Posts Tagged ‘Arsene Wenger


Arsenal’s Quad Hopes Shouldered?


I woke up this morning intending to be chirpily optimistic (you can’t spell optimistic without TIM!) about the Arsenal season. I was going to mention that irregardless (yes, irregardless is a word) of the form against Aston Villa, Fulham, Sunderland, Tottenham, Hull, and Stoke, Arsenal have a tremendous amount of talent both on and off the pitch. So much talent that even 4 losses in the league could, possibly be overcome and the team could still win the Premiership. It looks unlikely, given the lack of a holding midfield, the lack of a strong defensive pairing, an obviously toothless attack, our star player showing his worst form ever, and the team lacking any leadership or drive; unlikely but not un-possible. After I reminded my loyal reader that Arsenal are still mathematically capable of winning 4 trophies this season I was then I was going to get all hopeful about all the Arsenal players coming home safe and happy and refreshed after resting on the bench/scoring 100 hat-tricks. Hey, if great footballing minds like Rafa Benitez and John Terry are still afraid of Arsenal, who am I — some two-bit blogger — to question them? ARSENAL FOR THE QUAD!

Unfortunately, fate loves the optimistic, because those are the folks who are most injured when she takes a giant dump on them.


In the interest of full disclosure: I already hate the internationals. Why would I care? I’m an American who loves a French team that plays for a club in North London. Yes yes, when the World Cup comes on TV, I watch it, I love football after all, but world cup football is not my raison d’être, Arsenal football is. So, as I said yesterday, International friendlies are at best a distraction and at worse an injury-induced turning point in a season. Thus, it is with great displeasure that I can announce Theo Walcott has been injured… in training… for a pointless friendly… and could be out for 10 weeks! (see the link above)

Deep breath — Let’s try to look on the bright side for a second, ok?

First, Theo has been in poor form and needed a rest. He had a patch there in October where he looked absolutely brilliant and has since been struggling a bit. His crosses have looked very poor and even his trademark speed and ability to break down defenses with his dribbling has suffered lately. So, 10 weeks off should see him come back fresh just in time for the title challenge, right?

Second, Arsene Wenger should make the FA pay Theo’s salary. Not because they need the money, but just to make a point. I don’t care if they have to take it to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) and it costs them more than they get in return, they should sue the FA. What on earth were they thinking scheduling an absolutely pointless friendly in the middle of one of the busiest times of the season?

Third, in Theo’s absence, Arsene will have to make some adjustments. I heard “Eboue” bandied about and I’m not sure who this person is. Does Arsenal have someone named “Eboue” on the team? I vaguely recall some nightmarish player named something similar but I can’t quite put my finger on it… no. Arsene has lots of options over there on the right: Vela could do it, Jack Wilshere plays there in the Carling Cup matches, Diaby can do it, Nasri is a naturally right footed player and he could do it, and Wenger has even used van Persie as a left wing on occasion which frees up Nasri to play on the right. Noboue! Bring on one of the young guns! Let’s see Wilshere out there! I know we don’t want to bring him along too soon and over-play him and all that but hey, needs must is the devil’s playground, or something, right?

Fourth, isn’t Eduardo almost back? He’s played in the wing positions as well, not to great acclaim but hell, he’s better than playing “Eboue” or whatever his name is.

Ok, now see, that’s not so bad, is it? Theo is out 10 weeks but it just means more opportunity for this burgeoning young team to show their stuff. 10 weeks to rest Theo and bring him on for the big push at the end of the season.

10 weeks to turn this frown up side down.

What the hell else are we going to do, get all emo like Tottenham supporters?



Wenger rallies the troops and Bergkamp waiting in the wings?

We’re all guilty, even me. 99.9% of the time I give this club 100% of my support — I’ll even call out my readers for their lack of support — but even for me, the doe eyed optimist, it is difficult to see Alex Song take the field in the center of defense and get excited. And what am I supposed to do when I see Almunia flapping around, turn off my brain? Mindlessly “get behind the team” and cheer?

“Go Almunia!!!”

