Wenger’s Thursday Presser

Normally, we get a press conference on Friday but for whatever reason this week’s sit down with the Arsenal boss happened today and was put up on the dot com just moments ago. Here are the highlights:

Team News

Bendtner is NOT, I repeat NOT injured and will be available for Birmingham. The widely reported “ankle twist” is nothing more than Brit-press-shit-stirring and you could do worse than simply avoiding all news outlets and stuff like Talk Shite Radio between now and the end of the season. Bendtner has been out but Wenger said emphatically that he will be available, smiling all along as he stated that he hasn’t picked his team yet.

The press will be stirring the Arsenal pot, writing incendiary headlines and looking for clicks. You could instead focus on celebrity gossip, I think Jessie James banged some neo-Nazi chick or something. Surely that’s more interesting than recycled quotes from December and false reports about the early demise of Arsenal’s title chances because Bendtner has died of malaria or whatever?

The good news is that William Gallas has started training with the team and could be available (if there’s no further rupture of his medial collateral contract talk ligament) against Wolves on the 3rd. Perfect, we’ll need him fit and ready to fight for the Barcelona match at Camp Nou that Tuesday. Wenger is playing his cards cautiously and said we need to “assess him” before he will commit to fielding Gallas against the Wolverhampton Ladies Auxiliary that Mick McCarthy will certainly field. You know, because it would only be fair after they fielded a team of children against Man U.

And speaking of being cautious, le Boss warns against expecting too much from van Persie. Ahyup, pretty much what I said on Tuesday! Give him some room to breathe, people!

The one shock was that Arsene said he’s going to pick Campbell for the Birmingham match. Saying that he’s not concentrating on Barcelona, that we’ve worked all season to get here, and that Birmingham is “the all important game” the boss stated flatly that Campbell will start on Saturday. I don’t know whether this means that he thinks Gallas could be a surprise selection on Wednesday or if he has some horse placenta to feed Sol to make him ready for Barcelona or if he’ll just play Song and Vermaelen (most likely). I guess we’ll get to see.

The Title Race

Like I said, you really need to ignore much of the press. There are some apoplectic reports that Wayne Rooney is “injured” and giving Capello a “selection headache” ahead of the World Cup. This is how that is going to work:

Fergie: Roo, how are you feeling son?
Looney: knee hurts.
Ferg: You’ll be fine, go suit up.
Loon: Well, a little rest couldn’t hurt, you’ve got Bobblekoph, he could play up front. Plus, I need to keep fit for the World Cup.
Ferg: I SAID, SUIT UP. You will play for United until that god-damned leg falls off, do you understand? I don’t care about the World Cup, we’re chasing records here, boy.
Loon: Yes sir.

Unless he dies or his leg actually falls off, Looney will play in every United match that Fergie feels like playing him in, end of story.

For Arsenal we can’t expect any favors so both Wenger and Sol are urging the team to stay the course, keep the faith, and push on with that last little bit of strength to get over the line and win the League:

Playing fantastic football all the time is great, but ultimately it is about what you can get out of your career. Young players have to realise pretty quickly that it is not about one game, but how you perform over the whole season.
It is a youthful team and has to learn quickly at this time of the season, because the games come thick and fast – once a game has gone, it is gone. If you win, you have to get your feet straight back on the ground and grind out another win. You can enjoy the moment, but remain level-headed and always think ahead to the next challenge.’

Now that’s a proper team leader. Sol is one of those experienced team players who doesn’t moan in the press about buying players but takes the young guys under his wing and makes them better by dint of his experience. Could Sol be that experienced signing that everyone asked for at the start of the year?

Unless you live in a cave, or Stoke, you probably already heard that Chelsea beat Pompey 5-0 setting up the most interesting last 7 League games that I can remember. All of the top three teams have played 31 and there are just three points difference between them with United on 69, Chelsea on 68, and Arsenal on 67. Moreover, United and Chelsea are tied with a +47 goal difference and Arsenal trail by 7 at +40. As I have pointed out before, should the league end up tied on points and goal difference, the next thing down the line is goals scored: Arsenal are second in goals scored at 73 and Chelsea topping that table with 75. Should all three (points, goal difference, and goals scored) be tied between any two (or more) teams then the title is shared.

As you can see, the title race is so close that whatever happens between now and May 9th, it’s going to be (as both Wenger and Sol point out) the most consistent team which wins. Everything counts from here on out so the players need to be supremely focused and laser in on that trophy.

We can do it, at least according to my predictor we can!

Speaking of winning the title…

Wenger said that Arshavin’s wildly publicized quotes yesterday were from earlier in the year after van Persie was injured. Expect the Sun and the 100 other publications who printed the story as fact to publish a retraction in 3…2…

Birmingham, Eduardo

Interestingly, Arsene said he hasn’t yet spoken to Dudu ahead of the Birmingham match but he’s confident that Eduardo can overcome the emotion of returning to the place where Martin Taylor savagely broke he leg.

Of course, certainly, emotionally it has a weight in his mind. That’s part of a career as well, to show that you have that kind of mental strength to deal with these kinds of situations and Eduardo has a lot of mental strength.

Overall we want for him to come back there and just win our game, that’s the only way that you can deal with that situation.

I hope that the Birmingham supporters show some class, that the Birmingham manager shows some class, and that Eduardo scores a barbershop*. Don’t expect any class, but be thankful if they show it, that’s how I’m approaching this game. Birmingham are a very rough team who will try to “get up us” and we will need to be on tippy toes as they slide in late and high to break up Arsenal’s play.

