Category Archives: Arsenal

Hull v. Arsenal preview and Wenger's Transfer Targets

Good morning kickers, I have the day off and the whole family had a good sleep in. So that’s why the late blog.

Anyway, Wenger ran the gamut today, talking about transfers, rumors, Kaka, and erm, who is that team we play tomorrow? Oh yeah, Hull City, god, they suck don’t they? This should be an easy game, like playing Stoke, or Fulham, it’s almost like having a game in hand, right?

Am I forgetting something?

Anyway, here are the highlights of Wenger’s exclusive pre-match interview.

Defensive Balance Helps Them Grind Out Wins

I believe that as long as you keep a good defensive balance, and don’t concede a goal… you have always a chance, since you have so much possession, to score one.

This pretty much sums up Arsene Wenger’s footballing philosophy over the last two years: keep the ball and eventually you’ll score. He talks about “defensive balance” but when you watch the games and see Clichy and Sagna effectively providing the only attacking width on the team, “defensive balance” is a lie. Well, maybe not a lie, but at least it’s a Wengerism. I think when he says “defensive balance” it means “Clichy and Sagna are free to go forward and as long as we have one or two players who stay near the half-way line, the team is balanced.”

The problem is that the team isn’t balanced and Wenger doesn’t even see it. He’s asked about the possession stats against Bolton and he admits that Arsenal’s 77% possession was a record for them. Morever, Arsenal had 680 some passes in that game, most of which were sideways.

This is a function, Wenger says, of the fact that teams who feel insecure about their league position are trying to secure their place in the table and do so at all costs. Wenger says that right now you’re going to see a lot of these 1-0 wins for the top four teams against lesser opponents until March when things start to “open up a bit.”

There’s a real logic here in that last bit, I’ll admit, but only if some separation starts to happen at the bottom of the table. If the whole table stays bunched up like it is then this same 10-men-behind-the-ball (the Aston Villa playing style) tactic will continue to prevail.

None of which changes the basic argument that all Gooners have been having for the last year: should we shore up defense or offense.

I’m saying both. What say you?

Nasri in the Hole

He [Nasri] is a player who likes to go left, right, and is very versatile… and has a lot of invention, with the ball. [But also] Samir is incredibly quick, because he is as well very good on the ball. So, he uses more the second aspect of his game than the first one. His runs off the ball can be deadly, but he likes so much to come to the ball that he doesn’t use his pace to go in behind the defenders. We are trying to balance his game.

I think we all sort of knew the first thing about Samir, but I haven’t seen any evidence of this super pace that Wenger claims. Worse too is that Arsenal are in desperate need of runs off the ball, and getting in behind defenses.  So, in the hole or not, Arsenal need Nasri to start balancing his game without the ball.

Irregardless, I like Nasri in the hole: which sounds really gross.

Bring on the Vela

Most people who watched the Bolton game credited Vela with changing the game and of course, the big question, then, is “Since Nasri plays in the middle, Diaby is shite, and Vela is a game changer, why doesn’t Vela play more?”

Wenger says that he was reticent to use Vela early in the season because he felt Vela wasn’t physically ready for the rigors of an EPL match. He’s ready now to start using him more because he feels like the player has come along greatly. I got the sense that we’ll see more Vela over the next few months, both out of necessity and because Wenger sees him growing and becoming a man, or as he puts it “a different animal.”

Transfers

The big question on everyone’s mind is who are Arsenal going to buy? With the second question being, how close are we to signing Andrei Arshavin?

To the second question, Arsene flat out said, he isn’t talking about it and we are not close to signing Arshavin. Arsenal are in negotiations with Zenit but that is all.

I firmly believe that Arsenal’s only hope for signing Arshavin lies in Man City landing Kaka. Because if City don’t land Kaka, they will certainly look elsewhere for a playmaker and Arshavin is pretty much the best option out there. There is no way that Arsenal could outbid City nor could we come close to satisfying Arshavin’s wage request so they would win that contest every time: Champions League football be damned.

Fortunately, the Kaka deal looks more and more likely, despite the protestations of the player. The transfer fee is reportedly up to £108m which no club could realistically turn down. That amount of money would buy a whole new team of decent talent, pay off 1/3 of a new stadium, and basically ensure top flight survival for several years.

Throw in that the player is supposedly being offered £100m in wages (60% of which would go to him, after taxes) over 5 years and really, this is an irresistible offer isn’t it?

