Category Archives: Arsenal

It’s only one game, but oh my what a game: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Despite contracting an illness that is nigh unspeakable and even a trip to the hospital to get a shot in the ass which staved off the nausea long enough to get some fluids in and watch the tape of Arsenals’ 6-1 win over Everton, I had a wonderful day yesterday. Such is the sickness of being an Arsenal fan.

The day started as inauspiciously as possible, I was awoken with a rumbling in my stomach and immediately went to the bathroom to empty the contents — that was 3:30 am.  6 hours before The Arsenal played Everton, ugh, what’s going on?

I sat on the couch with a glass of water and switched the television on to ESPN2 in high def, to check the listings to see if the Chelsea v. Hull match was listed; nope, huntin’ and fishin’ as far as the eye could see. Crap.

So, I waited and watched a turkey hunting show, well it was some kind of cross between huntin’ and NASCAR, very strange, but hey, I found out that Bass Pro Shops have a kick ass camo shotgun on sale for $1000! I need that, for, erm, turkey huntin’.

So, I waited, drank some water and waited until 4:30am, watching various huntin’ shows, when suddenly coverage switched from huntin’ to EPL… in High Definition. WOW. Yeah, I was watching Chelsea and Hull and no one wants to do that, but the high definition broadcast was as cool as it gets. For us Arsenal fans in North America this means that we’re going to get to see the first North London Derby (on October 31st) for free on ESPN2 in high definition. Very cool, I may even get up early every weekend and watch their broadcast, hell, the commercials for bass fishin’ and shotguns are a change of pace from the Upgrade and Wallbangers commercials.

The coverage was good too, I know a lot of fans were worried that the usual ESPN crews would be covering the color and play by play but it sounded like the Sky Sports guys to me, if anyone wants to clarify who was covering the match I’d be much obliged.

Anyway, that’s all just icing, the cake itself would happen at 9:30am.

As I’ve said before, I don’t do match reports, other folks do that better than me and if you want a match report you should click on over to ESPN where they’re saying “Gunners Crush Tottenham” or over to the Telegraph where the lead is “A summer of whispering doubt, silenced.

And if, for some crazy reason, you missed the match, you can head over to the Arsenalist who always has the highlights.

What I usually do is a Good, Bad, and Ugly and a man of the match. Why break with tradition now?

Man of the Match

Sometimes this can be a controversial pick, but I’d be shocked if today’s MotM was anything less than unanimous: Cesc Fabregas. All he did was have a hand in 4 of the 6 goals scored while doing a fine job captaining the team.  It’s only the first game and I’m not trying to get too high on anyone just yet, but Cesc looked like he had a good spring in his step and seemed to be organizing the boys very well. Obviously, the true test of a captain is when he’s faced with adversity but the young man has done well here.

The Good

There were so many goods yesterday it’s hard to pick out just one or two, so I’m going to limit it to just three: Vermaelen, Song, and Bendtner.

In Vermaelen (TV5 from now on) Arsene has found his dominant aerial player and actually his heading seems to be contagious. I have to wonder if the squad’s lack of heading ability the last few years hasn’t been down to just not being brave enough. Vermaelen doesn’t seem to suffer that affliction and gets his head in in places that normal guys wouldn’t dare. Maybe it’s just a perception on my part but it seems like everyone was getting “head in” on every play. Maybe Wenger worked on it? Maybe Vermaelen is an inspiration at 4’11″ or whatever he’s supposed to be? But whatever the case the whole team was amazing in the air. His goal was just a bonus.

Song seems to have picked up another aspect of his game, man marking. Ok, well, maybe Wenger’s the one who picked that up, but whatever the case Song simply marked Felliani out of the game. Song didn’t win every header, you can’t expect him to, but he did fight and tussle, and basically took Felliani out of the game. Moyes didn’t seem to know what to do. It was as if he came with one plan, “Arsenal aren’t good in the air,” and when Song and Vermaelen neutralized that attack, Everton didn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, Song simply did his job, broke up plays, and then started the attack with a neat pass to the captain.  It was the kind of performance that he was putting in regularly at the end of last season and there’s no reason why we can’t expect more from him this year.

