Posts Tagged ‘Fabregas

22
Oct
08

Fener 2-5 Arsenal; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good

First, there’s the statistical “goodies;” 5 goals from 5 different players and 3 points against a team that has not been beaten at home in the Champions League in two years. Theo has a goal in each of his last two matches, Aaron Ramsey got his first Arsenal goal, Cesc got off the snide and picked up two assists (his first assists of the season? I find that hard to believe), AND NO ONE GOT INJURED!

Each of those three (Theo, Ramsey, and Cesc) along with Diaby and even Denilson should be singled out for praise here as well. In fact, the whole 5 person midfield made Arsenal really click and hum and sing right from the start. I haven’t seen that much enthusiasm from this Arsenal team all season. It reminded me of the way that the team went to the San Siro last year and really put themselves out with a display of passing and tackling unlike anything in world football right now.

It helps that Fener were playing a high line and were attacking Arsenal because it gave us lots of space to play into. It also helps (and Wenger got this right) that we played a 4-5-1 because I think it gave Cesc the kind of cover he needs in order to operate in that space behind the striker(s). Denilson cannot do it alone and neither can Diaby but together they do a fair job patrolling in front of the defense. We can’t play a 4-5-1 all the time but it’s been fairly successful when we have. Just so long as Adebayor can do the dirty work up front (holding the ball up, making runs, staying active, and providing a big target) and not get too jaded it’s a great lineup.

Just briefly, I want to drop some kudos on Adebayor, he opened the scoring which was so important in this kind of game and he scored in a very workman like way. In fact, I admire Adebayor’s very quiet manner in which he does his job — be the big target up front. Sure, he could get less offsides, and sometimes he can be frustrating but he’s a real workhorse for this team and I love watching him play.

Theo, on the other hand… What a goal! If you didn’t see the goal, or just want to re-live it over and over, go over to the Arsenalist and check it out. He dribbled the ball around the keeper and drilled it into the near post on about as acute an angle as humanly possible. Heady stuff there. Afterward, Theo reflected on how he terrifies small children and little people named Roberto Carlos:

All the teams in Europe will look and see the 5-2 win by Arsenal, away and with a young team, and I think they will be scared to play us. AND YOU WILL KNOW MY NAME IS THE LORD, WHEN I LAY MY VENGEANCE UPON THEE!

Or summat. Arsene, get out the checkbook, this kid is a keeper.

By the way, I’ve decided to get a Theo away shirt as my jersey this year and my one loyal reader knows what that means: Theo is as good as sold. It’s the curse of the shirt, any player shirt I buy they leave (Vieira, Henry, Bergkamp — to be fair I knew he was retiring, and Flamini). The only player to escape the curse so far is Fabregas. Fingers crossed that Theo joins him.

And finally, what more can be said about King Ramsey I? That kid came on and seemed as cool as the other side of the cucumber. Sure, he gave the ball away a couple of times, but he fought to get it back. And sure, his passes in the final third weren’t perfect, but he more than made up for that with the only goal Arsenal have scored outside the 6 yard box in three years (thanks to Russ for that joke!). But seriously, he reminds me quite a bit of Fabregas when he was younger — the way he’s fearless and the way that time seems to just slow down when the ball is at his feet. The main difference is that King Ramsey I is willing to shoot which Cesc didn’t develop until last year. Long live the King.

The Bad

I know, it’s against the rules to talk ill of your team when they win 5-2 but there were two ills that need mentioning: Almunia and Song.

I’m not too sure if I actually watch the same games as the rest of the world. Did no one else see Almunia get beat severally? I counted at least two times where Guiza should have just dribbled around Almunia but instead elected to shoot. One of which was such a kerfuffle that Almunia opened his eyes somewhere like 20 seconds after the ball had caromed off of him only to watch haplessly as Eboue and Clichy came to the rescue and cleared a poor shot off the line and then followed up with a very brave challenge.

Add in that Guiza chipped him twice and on the second (which counted) Almunia didn’t even raise his hands and I have to say that Almunia had a horrible game. It wasn’t skill or talent or hard work that kept Fener to two goals it was just blind luck. Almunia won’t get away with that kind of play against a team like the one that demolished poor Celtic 3-0.

