Posts Tagged ‘Nasri


Arsenal v. Liverpool Preview

The weather outside is frightful. No, really, we’re supposed to have one of those “once in a decade” ice storms that basically knock out all power and clog the roads. Different than the normal weather “predictions” which tend to be wildly inaccurate in this part of the world, I fear we have some real mess coming up starting tonight and heading into tomorrow.

Obviously, my local readers are the only ones effected by this news, but it’s important enough that I thought I’d mention it straight away because it means that many of us might not be able to watch the match tomorrow. If we lose power tonight, my first priority will be to keep the girls warm and then to head up to Doyle’s for the match.

If we don’t lose power, well, then I’ll see you locals at Doyle’s! So, let’s pray to whatever gods you believe in that the weather gives us a lamb rather than a lion tonight.

Ahead of the match, Arsenal have some good news, some bad news, and some funny news.

As I was scanning the news feeds this morning I had this ominous feeling. That sort of feeling you get when the phone rings in the middle of the night. So, right away I went to the match preview and sure enough:  Howard Webb is refereeing the match. Evidently he’s become the go-to referee for any big match involving Arsenal, having already overseen Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Man U. You know, the match where he gave an incredible 6 minutes of extra time and every Ronaldo dive was greeted with a free kick while Scholes’ fouls were unpunished?

If it was just once, I wouldn’t be worried, but last season Webb oversaw an amazing 3 of Arsenal’s 5 losses, giving away an incredible 2 penalties against Arsenal and carried the ignominy of being the referee who most penalized Arsenal with yellow cards. An Arsenal team that was at the top of the “Fair play” league and by pretty much every standard imaginable are one of the least fouling teams to ever take the pitch.

I know, he’s a police officer, blah, blah. I’m not saying that he’s on the take, but just that for some reason, he oversees some of the most contentious Arsenal matches (the worst was the Carling Cup final against Chelsea) and statistically he tends to call the matches against Arsenal. That said, with the 2-1 win over Man U this year maybe Arsenal have figured out how to play with him on the pitch and we’ll see a turnaround. We can hope.

In team news, Arsenal will have the services of Samir Nasri while Liverpool will be without their talisman Fernando Torres. This should be great news for Arsenal as without Torres, Liverpool have struggled to get goals but I’m ambivalent about the announcement; Liverpool have Robbie Keane available despite his very public fall out with Benitez. Plus, Dirk Kuyt gets a lot of stick from Liverpool supporters but I think he’s their most dangerous player. He’s got pace, a decent footballing mind, and a workrate unmatched by anyone in the EPL.

Make no mistake, Liverpool will be very happy to use Xabi Alonso and Mascherano to funnel Arsenal into the middle of the pitch, allow them to play intricate passes. Then, when Arsenal inevitably cough the ball up, find an outlet and get an open goal.

Former Spud Robbie Keane would be ecstatic to score a goal on the break against Arsenal and he’s got the craft to do it too. So, while it should be great news to see Torres off the team sheet, I’m not getting too giddy.

As for Nasri, this is good news. Struggling with the physical nature of the Premiership he’s missed several games now with niggling injuries but he’s also been there in several crucial games and scored some really great goals. There’s no doubt of this player’s importance because when Nasri is out (and with Theo on long term injury) Arsenal are forced to use 4 central midfielders across the middle of the pitch and this is most directly responsible for Arsenal’s overly central, overly intricate, toothless ball-hold-ery. He he, ball-hold-ery. I swear that Arsenal would be happier if they could play with another couple of balls and an extra set of feet.

Given all that, I’d bet that the story of tomorrow’s match goes like this: Nasri scores and Webb awards a penalty for a Robbie Keane dive which Gerrard converts. A 1-1 draw and no movement in the table for Arsenal.

Speaking of dives, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Arsene Wenger’s “dive” accusation against Babel in the Champions League match last season. Well, it was a dive, true, but I wonder why he mentions it? I highly doubt it will change Webb’s mind to our favor and might make him even more likely to call against us. Moreover, comments like this tend to focus the commentators on “whinging Wenger” and then they get to point out time and again thatArsenal get these kinds of calls too — like the offside that went against Chelsea.

