Archive for May, 2009



26
May
09

Gooner of the Year #4; Samir Nasri

Nasri picks his post

He started the season in the best fashion possible: he scored a goal in his very first game. It wasn’t a spectacular goal, not the kind he scored against Man U, but it was a goal and a goal in his debut. And given the fact that he was brought in to replace the Catalonian Dreaming Hleb who, in fact, never even took a shot at goal in the three years that he was at Arsenal (all 10 of Hleb’s goals were actually missed passes or deflections*) a goal in his debut was about as good a haul as any could hope for.

He followed that debut goal with a goal in the Champions League against minnows FC Twente, then one against Everton, and just as Arsenal supporters were starting to wonder if he could keep up the goal scoring pace, he scored a brace against Man U. It was a moment of majesty and led many to early speculation that Nasri would be player of the year, that he was the next Pires, and so on.

The first goal was a speculative shot, for sure, but the second was a goal of pure beauty. Watch it again here, it could be Arsenal goal of the season.

Unfortunately, that brace would be the moment of the season for Samir as after that his form slipped a bit. It could have been the demands of the Premier League, the fact that he was required to play more defense than at Marseilles, defenders figuring out his moves, or some left over effects of his battle with meningitis, it was clear that his form had dropped off a bit at the end of the season.

Still, he managed 43 appearances in all competitions all the while putting in wherever the boss asked — defensive midfield, attacking midfield, off the striker, on the left, on the right, floating… hell, let’s try him at right back! And jaded or not, 43 appearances will just make him stronger next year, and bodes well for his strength and stamina.

Personally, my second favorite moment of the season was when Arsenal hosted Coca Cola side Newcastle. The game was over with Arsenal sitting at 3-0 when Newcastle brought in recently paroled Joey Barton, who’s very first action was a two footed tackle on Samir Nasri. This attempt to end the Frenchman’s career was greeted with jeers by the crowd but Nasri just shook off the challenge, got up, waited until Barton was running away from him, and kicked him in the Achilles. Cheap shot, sure, but a cheap shot well deserved.

Nasri bedded in well in his first season and is certainly one for the future.

Anfield ’89, Anfield ’09

You can tell by the blitz of articles coming out of the dot com that the end of this season was always going to have a huge media campaign reminiscing over that magic moment back in the eighties.  There are all kinds of videos and interviews and remembrances from all kinds of participants (fans to refs) and if you haven’t gotten your fill of Anfield ’89 then by all means, go and indulge in the past.

However, if you’re looking forward to the future, you might want to skip that and go on over to Setanta (or your favorite ‘feed’) and watch the second leg of the FA Youth Cup. Gunnerblog has a companion piece about the night, you should read it.

Diego off Arsenal’s list

At £22m I doubt Diego was ever going to be an Arsenal player, but that didn’t stop the press speculation last season. Anyway, he’s now a Juve player and goes the way of Ricardo Quaresma as yet another player that Arsenal supporters begged Wenger to buy who went somewhere else to fail miserably.

For me, the important thing about this story is that Diego represents the first big signing of silly season. It’s on now.

Oh, and you can start speculating about which Newcastle player Arsenal will not sign, they are having a fire sale. I think Obafemi Martins will be linked non-stop until he signs for Manchester City, and I think Arsenal supporters will be begging for Bassong non-stop until he signs for some place in France.

See you all tomorrow!

*not true

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25
May
09

Gooner of the Year #5; Bacary Sagna

Heaven, I'm in Heaven, And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak; And I seem to find the happiness I seek; When we're out together dancing, cheek to cheek.

The polls are closed, you all have had your say, and you have voted for Bacary Sagna in 5th place of the 2008/2009 Gooners of the Year.

I’ll admit that I’m a bit surprised. I fully expected to get up and write a totally different article but there was a push late yesterday and Sagna came in 5th. I’ll also be honest and admit that I didn’t vote for Sagna, because, well, because I overlooked him.

I guess it’s easy to overlook the guy on the edge of the park, who puts in a solid performance, week in and week out. The flashiest thing about him is his beaded hair, but that’s ok, because all teams need solidity more than flash and Sagna plays that part.

The story is familiar: Wenger picked Sagna up after an injury plagued season at Auxerre for a mere £6m, then displaced Eboue who was our starting right back and plopped Sagna right into the fire of the Premier League. Sagna quickly made the spot his own and put in a solid year — leaving many wondering what role Eboue should play.

Now, in his second season he played in 47 games in all competitions, second only to Denilson for the Iron Man award and as many of you mentioned, I just can’t remember him making a single mistake. That’s really unusual for a defender. Defenders slip up, and when they do it’s usually glaringly obvious. I only saw a couple of Man U games and I can tell you which of their defenders made mistakes in those games but for some reason I just can’t think of any mistakes that Sagna made. Surely he put a foot wrong somewhere!

