Category Archives: Arsenal

Liveblogging Fulham v. Arsenal

The Full American: Eggs, hash-browns, and soy sausages.

Good morning, few little bits and bobs to get to before the match. First off, congratulations to the Carling Cup Kids for drawing Liverpool in the next round. At the start of the season I openly hoped that they got an easy schedule but the reality is that unless you get insanely lucky, you’re going to have to play a top club on the way to any trophy. Since you will eventually play a big club, then what you really hope for is a home draw. So, the congratulations are not because they drew a top club, but because they drew another home match.

By a strange set of coincidence, that Carling Cup match falls just in front of the home leg of the North London Derby and that game is followed by another home match to AZ Alkamaar in the Champions League. So, if someone was inclined to spend a week and a half in London on a trip, and they wanted to see a maximum number of Arsenal matches, I really can’t think of a better home stand than this. In fact, I’ve looked and this is the best home stand this season and I can’t remember a better chance, any year, for a foreigner to get over and see a Carling Cup, a League Match (Tottenham to boot), and a Champions League match.

If I had the money my flight would be booked right now!

Back in a minute…

Well, crazy match results today. 6-1 to Liverpool, 5-0 to Tottenham, 3-1 to Wigan over Chelsea, Blackburn over Villa, it’s a crazy day! Arsenal need to take maximum points and gain some space back on Chelsea.

Question of the day, will Phil Brown be back to selling used cars now that his team has only won 2 matches in 29? 9 wins in 44? Ugly!

Oh hey, you can either comment in the traditional manner or use the chat room over to the right. Try it out.

Lineups according to the Telegraph:

Starting for Arsenal: Mannone, Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy, Diaby, Song, Cesc, Arshavin, Robin, Bendtner

Bench for Arsenal: Szczesny, Rosicky, Vela, Ramsey, Silvestre, Eboue, Gibbs

Starting for Fulham: Schwarzer, Pantsil, Hughes, Hangeland, Konchesky, Duff, Etuhu, Murphy, Dempsey, Zamora, Andrew Johnson

Bench for Fulham: Zuberbuhler, Baird, Gera, Kamara, Riise, Smalling, Greening

Of course, the Telegraph also has us listed as playing a 4-5-1 so take the fact that Eduardo and Walcott aren’t in the lineup with a grain of salt.

Matt, Denilson should return in early October. It’s a back injury though and we know Arsene’s record predicting returns on back injuries.

Arsenal get us started…

1′ – Arshavin wins a free kick and all the cameras focus on TV5. In the end nothing comes from it, but the threat is there and everyone knows it.

4′ – nervous seconds there as Fulham puts some pressure on our young keeper. He does well to smother and cover.

7′ — Arsenal are starting to find their feet and moving the ball around quite well, still no shots but the right side and Konchesky looks ripe for a plucking. Some injury is forcing a change for Fulham already. Gera on for Duff… Uhhh, Charlie on Facebook predicted Gera would get the first.

10′ — Crap. Gallas and Mannone collide trying to cover a Gera cross. Gallas is down and needs treatment. Come on Willie… I don’t have to remind everyone that SILVESTRE is backup.

13′ — Gallas back on the field, Song back in midfield.

15′ — GREAT SAVE MANNONE! Two saves actually, first off and Andy Johnson header, and then he picks himself up and claws away a second shot. I didn’t think he had it in him. Get in SON!

18′ — Cesc with a wide open shot 10 yards out, blazes it high over the goal. He should have done better, Arshavin was waiting.

20′ — Patient build up from Arsenal, probing passes lead to a 1-2 with Bendtner and Cesc, nipped away by Fulham defender for a corner. The corner doesn’t clear the first defender. Oh my. Diaby needs to show some industry damnit.

Another 1-2 between Cesc and this time Arshavin, looks like Gera got a foot in and cleared the shot, but ref gives a goal kick. Arsenal look really dangerous.

24′ — Bendtner with a shot straight at the keeper.

25′ — Song gives a way a cheap free kick in a dangerous position and Danny Murphy takes a free kick too early and earns a yellow. Song should have done better on the first challenge, it was lazy defending on his part.

29′ — Arsenal getting all the calls at the moment but that’s because Fulham are committing all the fouls! Robin gets a free kick in a dangerous area and just loops it over the goal. Attacking set plays look very poor so far for the Arsenal.

