Archive for the 'Debt in the Premier League' Category

12
Jun
09

Real Madrid’s Magic Money Could Top $400,000,000

member... ship

It’s pretty rare, but occasionally I agree with Michel Platini. Maybe it’s the hangover I’m nursing, but I think I heard him on the Beeb this morning say

These excessive transfers are happening almost every day. It is very puzzling at a time when football faces some of its worst ever financial challenges.

and

These transfers are a serious challenge to the idea of fairplay and the concept of financial balance in our competitions.

I don’t want to make a habit of it, but I agree with Platini on this. The more I dig into this deal the more frightening it looks. At a time when unemployment is nearly 18% in Spain, one man is set to make £29m a year, over £500,000 a week! Of course I’m not suggesting that the money Real is spending on the team should be used to hire some Spaniards to, erm, do something. Rather that football at its best is about connecting to average people. Anyone can play football anywhere in the world. Short folks, tall folks, men, women, rich, poor, grass, dirt, concrete or sand, all you need is some space, a ball, and some feet (hence the name foot-ball) and you can play. I don’t know what they are doing at Real Madrid but it doesn’t really look like football to me.

More frightening than the distorting effect that Ronaldo and Kaka’s unrealistic lifestyles and the bizarro “team” that Real will put together is the inflationary effect predicted in all aspects of the transfer market. Basically, the market is going to get really crazy, really quick and with pretty much every team in the EPL already burdened with huge debts the only folks who are going to be able to afford anything will be the billionaires.

And, of course, Sepp Blatter sees it exactly the opposite. He sees it as a sign of a healthy market, you know, “damn the financial consequences! People need stars” and all that.

Meanwhile, the sickening money that Real is projected to spend may come to our beloved Arsenal. No, I don’t mean Cesc, he’s Arsenal through and through and has rejected a move to Real, again. No, I mean Clichy. It would depend on the size of the offer but with Vermaelen reportedly able to play the left fullback position I’m not sure how I feel quite yet. Despite scoring a goal, Clichy didn’t have the best of years, and with reports of Toure outgoing, Gallas outgoing, and Hangeland and Vermaelen incoming (not to mention the return of the Senderos) the boss could be looking at a complete remake of the back line. It would be a risky move, to overhaul 3/5 of your defensive unit, but given the deficiencies we saw back there last year it could just be the spark the team needs to push for honors. And if Clichy was part of a remake I guess it would be ok.

I don’t know.

I do know that Fabianski signed an extension, that Wilshere wants to follow in Walcott’s footsteps, and that the idea of a 17 year old looking up to a 20 year old is, well, unsettling.

It’s funny, when I first started watching football and Arsenal were the team that won me over, my friend here (an Everton supporter) said “no, not Arsenal, they’re like the Yankees, or the Red Socks, they just buy up all the talent in the world.” And now we have 17 year olds looking up to 20 year olds, how times have changed, eh?

Oh and hey, if you’re a red level member, now is the time to renew and make sure you’re eligible to get tickets next year. Get on it.

05
Jun
09

More fun with statistics, plus Arsenal in for another Toure?

He's ready for his close-up

Lies, damn lies, and Arsenal Stats

The blogoshpere is all atwitter (see what I did there?) about the dot com’s article detailing Arsenal’s supposed statistics.  Ahhhhh, I’m calling bullshiat on this.

I don’t trust statistics that are so obviously false. Denilson completed 164 passes all year? What the hell? Here’s a chalkboard showing that he completed 117 passes… in two games. 164 passes all year would equal less than 5 passes per game. Now I don’t know what kind of fools they take us for, but everyone knows that every Arsenal player completes more than 5 passes per game. Almunia probably completes more than 5 passes per game.

Or how about the stat that Song supposedly had only 17 tackles all season? Hmmm…. Here’s two games where he made 21 tackles and won 17 of them.

So, I have no idea what’s up with those stats, where they got them, who compiled them, how they were defined, or anything. I just know that they are utter garbage.

I mean, who would believe that Adebayor was offside only 43 times?

Lies, damn lies, and football economics

The other day I put up that “transfer anatomy” handout, you remember, the one with the little bit in the corner that shows how much teams have spent over summer transfers?

Right, well yesterday the folks who audit football clubs’ accounts released their findings of last year’s accounts and we got two major stories out of that research. First, Chelsea spent £172m just in wages in 2007. And second, the accountants found that Liverpool lost £43m during the 07/08 fiscal year.

These three things are related, I swear!

What this shows, to me, is that a club, that isn’t Chelsea, has to make a choice: they can either pay high wages, or they can spend a lot of money in the transfer window.  Which, in my mind, utterly destroys the simplistic “Arsenal need to spend” argument.

So, look at the first link there where you see that Tottenham spent £47m in transfers from 2004-2007. I’ve always wondered how they could afford to do that and still report profits, considering the much smaller fan base than Arsenal, the fact that they don’t have a billionaire owner, no European football, and they have a mediocre sized stadium and don’t charge much for tickets. They can afford to do that because they basically pay half the salary that Arsenal pay. Arsenal paid £100m in salary in 2007 and Tottenham paid £50m.

Now, ignore Chelsea and Man U — they spend what they want irregardless common sense, I mean Chelsea is coming close to £1bn* spent over the last 6 years.

A BILLION.

POUNDS.

So, ignore them, they are a reality distorting black hole of a cunt.

