Eduardo, Children, and Man City v. Arsenal: are you ready for some football?

Ahoy, kickers. Before we get started today I’m going to just take a moment to quietly remember the 8th anniversary of 9/11.

Ok, kicking on, Arsene gave two interviews yesterday and today, one to the press hounds and one exclusive to the dot com, and so we have got a lot to cover. He talked about Arshavin, Eduardo, academy players, oh yeah and the threat of City, which I guess we play tomorrow. Is that true? Is there football tomorrow? Oh hey, look at that there is!

Now, my regular reader knows that I never brag. In fact, I have never said “I told you so.” This is not because I am the most gracious person on the planet, but rather because I’m never right. It’s true! Go back and look, I’ve been blogging for almost 2 years and I am NEVER right… except now. Suddenly I’m right about everything and by gods I’m going to let you know about it.

It’s actually kind of uncanny how many talking points Wenger hit between the two press conferences that I have talked about in pretty much the exact same way on this blog. So, for once “I told you so!”

Man that felt good.

Anyway, as we all already know Andrei Arshavin is out for 3 games, at least, with a groin injury which he aggravated playing 90 minutes for Russia against Wales. The press like to stir things up and are saying that Wenger is pissed with Guus Hiddink, but if you watch the presser it’s pretty clear that he lays the blame at Arshavin’s feet. The fact that Arshavin chose to play, knowing that he was injured, ahead of the City game, pisses me off to no end because I’m sure he knew that we needed him. He also knew that Russia needed him and he chose Russia over Arsenal and that’s what makes me mad. Now, with the absence of Vela, Nasri, and with Rosicky having played but certainly not match fit, Arshavin’s injury leaves a bit of a creative hole on the left of the 4-3-3. The only saving grace is that Arsenal have Eduardo and he can slot in there. Which means that we should see a starting front three of Eduardo, van Persie, and Bendtner, who all scored during Nationalism Week. Ever the optimist, I’m hoping that those three have broke their ducks and get a hat trick, each.

If they are healthy! I’ve been holding off as long as possible in order to make sure I have the latest injury news but none is yet forthcoming. So far, Arshavin is the only casualty of Nationalism Week, fingers crossed it stays that way.

One bright spot in Arsenal’s Infirmary is that Theo Walcott has “shaken off the back injury” and is now just lacking match fitness. Wenger will get him into some training sessions this week and expects to have him available for next week. That would be Wigan at Emirates, expect Theo to get a run out then if everything goes as planned.

Djourou on the other hand is pretty much done for the year. Initial estimates had him out 6 months and now Wenger puts him at 6-8 months, which means he’ll be out 12 months. Funnily enough, Wenger finally admitted that Arsenal were not looking to sign anyone despite the fact that they knew about Djourou’s injury. I say “funnily” but I’m sure a lot of my readers will be irate at that news. Wenger thinks that Senderos can do the work and even me, the optimist, wonders if that’s him just blowing smoke or if he truly believes that. As far as I can tell Senderos hasn’t played in a competitive match since AC Milan’s loss at Udinese on May 16th. Four months is a long time to be out and I have to wonder where Wenger’s going to get him games.

As for Eduardo, the boss is adamant that there are real problems with the way that UEFA are charging Eduardo. Wenger maintains, as I have done since Hleb raped Murty’s face, that there is a fine line between outright diving, where there’s no contact and the player goes down as Rooney did against Blackburn and then against Arsenal last week, and the sort of simulation we see every week, where there’s light contact and the player “makes a meal” of the challenge, like when Mascherano got Aliadiere sent off with his antics after Ali touched his face. Wenger is admitting that Eduardo “made a meal” of the contact between he and Boruc, but is insisting that there was contact, which is going to be their defense when they go in front of the magistrate:

We all want to fight against diving. This case, though, is not a clean case. Did he make a meal of it? Yes. But we have proof that he has been touched and that he made more of it. But do you not find every week players who make more of it?

There’s a fine line between being shrewd and everybody supports you and diving and everyone says you’re cheating. That’s why in this case, if you want to use it to instruct, that’s fine, but I’ll find you 5-10 cases every week.

Wenger, though, doesn’t see a one off hypocritical two match ban as the biggest worry. The biggest worry is that Eduardo might not get a fair shake from here on out:

The situation has been created by the media impact of his case but that [booing] is not the worst. Now he is not given penalties when there are penalties. Like against England last night.

I think everyone needs a break from this diving issue, so lets leave it at that and take whatever punishment the fucknuts at UEFA dole out.