33′ — Arsenal very tidy in the midfield at the moment, Fulham can’t get anything started and are playing route one football at the moment.

36′ — GREAT SAVE MANNONE! Johnson slots in Gera who has a good shot saved by the brilliant Mannone. I have to say that that’s three saves that Almunia might have let in.

41′ — HA! Arshavin gives Clichy the death stare for not getting forward fast enough. Though exactly why Arshaving didn’t have a shot I can’t figure. Fulham are putting two men on Song. Is that a credit to him?

43′ — OK, who is marking Gera? He’s been left wide open to put in crosses all day. He’s got to be someone’s man…

45′ — 3 minutes of added time, is this being played at Old Trafford?

47′ — Well done, Yellow to Zamora for a dangerous tackle. Arsenal are scrambling in front of the Fulham goal — COME ON YOU GUNNERS! Ugh… Fabregas with a SHIT corner followed by a decent attempt. And that ends the half.

Half-time Observations

This match reminds me so much of the Arsenal of last year it’s not even funny. Arsenal with loads of possession, plenty of chances, and no teeth up front. Meanwhile at the back, the high line is being exposed by a team who couldn’t care less about playing the ball through the midfield. Frankly, the only think keeping this match tied is Mannone’s Man of the Match performance.

For Arsenal’s part we need to find a way to get Arshavin in the game a little more, someone needs to kick Diaby up the ass, the whole team needs to pressure Fulham so that they don’t have time to make the long pass, and Wenger needs to put a marker on Gera who is floating in behind the defense after the first ball over the top.

We can do it. We are the better team but we need to step up all over the pitch and protect our young keeper and Center Backs.

46′ — Second half starts like the first, with Diaby jogging back as Zamora has a wide open shot. FOR FUCK’S SAKE DIABY.

49′ — I do want to mention that whenever Diaby has a nightmare, he scores.

52′ — And that’s all it takes. Cesc sees Robin making a fantastic diagonal run, picks him out perfectly, and Robin finishes low and around the keeper. With his chocolate leg! One-nil to the Arsenal. Now, let’s break this shit open boys.

55′ — This is possibly the best job I have seen from an Arsenal keeper since Seaman had a blinder against the Blades in the 2003 FA Cup semi-final.

62′ — Bendtner takes the ball and turns into Fulham’s non-existent midfield, but his shot is poor and doesn’t bother the keeper. We’ve got to get Arshavin in the game.

65′ — Diaby dribbles across the end line, and I have now officially seen enough Abou for the day. Put on Rosicky NOW.

67′ — Mannone comes and punches on a Fulham corner, continuing his absolute dominance in the box. Rosicky comes on… for Arshavin, meaning Diaby is going to get to stroll around for another 25 minutes.

69′ — HA! The announcer says Rosicky is LIKEANEWSIGNING!

71′ — Rosicky has a shot off a lot of hard work from Robin. Diaby has officially been moved back to the “holding” midfield spot. Lol, I’m pretty sure that’s what he was supposed to have been doing the whole time. Of course as soon as I say that he’s up front having a shot.

75′ — Cheap shot by Andy Johnson “challenging” for a header sends Gallas tumbling and onto his back.

77′ — Diaby caught in possession in our final 3rd and then gives up the stupid foul for a really good chance to Fulham.

HOLY INCREDIBLE SAVE! I am speechless over the performance that Mannone has put in. Andy Johnson has a shot at the near post well saved by the Godfather. No doubt about MotM at this point.

79′ — ho hum, another great save from Mannone of the Match.

83′ — @Kevin, it was Diaby’s piss poor marking on Zamora that left him wide open for the header that Mannone pawed off the line. Robin off, Eboue on .

87′ — Eboue misses a good chance, credit to Schwarzer with the good save.

90′ — 5 minutes of Old Trafford time. Nervous final minutes as Clichy has his traditional moment of madness. At least nothing came from it. Meanwhile Bendtner has missed two good chances in the last minute. All the stuff that everyone complains about!

94′ — Eboue inexplicably dribbles into the teeth of the defense and the result is a good counter by Fulham. Fortunately, nothing comes of it!

96′ — Eboue gets the last “shot” of the game, as Cesc sets him up with a perfect pass, which he predictably screws wide. And that’s it folks: one-nil to the Arsenal.

