Category Archives: Arsenal

Arsene Wenger Goes Christmas Shopping

Merry Christmas or X-mas or Festivus or whatever you celebrate, have a great one of those.  The snow still has us all locked in and work has been canceled for another day and I’m starting to go a little stir crazy.

Adding to my misery, every reporter across the planet is currently speculating on who Arsene Wenger is going to buy when the transfer window opens. The only real story we have ahead of the Villa match on Friday is that Martin Laursen and Carlos Cuellar won’t be available for Martin O’Neill.

Oh yeah, and Cesc doesn’t need an operation.

Great.

Sigh… in a sense I get what I deserve don’t I? I mean, there I was standing behind the boss when he stood pat this summer and now that everyone sees that standing pat was the wrong decision I get some residual heat. Nothing like what Wenger gets but it’s kind of tiresome regardless.

I get the question a lot, why am I so opposed to speculation? My opposition to transfer speculation comes from years of disappointment. At the height of Chelsea’s free spending ways, Arsenal kept getting linked to players we all knew we needed and we had to sit there and watch those players go to our rivals; Essien, Wright-Phillips, etc. Meanwhile Arsenal settled for guys like Baptista.

This year was even more frustrating because Arsene refused to bend or break the rules to keep Flamini, who was my favorite player last season, and when linked to players who could replace him, Arsenal basically failed at every turn (Alonso, etc). Add to that the fact that Wenger bet his money on another couple of broke down hags (Bischoff? Really Arsene? What’s he going to be, the next Alex Song?) and really it seems f*cking pointless to talk about transfers.

I can tell you who I’d like on the team — given the long term injuries to Cesc, Theo, and Rosicky, the fact that Gallas is a head case, the lack of competition for the central midfielders,  the lack of width, and other problems in the squad. Here’s what I’d do:

  1. Nasri takes Cesc’s spot — well, he does his best
  2. Play Vela wide left and when he isn’t playing striker, play Eduardo over there.  Too bad Arsenal sent Traore to Pompey, he’d also fill in there.
  3. Buy a right wing player — Ashley Young would be perfect, but there’s no way Arsenal could get him from Villa because basically Young is worth a Champions League spot so £30m would be a bargain and I wouldn’t be surprised if they value him closer to £50m — I believe Wenger will renew his summer interest in Kalou. Chelsea need to sell in order to buy and Kalou has fallen out of favor with the fans. N’Zogbia might also get a look, he’s a defensive minded midfielder with great pace.
  4. Sell Gallas and buy a Premiership tested defender. Most people think Arsenal need size, but I’d rather they bought a sweeper because Djourou is coming along quite nicely. Lucas Neill from West Ham would be great.
  5. Bring Senderos back, hey I like him.
  6. Buy Alonso. Cup tied? So? Song loses his spot? So? £20m? So?

Ok, so there, that’s what I’d do. What would you do? Please use bullet points.

The problem with all this is that none of it will transpire. Why would West Ham let Lucas Neill go, when that would almost certainly mean them making the drop? Why would Liverpool let Alonso go to a title rival? Those guys would have to threaten to score an own goal or something in order to get transfered.

No… Chance are Arsene will buy Geremi or something, or he won’t buy sh*t and we’ll all be left here, stuck in the snow, F5ing our newsfeeds begging Arsenal to sign someone.

Now you see why I don’t speculate? It’s depressing and pointless.

Anyway, try to have a merry whatever you celebrate, I’m sleeping in tomorrow I heard it’s good for my heart.

Cesc cuts himself Arshavin, out for four months

Late blog again, sorry. I try to get these out before 7am but since there is a delay in my work today I figured I’d wait for news on Cesc’s injury. I was “rewarded” with this report:

The news is not good because it is a partial rupture of the medial knee ligament which is taking three to four months injury time. We count four, we know he will be working very hard to come back earlier but I count four months.

How much [we will miss him] is difficult to say, the only thing we can say for sure is that we will miss him of course. We have to find a way to compensate for the fact he will not be on the pitch, and give everybody a bit more. I am sure we can deal with it. When he comes back he can help us to get over the line in the final months.

Well, that’s the worst news possible. If you remember back to the start of the season, Arsenal struggled mightily without their captain and now we’re headed into a crucial period of the title race and asking players like Song and Denilson to fill in. It’s a bad day what I can say that I could even see King Ramsey I The Boy King getting a few games as a sub and maybe even a start.

The absence of Cesc means that Arsenal will almost certainly need to prioritize between the three cups they are still striving for: FA, Champions League, and Premier League. The most important of those three is the League; financially and from a prestige standpoint we’d like to finish fourth or higher (even though Peter Hill-Wood pointed out the other day finishing fourth is not as financially devastating to the club as the doomsayers think.) Second in importance is the Champions League; this team is built for that competition, more so than the Premier League or the madness of the English cup ties that’s for sure, so I could see him place that second. Thus, I can see Wenger playing a modified Carling Cup squad in the FA Cup now that Cesc is down. He’ll need Denilson, Diaby, and Song as fresh as possible for the other games.