Bendtner had a lot of question marks hanging over him this year, especially about his ability to score goals. But I think we saw what we should expect from the big fella this year; he’ll be some kind of wing-ish, attacker, hold up player. Seriously. It’s strange to see a big man on the wings, receiving a long ball, holding up play, and then moving it on to a marauding midfielder. The commentators noted that they’d never seen a big man deployed on the wings  and I’d have to agree with them. It was strange but it worked and it worked because, unlike some other tall feller I could name Bendtner put in a massive work rate yesterday. More than once, Everton tried to exploit space behind Sagna by passing a long diagonal there and then bringing in their own player into the space that opens in midfield, only to be thwarted by Bendtner patrolling the midfield. If he can do all that AND be a target man I think a lot of folks will be very happy with him this year.

The Bad

I really wanted that clean sheet. I wanted it so bad that I started getting nervous at the end ofg the match, kind of like I was watching a 1-0 lead in the FA Cup or something. Not quite, but still you get the point.

Plus I hate messy, scrambling, goals. Unless we score them.

The Ugly

The only ugly yesterday was the fluids coming out of all my orifices (HA HA POOP THREAD). But I did wonder why the Everton folks were booing Cesc?

Conclusions

As much as anything, this game was a signal to the league. It’s pretty clear that this team felt like they had something to prove yesterday, from their defense in the air, to their slick passing, and shots from distance they took every criticism that Arsenal have suffered these last two years and turned it into a strength. How well they’ll be able keep that up will be the tale of the season.

I haven’t seen Arsenal beat Everton this badly since the 7-0 win that immediately preceded the FA Cup which marked Arsenal’s last piece of silverware. On that day, it was a masterful 34 year old Dennis Bergkamp who won man of the match, today it was the 22 year old Cesc Fabregas. One has to wonder if the torch of the old invincibles hasn’t been finally extinguished with the departure of Toure, and a new torch lit yesterday. 37 more games will tell, for now, I’m basking in this one glorious victory, the day when Arsenal’s season started perfectly.

Enjoy.

“It’s a big season for us”

It's a mineral...

Arsene Wenger gave his first pre-match interview of the new season and between what’s been reported in the press and the exclusive on the dot com, Wenger’s being more forthright that I’ve ever seen him. And frankly, it’s refreshing, but before we get to that I have a couple of pieces of business to get through.

First off, if you’re an American, then you were probably all excited by the supposed news that ESPN would be carrying the early games (the 4am PST kickoff matches) here in the states. Well, there’s still no confirmation on that front, and the latest news from EPL Talk is that they are in last minute negotiations.  Tomorrow’s season opener is Hull and Chelsea and could be on ESPN2 at 4:15 PST, I get up that early (to write the blog!) so I’ll be checking in with them. This only really effects us Arsenal supporters when Arsenal host Tottenham in the North London Derby in October, so, there’s time for them to work it all out and let’s hope that they do.

Second, 7amkickoff’s very own Travis the Septopus has gone and set up a 7amkickoff fantasy football league over at ESPNSoccernet. The league name is, shockingly, “7amkickoff!” and I guess there’s no password but you MUST select Arsenal as your team. Other than that the rules are pretty open. Travis has suggested the following self imposed rule “no players from the other 3 of the top four or Tottenham,” which I think is a fun twist but you all who join will need to agree. The site itself offers prizes (I won a fantasy league once and proudly displayed my banner at work) and I am going to throw in the following: next year’s tee-shirt design for the person who’s ahead on January 1, AND a shirt for the person who places second at the end of the season, AND a red level membership for the overall winner. Sound like fun? Well, you better bone up on the how to then get your ass over there and sign up.

Third, those of you who have paid for your shirts will have your stuff shipped today, that includes my Paraguayan reader. I was waiting for some shipping containers but, well, they haven’t come and it’s not fair to you all to wait any longer. The next round of tee-shirts will be a different design, a better all around shipping deal, and they will be cheaper. I have a cunning plan! Still, thanks to everyone who supported the site with your purchase, it was a great learning experience for me. And even though I just barely broke even on the whole deal, it’s awesome that you all have my shirts and will show them off to fellow Gooners.