If you wanted Arsenal to win ugly games, you got your wish today! Anyway, I’ve got to take the family to the fair today so this is me signing off. See you all tomorrow for the Good, Bad, and Ugly.

Have fun tonight!

Fulham v. Arshavin; now’s no time to get craven

Arshavin prepares for the North London derby

I went back and had a look at both my pre- and post-match analysis of the infamous Fulham match of last year and it’s really remarkable how much things have changed.

Before the match, I had this to say

I see this as an opportunity for the team; Adebayor needs to rebuild his reputation after this summer’s drama, one of the young men need to step up and show they can play central midfield at the Premiership level, and the defense needs to keep a clean sheet against a team that has more firepower than West Brom.So, it’s a golden chance, in my mind, one I have no doubt that the quality of this Arsenal club will show.

And then after the match, which you’ll remember featured Eboue in the holding midfield role and Denilson in the creative role, I pretty much ripped everyone, by name, but here’s the excerpt that most stands out in my mind:

Without a proper midfield the perfect little world that Wenger creates on the pitch, that world where movement and passing is king, falls to pieces rather quickly.  Without a proper midfield stopper, the defense is exposed.  Without a proper midfield creator, the attack is toothless.  And since neither Denilson nor Eboue seemed able to make a pass we didn’t even have beautiful football to watch.  It was the kind of game that you want to switch off.  The kind of game you want to leave early to beat the traffic.

In case you have some deep seated need to relive a dark moment in Arsenal history the link to my rant is provided.

A lot has changed in that year, though. First, I’m not the same writer that I was then, I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better, but you’ll be the judge of that.

Second, just as I have gotten better I’d like to think that this team has gotten better:  Song has objectively improved in all aspects of his game from positioning to heading the ball to passing, Vermaelen is a huge upgrade on Toure, and Arshavin is quite simply a fcuking genius.

Third, tactically I think this team is very different: last year Wenger employed the simplistic 4-4-2 and he is now playing a 4-3-3 which gives us more flexibility in both attack and defense. It is a more demanding system, no doubt, but it’s a more productive system as our +9 goal differential illustrates.

And finally, last year Arsenal were a shambles from set plays (defensively and offensively) and this year since everyone seems to be infected with Vermaelenosis we’ve added set plays to our attack and subtracted some of the vulnerability to set plays from our defense.

Some.

One of the set play vulnerabilities has been at keeper, where we have been lacking for a player who will claim high balls and command his area. Now with Almunia out for a while, and Wenger passing the press a sly grin and saying “Normally (I would pick) Mannone, but we have 48 hours before the game” Arsenal fans could see if Woolly Szczesny at the tender age of 19 can be a more dominating force in the box than future England number 1, Manny Pickledickle.

Just as some of the personnel have changed there’s a different attitude from this team over last year. I remember when Man City beat us last year in the away match, the team seemed to give up and crawl inside a shell after the Robinho goal to start the second half.  Similarly when Tottenham mounted a comeback and scored a third goal against us in the 4-4 draw (DVDs of which, no joke, are available on their web site) this team seemed to just give up.

But I didn’t see that same defeated attitude in either of the two Manchester matches. Rather, they kept going for the whole 90 (plus!) and had they taken their chances could have easily leveled both of those matches.

Andrei Arshavin, who will play tomorrow, didn’t see the Man U match the same way I did. In his exclusive interview on the dot com Arshavin expressed his anger that we took the lead at Old Trafford but were unable to hold on. Rather than a moment of dazzling football he felt like Man U just pushed us a little bit and this team “had no answers.” In his usual way he said that giving up like that “made him angry.”

Good! We need some guys on this team who won’t settle for second best, guys who will push this team and demand more from them. I’m all about Wenger’s absolute love and cherishing players philosophy but it’s also important to have someone on the team with fire in their belly. I would have no problem at all if your smallest player in stature becomes our biggest player in the locker room.

As for scoring goals, we all know that we can score. In fact, it would have been almost incredible if we had scored three more goals and leveled those two Manchester matches because it would have brought our goal scoring tally to an eye-popping 20 goals in 5 matches, 4 goals a game. As it stands we’re on a measly, league leading, 17 goals scored. Unlike last year, don’t expect this Fulham match to end 1-0.

