemakers are the least of their problems.

Conclusions

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of stick for this post which, actually, I invite. It’s good to see Seattle supporters so passionate about football. They’ll need that passion to keep soccer alive in America because it’s going to be a long time before the Lebron James’ of America play soccer, rather than football, baseball, basketball or hockey.

As many of you who have talked to me over a beer already know, I think the MLS has a lot of work to do to win over Americans. But I think just a few simple things can put them on the right track.

  1. Grass fields dedicated to soccer. I know Seattle is planning on a dedicated stadium and they deserve props for that but the league should ban plastic pitches. This isn’t Moscow and there’s absolutely no reason to play on plastic with gridiron football lines.
  2. Ban noisemakers. Drunks blowing horns != fun atmosphere. Fans singing original songs about their players and their history is fun and unique to Soccer. It would be a great marketing angle to ban those noisemakers and encourage the supporters to sing along to local songs.
  3. Spend wisely on foreign talent. Put three mid-level EPL players on any team in this league and you will hoover up trophies for years. Moreover, buy mid-level European coaching talent and start developing academies and you will be an unstoppable force in perpetuity. The Arsenal model is very instructive here, this budding league can’t afford to go out and buy a bunch of Beckham’s. Rather, they are going to have to develop talent and that means a world class academy system. I think Seattle is uniquely positioned to do this: we have a long, proud tradition of loving soccer in the Pacific Northwest. But you have to get started right away, developing talent takes a long, long time. Jack Wilshere joined the Arsenal academy when he was 9 years old and now that he’s 16 still can’t get a consistent run in the first team. That’s seven years and counting, in case you’re bad at math.

To put it simply — Freddie will get me to go to one game, but a great team with a tremendous atmosphere and a bunch of world class talent developed from a great academy who challenge for trophies will get me to buy season tickets. I’m hopeful that the Sounders will choose the latter approach but it would be almost un-American: we are, after all, the land of the quick buck.

Right, that’s it for today, I’m off to run around in tights like a barbarian with a bunch of washed up gimps. See you later, and feel free to flame me below.

28
Mar
09

Rosicky reveals his injury and I watch Arshavin NOT get injured (knock on wood)

I did WHAT???
For my one non-American reader, this is a reminder to set your clocks to America time* tonight. For my American readers, this means that 3pm kickoffs in London now revert back to 7am kickoffs here in America. YAY.

For the rest of you, there is an Arsenal story today. It’s about Thomas Rosicky and his horrible injury. I guess he’s completely healed from the surgery to repair the damage from tearing some ligament completely off his knee. I’ve predicted many times that he will never play for Arsenal again and I would gladly be wrong.

He doesn’t just score goals, he scores amazing goals and Arsenal have missed that creativity at times this season. Here’s a video of what Arsenal have been missing with Thomas out:

But more than just great goals, I especially like that he’s talking about his passion for the game and how he’s burning to play again. Again, that’s a quality that the Arsenal have been lacking at times this season (Adebayor, we’re all looking at you) so getting him back full of piss and vinegar would be incredible important. Just having him push the kids in training would be important enough, but if he cracks back into the starting lineup and shows that passion on the pitch, that would be amazing.

Anyway, Gods speed goal-scoring-elf we need our #7 back.

Right, that’s it, I’m off to watch Arshavin destroy some little country and pray that he doesn’t get hurt.

*This is a joke, please don’t get your knickers in a twist over this and start talking about what a wanker I am for being an American. I’d be a wanker if I had been born in England too.

27
Mar
09

FIFA Feels Left Out of “Boot in Mouth” Week

A hoof, a shoe, and a leg... Things that Sepp Blatter puts in his mouth

I love it when Sepp Blatter gives interviews because every time he opens his mouth he proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he is a complete twat. This week (so far, he could still have a few things up his sleeves!) he made the shocking observation that football teams in England try to make money.

Whoa there Sepp, are you sure? I mean, either English teams are in debt up to their eyeballs and on the verge of collapse like you said last month or they are trying to make money by bringing in foreign talent and kicking English talent to the curb.You can’t have both!

Which is it? Actually, I don’t think he knows which of the two options are the right one and he’s just flailing around looking for anything to criticize England for because he’s a xenophobe and probably in the pocket of the Spanish and Italian giants of world football. You know, the clubs who supposedly eschew profits for the sake of playing beautiful football with 27 home grown players under rainbows and alongside unicorns.

