Category Archives: Arsenal

Keep the team together by buying Salmon Kalou?

I love that I write this blog first thing in the morning, because it’s mornings like this one, where I wake up and see headlines like Gunners closing in on Kalou capture and crack a huge smile. Actually, today, when I read that headline I almost spit my coffee out. After all, it’s a patently ridiculous story, right?

Here’s what we know as fact: First, Arsene Wenger made an inquiry about Salmon Kalou last year: Scolari mentioned it in his pre-match press conference and Wenger confirmed it in his. Second, Scolari said that during Wenger’s inquiry Arsene said he wanted to use Kalou as a Centre Forward. Third, this was at the time, remember, when Adebayor was doing the hokey-pokey with Arsenal. Fourth, the Chamakh deal is falling apart a bit and Wenger seems unlikely to increase his bid of £6m for Chamakh when the player would be available for FREE in 5 months. Fifth, Senderos has accepted Everton and Everton have confirmed that they are in talks with Arsenal over the sale of Senderos for a reported £2.5m – £6m (!) though they are quick to say he’s not intended as a replacement for Lescott. That last bit probably seems a bit like it doesn’t fit but wait a second and you’ll see the logic.

Where was I?

Sixth, Wenger has spoken ad nauseum about how “keeping this squad together” is his most important summer job. Seventh, Arsene convinced Toure to stay after he handed in a dramatic winter transfer request and then sold him in the summer. Eighth, Arsene Wenger purchased Thomas Vermaelen before all this other transfer stuff happened. And lastly, Vermaelen, Kalou, and Chamakh are all known for their aerial ability.

So, knowing all 9 of those things what can we say about this latest Kalou rumor, the latest news about Senderos, and the prospect of Wenger signing the defensive player (either mid or back) that 93% of Arsenal fans want?

I think the Kalou interest is partially real. Last year Wenger saw the 5’10″ Kalou as a legit Centre Forward and direct replacement for Adebayor. He’s a good header of the ball, good with his feet, and has a lot of Premiership experience so he’s used to the knocks that guys like John Terry dole out. That said, Wenger probably wants Chamakh as his first choice and this latest story about Kalou, leaked to the Sun for good coverage, plus the story in L’Equipe where Wenger is quoted as saying that Arsenal will just wait Bordeaux out is simply Wenger playing hardball.

It’s nice to see, I guess. I just wish that Wenger would play hardball to get in some defensive cover!

And here’s the thing about that… Arsenal haven’t lost nor gained in that realm if you think about it. Wenger knew that Toure was leaving at the end of this season, heck I’d be willing to bet he asked Toure to stay just until this Summer, as a favor to the team, so that he could get a replacement. Thus, Vermaelen is Arsene’s replacement for Toure. As we all know, Wenger prefers center half’s with great recovery speed over height and muscle, it fits the high-line-ball-holdery system that Arsenal play. Moreover, Vermaelen is reportedly a great header of the ball. I’ve only seen pre-season matches and YouTube clips but so far he does look the best header on the team.

So, when Wenger said “keeping the team together” he meant “keeping the core players together, and keeping the team playing style together.” Therefore, Senderos doesn’t count. He didn’t figure last year after being shipped off to AC Milan and it was pretty clear in pre-season, with Senderos playing defensive mid, that he didn’t figure this year either. Senderos’ sale is a net gain, if you look at it that way.

I already know what just about every comment will be when I say this but I’m going to say it anyway because I think we need to look at things from a different perspective. Typing finger on standby…

From one perspective the squad is actually stronger this year than last.

Well, first, we have, as Thomas Rosicky points out, more attacking options. I am the first to take the piss out of Wenger for his “like a new signing” stuff, but honestly? Getting Rosicky and Eduardo in this team is actually like two new signings. We didn’t have either player last year, they are both undeniably quality players, and they are both already helping this team.  The only question mark is whether they can stay healthy, but on this Arsenal team that’s a question mark for every player. LITERALLY. Name me one player who hasn’t been haunted by the specter of injury every season for the last 4 years. The emergence of Jack Wilshere, while I think he will get limited time, also adds to Arsenal’s attacking prowess. So, from that perspective, Arsenal have gotten much stronger.

In the midfield too, Arsenal have added. Song and Denilson have both gotten an entire year’s worth of Premiership experience under their belts and I doubt anyone would say that Song hasn’t gotten better. Denilson had a great start to the season last year and then seemed to fade so he could be a question mark. But in a 4-3-3 Wenger has a lot of options in midfield. Nasri, Song, Diaby, Chesk, Denilson, Rosicky, and Wenger is talking up Aaron Ramsey.