That leaves us with Arshavin, and the boss says that “nothing has fallen through and we are very positive” which I’m taking to mean that the racist assholes at Zenit are stringing us along until they can get a better offer. If nothing better comes along, then on the last day of the transfer market, Arsenal will… maybe get the player. Maybe they’ll just have him killed or whatever they do in Russia. Wenger as much as admitted that this deal will probably happen on the last day.

Arsene did admit that he’s in for other targets but flatly denied that we are in for Hangelaand and Bullard from Fulham and Diakate from Lazio. YAY, three more targets we can put to bed!

Who will play against Hull?

Wenger ruled out Gallas and Silvestre due to injury and there is a test today for the others — basically the test is for Song, who is like a new signing if he comes back.

Eduardo scored a hat trick in a closed door practice but Wenger is not ready to throw him back into a game quite yet.  He’ll play on Tuesday in a reserves game and Wenger will assess the situation then. I may have been off on my assessment that Eduardo will return in February and we might see a cameo against Cardiff at the earliest and if not, then Everton almost certainly.

As for the tactics that Hull might employ Wenger sees a Hull side that came in to Arsenal and played a 4-3-3 but who have lost a ton of confidence and are starting to crack. Given Phil Brown’s dust-up with Kinnear the other day, I have to agree that the pressure seems to be getting to them and so I fully expect Hull to play a 9-1-1.

It’s funny, but you know who Phil Brown reminds me of? Alan Pardew. Hull City’s form right now reminds me of the form West Ham suffered late in that season as well. If you remember that 2006/07 season, though, Arsenal were beaten at home by West Ham 1-0 after they had been beaten earlier in the season and were looking for revenge.

It will take massive concentration to avoid that kind of slip again tomorrow.

Conclusion

Late kickoff tomorrow and the game is on Fox, so I’m going to be doing the liveblogging thing. This means no early blog here tomorrow, but join me here at 9:15 PST for comments and general fun. See you then.

Arsene prepares us for the bad news about Arshavin

It’s one of those days. Manchester City and Tottenham are throwing around money like it’s water and Arsenal are sitting on money like it’s, uhh, gold? Fools gold?

First, the bad news is that the Kaka deal is off… no wait, it’s back on and very close to a done deal!

I really hope City sign Kaka because that’s £100m fewer they can spend disrupting the rest of the league with their foolishness. FOOLISHNESS. Oh and yes, I got that link from L’Equipe, which my Google Reader translates for me. Suck it, non-Google reader monolinguists.

Not to be outdone, Spuds are bidding foolishness as well, offering £14m for Kenwynne Mulholland Jjones and £10m for Arsenal reject Wilson Palacios. I just want to mention that if we add up the value of all the central midfielders that Arsenal have let go for free or cheap, I swear Arsenal could buy a Kaka: £15m for Diarra, £15m for Flamini, £10m for Palacios, well, ok, 40% of a Kaka. Still, something doesn’t add up: during the period where we have let go those three players Arsene has kept Denilson, Song, and Diaby. Maybe Song is a £20m midfielder in disguise? Like he’s wearing this facade of being a slow, dopey, slack jawed, careless defensive midfielder but underneath he’s really great? I don’t know. I do know that Arsenal’s problems getting and keeping a solid defensive midfielder is starting to get on my pecs.

As for the Arshavin deal, Arsene is prepping us for the worst.

I am very hopeful … because the market closes at the end of the month, but if it does not happen, it does not happen. We have a few options available although we are not close to any of them – everything is open. Do not forget we have Rosicky, Fábregas and Walcott who are all creative and offensive players and will come back from their injuries at some stage, as will Eduardo. He has recovered very well and he would be like a new signing. For me, he is two to three weeks away.

Wenger is clearly frustrated by the situation and grasping at straws. We all know that by the time Rosicky (never), Fabregas (May), Walcott (March), and Eduardo (February) return Arsenal could be out of the Champions League and may have dropped further in the EPL.

Just as an example, we should have Eduardo back for the first leg of the Roma match and Walcott back for the second leg. Meanwhile there will be somewhere around 6 Premier League matches before both of those guys are back. Plus, Arsenal have to travel to Wales and play Cardiff in the FA Cup, before either of them return.

The point is, it’s brown trousers time, folks, and Wenger pointing out that Cesc is due to return in the last week of the year is disingenuous at best. I’d rather he didn’t say anything or just “we’re trying to sign someone” rather than bullshit me with fantasies of Fabregas dancing around midfielders in my head.

ARRRRGHHHHH I HATE TRANSFER SEASON.

