Category Archives: Arsenal

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.

What happened to the beautiful game?

History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today. — Henry Ford

I came to love the Arsenal at arguably an inopportune time. Chance put me at a place where I was angry with the cable company for making me pay a monthly charge on my cable modem and the federal and local government put all of my city in a place where we could buy internet and cable television services from them instead of the big cable company. In a moment of anger,  I ditched Comcast, signed up with my city’s cable company and sat back to watch television.

Of course, the television didn’t get any better, but what I did get was all the “digital cable” channels for the same price as basic cable. It was a pleasant surprise, the icing on the cake as the idiom goes. Hidden in those digital cable channels was a small, relatively new channel called Fox Soccer Channel and little did I know the profound effect that channel would have on my life.

Like I said, I came to love Arsenal at an inopportune time. If I had been some kid who grew up in Watford or Wycombe or Slough who’s dad just happened to take me to a game when I was a child, I think it would have been better for me, for my soul, because when I was a child, Arsenal sucked. They sucked ass, and with the exception of an FA cup and an FA cup 2nd place finish in 79 and 80 (when I was 10) Arsenal were a middle of the table team.

Instead, I had to fall in love with a team that had Denis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, and Tony Adams on it, which is simply unfair. For most teams, players like Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira are once in a lifetime players, so to have both on a team at the same time was a coup of epic proportions — and to add in Bergkamp and Adams is just, well, unfair. I picked up Arsenal when they would,  in just a few years time, become invincible and would play the most beautiful football I have ever seen.

How does that become someone’s introduction to football? “Here’s a team who will become the best team you will see in a generation, enjoy a life time of wishing that every team from then on is half as good as the one you’re watching! Oh yeah, and you have no context in which to put this whole experience so you don’t even get to enjoy it while it’s happening!”

That’s not fair. That’s not a standard that anyone should ever have to live up to. It’s like being handed a video game console and playing an entire season on the “easy” setting, against the computer. When your friend inevitably comes over and plays you, it shatters your perception of reality.

I think something similar has happened to the Arsenal team that we see on the pitch right now. I complained the other day, in my Good-Bad-Ugly, that Arsenal had become boring and I have to admit in retrospect, that’s not fair. I’m judging this team based on my experience with The Invincibles which is unfair because both the team has changed and, as Wenger pointed out, the league has changed.

I actually noticed the change in the league when I was watching the Man U/Chelsea match on Sunday. As I was sitting there, picking up the pieces of my lost morning, I saw something very familiar in the way that Chelsea were playing: they were moving the ball quite well, maintaining possession pretty well, but when they got in the Man U final third, United picked up the ball pressure, forced Chelsea to the center of the park, dispossessed whoever had the ball, and started a beautiful, flowing counter. This happened a lot and if it didn’t happen and Chelsea were able to get off a shot, it was either lacking teeth or it fell prey to the old “over elaborate play” problem — then it dawned on me…

HOLY S*&T! CHELSEA HAS BECOME ARSENAL!

I knew that Roman has always fancied his club as the new Arsenal, from the transformation of Arsenal from small club to world classs in the 1990s down to the players that Arsenal had on our squad: if Arsenal was interested in a player, Chelsea simply read about it in the papers and bid double. Chelsea even went so far as to tap up Ashley Cole. I mean, this is a club that wanted to be Arsenal so bad, they fired the most sucessful coach in their history, not because he wasn’t winning, but because the team wasn’t playing beautiful football! That’s insane.

Emulating Arsenal seems like a goood idea, but the problem is that Roman didn’t expect that the entire world would unlock the secret to beating Arsenal: solid defense in a 4-5-1 formation.

And of course the world figured it out, all they needed to do was look at a history book. That’s exactly what happened in the 1930s when teams used to play a 2-3-5 and it was Arsenal who innovated the change! Arsenal started playing a solid back line under Herbert Chapman and won titles with it. So it should be no surprise that teams would see Arsenal playing effectively a 2-4-4*  and say, “ok, let’s play a 4-5-1 to counter that.” They have 9 players defending, we have 8 players attacking. You do the math.

That’s how Fulham ground out a win, that’s how Stoke ground out a win, that’s how Aston Villa ground out a win, etc. Teams like Arsenal have become entirely predictable and their opponent’s response to us has become entirely predictable as well. As Wenger points out, this is only natural, after all, the difference between relegation and staying up is millions of pounds in revenue so teams do whatever it takes to stay up; beautiful game be damned.

Ocassionally, a team playing the 2-4-4 will get an early goal and that throws the whole plan into disarray; because then the 4-5-1 team starts attacking, which opens space in behind them and allows the more offensive minded team freedom to create. But that’s not happening as much for us as it once did, which we can blame on injury, transfers, lack of creativity, lack of a wide player, *ahem* not shifting our tactics when faced with all of the above, and so on.

But yes, the league has become predictable, and yes, the beautiful game is essentially dead; at least when teams come knocking at Arsenal and Chelsea’s door. The only thing that is unpredictable right now is how teams like Villa and Fulham will play each other and, normally, how the top four will play each other. This explains the topsy-turvy season that we’ve had this year up and down the table.

If we want the beautiful game back, Wenger is going to have to inject some fresh tactics, fresh bodies, and a fresh approach to the game. It’s what every great Arsenal manager before him did. Of course, it’s entirely possible that Arsenal will never get the beautiful game back. It’s possible that Arsenal’s beautiful game was just a once in a lifetime thing; a combination of great scouting, lucky buying, a change in diet, good team balance, and having the older players around to Shepard the younger ones.  Moreover, it’s entirely possible that it’s just my spoiled inner child who wants another Invincibles, who wants to switch the Playstation on easy mode and play against the computer one more time — so that I can relive a tradition that never really existed instead of living in the moment and enjoying what we have.

