Should he stay or should he go?

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday tooo yoooou, happy birthday dear Aveline! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUUUUUU!

All the talk following the Arsenal’s ignominious exit from the Champions League been “squad reinforcements.” It’s the buzz word that will not die and perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about what happened this season.

It’s easy to point at the Champions League final and compare the benches. At one point (after Arsene had made three subs) the camera panned over to a distraught Diaby, a lazy Fabianski, and with a wide angle lens were able to catch a glimpse of the head of a lonely Silvestre. Not pictured was Denilson who was probably trying to make off with the Tea Lady. But the point is Arsenal had zero world class backups on the bench and Man U had four (Scholes, Tevez, Giggs, and Berbatov). This proves Arsenal need to buy at least four players, right?

It’s not that easy. Tevez is widely expected to leave this summer, unhappy with his bench role. Scholes and Giggs are retiring, and Berbatov is both arguably not a world class player and is a wildly fractious figure both in the Man U camp and among the fans. Which doesn’t even address how much money Man U are paying to keep those four on their bench. Berbatov cost £30m to get from Spuds, and Tevez’ deal is supposedly a loan of some sort with all kinds of unknown fees. For some people, that’s a lot of money for a Carling Cup player (Tevez) and a malcontent, but for others, those two are actually very important Champions League players combining for 6 goals and 1 assist in 9 games.

The problem is that that’s a fully healthy Man U bench and an injury ravaged Arsenal bench. A fully healthy Arsenal would have van Persie and Adebayor up front, Arshavin in the hole, Walcott on the right, Cesc and Song in the middle, and a back four of Sagna, Gallas, Toure, and Clichy. On the bench we would have Eduardo, Eboue, Rosicky, Denilson, Bendtner, Nasri, and Fabianski. Left out are Diaby, Gibbs, Djourou, Senderos, Silvestre, Vela, Traore, Ramsey, Wilshere, and Bischoff. Wait, you mean a fully healthy Arsenal would have had four world class players (Eduardo, Rosicky, Eboue, and Nasri) on the bench? Yes, that’s how injured this team was.

Having put paid to the notion that Arsena aren’t deep enough lets move to everyone’s favorite whipping position; Flamini, I mean Gilberto, I mean Song, I mean Denilson, I mean Nasri…

Since Vieira left people have been complaining about this spot on Arsenal’s roster, and to start the season I was one of them, but I’ve recently come around to a bit of a healthy respect for Song and I really don’t care if you or anyone else agrees with me: I was right about Flamini, and I think I’m right about Song. Song started the season a bit slow but has come on like a roaring lion and put in some pretty amazing performances. I’m going to have a whole blog dedicated to him later but suffice it to say that I think he’s Arsenal’s number one in that holding midfielder role. And at 21 years old, he’s going to be there for a few years. A lot of people say that Arsenal need a player like Essien and I would say that Song at 21 is comparable to Essien at 21. And before you go talking about Essien’s wonder goal against Barca, it was also Essien who failed to clear the ball that led to Iniesta’s equalizer.

Which brings me to my final point which is a blend of squad depth and showing you that we have world class players all over the squad and that what we need are just a few “burgeoning” world class players to fill in. To wit, I think that every player on this team has a pair that goes with him; someone who can start and someone who can play backup.

Adebayor and Bendtner are obvious, and if anything, Bendtner represents a place where Arsenal need to reinforce — Wenger would disagree, pointing to Bendtner’s surge this year — but come on, Bendtner is a Coca-Cola level player. Adebayor is also one of Arsenal’s malcontents and he’s already starting up the summer “I love you, I hate you” bullshiat. I wouldn’t be surprised if Arsene doesn’t scrap this whole target man offense built around Adebayor, sell both players and buy a striker to pair with Theo in this spot.

Robin and Eduardo are another obvious pair, and if anything van Persie represents a place where Arsenal need reinforcements — he’s put in his healthiest season ever for Arsenal and frankly it’s not enough. Combined with his penchant for devastatingly stupid antics on the pitch and his disruptive behavior in the dressing room (he’s the first to say they need to win something and then in the big games he makes stupid mistakes) and I think he’s got a target on his back.  Wenger will need to find someone who can score incredible goals like Robin but keeps his head in the big games. Oh and for less than £15m, or whatever we get for him.

Nasri and Arshavin are complimentary players and having both healthy will present a wonderful headache for Wenger.

Similarly, Theo and Rosicky are complimentary and having both healthy for a whole season would be critical. That said, Wenger needs to take a long, hard, look at Rosicky and decide if he wants to carry this guy another season or if he just wants to buy a reinforcement. Theo’s already committed to us having just today signed a new long term contract and so he’s here for the long haul.

Cesc and Denilson are complimentary and the only thing here that needs work is Cesc’s leadership. That will come along over time.