Either that or this is yet another criticism that’s directed at Arsenal and only Arsenal. In his little quote he mentions two things that make me think this is him taking a swipe just at Arsenal: profitability and having only “one or two English players.” In my opinion, Sepp Blatter has an unhealthy obsessession with Arsenal. To the point where I have to wonder if he isn’t suffering from Neurosyphillis. All over the continent, racist fans and thugs are running wild and all King Sepp of Syphillis can focus on is how many Englishmen are in Arsenal’s first team. It’s really is bizarre behaviour and unbecoming of a man in his position.

Saying that the clubs in England are in it for the profits is pretty much the weakest argument I’ve ever seen from Blatter — and he’s had some real doozy’s. No, this is typical stuff from Blatter, he’s just thrashing around looking for some reason to hate on Arsenal football. You know it’s obvious when Richard Scudamore calls him out.

The only other story today that’s crazier than Sepp Blatter’s insane proclamation is the story that AC Milan is going to bid £35m for Adebayor. It might as well be £135m for all the likelihood that Arsenal will command that type of fee for the Togonator.

£35m would be an insane fee for any player in this economic climate, but £35m for Adebayor at a time when speculation is rampant that the Rossoneri are going to be cutting salaries 30% is, well, that’s Sepp Blatter insane.

Not to mention that in his current form I couldn’t see a team (except Tottenham) paying £16m for the player, much less a record transfer fee like £35m. And if you throw in the £15m for Clichy, that bring’s AC Milan’s total Arsenal haul to £50m! £50m, at a time when they are making cuts? I don’t understand how these fake stories get made up much less printed by “respectable” newspapers.

Anyway, £50m is a fun number to dream about. You know what Wenger could do with £50m? He could totally pay off some of the debt for the Highbury redevelopment scheme and still have some money left over for a couple of 16 year olds named Emmanuel!

That’s what.

See you lot tomorrow, when Sepp Blatter announces that English teams have too many Alsacian coaches and it’s effecting the English National team’s chances of qualifying for the World Cup.

26
Mar
09

UEFA Insane Proclaimation #1 Welcomes us to International Week

Big Platini is Watching You

For those of you who follow my Google Reader shares (link there on the left to my page and an RSS Feed on the right of the blog) you’ll already know that we’ve got a lot of stupidity to get through today. But before we get to the stupidity, I just want to say that if you want to follow my shares on Google Reader you can either subscribe to the RSS feed or if you’re already a Google Reader and want to be friends (so we can comment together) you’ll need to send me an email (bostelle | gmail) and then we’ll need to chat. Stupid I know, but once we’re sharing together it’s actually a lot of fun and for my money more relevant than getting “I’M POOOPIN” updates off twitter.

Ok, where did I put the stupidity???

Oh yeah here it is: one of the main things I despise about the international break(s) is the sheer number of times Arsenal players are shipped off to play against some micro-country and come back in pieces. These weeks ahead hold great promise for us to suffer horrible, season ending injuries to players who are currently being held together with duct tape. No player exemplifies this worry more than Emmanuel Adebayor.

Today, the Togo manager is promising to use Ade, despite the fact that he hasn’t played since he suffered a hammy tear in February. Now, I know a lot of you will straight dismiss this story because you feel like “we don’t need Ade” but you’d be 100% wrong. We need every player on this Arsenal team in order to win a trophy and we especially need Adebayor in the Champions League where his size and speed pose problems for European squads and he always seems to step up his game (3 goals and 2 assists in just 3 CL appearances this season). Like it or not, we need Adebayor 100% healthy and not pulling a hammy for Togo.

Similarly, Eduardo’s Croatian manager is saying the Dudu is “perfect” and “showing no sign of injury” which indicates to me that he’s going to play the living crap out of him over this next week and a half.

Yeah, he’s perfectly healthy if you don’t count the fact that he’s been in and out of the Arsenal lineup with niggling little injuries picked up every time he plays because he was sidelined for a year. While I share his enthusiasm for having Dudu back, I’d rather see Eduardo used sparingly over this international break so that he could be available to win something for the club which pays his salary.

And then, of course, there’s Andrei Arshavin. Who’s agent described him as “60% fit” which I would also describe him as.. erm… fit as. Given that level of fitness, every Arsenal supporter is holding their breath hoping that Chelsea/Russia coach Guus Hiddink uses Arshavin in a responsible manner and that he is returned to us safe and healthy for the run in.