Instead look at Liverpool and you can see a serious problem. Liverpool have spent nearly £100m in salary every year and nearly £90m in the transfer market. The other lode stone is that they have a £300m debt that Hicks and Gillette piled on the team when they bought Liverpool.

The point here is that Arsenal and Liverpool have a very similar financial situation; both clubs have large debts (albeit for different reasons), both clubs have large wage structures, and yet Arsenal have saved money every year and Liverpool have borrowed and spent.

And now, the crows are coming home to roost and Liverpool’s debt is due, evermore. I’m not suggesting that Liverpool won’t find someone foolish enough to become a partner with Hicks and Gillette and then they’ll fail. Instead, I see this as a test case. See, Man U has a huge line of credit that they can’t even make the interest payments on due, I believe, next year, and I think what happens here, this year, with Liverpool will be indicative of what will happen with Man U next year.

The second thing I’d like to take away from this is that yes Arsenal are being fiscally prudent by not spending large sums in the transfer market but what I wonder about is the huge wage bill. Who, exactly, are we paying all this money to? Sagna? Clichy? Almunia? Bendtner? Song? Denilson? Nasri? Walcott? Those are the majority of our starters there folks, and they must be making damn good money if our wage bill is £100m.  Furthermore, I have to wonder if any of these players would be willing to take a modest pay cut in order to bring in some more players? They all talk about bringing someone in, but I’ve never once heard them say “I’d take a pay cut if it would help, because I want to win a trophy for the fans.”

And the last thing I want to bring up is just how important Wenger is in all of this. Yes, he’s set this wage scale which is stifling our transfer ability but just the fact that for four years he’s kept Arsenal at a very, very high level of play, all the while helping to manage the books and keep Arsenal fiscally sound for the long term is, I think, going to go down in history as one of the all-time great managerial feats. Compare these 4 years to Rafa Benitez, who’s constant clamor for transfers makes me wonder if he won’t get lumped in with Hicks and Gillette as the three reasons why Liverpool’s future is so uncertain.

I think this gives us all a bit of perspective on why Arsenal spend the way they do and what is likely to happen this summer with transfers. Which is to say, very little. Given our history, what I’ve shown you of the finances,  and the fact that Wenger is increasing our wages yet again (I mean, van Persie did have 10 goals this season, that’s worth another £1m or so a year) I would expect there to be just a little left over in the kitty for transfers. In fact, selling before buying is very likely.

That said, what I’d like to see is the point where the board feel like they are comfortable with the amount of cash in the reserve (at last count over £100m) and they start spending some of these annual profits that you and I are generating for them.  Maybe this year is the year? All signs point to an even bigger windfall over last year, when they netted more than £20m in profits. We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

Daily Transfer Rumors (The Poop Scoop)

Ah, I love the smell of last year’s rumors trotted out as this year’s signings! Supposively**, Arsenal are again interested in Udinese defender Christian Zapata, which is probably a bunch of crap considering that the player is both confirming and denying that Arsenal are after him.

Meanwhile, the perennial “Yaya to Arsenal” story has risen again.  The player himself has insisted, repeatedly, that he does not want to play for Arsenal. But that isn’t stopping the World’s Least Reliable Newspaper from printing quotes from Yaya saying

It’s true that it would be great to play for a big club with my brother,that would be fantastic but you never know.

Well, if the Sun is reporting it, it must be true.

Meanwhile, in the “Players who are not leaving or coming in” department, Stephane M’Bia is heavily linked to Everton now. I will update the Players Who Didn’t Sign For Arsenal page if there’s confirmation of him signing for Everton. Also, I want to be the first to break the shocking news report that Andrei Arshavin IS NOT re-signing with Zenit St. Racistburg, it turns out that he just likes practicing with his old teammates. This is really a remarkable story, it’s one of those X player is not signing for Y team stories but it’s at the level of ludicrisness that the only equivalent would be Science News printing a story like “Scientists refute the notion that the sky is brown.”

Finally, the Vermaelen saga drags on. I’m starting to think there might be some truth to this story and Vermaelen is the “commanding” center back that Wenger seeks.

Ahem…

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow!

*add up their wage bill at an average of £150m from 2004-2007 = £600m, then add in another £150m in transfers and you get £750m, so sue me if I add a bit of hyperbole.

** unlike irregardless, supposively is not a word

17
May
09

Women Drivers, Giant Skivers, and War chest Connivers

Adebayor just wanted to Upgrade to a bigger contract WHY DON'T YOU LOVE ADEBAYOR ANYMORE???

Badge kisser.

Back in August, during a meaningless Arsenal v. Real Madrid match, following on the heels of a summer of seemingly schizophrenic interviews by Arsenal’s then 30 goal scoring target man, Adebayor scored a meaningless goal and promptly ran over to the fans and kissed the badge. Of course, they booed him.

At the time, linked above, I wrote that Adebayor was acting like a jilted lover.  I really thought that the big fella just wanted to be loved. He didn’t get why Arsenal fans would boo him after last summer; in his mind he loved us, he was just doing what he needed to do to get an upgrade to his contract, and now that he’d bagged Beyonce he wanted us back. The thing he didn’t understand is that a lot of Arsenal fans would never forgive him for sleeping around.

And now, he gives an interview that in essence expresses how much he’s hurt that the fans that loved him no longer love him.

I bet it hurts.

