The rain in Spain falls mainly on England’s future #1

Ugh, it’s raining.

But on the other hand, IT’S RAINING!

Washington state gets about 4 weeks a year of sunshine, where I don’t have to mow the lawn, and the return of the rain signals both the return of the lawn mower and the return of football! Sure I have mow the lawn every Saturday, in the rain, but it’s a small price to pay for football.

As we get set for the new season and players jet off to their various international friendlies, some guys are inevitably left behind and start to pine for the camaraderie of playing in a meaningless game, getting injured, and spending the rest of the year in the treatment room.

One such player on Arsenal is Denilson, the other is Manual Almunia.

Owing to his lack of international duties, Manny Pickledickle had time to give an extensive interview to the Guardian, hitting all of the weigh points; Arsene Wenger, the youth revolution, citizenship, and the pressure Wenger is under to win something this year. Interesting stuff, I suppose but the interview has been dissected and various quotes have found their way into all of the major papers, and Goal.com.

Me, I’m just going to hit on two things here. First, the issue of him playing for England and second, a strange quote on the dot com.

I’ve always maintained that if Almunia is going to play for England he’s going to have to show a sort of mental fortitude that very few people have. English fans are notorious for their fickle-ness when it comes to the national team and all it would take is one mistake and Manny would be booed off the pitch. Further, the remarks of England’s captains (Gerrard, Ferdinand, and Lampard) regarding the possibility of Manny playing for England don’t offer any encouragement. In fact, I would characterize them as openly hostile to the idea, at least, and xenophobic, at most. So, it would take a player of extraordinary mental strength to walk in to that dressing room and look Steven Gerrard in the eye and say “I’m your new keeper, Matey*.”

Judging from the quotes in the Guardian where Almunia is basically asking them for support, I don’t think he has it; neither the support, nor the internal mental fortitude. He may still surprise me here but for the time being, I can’t see it. When he says “The England players are very important, I would like to know what they think and if I will be welcome.” I just have a real hard time imagining Rio Ferdinand going back on what he said just 6 months ago and saying “why yes, I’d love to have a Spanish guy play for England!”

Even if others in the dressing room  supported him (he mentions Theo) Capello would risk alienating Gerrard, Lampard, and Ferdinand by including Almunia. Again, I really just don’t see this happening. Sorry Manny, it’s not that you’re not good enough, it’s just that England aren’t ready for that sort of thing yet.

The other weird story around Almunia is that the dot com issued an “article” which has the following quote from Mooney:

At the beginning of last season, we had tall people and we still had problems. It’s not a issue of having tall people, it’s a issue of attitude. How you face the ball and are focused on the game in every single moment.

What makes this story really odd is a confluence of events, all of which have taken place this morning (it’s morning for me). First, Everton shocked everyone and actually denied Lescott his transfer request. Second, Fulham have basically priced Hangeland out of Arsenal’s market by suggesting that since it’s so late in the transfer season and since they wouldn’t be able to find a replacement, they want £15m for him. And third, Everton have said that despite the offer sitting on Wenger’s desk for a long time, they are still in the market for Senderos, as a backup.

So, I’m wondering if the dot com piece, with the de-contextualized quote isn’t just a bit of propaganda. I mean, there’s no doubting that commitment, timing, jumping ability, and organization go a long way to settling duels in the air, but it’s patently false to say that height doesn’t matter. In fact, I went back and looked at the two losses at the start of last season (Fulham and Hull) and the back 2 were Gallas and Toure. So, he must be talking about, erm,  Adebayor? And maybe he thinks that Bendtner’s commitment will be the all important factor? Who knows.

Irregardless, it’s a curiously timed article and sure to raise speculation that Arsenal are only in for one more player this year, Bordeaux striker Marouane Chamakh.

Like I said yesterday the boss is being coy about signings. As always, we’ll have to wait and see but don’t expect any signings this week (especially not Patrick Vieira), what with everyone away playing for their country.

*”Matey” is an intentional joke.

