It’s Lucas Silva or bust

Is this Arsene Wenger’s most epic banter moment ever?

I can only think of one reason why Wenger would say that he doesn’t need players: he already has someone lined up for this Summer.

Long term, Arsenal need replacements for Per, Koz, Arteta, and Flamini. Short term, Arsenal need replacements for Arteta (if injured), Flamini (there are a ton of players who are better than Flamini), and a decent backup for Per and Koz.

The only reason I can imagine he would say this is that he has a player(s) lined up for this summer. I’ve heard, via the Metro and Daily Fail, that Arsenal are after Brazilian CDM Lucas Silva. All sources indicate that Silva’s first choice is Real Madrid but if the Madridistas don’t want him he wants a move in the Summer. Personally, I think the link to Arsenal is his dad and agent trying to force Real Madrid’s hand. I’m fairly certain that Silva wouldn’t qualify for a work permit because of England’s rather unenlightened work visa requirements.

Still, Silva is a highly rated CDM. So highly rated that ESPN ran a profile on him this Fall despite the fact he hasn’t made a single national team appearance. Apparently, he is “the best passing midfielder that Brazilian football has produced in the last few years” and has been trained in defensive duties since he was a child. His positioning is reportedly excellent and he is conservative with the tackles, preferring to stand his man up and mark him rather than dive in.

If you consider the qualities that Arteta has (and I consider Arteta the archetypal Wenger CDM) you can see why Wenger might choose Silva and be prepared to wait:

Stats Arteta Silva
Passing % 94 87
Long ball % 65 75
Tackles 1.6 2.1
Tackle % 69 72
Interceptions 0.7 1.2
Blocks 1 1

Still, unless Wenger can obtain an exceptional player visa, this kid is not coming to Arsenal. But Silva is the example of the kind of player Wenger is looking for. Morgan Schneiderlin is similar and could just as easily be Wenger’s real target.

But still, why isn’t Wenger looking for backup for Koz and Per? Haven’t the team proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that just having 6 defenders for 4 positions is suicidal? Sadly, Wenger doesn’t think so. Here’s his entire quote:

If everybody is fit and available, we don’t need to go on the transfer market. But we have to consider that there could be a question mark with Koscielny’s fitness and we have to go out on the transfer market.

So, if Koz is injured Arsene feels like five first-team defenders isn’t adequate cover for 4 positions. Additionally, he feels like having just one center back is also not enough cover.

Me? I think we need three players. But clearly Wenger doesn’t.

In Dorinne Kondo’s book Crafting Selves, she describes Zen acolytes first learning how to meditate. They are forced to sit on their knees on ground covered in pebbles. Naturally the pebbles dig into the knees and rub the person’s bones. But once the acolyte has meditated this way for a few weeks they become acclimated to the pebbles. Then, when they switch to inside with hard but smooth stone floors, they are so used to meditating on pebbles it’s like meditating on a pillow.

With all the things that are blowing up around Arsenal and with Wenger sounding like he’s not even really considering strengthening the squad in January I have decided to harden myself to the emotional turmoil that lays in wait. So, every day I’m going to spend two hours listening to the Emo X Pop Punk station on Spotify.

First two songs this morning?

My Chemical Romance, “I’m not o-fucking-kay” and Blink 182 “How old am I supposed to be.”

Oh boy, it’s going to be a long January.


Look for Naveen’s Newcastle preview later tonight (8am GMT).


What’s your reason for existence?

You’re their reason for existence
They use you to finance their state
The words you shout with such conviction
Is it the only way to express your hate?

When I was a teenager my friend Abdul and I would go into Georgetown and go record shopping. I didn’t have much money so I would mostly browse the records in search of one specific album by a band called the Subhumans. I had discovered the Subhumans on an Alternative Tentacles compilation called Let them Eat Jellybeans! and instantly fell in love with their song “Slave to my Dick”. As you can see, my sense of humor hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

As luck would have it, I found the Subhumans one day and the bonus was that the record was an EP-LP with 4 of their previous works on one disc. But when I got the disc home it didn’t sound right. The guitar’s were thin and reedy and seemed to cut through the driving bass lines like a razor through a hunk of pig flesh. And the lead singer was all wrong. A nasal almost nerdy guy shouting angrily about how politicians were all parasites and laughing about our animal nature. Instead of Slave to my Dick, I got songs like Animal, Human Error, So Much Money, and Reason for Existence.

Here was a record that wasn’t just appealing to my prurient nature but actually challenging me existentially. What does it mean to reform oneself (Animal)? Am I going to fight in the third world war (eponymous)?  And challenging my own role, even as much of an outsider as I was at the time, in the very state of our culture which I would so proudly decry if anyone ever asked my opinion.

I fell instantly in love with the Subhumans. It wasn’t the same band, the other band I had been looking for was a punk band from Canada. This Subhumans were from England and they were as itchy as a wool shirt, uncomfortable to listen to, constantly scratching at your skin. The opening guitar riffs from Demolition War were a hint that what was coming was going to be a real challenge for the listener. Not just a challenge to listen to them but to question their own values.

You are part of the system you hate. Now what are you going to do about it? Nothng? That’s what I figured.Never mind the fact that America is armed to the teeth and ready to annihilate the world. You won’t have to fight in the third world war. Ignore the troubles in Ireland. Forget the fact that your politicians are nothing more than parasites which drain the public coffers to fatten themselves. Go back to work. Have some pints with friends this weekend. Watch the football match. Complain about the results. Protest your local football club. Shout about the system, and greed, and corruption, and how whatever it is you care about (football?) lost its soul. Just don’t forget to punch the clock on Monday morning.