No, I think it needs to be a decent balance of optimism and skepticism; 99-1 sounds about right to me. But that’s me, I get to see just one game a year (if the world economy doesn’t collapse!) and I have a blog that only reaches a few insane fans a day. The real people who need to get behind the team are the season ticket holders and match day supporters who’s cheers and groans can lift or push down the club at a critical moment on the pitch.

The problem is, in my experience, Arsenal fans are some of the most demanding, haughty, and sour pussed people I have ever met. The author Nick Hornby blogged about the phenomenon last April when Arsenal crashed out of the Champions League. In his brief illustration the Arsenal fan won’t be happy unless we win every game, for all eternity. Maybe there’s a certain personality that chooses a certain team, I don’t know, but it’s uncanny how demanding Arsenal supporters are.

Imagine for a moment being an Everton fan? They haven’t won anything for a hundred years (Ok, since 1995) and worse, they are a perennial mid-table team. It takes a hardy soul to sit through some of the stuff that Everton field, and it takes a real supporter to sit there and cheer.

I suspect that’s what Arsene Wenger wanted when he said “I feel that this team does not get the support it deserves” at the AGM yesterday. If it’s true (I don’t get to many games) it’s Wenger’s own fault, he’s the one who made Arsenal into a top club in the top league in the world. He’s the one who’s raised our expectations!

For doing that, for raising our expectations, I say we should fire him. Because what Arsenal supporters need is a period of, say, 10 years of Evertonian mediocrity in order to shake our hubris. Either that or we could try to look at what we’ve got and appreciate it, as Wenger says:

Last year we were close to winning the championship, finishing just four points behind Manchester United. Instead of showing resentment, we have to believe in our team more than ever because this team will deliver.


“Tennis Style” Challenges

Also at the AGM, Arsene revealed that he wants coaches to have the power to make “tennis style challenges” of certain calls. In the U.S. it’s called instant replay and it’s used in pretty much every sport, except baseball. I don’t know how this could be used in football, honestly. Like tennis, American sports stop every 5 seconds so it’s easy to administer. Plus, games like tennis are simple to make a ruling on; is the ball in or out? For some plays in football I can see the benefit; did the ball cross the goal line? Easy to rule on. But in football, an uncalled foul in the right place could easily lead to a goal. Would he want that call re-ruled? How do you rule on say Theo’s pass in the game the other day that was ruled over the end line? The other team stopped play when the whistle went so, should the goal stand? Do Arsenal get an indirect free kick at the spot?

I’m dubious of this, to say the least. Not that I don’t support Arsene! I love him!

Bergkamp the Great

I liked Bergkamp as a player but I don’t think that means he would be a good coach — his fear of flying would be at least one main reason. Irregardless, just as with Keown and Tony Adams before him any time a former Arsenal player starts going for his coaching medals he’s linked with the team.


I’d pick Tony Adams over Bergkamp, which brings me to the Friday poll!

All right, I’m off to sing the praises of Alex Song and Emmanuel Eboue… see you tomorrow.


Busy Friday


I could write a match preview for tomorrow’s game against Newcastle, I could talk about injuries, the Champions League Draw, Platini’s “Investigation,” Danny Fiszman’s transfer kitty, Clichy’s comments about the fans, and (of course) the ongoing saga of Arsenal’s lack of transfer targets.  Why on earth do they save up all these stories for Friday? More importantly, how do I condense all of this into one blog without writing 2000 words or (worse) just being a human RSS feed?

I have it!

I’ll have to write about the Platini Investigation thing as it’s own special column.  There’s just too much detail and too many interwoven stories here to simply include it in the daily update.  So, maybe this evening I’ll write a piece and you lot can have it on Sunday or something.  Now that that’s out of the way, let’s see, I’ll do the match preview first thing in the morning, including an injury update.  Which really just leaves us with…

Transfer Madness

It really has been a crazy couple of days.  One day Arsene is saying that they won’t buy any more players and the next day he’s saying that he’s going to buy one or two — if they happen to fall out of a tree at midnight and land on his head AND they have the right price. Meanwhile, Danny Fiszman has said that Wenger has a £30m war chest if he wants it. What’s the truth?  Are they buying a £30m player today?

