Category Archives: Deadline Poetry

Trod upon

Jack down, I’m out

The club announced today that Jack Wilshere suffered a hairline fracture after a bad tackle in England’s friendly win over Denmark. Wilshere will be sidelined for six weeks, at least, and may struggle to regain fitness ahead of the World Cup placing his hopes for a berth with England in Brazil in jeopardy. Needless to say, this is terrible news for Jack, Arsenal, and England.

Arsenal have been in a bit of slump lately so it’s normal for people to forget how important Jack is to this team when he’s on form. His goal of the season candidate against Norwich is the perfect example of his directness and ability to break through the opposition’s midfield. In the video, Wilshere picks the ball up from defense, dribbles around his markers, passes, moves, passes, moves, and then shows great touch to finish the attack. Wilshere brings a directness to Arsenal that’s refreshing on a team with so many midfielders who prefer to drop back in the final phase and create for others.

Jack has been struggling with form these last few weeks and that is in no small part due to him being the target of opposition midfielders. Wilshere is Arsenal’s most fouled player with 2.1 per game last season and 1.9 per game this season. Remember, those are the fouls that the referees bother to call and also remember that Opta doesn’t count it when the referee waves play on. I suspect many of us feel as if Jack is fouled 4 or more times a game, at least.

As much as I would like someone in the midfield who can protect Jack, Arsenal are not at fault for this treatment that Wilshere receives. The referees need to have a look at themselves and every England supporter who also supports a club like Stoke, who fouled Wilshere 4 times (that were called), should be ashamed of themselves for glorifying Wilshere’s rough treatment. When England are missing someone to drive their midfield forward in Brazil this summer, you can thank Charlie Adam and Glen Wheelan for Wilshere’s absence as much as you can thank Danny Agger for breaking his foot in their “friendly”.

The fact that Daniel Agger broke Wilshere’s foot should be the issue here, not whether Arsenal “played him in the red zone”. This isn’t a soft-tissue injury. This isn’t a muscle strain. This was a horrible tackle by Agger, which had shades of Shawcross on Ramsey. Agger lost control of the ball (like Shawcross) and seeing the Arsenal man coming, lunged in with a sweeping leg to try to win the ball. Agger doesn’t even win the ball until he takes the man. A bit ironic that Liverpool and Arsenal are locked in a title race and a Liverpool player takes out an important Arsenal player with an horrific tackle.

If there’s a silver lining to all this it’s that Arsene has sort of packed the team full of center mids who can take Wilshere’s place. Assuming that Arsenal get knocked out by Bayern, if the Gunners go all the way to the FA Cup final, they will only have 14 total games from today until the end of the season and at least three players who can play in Jack’s position.

Aaron Ramsey has another week or so before he returns but he’s the natural replacement for Jack in the midfield. In fact, if Ramsey recovers his early season form, he is a huge upgrade in terms of overall workrate, passing, defense, and offense.

While Arsenal are waiting for Ramsey, Arsene has plenty of options owing to the fact that he essentially has 11 center mids when everyone is healthy. The list of Arsenal midfielders who are available (or soon to be available) to Arsene is pretty incredible, really: Cazorla, Podolski, Flamini, Arteta, Kallstrom, Rosicky, Ramsey, Özil, Ox, and Gnabry.

Here are some options for lineups, including the two “wing” positions at Arsenal:

Cazorla – Flamini – Rosicky – Ox – Özil
Podolski – Arteta – Cazorla – Rosicky – Ox
Cazorla – Arteta – Özil – Ramsey – Gnabry
Gibbs – Kallstrom – Arteta – Flamini – Bendtner*

The key question with all of these is chemistry and balance. For example, the Flamini-Arteta experiment has been poor at times and I would be very concerned if Arsenal started those two against a slick dribbler like Everton’s Ross Barkley. For Saturday, I suspect that Arsene will play Cazorla – Arteta – Rosicky – Özil – Ox or some variation of that with Rosicky the main midfield runner and first line of defense, Arteta the cleanup guy, Özil free to roam, Cazorla cutting in on the wing and Ox doing what he did in his cameo against Stoke — kicking ass and chewing gum. And he’s all out of gum.

Losing Jack at this time is going to put more pressure on the remaining players at Arsenal to push the team forward. His injury also means one less body for rotation. It’s not the kind of news that we wanted to hear coming out of the International “break” but Arsenal will just have to deal with it the best they can. Arsene, luckily (?), has plenty of options.