Oh what? You think this injury means that Wenger’s going to buy someone? Well… maybe. His answer there is perfect Arsene Wenger:

Yes [I am more likely to buy]….  but we also have internal solutions so we are not desperate because of that

If I know my Arsenespeak, that statement means that he has his eye on someone but doesn’t want to pay over the odds. Which means he’ll table a £16m offer for Alonso and it will be rejected… again.

Now, if you’ll indulge me a second I’d like to vent some spleen at Arsene.

Ahem

WHY THE F*CK DIDN’T YOU SPEND THE EXTRA £2M TO GET ALONSO IN THE SUMMER YOU F*CKING RETARD??????

Thanks

Of course he couldn’t see that Cesc would get injured and be out for four months, but he equally had to see that if Cesc went down it put a tremendous burden on the rest of the team and that having a second, versatile, battle-tested, fit, player who has the natural talent to fit right into your playing style and handle the pressure of the EPL, and the engine to run your opponents off the pitch would be crucial to winning a trophy this year.

The only player in the world than I can think of who fits that bill is Xabi Alonso and word has it that Wenger missed out on him this summer because he didn’t want to up his bid from £16m to £18m. Of all the mistakes that Wenger has made this year, and some of them are huge — like the Gallas captaincy, his stinginess in holding on to that last £2m will certainly stand as the biggest mistake because it has the ability to take down the season and possibly even the team. Evidence of how bad that decision was could take the form of Arsenal paying the stupid sum of £20m to desperately acquire Andrei Arshavin.

The reason that the Arshavin rumor has any legs is because irregardless who they buy, Wenger will be spending over the odds. Teams know what they have and what it’s worth to us, and as Gareth Southgate said when his midfield engineer (Tuncay) was linked to Chelski earlier in the week, “We are not here to help other clubs.”

It’s at trying times like these that the manager earns his keep and if there was ever any manager I trust to do the right thing, it’s Arsene Wenger. So, get off your ass and do the right thing, Arsene.

Arsenal 1-1 Liverpool; The Good, Bad, and Ugly

webb-1-0-arsenal

Match Reports

ESPNSoccernet: Ten Men Gunners Hang On.

BBC Sport: Robbie Keane struck a stunning equaliser as Liverpool remained top of the Premier League and maintained an eight-point advantage over Arsenal.

Lee Dixon’s Tactical View: Arsenal have a problem in defence that I have noticed in a few games this season – and it was particularly evident during Sunday’s draw with Liverpool

Quotes

Today was Be A Gooner, Be A Giver, but you cannot say the referee was a Gooner, he was a giver, giving yellow cards that we didn’t deserve. Every week when we play away from home, we are told people get in our faces and we cant cope. I should show you our players after some games we play away from home; it is a joke. Neither of the bookings were justified. It is just an unbelievable decision; if Adebayor goes off, then Keane has to go off in the first minute. It seems we have different rules. The decision cost us two-points today, and I do not agree with it all. — Arsene Wenger vents some spleen during a post match interview.

The Good

I’m in the vast minority here but I felt like Song had his best game in an Arsenal shirt and put in the kind of performance that could cement him as the first choice holding midfielder. It remains to be seen if he can do that week in and week out, but his workrate was absolutely stunning, his passing was decent, and I felt like more than any other player he lifted the team emotionally in the second half after Adebayor was sent off: pushing forward when they needed and tracking back on every play. I accept that you won’t believe me so please have a look at his heatmap. In addition to his constant hard work, he completed 83% of his passes, won the ball 5 times (on 5 attempts) and made no fouls. You can compare him to any other player either from the ESPN link above or through the Telegraph’s player stats. They both show Song in a favorable light, though he only scored 5 or so on the player rater.

If I had any criticism of Song it’s that he didn’t make any fouls. Lucas Leiva in comparison had a better passing percentage, won more balls and committed more fouls. Part of that position’s craft is to learn how to make hard fouls and get away with it. Song won’t be a complete player until he learns how to be a bit of a cunt, like Lucas was yesterday.

Chocolate Thunder scored a superb goal off a superb assist from Nasri. With both teams playing a 4-5-1 (well, Liverpool was playing a 4-2-3-1 and technically Arsenal played a 4-4-2 though van Persie was dropping deep and defending like a midfielder) the midfield was very crowded so it should be no surprise that both goals came by bypassing the midfield. That said, it was an unusual goal for Arsenal and did a lot to cement my feeling that we played more like the visiting team. Despite it’s unusual nature, it was a good goal and Arsenal would do well to have a try at those types of goals more often.

After a poor first half where Liverpool dominated possession, shots, fouls and injuring Arsenal players, Arsenal found themselves down a man and suddenly decided to play like the home team. Song found another gear, a gear I wish he would just keep switched on, Denilson got forward and I thought for sure van Persie would get a second, but it wasn’t to be.