Speaking of fucknuts, Wenger spoke at length on the issue of players under the age of 18 moving from club to club and Platini/Bleater’s plan to enslave kids to whichever club picks them up before they are 18.  A clearly passionate Wenger had the following to say:

I have fought for a long, long time against people who have regressive ideas. To expose your local players to top, world class players, does not harm your players. It improves your players: the best, to become better, have to play with the best. And if you [England] have a good national team today, it just proves that.

If you ban players from moving before the age of 18, you know what will happen? The players will be sold anyway. To whom? Agents. At what age? 13, 14. Where will they go? Not to top clubs with top level education, they will go to clubs who have been bought by business people at a very low level and will stand by there waiting to be sold.

If you have a child, who is very gifted in music, what is your first reflex? You will try to put it in a good music school, not in an average one. So why should that not happen in football?

I penned an article about this issue last year when Platini made his ridiculous statement about Arsenal engaging in “child trafficking” and hit everything that Wenger said above. Moreover, like I said earlier in the week, Platini is not siding with the kids on this, he couldn’t give a rats ass about the kids. This is about empowering little clubs over players and creating what I see as indentured servitude.

Right, enough of that, we’ve got a match tomorrow and the return of real football has me completely stoked. The ESPN2 High Definition match here in the states is Liverpool v. Burnley and unfortunately that conflicts with the 7am kickoff of the City v. Arsenal match. Our match is being shown on Setanta here in the States and, as usual, that means that I will be traveling down to Doyle’s for the viewing. Come down and have a sausage and some coffee.

Arsene is looking at this match not as a revenge match but rather as an opportunity to show how much the team has grown since what he felt was a harsh loss against City last November. Along with showing how much stronger we are, getting a good result tomorrow along with the way Arsenal played during  Saturday’s unfortunate loss to Manchester United will show that this club can beat anybody. I feel that way as well. I thought Arsenal far outclassed United last week and that it took an intentional and cynical dive on the part of Wayne Rooney (who has a proclivity to dive when United are behind) and several other horrible calls from the referee to get them back into the game. I have such a high belief in this team that I don’t even think it’s fair to say “on their day they can beat anybody” because I think they can beat anybody any day. Hopefully, I can say “told you so” again tomorrow.

City for their part will be missing Tevez but Adebayor will be fit and obviously he’ll be itching to score. Plus they have, I think , £100m in strikers sitting on their bench. Wenger is wary of the threat there as well, saying that Adebayor is “on fire” and that we will need to put out his fire, by pissing on him. Ok, I made that last bit about pissing on him up, Wenger didn’t say that. I think I dreamed it.

If Adebayor does score the odds are 100:1 that he will kiss the Manchester City badge and 10:1 that he and Eboue (confused by what’s going on) will reprise their chicken dance.

All eyes right now are on Adebayor and Toure but for me the real match up to watch tomorrow is Denilson/Song against Ireland/ Barry. That’s where this game will be won or lost and that’s where we’ll see how much Arsenal have progressed. Denilson and Song made Man U look like shite and now they need to do the same to their City counterparts.

Tomorrow I won’t do an early blog but rather will do the Good, Bad, and Ugly after the match. That means a 10-11am (PST) post tomorrow.  Until then, UP THE ARSE!

International Video Roundup

Rather than blather on about what happened in yesterday’s internationals (as if I watched them!) and babble about how my fingers are crossed over injuries, I think I’ll just link all the videos I could find of Arsenal’s players in action. I’ll be back to prattling on about Arsenal tomorrow after Wenger’s press conference.

First off we’ve got Cesc scoring for Spain. A wonderful little 1-2 with David Silva ends with Cesc (wearing the number 10!) calmly picking out the far post and slotting home. Also, please note the beard. That’s a serious beard and indicates a seriousness and maturity. Don’t doubt the beard.

Eduardo gets a consolation goal against England in the World Cup finals. Congratulations to England, you can go ahead and sew that coveted second star on your shirts now that you’re World Cup Champions!

Andrei Arshavin is a genius, but we already knew THAT.

Aaron Ramsey is the guy who took this corner which led to the Welsh goal. I hope that was a designed corner, because what Arsenal don’t need is more players who can’t put in a proper corner.

Thomas Rosicky played 56 minutes for a rampant Czech squad who beat someone 7-0. Here’s the video highlights of all the goals and shots, as far as I can tell he isn’t in this video, but maybe you have better eyes than me.

Here’s a video of some blobs in white strips who took on some blobs in red strips. One of the blobs in white strips scores an incredible looping header, then a blob in a red strip scores a goal, and then some people set fire to stuff.