Of course, not everyone is off on international doodie and that makes them very sad. Sad enough to contemplate getting a passport for a country they weren’t born in and praying for a call up. You know, I think Alumina should get the English passport. Not so that he can get an England call up (which he might, given that he’s probably the best “English” keeper in the world right now) but so that he could count in Arsenal’s 6+5 scheme. Just in case that xenophobic, protectionist, and racist idea is passed. Think about it, we’d get to say “Hey now, Arsenal have TWO English players in their first team, the same number as Uber English Liverpool.” That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

But the big story, the one we’ve all been waiting for, is “what insane ideas will come out of UEFA/FIFA during the international break?” And, of course, they don’t let us down do they?

This month we have “Let’s do an American style salary cap based on, of all things, BASEBALL, despite the fact that it would be impossible to manage and ignoring the fact that baseball’s salary cap is the laughing stock of world sport.” Luxury tax… yeah, that hasn’t stopped New York and Boston from having payrolls that are the shame of the world.

But let’s think about this for a second. Either a club would have to adhere to the salary cap (LOL) OR a club’s supporters would be attending games at great personal expense and at least a portion of that expense would be going to some club like, say, Blackburn.

This idea is so mind-numbingly stupid and untenable that the only conceivable reason why they would announce it is because they need to make it look like they are doing something. So, they travel to America, talk to a few people, pick a plan that could never possibly work, come back, and wait until international week to announce that they are looking into implementing it.

Frankly, this plan has as much chance of happening as the 6+5 rule, or me giving a shiat if Amaury Bischoff leaves for one of the, literally, hundreds of clubs who want to buy him. Which is to say, 0%.

Hey, at least with this proclamation out of the way we can officially say that the International Break has well and truly started. Because it’s not an international break without a retarded idea coming out of FIFA/UEFA.

25
Mar
09

AC Milan in Clichy Swoop and Other Nonsense

During the international break, these blogs are a true test of a blogger’s endurance: I have to like, literally, just crank something out. So, if you’re looking for something special, that undiscovered bottle of Gigondas in the back of the pantry, chances are it’s not going to happen. Take yesterday’s column. That wasn’t fit for me to wipe my own ass with! But I had to publish something and once I got like an hour into it I just went forward. Reminds me of when I was in grad school and I turned in a 10 page paper that I had written in like 3 hours and I got a 3.6 in the class despite the fact that the professor put “not your best work, 3.6” on my final. Not my best work gets a 3.6??? Wow.

In a sense it’s good because part of the process of writing, any art,  is to just keep doing something: keep shooting photos, keep writing, keep painting whatever just keep doing.

That’s what you get today, some of my “do.”

Hm… So, is Steven Gerrard the best player in the world and how exactly would you fellate him if you had a chance? The Times wants to know.

If you go all the way back to the beginning of the season, I picked Liverpool to win the league because, I reasoned, they had the best defense in the EPL and they had added a good goal scorer to the mix in Robbie Keane. Typically, I was wrong about the reason (Robbie Keane didn’t help them in that area) but correct about the diagnosis (they needed more goals) and now that they are scoring more goals, they look a legit title contender again despite the fact that they sold Keane.

Also, I was a bit biased because frankly I don’t care how good a team that Man Unit put out, I’d rather anyone but them win the league. Ok, anyone but them and one of Sam Allardyce’s current/former pack of cunts.

That said, I’m pretty tired of all the news stories fellating Gerrard. Yes, he’s a good player. Yes, he’s won loads of trophies. Yes, he’s crucial to Liverpool’s success. But the best player in the world has been decided and it is Ronaldo (skinny Ronaldo, not fat Ronaldo.)

I can’t stand Ronaldo and I think he disappears in big games, Eboue shuts him down for f*ck’s sake, but he is a huge talent who’s trophy cabinet is already filled with more medals than Gerrard (6 to 5) and he is 5 years younger. There’s a reason Ronaldo won so many individual accolades this year, he’s that good.

Gerrard is objectively not as good, but he does have the one thing that Ronaldo doesn’t, an English passport, and for the British press at the height of International week, that’s all that matters.

What else is going on? Oh yeah, as promised, here’s a story about Gael Clichy going to AC Milan. It’s in French so let me translate:

Blah blah blah 2o million euros blah blah blah escargot blah blah blah Phillipe Senderos and Mathieu Flamini (ouch) blah blah blah “I am not aware,” says Clichy. “I’m very well at Arsenal.” Blah blah blah “But it is true that AC Milan is a great big club and it is gratifying to know that you are followed by such a team.”

Hey, for £20m+ I would totally take the money and run. Finding another wing-back who can’t put in a decent cross can’t be that hard, can it?

Well, there’s your do, enjoy, I’ll be back tomorrow with even more do, do tune in.




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