Whatver happens, what remains clear is that Wenger is no Fergie when it comes to pre-game manipulation. I mean come on, if Fergie had a ref with such an obvious bias he’d have a go at the ref, not Ryan Babel.

Ok, that’s about it for today. I’ve got to go get some wood in case all hell breaks loose over here. I’ll see you at Doyle’s if possible — let’s hope for a good match tomorrow and UP THE ARSE!


Arsene Wenger is not feeling well

Internationals are over for a few months and other than Theo Walcott, Arsenal look to have come out relatively unscathed, though Arsene Wenger may have picked up a bug of some sort: he’s making some very strange statements.

Cesc played all 90 minutes in Spain’s rout of, oh who cares, and will fly back to London for a good rest and hopefully a chat with the boss. He’s not playing this weekend and I hope he clears his head and figures out that Flamini and his buddy Hleb are not going to come sauntering through the door. Nor is Spain colleague Alonso going to ride in on his white horse and lead the team to victory. Cesc is going to have to take a leadership role on this team, I don’t care how young he is, there is literally no other option. People have been saying that he’d make a great captain, that this is his team, that he’s the star, blah, blah, blah. Well, the team is in an emotional toilet and clinging to the rim as clubs like Hull have a flush. Time for Cesc to show his mettle, quit acting so emo, quit looking for leadership elsewhere and pull this team up himself. No one is coming in to save us, he’s going to have to do it himself.

Theo underwent shoulder surgery last night and is now recuperating, to the tune of three months. Like I said yesterday, this doesn’t give Wenger as much of a selection headache as people think: Nasri can play there, Vela next week, Wilshere, etc. What is worrying is that Kolo is reportedly out and that raises the question as to who Arsene would put in the right back spot with Sagna, Kolo, the Tea Lady, and that clown Eboue all injured. After the boss spoke so highly of him this week the answer is clear: pair Djourou and Gallas in the back and put Silvestre in right back.

If the midfield looks a bit murky it’s because the old-heads are calling for Eboue’s reinstatement, which is sort of like hoping you get an outbreak of herpes before your honeymoon. Eboue was one of those most directly responsible for the breakdown at Tottenham (him and Song) and paired with his long history of histrionics on the pitch, incompetence with the ball, incompetence without the ball, and suspect defending as of late I’d rather he didn’t play. In fact, I’d rather Arsenal play a man down than play with Eboue.

The only real murky part is who will play on the right? My guess is a lineup of Nasri, Song, Denilson, and Diaby; and yes, I’m being serious. It’s always a crap shoot though, Arsene could pick Wilshere to play in Theo’s spot, he could play van Persie on the left (he’s done it before) and Nasri on the right, he could play with a man down and punt on 2nd down, you just never know. The announcement of the lineups is fast becoming my favorite part of this season because it’s the only predictable part of the match; in it’s unpredictability.

Arsenal are the talk of all the papers again with every disgruntled defender and half-assed holding midfielder being linked to the club. The big story though, had to be the speculation that Arsene would go nook-u-lar on the FA after hearing that they hurt his star pupil. So, what did he say?

I’m disappointed because he is an important part of the squad, but that could have happened in training here, it was an accident that could have happened anywhere. I do not blame the FA for that. It was accidental in training and I accept that. In a moment like that you do not think about compensation you think about how you can replace the player.

WHAT? Does Arsene have syphilis or something? Just last week he was talking about how unfair the international schedule is and now, suddenly, he’s all “accident’s happen?” I guess this is just going to go down as another example of what a strange season it’s been.

Press conference tomorrow, Man Citeh on Saturday, I’m off to work, even if I feel like death, that’s it for today, this sentence needs more commas, cheers.