Of course, had Almunia been presented with a defense that actually kept its shape, or understood man marking, or could clear their lines from a set play he would have looked a lot better. But instead Alex Song was at the back doing his best impersonation of a Toreador. What the hell was he doing back there? Fener basically ran the same play at them time and again and time and again Song was either out of position to defend or springing the offside trap 20 seconds too late. I don’t want to take away from him the fact that he obviously played his heart out. I just don’t think he should be put into that kind of position ever again. Or at least not until he’s had a chance to work on some of the basic moves.

The Ugly

Uhh… none?

Wait, Joey Barton is ready to make his return… in the Tyne-Wear derby… where just last year he tried to permanently injury Dickson Etuhu… this should end well.

Next match is on Sunday and it’s against Wet Ham. Thank the Gods that Alan Pardew isn’t in charge of that club or we might have to watch the Pardew Shuffle (WARNING: this video is known to the state of California as a strong emetic) over and over and over…

Cheers — hey and stop fighting in the forums we all love each other.

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15
Oct
08

Racism and Ramsey runs riot over the press

Good morning kickers, we had a greenlight on Fark.com yesterday which always results in a ton of clicks and a few new readers. If you’re one of those new readers, welcome. Today’s big stories are Cesc has something to say about racism and Aaron Ramsey is the new Walcott.

Cesc Says Spain’s Not Racist

Us Americans like to believe that we live in a post-racist, or even racially transcendent culture. We see stories like what happened in Spain in 2004 with Sean Wright-Phillips and shake our heads in disgust. “That would never happen here,” we like to say.  But it does, Bethel School district, here in the glorious post-racial northern paradise of liberal Washington state is awash in racism. The simple fact is that racism exists in America, just like it exists in every culture.

But just because there are racial incidents doesn’t mean that we are all racists. If Bethel School District has a race riot with 2% of their student population participating it doesn’t mean that the whole school district is racist, does it? No and I think that’s what Cesc was getting at when he sort of mangled the quote that’s making all the rounds today

I don’t know if racism is the word, I wasn’t in the team when that match was played, but one of my team-mates was playing for England and he felt a little upset. They see us as racist, but I don’t think that we are. That is a bit extreme.

This is a tough topic for someone erudite to write about much less for a Spanish footballer, who feels the need to defend his country, to speak about off the cuff so let’s give Cesc a little room here and agree that what he was saying is “even though there have been incidents, not all Spaniards are racist.”

In a sense, I agree with him, what really counts isn’t the reaction of the 1% of fans who are racists but the reaction of the leadership of the team, school district, or other organization. If the leadership doesn’t do anything about it, then it’s pretty safe to say that the whole system is corrupt.

In Bethel, the administration has been working with the teens through education and, if needed, expulsion in order to try to put an end to this. That’s where it gets sticky with Spain. I haven’t seen the type of concerted effort to stamp this out that I’d like to see. First, what has anyone done since 2004? I mean, the FA (who should have been on this issue from day one, demanding change) the Spanish FA, UEFA, FIFA, team hierarchy, etc, what have they been doing for the last 4 years to stamp this problem out? Nothing. It’s a disgrace to see them suddenly refusing to play at the Bernabeu when the problem has been boiling for the last 4 years and very little was said and even less done about the problem.

And now, along comes UEFA and they want to take strong action against Athletico Madrid for their racism. You’re joking, right? This is the same UEFA who allowed a Zenit St. Petersburg to play in and win the UEFA cup even though the manager publicly refuses to hire blacks because the fans won’t have them.

I’m sorry but $30,000 fines and threatening to make teams play in a neutral place (it’s not a done deal yet) is just putting lipstick on a pig.

So, while I agree with what I think the sentiment was behind Cesc’s statement I completely disagree with his analysis. As far as I can tell, given the combined (non) actions of most of world football’s governing bodies, racism is not only very alive and well, it’s basically condoned. It is the shame of the modern game that such sentiment exists and it should be stopped through points deductions if necessary.

King Ramsey the First

Stuart Pearce has said that Arsenal youth, and soon to be Welsh full international, Aaron Ramsey is worth his weight in gold because he makes little tiny shirts out of whole cloth, or something. Meanwhile, some blogger at Setanta also feels like Arsene’s keen eye for talent may have spotted the best player of his generation on the evidence of that same England-Wales game which saw Rambo’s team lose 3-2 and yet him pick up man-of-the-match honors.

