Category Archives: Arsenal

BAHA 2-3 Arsenal: Super Tom saves the day

Arsenal got off to a bright start against Brighton and Hove Albion at the Falmer Stadium but needed a little late magic from man of the match Tomas Rosicky to move on to the next round.

Arsène Wenger made 11 changes to the team which beat Man City last week. In defense, Szczesny started in goal, Gibbs left back, Monreal second left back, Koscielny third left back, and Chambers played right wing. Flamini was brought in as defensive pointer, Ramsey played somewhere, and Rosicky was charged with running all over the pitch and being all around brilliant. Up front, Giroud did his hair, Özil played like a 150lb sack of feathers, and Theo Walcott was charged with dribbling straight into opposition defenders.

Chris Houghton’s men set out to obfuscate from the start but before the ink could dry on their game plan Calum Chambers galloped up the right side, played a good cross to Theo Walcott who took a touch to set the ball and stroked across the keeper. It was all Theo would do on the day and after that goal he went for a lie down.

Still, If Albion’s plan was to defend first, they failed at that within 90 seconds.

From there everyone expected The Seagulls to come out and attack Arsenal but there was no such impetus. Instead they sat back and allowed Arsenal to run roughshod over them. In that first half, Albion played the part of Switzerland and neither defended nor countered. And to carry that analogy further, Arsenal played the part of Italy and attacked Ethiopia, and nearly lost.

Arsenal were afforded as much space as they wanted with the ball, rarely being challenged on a dribble or even closed down when they made a pass. Tomas Rosicky simply waltzed across the Albion back line and when he spotted Özil in 10 yards of space inside the box, played a clever reverse through ball to him. Özil, who had more time in the box than a Christmas present, took two touches to settle the ball before firing into the short side for Arsenal’s second.

Arsenal finished the half doing whatever they wanted to Albion and no metaphor is needed here.

Perhaps Chris Houghton had a word with his players because Albion started the second half a little more dively than the first. Calderon, in particular, dove to win a free kick (which didn’t produce a save) and then dove again in the penalty box when he felt a little nip at the heels from Koscielny. He wasn’t awarded a penalty. Just saying that in case you think he was.

Albion put a little pressure on Arsenal when Monreal’s insane clearance went from the left side of the Arsenal box to Calum Chambers, the right back. Chambers didn’t challenge for the ball and an Albion player (does it matter which one?) climbed all over his back to win the knock down. Sam Baldock, who is not an ambiturner, turned left and his “marker” Flamini was left trundling at his side as Baldock shot into the short side between Koscielny’s legs who was trying to shy away from the shot. It was a very Arsenal goal to concede.

Then the moment of the match. Arsenal had Albion pinned down in a pill box and were peppering them with fire from their Tommy gun. I was having a lie down and watching the whole event unfold from my couch, like any good officer does, and when Rosicky tackled away the ball in the Albion final third, I sat up. He then avoided a sort of tackle and made a clever no look pass to Giroud who did that thing Giroud does where he just stands the ball up for someone. That someone was Rosicky who was being marked closely by teammate Aaron Ramsey. Rosicky shrugged off his marker and hit home a brilliant volley that basically said “ICH BIN EIN BERLINER.”

(The FA took down my video)

The whole time Rosicky was being brilliant and scoring goals of the season candidates Theo Walcott was wide open on the right side of the pitch screaming for the ball. That was my favorite moment of the match.

Arsenal should have won the game easily but Arsenal doesn’t do easily. So they conceded a second goal. That forced Wenger to go to the bench and bring on Akpom, Alexis, and Coquelin. Coquelin brought a measure of calmity to the proceedings. Calmity or calmitude? Whatever, Arsenal looked more solid.

Akpom was set free twice and both times had Alexis to his right, wide open and directly in front of goal. Akpom chose to shoot both times, sadly ending his Arsenal career. Alexis then hit a series of direct free kicks into various places that weren’t the goal. Though all were pretty close!

It was the kind of performance from Rosicky that will leave many Arsenal fans wondering why he doesn’t get more playing time. Rosicky had been no-looking and back-heeling, cutting back, and slipping in balls, all day. Also running around. Tackling. Dribbling. He was just super.