Ok, now, about Arsenal… By the time this is published you’ll already know about the 6, that’s right SIX, injuries that Arsenal are suffering to start the season; Nasri (8-10 weeks), Fabianski (4 weeks), Djourou (4 weeks), Rosicky (2 weeks), Diaby (Tuesday), and Walcott (Tuesday). Like I said yesterday, the only real concerns here are center back and keeper.

Neither problem is resolved with the canceling of Fran Merida’s loan to Levante (like a new signing!).

I’ll just go ahead and say it, but if we sell Senderos and don’t buy a center half to replace him, we’re going to be looking very shaky at the back. So, I’d be surprised if Wenger sells Senderos at this point with all the injuries, unless he thinks the lad can’t do the job any more.

The speculation around Senderos was that he was part of a center half transfer merry go round that was going to happen when City bought Lescott. We would then sell Senderos and buy one of the two tall Americans; Hangeland or Subotic. But, David Moyes, in his typically Scottish way, basically told City to f*ck themselves, f*ck themselves right in the mouth, they are not getting Lescott. I love this quote:

Lescott has had his head twisted in all of this. I hear that City think they are talking to people who make the decisions here, well that’s me. I make the decisions, they have not talked to me and the player has been consistently told he is not for sale. He (Lescott) should get his head around that and get on with his career.

Contrast that with Wenger’s more tongue-in-cheek response about the rumors that Arsenal are going to sell Cesc Fabregas

Do you really think we sell now our players one day before the championship starts, players who are basic players of the team? There is no chance. You cannot stop people from having a lot of creative imagination during their sleepless nights, but that does not mean we will do it.

Anyway, back to the injury room. A lot of folks are looking at 6 injuries as proof positive that we need to buy, and while I agree to an extent, I choose to see that glass as half full. Certainly, I would love to see one of the two Americans come in and shore up the defense, you know give us some more options, but even with 6 injuries Arsenal’s creative end of the field is super solid (see, glass half-full!).

As it stands, with the type of players we have in defense, the player’s are dictating the style of play and the team formation. Wenger admitted as much in his ATVO exclusive.  It’s a bit strange to hear Arsene Wenger admit that the 4-3-3 isn’t being played because he likes it or because he wanted to give us a new look, but because the size and type of players in this squad dictate a 4-3-3. He says that formation gives us “options” and I say “if a squad dictates a formation, doesn’t that limit options?” I mean, I think I understand what he’s saying, because a 4-3-3 can shift very quickly to a 4-5-1 and with some subs can revert to a 4-4-2. But the problem, from my (and many others) perspective, is that with Djourou out injured, and if we sell Senderos, then Arsenal don’t have the option to play a flat back four and must always play the “offense-as-defense” scheme that got them into trouble last year.

So, yes, with injuries to Djourou and Senderos seeming to be out of favor I am  slightly concerned. The wide eyed optimist, is slightly concerned.

Not for tomorrow’s match, mind you. That match I think is going to be f*cking brilliant and Everton won’t know what hit them. Why? Oh, because I think it’s early in the season, Lescott has had his head done in, Jagielka is missing, the pitch will be in perfect shape, it’ll be raining, and the atmosphere in the Arsenal locker room (according to Arsene) is absolutely buzzing. Moreover, with three strikers in Arshavin, van Persie, and Bendtner, Arsenal’s attack is going to be devastating.  Arsenal will play the 4-3-3, pass the ball around pretty much everyone on Everton’s team and tomorrow’s late edition will hail them as the team to beat this season.

I’m not worried about this game at all, I’m full of confidence.

It’s the whole season that I’m slightly concerned with. SLIGHTLY.

Wenger, on the other hand, is completely unfazed and has issued this team the sternest challenge I have ever seen from him;

The team we have now gets there, and by that I mean it wins the championship (OR IT GETS THE HOSE AGAIN). At 22 or 23 I think a team is mature enough to deliver and it is a massively important year for our club. I am conscious of that. I know people have no patience any more but I agreed on a structure at the club that I believed could work, and we are at the period now when we will see whether I was right. To talk of winning the league is an audacious statement but I built this team and I want to deliver.

I completely agree with Arsene, it’s time to put the excuses away. After last year’s performances, Song and Denilson are no longer “kids” and need to step up. Cesc Fabregas is 22 years old and has been a regular starter for 4 years at a top four club in the toughest league in the world. Cesc is as experienced as it gets and as the team captain, it’s time to step up and show that he wants to win. And the rest of the squad too should have something to prove, it’s time to take all the doubters and haters and all their negative press and stuff it down their throats.