I’m happy for the kid that the press have caught on to his obvious talents. Now, his job is to keep his head down, ignore those press clippings, work hard, and help make Arsenal’s midfield of Ramsey, Wilshere, and Walcott the envy of world football. With Wenger’s patient guidance, I have no doubt this will come to pass.

Transfer Rumors, That I Made Up

The Mail is linking Arsenal with Sochaux cum Turkey striker Melvut Erding. I can’t see any credibility to this though, because Arsene has publicly stated that Arsenal have all the strikers they need (RvP, Ade, Bendtner, Vela, Walcott, Eduardo, and all the kids he’s bringing through).

No, the transfer rumor that I’m starting is that either Yaya Toure or Xavi Alonso are going to surprise the world and come to Arsenal in January. Both players have been linked to Arsenal before and both players are making no bones about their desire to leave their current clubs. The speculation in the press is that the two teams will do a straight swap but that seems a bit crazy if you ask me: both teams would have cup-tied players in that case. Unless there’s something seriously wrong with one or both of those players (so wrong that you wouldn’t play them in the Champions League) why would you intentionally cripple a crucial part of your team?

No, if either player moves on, it’ll be to a third party, like Arsenal. Then they could use the money to buy a non-cup-tied player. Come on Alonso — you could rule England at Arsenal with Cesc at your side!

Stephen Appiah is the other player that Arsenal has been repeatedly linked with but again there’s something not right with this story and I am going with “player wants too much salary and/or isn’t really fit.” Last month, he said that he was going to be signing with a team any day now and since then the story has changed pretty drastically from “I was going to sign, but now I’m looking to Italy” to now the wire has gone completely dead.  Since then West Ham have signed Tristan (a forward) and Arsene has publicly downplayed signing anyone else. Sorry kickers, as much as I’d like to think that Appiah would have rode in upon his steed and slew the dragons ‘oop norf’ I can’t see anything but the end of his career at this point. He did play 85 minutes for Ghana on the weekend and talked of being able to play again the next day but I’m sceptical about his fitness to be honest.

And finally, the Thomas Rosicky injury sideshow rolls on for another week. My loyal reader knows that I think his career is done, the injury he’s sustained is so unusual and in such a critical area that I cannot see him recovering (I hope I am wrong). And now, his agent has picked up on the rumor mill and is stating that Rosicky’s recovery is going along just as planned, his career is NOT over, and oh yeah, he’s even got another specialist working with him. Maybe he will play again. I’m not a doctor but I do know that January will be his one year anniversary of fitness. That’s a hell of a long time to be out. Good luck Thomas, yo’re going to need it.

Ok, well, that’s it for today. Until tomorrow.

13
Aug
08

The future is now

Just 2 months ago, Aaron Ramsey was being pursued by Man U, Arsenal, and Everton and being hailed by all three clubs as “one for the future.”  In the end, it was his choice to join Arsenal and it was something that Arsene Wenger said to him at a private meeting on neutral ground that convinced the young man that Arsenal would be the club for him.  The boy came away from the meeting convinced that he would be given every opportunity to succeed at Arsenal and said something that not many gave much thrift to at the time

Arsenal is a club which always gives young players an opportunity at the highest level of the game and I am going to work my hardest to be part of future successes here.

Tonight, he gets his opportunity. Wenger gave a tepid review of Ramsey’s progress, saying that the kid needs to work on his technique, and so I doubt that Ramsey would have been any where near consideration for a starting spot if everyone was healthy.  But needs must is the devil’s playground, or something like that, and the lad gets his shot.  After my initial response, I am excited for him and really wish I could watch the match, but it’s not being broadcast here in the States and so I’ll have to either do the Beeb’s scrolling update or find some way to do a peer to peer thing.  So, here’s to you lad, break a leg, erm… no, wait, don’t do that.  Don’t break any legs, yours or anyone else’s, please?