I know a lot of people who supported Ade even after the summer debacle only to watch him slowly go downhill all season, put in lazy performances, and slowly erode any fanbase that he might have once had. Like the jilted lover, he just kept spiraling down, deeper into his shell, and became more and more listless. This in turn engendered more and more ire from the fans, and has culminated in the insane interview above.

Like I’ve said before, I was there when Ade scored his first ever home goal, back in March 2006 and so I’ve always felt a bit of a special connection to Adebayor. But if his relationship with Arsenal fans was complicated before, given the interview above, the season we just witnessed, and last summer’s transfer saga, he has managed to simplify that relationship and I doubt there are many left in his fan club.

I know he has one less in me.

Damn Women Drivers

There’s a bit of a bombshell over at The Mail where Martin Samuel interviewed Andrei Arshavin and he.. uh… said some stuff. No, I don’t mean his clear adoration of Barcelona. Nor do I mean his opinion that Arsenal need to buy two players, everyone says that. I mean his disgusting and Neanderthal views on women.

I would never give driving lessons to women. We need to build new roads for them. Why? Because you never know what to expect from a woman on the road. If you see a car behaving weirdly, swerving and doing strange things, before you see the driver you know it is a woman. It is always a woman.

I mean come on! Everyone knows that it’s not always a woman, it’s always a woman ON A CELL PHONE.

(I’m kidding, I love women… to do the dishes, to clean up my room… I’M KIDDING, I REALLY DO LOVE WOMEN.)

How much is in the war chest? As much as Arsene wants.

You will see a lot of stories about how much, or how little, money Arsenal have to spend this summer. I suggest you ignore them all, and just let Arsene handle it, because Arsenal have plenty of money, if they want to spend it. The stories about how Arsenal are skint are nothing more than a vain attempt to sell papers.

Ive been over this ground before but since it seems to come up in every thread I thought I might just remind everyone about the official Arsenal financial reports.  Read them for yourself, start with the 2008 report linked above and work your way back. You will see that Arsenal are basically a profit making machine, earning roughly £30m a year (AFTER tax) every year for the last three (since the new stadium). This annual profitability has left them with a £93m cash reserve.

Now, add in that the half-yearly financials that were released this spring, which showed a £24m pre-tax profit. And add in the fact that Arsenal made it to the semi-final of one of the most profitable Champions League campaigns ever, and the semi-final of the FA cup and I suspect that profits will break the £40m mark this year.

It’s astonishing really.

That money is the reason the board insisted that they don’t care if they miss the Champions League. That money is the reason that Usmanov’s bull about owners paying down the debt is a ruse.

Money is there, and after we sell Adebayor for £10m (that’s a joke, kids) there will be more than enough to buy some big, unheard-of, defender and another central midfielder.

So, can we put this tired story about Arsenal being skint to bed? And could someone please restart the Xavi Alonso to Arsenal rumor?  I like that story.

13
May
09

Premier League Shoots Scudamores at Common Sense

Do you like my little tiny crown? I am the KING of English Football!

EPL chief Scudamore has been a busy little boy this week, rattling sabers, and proposing all sorts of wondrous rule changes. Changes that he thinks will save English football for Englishmen, stamp out debt, prevent another Leeds United style collapse, prevent unseemly characters from taking over clubs, and even had time to hail the Respect Campaign as an overwhelming success (link works best in Internet Explorer, ugh).

And people say that Arsene Wenger lives in a world of his own.

Let’s start first with the Scudamore/Platini/Blatter idea that the only thing that will save English National football is a return to the failed quota system of the 1980’s. A time when quotas still didn’t help England qualify for the World Cup (’74 and ’78). The problem with this story is that I have written extensively about it and really don’t feel like rehashing those thousands of words. Besides, I just re-read my best post on this topic and, frankly, I have nothing more to add and couldn’t say it better if I tried. Check the link above if you want to see why I think this is a racist, nationalist idea that will not help the English national team, will further overvalue English players, will not level the playing field between smaller clubs and the top four, and will be overturned as soon as one foreigner feels discriminated against.

The second story, then, is debt and Richard Scudamore is having none of it! Not coincidentally, this Premier League anti-debt campaign is breaking into the media at the same time as Alisher Usmanov is offering the club a hot cash injection. This debt issue is yet another story that I have written extensively about and don’t feel like re-hashing at this point. Suffice it to say, the proposal as I read it would have no effect on Arsenal, as we already fit the rules which are essentially an adaptation of UEFA’s rules for qualifying for Europe. No, this rule will only hurt smaller clubs, or clubs that are in real trouble like West Ham; and may even force those clubs to sell off their players.

The story that I’m interested in is the jaw-dropping claim that the Respect Campaign has been a success. In what world? Again, this is a topic that I have written extensively about and there’s no need to re-hash a lot of what I’ve said in the past. But I think that in light of recent events such as with Chelsea’s inability to control their players after and during matches, and the club’s steadfast refusal to even take internal action against their players this latest quote from Scudamore is about as jaw dropping as it gets.

I mean, Chelsea supporters have threatened Tom Ovrebo’s life… and this is the second time, this season, that Chelsea supporters have threatened the life of an official. Is that “respect?”

Or how about the dossier on Drogba, Terry, Bosingwa, and Ballack linked above? The footage is clear, Chelsea acted in a manner that was disgraceful on the Premier League, their club, and themselves by attacking the referee at the end of the game.

