BtEuAGMIEAA1Ylf

Arsenal in NYC: we are gathering

The FA Cup has been packed neatly in bubble wrap.The players have been corralled using the charms of various Apple devices and herded on to waiting jet liners. Arseblog has packed a suitcase full of books and boarded a jet. The artists from We All Follow The Arsenal are on the last leg of their journey. And countless others are boarding planes, trains, and automobiles in order to arrive in New York City in time for the festivities. If 14th Street is set to be red tomorrow, it has already begun to turn pink.

“Soccer is still far enough below the radar in the United States for Robbie Keane to lead a relatively normal life in his adopted city of Los Angeles” read the hilarious lede from a BBC article about how football has taken off in the USA. It’s a quote meant as a counter point to the argument in their article. As if to say “maybe football has grown significantly more popular in recent years but Robbie Keane still isn’t swarmed for signatures when he goes out.” As if Robbie Keane would even be recognized as a professional footballer anywhere in the world.

But the facts belie their argument. The World Cup broke records for television viewership. And we don’t just watch on TV, this isn’t Italy. The Sounders sold 67,000+ tickets for their first game after the World Cup. And while Seattle may be a bit unusual, in that we have higher attendance here than all but the most popular professional soccer clubs in Europe, it still shows the power of football in the USA. We may be one soccer mad corner of the USA but you can believe me when I tell you that I have been to many places in this country and seen many crowded faces watching games.

There may be new faces in the crowds but for many American Arsenal fans we have been waiting for this moment for too long. We have had to sit back and watch the happy faces of our rival fans as Chelsea and Man U make a seeming annual pilgrimage to the USA. I even went to one of the very first exhibition games here, Celtic v. Man U in 2003. There was signing, cheering, and even some sectarian violence among the 67,000 fans who were in the stands that day.

I kind of felt dirty watching that Man U game that summer. I felt like I was giving the arch enemy my money. I have since eschewed attending any other team’s games in the USA. For example, Tottenham are coming to Seattle and I can’t imagine a reason why I would attend that, except as a Sounders fan, rooting for the green.

Despite the occasional 60,000 seat sell out, the truth is that football has been slow to take off in the USA. In 2003 we still watched most games on one of two channels, grubby little backwater channels like Setanta which you could only get with an expensive satellite package. And Setanta was a god-send. Prior to that we watched match of the day style clips, occasional live matches, and sometimes even had to pay-per-view big games. Moreover, in 2003 there was no YouTube and there were no pirate streams. We got what the lords of television gave us and were thankful for it.

And fast forward to today. I can watch every game in the Premier League, most of the FA Cup matches, almost all of the League Cup matches, and any Champions League match on my television, on my computer, or on my tablet. Not only that but ESPN has a site dedicated to our sport and data outlets like WhoScored, Squawka, and the 442 app, feed us information about every aspect of the game at near instant speed. And as the coverage has grown, we have grown.

But over the last few years, Arsenal fans have also grown restless. Begging for Arsenal to come here, to our country, to let us show Arsenal how much we love her.

And this weekend we finally have the chance. For many fans, this will be the one and only time in our life that we will be able to see Arsenal play live. To see Arsenal play against the living statue,Theirry Henry.

And so we are gathering.

I MUST BREAK YOU

Arsenal approaching “most successful transfer window” status

I couldn’t sleep well last night and instead of doing the right thing and reading a book I turned on twitter. It’s a different world, twitter, at midnight than it is at 8am mostly because the British folks I follow are all waking up and pouring through the morning papers. By the time I normally join them at 8am my time they have settled the controversy and moved on to something fresh.

Most of my British friends were reacting to the news that Arsenal are having both Vermaelen and Monreal targeted (along with Cazorla) by various clubs. And with Arsenal’s defense looking rather threadbare at the moment I can understand the reaction.

I’m fairly certain that Louis van Gaal has put the bug in Vermaelen’s ear and offered the former Arsenal captain a starting role at Man U. My suspicion is that van Gaal wants to play 3 center backs, the formation du jour, and if you play with 3 CB then you really need 5-6 CB in your team to provide cover. The press have been fairly insistent that Vermaelen is on van Gaal’s radar and I can see why. Short of putting in a transfer request (which he may do next) Vermaelen upped the ante on his transfer machinations by spending time with Robin van Persie on vacation (Daily Mail, auto video, horrible reporting).