As if you needed more reason to hate the whole transfer market right now, I present you with the best article of the transfer season, it has less meat than a Chicken McNugget (HA! they have since filled it in with flap about Arshavin). I don’t know what else they could add, but I love the fact that it’s a whole link to itself, for basically a headline and a teaser. Sorry, put that in with another article. Hell, put it in with this one about how Inler doesn’t think Arsenal are a top club and that’s why he refused to sign with us. Save me a click please.

Anyway, all of this just goes to show that January is no time to try to shore up the squad and Arsenal are going to need some real luck to get someone in who fits the bill(s). Sadly, right now I think our luck has just about run out.

City goes for £100m Brazilian, owch.

The funniest story this morning is that City offered £91m for Kaka, Gattuso, and Dida.  Gattuso is injured and Dida is shite, so, let’s be honest and just admit that this is a $100m bid for Kaka. Now, depending on who you read, Kaka is either willing to talk to City or has rejected them outright. City is trying their level best to get to the player by offering him an after tax salary of £13m but when Kaka’s agent publicly says

Kaka wouldn’t do anything based on money. He would never do something like Robinho, who, just to earn more, contented himself with a solution that was not a winning one. (emphasis added)

I rather doubt the player will be tempted.

Honestly though, it’s not the money, it’s not that City are struggling to stay in the Premier League, it’s that established Italian players do not want to come to England in the prime of their careers and have their legs broken by the Mathew Taylor’s and Kevin Davies and Joey Barton’s in this league. Add in that the pace of the game and demands of English football are harder than in Italy, that the English refs are biased against foreigners, and the food and culture is continuously a sore spot and really, even £14m after tax isn’t enough.

In Italy he’s a god. In England, he’s a great player on “the other Manchester team.”

Which leads us to Arsenal target Andrei Arshavin. Sadly, news reports are circulating now that say Inter are getting involved in the bidding and if true I think we have to say our hopes for landing the player have diminished. I really wish Arsene would just look elsewhere for a player. Dealing with Zenit is distasteful at the least and at best it’s starting to look like they are using Arsenal to get the max they can from Inter or City after the Kaka deal falls through.

The team would be better served if they would spend their time on getting a player in, for a reasonable fee, who would shore up the defensive end of the squad. Hangelaand is often linked, a defensive midfielder maybe, you know, that kind of player. Maybe if you want to get realy crazy, recall Traore from Pompey and have him compete for Eboue’s spot.

Cesc Hates Football

Ok, not really, but Cesc did make a rather incredible statement in the match program on Saturday against Bolton and rather than cut it up, let me just give it to you whole

Of course I love watching Arsenal, and I will never miss a game when I can help it, but apart from that I’m just forgetting about everything to do with football. Even my girlfriend is surprised because it’s unusual for me, but to be honest when it comes to football at the moment, I am off it until I can start to get fit again.

I just have to be patient and try to enjoy a holiday. In the last five years I haven’t been able to take any type of holiday because even during the summer I have been playing for the national team, so it’s been constant.

I think in six years I’ve only ever had three consecutive weeks without football. That’s not normal for a 21 year-old. For Arsenal and Spain at all levels I think I have played 270 games – for a 21 year-old that’s not normal so I guess at one stage this had to happen. I want to relax as much as possible, and I’m sure I will come back stronger

Wenger gave Cesc some time off to start the season but clearly it wasn’t enough. I think we all saw a dip in form for Cesc at that time and now we know why, he’s burned out on football. I don’t know what Cesc is thinking but it looks to me like the burden that Wenger put on the young man, playing him 250 times before the age of 21 has started to tell. We all have to hope that these 4 months off see him return refreshed and hungry.

I’d also hope that Wenger sees this statement and understands that we need to bring in some experienced players rather than just throw Wilshere, Vela, and Ramsey out there to the wolves.

Yes, for those keeping tabs, I have changed my mind here.

Rapid Links

Simpson is doing well, winning matches, and earning plaudits from W.B.A. He supposedly scored a great goal, anyone have a link? I’d love to see Simpson help W.B.A. stay up this season and then be recalled back into the Arsenal team and give Ade some competition for his target man spot up front.

Spuds are being cautious with Appiah and will test him out tonight in a friendly to see if they want to sign him permanently.  I have to think that there’s something really, really wrong with him if the normally profligate Spurs are being so cautious. So, erm, good job not signing Appiah, Wenger!

Howard Webb admits he was wrong. No, not about the piss poor refereeing at Old Trafford but about his piss poor refereeing in a Wolves/Birmingham FA Cup match where he admitted that he failed to give a penalty for a clear violation. Now, if we could only get him to admit that he’s Wayne Rooney’s bitch we’d all be better off. “Best ref in England?” That’s an insult to England.