What I’d like to see is that sometimes, matches like these can galvanize a team. When you feel like everyone is against you (which clearly it was 12 on 10 for the last 35 minutes) it’s easy to look to people who feel the same way you do for comfort. This has its own problems — “group think” can be problematic if they don’t want to face reality — but it can be a very powerful group dynamic. I think we saw some of that budding yesterday. I haven’t seen this Arsenal team play with as much heart as they did after losing Cesc and Ade.

The Bad

Xavi Alonso and Cesc went in on a 50-50 challenge and Cesc came out with some kind of knee ligament damage. I am certain that Alonso didn’t intend to hurt Cesc, but regardless, Cesc will be out for at least a month. Clearly Arsenal will need to “replace” Cesc during that period. Please, don’t everyone say “Arsene needs to buy” at the same time, so doing might cause a rift in the fabric of reality and Arsene might actually buy a player.

Or he might just bring in King Ramsey I because when he was asked after the match if he was looking at buying someone like Arshavin he answered “No. No. No.” For the record, I only mention that because it affords me the chance to mention Arshavin and get some free hits.

I also hated having to watch Robbie Keane score a goal against Arsenal, it made me sad, but worse was how he scored the goal. It was off a very poor display of defense from the back 4 and especially Gallas. Yes, Gallas. Watch the replays… Keane is playing between Gallas and Djourou and actually closer to Djourou so it’s easy to blame Johan because it looks like it’s “his man” but, as Lee Dixon points out, there are several things that led to that goal: poor pressure from the midfielders allowed Liverpool to pick out that pass, the god damned frustratingly stupid ass insane high line (they were at the midfield circle for f*ck’s sake) gave Keane acres of space to run into, poor communication at the back led to confusion, and Gallas didn’t cut Keane off because he was in the wrong position. Watch the video again and you can see what I’m talking about.

It’s frustrating because these are some simple changes that would make a huge difference to Arsenal’s defense. Why can’t Wenger make them?

The Ugly

Obviously, Howard Webb is the focus of our collective ire. It was good to hear so many pundits after the match say “I believe Howard Webb is a good referee but he’s had a very poor game today.” That’s a good because this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Webb have a poor game against Arsenal and had to sit through those same pundits blather on about how we’re just a bunch of whiners and that Webb shits gold-plated whistles  — at least now some doubt is starting to creep in.

Webb needs to be investigated for bias against Arsenal. There are a lot of very unusual things that happen when Webb refs an Arsenal match: the Rumble at Wembley,  3 of Arsenal’s 5 losses last year, awarding dubious free kicks in great positions against Arsenal (which he did time and again yesterday), awarding 2 penalties against Arsenal in 5 matches last year, and now this Adebayor incident.

If I break down the whole Ade/Webb face off, I think the first foul was for a “high tackle.” Webb saw Adebayor step over the ball to claim it from Carragher and deemed that an “over the top – studs up” challenge. He did make contact and so fair enough for the first yellow.

On the second yellow, no one is quite sure what the foul was given for. Some people think it was for the same move that earned him his first yellow — the problem with that is that he NEVER MADE CONTACT and there was certainly no intent. Some people think it was for the “elbow” to the face of Arbeloa. That was as clear a dive as I have seen all season, if Webb gave Adebayor a yellow for that then he’s the most easily fooled ref in the EPL. And there is some speculation that Ade earned a yellow for dribbling on and having a shot after the whistle went. If that’s the case then Webb clearly has something against Adebayor, maybe stemming from Ade’s disgraceful display in the Carling Cup final (where he refused to leave the pitch when Webb wrongly sent him off for Eboue’s “foul.”) Moreover, if those two tackles are yellow card tackles then Keane’s over the top lunge that actually left Clichy limping, has to be a red card and Sagna’s over the top, rash challenge should have been a red card as well. There has to be some equivalence in tackling: it’s not fair for Arsenal to get players sent off for slight or even no contact and for opponents to get warnings for heavy contact.

I suppose we’ll hear more from the FA about the incident as Adebayor and  Wenger have both spoken out against it.  I expect that Wenger will receive a touchline ban and Adebayor will get a few extra matches tacked on for asking the ref to apologize. It’s a mess and probably did no good to take Webb to task, but I’m sure it felt better to have a go at him. I know it made me laugh to hear Wenger call Webb a “giver.”

Final Thoughts

Well, Arsenal haven’t moved up nor down in the league and though three points would have been a beautiful way to go to Villa I have to say that I am very proud of this team and getting the draw. Everyone is writing them off, referees are calling matches against them, and 4 of their most talented players are injured, yet they are in 5th place and only 8 points off the title race. More importantly, they showed what kind of team they could be after reduced to 10 men. Should they take that commitment to Villa park on Boxing day they will surely come away with three points.

Right, the weather is seriously insane here and we’ve had work canceled again (thus the late blog — I was waiting for news about Cesc’s injury) so I might head down to Doyle’s to watch Everton beat Chelsea. Drop me a line if you think you might be able to make it.

It’s good to be a Goonah!