That said, I doubt that Arsene is going to start the season with two first choice center backs. That would be extremely illogical even for Wenger who loves a gamble at times. I’ve been pouring through Wenger’s quotes over the last few years and one thing I can guarantee you is that he is well aware of the toll that the World Cup takes on his team and team preparation. Mertesacker didn’t play a ton of minutes in Brazil but he has been playing and practicing almost non-stop for over a year now and even the break that Wenger is affording his World Cup winning stars isn’t going to be enough to recharge a player who will need to start another 50+ games this season. The same goes for his partner, Laurent Koscielny.

So, Arsenal have two center backs who are potentially dead tired and just one backup center back who is the former captain, is potentially disgruntled, and looks to be engineering a move to save his career. That’s the worst situation I’ve seen in the heart of the Arsenal defense since Arsenal bought Silvestre and completely understandable that folks would be nervous.

Arsenal have to be well aware of what it would look like to sell Vermaelen to Man U. The board have, no doubt, been hanging on every proclamation by the professional cranks like Piers Morgan all summer. Would Vermaelen be a huge loss, though? Especially if he was replaced with a decent option? That is a tough question.

I have a Vermaelen shirt, which is to say that I loved him in his first season at Arsenal. I remember when he first came to us and he was this raw player who had a steely look about him. But even in his first season there were signs that something just wasn’t quite right about him and his positioning.

Zonal Marking made a rather extensive post about Vermaelen’s problems with communication and with positioning in his very first season. And even boosters like me only had to hope that he would get better the more he played with Arsenal.

Sadly, it never happened. He was injured for a long time and it took several different surgeries to get him back into the first team. Then he was made captain of the club and the same errors kept creeping into his game. In fact, Vermaelen led Arsenal in errors leading to goals in each of his last two playing seasons at the club before he was dropped for Koscielny. I want to be clear, Vermaelen isn’t a crap defender, but rather his style didn’t work well at Arsenal and I suspect it will work very well in a three man back line where he can be more aggressive because he’ll have two other center backs sweeping up behind him.

I don’t think the facts about his career at Arsenal are in dispute. I think what’s in dispute is whether Arsenal can find a replacement at or above his level who is willing to be third or fourth string at Arsenal. That’s a tough sell. Players of Vermaelen’s quality don’t want to make a move to a team so that they can sit on the bench. For that reason alone (and not because it would be “taking the pride out of it, Gazidis”) I’m inclined to hang on to Vermaelen and tell him that he’s just not for sale even if that means biting the bullet on his free transfer next summer.

But just as important as hanging on to Vermaelen, I hope Arsene has identified a young player to come in and take over next summer. Well, maybe not “take over” but rather start to bed in and be prepared to take over as Mertesacker’s role diminishes. I suspect that with the World Cup taking its toll on our Big World Champion German, the young, fresh player might get some playing time right from the start.

It’s been a great summer for transfers at Arsenal so far. We’ve brought in Sanchez and Debuchy and a decent goal keeper (Ospina) is on his way. Arsenal have also been linked with a host of defensive midfielders for two years now so Wenger clearly has his eye on Arteta’s replacement. With Arsenal already approaching £50m net spend, adding a player who can play CDM (and CB in a pinch) whilst keeping Vermaelen would make this easily the most successful transfer window in recent memory.

Qq

bendtner.jpg-large

Rogues Gallery: Nicklas Bendtner

God hath given you one face, and you make yourself another.

William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Hamlet, the Danish prince. A man with a volatile nature. One moment on top of the world and the next hiding from it. It could be so easily Nicklas Bendtner. Unfortunately, Hamlet is a man of introspection, whilst Bendtner never seems to learn from his often repeated mistakes. Hamlet is a character, whilst Bendtner is a mere caricature. He has become a person so hated by some fans, one fan said of his being let go at the end of 2014 season:-

Bendtner released ? Should of staked him on the centre spot tonight and let the jnr gunners at him

— SheWoreAYellowRibbon (@SheWore) May 23, 2014

 

Its hard to think that many, many years ago (less than 10 even), Nicklas Bendtner was held in pretty high esteem by the club and even some fans. Where did it all go so horribly wrong?