Song and ??? Diaby?? HA! NO. I’m done with Diaby until he does something really, really incredible. He’s not a Vieira type, no matter what people say. He’s more of an Arshavin type. If we keep him, he can play the backup to the Arshavin/Nasri role, in the Carling Cup. So, I think a quality holding midfielder is needed. Yaya Toure is often mentioned and I agree. Look for Arsene to buy some guy you’ve never heard of, from FC Twente or something. I still think Song gets the starting spot, but competition is healthy, plus, giving more pistons in the engine room is a good thing.

Left back is covered by Clichy and Gibbs and if anyone tries to take the piss out of Gibbs, you’ll have me a whole bunch of loyal Arsenal supporters to answer to.

Right back is covered as well, Sagna is a stud and while Eboue is a crazy retard, he’s still a damn fine defender, when he’s fully fit, which he hasn’t been this season.

Central defense is probably the most obvious place for reinforcements. Gallas and Toure are OK together and I like Djourou but I think we need some height at the back, someone experienced in the Premier League, tall, HEY! PHILLIPE SENDEROS! Unfortunately, I think he’s done with us, which means that we should brace ourselves for a summer of transfer rumors about Haangeeelaaaandd (who is so tall it stretches his name) and then at the last minute Arsene will buy someone no one has heard of. Also, I’ll be surprised if Gallas stays with the club, it’s been a difficult season for him and the green fields of France are calling. Wenger will certainly need to replace him if he leaves, he was our best defender by far last year.

Almunia and Fabianski are fine, everyone keeps talking about a “world class” keeper and then mentioning the likes of Cech and van der Sar. Aluminum is easily as good as those two.

So that’s a run down of the entire squad, top to bottom, assuming 11 subs,  and assuming that no one can play another person’s position in a pinch. The reality is you only get 7 subs and one will always be a backup keeper. There are other limitations as well, such as funds, bringing along youth players (where do Rambo and Wilshere fit in here?), what type of formation the manager uses, your opponents on a given day, and so on. I think, though, if you look at what I’ve written, it’s not a condemnation of this team, but rather that we have a very, very strong core to the team and simply need a few backups and maybe some replacements for players who are probably leaving.

You look at this team, in every position, and I think we already have a blend of experience and talent that it takes to challenge for silverware next year, but a little more depth wouldn’t hurt either. So, like I said yesterday, Arsene needs to keep the core of this team together, add a few parts and I think we’ll be in the thick of things next year.

Sorry for the long blog, but it’s a complicated question.

What to root for in the last weeks of the season?

I hate people who root against something… publicly. You know the guy/gal, they’re the Chelsea supporter who comes in to watch Arsenal v. Bolton and roots for Bolton. I mean, who could possibly root for Bolton? You’d have to be a massive c*nt to root for Bolton and an even bigger c*nt to be a Chelsea supporter publicly rooting for Bolton because you hate Arsenal. That’s something you do in private.

So, in honor of that I want to give you some things that you can root for as the season winds down, rather than just rooting against ManU and Chelsea.

1. Everton v. Chelsea — FA Cup Final

I like Everton, they play hard but fair. I also like what David Moyes has done with that team. Arsenal supporters often have to say “well, Arsenal don’t have the same budget as the top four teams and yet we still compete.” If that’s true about Arsenal, that’s even truer for Everton.

But moreover, Everton’s season was decimated by injury and kicked off even worse than Arsenal’s season — losing to Rovers and Pompey in their first three games. But Moyes stayed the course, bolstered his team, and pulled them from the ashes. Moyes’ belief and coaching acumen has pretty much guaranteed European football next year and that’s something worth rooting for right there.

Besides which, when Everton beat Chelsea it will mean that Chelsea have won exactly the same number of trophies as Arsenal over the last two years; zero. Not that I’m rooting against them or anything… the c*nts.

2. Barcelona v. Man U — Champions League Final

This one is easy, I’m rooting for Thierry Henry to win the Champions League. It’s the only medal he has left to collect and this is probably his last real chance to win. Besides, I like the way that Barcelona play, it’s very Arsenal-esque. Arsenal-esque, but more experienced, which everyone says is what Arsenal need to win a trophy, right? So, we have to root for Barca, they are what we all expect Arsenal to be next season, hell, they even wear yellow.

Besides which, when Barcelona beat Man U for the Champions League title it will prevent them from doing the unbearable; back-to-back Champions League trophies. Which we’d have to hear about for about a f*cking century. Not that I’m rooting against them or anything… the c*nts.

3. Liverpool to win the Premier League

This is going to be a tough one for them, but I think they can do it, especially if Arsenal win out. I will say that I really like most Liverpool fans. There is no group of longer suffering, more dedicated, more loyal supporters than Liverpool supporters. Ok, well, maybe Everton and Newcastle supporters have had it a bit worse, but Liverpool.. erm… Liverpool deserve to win the title again, it’s their birthright!

Besides, wouldn’t it be delicious irony if Liverpool were to win the title, with the help of Arsenal beating Chelsea and Man U, on the 20th anniversary of the season that Arsenal nipped the title from them?

Oh yeah, not to mention that I predicted they would win the title.

