The Worm Turned

What seems like a lifetime ago, I used to play a lot of pinochle and cribbage with my friends. Inevitably, when one of us would really get on top of the other and our luck was either at its height or its lowest ebb one of us would blurt out “the worm is going to turn.”

When the worm turns and your lucky cards start to run out, it’s one of the worst feelings ever. Here you are at the top of the world, holding good cards and dominating the game and then suddenly you get one shit hand, then another, and your opponent is grinning, and rubbing his hands together like an evil villain (did anyone see Beckham doing this?) and before you know it you’ve been skunked and your opponent is laughing and dancing.

Basically the worm turned yesterday. In the first leg, Arsenal were widely seen as lucky to escape 1-0 and so it should surprise no one that 8 minutes in to the second leg the worm turned, Gibbs slipped, Ji Sun Park luckily chipped over Almunia and Arsenal, just like my card player, hung their heads and knew that the tie was over.

I’m not going to sit here and give you a match recap, because Gunnerblog, who was actually there has done it better than I ever could. I’m not going to rip the team, because I really still don’t know what to think. And I’m certainly not going to rip the manager, I’m not anywhere near the level of football knowledge that Arsene Wenger possesses and have enough humility to know better than to question his choices this season.

I will, however, disagree with the people who say we need to go out and wholesale buy a bunch of players, people like Adebayor.  I disagree with them because it wasn’t Djourou or Gibbs or Song who cost Arsenal that game yesterday — they played their hearts out. Just look at Djourou tracking all the way back on that last Ronaldo goal: Cesc had given up on that play. Look at who stupidly fouled Ronaldo for the free kick that gave them the second goal, that was van Persie.  Arguably, Arsenal’s top two players were at fault for two goals, so for me, when we talk about bringing in “top class” players I wonder who we think we’re going to replace?

Song? No. He was top class yesterday.

Gibbs? You can go straight to hell. That 19 year old showed more class and talent over those two legs than any player I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. I bet the boss plays him against Chelsea on Sunday.

Nasri? Walcott? Toure? Djourou? Almunia? I mean come on… this is a very talented team! Can you imagine what we’ll look like next year when we play with Walcott, Nasri, and Arshavin swarming up front, Cesc and Song providing the spine, and Sagna, Toure, Djourou, and Clichy at the back?

No, rather than blow this team apart, Arsene’s big goal now has to be keeping this team together. Arsenal are never going to spend £65m on a Frank Ribery, they just don’t have the money. No one really does, Man U have mountains of debt, Chelsea owe their owner nearly a billion dollars, and worst of all Liverpool are facing a financial crisis when the banks call in their loans at the end of this season. There are only so many sheiks to go around and bail these teams out and the odds are pretty good that at least one of the top four clubs would be allowed to go bankrupt if they all went down simultaneously.

No, Wenger needs to keep the core of this team together, if he cuts some folks free (and I think he will) he’ll need to replace them with top talent at a good price. I have complete faith in Wenger’s ability to do so: he bought Arshavin and he bought Eduardo both at cut rate prices.

The point is that the core of this team is solid, the backups are solid, and with a few exceptions we have a deep team that was absolutely decimated by injury this season. It’s unrealistic to say that Arsenal needed more depth at Center back; how many world class defenders are going to be happy sitting on the bench waiting for their opportunity to get a game through dead man’s boots?

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough about this. I’m going to be doing my annual recap of the top performers this year and there will be plenty of opportunity for us all to argue and yell at each other and say “you’re not a real Arsenal supporter!” in those posts.

For now, what I want to say is simply that I do believe in the core of this team, despite what the pundits have to say, despite what Adebayor thinks, and despite what some supporters think. It’s been a very good season, I think a lot of players have grown immeasurably and I think that we will continue to see these players mature. Trophies aren’t our birthright but I really do feel like they are forthcoming, just hang in there and enjoy the football along the way.


34 Responses to “The Worm Turned”

  1. 1 Jet Pinoy Gooner
    May 6, 2009 at 9:52 am

    Great Blog Tim! I totally agree with you and I am sure that the trophies will come. I still have faith in this team. I have enjoyed this season with all the white knuckle twist and mad results in the table. I am proud to be an Arsenal Fan!

