Category Archives: Arsenal

Barton

It’s the return of the bully: Joey Barton

Seven years ago Arsenal lost to Burnley 2-0 at their home stadium of Turf Moor. It was December 2008 and the two teams were drawn together for the League Cup. At the time, Wenger always played the kids in the cup and so the lineup for Arsenal that day was Fabianski, Hoyte, Silvestre, Ramsey, Gibbs, Rodgers (Lansbury 46), Randall (Bischoff 72), Merida, Wilshere (Simpson 63), Bendtner, and the ever chippy Carlos Vela.

Wenger was criticized for using young players in those League Cup ties, people claimed that Arsenal were “disrespecting the cup” as if the League Cup was some ancient tradition in football. But Wenger was right to play the kids because it gave them experience, even in, especially in a loss; Wenger was building the character of his young players.

Most of the names on that team sheet are gone. Some for good riddance, others because they were simply not good enough, and still others because they deserved to play football full time at another club. I still get a chuckle when I think of Amaury Bischoff coming on in the 72nd minute, Wenger’s last throw of the dice.

But some of the players are still with Arsenal and will be available for Saturday’s match against Burnley. Ramsey and Gibbs in particular will almost certainly start, and if Wilshere was healthy he would probably start as well.

Since that match in 2008, Aaron Ramsey has gone on to recover from a terrible double-leg break and played a pivotal part in back to back FA Cup trophies for the Gunners. Ramsey will remember that night at Turf Moot, the sting of defeat at the hands of the smaller club, and he will be up for this game.

And marking him in midfield will be Joey Barton. That’s right, wearing the number 13, and playing in the central midfield role for Burnley is the Donald Trump of modern football, Joey Barton.

What makes Barton so Trump-like is the combination of an insanely irritating personality, a weird popularity sparked by a good sense of showmanship, and it’s all wrapped neatly in a megalomaniacal package. The one thing that Trump and Barton like best in this world is Trump and Barton.

Watch any Trump speech and what you’ll notice is a starting lack of any specifics to the hundreds of ideas he has already said that he will make reality as president. He claims he will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. How? Well, you just have to understand, he’s a great negotiator. He will just force Mexico to do it.

Joey Barton has the same kind of attitude. This summer he was released by QPR and no one came calling. Well, he claims there were a few. But when he was picked up by Burnley on a free he gave his first interview and stated unequivocally that Burnley were smart, for hiring Joey Barton.

It reiterates how fickle this industry is and how lazy people are. There’s a lot of lazy people out there. If you did your due diligence and were smart and a forward-thinking organisation – certainly in the Championship – I was a no-brainer really if you wanted to get promotion.

You see people spending money on players in that position, I am thinking: ‘Wow’. But Burnley are obviously smarter than the average bear when it comes to that, you can see that in the recruitment over recent years.

See, it’s simple, really, everyone else is lazy and stupid for not picking Joey Barton. He’s a no-brainer and Burnley are smarter than the average bear, boo boo.

I don’t know how smart it is to take Joey Barton in your team. He does have the ability to rile some players up, he got Arsenal’s Diaby and Gervinho sent off after they retaliated against him for his assaults on them. And if you watch that Gervinho video above, you will see what Joey Barton is all about: hauling Gervinho up by his lapels for a dive and then when Gervinho touches Barton’s face, taking a dive himself. You can also see Berton kicking people in that video and getting stamped on by Alex Song, again in retaliation. He does have a knack for riling up the Arsenal players.

Barton and Trump are both bullies. And when their bullying fails they both have a tendency to explode into ugly scenes.

Trump is currently in a non-stop twitter war with Fox News over them using Megyn Kelly in the latest debate. He doesn’t like  Kelly because she asked him a question he didn’t want to answer so he is boycotting the debate and sending out all kinds of crazy tweets about Fox News. I’ve never seen anything like it from a Presidential candidate. He is literally acting like a spoiled child.

And when his team needed him on the final day of the 2012 season Barton lost his rag in a similar fashion. QPR needed a result against Man City on the final day of the season, or for Stoke to beat Bolton. Not knowing the outcome of the Stoke-Bolton match and seemingly unable to bully the Man City players into submission, Barton lost his mind and elbowed Carlos Tevez. The moment he saw the red card he went even crazier, kicking Aguero from behind, trying to headbut Kompany, and going after Balotelli on the sidelines.