Arsenal 3-1 Everton; The Good, Bad, and Ugly

The Good

The obvious talking point here is that we came back from 1-0 down and won 3-1. This was as complete a reversal as I have seen: from the worst 1st half I have seen since we played Sheffield United on a peat bog during what looked like World War 1, to a second half in which we played the kind of commanding football that Arsenal are supposedly known for but which we only seem to be able to do in spurts. No, that talking point is too easy. Huzzah to Arsenal, you pulled your collective heads out of your asses.

The question for me is given the Boss’ very public concerns for Theo being overused was it a good to bring him in? On the one hand I say no: Theo cannot play every single game. Especially since it’s quite clear that we are going to need him to stay competitive and that means we are going to need a 100% healthy Theo when we face top teams like Chelsea, Liverpool, Man U and Hull City.

On the other hand, this game has to be a huge boost for Theo. He now knows more than ever that he has the ability to take over and pretty much single-handedly win a game for Arsenal. This is a major boost to Theo’s confidence and understanding of the game. For that reason and that reason only I’m giving this to Theo in the “good” category.

Also showing some real quality was Mikel Sylvestre. He wasn’t the flashiest player on the pitch, but he was 100% committed and more than anyone else in an Arsenal strip willing to put himself about in order to win the ball. He is the type of no-nonsense defender that I haven’t seen at Arsenal since Sol Campbell. Rather than play the ball out of the defense like we have grown accustomed to, he is more than willing to just hoof the ball out. I know that this often just returns possession to the opposition and I know that Wenger’s game is predicated on keeping possession, but I have to say that I felt so much more assured when Mikel hoofed the ball out than when Song tried to dribble the ball out. In some ways, Mikel is exactly the kind of defender that a lot of us have been asking for. Sure, it’s just one game in and I can see where he might make some mistakes, but all our defenders are prone to mistakes so given that it’s a breath of fresh air to have such a straightforward, 100% committed defender on the team.

Likewise Samir Nasri is a hurricane of fresh air (mixed metaphor!) compared to that bloated, farty, self-important, gassbag Alex Hleb. Nasri provides width to this team, which Hleb and his insistence on dribbling into the middle could not and Nasri, and I know that you all think I over value this, also has the ability to score goals which Hleb did not. In 4 games Nasri has as many goals as Hleb had in 29 games last season.

The Bad

What was Arsene thinking playing Eboue on the right wing and Song as right back? After the match Wenger admitted that it was strange and said that he wanted Eboue to bring some “defensiveness” to the right wing. Well, that didn’t work, because it was the right side that was opened up for Leon Osman to traipse into the Arsenal box, past a sauntering Denilson and score a ho hum goal.

I don’t know what sort of magnificent player Wenger thinks Song is bit I’d rather that Song not be used in that sort of formation again.

Also bad is that Toure picked up a shoulder ligament “twist” and Samir Nasri may have picked up a thigh injury. Kolo is currently being ruled out of the Fener clash on Tuesday and Nasri is listed as day-to-day. That leaves Arsenal with really no choice but to field Sylvestre and Song in the back, Diaby on the wing, and  Theo on the other wing. Not the ideal situation really.

There are some reports that Djourou might be healthy for the trip to Turkey, fingers crossed that’s the case.

The Ugly

The whole first half.

Denilson deserves particular mention here because he wasn’t even really trying until after Theo came on. More than any other player I credit him with Osman’s goal, that was his marker. Watch the video (over at the Arsenalist, of course) Osman beats Denilson and he just walks back into defense. Maybe, MAYBE, communication was an issue. If you watch, he throws his hands up as if to say that it wasn’t his fault, so maybe someone called him off Osman. I’m not sure. All I know is that he walked back into the defense. If you want to be Arsenal’s defensive midfielder you have to have a much better sense of defense and much more commitment than that.

And finally, both Theo and Cesc are reportedly in contract negotiations and the press is having a field day. There was a news story started by News of the World that Cesc Fabregas is rejecting a massive contract offer from Arsenal. To his credit, Cesc immediately denied the reports but for me this is what you get when you make public statements like he did earlier in the week. On the other side of the coin, Theo is reportedly delaying contract negotiations with the club as well. Right now, I trust that Theo has his head on straight about this issue, after all he’s said as much in countless interviews. We’ll have to wait and see, January could get really ugly for Arsenal supporters.