As I said yesterday, I’m now on the record with a sense of dis-ease with the lack of midfield signings and constant midfield injuries.  First, to the injuries, it turns out that Cesc and Senderos both picked up a Hammy because the boss overworked them in training. Here’s Wenger’s mea culpa:

But it is always tricky when you have players coming back late. You always try to rush the fitness a little bit. When you play a qualifier you are a bit more pushy with players who come back late and that’s when you get injuries. That is what happened with Fabregas.

Note to Arsene Wenger; Cesc Fabregas is the most important player in the club, I’d appreciate it if you didn’t kill him in training in your haste to get him fully fit.  Thanks.  I mean, what’s done is done, and I fully back Wenger as manager, but for the love of god, why?  Why couldn’t the manager and physios, with all that’s at their disposal, ensure the fitness of their most important player?

As for the signing, all summer I’ve maintained a healthy skepticism that Wenger will sign the big name player that so many of us supporters are slavering over.  As much as I would love to see Xabi Alonso in the proper shade of red, I honestly don’t think the club has the resources to do the deal.  Well, they sort of have the resources, but I think they’d have to borrow money to do it.  Maybe the sale of Justin Hoyte, if they accept Middlesboro’s bid, will help grease the skids a bit here but again I remain doubtful.  Every quote I read from every person, from the board to the boss, seems to be setting us up for one of those classic “well, we had a couple of targets, but the price wasn’t right” justifications for not filling out the team.  The part that they admit is that they need a body, but then Wenger will say that he may or may not buy, depending on the value.  Like I said a few days back, if you have a flat tire and you’re on a road trip, you don’t wait for the repair shop to have a fire sale; you fix the damn flat.

I’m resigned to the notion, though, that Arsenal aren’t buying anyone, not Inler, not Alonso, not Bale, and not Annan or whoever else the press can fabricate as being linked to the club.  That way, if the deal does suddenly happen for Alonso I can be double-plus happy.

Anyway, the boys take on FC Twente in a few hours.  Here’s to a rousing win and superb performance by all and especially the ones who have been thrown into the breech.

Unless Arsenal sign Alonso… tomorrow.

12
Aug
08

I’m officially worried


The squad was announced ahead of tomorrow’s match and normally I don’t do an extra blog but this is big enough news that I feel like I need to share it right away. It was revealed today that Toure, Senderos, Nasri, and Fabregas all picked up injuries and will be unavailable for the match tomorrow. Add them to Eduardo, Diaby, Rosicky, and Song and I think we can confidently say (with 8 players out) that this is a thin squad. At least Wenger sees the humor in the situation when he says that we have a “big squad at home.” Har har Arsene.

The squad was named and the boss has said that Ramsey is likely to start; if he doesn’t pick up an injury tonight somehow. For the record, Arsenal are starting a 17 year old in a crucial Champions League qualifying away match against a hungry team with a hungry manager. A 17 year old who’s closest experience at this level is a cameo during an FA Cup semi-final.

It’s official, I’m getting worried.

Arsenal squad
Manuel ALMUNIA
Lukasz FABIANSKI
Bacary SAGNA
William GALLAS
Gael CLICHY
Justin HOYTE
Johan DJOUROU
Aaron RAMSEY
Jack WILSHERE
Kieran GIBBS
DENILSON
Theo WALCOTT
Emmanuel EBOUE
Mark RANDALL
Emmanuel ADEBAYOR
Robin VAN PERSIE
Nicklas BENDTNER
Carlos VELA

The lineup will probably be:

Sagna, Djourou, Gallas, Clichy

Eboue, Denilson, Ramsey, Walcott

van Persie, Adebayor

I could also see the boss playing a sort of 4-3-3 with Walcott up front since that’s what he played last week against Juventus.

What else is there to say?  Up the Arse!

30
Jun
08

“Finally, football has the success he deserves.”

Fabregas Spain Euro

Congratulations to Spain and Cesc Fabregas for proving to the world that beautiful football can win trophies.  I only caught the first few minutes (enough to see Torres’ goal) and so I can’t comment on the match but I will say that I hope this trophy heralds a new age of football.  One in which passing, movement, fitness, and technique are more important than lumping and crunching and defending.  I honestly thought Germany would beat the Spaniards, they seemed to have it all; giantness, organizational..ness, and divingness.  But all credit to Spain who just simply outplayed them.