The most worrying part, though, is that the Chelsea stewards could not, or perhaps would not, control the situation after the match. Those stewards are there to protect the referee in case that exact thing happens. In case the players attack a referee, which is what the Chelsea players did, make no mistake about it, the stewards are there to protect the ref. To see them feebly try to move a clearly out of control Drogba and then let him come back in and get in the face of the ref was disgraceful and deserves at least as many column inches and at least as much investigation as Phil Brown’s imaginary story that had Cesc Fabregas watering the pitch with saliva as he karate kicked the opposing coaches in his designer thug hoody.

UEFA banning Chelsea from the Champions League for a season would be a light punishment for that display. Anything less is truly a disrespect to the referees and would make enforcing something like their plan to allow referees to stop matches due to racism impossible.  How can a UEFA official feel like a home team’s stewards will protect him from players and the crowd in Spain when the home team stewards at one of the crown jewels of world football (a country which supposedly prides itself on ‘law and order’) allowed a clearly out of control Chelsea team to threaten the ref?

But, ultimately, this is a chronic problem with this team in particular. Chelsea are the embodiment of disrespect in world football. From the disgraceful scrum they started in the 2007 Carling Cup final against Arsenal, to the Ashley Cole incident which started the “respect” campaign, to this latest in a long line of outrageous behavior, and if you throw in the distorting effect of their “magic money,” Chelsea are truly all that is wrong with modern football.

Look for Richard Scudamore to address this problem… never.

09
May
09

Arsenal v. Chelsea preview

I'm sure there's something about swine plague in this message!

Arsenal beat Chelsea 2-1 at Stamford Bridge back in November, a win which kicked off Arsenal’s 21 match unbeaten run. Some folks say Arsenal were given a bit of good fortune as Robin van Persie’s first goal was widely seen as offside, but sometimes good luck is exactly what a team needs to kick off a winning run.

That said, these are not the same two teams that lined up against each other. Arsenal have added some serious quality in Andrei Arshavin (who will be out with the “flu” tomorrow) and Chelsea have abandoned the Scolari/Deco experiment in favor of the more direct approach of Hiddink/Essien. Both clubs are in good form now and both clubs have something to play for: 3rd place in the Premier League.

The absolute gulf in class between the two clubs is evident not on the pitch, where Chelsea have spent “magic money” as Wenger put it to win exactly zero trophies in two years, but in the board room, where Arsenal fined Bendtner for his off field actions but Hiddink is asking Roman to go easy on Drogba after his disgusting on-field actions after their crash out of the Champions League. It’s always been that way, though, and we should expect no less from the world’s most classless club.

Drogba may miss tomorrow’s game as Hiddink thinks he’s not mentally stable enough to get involved in a huge clash like this, which begs the question, is he ever mentally stable?

Meanwhile, the tin-foil-hatters will be in full tin-foil-hat mode over the fact that Arshavin is being left out of the clash having come down with the flu. Add in that Arsene left Andrei off the starting XI during the Chelsea/Arsenal FA Cup clash and there is some strong circumstantial “evidence” that Arsene is afraid to play Andrei against Hiddink. The theory goes that Hiddink knows some weakness in his Russian star’s game and would exploit that weakness and show the EPL how to beat Arshavin. Personally, I think it’s just coincidence.

First, why would Hiddink expose his star player’s weakness?  Wouldn’t doing that also hurt his Russian team too? Second, I think the FA Cup match can be explained simply as a tactical mistake by the boss. He probably figured that Arshavin would have more impact as a super sub, exploiting tired Chelsea legs at the end of a hard fought FA Cup match. And third, it is possible that Arshavin is just sick, in fact, it’s more than possible, it’s the most likely answer!

One player that Arsenal will absolutely use tomorrow is Gibbs; owing to the fact that Clichy is out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his back and Silvestre is shit. I think this is a wonderful inclusion, if Arsene project is to bring along youth players then we might as well use some of them. Plus, he made a mistake, yes, but nothing will help his confidence more than the manager putting him right back in to the starting XI… in a London derby… which may well decide the title… and which will certainly decide the all important 3rd place.

NO PRESSURE

Right, that’s pretty much it, if you want to read Arsene talk about “magic money” or “bringing in one or two players” or hear him talk about what will almost certainly be a heated and prolonged summer transfer period, head on over to the dot com. There are more articles on that topic than Carter has little liver pills.

26
Feb
09

The Full English costs £133m

East Stand 2006

Ugh… remember that lady behind me on the flight back from London? The one who was coughing her lungs up mere inches away from my face? Well, I think I got her cold. I feel miserable today, worse than yesterday by far and yet I absolutely must go in to work today. It’s not fair to my coworkers to come in while so obviously sick but I have a Calc test today and I can’t miss that so I might as well bring my diseased ass in to work. The worst part is that this cold comes from overseas so they won’t have any immunities to it. I’m calling it the London Flu and me bringing it to work makes me “London Flu Timmy.”

Speaking of sickness, the press are making a big hoo-doo of some report that was released today claiming that FIFA’s 6+5 rule would not be illegal. It’s even prompting some reporters to make outrageous claims like

With the proposed 6+5 Fifa rule being ruled legal by the EU courts, we might have to see a return to more homegrown talent being fielded.

Let me make this absolutely clear: this is a report compiled by a FIFA hand-picked organization (INEA) which basically skimmed through the law looking for arguments that FIFA might make to the EU Court and found that while the rule is very clearly discrimination, it’s only “indirect discrimination.”