I’m all packed and ready to go

I leave for London tonight and because of the way the earth rotates and the direction I’m flying, I won’t be landing there until tomorrow 11:20 GMT. I will publish a Les Crang piece on Ray Parlor while I’m in the air (magic) and after that you won’t hear from me again until Sunday, probably. I will do a stats preview over on Arseblog News while drinking my 4:30 am coffee on Saturday but no post-match post until Sunday. I will do a similar post before and after the Bayern match. The weather is supposed to be beautiful this week and I am going to breathe deep the air of London and Munich rather than spend the whole time in front of the laptop.

For those who wonder about this sort of stuff, here’s my packing list:

7amkickoff’s Traveling Arsenal Fan Pre-Match Packing List

1 Flamini sleeveless short sleeve shirt
5 Other shirts for the Flamini shirt to yell at and tell where to be positionally on defense
4 Bags of Magic of the Cup coffee beans
6 Pairs of Bendtner’s dropped trousers
8 Pairs of Northern Monkey socks
8 Pairs of Flamini v. Wilshere boxer shorts
1 Package of Stoke’s finest flushable wipes
1 Passport to choose your own adventure, oops you die on page 16
1 Bottle of Never in Doubt anti-anxiety pills
2 You should read more, books
1 Arsene Wenger didn’t see it digital camera obscura
1 Spend your entire vacation on it laptop
1 Wad of spend some ******* money
1 Bottle of Agger’s tackle left a Maker’s Mark whiskey

I recon a feller could have a pretty good time in London Munich with that.

Qq

*Personal favorite — I call it “31 Flavors of Disaster”

By Ronnie Macdonald from Chelmsford, United Kingdom (Simon Mignolet & Theo Walcott) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Dictionary of Arsenal

Szczesny - verb; to act as a wall, obstruct. Don’t szczesny me, man! I want to see my kid!

Walcottly - adverb; to do something with both speed and grace. He walcottly skipped past the left back, cut inside, and fired home a left-footed shot.

Ramsey - noun; a persistent, unflappable opponent. Rocky Balboa was a real ramsey tonight, no matter how many times Clubber Lang hit him he wouldn’t go down!

Giroud - adjective; something that, when looked at from one angle looks normal or even tarnished, but when looked at from another angle is surprisingly beautiful. Shall I compare thee to a giroud rose? 

Sagna - noun; a statue brought to life. Ludivine came home and kissed her sagna, only to find that his lips were warm. The goddess had granted her wish; the most perfect man had come to life.

Cazorla - adjective; effervescent, vivacious and enthusiastic. Five shots taken and five shots created, leading the team in passes, passes in the final third, and even getting in a few tackles, Özil finally put in a truly cazorla performance. 

Özilly - adverb; do something in an özil manner. He özilly split two defenders from 25 yards with a slide-rule pass.

Flamini - adjective; fiery or combative. He knew that look, Tim had flamini eyes, someone was going to get an owie. 

Arteta - adjective; avoiding ostentatious displays. There was an arteta elegance to the way she presented herself.

Bendtner - verb; to waste, thinking that you’re already good enough. He really bendtnered his talents as an artist, drinking and carousing. 

Rosicky - noun; enthusiasm or energy. He played guitar with real rosicky. 

Ox - verb; to dribble past someone so quickly that they fall over in disgrace. Ljungberg oxed Chelsea’s John Terry to score the winning goal and give Arsenal the FA Cup.

Wilshere - adjective; sturdy and effective, feckful. His mother was proud that she had raised a wilshere young man.  

Gibbs - noun; a pin or bolt which holds other objects together. Luckily we had this gibbs or the whole Rube-Goldberg contraption would have fallen apart!

Vermaelen - verb; keep in reserve. This bottle of sherry was vermaelened for special occasions.

Vela - noun; a sandwich made entirely of chips. No bread, no meat, just chips. Theo ordered the vela and was surprised to find is was just a pile of chips.

Wenger - noun; a brilliant man who is able to spin gold out of gossamer. The gates of their fortune opened, as if Wenger held the key.

Podolski - noun; a person who is exacting and efficient, clinical even. I think he’s a real podolski, that Podolski. 

Mertesacker - adjective; calm, almost quiescent, yet prepared to spring at a moment’s notice. A mertesacker put bull guarded the entrance to Wenger’s house.

Koscielny - verb; to use attack as a form of defense, to get into the opposition’s front lines quickly and disrupt their advance. The speed with which Mourinho’s army had been koscielnied knocked them back apace and the General decided instead of attack to set up camp and think it over a fortnight. 

Qq

my lips

Are you enjoying the season?

Now that they beat Man City, will Chelsea win the League this year? Are they title contenders? Did you watch Jose Mourinho’s post match presser? Isn’t his claim that Chelsea aren’t title contenders just the latest in a long line of hilarious things he says?