Arsenal are one step closer to back to back FA Cup wins. Which, if Wenger can manage that, will leave the Wenger outers with little choice but to say that the FA Cup isn’t really a trophy. Thus debasing even their hero, George Graham.

Qq

Alexis

Why the FA’s meddling with immigration rules is bad for English football

You have by now caught wind that Arsène wanted to sign Angel Di Maria when he was 16 but was prevented because of the British work permit laws. In some of the articles I’ve read on this topic there is even mention that the Football Association wants to artificially limit the number of non-EU footballers in the Premier League starting next season. To put a cap on the number of Latin American and Asian players, essentially. 

It is, along with every idea that the FA has concocted since I’ve been writing about football, the dumbest idea ever. You know what this rule does? It makes the Spanish and German leagues stronger because they have a much deeper talent pool to draw from. It also enriches those leagues because they can get young Brazilians and Argentinians in early, spend a few years developing them, and then sell them to the Premier League for… what did di Maria cost Man U? Exactly.

And that’s not even mentioning the effect this will have on British players. With this rule, the homegrown rule, and everything else they have tried since they were forced to accept EU passport holders without caps, the FA acts like it believes that if they just closed off England to all foreign players, the British kids would get better.

I have news for you: England tried that and didn’t win a single World Cup after 1966 despite being one of the most closed off countries in the world.

If you really want British kids to get better at football you need them to play with kids like di Maria starting at a young age. You need them to work with coaches like Jonker and others who bring in new ideas and marry them to the old ideas.

I dare say, and I don’t have the stats to prove it, but I suspect Arsenal Football club have more former players currently playing in the Premier League than any other club. Song, Jenkinson, Fabregas, van Persie, Clichy, Sagna, and those are just the stars! There are many more second-tier Arsenal players (feel free to list them and their teams below).

The positive effect of Arsenal’s policy of taking on any player who is good enough regardless of their passport is on display every weekend in the Premier League. Every time Seb Larsson scores a winning goal off a set play, that’s Arsenal kicking a hole in England’s anti-immigration policy. Every time Fabregas sets up Costa, that’s Arsenal kicking another hole. Every time Alex Song (homegrown player) passes the ball to Jenkinson (local kid) who whips in a cross to that lumbering galoot Carroll, that’s Arsenal taking yet another chink out of the FA’s preposterously constructed anti-immigrant armor.

The Football Association’s preposterous attempts to enact what amounts to affirmative action for Englishmen is, and always has been, doomed to failure. No one in England benefits. The only people who win are the clubs in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Germany, where players like Alexis have to go for 5 years while they wait to get their EU citizenship and then get sold to England for tens of millions of pounds.

And not only are these players now costing more, the fact that clubs are bringing in 26 year old players like di Maria instead of a 17 year old di Maria means that young English talent will not get a look in at these top clubs. Because a team is going to play a 26 year old (who is now the finished product) over the 17 year old English player who has a bright career in front of him.

It is exactly the kind of market meddling that always has the exact opposite effect from the one intended. Instead of bringing in competition for places, it artificially raises the competition to a point where English players are squeezed out. Further meddling, making the non-EU players rarer won’t help the Premier League or the English players. It will only help every other league in the world.

That’s your lot for today, I’ve ranted enough. Perhaps tomorrow I will bring some stats about corners and crosses. Maybe. Until then I have to go check my passport, I’m not sure if the FA wants me writing about English Football. After all, I’m an American.

Qq

Post Script: 

I want to mention that Arsenal are doing an event in April called “Be a Gunner, Be a Runner.” It’s a short run, 6.4km (4 miles) in which the participants run 10 laps around the Emirates stadium. There is an entry fee of £15 with proceeds going to the Arsenal Foundation. The Arsenal Foundation is Arsenal’s official charity and works to help young people around the world fulfill their potential. The Arsenal Foundation partners with Save the Children and the Willow Foundation.

If you live in England or plan to be there on April 11th and want to participate you can find out more information on Arsenal.com. For those of us who live overseas we can participate as well and I thought it would be fun to get a group together here in my part of the world to train and run on April 11th. I have the route already picked out, it’s a forest jog through Tacoma’s very own Pt. Defiance. Perhaps you made a resolution to get fit in the new year? Getting a group run together is the perfect way to make that happen. I envision us practicing on the weekends after the matches, maybe every Saturday until we can nail the entire run in under an hour. If you’re into this sort of thing, send me an email to 7amkickoff at gmail and I’ll get you signed up. As a bonus, we will get numbers from Arsenal for the actual race day and I will take photos of us all and send them to the media folks. You could be famous!

