Category Archives: Tim in London

Who are we? Who are we? Who are we?

Earlier in the week I was asked to define 7amkickoff. It was a simple enough request: “Can you send me a sentence or two summing up 7amkickoff?” but, as it turns out, defining yourself is not that simple.

It should be simple. “Who am I? Why am I here?” is the question that everyone asks themselves soon after they realize that they are, in fact, a person and that they are, in fact, “here.” Hey, wait, I’m my own person? What kind of person am I? If there were a terrace full of people experiencing an existential crisis they might perhaps chant: Who are we? Who are we? Who are we?

And it was easy to define myself when I first started writing — I was “The Arsenal Blog From An American Perspective” — because like a young kid just realizing that you are a person, you start with a basic concept like “I’m American!” and then try on a lot of different ideas until you settle on the ones that really fit you.

In my Arsenal Writing Youth, I was a “wild eyed optimist” (factually, you can’t spell “optimist” without “tim”). I was a cranky anti-Arshavinist (I still am). I was a pro-Wengerist (still am). I built my own statistical database (still use it). I wrote poems like a teenage girl (still do). I built the “7amkickoff Index” — a data driven style of writing borrowed from “Harper’s Index” (which is now my By the Numbers column on Arseblog News). And I wrote travelogues that literally tens of people loved (still do).

But since then I’ve added some contributors and just as important readers who add to the collective conversation that is 7amkickoff: Grimbo and Chary came first. Grimbo filled with righteous sanctimony and Chary with pragmatic match day reportage. And now we have Les Crang and Arsenal Letters adding their pieces to the mix, Les with the wonderful pieces on Arsenal’s history and Arsenal Letters with the insightful match previews. And 11 Cannons (not listed in the official Who Are We section of the blog, yet) who is going to add artistic flair to the site with some very special graphics. And before this starts to sound like the epilogue from The Breakfast Club:

Dear Readers, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Tuesday at 4am for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. As a…

I guess I will actually have to get down to the business of defining “7amkickoff” — a sort of mission statement if you will.

Here’s what we are:

We are forward thinking — Have you heard the one about how Arsenal haven’t won a trophy in eight years? Me too. I’ve read Arsénal: the making of a modern superclub and I think that’s about as thorough an explication of the recent past that anyone needs to understand why we are where we are today. If you want to dwell on why Arsene bought Silvestre, go right ahead. I’ve decided that I don’t care about that any more. I want to look forward, toward a better Arsenal future and not some past full of mistakes.

We are rooted in Arsenal’s history — Just because we want to look forward doesn’t mean we can’t also look back. We honor Arsenal’s history, the good times and the bad because Arsenal’s history if what makes us different from Chelsea or Man City. So, don’t want to forget our history but we also  don’t be enslaved to it.

We are storytellers — the goal of my writing is always to tell a story and just like with any story there will be opinion, but opinion is not the point. The point is to take you from whatever dreary little hole you work (or live) in and transport you someplace else. I want to take you all to the Swansea game, not  just tell you that I thought “so and so’s match was yet another example of Wenger’s profligacy in the transfer market”. There will be some of that but it’s never the point. The point is always to tell a story.

We are data driven – whenever we do write an opinion, we try to do our research. Les is notorious for his research, I can’t tell you how many sources he pulls for one of his historical articles. I love data, obviously. Chary reports what he sees. 11 Canons draws from myriad sources to make his original artwork. And Arsenal Letters gives match previews based on all available data for that week. Our one, lone, voice of unreason is Grimbo. And even he doesn’t just spout off. He knows his stuff inside and out, then he spouts off!

And I, Tim, am an iconoclast – you hold up any icon and my urge is going to be to smash it — yes, even Arsene Wenger. Everyone and everything deserves to be challenged. If it’s strong enough, it will stand up to the meager challenge of some Arsenal blogger.

In short, 7amkickoff is an iconoclastic Arsenal collective of writers and readers who write and discuss in equal measures analytical, passionate, historical, and forward thinking stories about the club that we all love. The Arsenal.

Qq

Things I learned in England

The Ox

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is better than you think, much better. If you remember back to when Cesc first came to Arsenal he was lauded as a player who would see passes sometimes before his teammates would know where to be. Ox does that as well. Right now, when you see him “misplace” a pass it’s probably because he put the ball where he expected his teammate to move to and not because he physically couldn’t complete the pass. This is about understanding your teammates and will take time to develop.

Physically, he’s a very small player but he plays bigger than himself. For example, it takes two Italians to knock him over!

His touch is unreal. There was a point in the second half when Chambo was running the Arsenal midfield and a bobbled ball came to him. He simply hit it one time to Theo — a daisy cutter they call it — and it was a ball struck in a way I have never seen in real life. The crowd around me actually gasped it was such a wonderful ball.

I’m sure one of my teammates will show me how it’s done this weekend. But it won’t be first time, on the move, in Champions League knockout match while van Pommel is breathing down your neck. And it won’t go precisely to Theo Walcott.

