Category Archives: Arsenal

Top 5 targets for 2009/10 #4, January 23rd to February 16th

From January 23rd to February 16th, Arsenal face Aston Villa (a), Man U, Chelsea (a), and Liverpool in the league which is bookended by two FA Cup matches and the first leg of the first  Champions League knock out round. There is no more crucial part of the season for me: January 23rd to February 16th could easily decide whether Arsenal are going to win some silverware or go home empty handed again.

There is some speculation that the reason Arsene has gotten rid of Adebayor and Toure (and possibly Eboue) is because they will be out seriving their countries at the African Cup of Nations during this crucial period.

That theory only really makes sense if the club buys someone who will be around during that crucial period. Because, what sense does it make to let someone go for the whole season, just because they won’t be there for a crucial month?

If the ACN plays into it at all it’s more likely as something that will make it easier to swallow these transfers than as the impetus behind them, sort of the “spoon full of sugar.” It’s more likely that Wenger has looked at the schedule and then evaluated each of these player’s desire to play for the club and then took a look at the offers and was all “HOLY CRAP! Arsenal will make how much???” and sold the players. So, I’m reluctant to say that the ACN plays into it too much.

Back to that crucial period, I think it will be entirely possible for Arsenal to get 8-10 points in the league over teams who are our rivals for top honors. The Villa away game was a tricky fixture last year but they have lost Barry and Laursen this year. I’m not saying we’ll roll over them, their manager knows how to score goals on Arsenal (park the bus and punt over the top), but just that they are weakened and this is in our favor.

Similarly, Man U have lost crucial players and not replaced them. Sure, Rooney can be the all action guy that Tevez was and Bobblekopfh is a languidly dangerous threat at all times but they have certainly lost their free kick threat in Ronaldo, and a player with pace and skill to break teams down on his own.

Chelsea? Well… They signed another Jerkoff to their stable and they have added a decent coach and they looked pretty good playing against American teams on psuedo-grass (the grass was layed over a pad and then over the turf).  So, again I’m not ruling them out, they are a tough team, however, for that fixture they will be missing Dogbag, Essien, and Mikel to the ACN. I don’t know too many teams that could cope with the loss of three of their best players and hope to win a ton of games.

Still, away at fortress Stamford? Who could dream of ever winning there?

And Liverpool, oh my, I don’t want to give away too much of the season preview that I have been brewing but Liverpool are in serious trouble. This morning’s reports are that Alonso handed in a transfer request which is basically a player’s last move in getting out of their contract — it usually costs them millions of dollars in loyalty payments. At the same time, Mascherano is basically saying that he hates it in England and wants to go to Barcelona. Those two players were absolutely crucial to the modicum of success that Liverpool achieved last year. I don’t see them both being replaced in the transfer market, one guy, sure, but both? So, again it’s not a cake walk, but at this moment, it’s not looking like the battle roayle that it could be.

Unfortunately, the FA Cup and Champions League matches I can’t really make a comment on because we don’t know who we are playing or even where we are playing them. They are “must win” matches though, I can say that!

So, there you have it, that’s why I think the late January to early February period is a crucial period for the club. The way things are shaping up, we have a pretty good opportunity to take points off rivals and place ourselves deeper into other tournaments. I’m sure Wenger’s already on it.

Transfers

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the official transfer of Kolo Toure yesterday. Kolo was one of my favorite players at Arsenal and the last of the guys who played with the invincibles. He was a crucial part of Arsenal’s run of clean sheets in the Champions League which saw us through to the final and for that magical run I will always be grateful.

He was a classy player who always did what was asked of him and who I think all Arsenal supporters loved. I will be terribly surprised if he has a negative word to say about Arsenal as he winds his career down at City. Good luck to him, except when we play each other, and here’s to him doling out many lumps to everyone but Arsenal.

Good luck King Kolo.

There’s a funny story circulating about Patrick Vieira returning to the club. Funny because it comes from Ian Wright (who heard from a source who heard from a source), because it involves breaking of one of Arsene’s supposed cardinal rules (never look back), and because, not to put too fine a point on it, he’s past it.

I had the distinct pleasure of getting to watch a ton of Serie A games last year because Fox Soccer Channel plays them before and after EPL games and what the hell else are you going to do at 5am while you’re writing your Arsenal blog? And I can say that definitively, Patrick Vieira is past his prime. Hell, he was past his prime when he went to Serie A in the first place, and now he’s kind of a disaster and hard to watch. I know that’s not the most popular thing to say, and I’m not saying I won’t welcome him back, but maybe what I’m saying is if he signs don’t expect too much.

What I think would be brilliant is to sign him as a sort of player-coach. Who better to turn Song into a world class DM than Patrick Vieira? Who better to bring Diaby along than the guy he’s supposed to be emulating? It’s brilliant in that regard. But on the pitch he could only be used in very limited quantities.