Not only are we scoring bags of goals, but they are coming from all over the pitch with Vermaelen and Cesc leading the club with 6 league goals. Wenger chalks this goalscoring up to the attacking philosophy of this club:

We have a flowing, attacking style, we are all mobile, and we take risks as well. The quality of the players counts as well; we have players who can create and who can finish. I believe that when a team plays collectively, and everybody attacks in a team, then everybody can score in a team.

But it’s defense where we have had the biggest problems so far this season and where we have had the problems, well, honestly, since Patrick Vieira left. I think it’s no coincidence that Adebayor scored almost immediately after Alex Song was removed, his strength in the middle of the park and on set plays is absolutely crucial if Arsenal are going to get maximum points tomorrow.

Fulham will try to exploit Arsenal’s traditional weakness on set plays with their 6’7″ American center back and ubiquitous paper Arsenal target, Brede Hangeland. Vermaelen no doubt will be keen to show why Hangeland is surplus to requirements and I expect our Verminator to keep Tiny in his pocket on set plays.

Up front, Arsenal have a fresh squeezed Andrei Arshavin rested and ready to go. Robin van Persie is a question mark, but if he doesn’t play Wenger has Eduardo, Bendtner, and Vela all available. The papers are reporting that Theo Walcott could feature but Wenger took pains to point out that he hasn’t played in several months so I expect him to play maybe 10 minutes, if he gets on the pitch at all.

Nope, I’m leaning toward just one surprise inclusion from our traditional Sagna, Gallas, Vermy, Clichy, Song, Denilson, Diaby, Cesc, Arshavin, Robin, Bendy lineup and that’s Woolly Szczesny.

We’ll have to see if that surprise pays off.

Right, the match is being televised live on Fox Soccer Channel at 9:30am (PST) here in the states, so I’ll be liveblogging the game starting at 9am (PST). Stop on by, those are always a lot of fun.  See you tomorrow!

This is bananas

Regrets, I've had a few...

Crazy day yesterday in the Kickoff house, it had everything; my child being mauled by another child*, an email from the editor of NewsNow, a sell out of all but two of the old tee-shirts (an XXL and a Medium), some team financials were leaked, and Sol Campbell “pulled a Sol” and left Notts County high and dry. Strange stuff, except the Sol Campbell thing, who didn’t see THAT coming?

Leaving out the bit about the mauling, it turns out that NewsNow dropped us due to a little bit of news aggregator, erm, copyright violation? Anyway, it’s all been settled and now England’s favorite Yankee Arsenal blog with whacky, nonsensical headlines and rabid, mumbling gibberish for content is back in the NewsNow fold. The hits are already pouring in!

The tee-shirt sell out was, frankly, really surprising. Not because you all bought a $5 shirt, that I expected, but because the spread of sizes that you all ordered was pretty much exactly what I had left in the box. I didn’t have to refund anyone any money and they all sold in just one day. Wow. Thanks to everyone who bought a shirt, I’ll be shipping them all tomorrow afternoon.  If you want the XXL or the Medium that’s left send an email to 7amkickoff at gmail dot com, $10 shipped USA, $15 shipped internationally.

That's Thierry Henry, FOOL!

New Shirt Contest

There was some confusion over the new shirt contest so let me just make this as clear as possible:

  1. You are coming up with a phrase to replace “Some Gooners Do It In The Dark” in the image above.
  2. No need to use photoshop, just words will do
  3. Go to this article and input your genius idea.
  4. All entries will be judged by me, harshly, and I will select the winner on Sunday and announce the winner on Monday’s blog.
  5. The winner receives a free tee shirt with the new design on it.
  6. Contest ends Sunday at 5pm PST.

I’m sure I’m leaving something out…

Debt in the Premier League

My regular reader knows that I have long warned of the impending financial difficulty that Liverpool will suffer. In fact, my boldest prediction is that of the “top four” Liverpool’s debt position is the most debilitating, with £300m in debts needing re-financing and a massive interest package due every year, they look shaky. Manchester United’s debt is bigger and they have a one-time payment of over £100m (and growing) due here fairly soon but I think United will make that payment (or refinance) because, to use a phrase that we heard a lot over the last year “they’re too big to fail.”