The EU ministers and the EU courts are firmly against this rule, and given that FIFA’s hand-picked report proves that this would be a form of discrimination I can’t see how they will get any ruling past the courts. No, the Bosman ruling still stands and will continue to stand. Which I think is good for football.

The INEA also repeats FIFA’s preposterous claim that having foreign players in the EPL stunts the growth of the Full English players. This argument is so prima facie ridiculous that I hardly feel the need to attack it, but let’s take a look at how it goes. Basically, they argue that foreign players “take the place of” local players in academies and thus there are supremely talented Englishmen out there who just never got a chance.

Bullshit.

Look at the youth academies of Arsenal and Man U. Both clubs have reached the finals of the Carling Cup with basically their academy sides. And though Arsenal get all the press for their academy I think this Man U class is actually better than the Arsenal class. But the important thing to look at is the fact that both of those teams have tons of English players on them.

Thus, this is far from the case that English talent isn’t being nurtured, rather that English talent is being fostered in a competitive atmosphere with the world’s most deserving players. These clubs are making English players better.

Make no mistake, the 6+5 plan will never be implemented and if it is, the Arsenal’s and Man U’s will still have the best academies, they will still produce the best talent, and the big clubs will continue to dominate the markets for these players. What would happen is that the overall level of play would be reduced significantly. All you have to do is look at Liverpool and ask yourself who should start at right wing: Pennant or Kuyt?

The second big story that fell out like the lung of a disease ridden airline passenger is that Arsenal released their mid-season financials. This year’s numbers look incredibly good: profits up £4.5m over last year, match day turnover up, television profits up, and even some profit made off the Highbury square development. The total before tax profit reported is £24.5m. That is truly an incredible number for a half season.

But there are some worrying signs; the £133m that “The Group” owe the banks for the Highbury Square development looks as if it’s come due as “The Group” are busily trying to re-finance that loan.

Moreover, whereas last year Peter Hill-Wood categorically assured supporters that the Highbury development was accounted for apart from the operations of Arsenal FC, this year he is equivocating, saying:

The financial arrangements for the group’s property activities are separate and largely operate independently from the financing of the football business.

The truth of the matter seems obscured, but I suspect that one reason Arsenal have maintained such large cash reserves (£90m before this half-season’s £24.5m profit report) is that they need the money to flood into the Highbury development should the loan come due and banks are unwilling to refinance this apparent lode stone on the club’s profits.

The other worrying aspect of the profit report is just how important being a top club is for our financial health. Television revenue, match day revenue, Champions League revenue, all are dependent upon the club competing at the top, top level.

Arsenal are certainly making money right now, but losing 4th place combined with the financial downturn and the collapse of the high end housing market could prove devastating to this club and has me a bit worried about the future for the first time as an Arsenal supporter.

We have to trust that the board will get this all ironed out. After all, they’ve not let us down so far.

All right, got to get into work and get some things started before my exam today so that’s your lot for the day.

See you tomorrow.

18
Feb
09

I’m leaving on a jet plane…

fuzzy

Well, this is it, I leave for the mecca here in a little over 12 hours. The bag is all packed, I’m well rested (read not hungover) and I’m going to head in to work to tie up a few loose ends, get in a workout, drive to the airport, and then sit around for 4 hours waiting for the plane to take off. 17 hours later, if all things go as planned, I’ll be in London, enjoying the fresh air, drizzly rain, insane drivers, and a pint of my favorite real ale.

One administrative note, I typically publish the blog around 7am PST (3pm GMT) so due to the time difference and length of flight, tube to London, checkin time, and the fact that I’ll be drinking straight away,  means I probably won’t publish a blog tomorrow. I’ll try, but no guarantees and if I do it will be a late blog. In fact, my American reader will get the blog “late” every day, my English reader early, and my Asian reader — well, I’d need to do a combination function and complete the square to figure out what time he will get the post. Gods only know what time my Antipodean reader gets these things, it’s like 3 days time difference down there isn’t it? And if you flush time down the toilet it actually goes the wrong way or something. The point is that after this post, things are going to change for a few days.

Right, on to the news!

My loyal reader knows that I never link to articles from The World’s Least Reliable News Source (The Sun). I don’t care if they fit my world view at the moment or not, that paper is scum and I won’t even give them the pleasure of the few paltry hits I generate. Anyway, they are reporting that they got an exclusive interview with Eduardo and that he’s still waiting for an apology directly from Martin Taylor over the incident at Birmingham. Taylor, to his credit, has somehow managed to avoid giving the apology and has even found time in his busy schedule as a father of three/university student/footballer to give a rather long interview to the press about how bad it’s been, for him, over the last year.

Get f*cked, Taylor. If you want to apologize, I’m sure Arsenal will arrange a public or private meeting with Eduardo — your choice. Irregardless, whatever you do, shut.thef*ck.up. No one, NO ONE, wants to hear your sob story. You’re not a hero to anyone. The best thing you could do with your life is apologize in person, like a man, and then refuse to comment on the issue ever again.

Jesus.

The other big story is, of course, THE IMPENDING DOOM OF THE CLUB WHEN USMANOV TAKES OVER!!!

I just want to point out a couple of things here. First, yes, Usmanov is not the type of person I want associated with the team. At all. I wish he never bought shares in the club, but since they are on the open market there’s little we can do about that.