And finally, here’s Los Estados Unidos scoring against Trinidad & Tobago. Technically it’s not an Arsenal goal but since so many Americans read this blog, I thought I’d include it. Plus, it’s a damn fine goal! The U.S. squad only won 1-0, but I still wonder if it isn’t time for the World Cup to split in the same way that UEFA split the Champions League into two tournaments: the real one and the Zenit St. Racistberg Cup. I mean T&T have no hope of ever winning the World Cup. EVER. Their best hope is to qualify and get crushed in the first round. Same with Faroe Islands, San Marino, etc etc. Why not have a Heineken Lite Cup for the smaller countries?

Ok, that’s about … injury news is leaking out and there’s a Sky story that Arshavin will be out for a week, with an aggravated groin.

I’m sure Wenger will be ecstatic upon hearing that Andrei Arshavin aggravated an existing injury playing 90 minutes for Russia ahead of an important game against Manchester City — which Mark Hughes is already predicting will be a 3-0 win for them.


Baby Boom

The real Gooner of the Year

Football’s a funny old game. On any given day you can never tell which issue is going to take off and burn through press offices the world over. Last year, Platini and Bleater were all a twitter about the 6+5 rule and the issue of debt in football. Those stories burned through the newsrooms with the usual mixture of hysteria, hyperbole, and a smattering of level-headed analysis and then… nothing happened.

Well, not “nothing” but almost nothing. The 6+5 rule was firmly swatted away by the European Commission saying that

Our position is clear: FIFA’s ’6+5′ Rule is based on direct discrimination on the grounds of nationality, and is thus against one of the fundamental principles of EU law.

Meanwhile, debt in the various leagues seems to have been swept under the carpet. Insane plans like installing an MLB style salary “cap” and other reforms have been exposed as unworkable solutions owing to the multi-various league rules and national laws which govern sports. Sure, they are still looking at the issue, what with UEFA trying to flex some muscle over big spenders even as recently as a few weeks ago, but it seems to me to be a half-hearted attempt to control the problem. What else could I think when I see that Platini is suddenly embracing Roman Abramovich as the model of fiscal responsibility?

No, the story du jour is not debt, or 6+5, or really even the Eduardo ban. The Story of this international break is FIFA’s two window ban on Chelsea’s transfer dealings for signing Gael Kakuta away from Lens. Suddenly, like Florida shark attack stories in the summer, everyone and their brother is being fined or taken to court over the transfer of young men from one club to another.  Leeds United alone are involved in three claims against Manchester City and Everton, meanwhile the aforementioned City are also involved in three claims, all going against them at the moment and their city rivals are involved in no less than two paper stories.

Funnily enough, Arsenal, the club that supposedly started this all with the transfer of Cesc from Barcelona, has been left out of this mess. It seems likely that they learned a lesson after the Fran Merida ruling (which is still under appeal) and have instead opted to just pay transfer fees such as in the cases of Theo Walcott and King Ramsey I.

The thing is, we don’t know what’s really going on. I’m sure some of these moves for these youngsters have been problematic, in which case the courts will sort them out. Frankly, I don’t know how a country like Spain can have a law that says that a player cannot sign a contract until they are 18 and yet at the same time award a club £2m because they had a “pre-contract” with the player.

The worst part of all this is it seems like what we’re seeing is a hysteria start to arise at a time when what’s most needed is an honest look into what’s really going on. When the CEO of the South African Football Association describes Ian Wright, Alex Song, and George Eastham’s joint venture, Cape United FC, as “raping the country” just because they have a profit motive at the end of their business plan. Then I think we may be in danger of stepping off the edge just a bit and need to back up.

It looks to me as if there’s a sort of power struggle going on here, between player’s rights and club’s rights. That struggle needs to be balanced by the courts and rules need to be put in place which make sense and which are legally binding. At the moment the courts, and governing bodies, are siding with  the academies and I think that’s dangerous. It seem like the academies have all the power with these “pre-contracts” whereby they can hold onto and basically do what they want with these kids (footballistically) and where the kid has no power in this situation. Labor (and make no mistake, these children are labor or at least they are being treated like “pre-labor”) has only two means of power: either through contractual obligation of the corporation or by moving on to another company that pays them better, treats them better etc. So, with the courts seemingly ruling strictly in favor of the companies, I think we’re doing a disservice to the kids in this equation.

There needs to be a better system in place to protect both the players and give them the maximum amount of opportunity possible while also making sure that we protect the investment of the companies who can spend years developing these kids talent. Without that balance we will see exploitation and corruption and all the other ills that the courts protect each party from.

And maybe that’s the saddest part of all this; that there’s no way to get around the fact that we’ve commodified these children and put a value on something that most of them would do for free. Unfortunately, I can’t see a way back.