  2. 2 Travis The Septopus
    May 6, 2009 at 9:54 am

    If RVP wanted to be a champion he should shut up and play like a champion. Fact of the matter is that any team willing to take him if he wants out is not going to the UCL semis. He wont go to Barca, Chelsea or Man U. If he wants a trophy so badly he can join he can join the dutch champion AZ Altmar, or Twente

  3. 3 Travis The Septopus
    May 6, 2009 at 10:01 am

    By the way Gibbs did play his heart out but had a very unlucky slip, the real danger came from giving Ronaldo so much space. He had all day to get the cross off its like nobody was tracking him because nobody was. I had flashbacks of Senna

  4. 4 caribkid
    May 6, 2009 at 10:04 am

    Agreed in most part Tim.

    However, 4 things need to happen before we can move to the next stage of development.

    1) Retain the current core of players and bring in his new players early so they will be able to participate in our pre-season.

    2) Arsene must create an identity for this team. Base formations with specific players filling particular slots, complementary pairings and team structure.

    3) Bring in a few players who are experienced, still in their prime, versatile and who can provide leadership roles. Currently, we are adrift like a ship without a Captain.

    4) Review and implement new training regiments which will mitigate non-contact injuries and upgrade medical diagnostics technology.

  5. 5 caribkid
    May 6, 2009 at 10:08 am

    BTW, Gibbs “SLIPPAGE” has been just one of many committed by Arsenal players this year at the Emirates, Toure, Djourou, Clichy (twice), Gallas, Denilson which has resulted in scores.

    Could this be a problem with the width and length of spikes on our very slick field which is watered down pre-match to facilitate passing? Something worth looking at.

  6. 6 John
    May 6, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Arsene needs to appoint a defensive coach to teach us to defend again. Perhaps, one Tony Adams might be interested?

  7. 7 george rodger
    May 6, 2009 at 10:29 am

    the most sence if seen all day all year in fact

  8. 8 Tim
    May 6, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Solid suggestions Caribkid, and stuff most people won’t talk about.

  9. May 6, 2009 at 11:11 am

    howcan we enjoy the football along the way while our enemies r laughing at us? we need 2 get rid of players like adebayor who don;t have faith in th club and d manager and give players who do the chanc to prove themselves while at te same time bringing in some established players to help the young ones grow.

  10. 11 Matt
    May 6, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Great post, Tim, exactly what I needed today.

  11. 12 barnaby
    May 6, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Tough to take, but no complaints, the better side took the spoils. Credit to them they are one heck of a team, they came to our ground and turned it up. Still believe the youth project needs an overhaul and older heads brought in to keep the lads chins up when things don’t fall our way but we can’t really complain about this, no injustice.

  12. 13 Bongo
    May 6, 2009 at 11:21 am

    A lot of good points there but I do think Arsenal need a big change, a change of fans.

    I was sickened last night at the game, this was my first time at an actual match in the emirates and it’s a beautiful stadium. At the start the atmosphere was great but after the first goal everyone went silent, I have to admit so did I but after the second goal I stood up and started chanting and cheering my team at the top of my voice and waving my flag, there were others but in general most fans stayed quiet and there was big boos all over the place at half time and the end of the match.

    I even had people around me telling me sit down and shut up, I was threatened and had abuse hurled at me too by fucking supposed ‘Arsenal’ fans, well all I can say is fuck you all if that’s going to be the attitude of the fans then I want nothing to do with you, I support my team whether they win or lose and I will continue to sing and chant my support for the players no matter what the circumstances. We let our team down last night, when our players heads were down and their moral shot down the only thing that could have saved the game for us would have been the support of the fans in a loud voice. The reality was, that the team had to play against their own fans aswell as a great team in Utd. I’m ashamed to say I was a part of one of the most bitter, stupid groups of fans I’ve evr seen at a football match.

    I will never lose my love of Arsenal, but if you’re a fan don’t even look at me I have no respect for you.

  13. 14 viva los gooners
    May 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

    nice blog balanced and thoughtful, as usual. A few things come to mind from the match and from the vast amount of hot air circulating.

    Interesting comment from Caribkid re. watering pitches, crossed my mind a while back that this may be one of the causes of increased injury levels, pulled hamstrings and the like, not just with us either.

    As to buying in ‘new’ players. I don’t think any of us know what restrictions are imposed internally on ‘le boss’, and what moneys are realistically available. Yes he has a good record for picking umdiscovered nuggets, and bringing on talented youngsters, much of which is his own commendable policy. But I think there is a bigger picture, and creating a fantastic new stadium, a home fit for kings is part of that picture, along with the necessity to provide long term finanacial stability. Unlike others in the premiership!