But seriously, can Chelsea win the League taking the majority of their shots from outside the 18 yard box? Can they keep converting at a 6% rate? How is that even sustainable over 24 matches much less over 38 matches? What happens if Chelsea’s conversion rate drops back down to a much more reasonable 4% or 3%? Will they rely even more on defense than they already do? Do you think that perhaps teams with a high conversion rate from outside the box have a more technically adept squad than teams with a low conversion rate from distance? Would it convince you more if I told you that Man City have an 8% conversion rate from distance? What if I told you that Stoke has an 8% conversion rate from distance? What if I told you that Begovich scored a goal? Or that 3 of their 9 goals from distance came from Charlie Adam?

Did it upset you that Arsenal didn’t buy any big name players this January? Did you like the addition of Kim Kallstrom to Arsenal’s midfield? Have you ever seen him play? Did you groan when you heard that he was already injured? Did you want a fourth center back? Or maybe a guy who can play both center half and defensive midfield? Did you think that a forward was necessary for Arsenal to be “serious title challengers”? Did you note that Arsenal are top of the table and have been nearly every week since the start of the season? Wouldn’t that, by definition, make them title challengers?

Did you watch Arsenal beat Crystal Palace 2-0? Did you laugh at Tony Pulis moaning like a drain when one of his players took a tackle? Did you get nervous for a minute there in the first half when Arsenal hadn’t scored yet and Chamakh had a one on one with Szczesny? Were you worried that Chamakh, the Arsenal reject, would score? Did it fill you with joy to watch Szczesny race out and smother the chance after Chamakh took a heavy touch and punted the ball 10 yards in front of him? Do really long questions, where the questioner describes the problem in minute detail taking you down a path before finally getting to the question, does that bother you?

Did you revel in The Ox’s backheel pass to Giroud? Did you love the way he turns up field and takes on the opposition every single time he gets the ball? Did you see his tackle early in the game? Did you notice how he was playing box to box? How about that thumping volleyed pass, should he patent that? Non sequitur: but what about Cazorla taking that rocket down out of the air side footed? That was ridiculous, right? Did you think Ox played a lot like Ramsey? Or was he more Rosicky? Did it make your heart flutter when he smiled at the crowd and touched the Arsenal crest?

Did you watch the Super Bowl? Were you drunk? Stoned? Droned? Which commercial was your favorite? Did you notice that the Ford, the Kia, and the Maserati all look the same? Do all the cars these days look the same? Did you know that the Kia is $60,000? Would you buy a $60,000 Kia? Oh I’m sorry I didn’t mention the game, does the commercialism of the Super Bowl turn you off? Does the commercialism of a Premier League match turn you off? How many advertisements do you notice in every Premier League match? Did you know that the Allianz Arena doesn’t have the team’s name, “Bayern Munich” on the exterior? How long before the Premier League becomes fully commercialized, like the NFL? Is it already there?

Are you one who eagerly agrees to this Faustian bargain, to trade corporate sponsorship for better players? Do you know that doing so makes you the actual product? That your eyes seeing their ads are what feeds the whole deal? While you were beating the commercialism drum, did the thought cross your mind that maybe they don’t care if the current generation of Arsenal fans are priced out of attending matches because you don’t fit the target market demographic? Are you still ready to sell your soul to the devil for a slightly better Giroud? Is that “just the way it is”?

Do you find it funny that the same people who complain about ticket prices are the ones who complain that Arsenal don’t buy players? Did you notice that they are also the same people who complain about corporate greed but who want Arsenal to cash in on that corporate greed by selling more lucrative sponsorships? Or how about those who lauded the new Puma deal one day and then complained that Puma is now going to have a new Arsenal kit every year? With iPads as cash registers now, will anyone from the next generation even know what “kerching!” means?

Or is it that the people who attend matches have more right to complain about everything because they are paying so much to see Arsenal play? Is it then more ironic for someone who watches Arsenal from afar to complain about ticket prices? What if the people watching from afar are the target market demographic? Who has more right to complain then?

Are you enjoying the season?

Have we made progress as a club? Do you go to bed at night and dream of Aaron Ramsey lifting the Premier League trophy while red and white ticker tape rains down on him? Do you say things like “I don’t think we will win the League this year but I’m happy with the team’s progress” because secretly you do think we could win the League but you want to be cautiously optimistic?

Are you enjoying the football this season?

Qq

Apologies to the brilliant Padget Powell for the use of the interrogative form for today’s post. If you’re looking for a great read that will make your head spin with questions of your own like “does he ever stop asking questions?” or “is this really a novel? Who are the main characters?” and “who is this author and why is he such a genius?” Check out The Interrogative Mood: a novel? by Padgett Powell.