An ugly display

Ugh, I picked up some cold yesterday and feel like utter crap today so short blog for you so I can get back to bed for some sleep.

In yesterday’s “Charity Shield” we got a preview of the season ahead and the presumptive champions were in rare form: elbowing their opponents in the face, scoring unsportsmanlike goals, and surrounding the referee.

I’m having a hard time picking best moments of the match. Is it the delicious irony that Chris Foy spoke to the players before the match about what a success the Respect Campaign has been? Is it the fact that Patrice Evra got elbowed in the face? Is it the fact that after the match the Chelsea supporter’s only recourse is to point to how poorly United acted in order to gloss over the fact that they basically cheated in a friendly?

Tough choice, but considering that I’ve seen nothing but classlessness and indiscipline from Chelsea and the fact that pretty much everyone on the planet would like to elbow Evra in the face, I’m going with the irony.

Yes, Chris, the respect campaign has been a huge success. You got a glimpse of how successful it’s been up close and personal yesterday.

Anyway, enough about those cunts. If that’s to be our top competition this year I’m not overly worried. The “Chelsea diamond” formation was particularly hilarious. What’s it made of? 100 years of compressed shit?

Speaking of 100 years of compressed shit, how about that Tiki Beergutstain? He’s Barcelona’s sporting something or another and he’s decided to go all out and try to get Cesc Fabregas. By all out I mean, not going to spend anywhere near what he’s worth. I’ve heard something about £25m plus other players and considering the fact that they just did a £25m plus Samuel Eto’o for Zlatan, I’m thinking that we should ask for £25m plus Messi and Yaya.

As for bringing players in, the boss is being coy. After the devastating 2-0 defeat to Valencia the boss was in a good mood joking and laughing at all us fans and our insatiable desire for new players. My suspicion is that he’s been planning this now for 8 years and this is the season he’s going to spring his trap. I suspect that his ploy is to finally get Arsenal out of the “top four” and put us in the relegation zone. He’s been a secret Tottenham supporter this whole time.

Or, he’s going to buy Chamakh.

I’m not sure which to believe, I’ll tell you at the end of the season.

As for the Hangeland story, I’m not sure if there’s anything to that. Vermaelen is healthy and the boss is saying he’ll probably feature against Everton. Meanwhile everyone in the team is talking about defense and partnerships and blah blah.

If Wenger bought Hangeland it would mean that he’s looking to have the option to change his back four from the high line, wing-back formation we currently play, into a flat(er) back four. I don’t mean that we’d play the flat line all the time, against the “Chelsea diamond” having wing backs would be essential. Hangeland would just give Arsene another option. I’m not sure how much Brede would be down with playing just against the shit-kickers in the league, but hey, that’s where I’m going with this story.

Anyway, we’ve got international friendlies this week and pretty much everyone except Denilson, Almunia, Rosicky, and Nasri will get injured. Of course, if Almunia gets his passport and changes his name to something more English, like Manny Pickledickle he too could go off to international duty and get injured. I mean, did you see Ben Foster play yesterday?  Vitto Mannone is a better keeper than Ben Foster!

Anyway, I think I’m getting delerious. More of this kind of blogging tomorrow. See you then.

Wenger Strangelove: or how I learned to stop worrying and love this team

The pre-season is officially over with and it ends with a sort of sloppy fart rather that the trumpet of victory that we’d all have liked. Oh well, it’s pre-season and I don’t think we should read too much into it. If we don’t take winning the Emirates Cup too seriously, we also can’t take losing 2-0 at the Mestalla at the end of a grueling training camp with a side full of players who didn’t play a minute together all pre-season, erm, too seriously.

I will say basically what I said in the comments yesterday which is that I thought Arsenal played very well in the first half. Diaby looked a bit rusty and ponderous but he’s certainly bulked up quite a bit since last year. Song looked quite the business breaking up attacks and shielding the back 4. For those who complained about his “fouling” well, that’s what I want him to do! Arsenal need someone like that on this club, even Theo admits that.