I never really shared Subhumans with others. Every time I tried to put the album on for one of my friends they would get turned off immediately. The guitar too tinny, the singer too confrontational. They were all into the DC Hardcore scene anyway and British bands didn’t appeal to them. So I was the lone guy, with a hand-drawn Subhumans logo on the back of my army jacket.

Years later, I walked into a shopping mall in Tacoma. I was married and settling down with my wife. I think we were Christmas shopping and my wife wanted to show me this store, “Hot Topic.” It was a corporate retail outlet for Punk and there, hanging on the wall, were all the tee shirts I couldn’t afford when I was a kid. There were the clunky jewelry I coveted. There was a record section as well, and there was my secret album, Subhumans EP-LP, available for $15 on Compact Disk.

My youth. My secrets. My whole way of understanding the world had been bought in bulk, put in a shopping mall display case, and re-sold to millions of consumers. And here I was looking down at this album. Cost $15. Even though each EP has the words “pay no more than 85p” incorporated into the album artwork.

I imagined that the skull on the album cover was screaming at me. “RUN AWAY, THIS IS ALL WRONG. EVERYTHING HERE IS WRONG.” But I needed the album on CD. So, I bought it.

This is what happens in capitalism. The dominant culture incorporates the subculture into its matrix, repackages that subculture in a way that is more socially acceptable, and then sells the subculture. That subculture is definitively changed in the process. It may look the same but its not.

As far as I can tell, and I hate black and white answers, there is no way out of this cycle. You, as an individual can opt out, don’t buy the CD at Hot Topic, but once the corporatization of that subculture has commenced there is no way back. Either the thing taken over dies or it changes, becomes more corporate, softer, more friendly for kids and families.

You, as an individual, get to keep the memories of that subculture but how the corporation repackages the history, how they re-sell, and recontextualize that culture is out of your control. How others see the very thing you fell in love with is out of your control. The corporate juggernaut takes over. And you’re powerless to stop it.

You either buy the CD and accept the change or you go support some smaller, local bands. But either way, you lose.




Surreal scenes in Istanbul: Arsenal Atomicus

Arsenal beat Galatasaray 4-1 in Istanbul in a match so surreal that it was the Dali Atomicus of football matches. In 1948, Salvador Dali and Philippe Halsman collaborated to create a photograph of a flying Dali — eyes wide and grinning madly –, three flying cats, a bucket of water curving improbably, and other floating props. It is an image meant to unsettle the viewer. And so are Arsenal at the moment.

Arsenal started the season with a defensive deficiency in having only six defenders and with another season of failed attempts to bring in a ball-winning midfielder the club so badly need. This was Arsene Wenger metaphorically juggling cats. And then along come the fans who have abandoned all notions of respect and decency and lay in wait at the train station to ambush the manager with verbal abuse. A bucket of cold water dumped over Wenger’s head.

I’m not telling you any secrets when I say that football is all about highs and lows. If you’ve been around any sport you already know. Even Manchester United, who improbably won everything during Fergie’s tenure, bumped back down to reality last season and have struggled mightily to start this. Chelsea have spent over a billion pounds in the last 10 years and they had their ups and downs as well: winning the Champions League with the ugliest team in the history of the sport and finishing 6th in the League to prove it.

But while all the other teams went through rough patches, Arsenal have remained remarkably consistent, finishing between first and fourth in the Premier League for 18 years. Moreover, why would Wenger radically change his team and his philosophy this season? Remember that Arsenal were top of the table for the vast majority of last season and won the FA Cup. Wenger’s philosophy has always been to keep going and build slowly. So, if Arsenal picked up just a few points here and there and changed their tactic against the top four rivals it would be reasonable for Wenger to expect that his team would improve.

But instead of building on the successes of last year, this Arsene Wenger side is less consistent than I’ve ever seen them and the results show it: three clean sheets against Dortmund, West Brom, and Southampton, followed by a fearful performance against Stoke, followed by a rampaging performance against Galatasaray. And it’s starting to look like the normal highs and lows of football are catching up with Arsenal.

Ramsey probably epitomizes that inconsistency more than any other player this season. Ramsey has dropped in all major stats categories except shots, and especially shots from distance. Ramsey has been adjusting to his new teammates and as a result looks like he lacks a little bit of confidence. His shots are rushed and it shows, he’s already taken as many shots outside the box this season as he did all of last season.

Naturally, that means Ramsey should shoot more from distance, should shoot from further out, should shoot from further out, off the volley, and score.


Wenger echoed my sentiments about Ramsey’s goal when he stated flatly

When he took the shot, I thought that is maybe not the best of ideas but the way it went in was absolutely unbelievable. His confidence is linked with results and goals scored and that helps.

It wasn’t the best of ideas. It was a gambler’s goal and he hit the jackpot. But it went in and everyone loves to see a goal like that. Wondergoals are part of the highs and lows of football and I think it’s about time Arsenal scored a wondergoal rather than concede one.

Perhaps that goal will boost his confidence. I would think the earlier goal he scored, where he had the audacity to attempt a fake shot before coolly slotting home under the keeper’s arms would boost confidence more but perhaps the once in a lifetime nature of his wondergoal is the elixir he really needs.

It wasn’t just that Ramsey strike which made the game surreal. I had to watch the vine of the goal several times before I noticed that Joel Campbell took the corner. Or how about the fact that Debuchy started his first game since the knee injury. Or that Bellerin started at left back. Or that Podolski scored a brace and even made a ‘tackle’ which started the counter which led to Ramsey’s first goal.

All surreal scenes. All cats flying in the air. All Wenger grinning madly. All fans throwing cold water on each other and the manager. All Dali Atomicus. All Arsenal Atomicus.

And this weekend, Arsenal have to face a resurgent Newcastle team. More ups and downs. But hopefully, we stick to surrealist art and this weekend’s match doesn’t turn into Edvard Munch’s Scream.