If Bendtner signifies anything about Arsenal and Arsene Wenger‘s management it is the importance of youth and the changing policy towards having English and foreign players within the premier league. One year after Arsene Wenger joined, Howard Wilkinson introduced the Charter for Quality, which meant that players under the age of 12 had to live within an hour of the training facilities and an hour and a half for 15 year olds. Therefore, Arsenal’s youth policy often meant looking beyond these area’s and borders and abroad for players and housing them near the training facilities of the club. Therefore, Arsenal had signed Bendtner from F.C. Copenhagen in 2004 The Official Arsenal Opus a book written in 2006 but published in 2011 discussed how Bendtner was seen as ‘another highly promising striker’ [alongside Arturo Lupoli]. The beginning of what would be termed project youth.

The introduction of Nicklas Bendtner for his debut as a sub in 2005 against Sunderland and a further two games that season hardly informed us of what was about to arrive at the club. At a time when Thierry Henry was seen as the focal point of the team, very few people could reach a feeling of self accomplishment and possibly arrogance except Nicklas. Philippe Auclair excellent book on Henry commented:-

The dressing room [of season 2005-6] of which Thierry was now undisputed leader was filled with newcomers, not all of whom – we’ll make an exception for Bendtner – had the force of character to claim a space of their own.

Any football player needs self confidence. A young player moving to a foreign country even more so, but Bendtner’s went way beyond self confidence, Bendtner seemed to suffer a Narcissistic personality disorder, which is :-

A person is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity, mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and to others in the process.

I am no psychologist, but much of his behaviour seems to fit.

bendtneronloan.jpg

Anyhow, after 3 games in 2005-6 Bendtner would be loaned (along with Johan Djourou) to Birmingham City in the championship for season 2006-7. In 38 appearances (plus for sub appearances) for the club he would score 11 times and get sent off once. Steve Claridge commented of him in an article of his time there  (rather ironically now):-

Some say he is a target man, but that’s too simplistic because he was prepared to come short, link play and commit defenders, finding other players who were unmarked because of his own good play. At times he needs to keep closer to his partner, because he’s usually the one to flick the ball on. But his work rate was good throughout and, the more you watch, the more you realise that this is a player blessed with a fabulous all-round talent. I just hope that, as with all players who find the game relatively easy, he’s prepared to work at the things that don’t come naturally as well as the things that do.

Proof of Bendtner’s self confidence was on display from the start when he started dating the Birmingham City manager’s, Steve Bruce, daughter Amy (see picture below). Bruce had to come home from work and find his star striker in his own home! Hardly what many employee’s would do unless you are Nicklas Bendtner. That he then dumped her whilst the Bruce family were on holiday in Marbella hardly made him popular either. At least his goals helped Birmingham get promoted though.

daughter.jpg

After a successful season, Bendtner returned to Arsenal. I was fortunate enough to see his first goal for Arsenal in a 2-0 win over Newcastle in the League Cup , with a great header at the back post [video below was the only one I could find of the goal].

This was Bendtner at his best. He worked hard, was industrious and seemed a confident lad.

But for all Bendtner’s faults (and my god, there are a few), I’ll always hold him in high esteem for his first league goal on 22 December 2007. Against Spurs. In a season in which Arsenal had lost Thierry Henry to Barcelona in the summer, few had given us a chance. But there we stood. Top of the league and playing Spurs at home before Christmas. In a game where Arsenal were often slow, Spurs often (though it pains me to say) were often on top. Although Adebayor had put us 1-0 up, Spurs equalised in the second half. Then, disaster. Spurs got a penalty, with the odious Robbie Keane to take it. Up he stepped and Almunia saved (a term rarely used in a sentence).

Still one all. Spurs had already brought on the saviour of British football (and Spurs), Tom Huddlestone. All week prior to the game, the British press had been talking up his importance especially in the derby match. How true. Four minutes after the save, Bendtner came on as a sub just as we were about to take a corner. A gentle jog up to the front post and then a burst of speed as Cesc corner comes in. Huddlestone just watches. 2-1 Arsenal and top of the league.

What could possibly go wrong from now on in Bendtner’s career? Well, just so much really.