That’s it for today, I’m going to go have a kickaround, drink some beer, and then my old lady is going to make me a roast dinner and pecan pie. It’s my birthday after all!



Chicken Kiev jokes!

I guess it had to be done. Some newspaper just had to print a Chicken Kiev headline and today the winner is the Daily Mail. clap… clap… clap…

A quick bit of housekeeping, I mentioned yesterday that the match starts at 11am PST, which is wrong. The match actually kicks off at 11:45am PST but the Shitanta pre-game show starts at 11am. Unless you’re in to puppets and Muppets I’d skip the pre-game and show up at the kickoff. Which is 11:45am PST. 11:45.

Pretty much right after I published yesterday the boss named his squad and the only change from the team that drubbed Rovers 4-0 is that Carlos Vela is in and Kieran Gibbs is out. That means no Nasri or Silvestre tonight, which is a shame, I really enjoy watching Nasri and am kind of excited to see what Silvestre can offer. The squad the boss named also means that Eboue has miraculously recovered after being stretchered off on Saturday.

Since I get this question all the time, let me just say that this is one of the reasons I dislike Eboue. He’s a faker of the worst sort who, like the boy who cried wolf, is now raising his fakery to ever higher levels in order to make the “injury” look real. The tackle that saw him stretchered off did look as if he suffered a blow to the back of his knee, which we all know is painful, but unless the physio detects some kind of rupture of the ligaments why can’t he get up and walk off the pitch himself? The only thing I can imagine is that Eboue played the “precaution” card and said he didn’t want to take any chances. (eye roll)

The good news is that these antics are drawing close to their zenith with his stretchering off on Saturday. In order to fool any of us again, he’ll need a medivac chopper to descend on the pitch and a team of doctors to perform “precautionary” field surgery before airlifting him to the nearest hospital. Regardless, he should get the starting nod today, which means that the lineup is unlikely to change from Saturday.

Sagna     Toure     Gallas     Clichy
Eboue     Denilson     Fabregas     Walcott
Adebayor     van Persie

Meanwhile the boss has said that Dynamo Kyiv is the kind of team that can score a lot of goals and that we need to defend well… oh god. The facts are that we’ve been lucky with our defending as of late. Yes, the sheets are clean, but after the game the underwear are not. I am hoping for another clean sheet today and this time on the back of a really convincing defensive performance, rather than relying on the opposition’s profligacy in front of goal.

Up front, Adebayor’s desire to win burns with the intensity of a thousand suns, or something.  Just score goals big fella, just score goals. This “scoring” just so happens to be my winning strategery for the day: Arsenal need to score goals and the more, the merrier. So, come on you big oaf, “balge the auld ernion bag.”

Manchester United, Sponsored by the American Taxpayer

When the “small government” conservatives who are ruining (oh I mean, “running” e.d.) this country announced on Monday that they would be bailing out AIG I wondered what would happen to Manchester United, after all they are getting something like $122m from AIG to prance around in their logo. But then I realized… oh nevermind they will just get some other business to pony up $100m to sponsor their shirts.

It is fundamentally disgusting to me though that the American Taxpayer is bailing these companies out and if I were in charge, the first thing I would do is cancel AIG’s world-wide sponsorships, all of them.  Make Man U sue the US Government for breech of contract, then we could invade Manchester, set up a puppet government and start drilling for oil.

John Terry Tackle, More Fallout

This whole thing is about to make my head explode. First, JT performs a tackle that would make an American Football coach proud of his strong safety. For which he is rightly sent off, because if it isn’t “serious foul play” (a red card) to ARM TACKLE your opponent then what the hell is a red card? Then, he and the rest of the team do their normal Chelsea thing and surround the referee and berate him for the decision, which was supposed to have been stamped out this year. THEN… JT takes his sweet time leaving the pitch while arguing with the fourth official and abusing the fans.