Personally, I think this is just posturing on the part of the board.  Arsene Wenger has never and will never pay £30m for a single player and they all know that.  So, Fiszman could have said £100m or £200m and it would have been the same.  Does Wenger have money to buy players?  After looking a lot of financials (in prep for the Platini article) I can say that I now have no doubt.  Does he have £30m to buy an established player who will come in and demand £150k a week in salary? That’s a little bit tougher.

See, Arsenal’s salary is already second in the league (Chelsea doesn’t count, their salary is so obscene at £140m it’s not so much “salary” as it is bribery) and their wages to turnover ratio roughly 50%.   They have managed this incredible feat not by short changing “lesser” players but by having a stratified salary that pays everyone well.  The way they go about setting salaries isn’t just some “thing” they’ve done: it’s their team philosophy.  But you don’t have to take my word for it, Fiszman admitted it himself:

This constant suggestion that the stadium is bleeding us dry is crap. The reality is our wage bill is very similar to Manchester United, substantially above Liverpool and substantially below Chelsea – but that is to be expected. We pay good salaries, but we pay them more evenly, so we do not have extremes of very high and very low wage-earners. There is an ethos of a team effort.

If they brought in another big name player with big name salary demands they would have to either change their whole philosophy, just flat out lie, or they would have to change the whole salary structure to keep everyone happy.

That’s why this summer has been so difficult.  Their philosophy drives the business, which is the only sustainable model and ultimately the more rewarding model.  The team didn’t break the salary structure when Flamini demanded it.  They also didn’t break the structure for Adebayor.  Clearly the whole club is sticking to this salary structure philosophy.  What would it say to the team if they suddenly changed their minds?  I literally think that change would destroy all club cohesion.  Which is the problem when you sell everyone on a philosophy.  You have to then remain consistent with that philosophy.  So, philosophically, I cannot see them buying a big name player.

More importantly, does Arsene Wenger have the will, the desire, to buy an established, big name, high salary player?  Given all the quotes over the last two weeks I would say the answer to that question is a resounding “NO.”  When asked about transfers on Wednesday he got visibly upset and started ranting about £40m players

It is not one player who makes a difference. It is up to us as a team to show personality, strength and belief. If we can find one more, we will do it, if not we will not limit our ambitions because of it.

So, it’s clear that the board, the manager, and the players are aware of our complaints.  It’s also clear that they are not buying a big name, regardless of Fiszman’s latest £30m pledge.  It’s just not in their plans.

That said, I remain hopeful that Wenger will sign someone on Sunday.  Most of the names that the team has been closely linked to are not going to figure in these last two days: Inler is outler as he just signed a new deal, Barry is staying at Villa this year, Gerrard is hurt and so Liverpool NEED Alonso, besides which he was only on offer in order to finance the Barry deal which isn’t happening now, de Guzman was ruled out by Arsene today, and so who is on the radar?

I don’t know, to be honest.  It seems like no one knows; except Arsene.  He always knows, right?


Arsenal v. Fulham

Last January, this blog was just kicking off when Fulham hosted a rampant Arsenal team who put 3 goals past them.  Adebayor got a brace, Hleb put in a cross, and the Human Victory Cigar (Rosicky) even got on the sheet with a last minute goal.  Moreover, it was the Fulham game in which the fans created that new chant in support of Adebayor.  I remember it well; 2500 Gooners drowning out the entire Fulham crowd with the simple “Adebayor, Adebayooor, Give him the ball, and he will score.”

What a difference 7 months can make.

I’m not worried about Fulham any more than I would worry about any Premiership team; Americans, who love a good underdog, would say that on any given Saturday any Premiership team can beat any other Premiership team.  Well, they would have said that until they saw Derby play, but I digress. Let’s just say with all of our “famous Arsenal arrogance” that Fulham is one of those teams that Arsenal should beat.   Doesn’t mean they will, but they should.