Second, the fact that this is happening at all is simply a function of the amount of money Arsenal are currently worth. The board instability, the fact that this guy is coming out of nowhere and gobbling up shares, the fact that David Dein sold his shares, etc., all of it is about money. Arsenal went from a club worth several million dollars to a club worth several billion dollars. Moreover, Arsenal’s growth and profits have been extraordinarily stable over the last 10 years. If you throw in the fact that Arsenal is the only club in the Premier League who have positive cash flow and a bright future filled with young stars like Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, you have to say that in times of financial instability like now, Arsenal look like a great place to stash some of your fortune.

Which brings me to the last point: I don’t think that Usmanov wants anything but profit from the team, basically, I firmly believe that Usmanov is a tick. He’s going to hitch a ride, drain a little blood (he’ll probably ask for dividends soon) from the club, and right before he bursts (when he feels the stock price has reached it’s zenith) he’ll drop off and we’ll never see him again.

No one likes ticks, they are gross and carry disease (I got syphilis from a tick, I swear it was tick, or maybe the toilet seat) but at least they aren’t a pack of c*nts who know nothing about football and want to treat the club as if it was their life-size version of Football Manager — or worse, the Abramovich model of turning the club into a piggy bank.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s going to be damaging to the club. With 25% of the shares he now has the ability to interfere with board decisions, make demands (like dividends), and generally be a nuisance but the one thing we can count on is that The Tick (as he shall henceforth be known) doesn’t want to kill the host. It’s worth too much money to him to keep us alive and ticking over. The last thing he wants is fan unrest, team unrest, and Arsene unrest (it would drive down the value of his stock) so he’s going to do small things to extract profit rather than big things that destroy the club.

No one wants a tick on them, but at least he’s not likely to saddle the club with $1.5 BILLION in debt which in a few years will just break the club. So, while it’s gross that he’s burrowing in, it’s hardly financial Armageddon. By all means, let his holding company know that we don’t want a tick on us, that he’s gross, but let’s not freak out over the deal. I’m saving the freak out for when I find out he gave us Lupus.

Now I feel like I need a shower and someone to check me for ticks.

Oh hey, one last thing… I saw this video of the latest “Next Zidane” and thought you all might get a kick (HA!) out of it. He’s only 6 but word on the street is that he’ll be making his Arsenal debut on Saturday.

Ok, now I’m off, wish me luck and I’ll see you all tomorrow (morning, afternoon, mid-day, in a fortnight).

13
Feb
09

Happy Friday the 13th

Well, this is boring.

Ahead of the Cardiff match on Monday, Arsene Wenger gave his Friday press conference and completely failed to say anything provocative. Oh, he talked about Tony Adams (hire him please) and Phil Scolari and how William Gallas is a great professional (’tis true) but come on, give us something! Tell us that Cardiff are cheats or that Dudu is absolutely going to start or that Denilson is suddenly the best player on the planet, something.

I guess it’s not meant to be.

Here’s what we do know: Eduardo is not Eduardo, he’s someone else, someone who refers to himself in the third person. This confusion is giving Wenger pause over whether he can include him in the Cardiff match on Monday — the player is registered as “Eduardo” and no one is sure if “not quite Eduardo” is registered with the FA and thus allowed to play in the FA Cup rematch.

For me, “not quite Eduardo” is a lot better than “not at all Eduardo” so I’d play him, irregardless the rules. Watch, he’ll get “not quite a hat trick.”

Seriously though I’m not putting any expectations on the player and he’s asking us to be sure we don’t ask too much too soon. Fair enough, I hope he gets better and is able to come back. If not, he will always be fondly remembered. That said, I wish him Godspeed in the recovery, it’s an understatement to say we need him right now.

How’s that for the most ambivalent statement ever?

Something I’m not ambivalent about is being sick and tired of Diaby being in the recovery room, and just in time for Cardiff, he’s out with a thigh injury. Why can’t this player put together a string of, say, 15 games?  And what’s wrong with his thighs? Why is he constantly injuring his thighs? Maybe he should wear those American Football style thigh pads. Not that I think he’s great or anything but with all the other injuries to the midfield and after Rambo’s performance at the last match Diaby would have been a welcome pick in the midfield.

I can’t believe I just said that.

But seriously, we all know what’s going to happen. Wenger is going to pick Song and Rambo in the middle, Nasri wide left, and DENILSON WIDE RIGHT!!! Vela? No. Wilshere? No. It’s going to be Denilson. It’s not that I hate Denilson, I like the kid, hell he’s our best player (!) but he’s not a wide player. Maybe Arsene will suffer a blow to the head and play Vela or Wilshere wide right. I’m not going to hold my breath.

Now you see why I miss Diaby?

Ok, now that you’re thouroughly depressed, here’s a story about how Chelsea are still planning on being solvent by 2010 despite the fact that their annual losses are over £60m and their payroll is 70% of their turnover. I love the fact that they are still paying Jose Mourinho and that the figure above doesn’t inlcude the reported £15m they need to pay Scolari. Not long now, Goonahs, Chelsea will be in a major fiscal crisis and it will be 1 down, 3 to go.

That’s it, see you tomorrow.

01
Feb
09

A Pair of DD’s: a Dour Draw and David Dein

Eboue comes down with another of his mystery injuries.