    Mancs played well over both legs, and I get the feeling sometimes that our team and many others ‘freeze’, just because it is the Mancs. Again I ctiticise commentators who, in the majority are blatantly pro Mancs, and overlook, the persistent fouls that go unpunished. The team is physically strong agreed, but there seems to be a separate rulebook for the Mancs which permits charging and pushing in the back, charging players off the ball, and the liberal use of elbows. Ronaldo, ‘el horizontal’ so talented, but so much time on the floor, with any other team he would have been sanctioned for bringing the game in to disrepute.

    As for young Fletcher, full marks to the ref. despite the unfair cries from the biased majority. Which offence shall we send him off for, pulling back, attempted tackle from behind, dangerous foot-up, or clatttering Cesc’s legs?

    Ade, yes he could go, if he stays then committment level has to treble, looks like he is on something, is he drinking Horlicks, Ovaltine, Cocoa, or a cocktail of all three before a game.
    RvP hasn’t been the same since he did his foot either.

    Take heart, look at the youngsters comimg through, I don’t think there is any team in the world that can boast that depth and spread of talent, and don’t forget, the Ladies just go on winning everything.

    If we buy, who could buy who should we buy? If we want a player with experience, and a good deadball technician, he may be 30-31, but Riquelme at Boca Juniors is out of contract in June, so I understand.


  14. 15 nycgunner
    May 6, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I can’t say that its not Arsene’s fault. He has to shoulder some of the blame. If we won, we would have definitely given him credit so it has to work both ways. Can you honestly say that he didn’t f*** it up in the FA cup or the the first leg at OT? He insists on tinkering with the formations, playing players out of position, not strengthening the team and above all, not learning from his mistakes. I believe that had there not been so much pressure from the fans in jan, he wouldn’t have even bought arshavin. I dont question his youth policy but there has to be a limit to how many 19 year olds you put out there. I will never ask for him to step down but he definitely is partly responsible for yet another trophyless season.

    The same goes for some of the players as well. We praise them when we do well so its only fair that they take some of the blame when we dont. I will single out Ade because I feel he is one player who RARELY gives it 100%. He shows up when he wants to and lazes around for most of the time. A player like that is detrimental to the team even if he scores from a bicycle kick once in a while. I dont care how spectacular that might be. He needs to go.

    Overall – I think we need one quality striker, one quality defender and I hate to say this but one world class goalkeeper. I like Almunia and he can be very good on his day but his failure to focus on important games has cost us plenty of times. Also, we need to hold this midfield together. They were outclassed in many games but I think it’s mostly due to lack of playing time together. If these things dont happen, I will have no expectation for next year just like I didn’t for this year.

    Looking ahead to next year.

  15. 16 walter
    May 6, 2009 at 11:34 am

    good article Tim.

    Let them have a laugh now.

    There was fear in MU before the return en they had the lucky slip. I also suggested that the players need to get longer studs on the boots becouse it happened a few times this year. But that makes the danger greater of knee injures. And injuries we had enough.

    Don’t forget next year Arshavin will play these games and he will be tremendous as he has been since his arrival.

  16. 17 Jake
    May 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    good post, and am pleased to read something not driven by a dummy spit…
    completely agree with regards to the quality of the squad…and do not believe that a large some of money will improve anything other than depth…I personally am excited about next season, and expect us to push all the way…
    defensive coach may be a good idea, as it isnt the quality of the personal that is the problem…

  17. May 6, 2009 at 12:53 pm

    Is anyone watching the Chelsea/Barca game? Barca look like what I’d expect a fully experienced Arsenal to look like and yet Chelsea’s smash and grab style is winning.

    Oh and thanks to everyone for the compliments.

  18. 19 Hamza
    May 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    will agree with nycgunner yes arsene takes some of the blame if not all. yes some of our stars were more than off. fine this team has potential and talent but thats not the only thing needed in the team. we need flamini back or someone like him. or viera maybe diaby could live up to it. but something no one has never said before on this blog or at least tonight/today is that to be honest we dont have a good goal keeper. looking at the other top 3 they do have world class goal keepers. cech van der sar and reina. i have to say the 2nd goal was more almunia’s fault than ronaldo’s brilliance. moving on to my next point, someone said we were unlucky with the injuries, in reply to that i just wanna say if you dont have so many 19 year olds in the team we wont have this many injuries. they dont have experience to b running in n out twice a week for an entire year. so yes the youth policy i would say is the reason for so many injuries. and lastly we do still a centre back. a proper john terry or vidic type centre back. actually while we’re at it we should get rid of adebayor bendtner for sure after his pants down partying last night rosicky. its been a long long time since our last trophy. we should just buy one now.