No pressure, my ass. It’s time for the pressure. Wenger didn’t say this month is make-or-break as I did, but he stressed the importance of winning things this month to get us off to the start that we didn’t get last year (5 losses in 14 games). Away to a very English Everton squad, then travel to Scotland for more lumps in a crucial Champions League match 3 days later, then off to a huge clash with Man U in the league?

Get out there and kick their butts.

This all kicks off tomorrow morning at 9:15am PST, meet me at Doyle’s, wear your colors, and remember, UP THE ARSE!

Alas, poor Hleb! I knew him, Horatio.

to sleep; perchance to dream.

After their pathetic near loss to, erm, Microeurpoenea I’ve decided that I can no longer support the French national team and have instead decided to follow…. Belgium, the “rode duivels.” Yes, that’s right, I’m a rode duivel now, bitches. I can’t wait to get all kitted out in his magesty’s national team shirt and celebrate my Wallonian heritage. Of course the Czech’s beat the piss out of Belgium 3-1 but so what? Who doesn’t beat the Belgians? Besides it’s a match of such insignificance that ESPN didn’t even bother putting the lineups in their “match report.” For all I know, Belgium and the Czechs just said “screw it, let’s just say you won 3-1 and go argue which country makes better beer!”

Anyway, that stuff is all ancient history, Dick Advocaat is now our coach and with Thomas Vermaelen and Marouane Fellaini in the side we’re sure to win the World Cup, three times in a row.  Get on the bandwagon now, people.

Anyway, that’s your international report from me… Well, ok, I’ll mention that other international match that really mattered to a lot of folks yesterday; the USA lost to Mexico 2-1. Meh, the USA never wins in the mountains of Mexico and Sven Goran-Erickson had Mexico so sufficiently farked up in their World Cup qualifiers that they are STILL in 4th place in CONCACAF. Maybe someone who watched the match would like to describe how awesome Carlos Vela was? Oh and for you USA Gooners, there’s some talk about getting the World Cup here in America and really I don’t care, but maybe you do and want to join in all the festivities?  I dunno, but here’s a link to a long blog about it.

Anyway enough of that stuff, this is an Arsenal blog!

And from an Arsenal perspective the internationals went pretty much OK. I haven’t heard of any serious injuries — Djourou’s knee injury hasn’t been confirmed by the site — and Eduardo proved his fitness for Croatia by scoring a ho hum goal. It’s some pretty pathetic defending from Belarus and the goalkeeping is beyond pathetic, he might as well have not even been there, but it’s the kind of goal that Arsenal need to score a few of this year and if Eddy’s on the end of passes like that you can be sure he will put them away. After all he’s scored 12 goals in his last 14 matches for Croatia.

Croatia were playing Belarus, so there was a double-whammy of an Arsenal connection there what with Alex Hleb suiting for Belarus and, of course, speaking to the press about Arsenal before the match. It’s really not a bad story, Hleb praised Wenger for making him a stronger, better player, talked about how while it was his dream to play for Barcelona, the dream was kind of shattered having to sit on the bench for a whole year and watch as others really made the team tick. It’s actually kind of a sad story in a way, because I suppose if it was my boyhood dream to play for a club and they came in form me I’d be tempted to leave, despite the rational part of my brain looking at their midfield and wondering where I’d get a game? I guess we all make mistakes.

Now, if he would only say he’s sorry for saying that Cesc should play in Barcelona with him, all would be forgiven.

Anyway, there’s not much news today as everyone is flying back to their club for the big opener on Saturday. Well, not everyone was flying back to their clubs, some folks, like David Bentley were drunkenly crashing their Porche 911 into telephone poles, but pretty nearly everyone was flying back to their clubs. The opening match is just two days away and I am pretty excited. I’m thinking about heading down to Doyle’s for the game (kickoff at 9:30am PST) this weekend and if others would like to join me we could make it a party!

According to John Terry, Chelsea and Man U are going to fight to the death over the title this year and the prospect of one or both of those teams suffering massive casualties is cause to celebrate, isn’t it? Let’s chat about it in the comments!