All of those above things could have and, given what they did to Aliadiere last year, should have resulted in at least a three match ban if not a 4-5 match ban (for a frivolous appeal and for failing to leave the pitch in an orderly fashion). This should have been the FA’s chance to really show the footballing world what they meant by this new “respect” campaign.

Instead Chelsea, as I predicted, win the appeal because the FA doesn’t actually give two f*cks about the “respect” campaign. Worse still, Mark Halsey (the referee who made the right decision against Terry) is being demoted. DEMOTED. For standing up for what he saw on the pitch, the referee is being demoted and will now referee in the 2nd division. Owch.

Basically, this decision means that the FA has instituted video replay for all matches and if you have the money to pay the extra fines that might amass from frivolous appeals you might as well appeal every single red card. Which is basically what Chelsea already do, cheat and then appeal.

It’s a sad day for English Football.

Right, now I have to go to work.  Cheers and let’s see a positive result from the Arsenal match today.  How about “Adebayor scores 13 goals?”


Blackburn v. Arsenal — preview

Arsene Wenger spoke to the media ahead of Saturday’s trip to Ewood park and the questions were mostly transfer market with a chance of Theo and a smattering of match preview. But, before I get into all that, tomorrow is the very first 7am kickoff of the season! That’s 7am local time and since the only channel in the States that is offering the match is Setanta, I will be posted at Doyle’s (link on the right) tomorrow morning. See you there if you’re one of the locals — or if you’re in town!

Wenger on Supermaket Forces

Wenger and I are of the same mind on this one. How is it that City can come out and say that they will be offering £135m to Ronaldo in January without their being some kind of inquest by the FA? How is that not tampering with the player? And before you non-Arsenal readers (I have a few) point out, as the press did a while ago, that Wenger mentioned Barry and that somehow that’s the same thing. It’s not. You’re full of it. What Man U did with Berbatov and what City are trying to do right now with every player in the league is despicable. Arsene Wenger mentioning that Barry is a good player is a world apart from City saying that they will make a £135m bin, in January, for Ronaldo. The boss, as always put it best:

Football is not a supermarket, we have to all understand that. You cannot come out and say ‘we pay £250,000-a-week to Ronaldo and £135million’, when the player has a six-year contract with Manchester United. It is not possible or acceptable. 

Why bother have contracts at all?

His broader point though is even more important, and that is that there’s a destabilizing effect that money like ADUG is tossing around has on all aspects of the game. Already rumors are flying that Wenger will have to up Walcott’s salary to keep the flies off him next season. That right there is the epitome of destabilization: the kid scored one hat trick in one international game and the next day there’s talk of having to work a new contract to keep him at Arsenal.  

You only need to look as far as City’s new signing, Robinho, and his confusion over what team he really signed for in order to see the end product of this destabilization.

Injury Report

More than just about any other day this year, tomorrow’s team is going to be a mystery. First, the promised debut of new signing Silvestre may have to wait until Wendesday and I won’t be surprised if the guy gets moved back another few days on Tuesday as well — not that this is a pattern with this player or anything. 

Also doubtful is Samir Nasri, who may have some kind of knee injury. The club is being vague, only saying that whatever it was that kept him out of the France match may rule him out for tomorrow.

Rosicky was slated to return this month and was, by all reports, doing splendidly in his recovery. Then Czech coach Petr Rada spilled the beans and told the world that Rosicky’s knee failed him again. I will be shocked if we ever again see this player on the pitch in an Arsenal uniform.

Obviously, Eduardo cannot play yet, but Diaby might get a start tomorrow and in his favored central midfield role. I’m really interested to see 1) how Diaby handles the role; can he tackle without being reckless? can he hold back his attacking instincts? does he have that sort of “spider sense” that the defensive midfielder needs? and 2) will he play the whole 90 minutes without injury?

Which just leaves “rotation” as the reason that a lot of players will or will not see action tomorrow. Fabregas is fresh, having only played a 1/4 of an hour on Wednesday, so I fully expect him to anchor the midfield. Depending on the fitness of Nasri, Theo could (and should) be left out of the squad tomorrow so that he can be fresh for Wendesday.