  19. 20 Matt
    May 6, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Suck it Chelsea. Suck it.

  20. 21 vieirasboots
    May 6, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    In the sea of knee jerk crap I’ve read today thank god for this blog – sanity prevails – buy buy buy scream the know nothings buy like liverpool? Or like Chelsea who now have to pick themselves up to beat a hungry Everton. Keeping the bulk of this team is progression I watched a multi million pound Chelsea perform like Bolton after a 300 m makeover tonight Liverpool have won nothing.Spurs spend consistently more than us would these fans clambering to sack Wenger or ask him to spend big ( darren bent 16m) rather finish as Spurs have?

    Gooner 4 life

  21. May 6, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    I now have two teams to root for in the finals!

    And Arsenal can do a job on United and ensure Liverpool for the title!



  22. May 6, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    Hamza, sorry but Arsenal don’t have the money to buy a trophy, we’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way: EARN IT.

  23. 24 Leo Ayi
    May 6, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    I support you and I am happy with your write-ups. You are a true Arsenal Fan and so am I.

    I will like Wenger to replace the stiker (Adebayo), get us another young and talented young strike that can do the finishing. Adebayo who is a striker love playing himself from the wing as if he is a winger which he does not have the pace to run a defender. So I will love Wenger to sell him off and get us another young talented striker that can do the damage. I believe in Wenger, That man his a coach. How I wish I can have the opportunity to train with the Arsenal Team.

    Leo from Nigeria

  24. 25 WC
    May 6, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Time for my token response on 7am. Wenger and the team are both at fault to be honest. I’m not calling for Wenger’s head because I just chewed out about 50 people on another blog who haplessly listed a bunch of second rate managers they think should replace Arsene. No one can do what Wenger has done with the club he’s had. The very few managers more coveted and successful than Wenger typically inherited an already extraordinary team or can write cheques till their hands cramp from all the zeroes they put for transfer fees. However Wenger needs to be more like Fergie in that he needs to let a little of his romantic side go and find a cold calculated persona. Who can ever forget Fergie’s man on man battles with Keane, Van Nistelrooy or Becks? You don’t perform then you either sit your butt on the bench or he’ll sell your ass to a Siberian club. Name didn’t matter, superstar power didn’t matter. Fergie kicked ass when he needed to and it just makes Man Utd a more motivated and driven team of characters. When Ade isn’t doing squat, Wenger protects him instead of gives him a couple of good whuppins to get his act together. The youth policy has led to rather spoiled players – they’re superstars far too early, don’t know how to deal with it and then make a list of demands when they’ve achieveed nothing. Unfortunately Wenger has built monsters, well some of them anyways, who have no sense of passion or loyalty in the face of adversity. When things don’t go their way they give up, cause a tantrum and get away with it. The players themselves are kids and act accordingly because really when Wenger does everything he can for them, they don’t perform on some nights and then complain. Arshavin has been the most model player I’ve seen in a long time who goes out there and plays the game for the love of it no matter what. We need more Arshavins – Cesc is not kicking ass on the field. He droops his head and disappears from the game. Where’s the Vieira shouting orders to his team and throwing himself into tackles even when they’re down 5-0? I’ll be honest in saying Arshavin is probably the best suited for the armband right now and making Cesc captain was a stunt to keep his mind from thoughts of Barca. I always recall that magical 5-4 game against Spuds at WHL way back in ’04 when we were down 3-1 and came back to win 5-4. All 11 men on the field that day wanted to win but only few nowadays care to do so unless they’ve already blow the opponent out. We need fighters and leaders. I watched the Chelsea/Barca game and saw Drogba way back defending – when has Ade done that? Rooney works his socks off for Fergie to win the ball but we have players who wander the field waiting for the ball instead of going to get it themselves. We have good players but not enough characters – as a team we’re close to contending again but Wenger needs to find 2-3 very special players to drive the team.