Liverpool, on the other hand, it has been revealed, has a £20m cap on annual spending which is what is limiting them from bringing in new talent. I don’t think it’s as dire as the fans who lofted “We are the new Leeds” banners would like to make out, but there should be concern there. Thankfully, we’re not Liverpool fans, supporting some uber rich guys like Hicks and Gillette.

Meanwhile, it’s looking like Arsenal aren’t escaping the credit crunch either and while the Highbury Square apartments are finally finished there’s dark clouds on the horizon and the “B” word has been bandied about by some members of the press.

Kevin Whitcher who wrote Arsènal: The Making of a Modern Superclub speculates rather heavily that the lack of transfer spending on the part of the board over the last five years (a fact documented ad nausuem on this blog) is a direct result of the Highbury Square project. Talking to sport.co.uk, he said

The problem is that the club have either got to push through the Highbury Square development or cut their losses and effectively declare that part of the organisation is bankrupt and walk away from it.

They’ve got a £120m debt repayment to find for next April. The club have always maintained that the football and the property business are completely separate, and legally that is true, however, if they are going to see it through they do need to find money from somewhere.

What I can foresee is that the club will pay back as much of the debt as they can by next April, but I heavily suspect they will re-negotiate the loan of what is left and this situation will drag on as long as Wenger is prepared to tolerate it.

He goes on to talk about how Wenger is basically in collusion with the board to see this project through to the end. That Wenger’s transfer dealings, re-signing players rather than buying new, selling players for huge profits, etc are all part of a bigger plan to finish the Highbury Square project.

Ivan Gazidis corroborated Whitcher’s speculation to a degree when he said yesterday that

We believe transfer spending is the last resort. That’s a sensible view to have. Re-signing existing players is a far more efficient system. What Arsene will not do is spend money on players that do not add something of real value.

That makes sense, Arsenal are going to only buy players who are worth it. We don’t spend £30m on washed up has-beens like Shevchenko just because the owner liked his Serie A YouTube highlight reels.

I also understand, emotionally, why rebuilding Highbury is so important. I mean, there are fans’ ashes spread on that pitch, there’s nearly 100 years of Arsenal in those old halls, this board and Arsene Wenger could no sooner walk away from that development than they could forget about their grandmother. Highbury was our life-blood from 1913 to 2006, it sustained this club, it grew this club, and while it was certainly time to move on we need to honor what Highbury did for the club.

So, I understand why they would do everything possible in order to see this project through to the end. What I don’t understand is all the subterfuge if that is the case. Why not just come out and admit it? I think most Arsenal fans are adult enough and connected enough to the old stadium to want to sacrifice a bit and see this project completed.

Either way, we should get a clearer picture of what’s actually going on when Arsenal release their year end financial report, soon.

Sol

Since it turns out that FIFA won’t let him register with a new club until January, it’s possible that we just witnessed the end of Sol Campbell’s career. I just don’t understand how a man with the mental strength to leave Spurs and come to Arsenal could have fallen so quickly and so dramatically.

It seems like one minute he’s scoring the go-ahead goal in the Champions League final and then the next he’s wandering the streets. I really hope he sorts this out, he was easily one of my favorite players from the invincibles era.

ustv DOT arsenal DOT com

I might need a section of daily news just for American Gooners! Anyway, for those of you who subscribe to Arsenal TV Online (ATVO) it looks like there’s a separate, and cheaper, option for us Americans at usatv.arsenal.com. I’ve emailed Arsenal TV Online <arsenaltvonline@level3.com> to see how (or if) we can make the switch.

This shit is bananas

And finally, I am the first person to loudly rail against racism. No one wants England to be tarred with the brush that Russia currently holds proudly. So, when the FA decides to investigate claims of racism at any pitch, whether it’s fans singing a song about elephants, or fans throwing bananas at El Haji Diouf, I am fully behind the action.

I am even behind the FA’s investigation into what Diouf called some white ball boy, despite the fact that, historically, power relationships ran the other way. What I can’t get behind, and what needs to be stamped out with extreme prejudice, is false accusations. If El Hadji Diouf’s claims that Everton fans threw bananas at him are proved false, I think he should be banned for a minimum of 5 matches, in addition to whatever ban he’ll get if proved to have called the ball boy “white shiat” or whatever he supposedly said.

That’s it for today, have at me…

*slight hyperbole