Afterwords, Cesc hailed the win as a victory for football and the sweetest of his career.

It was a long time since we have seen a team of that quality trying to play beautiful football – I dont think we’ve seen many teams have success (playing that way).  This the best day of my life as a football player.

On the other side of the field Old Sour Grapes had a go at the Ref, Torres, George W. Bush, and the boot boy.  You leave the boot boy alone you big German meanie!

In transfer news, Arsenal have been targeted by some dude named Amaury Bischoff: he claims that a deal is imminent and that he’s in London getting a physical.  This guy is a complete unknown because he basically played in the Werder Bremen reserves (when he wasn’t in the sick room) last season.  He’s also young and a central midfielder: which makes him the perfect Wenger signing.  Wenger will probably transform him into a keeper and sell him on for £100m in 2 years.

Seriously, though, if you want to know anything about the kid, you’ll have to rely on reports from die hard supporters like the blogger at Young Guns who interviews another blogger from Germany who has seen Amaury actually play… a little.

Tired of the Adebayor story yet?  Well, I AM NOT.  I WANT 24/7 ADEBAYOR COVERAGE.  What did he eat?  What’s the composition of his stool?  Will he go to Chelsea? How’s his mom handling all the pressure?  Will Obafemi Martins tell Newcastle that he wants a transfer, thus triggering a £13m buy out clause which would free him up to fulfill Wenger’s reported dreams of bringing the world’s shortest striker to Arsenal?

I NEED TO KNOW…

27
Jun
08

Great Caesar’s Ghost!

I realize that I’ve moaned quite a bit about this Euro 2008; how it’s boring, how Arsenal players just get hurt, how much I can’t stand Platini and Blatter and their insane proposals, and how at it’s worst this competition is nothing more than an exercise in nationalism.  But how could an Arsenal supporter see last night’s match and be anything but moved?

The first half started as a droll affair, Spain dominated possession but never really threatened, meanwhile Russiarshevin looked very, very ordinary.  Things had brightened a bit — literally — with the introduction of Cesc for the injured David Villa.  Cesc was easy to pick out of the crowd because, since he came off the bench, his top was dry and thus his jersey was easily twice as bright as everyone else’s muted, wet, tops.  Spain brightened “footballistically” as well with the introduction of the Arsenal youngster: with Xavi, Iniesta, and Fabregas roaming the midfield it seemed like they made every pass and won every challenge.  In fact, I think I remember Arshevin touching the ball maybe once in the whole first half.

Still they didn’t score.

The second half picked up where the first half left off; more Spanish possession, more Russian frustration, still no goals.  And then Cesc took over.  Sure, the first goal came from Xavi’s shot that Iniesta put in, but it was Fabregas who won the ball and put it in to Xavi.  Then on the 73rd minute Cesc had the commentators babbling about how he couldn’t possibly have meant to do that when he chipped the Russian defense and Güiza chested it down and wrong footed the Russian keeper.  Arsenal fans know that Cesc did that on purpose: we’re used to seeing the 21 year old maestro set up his teammates like that.

After the second goal the result was academic but Cesc added another assist to his tally when he crossed in for Silva on the 83rd minute.  It was the perfect cap to the perfect game for Cesc and has all the pundits scrambling to name him in Spain’s starting XI against Germany on Sunday.

It doesn’t seem to matter if he starts or not.  His class will show through.

Another player that I’ve been very impressed with is Spain’s Marcos Senna.  Playing at the holding midfield spot he’s been very solid both defensively and in distribution.  Too bad he’s almost 32 years old, or maybe Arsenal would pick him up.

Arshevin, on the other hand, looked very ordinary under the watchful eye of a steady Spanish defense.  Still, Barcelona is supposedly interested in the 27 year old.  I don’t know, maybe Barcelona are going to take another look at Hleb.

Please?

Anyway, it was a great day for Cesc and I will be rooting for him to both win and come through uninjured.  A trophy here would be a great start to Arsenal’s season.