  25. 26 Marko
    May 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve been visiting this blog for a while now, and I have to say I enjoy reading it, most of the blogs contain only rough stats or misconceived opinions, and some of them plain suck. This one has heart and soul written all over it.
    I sincerely hope I’ll have the opportunity of reading your posts for long time to come, Tim.
    So, that much for foreplay:)

    While I agree with some of what is written, given that the fears that everyone had at the beginning about Wenger not buying the suggested reinforcements, the “Wenger knows” mantra sung again blindly from the Arashavin Turnaround Moment until our FA&CL collapse, one thing keeps coming to my mind when reading the part where you say: “how many world class defenders are going to be happy sitting on the bench waiting for their opportunity to get a game through dead man’s boots?”.

    I can’t get that picture out of my head even with a sledgehammer: There is the half-empty Arsenal bench, with Mikele the Head, Denilson, Le Diaby and Fabianski (although Bendtner&Vela were warming up, I’ll give you that), and then the camera cuts to the Manure bench, where we see 758 billion pounds worth of substitutes, from Tevez and Berba, to Giggs, Scholes and Nani.
    So, if they can do it, why can’t we have more than 11 stars in the team?

  26. 27 caribkid
    May 6, 2009 at 4:36 pm


    Well said, Chad Evans, Gary Neville and the forgotten and oft injured Wes Brown was also on the bench. That said, it’s all about the “TEAM”.

  27. 28 caribkid
    May 6, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    @ WC

    Agreed, but if Wenger can’t see the error of his ways and adjust to the current situation, then he is more of a liability than an asset.

    This summer will decide his legacy.

    If he can’t adjust, then he will always be remembered for what he started, but could not finish. That will define his legacy in parallel to Fergie.

  28. 29 Run
    May 6, 2009 at 7:09 pm

    The problem is just that: our two best players were at fault yesterday. Our best players aren’t good enough.

  29. 30 Walter
    May 6, 2009 at 11:11 pm

    Everybode yelling Wenger should spent money should look at Chelsea. Big spenders for years and they also didn’t win the CL this year and the years before.
    They have spent 10 times more than AW and still its not enough.

    With all the experience they got Chelsea doesn’t play the final.
    Sack Hiddink now then ?
    That’s just football, that’s just life.

  30. 31 Gooner
    May 7, 2009 at 2:52 am

    Agree with Walter

    Sack Wenger, Hiddink and Benitez. None of them have won anything in the last two years – they must be shit managers, no?

    When Wenger’s yourh policy succeeds – and it has been a long time and may yet be a while, he wil cement his place as a greater manager than Fergie, simply because he did something that no one had done in the EPL before him. A CL title would also help

  31. 32 Hamza
    May 7, 2009 at 5:14 am

    why cant we look at man u. they spent or not they are winning everything there is in the world. they had a blip when they didnt win any thing for 2 3 odd years. but they came out with quite a bang and they are at top now. why are we only looking at chelsea and spurs and staying satisfied with it. i admire wenger a lot and he is one of the best managers in the world. yes when we look around there is no one who can replace him right now. but that doesnt mean he doesnt do any thing to improve this team and win any thing. and i truly believe that he should either get a world class goal keeper or a world class centre back. because the mix we have right now of the 3 ppl (2 centre back and goalie) defending the goal is not good enough collectively. and someone TALL would be good for a change.

  32. 33 nycgunner
    May 7, 2009 at 6:11 am

    to all my fellow gunners who think that we dont need to buy any players – ask yourself this: where would we be this year in the league if we didn’t buy arshavin in jan? he has either scored/ assisted in every league game since he’s joined us. that’s the kind of difference one good player makes. i dont understand these comparisons to chelsea or the spuds. i dont think anyone is saying we splurge like them – but we do need to bring in a couple of quality players who are the finished article. sell ade if you need to. we can probably get two quality players for the money we will get for him.

    also, i dont think we should be scrapping the youth policy. indeed its this policy that has given us cesc, theo, gibbs… but we can not be a club that relies solely on youth policy. are we to become the next ajax then? the inherent problem with relying solely on youth is that you run a high risk of becoming a selling club. we are dangerously close to being that right now. will we be able to hang on to rvp or cesc if we have one more trophyless year? worse yet – will arshavin be able to say no if roman comes knocking at his door?

    history has shown us over and over again that the best teams are the ones that can mix up youth and experience. yes our young team will gain experience with time but how much longer are we going to wait? how much longer do you think the players will wait? they already have egos that are bigger than their houses. i feel that next year is going to be a make or break year for us – and i, for one, would like us to buy a couple of finished articles to help us along. peace to you all.

  33. May 7, 2009 at 6:51 am


    Am a fellow blogger and i’d like us to be cross-blogging on arsenal issues? ma blog address is there. Whatcha think?

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