Up front we had a damn fine attack which just seemed a little tired rather than lacking teeth as in previous campaigns. Arshavin in particular looked jaded and more than once I was quite disappointed with his lack of movement. But rather than get all up on him about it, I just figure he’s probably never trained this hard in his entire life and since I’ve seen him turn it on more than once I trust that he’ll do it when the chips are down.

At the back, our fullbacks looked fantastic, as they always have, and I would like to be the first to hail them Backary Sagna as possible “hairstyle of the season.” He’s shorn off the beads and now has just gone with dyed braids. It’s quite magnificent.

Questions remain at the center back position and I’m going to just come out and say it: that is not because Djourou or Gallas are crap, it’s because of Arsene’s system. Arsene’s system has seen some of the world’s best center half’s used up and spit out: Sol Campbell, Phillipe Senderos, and William Gallas have all had spectacular mental breakdowns playing in Arsene Wenger’s system. The high line, ball holdery, offense-as-defense system that Arsenal play requires a specific type of center back (someone with quick recovery, is intelligent, who can handle the pressure of being constantly exposed, and is able to make desperation tackles) which, in turn, means that Arsenal don’t generally have the height to defend well from set pieces.

It’s the system and if anyone should come in for criticism, it’s Arsene Wenger. I don’t want to get down on Djourou, he’s a fine young man who gives everything to the cause and is just doing what the boss asks of him. And as for Wenger, personally, I trust Arsene Wenger to see any problems in his system and fix them. He’s the most successful, longest serving, manager in Arsenal history, if anyone sees a problem in this team, it’s Arsene Wenger.

Which raises THE question, the one thing that I’d really like to put to bed here once and for all — can we criticize the team?

Yes, sure, why not? Personally, I’m going to try not to do it this season but I completely understand where that comes from.  By and large the people who criticize the team and the players do so out of love. Maybe they are mad that we don’t play the way we did 5 years ago? Maybe they have a keen insight that I don’t have? I don’t know and really, I don’t care. If people want to get on some blog and talk about what shit so and so is or how worried they are about such and such, let them. Eventually they’ll either stop supporting Arsenal or they’ll learn to stop worrying about everything so damn much.

What I won’t stand for is fans booing at the Emirates, or fans taking the piss out of the manager and players face-to-face. Save that shit for the blogs. In real life, try to be respectful and if you can’t do that then maybe you should find a pack of cunts that would better suit your mentality; Chelsea come quickly to mind.

I also want to mention that just because someone criticizes a player in the comments on a blog, it doesn’t make them “doom and gloomers.” A “doom and gloomer” is someone who worries constantly that Arsenal aren’t going to make the top 6, that Cesc is going to leave half way through the season, etc etc. That term is used quite a bit to describe anyone who ever criticizes anything about the club and has basically worn out it’s welcome with me. Let’s stop using it.

Anyway, my basic approach this season is going to be positive. Positive toward the fans, positive toward the team, the manager, and the club. We have enough people out there being negative that you don’t need it from me as well. I’m not going to be a Pollyanna and I will be honest about a player when he has a bad game, but I think I’ll try to keep it to just that one game rather than see it as a flaw in the player as a whole. Same thing with the club and the manager.

If I have any insight into this club to pass on right now, it would be that I think I can let go of all the criticisms because I think that this club and these players are doing the best that they can with the resources they have. One of the things that Jon Spurling shows us with his book Rebels for the Cause, is that Arsenal have a long and proud history of doing things their own way.  Wenger is just another in a long line of iconoclasts, and I would expect no less of him that to follow in that proud tradition. If the last four years have taught us anything it’s that Wenger is doing this his way, you may not like the way he’s doing it, and that’s your right, but me? I trust Arsene Wenger.

Anyway, we’re going to have a full season preview on Thursday, where I will blow so much lovely smoke up your ass you’ll think you’re a chimney, until then the blogs are going to be relatively light as I expect that there won’t be much news. Try to enjoy the week as much as you can, maybe get out, run around, play a little football, enjoy the end of summer.

Football starts in earnest next week, and I expect so too does the hand-wringing.