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Arsenal’s title bid suffers fatal blow

Telegraph: Arsenal bereft of ideas as West Ham’s run continues

Quote of the day

We will finish above Aston Villa. I’ve nothing against O’Neill. But you ask me who will be Manager of the Year and you have to wait until the end of the year. Villa have played well until now. But you judge a marathon at the end. No one remembers who was leading after 20 miles. — Arsene Wenger, at the Friday press conference assuring everyone of Arsenal’s quality.

The Valtrex

Glossing over an obviously flawed Arsenal squad, Diaby had his best game in the center of the park. He wasn’t a revelation or anything, but on a day when too few Arsenal players had anything to say about a stolid West Ham squad he did at least look lively in the middle of the park. Of course yesterday’s performance only hides the symptoms of this flailing Arsenal team and his stupid yellow card in the 23rd minute means that he will be suspended for the upcoming Spurs match; leaving a barren midfield bereft of one of their “best” players.

The clean sheet Arsenal kept also sort of glossed over the underlying problems on this team. West Ham was content sitting back the whole game and only foraged forward occasionally. So pardon me if I don’t get too excited by a team that kept a clean sheet off the opposition’s 2 (two) whole shots. Not shots on goal, TOTAL SHOTS.

But since there wasn’t much else to celebrate… yippie! a clean sheet!

The Genital Outbreak

It was hugely frustrating to sit there and watch as Villa get a draw, Wenger’s words about them dropping points ringing in my ears, and see the performance that some of these players put in.  I’m sorry, but far from championship quality (we saw that later in the day as ManU held Everton to a 1-0 win) Arsenal look a lot like their closest rivals, Villa. We’re going to have to hope for them to crack and for us to suddenly warm up if there’s any hope of us taking 4th this season.

Vela got a chance to come on and show what he’s made of when Arsenal’s clown (Eboue) when down with some injury that he’s no doubt already recovered from. Vela started well but I think we saw yesterday why Wenger doesn’t play him more; he’s too easy to nudge off the ball.

When Wenger brought Vela on he sort of pushed Bendtner wide, or at least that’s what everyone is saying. I didn’t see it that way, Bendtner was playing as a third striker since he never tracked back to play defense. In fact, according to his heat map, he basically never left the right corner of the pitch.

Not that Bendtner could have tracked back to play defense —  as the Liverpool supporter watching the game said “he’s garbage.” He’s not garbage, but neither is he a quality starting striker on a team pushing for a trophy.

Which makes me wonder why Bendtner got the start over van Persie? We’re not privy to the fitness tests that happen prior to the game nor am I in anywhere near the same league of intellect as Arsene Wenger, so I must assume that Wenger had a good reason for sitting the only player on this Arsenal team who A) seems to give two f*cks and B) has scored and created every single goal in the month of January for Arsenal.

As long as we start Bendtner and Adebayor as our strikers, we deserve a 0-0 draw.

Man, You Got Herpes on Your Face

In a lot of ways Adebayor epitomizes this Arsenal team. He’s hugely talented, having scored 11 goals and gotten 6 assists in all competitions this season. He’s also very important for the heart of the team, I’ve seen him be the only player on the pitch who even tries to win a game. So, it’s insanely frustrating to see him put in the performances he’s put in this week. In short, he’s inconsistent.

Yesterday he exhibited all the qualities that his detractors love to harp on; he was lazy and wasteful. Maybe he’s tired? I don’t know, I do know that all the goals he’s scored this season have been against bottom clubs. Far from “terrifying defenses” as he did last year, top clubs are handling him very well.

I wonder if a week off might not re-energize him and put some fire in his belly?

Conclusion

After the match, Arsene said

We lacked some creativity in the final third, the final pass and from some set pieces. They were very strong in defence I must say with James Collins and Matthew Upson and that’s why we couldn’t score.

I can’t fault the spirit but I believe as well that we lost a bit of sharpness from playing on Sunday at Cardiff, on Wednesday a very physical game at Everton and maybe that was why we lacked a bit of sharpness to score.

Yes, exactly why Arsenal should have signed 2 players in the break: to give us some sharpness, rest players who need it, and add creativity in the final third.

I am worried though since I think that Arsenal might not sign anyone. Not that we will miss out on 4th place, I think 4th place is well within grasps if Arsenal start ticking over. No, more worried that we might do something stupid, like rush Cesc, Eduardo, Theo, or Rosicky back and see one of them suffer an even more serious injury.

Whether we buy Arshavin or not (or even something more surprising like Alonso or Arteta) by-and-large Arsene needs to get the squad we currently have up for these games against our “lesser” opponents and, judging by the lackluster performance of Adebayor, he’s not doing his job. Come on Arsene, lets get the club back playing beautiful football, scoring goals, and striking terror in the hearts of our opponents, you can do it!

And finally, like a bad case of herpes, we had a David Dein outbreak yesterday as well. He doesn’t actually call for Arsenal to be sold to some billionaire but that’s exactly how all the headlines read and what we’ve all come to expect. Let me put this out before it becomes a house on fire: the reason this team is not buying is not down to lack of funds, it is down to lack of will on the part of the manager.

You might not like to hear that, but that’s the facts as far as I can discern them. With cash reserves currently at £93m (and only set to grow as our current Champions League campaign unfolds) the decision on whether or not to buy a player is not about a lack of funds. Hell, with those cash reserves, with our history, and with Arsene Wenger as boss Arsenal could have any player on the planet right now if they wanted him.

So, no sheik with tons of money, false hopes, and a copy of Football Manager in his back pocket is going to change Arsene Wenger. Well, actually, he would change Arsene Wenger; he’d have to get rid of him in order to build his little dream team. Because from what I can tell, Wenger is committed to this youth team project.