Though they get accolades for scoring goals or putting in assists, defenders earn their keep through solid play and if there was any single player who won the moniker of “solid” this season it was Bacary Sagna. Congrats son!

Sing us a song, Mr. Brown.

Phil Brown’s Hull City escaped relegation by dint of being the 4th worst team in the Premier League. On the day, all any of these horrible teams needed to do was secure a draw and they could ensure Premier League play for another season and they were all so universally piss-poor that they couldn’t even do that. But incredibly, it was Hull City who showed how classy their club truly is by first storming the pitch and then having Mr. Brown take the microphone and lead the club in a song.  Get out the Champagne! You just finished 17th! By losing!

I can’t wait to face this pack of liars next year, I might even get tickets to the home game.

In a sense, it was the perfect result for me: I got to watch Hull lose and yet stay in the Premier League, so they could be beaten by Arsenal up to 4 times next year. I got to see Newcastle relegated, which, while I feel for their supporters, was no less than the team deserved given the squad they built.

Oh and Arsenal won 4-1 over Stoke.

Not bad.

Theo to play for England, the U-21s, the U-19s, and any other squad that needs a win.

Arsene Wenger is not a happy man. It looks like Theo Walcott could be chosen to play for both the England senior squad in the early summer qualifications and then in the U-21 squad in the late summer U-21 tournament.

I’ve made no secret of how I feel about the Internationals, but let me be clear about the U-21s: there is no reason for a player to play in both the England and the England U-21 team. First, that U-21 team is so pointless that the matches might as well be held behind closed doors — with friends of the players and scouts the only people who bother attending. Second, Theo has already been injured by England this season and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him pick up a knock in one or both tournaments. And finally, I realize that he’s 20 years old and thinks he can play in every game but he cannot and getting Theo back into this Arsenal team 100% healthy and ready to go at the start of the season should be a priority for both the England team and for Arsenal.

Of course, we know that the International managers couldn’t give two-fucks about club play, they’ve demonstrated that time and again.

Right, that’s it for today, I hope to see you back here tomorrow for GoY #4.

24
May
09

Stoke me a Clipper

And so it is that we come to the last day of the season and find ourselves hosting the club that most embodies all that went wrong with Arsenal this year.

It was a fiery match with Stoke, who will finish the season as the dirtiest team in the league, accused by Arsene Wenger of kicking Arsenal off the pitch. Which they certainly did, but it was set plays and not kicks that won that encounter. Rory Delap was in such fine form on that day and Arsenal so incapable of dealing with set plays that Delap nearly threw one straight into the net! So, yes, they kicked us, but that’s not what won.

It was also a game which saw baffling lineups from the boss, a petulant red card to Robin van Persie, a lazy game from Cesc and Adebayor, and injuries to Ade and Theo. In short, if was the type of disastrous outcome that at least one Gooner was quoted saying

Untill we aquire a world class goalkeeper two world class defenders and a world class midfielder we aint going anywhere. (sic)

It’s actually quite a spectacular rant and I know many people felt the same way after that match.

I think we’ve had some distance from that match and I think we’ve achieved quite a bit more than that one result might haved indicated. So, I’d be surprised if many Gooners still feel the same way. Even the boss sent Tony Pulis a note, not quite apologizing for calling Stoke cheats, but sort of forgiving them and by way of saying that he understands why they played the way they played. For most teams between 10th and 20th place, the name of the game is survival and they will do just about anything to ensure it.

Survival ensured. 4th place secured.

I doubt this will be a fiery match like the previous. 

But it’s the last match of the season and maybe Stoke will want to do the double over us, who knows?  Hell, who cares?

Evra is a loudmouthed pussy

I love that Evra is complaining to the press about Fabregas’ tackle on him. I think he should be happy that Flamini wasn’t still on the squad, he knew how to put in a tackle whenever a Man U player decided to publicly act like an ass.

Voting still ongoing

Remember, you only have until 11:45pm PST to vote for your Gooner of the Year! Get over there and DO IT.

P.S.

Yes I mailed this in, which is pretty much what I’m expecting from Arsenal today.

23
May
09

“We are that good” — plus “don’t forget the poll”

Arsenal won the league by 25 points, losing only twice, and last night defeated Liverpool 4-1 in the First leg of the FA Cup final. It was a masterful performance, from what I hear, and though it was broadcast on Setanta in England the match wasn’t available here in the states so, I didn’t get a chance to watch. You’ll have to be satisfied with Gunnerblog’s description above.

Of course, I’m talking about the future and the present all at the same time: I’m talking about the Arsenal Youth team. You’ve seen some of them already, young Jack Wilshere was electrifying in the Carling Cup wins against Sheffield United and Wigan, on the backs of those performances a few folks asked why he wasn’t being brought in to the first team when we were missing some creativity during the depths of darkest winter.