Fortunately, Birmingham played Blackburn yesterday and it was a hard fought battle which Rovers took 2-1. Arsenal should use our week’s rest to our advantage and run them off the park. OFF THE PARK.

As the presser winds down someone asks how focused the players can really be on Birmingham with the looming match against Barcelona and Wenger shoots him down quickly. He simply points out that we’ve been preparing 10 months to get to this point in the League and we aren’t about to lose focus now.

Awesome.

*4 goals, as decided in episode 278

Tony Pulis slays irony with his jawbone of an ass

Dateline — Stone Age. Location — the Caves of Stoke City. Reporter — Tim B.

Shocking millions of fans of the device known as ‘irony’ noted caveman and chief moaning drain inspector, Tony Pulis, stands accused of delivering a fatal blow to the ancient, beloved literary device.

In what some are calling a “scathing attack” and others are calling “caveman throw poop on wall, call it critique” Tony Pulis today has re-iterated his criticism that “big teams” such as Arsenal don’t want his team to succeed and so they are constantly moaning in the press about his team, Stoke City.

It wasn’t in the script for us to be competitive. That’s why you get people like Arsene Wenger (Arsenal manager) moaning on at you – because we have made it difficult for them and we’re not supposed to do that.

This quote is in direct response to a quote which Arsene Wenger made nearly a month ago when the teams last met and Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross broke Aaron Ramsey’s leg with a horrific challenge which shocked all people who have made the evolutionary jump up from Neanderthal. Since Wenger labeled Shawcross’ tackle “horrendous” a month ago, the Arsenal manager has maintained silence over the incident but the Stoke City manager has managed a weekly outburst over the incident and has lashed out at everyone, including the victim of the tackle, Aaron Ramsey, for not contacting Ryan Shawcross.

Just last week, Pulis pulled an amazing stunt and complained publicly about referee Mike Dean after his team saw another of their number dismissed for foul play. The Stoke City manager told the press, through interpretive cave paintings and a series of increasingly agitated grunts, that he had tried to have Mike Dean removed as match official before kickoff because of a perceived bias that Pulis believes Dean has against his team. According to reports, Stoke had compiled a “dossier” on Dean’s bias against them but my sources indicate that the dossier turned out to be a stick with several crude hash marks on it that Stoke insisted represented poor calls by Mike Dean.

Of course, all of this would not have killed irony, rather it would have simply put irony under the weather for a while had it not been for Pulis’ claim back in December that “Arsene Wenger moans like a drain” about everything.  Since that day, Pulis has constantly assaulted the beloved literary device on a near daily basis, moaning about everything from match officials to other managers getting upset at his team’s tactics.

R.I.P. Irony — March 24, 2010

Could the real Arshavin please stand up?

Like clockwork, Arshavin is at it again giving out interviews and stirring the pot today supposedly saying that Arsenal need to sign four players (strikers in particular) or they won’t win the League this season. And also like clockwork, every single news outlet is running with the story (first printed in The Sun) as if it is gospel and making it clear that Arshavin doesn’t think Arsenal can win the title this year.

The quotes are very familiar and come at a very strange time so you’ll pardon me if I’m left scratching my head wondering whether this is The World’s Least Reliable News Source making things up again or if perhaps something wasn’t lost in translation — given that the interview was in Russian. Here’s the quote in as much of it’s entirety that I can find:

I am still of the opinion that to win trophies Arsenal needs more players.There is the simple fact that last summer we sold two players and bought only one. So there is an obvious deficit of at least one. Then we lost Van Persie, Gibbs and Ramsey for a long time. So for me it is natural we need new players.

Without the variety of players we have less diversity in attack. That allows our opponents to read our combinations more easily. Finally, it results in less ball possession for us and our defence comes under more pressure.

The Premier League is very interesting, at least as long as we continue fighting to win it. But without new experienced players, real stars, it will be difficult to achieve success.

Ideally we need three or four such experienced players and then among our youths there should be guys who are not only good at playing football but have real character.

And then after slagging off experienced attacking players like Eduardo, Cesc, Nasri, and Rosicky and kicking the inexperienced players like Denilson, Diaby, Walcott, Song, and Bendtner for their supposed lack of character, he holds himself up for inspection a bit as well:

I do not have a sense of stability in my game. I feel I can match them and sometimes when I catch some inspiration I show performances that are on the same level or close to them. But I am still not as consistent as them.

First, you’ll remember that he said something similar, albeit much lighter, back in January when the transfer window was still open and Arsene could do something. Andrei was quoted then arguing that he wasn’t a proper center forward and that Arsenal needed to sign someone for that spot so that he could play his more natural position. He was right and we did struggle without a proper center forward, losing dramatically to Chelsea and Man U which let the pundits write off our title hopes. Could these quotes circulating today be from January? There’s always a possibility.

Because since then, Arsenal have gotten Bendtner back and with him up front have won 6 League games in a row and blew the doors off of Porto with a 5-0 drubbing in which the little Russian featured quite prominently. Moreover, Arsene did do something in that window which bolstered the team: he signed an experienced, powerful center half, who has won many trophies and even played as part of a team which went 49 matches unbeaten. That player’s name is Sol Campbell and he’s been an inspired signing.

Second, the quotes don’t jive with the interview he gave to the dot com and was released just today where he talks about the belief in the team.  It’s just a 3 minute piece but in it he insists that the team doesn’t feel any pressure, that we have the talent to win, and that while Barcelona is going to be tough, we can beat them if we just play our game and maintain our belief.

Huh. Could the real Andrei Arshavin please stand up?