The current injury situation (Rosicky, Cesc, Eduardo, Diaby, and possibly Silvestre) along with the changes to the team (Hleb and Flamini out and Nasri and some children in) might lead to some trepidation on the part of my fellow Gooners.  I understand.

I understand, but I see this as an opportunity for the team; Adebayor needs to rebuild his reputation after this summer’s drama, one of the young men need to step up and show they can play central midfield at the Premiership level, and the defense needs to keep a clean sheet against a team that has more firepower than West Brom.

So, it’s a golden chance, in my mind, one I have no doubt that the quality of this Arsenal club will show.

There was a news story this morning

The sky is blue, the grass is green, and Arsene Wenger get’s talent the old fashioned way; he makes it. Let me see if I can sum up the article: it’s a youth revolution, there’s a self imposed salary cap, he cares about the business aspect, he doesn’t care about passports, he’s a product of his upbringing, and he cares about helping people in real life.


I’ve been saying all those things now for 7 months.  I thought they were obvious.  Huh, I guess not.

Well, I’m off to my friend Patrick Bostwick’s funeral service.  I won’t be able to watch the match live, but my friends are going to tape it for me.  Wouldn’t it be sweet if Arsenal won, one-nil?  If it happens, I’ll raise a glass to Paki and sing the song for him.

Until tomorrow.


The last day

Look at him laughing at us

This is it Arsene. This is your last day to sign someone before us impatient Arsenal supporters call for your firing and I have to say your chances of staying at Arsenal are not looking too good. It’s not helping that you’re sitting there in some spa in Italy making proclamations like “Nasri, he interests me.” Ok, he interests you, he’s ready to move, everyone speaks French, so what’s the hold up? Or these two dudes that I’ve never heard of… why aren’t you chasing them through dark alleys, pen in hand, forcing them to sign for Arsenal? Huh? WHY AREN’T YOU????

I think the hold up is that in 2011, you’re planning on taking over at PSG. You are clearly distracted by the fact that in some distant future he might be taking over as president of another club. Plus, now that you’ve  been offered a job for life at Arsenal it’s obvious that you have lost interest in putting in the requisite work. A job for life is a curse, like going on welfare, it makes you lazy and unwilling to work. It’s not long now before you’ll be popping out 10 different kids from 10 different moms in order to collect a bigger check.

Robin van Persie Watch

Still injured… but the good news is that he really, really, REALLY wants to injure himself further in Euro 2008. My pub team played yesterday and they won 2-1. I have been nursing an Achilles injury for the last 4 months and just 2 weeks ago pulled my hamstring a bit in my first game back. So, I show up to the match with reservations about playing. And guess what Robin? I didn’t play! I didn’t play because I’m still injured and one more week of slowly getting back into shape to play will mean that I might be able to play the whole season; something you have never been able to do because you keep rushing back into the game. It was hard to sit there and watch the team play. It must be 1000x harder to watch your national team play. But if you hurt yourself you’ll be doing a lot more watching. So, please, for the love of Arsenal, don’t play.

It’s Baaaack!

Following on the heels of the 6+5 debacle, the FA reminded everyone that they too have a stupid idea that they want to force on football fans: the 39th game. There’s a lot of pressure (money) from Asia and America to hold a game on their soil. Already, people here in Seattle pay egregious sums of money to sit in a crappy American Football stadium and watch Chelsea’s second team play bumble ball in some sick approximation of real football. Imagine if Man U could get their hands on the wallets of 120,000 Indian fans and the concomitant world television revenues.

Call it a Premier League Cup, a 39th game, a “dumb idea” whatever you want, it’s just more games for already tired players to cram into their busy world/league/FA cup/Carling Cup/Champions League schedules.

It’s a bad idea for a lot of reasons but for me, I’d hate to see yet another tournament in which Robin van Persie could get injured.

Thierry Henry is pretty much used up at the age of 30 because of all these games. Henry’s already played more games than players like Platini played in their whole careers and theoretically he’s got 4-5 years left in him. He could top 500 appearances any moment now. That’s just wrong.

Am I the only one calling for the players to play less games?

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