I’m not trying to take the piss out of my readers, and I know that many of you feel like those options aren’t of the quality that we’d like at Arsenal. I feel the same way! Chesk Fabregas feels the same way! What I’m offering though, is a different perspective. If Wenger doesn’t buy a midfielder, and it’s looking increasingly like he isn’t going to, then Wenger DOES think that those guys are the right quality. We clearly have the money to buy someone. Hell, we could buy Daniele de Rossi if we wanted. And just as clearly, Arsene isn’t interested.

Wenger could still surprise a lot of us and sign someone like M. Diarra from Real Madrid, but I seriously doubt he will. It seems like, from Arsene’s perspective, Arsenal already have the quality in midfield and if anything we’ve gotten better all around; up front with Eduardo, Arshavin, and Wilshere, in the middle with Rosicky and Ramsey and the more experienced Song and Denilson (not to mention Nasri), and at the back with the subtraction of Toure and the addition of a guy who can head the ball and who has proven leadership qualities in Vermaelen.

So, Salmon Kalou in does make a sort of sense all the sudden doesn’t it? I mean if you think of him as a Centre Forward, which supposedly Arsene does, then he’s the logical replacement for Adebayor and Arsene’s just “keeping this team together.”

Right?

Arsenal 3-0 Rangers; the ZOMG, ZOMFG, BARRRBLEFARRABLE

Match Report, Match Video

ZOMG

With a goal in the second minute, Jack Wilshere sealed his fate, from now on he will be the most hyped man in England. Expect billboards with him in an England shirt, pictures of him lounging on a throne, his crown slightly off kilter as he fondles two beautiful English lasses.

That he then went on to cap his performance with a second goal, and a goal of undeniable quality, only served to underline the headlines that were to come: Wilshere Could Play For Capello.

Arsene warns us not to heap too much pressure on Wilshere, but the fact is that’s going to be damn hard when the lad puts in performances like that. For example, the most effective weapon Wenger has to combat those expectations is to keep him playing regularly in the reserves with occasional appearances in the league. But when a player is that good, I think that’s impossible to do because what you don’t want to do is keep his chances so limited that he thinks the club are ruining his career.

Unfortunately, that’s going to be down to Arsene managing the hype from here on out. Jack’s already being tabbed for next year’s World Cup squad, which, unless he establishes himself in the first team as a regular, is just a stupidly premature suggestion. But the problem is if the boy takes that hype on board and starts thinking “I should be in the World Cup squad” you can see what kind of trouble that could lead to when the boss doesn’t play him regularly. As Wenger puts it:

The only problem is that in England, with the impatience of the English people, we need to keep the right pace with his progress.

That said, when asked whether Jack could play the whole Premier League season, Wenger answered “certainly not.” So, I think the boss will be playing him here and there, most likely as a sub and will manage the hype as best he can. Oh well, that’s one of the problems when you manage a bunch of kids, I guess.

The other performance that I want to highlight was that of Eduardo. After the match, and after about 200 questions about Jackie and Paddy, Arsene Wenger said that he feels like Eduardo and Rosicky are 100% healthy and ready for the season. Eduardo only scored one goal but it was the kind of goal that only a top drawer finisher can make. He takes a perfectly placed through ball, faces the keeper and drifting to his right, hits a left footed curler around the keeper, off the far post and into the net. I can’t stress enough how important Eduardo is to this team. He’s a better finisher than the highly overrated Klaas Jan Huntelaar, he can dribble, he can play wide left, and he can set others up. In fact, the only thing holding this guy back from scoring 20+ goals this season is the fact that there are 5 other guys who all want to play in that spot. It’s the type of selection nightmare that I think most Arsenal supporters would love to see in midfield and defense.

ZOMFG

The defense looked a bit shaky again, especially in the second half, but I think that’s to be expected when you’re playing a makeshift back four. Moreover, our two defensive coordinators (Gallas and Vermaelen) were both out at that point. Gallas was out because the boss didn’t want to overplay him and Vermaelen was out because he has some tightness in his hamstring.

Of course, 93% of us (as Amy Lawrence points out) would point to this makeshift back four and say that it’s ample evidence that Arsenal need a defensive signing.

I’m not sure yet. We’ve got two more weeks of drills and like I’ve said, most of the mistakes have been down to poor communication rather than lack of fundamentals.