If Barton is looking forward to any match this season it’s this one. He loves to get under Arsenal’s skin and it works. Add to that history the fact that this is an FA Cup tie and that referees tend to let a lot more go in these matches and we could have a real ugly match on our hands.

And considering Joey Barton’s latest line from Burnley’s 4-1 win over Derby — 0 goals, 0 shots, 0 assists, 5 fouls, 0 cards — we can get a sense of exactly what Barton will be up to.

Qq

Ow, I've ruptured my ego!

Everything is awful, everyone should be dropped, and Elneny will save us

Drop it like it’s Walcott

One of the more pervasive theories is that Wenger should drop Theo Walcott when Alexis returns. The reaction after the Chelsea match on twitter was almost unanimous, he’d had the game that sealed the deal: Walcott’s career at Arsenal was done. I have a carefully groomed timeline on twitter and I was still inundated with Gooners saying things like “10 years at Arsenal, I hope that match was his testimonial”.

Fans seem evenly divided between starting Campbell, who they believe gives more to the team than Walcott, and playing some weird midfield duo so that Ramsey can be pushed back wide. But if I were to guess at Wenger’s thoughts I would look at what he did when he put Alexis on: he took off Campbell.

A major reason for why he kept Walcott on was because the Englishman is simply more of a goal threat than Campbell. I’m not saying Walcott is the greatest forward in the world but he is statistically a better dribbler, takes more shots, gets more shots on target, and has much better footspeed than Campbell.

By playing Walcott, Alexis and Giroud at the same time what you’re doing is making the opponent cover multiple options at the same time. You’ve got a guy who can break on corners (Walcott), a guy who can physically battle with the defenders (Giroud), and a guy who is just wildcattin’ all the time (Alexis). If Wenger plays Campbell, he gets better defending. If Wenger plays Theo he gets better attacking. And right now Arsenal need all the attacking they can get.

Help us Mo Elneny, you’re our only hope…

The other idea that people have is that Elneny and Coquelin will start together and then Ramsey will play on the right. Maybe, I guess. Ramsey on the right did sort of work sometimes at the start of the season — though if my memory serves there were also a lot of complaints by fans about Arsenal’s lack of counter attacking, speed, and width when Ramsey played “wide”.  I remember complaining about it, more than once.

Wenger is a huge gambler (as evidenced by his lack of transfer activity in the summer!) so perhaps we will see this virgin midfield duo deployed. But man, that seems like a huge risk to me because Elneny is such an unknown quantity. In fact I suspect that’s the reason so many people are attracted to this idea. Because it’s an unknown, there’s very little risk in mooting it. If it fails, you simply say “oh well, at least we tried” and if it succeeds “see, I’m right!”

The problem with Elneny-Coquelin is that Elneny would have to boss the midfield in possession. Coquelin isn’t a terrible passer but he worked well with Cazorla because Cazorla is a pass master. Is Elneny a pass master? Some people think so. I’ve never seen him play in the Premier League, while being kicked up and down the pitch by Joey Barton. But if he starts against Burnley, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. So, I guess we will see what Elneny is made of in that game.

But I’d be shocked if Wenger starts him and Coquelin at the same time.

Arsenal are out of the title race

Mer… this has been the most unpredictable season I have ever seen and Arsenal are just 3 points off the top of the table. I’m not ready to call it just yet.

Actually, I’d like to see the members of the press start to put some pressure on Tottenham. They are only 5 points off the top of the table and have been playing some of the most consistent football of any club this season. They need to be considered legitimate title contenders. Arsenal are just a little horse.

Tim you were wrong about squad depth

Arsenal lost three of their starting midfielders all in the same week: Alexis, Coquelin, and Cazorla. Each one of these players is unique in what they do. There is no team in the world that has two Alexises (Alexii?), two Coquelins (Coquelinii?), and two Cazorlas (Cazorlaii?).

Alexis is the attacking impetus of the team (and provides us with a pressing energy up high that sets the team up for better defending), Coquelin provided the defensive solidity in midfield, and Cazorla is simply the best midfielder in the world at breaking opposition pressure (and provided a second passing threat, forcing teams to cover more than one option and taking pressure off Ozil). Those three players were the spine of this Arsenal team and if you rip the spine out of any club — imagine Man City loses Aguero, Yaya, and Kompany for half the season or Leicester loses Mahrez, Kante, and Huth, their three best players — the level is going to drop dramatically.