Oh yeah, and if Barca win the Champions League and Liverpool win the Premier League then Man U will have won just one trophy this season: the Carling Cup. Not that I’m rooting against them or anything… the c*nts.

4. Arsenal for 3rd place

This is obvious, 3rd place means automatic qualification into the group stages of the Champions League and 4th place means we have an open qualification to get into the group stages. Open qualification means we could face, say, Roma in a one-off home and away, right there at the start of the season. So, 3rd place means something to us and we can start by beating Chelsea at the Emirates on Sunday.

Besides, if Arsenal top Chelsea in the league and Chelsea lose the FA Cup final it would mean that Arsenal and Chelsea won the exact same number of trophies for two years straight (ZERO) and Arsenal but did so by keeping the same coach, not spending £500m, and not being a hideous pack of ref threatening crybaby c*nts. Not that I’m rooting against them or anything… the c*nts.

UPDATE: Or How Could I have Been So Stupid And Missed This???

If we win out we will be 24 unbeaten in the league and perfectly set to jump into next season with a great unbeaten run.  And to think, I moaned when Sunderland held us to 0-0 draw!

The Worm Turned

What seems like a lifetime ago, I used to play a lot of pinochle and cribbage with my friends. Inevitably, when one of us would really get on top of the other and our luck was either at its height or its lowest ebb one of us would blurt out “the worm is going to turn.”

When the worm turns and your lucky cards start to run out, it’s one of the worst feelings ever. Here you are at the top of the world, holding good cards and dominating the game and then suddenly you get one shit hand, then another, and your opponent is grinning, and rubbing his hands together like an evil villain (did anyone see Beckham doing this?) and before you know it you’ve been skunked and your opponent is laughing and dancing.

Basically the worm turned yesterday. In the first leg, Arsenal were widely seen as lucky to escape 1-0 and so it should surprise no one that 8 minutes in to the second leg the worm turned, Gibbs slipped, Ji Sun Park luckily chipped over Almunia and Arsenal, just like my card player, hung their heads and knew that the tie was over.

I’m not going to sit here and give you a match recap, because Gunnerblog, who was actually there has done it better than I ever could. I’m not going to rip the team, because I really still don’t know what to think. And I’m certainly not going to rip the manager, I’m not anywhere near the level of football knowledge that Arsene Wenger possesses and have enough humility to know better than to question his choices this season.

I will, however, disagree with the people who say we need to go out and wholesale buy a bunch of players, people like Adebayor.  I disagree with them because it wasn’t Djourou or Gibbs or Song who cost Arsenal that game yesterday — they played their hearts out. Just look at Djourou tracking all the way back on that last Ronaldo goal: Cesc had given up on that play. Look at who stupidly fouled Ronaldo for the free kick that gave them the second goal, that was van Persie.  Arguably, Arsenal’s top two players were at fault for two goals, so for me, when we talk about bringing in “top class” players I wonder who we think we’re going to replace?

Song? No. He was top class yesterday.

Gibbs? You can go straight to hell. That 19 year old showed more class and talent over those two legs than any player I’ve ever seen in an Arsenal shirt. I bet the boss plays him against Chelsea on Sunday.

Nasri? Walcott? Toure? Djourou? Almunia? I mean come on… this is a very talented team! Can you imagine what we’ll look like next year when we play with Walcott, Nasri, and Arshavin swarming up front, Cesc and Song providing the spine, and Sagna, Toure, Djourou, and Clichy at the back?

No, rather than blow this team apart, Arsene’s big goal now has to be keeping this team together. Arsenal are never going to spend £65m on a Frank Ribery, they just don’t have the money. No one really does, Man U have mountains of debt, Chelsea owe their owner nearly a billion dollars, and worst of all Liverpool are facing a financial crisis when the banks call in their loans at the end of this season. There are only so many sheiks to go around and bail these teams out and the odds are pretty good that at least one of the top four clubs would be allowed to go bankrupt if they all went down simultaneously.

No, Wenger needs to keep the core of this team together, if he cuts some folks free (and I think he will) he’ll need to replace them with top talent at a good price. I have complete faith in Wenger’s ability to do so: he bought Arshavin and he bought Eduardo both at cut rate prices.

The point is that the core of this team is solid, the backups are solid, and with a few exceptions we have a deep team that was absolutely decimated by injury this season. It’s unrealistic to say that Arsenal needed more depth at Center back; how many world class defenders are going to be happy sitting on the bench waiting for their opportunity to get a game through dead man’s boots?

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough about this. I’m going to be doing my annual recap of the top performers this year and there will be plenty of opportunity for us all to argue and yell at each other and say “you’re not a real Arsenal supporter!” in those posts.

For now, what I want to say is simply that I do believe in the core of this team, despite what the pundits have to say, despite what Adebayor thinks, and despite what some supporters think. It’s been a very good season, I think a lot of players have grown immeasurably and I think that we will continue to see these players mature. Trophies aren’t our birthright but I really do feel like they are forthcoming, just hang in there and enjoy the football along the way.