This means that I fully expect Eboue on the right side of midfield and if’s “Key Battles” is any indication then both Gallas and Sagna will start in defense.

The other two defensive positions are up to the fitness of Silvestre, which means that Toure and Clichy will almost certainly play.

Up front we will see Adebayor (since he didn’t play for fear of death) and his partner will likely be RvP to start with Bendtner coming off the bench; Vela is out because it took too long for him to return from the Americas.

Given all of this, don’t be surprised to see a very strange lineup tomorrow.

The Opponents

Blackburn have proven to be a tough opponent even if Arsenal have run rough shod over them in the last handfull of matches (knock on wood) and I expect that new boss Paul Ince will have them up for the challenge tomorrow. Given the number of players Arsenal had out on Internationals and the fact that they haven’t had a practice together in a week and a half, I am nervous about this game. Arsenal haven’t had a chance to really gell yet and this latest international “break” could set that back a little. Plus, all the injuries and just plain tired legs… ugh.

Meanwhile Blackburn are coming off a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of West Ham and have had a week and a half to prepare for this game. They should be fresh and focused and Arsenal will be tired and distracted, so I’m going to say that a draw would be a good result for Arsenal, a win would be more than we should expect and a loss is not unreasonable.

We’ll see!


One part Pires, one part Overmars, and a sprinkle of Zidane

Not much going on today.  It’s a slow news Monday, I have a bit of a hangover, and my pub team lost in the first round of the playoffs yesterday.  So, there’s a short blog in store for you.

According to Gilberto Silver over at Gunnerblog, Arsene Wenger’s promised signing looks like it may be off.  I’ll save the “I told you so’s” for the day the transfer window officially closes but I still firmly believe that the club isn’t really looking too hard for that signing that the handwringers (like Piers Morgan) want so badly.  I believe that because I keep seeing the boss say things like “Absences make the squad grow stronger” and “Not only do we make results but we develop players as well.”  Not exactly the kinds of statements you hear from a team looking for a big signing.  In fact, Man U reportedly put their desire to sign a “quality striker” right into yesterday’s match program, no wonder Looney was so pissed off yesterday.

Regardless of signing or not signing, the positive news stories this morning are all about Samir Nasri.  The boss likened him to Pires and I have to say that Pires was the first person that popped into my mind and probably a lot of yours as well.  Robert was a major contributor to the last double Arsenal won and it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Nasri put in the same type of contributions.  I mean, imagine if Arsenal could get 15 goals from that spot: that would be 30 more goals than we got from Hleb.  Already Nasri has shown a willingness to shoot and so while he may not be as dribbly-steppy overy-pass the ball into the defense- as Hleb  (who Piers Morgan laughingly called “our best technical player”) I already think he’s a marked improvement over the Belarussian.

But for Wenger, Nasri also draws comparisons to Mark Overmars as both players were a gamble by the boss in that they were coming into the team after a poor season at their previous club.  Maybe so, but in order for the comparison to be apt, the boss will have to sell Nasri for ten times his purchase price — after they win the double.  Sorry but I can’t see anyone paying £110m for Nasri — well, Tottenham would if only he were English.  No, I’ll stick with the Pires comparison for now.

Maybe a little bit like Ljungerg? Let’s wait and see if he dyes his hair a red streak.

Oh and finally, I’d like all the handwringers and people who think they know better than Arsene Wenger to have a look at what Tony Mowbray (West Brom’s manager) had to say about Arsenal after their so called “pathetic” display.

Quality players cost money but I think the biggest factor is the mental capacity to take in what you are trying to teach. Once we get players who can do that, we will have a team which follows that philosophy — a passing, moving, thoughtful team. The secret is the way Arsene Wenger has done it. You don’t pay £30m for a player, you identify the talent very early and nurture it.

Look at that, someone appreciates Arsenal for what they are doing.  Must not be a “true” Arsenal supporter.


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
Bacary SAGNA
William GALLAS
Justin HOYTE
Kieran GIBBS
Emmanuel EBOUE
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!

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May 2020