Besides, as I’ve argued here extensively, it’s not like the Chelsea/Liverpool model has produced much of a sustained challenge to Man U’s utter dominance either. Sure, Chelsea spent insane amounts of money to win 4 trophies and now look at them; uncertain about the future of the club as the owner looks to be backing out, stuck with bloated wages, aging stars, no youth prospects, and half a billion pounds of debt. I feel very strongly that this is Chelsea’s last year as an oligarch’s dream team.

So I say no to a sugar daddy: what this team needs is just a little more balance on the pitch, not a bigger balance in the bank.

30
Jan
09

Will they fear us if we get Arshavin?

yawn

A West Ham team that is brimming with confidence  having dispatched 6 of their last 7 opponents comes in to the Emirates stadium to face an Arsenal team brimming with false hope after eeking out a 9 game unbeaten run.

It’s almost amazing to think that the team have remained unbeaten for 9 matches and on its face it’s a pretty good run of form and should see Arsenal gaining confidence. But these aren’t the awe inspiring games that we’re seeing from our rivals for the Champions League spot; a 0-0 draw to Cardiff is hardly the stuff of legends. In fact, closer inspection sees that Manchester United haven’t conceded a goal since Arsenal beat them 2-1 in November and Villa have taken all 12 points in their last 4 matches. So, you’ll forgive me if I have to have a laugh when Diaby proclaims the title race is within grasp or Nasri says that all we have to do is “keep winning without leaking goals” and we’ll be right back in it. No. You have to make opponents like West Ham tremble at the thought of traveling to your stadium, then you can start talking about winning the title.

West Ham, for their part, are playing some very good football and pundits are claiming they won’t have anything to fear from Arsenal tomorrow. No one is saying that Arsenal aren’t a talented side, or that there isn’t a threat that Arsenal will start clicking and destroy teams like West Ham; rather that right now, every team in the EPL looks at our past performances and has to be licking their chops to come here and “pull a Hull.”

Ultimately, I’m not going to say it’s a crucial game because, frankly, it looks like the board and the team have thrown in the towel on even achieving 4th place. When you see the board sitting on £90m in cash reserves and not strengthening the squad when it is plain for everyone to see that the squad needs strengthening there’s a disconnect and Peter Hill-Wood revealed exactly what that disconnect is yesterday. As it turns out, the club (payroll, transfers, etc.) is being run as if we didn’t earn £30m a year in Champions League money.

There is no denying that it would be a real financial drain on the club if we didn’t qualify for the Champions League next season. Even if we were in the Uefa Cup and enjoyed a long run in Europe, that would not come close to making up the shortfall.

But although missing out on the Champions League for one year would be a big disappointment, it would not mean financial Armageddon for Arsenal. When we worked out the budget, and did our fund-raising calculations in respect of the new stadium, we did not assume we were going to be in the Champions League every season. That may be an assumption at other clubs, and it’s not for me to comment on the way they are run, but we did not want to get out of our depth in terms of paying our bills. So although it would certainly hurt us in the pocket to finish outside the top four, it would not be a huge shock to the club’s finances. (Emphasis added.)

Suddenly everything makes sense. We’re running the club as if we are West Ham, not as if we are a top four club. No wonder no one fears Arsenal: they are fielding a team, with but maybe three exceptions, is a mid-level squad. You could say that in a sense, we’re punching above our weight, up there in 5th place. We bought a mid-table squad and are nearly up in the Champions League, impressive.

What isn’t impressive is that we’re already seeing some fallout from Arsenal’s failure to re-invest in the team with Robin van Persie reportedly refusing to sign a contract extension unless Arsenal win 4th place. You need look no further than that fact to see why the Arsenal business plan was severely flawed. Because, while it’s a good idea to practice fiscal austerity and Arsenal seem to have that down pat, hell, they could probably last 10 years as a mid-level team in the EPL with the £90m (which will probably be like £110m after this season is done) they have stashed under the mattress, it’s a terrible idea not to re-invest in your company while all of your competitors are growing around you. Already the Arsenal brand has seen some of the shine come off which means less shirt sales and even though they may “sell out” every game due to counting ticket sales rather than the turnstiles, people are already not attending matches, which means less concessions, etc. I’m not suggesting that Arsenal should have spent all £90m on transfers, but some prudent re-investment was clearly necessary as our slump in sales, and slump in performance on the pitch certainly shows.

Where would Arsenal be right now without Robin van Persie? Shudder to think, eh? The thought of losing van Persie might explain why the team seems to be increasing their price in the Zenit deal to get Arshavin on the pitch — going so far as landing the Russian a work permit already. With Wenger stating that the club are going to know before kickoff tomorrow we should finally have an end to this saga one way or another.

The problem is that Arshavin is, in my mind, too little, too late. While undoubtedly a quality player, and certain to add some goals, he’s lacking match fitness right now and still doesn’t solve the problem of Arsenal’s porous defense. In the end, Arshavin won’t be the man to make teams like West Ham fear us again. That’s going to take a whole lot more than just one wing player can deliver, which means prying open the coffers. Unless, of course, they have thrown in the towel on this season.

It sure looks like it to me. Which is a real shame.

Right, so a 7am kickoff tomorrow, the match is live on Setanta, and I will be at Doyle’s. See you there?




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