Arsenal verge on signing Paulista but will he work?

We have confirmation from Arsène Wenger that Arsenal are well down the road toward buying center back Gabriel Paulista from Villareal. With Mertesacker and Koscielny the only two first choice center backs and with both players looking like they are carrying injuries, Arsenal desperately need another center half and Paulista fits the bill. But as usual with Arsenal transfers, the Gunners look like they are trying to get him on the cheap and he might not even qualify for a work permit. If I didn’t know any better I would say Arsène Wenger is just trolling you all with this signing.

It’s unusual for Arsène to speak about a transfer deal until it is done. On the verge of signing Mesut Özil from Real Madrid, Wenger once tittered “maybe we will have a little surprise for you”. I would have a hard time keeping my mouth shut if I was about to sign Mesut Özil for my fantasy football team, only Wenger knows how he kept himself in check while working on signing Özil in real life.

And yet Wenger was very open that he is trying to sign Paulista:

“The talks are progressing quite well, to be serious,” the Arsenal manager said. “[It’s] 50-50 at this moment, yes. We are talking at the moment; can we find an agreement or not? I don’t know. We are slowly progressing but there’s a chance. We are ready to pay the price we think is right for a good player, no matter what the price is. If we think it’s the right price we will pay.”

From what I’ve read, Paulista has a £16m release clause. The snag from Villareal’s point of view is that Arsenal aren’t meeting that valuation and Villareal have absolutely no need to sell.

Meanwhile, Arsenal aren’t meeting that valuation for good reason: the kid doesn’t qualify for a work permit in the UK because he doesn’t even come close to fulfilling the rather arbitrary requirement that he play 75% of his country’s international matches. In fact, Paulista hasn’t played a single match for Brazil. So, do you just stump up the money for a player you can’t play? No, of course not.

This is exactly the kind of transfer saga that drives a certain portion of the Arsenal fanbase nuts: Wenger is clearly looking to get a good deal, to fill a position where there is an absolute need, and the transfer has turned into a saga.

It’s all a little too much for some fans and I get it. On the day that Arsenal are announced as the 8th richest club in the universe the manager is bargaining to get a player he might not even be allowed to play because he can’t get a work permit.

This signing also excites a large portion of the fanbase and I get that too: this signing has all the hallmarks of Wenger uncovering another gem for cheap. Let’s not forget that when Arsène signed Koscielny it drove a certain portion of the fanbase nuts. “Who is this guy from League 2?” and “Why can’t we just go sign Gary Cahill? He’s mates with Wiltshere!”¹

Paulista is already being compared favorably to Koscielny by writers in the know like Sid Lowe. Apparently, he’s strong and quick, he reads the game well, and he likes to attack the ball. All the best qualities of Koscielny.

Villareal play counter-attacking football with Paulista an important part of both the defending and getting the counters started. As we detailed in yesterday’s post, Arsenal look like they are switching to a counter-attacking style and in that case Paulista could possibly slot right in.

But the sticking point is the work permit. Arsenal have tried to get around the work permit rules in the past and have failed every time. In fact, the Gunners still have Wellington Silva on loan, a player they signed in 2010 and who the FA originally awarded a special talent visa to, which they later rescinded. There were others before that, Petr Cech most notably. Arsenal couldn’t get Cech a visa despite the fact that he had played at every level for the Czech Republic since he was 15 years old. Chelsea managed to get him that permit two years later.

Wenger is known for being stubborn and only signing the Goldilocks players, players who are “just right” for what he wants at Arsenal. But this one seems like a hell of a gamble on not only the player but the rather capricious UK and FA work permit rules. Wenger seemed confident in his interview that they could get a visa and they seem to be putting in the work to sign the player so perhaps this saga is much ado about nothing and the player will step right into the Arsenal first team before the close of the window.

I sure hope so. I’d hate to see the state of some blogs if Wenger fails to sign this guy or worse, signs him and has to loan him back out for another 4 years to get him a visa.

Qq

¹I know his name is Wilshere but for some reason Brits seem to call him Wiltshere.