I’ve heard the word “hype” associated with Chambo. It’s not hype, he’s the real deal. Of course he hasn’t arrived yet, yes he dribbles into blind alleys sometimes, and it’s going to take time to get him to have the same type of connection that Cesc had with his teammates but he’s the most talented midfielder I’ve seen play for Arsenal since Cesc.

Euro 2012

Unfortunately, he’s so talented that Chambo will no doubt be selected for Euro 2012 and Euro U-21, Euro U-16, Euro U-Euro, U-Euro 21, Euro Club World Euro Cup, and anything else the FA can stuff him into so they can hoover up some money.

I suspect the club learned the lesson from Wilshere, where Psycho and Capello joined forces to try and ruin a young man’s career by overplaying him. Which is why I think Chambo is being reserved at the moment.

So, next time you see him hauled off and wonder why, just remember Psycho is watching and slavering over the idea of playing Chambo 90 times this summer.

Wengerball

Don’t be surprised if Theo is not selected for the national team this summer. No one in England, outside of Arsenal, mentioned him in a positive way during my entire trip. In fact, the fans I sat with mostly called him one-dimensional, utter shit.

What Theo, Gervinho, Chamakh and others remind me of is the book and movie Moneyball. The name of the film and book, “Moneyball”, comes from a concept whereby teams in small markets in Baseball (like the Oakland A’s) eschew traditional forms of scouting and recruiting and instead use data to help decide how to build a team. So, for example, you might look at on base percentage for a player rather than whether he has a good looking wife (that’s an example from the movie).

It’s more complicated than that (a lot more) but the point is that a team which cannot compete with the Yankees on salaries and must act more rationally in the market. This sometimes means that the club will buy players who are kind of misfits. In football that would be taking a punt on younger players, or guys with a history of injury, guys who are one-footed, players who are one dimensional, etc. and will teach them the other skills to the best of their ability.

A lot of people compare Arsenal and Wenger to the Oakland A’s and Billy Beane, but the problem is that unlike Oakland who have just two big teams to compete against, Arsenal play in the Champions League, where there are no less than ten New York Yankees (Man U, Man City, Chelsea, Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, PSG, AC Milan, Inter, and new players Anzhi Makhachkala). At any moment, any of those teams could come along and offer Robin, Wilshere, and Chamberlain £200,000 a week and not blink an eye.

I’ve complained before about Arsenal’s transfer dealings but I hope that I’ve been very clear in saying specifically that I think the club needs more quality in depth. Watching Chamakh and Park play keepy uppy with the other bench players before the game against AC Milan was enlightening. Chamakh has got no touch. Park is OK, Djourou is better, but Chamakh can’t control the ball when it’s played to him and the other guys in the circle were taking the piss out of him for it constantly. Even Park was making fun of Chamakh.

But great first touch is not why he was brought to Arsenal. In typical Moneyball fashion, Chamakh was brought in to get goals from headers. He has done that and now, also in typical Moneyball fashion, it’s time to move him on.

Which is what I think the Podolski signing is about. I was talking to a German guy and he told me that Podolski isn’t a great forward but he’s a good player, hard working, and will probably get goals. But he’s got problems, flaws if you will, and one of them is his attitude.

He’s not being brought to Arsenal to be a replacement for Robin van Persie as I heard someone say. He’s there to add depth to the team. Imagine if Arsene has a player like Podolski who can come off the bench instead of Chamakh and Park. Or Podolski starts and Gervinho/Theo comes off the bench late in a game.

Podolski is, in that way, a Wengerball signing.

The Fans

I can definitively state that I have met some of the most brutally self-harming human beings on Earth. Every weekend, they climb on buses, get a taxi, walk, take a train, or any of 1000 other ways to get to their church and see their sermon.

Along the way, just like any religious procession, some will fall out. Some will lack the strength to get all the way there. Some won’t even speak the language. But when that happens there will always be a hand out to lift them up and drag them to the stadium.

It’s not just the choruses and the signing, the flashy robes, and the unanswered prayers. It’s the way that the folks I met banded together like a family and not just for a few moments during the game.

It’s any time, any place, it seems.

And I love you all for it.

Qq

Arsenal 3-0 AC Milan: photoblog

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Tottenham Court Road tube station — it’s like a fucking bomb shelter in there.

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The missing Arsenal player is?

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Arsenal could use 11 Keowns

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King Tony

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My 5p offering to the gods, should have made it a tenner.

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Thierry

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Chapman is looking at the clock

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Graffiti

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Ethel the tea lady’s real name is Maureen!

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10 minutes to kickoff

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Moon over the Grove

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Szczesny done warming up

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Robin and Song done warming up

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This close to the bench.

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Away fans

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Both teams march out

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Wenger starts the match without the sleeping bag

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Ok book me first, but after this, no more bookings for us.

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Koscielny with the first goal!

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No one listens to Pat Rice, except Thomas.

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Robin with the third!

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A rare moment where AC Milan has the ball and they aren’t falling over.

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And then they fell down and Wenger got up.

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Desperation time.

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But it doesn’t work

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Because the man of the match wouldn’t let it.