We also have an unknown situation with Senderos. Last week, Arseblog reported that Sendy was being Sent to Everton. Many people speculated that this was the replacement for Lescott — which is odd, isn’t it? Does David Moyes value them similarly? Why don’t many Arsenal fans see him the same way? Because someone scored a goal on him? Anyway, where was, I? Oh yeah, Senderos to Everton. The problem is that the Lescott to City deal looks to be off because Everton want £30m and City have only offered £20. Which could explain why the Senderos deal has dried up.

Let’s assume for a second that Senderos is gone. That leaves Vermaelen, Gallas, and Djourou as our first choice CBs and Song and Gerry as our backups.  Even I, the wide eyed optimist, see that as a bit of a problem. Hopefully, Arsene does too. Otherwise, Arsenal could very well turn into the Dallas Mavericks of the EPL, playing games to 4-4 draws and 5-3 wins.

We’ll have to wait and see.

BARRRRBLEFARRRRRBLE

Did anyone else watch the match on GolTV? Their coverage and their announcers were perhaps the worst announcers I have ever tried not to listen to.

First of all, there was the constant, nails on chalkboard, sound of the color commentator calling FranCESC Fabregas, CHESK. CHESK. CHESK. There’s no H in his name, asshole. It’s not Chesk, it’s never been Chesk, and it never will be Chesk. I think that what he was trying to do was pronounce Cesc’s name the way he thinks it’s pronounced in Spanish because he was doing that with all the players (pronouncing their names in their native tongue). It’s an annoying thing that American announcers do and normally I’m ok with it, but really? CHESK?

Second, they kept cutting away to advertisements for upcoming games, reducing the game we were watching to a small box in the upper-left corner. I don’t care what’s happening in the Peace Cup you fucktards, I WANT TO SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

And then, they had some advertisement for some pundit show that they put on that would come up every 5 minutes and block out the bottom half of the screen. Seriously, what is wrong with you? I could sort of understand it if they were getting paid to advertise something, but they are advertising their own shows! If you really think I’m going to watch Los Proffesionnales or whatever after you’ve ruined the coverage of the show that I wanted to watch you’re sorely mistaken.

And finally, my biggest gripe is that the announcers were lazy and stupid. They clearly were handed the cliffs notes on Arsenal and made sure they hit every point. “Total Football,” “like a new signing,” “Cheapskate Arsenal,” how we were going to have a hard time “cracking the top 5″ (as if we’re 10th place Tottenham or some shit) and then they even cracked a joke about how maybe Wenger should open a day care!

But the one that clued me in to the fact that they were just being handed this crap and talking out their ass was the fact that they kept mentioning that Arsenal only have one Englishman on the pitch. GolTV, a Spanish language, American based outfit cares how many Englishmen Arsenal fielded in a pre-season friendly? REALLY?

I mean, I understand that Fabio Capello was at the game, but any commentator worth his weight knows that he was there not for Jackie, but to watch future England Number One, Manny Pickledickle.

Yes, Travis and I renamed Almunia, we think with a proper English surname he could be accepted by England when he finally breaks down and gets his passport.  We chose Pickledickle because, well, why not? No one would believe he made that name up!

Anyway, GolTV was a nightmare and I hope I never have to watch another match on that channel as long as I live.

Conclusion

Whelp, this is the week. There will be a week of practice and the manager will have plenty of time to buy and sell and reshape his squad, if that is his want. He’s playing his cards close to his CHESK, though the Chamakh story seems to be generating a lot of heat. The player is now publicly engineering a move to Arsenal, angrily lashing out at Bordeaux who are reportedly asking £15m for a player in the last year of his contract. Arsenal have supposedly offered £5m and I think that’s a fair price for a player who Wenger’s probably going to convert to Center Back anyway.

The other transfer story with legs is Patrick Vieira supposedly returning to Arsenal. From the interviews it’s pretty clear that Wenger is putting a lot of thought into the impact that this player would have on his team, and I don’t mean that in just the positive way. Again, we’ll have to see.

If there’s a signing today, I’ll make another post. If not, well you’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

See you then!

Arsenal 2-1 Athletico Madrid; the Good, Bad, and Ugly

Match report, match video

For those of you who are new, this is how we do a post-match breakdown around here; I spare you the drudgery of yet another match report and instead highlight three things about the match (sometimes more) that I thought were Good, Bad, or Ugly.

The Good

You’d have to be dead, blind, or stupid to have missed the impact that Jack Wilshere made when he came on in the second half. Wenger’s post-match press conference was almost entirely on Jackie with the boss highlighting Wilshere’s improvement over the summer:

He has matured and you see, compared to one year ago, he has more power to take people on. That, of course, he’s only 17 years old shows you that there’s a big potential there. He’s gained a fraction more power and once players are able to pass people in the final 20 yards, you can always say that there’s something special there.