And after putting Liverpool’s youth to the sword with a 4-1 win young Jack Wilshere agreed with those fans saying

I think any of us can break into the first team because we are all that good. We’ve all got talent and we know we can push into the first team.

I, for one, can’t wait to see them play in next year’s Carling Cup. Hell, we might even see some in league play, if they as good as young Wilshere thinks they are.

As the youth team were running Liverpool off the pitch Arsene Wenger gave what I thought was his most defensive pre-match presser of the season.

FINALLY, SOME DEFENSE!

The truth is that Wenger is kind of a complicated guy and you’re probably seeing a lot of weird quotes this morning, like “Wenger tells board to Shut-Up” but reading the interviews in the press and watching them on Arsenal TV are two different things. I highly recommend the latter, you get a sense of the man, and how sometimes he says things with a glint in his eye and you just know he’s being cheeky. Of course, the press then de-contextualize it and plaster headlines like the one above (actual headline) but the truth is more complicated than just a one-liner.

This press conference was pretty much dominated by the question of transfers. How much do we have, why doesn’t he spend it, will we have to sell to buy, who is he targeting, and many other questions. The boss responded to the ‘how much’ question with my favorite quote of the night

If I tell you I have £250million, every player I call will cost three times more. When I am manager of a club I do with what I have available and you have never heard me complain about the money that was available. But as well I do not accept people to think that I am stupid enough to have £100million at my disposal and put it in the bank because I am scared to spend it.

He said £100m!! That’s like, like, the magic number!

On it’s face, this is one of those statements that confuse a lot of supporters. It looks like he’s saying that Arsenal don’t have £100m when the financial statements that the club released last season clearly show that they do. This is one of those statements that make Arsenal supporters shake their head and ask if Wenger has lost the plot? Doesn’t he read the financial statements?

Of course he does! Please note that if you parse the statement he says “at my disposal” which, not to put too fine a point on it is exactly what I’ve been saying since I found out they have the money: they are reserving that cash for an emergency. What if they can’t make 4th place next year due to Swine Plague ravaging the team at a critical juncture? What if newly re-promoted Birmingham and Martin Taylor break 4 player’s legs this year?

What if the housing market takes a turn for the worse, the banks call in their loan on the Highbury development, the economy goes further south, fans stop showing up to matches, people don’t buy that stupid blue kit, and injuries prevent us from taking 4th place?

It would be nice to have £130m (my estimate of this year’s year end financials) in the bank if that happened, in fact, it would be crucial for a self sustaining club like Arsenal to have a large amount of cash around just in case something like that happened. The only other option is to go to scum like Usmanov with our hat in our hand.

No one wants that.

So, I think Wenger’s being coy, watch the video, you’ll see what I mean. There’s money to spend, he just doesn’t want to say how much or it will adversely effect the cost of transfer targets and I feel like he cheekily threw out the £100m figure to get the ire of people not paying close attention.

I, for one, hope he gets cracking on spending what he’s got, Fulham’s already offered Hangeland more Brede to stay and we don’t want to let one of the few players out there who has the experience and size to truly help this team slip through our fingers.

That’s about it for today, tomorrow’s match is on Setanta at like noon or something and some of us are going down to Doyle’s to watch it after the morning kickaround. Before I go, I want to remind you all that you have just two more days to vote for the Gooner of the Year so get over there and get stuck in you lot!

Until tomorrow!

UPDATE

Highlights of the FA Youth Cup here.

22
May
09

You get to vote for this year’s Gooner of the Year Awards (The GOY’s)

Last year, I did a series of five articles, over five days, each dedicated to who I thought the top five Arsenal players were. It was fun but I thought I’d change it up a bit this year.

This year, you all will decide who you think the top five Gooners were, using the poll in this article, and I will write an article for each player, detailing why their season was so outstanding.

Voting will last until Sunday at midnight, then I will take down the poll and assemble the results and present them with the first article on Monday detailing the number 5 Gooner.

Also, comments in the thread below will be used in my analysis, so please justify your choices.

Finally, please note, the WordPress polling system sucks ass AND all the other polls I found suck ass so I had to use an external polling system, which I’m unable to embed in this page because WordPress doesn’t like competition.

So, if you want to vote, click on this link.

If you just want to make loud noises, feel free to do so below!

22
May
09

Things I’ve Learned Today, a Pictorial Essay

All images click through to stories.

fab

Prat

wenger

Sorry guys, I'm sticking with Everton

I WILL CUT YOUR LAWN

£15m? That's a lot of Brede

six foot two and dressed in blue?

He's out of there quicker than goose shiat through a tin horn