In some ways I’d rather he went to Spurs. I mean come on, he could be our mole! Who better to ruin them from the inside than Patrick Vieira?

Of course, I’m joking about that last bit. In all seriousness, I think all of us would love to have him back and no one will be disappointed to see him, as long as we keep our expectations in line with reality.

And finally, flush with all this cash, the boss is cautioning Arsenal supporters against the notion that “buying means sucess.” Yeah yeah yeah… what else is he going to say?  ”Now that I have £40m to spend, we are targeting players left and right, anyone want to make an offer???”  No, he’s being cautious.

There are reports that Rosicky picked up a knock against Barnet, which would explain his absence since, and the speculation is that he’ll miss the Emirates Cup this weekend. The boss said Rosicky will play this weekend. Add in the absence of Nasri due to injury and it’s starting to look like an already thin midfield is even thinner — at a time when Wenger has said we need to get off to a good start.

I’m not suggesting a panic buy, but a guy like Alonso would only add to the team. Wenger’s aware of that and has stated that they will add if they see the right deal come up. Personally, I’d rather we spent now than waited until January to re-enforce this team, there’s quality out there, go and get it. According to the link abover Wenger is looking at “several possibilities” so it seems he’s well aware of the issue.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I suppose we’ll do this again tomorrow…

2009/2010 Arsenal’s top 5 targets; #5, the League Cup

I was thumbing through Perry Groves’ autobiography last night in a vain attempt to force myself to sleep despite the fact that my body was covered in a layer of lather brought on by nearly 100F temperatures, and I got to the part where Perry talks about winning the League Cup in his first season with Arsenal. I’m not suggesting that Perry Groves’ book is an especially effective somniferant, it’s a rather good read, written in his voice, and I recommend it to all Arsenal supporters. If you were a red level member last year, you got it for free as part of the complimentary 1989 tribute pack.

I digress.

The point is that Perry Groves talked about how Arsenal winning that League Cup was one of the key things that sparked them on to winning more trophies under George Graham. I think that this Arsenal team are at a similar crossroads and would similarly receive a huge boost if the club were to lay hands on this oft maligned trophy. Moreover, I think this is the squad who can do it.

We all know that Wenger is recently fond of using this tournament to highlight his youth team. It wasn’t always that way, but I think this year will prove no different than recent years. If Wenger sticks to recent patterns (and doesn’t delve deeper into the youth pool) players like Ramsey, Wilshere, Traore, Gibbs, Djourou, Vela, Walcott, and Bendtner are all poised to have a break out season and I think they will do it with the League Cup. Each of those players listed has gained valuable experience, either in playing in last year’s League Cup campaign and/or successful FA Youth Cup campaign and/or playing as starters for the first team in league matches.  For a lot of these kids last year’s loss to Burnley will stick in their craw and they will be targeting this cup heavily as a way to bring Arsenal glory and redeem themselves.

Funnily enough, the League Cup is only one of two honors that Wenger has yet to collect in his career, the other being the Champions League. He’s been to the finals in both of those cups and both times had them cruelly snatched from his hands at the last moment. Chelsea beat Arsenal in the League Cup in 2007, well, Howard Webb beat Arsenal in 2007 by erroneously sending off all the wrong players.  And of course, Barcelona beat Arsenal the year before in the Champions League final, despite the fact that Howard Webb didn’t referee the match.

The point is that Arsenal are young, their youth team is experienced, and the League Cup could provide just the boost that this young club needs on their way to winning many many trophies down the years. That’s why I’m targeting the League Cup as one of my top 5 goals for Arsenal this year. We’ll have to see if the boss thinks the same.

Transfer Snooze

Hey look, Kolo is having a physical at City today. As I said yesterday, I hope that Wenger doesn’t underestimate the supporter’s and player’s desire for signings, especially in midfield and gets out the checkbook and buys someone.

Opinion is divided as to whether Wenger is actually going to bring someone in and Arseblog wrote a teriffic piece today on why he thinks Wenger will not — he bought Vermaelen immediately, why would he wait this long to sign someone else?

That said, it looks like our midfield is super thin, I mean, Arsene brags on having 7 center backs, but if you don’t count Arshavin and if Eboue leaves, then Arsenal will have 7 midfielders — TOTAL. With Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey counted in that group. I know, I know, Arsene could play a whole bunch of other folks all over the pitch, hell, he could put Djourou in as a holding mid, or Senderos, etc, but still I have to say that even me, the starry eyed optimist, sees the official list of midfielders and thinks “harumph, that’s a bit odd isn’t it?”

Anyway, I’m sure Arsene will sort this out. If not, I hope he’s prepared for the criticism.