Even in his opening season, Bendtner could not help but get into some form of trouble. Most famously when Arsenal were playing Spurs in a cup semi-final in 2008 and he and Adebayor came to blows. Adebayor said afterwards of the incident:-

I had a little difficult moment with Nicklas Bendtner.There was a rule at Arsenal where no one is allowed to come into the dressing room with trainers or house shoes on. I cannot understand why Nicklas came every day with his shoes on.

Nicklas, you are a footballer, I am a footballer, maybe I am better than you, maybe you are better than me but you have to respect everyone. There are rules saying you cannot come into the dressing-room with your house shoes. Take them off.

According to Adebayor, Bendtner “never took them off and things started from there. I cannot accept that”.

Bendtner was also remembered for his first season in 2007/8 for his clearance off the line against Liverpool in the quarters of the ECL. Unfortunately it was against his team mate Alexander Hleb against Liverpool:-

Although Bendtner had ability, for example the hat tricks he scored against Porto in 2010 :-

A game I think Tim might recall?

Or even the hat trick against Leyton Orient in the F.A cup:-

Nothing can mask that Bendtner was a good player, but if one game sums Bendtner up it was the miss in 2011 against Barcelona Camp Nou.

Kevin Whitcher described it thus:-

Going through on goal with just the keeper to beat, Nicklas Bendtner – ‘one of the world’s top strikers’ as described by himself – demonstrated the classy technique that makes him so feared by opposition defenders. If only. With an illusionary first touch that negated lessons that had been installed into him by Arsene Wenger, Bendtner ensured that the one and only chance of pulling off a shock result in Camp Nou was gone.

If his performances on the pitch were laughable, his attitude off it was worse. Where does one start. The shirt number of 52 for the amount of thousand per weeks he was paid? Maybe whilst on loan in Sunderland going on a wrecking spree in Newcastle with Lee Cattermole whilst drunk? Perhaps going to collect his pizza in Copenhagen, going down the wrong side of the road whilst under the influence?  His saying he did not want to return to Arsenal in 2011 but did so in 2013? His flagellation of a taxi in Denmark whilst Drunk? Maybe It is starting his own jewelry firm? Its a selection of them all. Thank god he never did anything foolish, like meet a princess or a member of the royal family and have a child. Wow. He did that too.

Although Nicklas Bendtner did come back this season after a loan period at Juventus (9 appearance and 0 goals), in many ways it was because Yaya Sanogo was injured and we had no one else to cover Olivier Giroud. Although he did score two goals this season. One against Hull City:-

One against Cardiff (in which he got immediate injured. Could only happen to Bendtner):-

By the end of this season I think Wenger felt incredibly let down by Bendtner. His whole ‘project youth’ had come to an end and Bendtner was the last remnant of this. Bendtner had been rewarded well and played badly. In many ways Wenger should take responsibility for this, especially when at one stage he was using him as a winger when he had neither pace nor guile for a tall man to cross (a tall man like…..Bendtner). He was also paying a lot of money on a long contract to a player who was just too arrogant and often lazy. By march 2014, Bendtner beating up a taxi had finally meant Wenger had enough. He said of the incident:-

Nobody gave him (Bendtner) any permission to go to Copenhagen. He will be fined for that.

Wenger therefore used Sanogo more and Bendtner was frozen out. His last cup game against Coventry, where he had a quite shocking game. Below, is one of his two misses:-

;

Bendtner’s contract expired this year. Its hard to think he’s just 26. In his time at Arsenal he has scored 45 league and cup goals (I never knew it was that many):-

He had played 80 games and 85 as a substitute (a goal ratio of 1 in four games). To nearly all fans he was a terrible disappointment. He had talent. He had confidence. But he had no humility and believed he ‘was the worlds greatest striker that ever lived’, leaving him open to much ridicule from Arseblog who referred to him by the acronym TGSTEL.

My favorite Bendtner moment was him getting to enjoy watching Arsenal win the F.A cup [added because I still enjoy seeing it]:-

Then possibly my second would be watching twitter to see what Gav on Shewore and his twitter account would rant at Bendtner. My favourite? Well, the one below had the least profanity.

Nice to see nick Bendtnerget a shirt number with his worth in pence #NB23

— SheWoreAYellowRibbon(@SheWore) September 6, 2013

I would say good luck Bendtner, but its hard to say it when he seems to waste what he had. I mean, look at the picture at the start of the article?