23
Jun
08

How to take a penalty part two: don’t think

Fabregas at Euro 2008

It was a very dry match, which is exactly what the Italians wanted it to be. Everyone watching knew that the Italians weren’t playing to win as much as to “not lose.” It was the type of game that any Arsenal fan recognizes immediately: a ton of great movement, great passing, loads of possession, chances not taken, and great defending by their opponent. Now, think back to any of Arsenal’s away matches up ‘norf last season and that’s what this match reminded me of. It even featured that same kind of bad luck where you just can’t seem to score a goal no matter how well you’ve broken your opponent.  Quite amazing actually.

That bad luck, though, was nothing compared to the way the Italians used the ref to turn the match into a grotesque charade of football: diving, pushing, cheating, and when the Spanish got a break away? Feigning injury. Huh. Wait a second… that’s what Bolton do! The Italians are the Bolton of international football! No wonder I hated them so viscerally from the very start.

Unlike a typical Arsenal/Bolton clash, however, this tournament must have a conclusion so, they played a useless 30 minute overtime period, followed by this year’s ubiquitous feature: the penalty shootout.

First, due credit to Iker Casillas. The impartial observer must admit that Casillas’ two saves won that match: they were as great of saves as I have seen any keeper make in any international tournament. Too bad the press is all a twitter with Fabregas’ “winning” PK because Casillas really deserves all the credit.

That said… what a stone cold penalty by Cesc! I had told my lady earlier that I thought Cesc might win it for the Spaniards but never would have predicted that he would take the fifth and decisive penalty, in fact when it went to penalties I almost left for my own football match (we won 9-0) because Cesc has never taken a penalty and I had no reason to believe that his coach would let him take one now.

But there was number 10, walking toward the spot. The camera focused on him as he backed away from the ball, his lips were blue and he had the 100 mile stare, I said “breathe Cesc, breathe!” Then… Buffon, never having seen Cesc take a penalty, guessed the wrong way and Cesc, unlike Modric, Ronaldo, and John Terry, found the back of the net at the time when his team needed it most. He didn’t shirk his duties like the horrible Nikolas Anelka. He didn’t fall down on the spot like the hapless John Terry. And he didn’t shoot wide and proceed to cry like the World’s Most Annoying Footballer ™ Ronaldo. Nope, he stuck it. He won the match.

Good for him. I was hoping that Spain would get knocked out of the tournament and Cesc could join Robin van Persie on vacation prior to the start of the season but if he had to go on playing, well… that was simply the best way in the world to do it.

Adebayor Week at Arsenal.com

Meanwhile, back in sunny old London, the fans were busy voting on who should be player of the season and after Clichy comes Adebayor in 3rd place. Bit of a mystery to me as to why so many people voted for him at all since you all seem to hate him so much but vote you did. And, erm, third place he won! Passive sentences no more shall I write!

Anyway, it’s Adebayor week at the old dot com and if you follow that link there’s a link in there in which you can spew your invectives. Just remember, he’ll be the guy in the number 25 shirt scoring goals for Arsenal next season, so you might want to hold back some venom for the two game streak where he fails to convert. Also, you might try to think of some of the positive things he brought to the team; like the winning goal against Spuds, or the 11 game scoring run, or the fact that he fundamentally (and for the better) changed the way that Arsenal played football last season. Stuff like that.

… oh yeah, they released the official squad numbers — looky there, Hleb and Adebayor are still on the list.

Transfer Roundup

And why shouldn’t Hleb be on the list? After all, Arshavin is the one who’s going to Barca and given the choice between the two, I’d probably pick Arshavin if I was Barcelona.

But that news does leave the Hleb situation in doubt, because I honestly can’t see Barcelona turning down Arshavin for £10m and buying Hleb for £8m. They would be foolish. How much you wanna bet that Hleb is with Arsenal next season?  A pint?  You’re on.

Meanwhile, over on the smelly side of London, Tottenham is ready to swoop for Arsenal fan target and £10m rated goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes. I approve this transfer as it will hopefully stop people in forums from linking us to him.

What am I saying? Arsenal fans will never stop linking Arsenal to Gomes!

And that’s it for today, perhaps Barcelona will announce that Adebayor just text messaged their cousin’s brother’s agent’s tea lady to ask for a spot of fresh tea.  Which is a CLEAR SIGN he wants to play with Theirry Henry next year.  It’s all so obvious, isn’t it?




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