Game today

The final pre-season match will kick off today at 10am (PST) and I suspect we’ll see some Rosicky today and maybe Cesc as guys like Eduardo and Arshavin are given a bit of rest.

The match is available at Arsenal TV Online for those of you who are subscribers, and if you’re not a subscriber, well, your loss!

Anyway, got to take the dog to my friend’s air-conditioned house, it’s supposed to be another scorcher here today, so, see you all tomorrow!

Szomenobodies 0-5 Arsenal. Plus, if you sell him, who will come?

Great stuff yesterday from the Arsenal and if you’re not officially excited about this season, then you’re dead. Arsenal entered last pre-season with a decimated strike force and makeshift midfield, which would characterize our entire year in some ways, and with that team in this exact same fixture last year managed just a 1-1 draw. Yesterday, with Bendtner and Eduardo looking fit this Arsenal team were scoring goals for fun and beat the hell out of them 5-0.

If this keeps up, we are going to score our share of goals this year. Think about it for a second, with Arshavin, van Persie, Rosicky, Nasri, Bendtner, Eduardo, Vela, and Walcott tearing opponent’s defenses to shreds, 80+ goals is a reasonable target this season.

Of course, 80+ goals in our favor is useless if we conceed 50+ goals which is what everyone is worried about with all these rumors that Toure is leaving coupled with the utter lack of any news about someone coming in to fill the perceived gap at defensive midfield.

To that end, the dot com released an exclusive post-match interview with Wenger this morning in which he basically confirmed the rumor that Toure may be on his way out, putting the ball firmly in the player’s court by saying “we’ll know more in 24 hours.” Toure is supposedly being offered £120k per week, doubling his current Arsenal salary and as we all know has had a strained relationship with other folks in the club since last year, which culminated in the player dramatically handing in his transfer request, only to rescind it shortly after.

I can see lots of reasons why he’d want to go, chief amongst them is that Arsenal’s defensive scheme can be very taxing both mentally and physically. Wenger’s high line defense has been the death of many a fine lad at Arsenal, Toure would be just the latest. So, if he goes, I’ll understand. I’ll wish that he hadn’t, I’ll pray to the gods that he shuts his whore mouth afterwards, but I’ll understand why he would want to leave.

When I watch Wenger’s uncensored interview I get the sense that he enjoys fucking with us, and kind of cracks little jokes with himself. For example, in the interview released today he said, with a twinkle in his eye and a sly grin, that Arsenal have “7 center backs” and that there are so many that he’s “forced” to play them in midfield.   This is technically true: Toure, Gallas, Vermaelen, Song, Djourou, Silvestre, and Senderos are our current crop.

But, let’s assume for a second that Toure leaves, that leaves Arsenal with just two players with a good bit of Premier League experience: Gallas and Silvestre. In the second tier, experientially, you have Senderos and Song with Song having the most recent experience. And as I have said about Senderos, I suspect Wenger’s playing him to keep his fitness up and because he wants to get Vermy as much time as possible in the CB role partnered along side the other starting CBs.  I doubt Wenger sees Senderos as a real defensive midfield option, Senderos is a stopper, no doubt, and that full range of tools was on display in the parts I caught yesterday but I also noticed that once beaten he didn’t track back and that reminded me that, frankly, he doesn’t have the engine for midfield.

So you have to wonder if that twinkle in his eye isn’t a mischievious little nod that he knows how Arsenal fans are and how we’re obsessed with transfers and that he’s got something working. When asked directly about that possibility, he was very obtuse and, again, smilingly said, that perhaps something is in the works, we’ll have to wait until after pre-season to see what we really need.

What I hope Le Boss doesn’t underestimate is the sort of bubbling cauldron that I see among many Arsenal supporters. If he sells Toure and Eboue (and don’t forget Senderos whom he said was on his way out last week) for an estimated £25m I think he will be under a tremendous amount of pressure to buy. It will be preceived as £50m in to the club and people will start talking about season ticket prices, the ambitions of the club, and how we could get Klaas Jan-Huntelaar AND Xabi Alonso AND Lorik Cana AND Blaise Matuidi in for that amount! So, if Arsenal don’t make a signing, I suspect you will see some things spill over a bit.

But that’s sort of a dooms day scenario, there’s whole weeks to go before people get all pessimistic about the season and Usmanov leverages that malaise to take over the club and turn it into his personal piggy bank, like Abramovich has done with Chelsea.*

Seriously, it’s pre-season, Arsenal are scoring goals for fun and frankly, maybe Arsenal will and maybe they won’t sign anyone, I don’t know. I do know that it’s 6:30am and I’m already sweating, it’s supposed to get over 100F today, and highlights of yesterday’s match are here… go watch them and relax a bit. There are a lot of positives at this club right now and it’s too damn hot to get all worked up.

*Son, I… I say, son, it’s a joke, son..