So it was normal that Arsenal’s offense and defense dropped.

But look at what the backups did: they kept Arsenal out of the Europa League, beat Man City, forged another berth in the FA Cup, and despite some pretty bitter results, Arsenal are 3 points off the top of the table. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, that is the very definition of squad depth. I feel like I’m the only Arsenal supporter who sees this and is happy that the team did as well as it did under the circumstances.

I’m not saying that I did a little victory dance when Arsenal lost to Chelsea or that in some other theoretical universe Wenger had bought three players who were “better than Flamini, Walcott, and Ramsey” (or whichever players you dislike) and Arsenal had run away with the League. But I don’t live in a theoretical universe, and if I did it wouldn’t be so boring that I would be worried about signing players who are only slightly better than Flamini, and so in the circumstances, the backups did pretty OK.

Regardless where you fall on that debate, Alexis is back, Coquelin is back, Welbeck is coming back, Wilshere is being thawed out of his carbonite stasis, and Elneny is going to save us.

Really, it’s all down to Elneny.

Qq

Never in Doubt

Arsenal v. Chelsea: no pressure

Tottenham won today, bringing them within 2 points of Arsenal in 4th place… no pressure.

Man City drew today, taking them above Arsenal on the table… no pressure.

Leicester won today, taking them 3 points above Arsenal and to the top of the table… no pressure.

Arsenal need a win to go back to the top of the table… no pressure.

Arsenal haven’t beaten Chelsea in the League since 2011… no pressure.

If we go back to when Arsenal lost to Chelsea in the Champions League in the year of the Invincibles (2004), Arsenal have only won 5 of the last 30 matches against Chelsea… no pressure.

Arsenal have lost 17 of those 30 matches against Chelsea… no pressure.

One of those losses was an ugly League Cup final which saw two Arsenal players sent off, in a match that was so poorly refereed that the Football Association had to retroactively ban Arsenal’s Eboue for clawing at a man and for that man pretending like he’d been clawed by the adamantium claws of Wolverine… no pressure.

The last match between these two teams also saw two Arsenal players sent off in a match so poorly refereed that the Football Association had to step in and retroactively re-referee the entire match handing out a red card to Chelsea’s Costa for assaulting Arsenal’s Koscielny: Arsenal will be looking to right the wrongs of that match in the eyes of all football fans… no pressure.

Costa

Diego Costa will probably play and has made an entire career of being a wind up merchant… no pressure.

Arsenal have a reputation for being easily wound up… no pressure.

The pundits like to paint this fixture as “men” against “boys” and say things like how Arsenal “don’t like it up ‘em” which is a pretty weird thing for an adult who has graduated from elementary school to say… no pressure.

Winding up is all Chelsea have left, since they are in 14th place and would love nothing more than to stop Arsenal from winning the League… no pressure.

Chelsea will kick, punch, slap, tackle wildly and do anything they can in order to rough Arsenal up… no pressure.

Chelsea have former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas… no pressure.

He is a player Arsenal might have been able to buy back last summer but he went to Chelsea and won the Premier League instead… no pressure.

Arsenal bought Chelsea’s keeper this summer, Petr Cech, and he’s been brilliant for them all season, organizing the defense, calming the midfield, claiming crosses when needed, and making huge saves; Arsenal will probably need some more magic from him in this match… no pressure.

Arsenal are missing inspirational midfield duo Coquelin and Cazorla and have a maskeshift midfield of Ramsey and Flamini which tends to be a little too open in the middle sometimes and allows the opposition to boss the middle of the park… no pressure.

Arsenal have drawn their last two Premier League matches, conceding three and scoring three… no pressure.

Chelsea have also drawn their last two matches, conceding five and scoring five… no pressure.

Chelsea fired their greatest ever manager this season… no pressure.

Chelsea haven’t lost since firing Mourinho… no pressure.

Arsenal haven’t scored in the last eight hours of Premier League play against Chelsea… no pressure.

Chelsea have struggled to beat anyone this season, winning just two away games, a lot of Arsenal fans are expecting a win in this match… no pressure.

Tim Todd from 7amkickoff has his Peter Hill-Wood “Never in Doubt” image lined up and ready to go after the match… no pressure.

Never in Doubt

Qq