He then talked at length about Wilshere’s power and how Wilshere and Cesc are different in that Jackie needs power to take people on whereas Cesc at 17 was more of a passer. Power, he says over and over.

POWER.

When asked if he thinks that Wilshere can feature for the Arsenal this season, he responded that Wilshere will get some games this season but will have to fight for his place.  No surprises there.

The fact that all the reporters asked about the kid and the fact that the boss spoke at such length about his development is indicative of the shock that I think we all felt seeing this 17 year old kid rip apart older, stronger, and more experienced players than he.

For me, I was impressed with two things; firstly how the ball seems stuck to his feet when he’s dribbling. Yes, these are continental footballers and yes it will be different when Tiny Taylor gives him a studs up, knee high, two-footed lunge, but the point is that without any fancy dribbling he is able to beat opponents with great close control. It’s as if the ball loves him.

The other thing I was impressed with is how he used his body. It’s not natural for small fellas to use their low center of gravity to their advantage, most small guys shy away from physical contact but Jack seems to have a body awareness that even well developed athletes strive for. I don’t want to be too quick to usher him in as the real deal, it was just one game, just one pre-season game, but he really showed us some physical talents that 17 year olds are not supposed to have.  I suspect he’ll get another run out today and we’ll get a chance to see how much power he has gained.

Heh.

And how about Andrei Arshavin? I’m still trying to get my head around this player. Yesterday he was kind of lazy (hey, it’s pre-season!) and some times he didn’t seem to be picking up the game and where he was supposed to be on the pitch (hey, it’s pre-season!). But then there he was, when it counted, all he did was simply score two goals of the highest quality.

And the second goal… well, that’s the kind of goal that ancient cultures wrote mythic legends about. All he did was somehow warp space to create room at the end of the pitch where there shouldn’t have been room, and then warp space again to make the ball slice into the net from an impossible angle.

Answering a question about whether Arshavin can be Arsenal’s “Ronaldo” Arsene Wenger didn’t want to put too much pressure on the Russian, but I think it’s pretty clear that this cat is very, very special and we can expect big things from him if he stays healthy all season.

That signing, more than any other, really puts to bed this notion that Arsenal don’t have any ambition as a bitter sounding Kolo Toure basically said yesterday.

The Bad

If there was a dark spot (it’s a win, in a pre-season friendly, FFS) it would be the defensive communication, or more specifically the lack thereof. Earlier in the week one of the Arsenal folks were talking about making sure that Djourou doesn’t play so flat at the back and working on his positioning so he doesn’t get caught out.

Well, he or Gallas, depending on how you look at it, got caught out. And you know what? Shit happens. I think we all need to take a step back for a second and get behind these players rather than start with the hand wringing already. Djourou made several great tackles and overall I think he had a great game and I’m not going to allow something like body positioning get me into a lather about buying a new player.

Perry Groves talks about the amount of work it took for the Arsenal famous back four to become a cohesive unit. This is not something that happens over night. Arsenal are bringing in a new defender, they are saying goodbye to one, and possibly two center backs, and we can’t forget that Djourou is 22 years old and has really only played in a handful of matches. And I would be remiss if I didn’t add in that he’s playing in possibly the most demanding position in the Arsenal system.

Sure, you’re free to call for replacements and purchases, but which is the more satisfying position; the guy who started moaning during pre-season or the guy who had faith and watched as Arsenal built a long term back four that will dominate the Premier League?

I like Djourou and I think the back four of Clichy, Djourou, Vermaelen, and Sagna is going to be a defensive line of the highest quality for many years to come, but only if we lend them our support and give them the chance to gel.

The Ugly

Unlike Djourou who is mere inches from being ready, Vitto Mannone was not and was clearly distressed by long range shots. Of course, he is the third string keeper and like 12 years old or something, so I’m not going to rip him.

Hey, I have an idea, let’s have the whole team work on some shots from outside! The keepers need experience dealing with them and the outfield players (except Rosicky) need experience taking them. It’s a win-win.

Today’s Match

Today’s match is on GolTV again, and again the locals are gathering at Doyle’s for the viewing. Kickoff is 8:15am and afterward several of us are gathering at Optimist park for a kickaround. As I always say, come to Optimist park, it’s the only park with Tim in it.

See you tomorrow, after Arsenal have secured their first trophy of the season!