Nah… BRING BACK THE BEAUTIFUL GAME ARSENE!

*We can argue this ad nauseum but basically I see Clichy and Sagna as the only two players providing any width to the team — which is similar to Chelsea with Bosingwa and ACole — making them the midfielders and Nasri and Eboue actually strikers. Just look at how centrally Eboue and Nasri play and how often Clichy and Sagna are wide and deep.

Ding, Dong, Respect is Dead

Manchester United has reached the half-way point in their season and yesterday’s 3-0 thumping of Chelsea was the perfect foil for all that is wrong with the Premier League. From the hapless officiating of Howard Webb, to the overt displays of disrespect from Wayne Rooney, to the hapless attacking of Chelsea the signs are all there that the Premier League is very very sick, if not already passed.

First in this mini-series on officiating and “the beautiful game,” I turn my attention to Howard Webb. Lauded by many outside of the Arsenal circle now for many years as the “best official in England”  some of the cracks are beginning to show and I’ve seen a few commentators take some of his decisions to task. Even still, right now, I agree that Howard Webb is the pinnacle of English officiating.

I have seen this type of official many, many times in my career as a sports fan: he’s the “I’m in charge here” official. He’s the guy who feels like it’s his job to dictate the game. He, like Graham Poll before him, will often give out a quick yellow to let both teams know that he’s the boss. The problem is that in doing that he becomes the center of the game rather than the players and even if he gets every decision perfect, by injecting himself into the spotlight, he radically changes the game. It’s no longer 22 men playing against each other in a fair competition it’s “how will Howard Webb call this game?”

In the first 5 minutes on Sunday, Webb gave Lampard a yellow card. Now, I’ve seen a lot of fouls. I’ve seen a lot of Chelsea fouls. I’ve seen Frank Lampard get away with fouls that would have had lesser players sent off. But I can’t recall the last time I saw Frank Lampard get a yellow card in the first 5 minutes of a big game for a very slight foul. It wasn’t Lampard’s transgression (Lord knows he’s sinned) that earned him that yellow, it was Howard Webb telling the world that he was in charge and that one call radically changed that game.

The lie of the whole thing is that Webb isn’t in charge. All you have to do is see the disgraceful way that Wayne Rooney acted after he’d kicked a player who was shielding the ball for a throw in to see this point illustrated. Rooney was called over by Webb, presumably for another talking too (his 3rd of the game) and he turned his back on Webb and walked away. When Webb blew his whistle and called Rooney over he threw his hand up in the universal sign of “go fuck yourself” and kept walking, back turned. It was eerily reminiscent of the Ashley Cole, Mike Riley incident last year that supposedly sparked the whole “Respect” campaign and yet here we are, in the midst of this “Respect” campaign and the league’s best official is chronically incapable of keeping the respect of even one player, much less the whole Manchester United team. Respect, my ass.

Those two instances sum up the problems with officiating in the league: we see it every weekend and everyone knows that the games are not called fairly. As Rafa Bentiez would say “It’s a fact.” When Javier Mascherano can be sent off for his petulant display against the referees while Wayne Rooney gets away with it in every game there are clearly different rules being applied. Does anyone think for a second that Gael Clichy would be allowed to disrespect Howard Webb by turning his back on him and waving him off in the “go fuck yourself” manner? No, of course not.

And back to Lampard’s yellow, I’m no Chelsea fan, in fact I think they are a bunch of cheating scumbags, but that was not the old dirty Chelsea out there by any stretch of the imagination. Certainly not the kind of Chelsea team that deserved 5 yellow cards. And more to my point, if Lampard gets a yellow straight away for that tackle, then how on earth did Kevin Davies escape a yellow against Arsenal for either of his first two fouls?  Both of those fouls are straight red cards if I’m officiating because they are intentional dangerous play. Both the “oops, I was jumping” elbow to the face and the “I’m going for the ball” stamp on your opponent’s foot intend harm in order to “soften up” your opponent –  red card, end of story. The point is, unless the official wants to say “I’m in charge” fouls are treated differently depending on who is committing them and/or at what point in the game they are committed.

If the league wants fans and players and managers to respect the officials then these officials will need to do something to earn our respect because right now the only time anyone respects the officials is when their club is on the receiving end of beneficial treatment. The danger of that culture, where we all just expect poor decisions or see one team being treated differently than another is that we become inured to that discrepancy between the rules and how they are called and when that happens, you get the referee scandal that hit Serie A and the referee scandal that hit the NBA.

Dirty officials can’t get away with making bad calls if we all expect games to be called fairly. To that end, I’d like to see a couple changes. First, instant replay: there is no reason on earth that penalty claims, goal claims, straight red cards, and the like can’t be challenged using video evidence. A sensible system by which managers and fans can get some satisfaction by challenging a decision is absolutely needed and would lead to my second change. Second, no talking to the officials by managers and players. Apart from asking the fourth official to challenge a call, managers should not be in their technical area disgracing themselves by squawking at the officials. I’m looking at you Mr. Wenger. Moreover, players and managers should not be allowed to follow the official down the tunnel and ask them questions during half-time. I’m looking at you Mr. EveryEnglishManager. Third, displays like the ones that Wayne Rooney acts out in every Premier League match should be punished, every time.

True respect cannot be mandated. However, by cleaning up the big calls using video replay, scrubbing the taint of collusion by keeping managers and players away from the referees during breaks, and by punishing players when they show disrespect the league could clean up its image quite a bit and get things back on the right track. If they don’t, the cloud of impropriety will continue to hang over the league.

Because right now, if Man U was paying off the officials, would anybody notice the difference?